South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LV
CLOSING YEARS OF RECONSTRUCTION, 1871-1876

THE CONFUSION and iniquity of the Reconstruction government so overshadow the period that the economic and social forces for ultimate recovery may be overlooked. Barring the small minority whose hands were folded in despair, the white population, impelled by the necessities of existence and the pride of family, community, and race, at once set to making the best of a bad situation. The double object of developing resources and overcoming the black majority was present in the law of December, 1866, appropriating $10,000 for promoting immigration from Europe. Immigration societies in a number of counties and individual agencies helped to bring in some hundreds, mainly Germans. General M. W. Gary planned to bring in immigrants and also to force Negroes from the State by reducing cotton acreage. It is clear why the Negroes bitterly opposed the movement and abolished the office of commissioner in 1868. The poor whites also feared immigrant competition, and most farmers preferred the black labor.

Agricultural Revival and Hardships.-- By 1870 the State (barring those large planters unable to readjust) had gone far toward economic recovery. The South's 1870 cotton crop was the largest since 1861. The crop of 1879 was the largest ever grown. Many prominent men resolved to eschew politics until corruption wore itself out and to devote themselves to building their own fortunes. South Carolina phosphates, discovered in 1867, made some rich and many prosperous and greatly increased the value of lands which without it were hardly worth cultivating. D. H. Jacques, D. Wyatt Aiken, J. L. Coker, Johnson Hagood, William M. Shannon, Thomas G. Clemson, and the men who revived the "State Fair" of the South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Society in 1869 inspired better agricultural methods.

The Grange, as the Patrons of Husbandry were popularly called, entered South Carolina in 1871 and during the nine years of its prominence stimulated legal and social movements for the benefit of the farmer, got him a discount in trade, cultivated his mind, and virtually laid the foundation on which more aggressive men in the eighties built the "Farmers' Movement" and engineered the Farmers' Alliance and

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