South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LXI
A NEW FACTIONALISM, 1910-1914

The Nature of Tillmanism and Bleaseism. --The administrations of Governors Heyward and Ansel were an interlude in a movement which took definite shape in the 1880's and continued at least to 1936. Its early leader was Tillman; its leading later representative, Coleman L. Blease. Particular leaders merely rode the waves of the nation-wide democratic movement as it surged through South Carolina with a frothy fury determined by our somewhat rigid social structure. Tillmanism and Bleaseism are misleading terms unless understood merely as indicating the noisy bubbles on the current as it dashed against those angular personalities. South Carolina has never had a leader combining unselfish heart, intellectual stature, and effective personality to give adequate expression to the aspirations of modern democracy. Tillman and Blease possessed the externals of political leadership. Richard I. Manning, who best expressed the ideals of modern democracy without its crudities, was handicapped by origin, surroundings, and personality, which made him seem a benevolent upper-class patron rather than one who could become the darling of the people.

Tillman's office-seeking and abusive speech alienated many friends of the original Farmers' Movement.1 Blease's platform and some of his measures looked fair enough; but his conduct and associations rendered his attempt to revive the name "Reform party" a mockery. Tillman overwhelmingly controlled the State, ruled the legislature, and was never defeated for office. Blease was repeatedly defeated, never won high office except by small majorities, and never commanded a majority in the legislature. His forceful personality, oratorical talent, and ability to make and hold personal friends and inspire the devotion of the tenant farmers and factory operatives gave him a personal prominence far beyond his influence on legislation. The poor and ignorant felt profound disappointment at the outcome of Tillmanism and waited for a new agitator. But so undeveloped and so unorganized were their ideas that they pressed few demands. The strength of Blease's appeal was not any platform of measures, but his personality and viewpoint. He not only offered no program of benefits to labor, a program which long remained repug-

____________________
1
For a summary of Tillman's aims and accomplishments, see pp. 627-28.

-655-

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