Benjamin Tillman


Benjamin Tillman

Infobox Officeholder
name=Benjamin R. Tillman
nationality=American



office=Governor of South Carolina
term_start=1890
term_end=1894
predecessor=John Peter Richardson III
successor=John Gary Evans
office2=United States Senator
party=Democratic
term_start2=1895
term_end2=1918
predecessor2=Matthew Butler
successor2=Christie Benet
date of birth=August 11, 1847
place of birth=Trenton, South Carolina
dead=dead
date of death=July 3, 1918
place of death=Washington, D.C.
spouse=
religion=

Benjamin Ryan Tillman (August 11, 1847–July 3, 1918) was an American politician who served as governor of South Carolina, from 1890 to 1894, and as a United States Senator, from 1895 until his death. Tillman was a member of the Democratic Party.

Tillman, of German descent, was born near Trenton, South Carolina. He left school in 1864 to join the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, but was disabled by an illness that later caused the removal of his left eye and thus never fought for the Confederacy. During Reconstruction, he became a paramilitary fighter in the struggle to overthrow the interracial Republican coalition in the state and disempower the black majority. He was present at the Hamburg Massacre in July 1876, during which black Republican activists were murdered by Tillman's fellow "Red Shirts."

Presenting himself as the friend of ordinary white farmers, Tillman took over the South Carolina Farmers Alliance, and used the organization as a platform for his political ambitions. He was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1890, and served from December 1890 to December 1894. He helped establish Clemson College and Winthrop College while in office and Tillman Hall on both campuses are named in his honor. When the Alliance founded the Populist Party on the Ocala Demands, Tillman arranged for the South Carolina Democratic Party to adopt the platform, though he refused to endorse the "sub-treasury," the Populists' most ambitious economic proposal, or to countenance any appeal to black voters. The strategy prevented the development of an independent Populist Party and the biracial politics of North Carolina, thus assuring white control through the dominant, white Democratic Party.

He was largely responsible for calling the State constitutional convention in 1895 that disfranchised most of South Carolina's black men and required Jim Crow laws. As Tillman proudly proclaimed in 1900, "We have done our level best [to prevent blacks from voting] ...we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it." (Logan, p. 91)

He was elected to the United States Senate in 1894, and was re-elected in 1901, 1907, and 1913. He served from 1895 to his death in 1918. A hotheaded and intemperate debater, Tillman became known as "Pitchfork Ben" after a speech he made on the Senate floor in 1896. In this speech, Tillman made several references to pitchforks and threatened to go to the White House and "poke old Grover [Cleveland] with a pitchfork" to prod him into action.

During his Senate career, he was censured by the Senate in 1902 after assaulting John L. McLaurin, another Senator. He became the chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Claims (57th through 59th Congresses); served on the Committee on Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (61st and 62nd Congresses); and the Committee on Naval Affairs (63rd through 65th Congresses). During World War I, impatient with the Navy's requests for larger battleships every year, he ordered the United States Navy to design "maximum battleships," the largest battleships that they could use.

Tillman took the lead in railroad regulation, though his foe Republican President Theodore Roosevelt out-maneuvered him in passage of the Hepburn Act of 1906. Tillman was the primary sponsor of the Tillman Act, the first federal campaign finance reform law, which was passed in 1907 and banned corporate contributions in federal political campaigns.

Tillman opposed American annexation of the Philippines because he feared an influx of non-white immigrants would result, undermining white racial purity. Tillman maintained his white supremacist beliefs in the Senate that he had implemented as governor; he was one of the most outspoken and unapologetic advocates of white supremacy ever to serve in Congress. Another quote of Tillman's is "We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him."cite news |first=Bob |last=Herbert |authorlink=Bob Herbert |title=The Blight That Is Still With Us |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/22/opinion/22herbert.html?hp |publisher="The New York Times" |date=2008-01-22 |accessdate=2008-01-22 ]

Tillman died in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Ebenezer Cemetery, Trenton, South Carolina. A statue of him in his honor is outside the South Carolina State House.

An early trustee of Clemson University, Tillman Hall is named in his honor.

References

*cite book|last=Burton|first=Orville Vernon|title=In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina|year=1985|publisher=University of North Carolina Press|location=Chapel Hill, N.C.|id=ISBN 0-8078-1619-1 New social history; [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=10585854 online edition]
*cite book|last=Kantrowitz|first=Stephen|title=Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy|year=2000|publisher=University of North Carolina Press|location=Chapel Hill, N.C.|id=ISBN 0-8078-2530-1
* Stephen Kantrowitz. "Ben Tillman and Hendrix McLane, Agrarian Rebels: White Manhood, 'The Farmers,' and the Limits of Southern Populism." "Journal of Southern History." 66#3 (2000) pp 497+. in JSTOR; [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002365039 online edition]
*cite book|last=Logan|first=Rayford W.|authorlink=Rayford Logan|title=The Betrayal of the Negro, from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson|year=1997|origyear=1965|publisher=Da Capo Press|location=New York|id=ISBN 0-306-80758-0 This is an expanded edition of Logan's 1954 book "The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901".
*cite book|last=Simkins|first=Francis Butler|authorlink=Francis Butler Simkins|title=The Tillman Movement in South Carolina|year=1926|publisher=Duke University Press|location=Durham, N.C. [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=3844981 online edition]
*cite book|last=Simkins|first=Francis Butler|title=Pitchfork Ben Tillman, South Carolinian|year=2002|origyear=1944|publisher=University of South Carolina Press|location=Columbia, S.C.|id=ISBN 1-57003-477-X
*cite book|last=Simon|first=Bryant|title=A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Millhands, 1910-1948|year=1998|publisher=University of North Carolina Press|location=Chapel Hill, N.C.|id=ISBN 0-8078-2401-1 [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=55550734 online edition]

External links

* [http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/55/ "Their own Hotheadedness": Tillman speech in Senate advocating disenfranchisement of blacks and lynching of those who protested]
* [http://www.boondocksnet.com/ai/kipling/jordan.html "The White Man's Burden" as Prophecy. Tillman speech in Senate denouncing U.S. imperialism in the Philippines on humanitarian and patriotic grounds]


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