Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Grant, H. Roger

Committee Member

Grubb , Alan

Committee Member

Andrew Jr. , Rod


This thesis is intended to demonstrate the tangible reforms initiated by Benjamin Ryan Tillman between 1885 and 1895 for farmers and other citizens of South Carolina. After exploring the most notable historiography surrounding the Tillman era in South Carolina, the thesis examines Tillman's appeals to the farmers' depressed condition, the establishment of Clemson Agricultural College, and state-level reforms of business and government institutions. Tillman's restructuring of the South Carolina Penitentiary, the Lunatic Asylum, and the creation of the state liquor dispensary are shown to be significant accomplishments in the reformer's political career. Tillman's assaults on what he perceived as monopolistic capital--in the form of the phosphate mining industry and the railroads--are also thoroughly discussed.
The emphasis of this analysis is to show that Tillman's reform movement, and not the concerns over white solidarity that stigmatized any third-party movement, was the primary reason for the lack of a Populist party in South Carolina. The fact that Tillman and the majority of white Democrats in South Carolina did not support the socio-political equality of African Americans is not in question. However, the purpose of this thesis is to illustrate that without Tillmanism and the real reforms that came along with the movement, South Carolina would have experienced a significant third-party bolt similar to other Southern and Western states in the 1890's.



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