The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946 Page: 466
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
many similar regrets expressed by biographers: namely,
"... Ben Tillman did not make a systematic collection of let-
ters and reminiscences to illuminate the path of biographers;
the man and the civilization he represented were either too
ill-disciplined or too reticent for such an orderly procedure"
(p. 547). There are frequent footnote references to the Tillman
Papers, but a careful reading of the "Critical Essay on Author-
ities" reveals the fact that, although there is much bulk-
97,650 items-the Papers are "disappointing." Professor Sim-
kins also regrets that he did not have at his disposal "the many
private letters from which the authoritative biography is usually
drawn" (p. viii). He did, however, use very extensive sources
and on the basis of these he wrote an outstanding biography.
Tillman earned the soubriquet of Pitchfork in his first cam-
paign for the Senate. In a speech at Lexington on July 20,
1894, he said: ". . . I am going to Washington with a pitchfork
and prod him [Cleveland] in his old fat ribs" (p. 315). A
footnote explains that the "somewhat obvious imagery of the
pitchfork" was used by Tillman as early as November 5, 1887,
in a speech at Marion when, in talking about the opposition of
the lawyers of the state, he said that if they continued to mis-
represent him he would "give them the pitchfork end every
Tillman came upon the political scene as a result of the
agrarian discontent of the 1880's. He and his farmer friends,
the "wool-hat, one-gallus" boys, wrested the political control of
the state from Wade Hampton and the Bourbons, the "silk-hat"
boys, in 1890. Tillman effected some educational, constitutional,
and administrative reforms which were "so moderate that con-
servative traditions were scarcely violated" (p. viii). Tillman
was a mixture of radicalism and conservatism. He was radical
in his speech, in uprooting the power of the ante-bellum aris-
tocracy, in substituting control by the agrarian element, and
in advocating the free coinage of silver. He was conservative
on the race question and on upholding white supremacy and
the Democratic party, the fundamental tenets of the tidewater
aristocracy. His conservatism, it seems to me, outweighed his
What made Tillman South Carolina's "second most important
figure"--second only to John C. Calhoun? What made him "the
most forceful personality which it [South Carolina] has pro-
duced since the Civil War ?" A brief statement of his accom-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946, periodical, 1946; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146056/m1/523/: accessed June 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.