Sunday, February 12, 2006

How'd we get into this mess?

When the War Between the States ended, South Carolina was a devastated place. The reconstruction that followed didn't live up to Lincoln's admonition that it should be "malice toward none with charity for all." Wade Hampton, the first Governor of South Carolina after Reconstruction, tried to recreate the only kind of culture he knew; one in which elite whites governed paternalistically over the rest of society.

Then came Benjamin Ryan Tillman. On the one hand, Tillman helped bring South Carolina into the modern era, promoting scientific agriculture including the creation of Clemson College. But he also advocated a vicious racism, unknown to the generation of Wade Hampton. Tillman’s ideas were institutionalized into the Jim Crow laws and the 1895 South Carolina Constitution that we live with today.

Governor Sanford made reference to this Constitution in his recent State of the State speech:
I talk a lot about the inefficiency of our government. How, because of our structure, we spend 130% the U.S. average on the cost of government. How we need to continue what Carroll Campbell began in changing this government structure -- whose foundation, mind you, is the Constitution of 1895 -- a constitution built around the fear that a black man would be elected governor in Reconstruction South Carolina. A government structure voted into place when women were not allowed to vote, and blacks for all practical purposes could not vote. For our state to be competitive, this structure has to change.
Never Surrender is not a inspiring book by any means. But it does provides valuable insights about how we got into this mess.

1 comment:

J A Greer said...

I have long thought that eventually the push and shove for government restructuring in S. Carolina was going to eventually lead to the call for a new constitution to replace Tillman's model.

It's long since time that bloated document was shelved. I think the state would need another few Governor's like Sanford, of both parties, who are frustrated with it in order to push for that to happen.