The Constitution of 1895 | History of SC Slide Collection

The Constitution of 1895. This is the present Constitution of the State of South Carolina, which defines state and local governmental power. However, over the last 94 years it has been so amended, or changed, that in fact many of its provisions have been totally altered. Benjamin R. Tillman, elected governor of South Carolina in 1890 and re-elected in 1892 (see "Leaders Of The Farmer's Movement In South Carolina" and Governor Benjamin R. Tillman), had begun demands in 1885 for a new state constitution that would eliminate African-American voters. There had been fraud in the elections held in the 1880s. Tillman believed that state corruption could only be ended and the farmers' grievances addressed by creating an all-white electorate, in spite of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. His call for a convention was supported by the state's Upcountry. Finally, Tillman secured a referendum for the convention in the 1894 general election. The referendum passed 31,402 to 29,523. When the convention met in 1895, there were 112 Tillmanites, 42 Conservatives, and 6 Republicans (5 African-Americans from Beaufort and 1 from Georgetown) among the delegates. Initiated and completed by Tillman, this constitution effectively disenfranchised (took the vote away from) African-Americans. Note that the 5 African-American delegates from Beaufort refused to sign this document.

Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.