Senator Tillman’s Observations

January 5, 1907


Senator Tillman denounces President Roosevelt’s inept dealing with racial issues for  not subjecting the black troops to a court martial.


Senator Tillman’s Observations
Senator B. R. Tillman is a queer character. He seems to be a “cross” between a law-abider and a law-breaker. While at Birmingham, Alabama last Saturday, he is quoted as having said:
           “Roosevelt does not know anything about the Negro, and every time he touches him he makes a mess of it. He had no business discharging the Negro troops at Brownsville before making a careful investigation. I doubt very much whether or not he is vested with the authority to take such matters in his own hands anyway.”
           We do not doubt, but what Senator Tillman is right with reference to President Roosevelt’s knowledge of the Negro, and the blunders he has made in dealing with them. Certainly he spoke the truth relative to his error in discharging the Negro troops from the service, with charges pending against them and without giving them the benefit of a court martial. In this he was less generous than were the fire-eating officials of the “Lone Star state.”
           When the South Carolina statesman, though asserts that Roosevelt makes a mess of it, whenever he touches the Negro, he used words that could be fittingly repeated in describing the attitude of Senator Tillman himself. When it comes to the point of blundering and floundering about on questions of state, when they come in contact with this momentous question, President Roosevelt is discounted, when compared to the senior Senator from South Carolina.
           We have a case in point in the very interview from which we have quoted.
           “Speaking of lynching, which he said would continue as long as the crime of rape continued, the senator exclaimed:
           “‘With the oath on my lips to uphold the law I would lead a mob anytime to lynch a man black or white who had ravished a woman.’”
           The oath is taken to prevent this very thing. In these few, brief utterances, Senator Tillman has declared his intention and purpose to commit two of the most heinous crimes known to the law. These utterances place him on the same plane with the rape fiend, whom he so unceremoniously condemns. Perjury in law is a felony and murder is akin to treason, subject in fact to the same penalty.
           To lead a mob after having sworn not to lead a mob is perjury. To lynch a man, after having sworn not to lynch a man is both perjury and murder. There can be no justification for such actions save upon the plea of insanity. No one has charged Senator with being insane, although he has radical symptoms of it at times. He is the victim of his own passions at times just as President Roosevelt seems to be the creature of his own strenuousness.
           But why discuss Senator Tillman further? He says some good things at times that tend to win the approval of even the conservative elements but let him talk long enough and he will undo all that he has done and upset all that he has said. Brother Tillman does not wish everybody to agree with him. It would upset his calculations and rein his financial value as a drawing card in many sections of the country.
           People are peculiar now-a-days they will pay a dollar to hear a crank, while hesitating about spending ten cents to listen to a wise man.
           President Roosevelt and Senator Tillman are very much alike with this discriminating difference. One likes to have the country in a ferment, with the majority element on his side of the contention and the other likes to raise a furor in all of this land, regardless of whether he is being supported or condemned by those who hear him or are interested enough to read all that he was unkind enough to say. The country has but one Roosevelt and it is suffering with but one Tillman and it can jog along with both of them.
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Benton Camper


“Senator Tillman’s Observations,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed September 24, 2020,