Discussion The South Carolina Secession convention, day by day


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#3
In reading A. G. Magrath's elaboration of his resolution here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1970636, there are a lot of signposts about the political climate under which secession was taking place and the mindset of some of the secessionists:

Resolved, That so much of the Message of the President of the United States as relates to what he designates “the property of the United States in South Carolina,” be referred to a committee of __________, to report of what such property consists, how acquired, and whether the purpose for which it was so acquired can be enjoyed by the United States after the State of South Carolina shall have seceded, consistently with the dignity and safety of the State. And that said committee further report the value of the property of the United States not in South Carolina; and the value of the share thereof to which South Carolina would be entitled upon an equitable division thereof among the United States.
I had not considered before the idea that any Federal Property in the United States was something that all the states had a share in, and the claim to Fort Sumter may have been offset in the mind of Magrath by the surrendering of all claims on other Federal property, when it comes to monetary value. He seems to indicate as much during his remarks.

If we were now in a condition of profound peace, and about to inaugurate the Act of Secession by a concession to South Carolina from every other State, of its good will and its good wish, that resolution would be eminently proper and necessary; but when we are about to confirmate this great act without the good will and without the good wish of many of the State of the Confederacy, it is most important that the State of South Carolina should contend for their rights claimed in behalf of those States to be exercised within the limits of those other States.
This is as clear a statement as anyone could wish that South Carolina is not going with peace and good will from the other states, and that they will have to "contend" for their rights. This could be both political and diplomatic contention, and armed conflict, and as we'll see below, armed conflict is on Magrath's mind.

It may be, Mr. President, and I apprehend it will be, Mr. President, that the attempt to coerce South Carolina will be made under the pretence of protecting the property of the United States within the limits of South Carolina.
Magrath expects armed coercion, under the pretext of protecting US property in South Carolina. He does not accept Buchanan's words as anything but a mixed message.

Why, Mr. President, look at it! This property while in the Union belonged to the Union. Has it been before protected by the arms of the United States? When was it that the United States considered it necessary within the limits of South Carolina, to consider that its property here needed all that imperial protection which it seems to give it now? Does the act of secession throw the people of South Carolina into the position of robbers? No! If it be so, that the United States can occupy property within the limits of South Carolina, my opinion is that it can own it only as an individual can, subordinate to the government of South Carolina.
He's quote offended at the notion that US property needs protecting at all when it never has, and he asserts the supremacy of the South Carolina government over the Federal in this matter of property rights.

When it is said that the United States has bought it, it must be remembered that when South Carolina withdraws from the Union her sovereign rights rise, and they are to be considered in reference to those rights of property asserted by the President: and when we look through the land of South Carolina and see the few ports and few places belonging to the United States, and then think of the vast property belonging to the United States to which the State of South Carolina has the highest right to participate in, and when we know that the right is to be attainted, and her title to be confiscated, I am very much disposed, in the face of the people of South Carolina - in the face of the United States - in the face of the whole world, here to raise the balance of justice, and here to let the weight of justice be asserted, and see if we owe anything to the United States. If there be a dollar owed by South Carolina to the United States, let it be paid by South Carolina; and if there be a dollar more than is due, demanded of South Carolina by the Federal Government, let the State of South Carolina be desolated before it be paid.
There's a mix of sovereignty and property rights here, and if I understand him, Magrath is saying that secession and independence puts South Carolina on the same level as the United States when it comes to sovereignty and property rights. And he again notes the limited amount of Federal property in South Carolina which contrasts with the vast amount of Federal property South Carolina has a share in throughout the United States, and he questions whether SC isn't giving up far more than it gains when it comes to property.

It may be, Mr. President, it may be that Mr. Buchanan is the friend of South Carolina - I do not say that he is not - I do most pointedly disclaim, however, the responsibility of saying that he is. I can come to no other conclusion except that he desires to escape the issue now before the United States, and which will involve us in war with the next President.
This is ominious. He's already talking of war with the next President, which they all know at this point will be Abraham Lincoln. He's already said that the pretext of protecting federal property will be what leads to coercion, and though he thinks Buchanan won't attempt it, due to just wanting to escape dealing with the crisis, he thinks it will be war with Lincoln.
 
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jgoodguy

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#4
In reading A. G. Magrath's elaboration of his resolution here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1970636, there are a lot of signposts about the political climate under which secession was taking place and the mindset of some of the secessionists:



I had not considered before the idea that any Federal Property in the United States was something that all the states had a share in, and the claim to Fort Sumter may have been offset in the mind of Magrath by the surrendering of all claims on other Federal property, when it comes to monetary value. He seems to indicate as much during his remarks.



This is as clear a statement as anyone could wish that South Carolina is not going with peace and good will from the other states, and that they will have to "contend" for their rights. This could be both political and diplomatic contention, and armed conflict, and as we'll see below, armed conflict is on Magrath's mind.



Magrath expects armed coercion, under the pretext of protecting US property in South Carolina. He does not accept Buchanan's words as anything but a mixed message.



He's quote offended at the notion that US property needs protecting at all when it never has, and he asserts the supremacy of the South Carolina government over the Federal in this matter of property rights.



There's a mix of sovereignty and property rights here, and if I understand him, Magrath is saying that secession and independence puts South Carolina on the same level as the United States when it comes to sovereignty and property rights. And he again notes the limited amount of Federal property in South Carolina which contrasts with the vast amount of Federal property South Carolina has a share in throughout the United States, and he questions whether SC isn't giving up far more than it gains when it comes to property.



This is ominious. He's already talking of war with the next President, which they all know at this point will be Abraham Lincoln. He's already said that the pretext of protecting federal property will be what leads to coercion, and though he thinks Buchanan won't attempt it, due to just wanting to escape dealing with the crisis, he thinks it will be war with Lincoln.
Interesting. The essence of secession is sovereignty.
 
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#5
This puts Memminger's view (and presumably the other secessionists as well) of what the Union was as clearly as I've ever seen it.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1972921

"The fact should be presented that South Carolina is not a State in rebellion to a government over it; but a State in league with co-States, and merely separating from those co-States, and about to resume her original position as one of the nations of the earth. "

The fact that a number of men at the Convention have used the term "confederacy" when describing the United States means that this view is nothing surprising, but it's a more plainly worded definition than any other example I've come across.
 

jgoodguy

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#6
This puts Memminger's view (and presumably the other secessionists as well) of what the Union was as clearly as I've ever seen it.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1972921

"The fact should be presented that South Carolina is not a State in rebellion to a government over it; but a State in league with co-States, and merely separating from those co-States, and about to resume her original position as one of the nations of the earth. "

The fact that a number of men at the Convention have used the term "confederacy" when describing the United States means that this view is nothing surprising, but it's a more plainly worded definition than any other example I've come across.
Saves time and trouble analyzing the Constitution for a secession out, to just claim the Constitution does not matter. Also, conservative action is preferred to revolutionary action as a political objective. Saying we are old time conservatives returning to an ideal past will be more popular than saying we are revolting.
 
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#7
Saves time and trouble analyzing the Constitution for a secession out, to just claim the Constitution does not matter. Also, conservative action is preferred to revolutionary action as a political objective. Saying we are old time conservatives returning to an ideal past will be more popular than saying we are revolting.
It does seem as though Memminger sees the Union as not all that different from the one under the AOC, despite the change in governing documents. I do wonder how much these men are playing to an audience. They are aware that reporters are in the room certainly, including Rhett. But I don't see any reason not to accept these as their genuine beliefs, even if they are in an echo chamber.
 

jgoodguy

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#8
It does seem as though Memminger sees the Union as not all that different from the one under the AOC, despite the change in governing documents. I do wonder how much these men are playing to an audience. They are aware that reporters are in the room certainly, including Rhett. But I don't see any reason not to accept these as their genuine beliefs, even if they are in an echo chamber.
Anyone has a right to genuine beliefs. The problem is what is the reality in this case. Once the Union is a compact is repeated enough, it becomes a reality. We have Calhoun and other Southern writers writing that the Constitution is a compact. Which is easier, let the dang Yankees run our lives or we are independent.
 
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#9
Three long sets of remarks by three convention members give us quite a bit of what they believed:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1973103

Mr. Hayne:

The causes which have produced the separation of South Carolina from the Federal Union, have emanated from the States North of Mason and Dixon's line, using hireling labor only; and whereas, it has not been against the Constitution of the United States that South Carolina has opposed her sovereignty, but the usurpation of a government in violation of this instrument.​
In short, it's the northern states that have caused this, and South Carolina is opposing a rogue government, not the Constitution.

... and proffering to each State, or any one or more of them, the existing Constitution of the United States as the basis of a Provisional Government, to be adopted on the part of South Carolina and any other slaveholding State or States which, after seceding from the present Federal Union, shall be willing to unite with South Carolina in the formation of a new Confederacy;​
And this is of course what they did, and we'll see more discussion about why they kept so much of the US Constitution later on. Again, the idea was not that South Carolina declare independence and remain isolated, but the end goal was a Southern Confederacy, a new Union, if the other states were willing. As we'll see in future remarks, the idea existed that not joining a confederacy meant risking the loss of the independence they were declaring.

He moves on to questions of who owns what:

Resolved, That three Commissioners be appointed to carry an authorized copy of the Ordinance of Secession to Washington, to be laid before the President of the United States, with the request that the same shall be communicated to the Congress now in session, and said Commissioners are hereby authorized and empowered to treat for the delivery of the Forts, Magazines, Light Houses, and other real estate, and all appurtenances thereto, within the geographical limits of South Carolina;​

So at this point, the idea was not just to seize everything within South Carolina's borders. Hayne recognizes that it is Federal property, and compensation will need to be negotiated.

His final subject is the provisional government, and he feels that it should be close to the government they're leaving behind, because that's what people are accustomed to, and the form that would be most quickly and easily adopted.

we could recommend to our Commissioners to make only such material alterations in this Constitution as would adapt it to the new order of things,​
The seeds of what would become the Confederate Constitution are right here: change only what we need, keep all else the same. By and large, that is what they did.
 
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#10
Rhett has some problems with Hayne's suggestions.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...vention-day-by-day.153365/page-4#post-1973744

Rhett believes a provisional government is a waste of time, a permanent government can be set up within a matter of months. And then he lays into the Constitution, which he strongly wishes to leave behind:

And above all, Mr. President, is it worth while to take up this Constitution of the United States for any purpose under Heaven - a Constitution under which we have been suffering and laboring for thirty years - a Constitution so full of equivocations and doubt, that whilst north of the Potomac it sets up a consolidated despotism over us, south of it we are constituted into a mere nominal dependence upon the Government. What has brought this Convention here to day? Why are we assembled? It is because that Constitution has failed. It is because that Constitution no longer guarantees to us liberty or safety. It is essentially a despotism in the hands of the Northern majority, by which the South has been oppressed for forty years, and by which the institutions of the South are about to be overthrown unless we interpose; and are we to authorize any men under Heaven to establish over us again such a Constitution as that?​

He doesn't hold back. The South, under the Constitution has been "suffering" for thirty years. It is "full of equivocations and doubt", it has set up "a consolidated despotism", it has "failed", it "no longer guarantees liberty or safety."

He doesn't speak of the last election, he speaks of decades, and while he obliquely speaks of slavery (surely one of the "institutions of the South"), he also speaks of "consolidation" and "despotism". These thoughts will be expressed more fully in the address to the slaveholding states, which he will write.

It is useless to say that we have the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in its favor. Do we not know that these decisions are not regarded by these Northern confederates? In their estimation the Constitution of the United States should be resisted unless it gives to the North the control of the South.​

Why didn't SC go to court? They had, in 1850, and if Rhett's attitude here is representative, they felt it was a waste of time and no protection.

He is in no hurry to set up a new government or write a new Constitution. He wants to see what is in any new Constitution, and not assume that it will be ratified. He is emotional, and ambitious. The opportunity must not be hurried or wasted:

We have now obtained the desired opportunity of our lives, to establish for ourselves a Constitution that shall endear itself to the people - a Constitution free in spirit, and giving liberty to ourselves and to our posterity. And if we fail to take advantage of it we are recreant to ourselves and our posterity. Let us establish here for centuries a free government, and make our confederates join with us in doing it, thus controlling the interests and commanding the respect of the world. Wherefore should there be any haste?​

--------------​
Let us remain as we are - free as air, after throwing off the yoke of this flagitious government. Let us remain where we are, and they will meet us promptly in two months, in three months, with full preparation, and we will form a Southern Confederacy, with a Constitution the best the world has ever seen, that time nor tide will not change, and that will last as long as our institutions last, - as long as liberty itself.​

Flagitious: "horribly criminal or wicked". Rhett again indicts the Federal Government and is content to take the time to properly make a better one.
 



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