Restricted Debate The South Carolina Secession convention, day by day

Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
7,827
Location
South Carolina
#1
The South Carolina secession convention, or The Convention of the People of South Carolina, to give the more formal title, opened in Columbia on December 17, 1860. The proceedings were covered, transcribed by Robert Barnwell Rhett and published by the Charleston Mercury. My intention with this thread is to present the very long articles in short segments and walk through the conversations and debates that led to the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20th, four days later, with the goal being to learn what was discussed, what was adopted and what was not.

HdFnXRi.jpg


Rhett first describes the scene:
CI2dEGL.jpg


Business began at noon.
n4pKISh.jpg


After a few motions, including the appointment of a temporary secretary, the President of the convention spoke.
IAD5ojJ.jpg



Gentlemen: We have met here under circumstances more solemn than any of us have ever been placed in before. No one, it seems to me, is duly impressed with the magnitude of the work before him, who does not at the same time feel that he is about to enter upon the gravest and most solemn act which has fallen to the lot of this generation to accomplish. It is no less than the fixed determination to throw off a Government to which we have been accustomed, and to provide new safeguards for our future security. If any thing has been decided by the elections which sent us here, it is, that South Carolina must dissolve her connection with the Confederacy as speedily as possible. In the progress of this movement, we have two great dangers to fear, overtures from without and precipitation within. I trust that the door is now forever closed to all further connection with our Northern confederates; for what guarantees can they offer us, more strictly guarded, or under higher sanctions, than the present written compact between us? And did that sacred instrument protect us from the jealousy and aggressions of the North, commenced forty years ago, which resulted in the Missouri Compromise?

Did the Constitution protect us from the cupidity of the Northern people, who, for thirty-five years, have imposed the burden of supporting the General Government chiefly on the industry of the South? Did it save us from Abolition petitions, designed to annoy us and insult us, in the very halls of our Federal Congress? Did it enable us to obtain a single foot of the soil acquired in the war with Mexico, where the South furnished three-fourths of the money, two-thirds of the men, and four-fifths of the graves? Did it oppose any obstacle to the erection of California into a free-soil State, without any previous territorial existence, without any defined boundaries, or any census of her population? Did it throw any protection around the Southern settlers of Kansas, when the soil of that territory was invaded by the emissaries of Emigrant Aid Societies, in a crusade preached from Norther pulpits, when churchmen and women contributed Sharp's rifles and Colt's revolvers, to swell the butchery of Southern men? And has not that Constitution been trodden under foot by almost every Northern State, in their Ordinances nullifying all laws made for the recovery of fugitive slaves, by which untold millions of property have been lost to the South?

Let us no longer be duped by paper securities. Written Constitutions are worthless, unless they are written at the same time, in the hearts, and founded on the interests of a people; and as there is no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and the South, all efforts to preserve this Union will not only be fruitless, but fatal to the less numerical section. The other danger to which I referred, may arise from too great impatience on the part of our people to precipitate the issue, in not waiting until they can strike with the authority of law.

At the moment of inaugurating a great movement like the present, I trust that we will go forward, and not be diverted from our purpose by influences from without. In the outset of this movement I can offer you no better motion than Danton's at the commencement of the French Revolution: "To dare! and again to dare! and without end to dare!" [Applause].
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
30,344
Location
Long Island, NY
#3
The South Carolina secession convention, or The Convention of the People of South Carolina, to give the more formal title, opened in Columbia on December 17, 1860. The proceedings were covered, transcribed by Robert Barnwell Rhett and published by the Charleston Mercury. My intention with this thread is to present the very long articles in short segments and walk through the conversations and debates that led to the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20th, four days later, with the goal being to learn what was discussed, what was adopted and what was not.

View attachment 218224

Rhett first describes the scene:
View attachment 218225

Business began at noon.
View attachment 218226

After a few motions, including the appointment of a temporary secretary, the President of the convention spoke.
View attachment 218227


Gentlemen: We have met here under circumstances more solemn than any of us have ever been placed in before. No one, it seems to me, is duly impressed with the magnitude of the work before him, who does not at the same time feel that he is about to enter upon the gravest and most solemn act which has fallen to the lot of this generation to accomplish. It is no less than the fixed determination to throw off a Government to which we have been accustomed, and to provide new safeguards for our future security. If any thing has been decided by the elections which sent us here, it is, that South Carolina must dissolve her connection with the Confederacy as speedily as possible. In the progress of this movement, we have two great dangers to fear, overtures from without and precipitation within. I trust that the door is now forever closed to all further connection with our Northern confederates; for what guarantees can they offer us, more strictly guarded, or under higher sanctions, than the present written compact between us? And did that sacred instrument protect us from the jealousy and aggressions of the North, commenced forty years ago, which resulted in the Missouri Compromise?

Did the Constitution protect us from the cupidity of the Northern people, who, for thirty-five years, have imposed the burden of supporting the General Government chiefly on the industry of the South? Did it save us from Abolition petitions, designed to annoy us and insult us, in the very halls of our Federal Congress? Did it enable us to obtain a single foot of the soil acquired in the war with Mexico, where the South furnished three-fourths of the money, two-thirds of the men, and four-fifths of the graves? Did it oppose any obstacle to the erection of California into a free-soil State, without any previous territorial existence, without any defined boundaries, or any census of her population? Did it throw any protection around the Southern settlers of Kansas, when the soil of that territory was invaded by the emissaries of Emigrant Aid Societies, in a crusade preached from Norther pulpits, when churchmen and women contributed Sharp's rifles and Colt's revolvers, to swell the butchery of Southern men? And has not that Constitution been trodden under foot by almost every Northern State, in their Ordinances nullifying all laws made for the recovery of fugitive slaves, by which untold millions of property have been lost to the South?

Let us no longer be duped by paper securities. Written Constitutions are worthless, unless they are written at the same time, in the hearts, and founded on the interests of a people; and as there is no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and the South, all efforts to preserve this Union will not only be fruitless, but fatal to the less numerical section. The other danger to which I referred, may arise from too great impatience on the part of our people to precipitate the issue, in not waiting until they can strike with the authority of law.

At the moment of inaugurating a great movement like the present, I trust that we will go forward, and not be diverted from our purpose by influences from without. In the outset of this movement I can offer you no better motion than Danton's at the commencement of the French Revolution: "To dare! and again to dare! and without end to dare!" [Applause].
Looks promising.
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
7,827
Location
South Carolina
#4
Following the prayer was a lengthy discussion on the organization of the Convention, to have the delegates present their credentials, be enrolled and be sworn in. The delegates and where they hail from are listed. After that, ballots are cast for President, with names and the number of votes each candidate received. In some ways it's a fairly typical business meeting of the type I'm sure many of us have experienced, apart from the subject matter, and I'll just skim through these lists of names and votes unless someone is just dying to see them.

D. F. Jamison was elected on the fourth ballot and gave some remarks. He seems a bit overwhelmed that he's been elected and asks for patience from the convention.
uEpmFVG.jpg
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
30,344
Location
Long Island, NY
#5
The South Carolina secession convention, or The Convention of the People of South Carolina, to give the more formal title, opened in Columbia on December 17, 1860. The proceedings were covered, transcribed by Robert Barnwell Rhett and published by the Charleston Mercury. My intention with this thread is to present the very long articles in short segments and walk through the conversations and debates that led to the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20th, four days later, with the goal being to learn what was discussed, what was adopted and what was not.

View attachment 218224

Rhett first describes the scene:
View attachment 218225

Business began at noon.
View attachment 218226

After a few motions, including the appointment of a temporary secretary, the President of the convention spoke.
View attachment 218227


Gentlemen: We have met here under circumstances more solemn than any of us have ever been placed in before. No one, it seems to me, is duly impressed with the magnitude of the work before him, who does not at the same time feel that he is about to enter upon the gravest and most solemn act which has fallen to the lot of this generation to accomplish. It is no less than the fixed determination to throw off a Government to which we have been accustomed, and to provide new safeguards for our future security. If any thing has been decided by the elections which sent us here, it is, that South Carolina must dissolve her connection with the Confederacy as speedily as possible. In the progress of this movement, we have two great dangers to fear, overtures from without and precipitation within. I trust that the door is now forever closed to all further connection with our Northern confederates; for what guarantees can they offer us, more strictly guarded, or under higher sanctions, than the present written compact between us? And did that sacred instrument protect us from the jealousy and aggressions of the North, commenced forty years ago, which resulted in the Missouri Compromise?

Did the Constitution protect us from the cupidity of the Northern people, who, for thirty-five years, have imposed the burden of supporting the General Government chiefly on the industry of the South? Did it save us from Abolition petitions, designed to annoy us and insult us, in the very halls of our Federal Congress? Did it enable us to obtain a single foot of the soil acquired in the war with Mexico, where the South furnished three-fourths of the money, two-thirds of the men, and four-fifths of the graves? Did it oppose any obstacle to the erection of California into a free-soil State, without any previous territorial existence, without any defined boundaries, or any census of her population? Did it throw any protection around the Southern settlers of Kansas, when the soil of that territory was invaded by the emissaries of Emigrant Aid Societies, in a crusade preached from Norther pulpits, when churchmen and women contributed Sharp's rifles and Colt's revolvers, to swell the butchery of Southern men? And has not that Constitution been trodden under foot by almost every Northern State, in their Ordinances nullifying all laws made for the recovery of fugitive slaves, by which untold millions of property have been lost to the South?

Let us no longer be duped by paper securities. Written Constitutions are worthless, unless they are written at the same time, in the hearts, and founded on the interests of a people; and as there is no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and the South, all efforts to preserve this Union will not only be fruitless, but fatal to the less numerical section. The other danger to which I referred, may arise from too great impatience on the part of our people to precipitate the issue, in not waiting until they can strike with the authority of law.

At the moment of inaugurating a great movement like the present, I trust that we will go forward, and not be diverted from our purpose by influences from without. In the outset of this movement I can offer you no better motion than Danton's at the commencement of the French Revolution: "To dare! and again to dare! and without end to dare!" [Applause].
The president offered these reasons for secession:
1. The Missouri Compromise (which restricted the expansion of slavery) restricted Southern rights
2. South provided much of the financial support for the Federal government
3. Abolition Petitions accepted by Congress
4. Failure to extend slavery to the areas conquered from Mexico
5. Admission of California as a Free State
6. Violent opposition to the spread of slavery in Kansas
7. Failure to return Fugitive Slaves "by which untold millions of property have been lost to the South".
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
7,827
Location
South Carolina
#6
The president offered these reasons for secession:
1. The Missouri Compromise (which restricted the expansion of slavery) restricted Southern rights
2. South provided much of the financial support for the Federal government
3. Abolition Petitions accepted by Congress
4. Failure to extend slavery to the areas conquered from Mexico
5. Admission of California as a Free State
6. Violent opposition to the spread of slavery in Kansas
7. Failure to return Fugitive Slaves "by which untold millions of property have been lost to the South".
The only real substantive disagreement I'd take with your summaries is #4, because he said nothing about slavery. In fact, his complaint there is that the South furnished, according to him, most of the money, most of the men and had more dead in that war. In other words, the south paid the highest price in money and men to win that land, and got none of it in return. That slavery may also have been a complaint is a reasonable inference (since it wasn't southerners themselves who were restricted, but the institution of slavery), but he does not name it here.

And with #7, he also accuses the North of having violated the Constitution, a theme he began his complaints with and returns to afterwards, calling the Constitution "paper security" and "worthless" for protection.

It's all intertwined. Sectional competition, property rights (in slaves and land won in war), financial grievances (slave property value, tariffs taken in the south being spent for the benefit of the north), and fidelity to the Constitution.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
30,344
Location
Long Island, NY
#7
The only real substantive disagreement I'd take with your summaries is #4, because he said nothing about slavery. In fact, his complaint there is that the South furnished, according to him, most of the money, most of the men and had more dead in that war. In other words, the south paid the highest price in money and men to win that land, and got none of it in return. That slavery may also have been a complaint is a reasonable inference, but he does not name it here.
That seems pretty naive. He says "Did it enable us to obtain a single foot of the soil acquired in the war with Mexico, where the South furnished three-fourths of the money, two-thirds of the men, and four-fifths of the graves?" The complaint is not that the South sacrificed more. It is that it was not rewarded for the sacrifice with land. Since Southerners could move to the new territories under the same circumstances as Northerners, what was the complaint? That they could not extend the institution of slavery into them.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#10
That seems pretty naive. He says "Did it enable us to obtain a single foot of the soil acquired in the war with Mexico, where the South furnished three-fourths of the money, two-thirds of the men, and four-fifths of the graves?" The complaint is not that the South sacrificed more. It is that it was not rewarded for the sacrifice with land. Since Southerners could move to the new territories under the same circumstances as Northerners, what was the complaint? That they could not extend the institution of slavery into them.

In looking at the addresses in the convention, it is important to review the makeup of the convention. Link
The delegates were the cream of their world. Ninety percent of them owned at least one slave; over 60 percent owned at least twenty; over 40 percent owned fifty or more; and 16 percent owned a hundred or more. No other southern secession convention would approach this mass of wealth, unknowingly stepping toward class suicide.​
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#11
The first day of these conventions always seem to accomplish very little. Were the delegates all checking into hotels?
Link It seems to me to be a short convention with a predetermined result.

The secession convention opened in Columbia, South Carolina on December 17, 1860, but by then the game was already over. The election of delegates on December 6 had rejected those few candidates who dared to run as Cooperationists. William W. Freehling describes the victors:​

The Convention remained in Columbia only one day. Early on the morning of December 18, the delegates entrained for Charleston in order to avoid a smallpox scare in Columbia. Before leaving, however, they unanimously passed a pledge to secede upon arrival in Charleston.​
The “imminent suicides,” in Prof. Freehling's phrase, kept their pledge. As the Charleston Mercury recounted the next day,​
On yesterday, the 20th of December, 1860, just before one o'clock, p.m., the Ordinance of secession was presented by the Committee on "the Ordinance," to the Convention of the people of South Carolina. Precisely at seven minutes after one o'clock, the vote was taken upon the Ordinance - each man's name being called in order. As name by name fell upon the ear of the silent assembly, the brief sound was echoed back, without one solitary exception in that whole grave body - Aye!​
At 1:15 o'clock, p.m. - the last name was called, the Ordinance of Secession was announced to have been passed, and the last fetter had fallen from the limbs of a brave, but too long oppressed people.​
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
30,344
Location
Long Island, NY
#12
Link It seems to me to be a short convention with a predetermined result.

The secession convention opened in Columbia, South Carolina on December 17, 1860, but by then the game was already over. The election of delegates on December 6 had rejected those few candidates who dared to run as Cooperationists. William W. Freehling describes the victors:​

The Convention remained in Columbia only one day. Early on the morning of December 18, the delegates entrained for Charleston in order to avoid a smallpox scare in Columbia. Before leaving, however, they unanimously passed a pledge to secede upon arrival in Charleston.​
The “imminent suicides,” in Prof. Freehling's phrase, kept their pledge. As the Charleston Mercury recounted the next day,​
On yesterday, the 20th of December, 1860, just before one o'clock, p.m., the Ordinance of secession was presented by the Committee on "the Ordinance," to the Convention of the people of South Carolina. Precisely at seven minutes after one o'clock, the vote was taken upon the Ordinance - each man's name being called in order. As name by name fell upon the ear of the silent assembly, the brief sound was echoed back, without one solitary exception in that whole grave body - Aye!​
At 1:15 o'clock, p.m. - the last name was called, the Ordinance of Secession was announced to have been passed, and the last fetter had fallen from the limbs of a brave, but too long oppressed people.​

It is amazing for the president of the convention to announce before debate has begun that he will sign the ordinance of secession.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Jan 10, 2016
Messages
256
#13
Link It seems to me to be a short convention with a predetermined result.
Your view seems to be supported by D.F Jamison's comments in post #4 where he states, after having just been appointed President of the Convention, that there would be no greater honor for him than to sign the Ordinance of Secession.

It sure sounds to me as though the decision to secede had already been made, or at least it was assumed that it would be agreed upon by the Convention.

EDIT: @Pat Young You beat me to it! :smile:
 

AshleyMel

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
Messages
1,988
#14
The South Carolina secession convention, or The Convention of the People of South Carolina, to give the more formal title, opened in Columbia on December 17, 1860. The proceedings were covered, transcribed by Robert Barnwell Rhett and published by the Charleston Mercury. My intention with this thread is to present the very long articles in short segments and walk through the conversations and debates that led to the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20th, four days later, with the goal being to learn what was discussed, what was adopted and what was not.
Thanks for this thread Mr. Andersonh1!
Great to see the printed newspaper account and note that Robert Barnwell Rhett was the transcriber!
Of course, it was in 1844 Rhett gave his rallying speech under the Secession tree in Bluffton, SC!
Edit: Also, I'm sure you fellas already know this, Rhett owned the Charleston Mercury.
 
Last edited:

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#15
Thanks for this thread Mr. Andersonh1!
Great to see the printed newspaper account and note that Robert Barnwell Rhett was the transcriber!
Of course, it was in 1844 Rhett gave his rallying speech under the Secession tree in Bluffton, SC!
Edit: Also, but, I'm sure you fellas already know this, Rhett owned the Charleston Mercury.
Link
p0.jpg
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
7,827
Location
South Carolina
#18
Talk about not accomplishing much on day one... Mr. Wardlaw is ready for a recess until 7:00.

Among the resolutions here are the appointment of a clerk, a messenger and a doorkeeper; to meet in Charleston for the next session; to find a suitable place in Charleston to meet; to take a recess; and that commissioners from Mississippi and Alabama be invited and be asked to address the convention.

Mr. Miles is against the move until taking "action on the event which has brought us together". He thinks South Carolina will look foolish if they're ready "to face the world, but run away from smallpox." He thinks a vote on withdrawing from the Union should be held first before any move is made, and that his friends in Washington from other states have urged as quick a withdrawal as possible.

jzuHE7t.jpg
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#19
Talk about not accomplishing much on day one... Mr. Wardlaw is ready for a recess until 7:00.

Among the resolutions here are the appointment of a clerk, a messenger and a doorkeeper; to meet in Charleston for the next session; to find a suitable place in Charleston to meet; to take a recess; and that commissioners from Mississippi and Alabama be invited and be asked to address the convention.

Mr. Miles is against the move until taking "action on the event which has brought us together". He thinks South Carolina will look foolish if they're ready "to face the world, but run away from smallpox." He thinks a vote on withdrawing from the Union should be held first before any move is made, and that his friends in Washington from other states have urged as quick a withdrawal as possible.

View attachment 218331
Even great meeting need a clerk(recording secretary).
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
7,827
Location
South Carolina
#20
It sure sounds to me as though the decision to secede had already been made, or at least it was assumed that it would be agreed upon by the Convention.
I agree, the end result was not in doubt. The purpose of the convention was not to decide if secession would happen, but to follow the proper legal procedure for secession, and withdraw from the Union in the same way that the state had entered it. Note the concern in the first speech that the people might "precipitate the issue, in not waiting until they can strike with the authority of law". The president was concerned that they stay ahead of the popular mood and get this done properly and legally.

This was the fifth convention of the people of SC, I believe, following the ones in 1788, 1832, 1833 and 1852. There is a Google Book of the "Journals of the Conventions of the People of South Carolina held in 1832, 1833 and 1852" published in 1860 by the General Assembly that has some useful information in it concerning the earlier conventions.
 
Last edited:



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top