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lation of the conspirators the prevailing question was, who was the most zealous "resistance" candidate. To a legislature elected from this kind of material, Governor Gist, on November 5th, sent a defiant, revolutionary message-the first official notice and proclamation of insurrection. He declared that "our institutions" were in danger from the hostility of the "fixed majorities" of the North; and recommended the calling of a State convention, and the purchase of arms and material of war.
A lingering doubt about the result of the presidential contest appears in the formal choice by the Legislature, of electors who would vote for Breckenridge and Lane. But that doubt was short-lived. The morning of November 7th brought the certain news of the election of Lincoln and Hamlin on the previous day, and the rejoicings which would have been uttered over their defeat became jubilations that their success offered the long-coveted pretext for disunion.
From this time forth everything was managed to swell the revolutionary furor. The Legislature immediately ordered a convention, made appropriations, passed military bills. The federal office-holders, with much public flourish of their patriotic sacrifice, resigned their offices. Military companies enrolled themselves in the city; organizations of minutemen sprang up in the rural neighborhoods. Drills, parades, meetings, bonfires, secession harangues, secession cockades, palmetto flags, purchase of fire-arms and powder, singing of the Marseillaise-there is not room to enumerate the follies to which the general populace, especially of Charleston, devoted their days and nights. There was universal satisfaction to the conspirators, because their schemes were progressing; to the rabble, because it had a continuous holiday.
Amid unflagging excitement of this character, which received a daily stimulus from similar proceedings beginning and growing in other Cotton States, November and the first half of December passed away. Meanwhile a new governor, Francis W. Pickens, a revolutionist of a yet more radical type than his predecessor, was chosen by the Legislature and inaugurated, and the members of the Convention authorized by the Legislature were chosen at an election held on December 6th. The South Carolina Convention met at Columbia, the capital of the State, according to appointment, on December 17, 1860, but, on account of a local epidemic, at once adjourned to Charleston. That body was, like the Legislature, the immediate outgrowth of the current conspiracy, and doubtless counted many of the conspirators among its members. It therefore needed no time to make up its mind. On the fourth day of its term it passed unanimously what it called an Ordinance of Secession, in the following words:
"We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the 23d day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved."
Conscious that this document bore upon its face the plain. contradiction of their pretended authority, and its own palpable nullity both in technical form and essential principle, the convention undertook to give it strength and plausibility by an elaborate Declaration of Causes, adopted a few days later (December 24th)—a sort of half-parody of Jeffer
son's masterpiece. It could, of course, quote no direct warrant from the Constitution for secession, but sought to deduce one, by implication, from the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Xth Amendment. It reasserts the absurd paradox of State supremacy-persistently miscalled "State Rights"—which reverses the natural order of governmental existence; considers a State superior to the Union; makes a part greater than the whole; turns the pyramid of authority on its apex; plants the tree of liberty with its branches in the ground and its roots in the air. The fallacy has been a hundred times analyzed, exposed, and refuted; but the cheap dogmatism of demagogues and the automatic machinery of faction perpetually conjures it up anew to astonish the sucklings and terrify the dotards of politics. The notable point in the Declaration of Causes is, that its complaint over grievances past and present is against certain States, and for these remedy was of course logically barred by its own theory of State supremacy. On the other hand, all its allegations against the Union are concerning dangers to come, before which admission the moral justification of disunion falls to the ground. In rejecting the remedy of future elections for future wrongs, the conspiracy discarded the entire theory and principle of republican gov
One might suppose that this exhausted their counterfeit philosophy-but not yet. Greatly as they groaned at unfriendly State laws-seriously as they pretended to fear damage or spoliation under future federal statutes, the burden of their anger rose at the sentiment and belief of the North. "All hope of remedy," says the manifesto, "is rendered vain by the fact that the public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief." This is language one
might expect from the Pope of Rome; but, that an American convention should denounce the liberty of opinion, is not merely to recede from Jefferson to Louis XIV.; it is flying from the town-meeting to the Inquisition.
Nor can the final and persistent, but false assumption of the South, be admitted, that she was justified by prescriptive privilege; that, because slavery was tolerated at the formation of the government, it must needs be protected to perpetuity. The Constitution makes few features of our system perpetually obligatory. Almost everything is subject to amendment by three-fourths of the States. The New World Republic was established for reform—not for mere blind conservatism, certainly not for despotic reaction. The slavery question, especially, was ever since 1808 broadly under the control of the people. On the one hand, Congress had legal power to tolerate the African slave trade; on the other, three-fourths of the States might lawfully abolish slavery, as was done near the close of the Rebellion. effect necessary and salutary political changes, in the fulness of time, by lawful and peaceful election through constitutional majorities, as a prudent alternative to the violence and horror of revolution, is one of the many signal blessings which republican representative government confers on an intelligent nation.
The Ordinance of Secession of South Carolina was passed in secret session, a little after mid-day, on December 20th. The fact was immediately made public by huge placards issued from the Charleston printing-offices; and by special direction of the convention, the event was further celebrated by firing guns, ringing bells, and other jubilations. carry this studied theatrical effect to its fullest extent, a session of the convention was held that same night, to which the members marched in procession, where the formal sign
ing of the Ordinance was sought to be magnified into a solemn public ceremony; after which the chairman proclaimed South Carolina an "independent commonwealth.” With all their affectation of legality, formality, and present justification, some of the members were honest enough to acknowledge the true character of the event as the culmination of a chronic conspiracy, not a spontaneous revolution. "The secession of South Carolina," said one of the chief actors, "is not an event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by the non-execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. It is a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years." This, with many similar avowals, crowns and completes the otherwise abundant proof that the revolt was not only against right, but that it was without cause.
The original suggestion of Governor Gist in his circular letter, for a concerted insurrection, fell upon fruitful soil. The events which occurred in South Carolina were in substance duplicated in the neighboring States of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. These States, however, had stronger and more formidable union minorities than South Carolina; or rather, if the truth could have been ascertained with safety, they had each of them decided majorities averse to secession, as was virtually acknowledged by their governors' replies to the Gist circular. But during the presidential campaign, the three Southern parties, for factional advantage, had vied with each other in their denunciations of the hated “Black Republicans "—they had berated each other as "submissionists" in secret league or sympathy with the Abolitionists. The partisans of Breckenridgegenerally either active or latent disunionists-were ready, positive, and relentlessly aggressive; the adherents of Bell and of Douglas were demoralized and suspicious. When