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"SLAVERY THE CORNER-STONE OF THE CONFEDERACY'
[DEBATES AND SPEECHES IN THE SOUTH ON SECESSION]
Ante-Election Meeting of South Carolina Secessionists-Address of Governor William H. Gist to South Carolina Legislature-Speech of Senator James Chesnut, Jr., "Unfurl the Palmetto Flag!"-Debate in the South Carolina Legislature on "Independent Action or Coöperation with Other Cotton States'': in Favor of the Former, Mr. Mullins; of the latter, Mr. McGowan-Speech of Edmund Ruffin [Va.] at Columbia, S. C.: "Virginia Will Join the Confederacy''-Resignation of Federal Officers in South Carolina-Address of Governor Beriah Magoffin [Ky.] to the Southern States: "Remain in the Union to Fight for Southern Rights''-Ordinances of Secession Are Passed by South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas-The Other Southern States Refuse to Secede-General Winfield Scott Vainly Warns the Administration to Reinforce the Southern Forts-Resignations from the Cabinet-Unsuccessful Embassy of Caleb Cushing to South CarolinaPresident Buchanan Refuses to Meet Peace Commissions from South Carolina-Major Robert Anderson Removes Garrison in Charleston Harbor from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter-Seizure of Federal Forts and Other Property by Southern States-John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, Foiled in Attempts to Aid the Secessionists, and Involved in Charges of Defalcation, Resigns-Star of the West Is Fired Upon by the Secessionists South Carolina Demands That the Government Surrender Fort Sumter-Famous Order of John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury, to Defend the American Flag-Surrender of the Army in Texas by General David E. Twiggs to the Secessionists-Summary of Federal Property Seized by the Secessionists-Organization of the Southern ConfederacyIts Constitution-Inauguration of President Jefferson Davis-His Inaugural Address-Speech of Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens on "Slavery the Corner-Stone of the Confederacy."
WO weeks before the election (on October 25, 1860), a meeting of South Carolina statesmen was held at the residence of Senator James H. Hammond, near Augusta, at which there were present Gov. William H. Gist and the delegation to Congress,
with many other men of mark. By this meeting it was unanimously resolved that South Carolina should secede from the Union in the event of Lincoln's then almost certain election. Similar meetings of kindred spirits were held about the same time in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. By the interchange of messages, letters, and visits, the entire slaveholding region had been prepared, so far as possible, for disunion in the event of a Republican, if not also of a Douglas, triumph.
Governor Gist [S. C.] called the legislature of the State to meet in extraordinary session on November 5 (the day before the election), to appoint presidential electors, these in South Carolina being chosen by the legislature instead of by the people directly. In his opening address the governor said:
"Under ordinary circumstances, your duty could be soon discharged by the election of electors representing the choice of the people of the State; but in view of the threatening aspect of affairs, and the strong probability of the election to the presidency of a sectional candidate, by a party committed to the support of measures which, if carried out, will inevitably destroy our equality in the Union, and ultimately reduce the Southern States to mere provinces of a consolidated despotism, to be governed by a fixed majority in Congress which is hostile to our institutions, and fatally bent upon our ruin, I would respectfully suggest that the legislature remain in session, and take such action as will prepare the State for any emergency that may arise.
"My own opinions of what the convention should do are of little moment; but, believing that the time has arrived when everyone, however humble he may be, should express his opinions in unmistakable language, I am constrained to say that the only alternative left, in my judgment, is the secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. The indications from many of the Southern States justify the conclusion that the secession of South Carolina will be immediately followed, if not adopted simultaneously, by them, and ultimately by the entire South. The long-desired coöperation of the other States having similar institutions, for which so many of our citizens have been waiting, seems to be near at hand; and, if we are true to ourselves, will soon be realized. The State has, with great unanimity, de
clared that she has the right peaceably to secede, and no power on earth can rightfully prevent it.
"If, in the exercise of arbitrary power, and forgetful of the lessons of history, the Government of the United States should attempt coercion, it will become our solemn duty to meet force by force.
He therefore recommended certain military meas
With this preparation for defence, and with all the hallowed memories of past achievements, with our love of liberty, and hatred of tyranny, and with the knowledge that we are contending for the safety of our homes and firesides, we can confidently appeal to the Disposer of all human events, and safely trust our cause in His keeping."
Mr. James Chesnut, Jr., one of the United States Senators from South Carolina, was among the large number of leading politicians in attendance at the opening of the legislative session. He was serenaded on the evening of November 5. Replying to the ovation he said:
"Before the setting of to-morrow's sun, in all human probability, the destiny of this confederated Republic would be decided. He solemnly thought, in all human probability, that the Republican party would triumph in the election of Lincoln as President.
"The question now was, Would the South submit to a Black Republican President and a Black Republican Congress, which will claim the right to construe the Constitution of the country and administer the Government in their own hands, not by the law of the instrument itself, nor by that of the fathers of the country, nor by the practices of those who administered seventy years ago, but by rules drawn from their own blind consciences and crazy brains. They call us inferiors, semi-civilized barbarians, and claim the right to possess our lands, and give them to the destitute of the Old World and the profligates of this. They claim the dogmas of the Declaration of Independence as part of the Constitution, and that it is their right and duty to so administer the Government as to give full effect to them. The people now must choose whether they would be governed by enemies, or govern themselves.
"For himself, he would unfurl the Palmetto flag, fling it to the breeze, and, with the spirit of a brave man, determine to live and die as became our glorious ancestors, and ring the clarion notes of defiance in the ears of an insolent foe. He then spoke of the undoubted right to withdraw their delegated powers, and it was their duty, in the event contemplated, to withdraw them. It was their only safety.
"Mr. C. favored separate State action; saying the rest would flock to our standard.'
Other South Carolina statesmen spoke in similar vein. Says Horace Greeley in his "American Conflict":
"There was great joy in Charleston, and wherever 'FireEaters' most did congregate, on the morning of November 7. Men rushed to shake hands and congratulate each other on the glad tidings of Lincoln's election. Now, it was felt, and exultingly proclaimed, the last obstacle to 'Southern independence' has been removed, and the great experiment need no longer be postponed to await the pleasure of the weak, the faithless, the cowardly. It was clear that the election had resulted precisely as the master spirits had wished and hoped. Now, the apathy, at least of the other Cotton States, must be overcome; now, South Carolina will be able to achieve her longcherished purpose of breaking up the Union, and founding a new confederacy on her own ideas, and on the 'peculiar institution of the South.'"
COÖPERATION WITH OTHER COTTON STATES
SOUTH CAROLINA LEGISLATURE, NOVEMBER, 1860
There was an animated debate in the South Carolina Legislature as to whether the State should immediately secede from the Union or wait for the coöperation of the other "Cotton" States. Mr. McGowan of Abbeville was in favor of the latter course. He said:
"Lincoln's election is taken as an occasion for action, but with us it is not the only cause for action. We have delayed for the last ten years for nothing but coöperation. It is the best and wisest policy to remain in the Union, with our Southern sis