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[South Carolina persuading the other slave States to secede]
From the collection of the New York Historical Society
ters, in order to arrange the time when, and the manner how, of going out, and nothing else.
"The Southern States of this Union have more motives, more inducements, and more necessities, for concert and union than any people that has lived in the tide of time. They are one in soil and climate; one in productions, having a monopoly of the cotton region; one in institutions; and, more than all, one in their wrongs under the Constitution. Add to all this that they alone, of all the earth, have a peculiar institution-African slavery-which is absolutely necessary for them; without which they would cease to exist, and against which, under the influence of a fanatical sentiment, the world is banded. Upon the subject of this institution, we are isolated from the whole world, who are not only indifferent, but inimical, to it; and it would seem that the very weight of this outside pressure would compel us to unite.
"Besides, the history of the world is pregnant with admonition as to the necessity of union. The history of classic Greece, and especially that awful chapter upon the Peloponnesian war, appeals to us. The history of poor, dismembered Poland cries to us. The history of the Dutch Republic claims to be heard. Modern Italy and the states of Central America are now, at this moment, crying to us to unite. All history teaches us that 'United we stand, divided we fall.' All the Southern States would not be too many for our confederacy, whose flag would float, honored upon every sea, and under whose folds every citizen would be sure of protection and security. My God! what is the reason we cannot unite? It seems to me that we might with propriety address to the whole South the pregnant words of Milton:
'Awake! arise! or be forever fallen!'
"South Carolina has sometimes been accused of a paramount desire to lead or to disturb the councils of the South. Let us make one last effort for coöperation, and, in doing so, repel the false and unfounded imputation. Then, if we fail, and a convention is called under these circumstances, I and all of us will stand by the action of that convention.
"If South Carolina, in convention assembled, deliberately secedes-separate and alone, and, without any hope of coöperation, decides to cut loose from her moorings, surrounded as she is by Southern sisters in like circumstances-I will be one of her crew, and, in common with every true son of hers, will endeavor, with all the power that God has given me, to
'Spread all her canvas to the breeze,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the God of storms,
Mr. Mullins, of Marion, followed. He said:
"South Carolina had tried coöperation, but had exhausted that policy. The State of Virginia had discredited the cause which our commissioner went there to advocate, although she treated him, personally, with respect; but she had as much as said there were no indignities which could drive her to take the leadership for Southern rights. If we wait for coöperation, slavery and State rights would be abandoned,, State sovereignty and the cause of the South lost forever, and we would be subjected to a dominion the parallel to which was that of the poor Indian under the British East India Company. When they had pledged themselves to take the State out of the Union, and placed it on record, then he was willing to send a commissioner to Georgia, or any other Southern State, to announce our determination, and to submit the question whether they would join us or not. We have it from high authority that the representative of one of the imperial powers of Europe, in view of the prospective separation of one or more of the Southern States from the present confederacy, has made propositions in advance for the establishment of such relations between it and the Government about to be established in this State, as will insure to that power such a supply of cotton for the future as their increasing demand for that article will require: this information is perfectly authentic."
Mr. Edmund Ruffin, of Virginia, had for many years been the editor of a leading agricultural monthly, and had thus acquired a very decided influence over the planters of the South. A devotee of slavery, he had hastened to Columbia, on the call of the legislature, to do his utmost for secession. He was serenaded on the evening of November 7, and in response he said:
"The question now before the country he had studied for years. It had been the one great idea of his life. The defence of the South, he verily believed, was to be secured only through the lead of South Carolina. As old as he was, he had come here to join them in that lead. He wished Virginia was as ready as
South Carolina, but, unfortunately, she was not; but, circumstances being different, it was perhaps better that Virginia and all other border States remain quiescent for time, to serve as guard against the North. The first drop of blood spilled on the soil of South Carolina would bring Virginia and every Southern State with them. By remaining in the Union for a time, she would not only prevent coercive legislation in Congress, but any attempt for our subjugation.
"There was no fear of Carolina remaining alone. She would soon be followed by other States. Virginia and half a dozen more were just as good and strong, and able to repel the enemy as if they had the whole of the slaveholding States to act with them. Even if California remained alone-not that he thought it probable, but supposing so it was his conviction that she would be able to defend herself against any power brought against her."
Secession without waiting for the other Cotton States was decided upon.
The leading Federal officers in South Carolina resigned their positions. A bill calling a convention, with the distinct purpose of secession, passed the State Senate on the 9th of November, and the House on the 12th. December 6 was the day appointed for the election of delegates; the convention to meet on the 17th of that month. Whereupon, Gov. Hammond resigned his seat in the U. S. Senate, as his colleague, Mr. Chesnut, had already done.
The action of South Carolina met with quick response in most of the slave States, the various governors calling the legislatures in special session to act on the question of secession. Governor Samuel Houston [Tex.] was one, however, who refused to issue such a call, whereupon sixty of the legislators did so unconstitutionally, the governor weakly submitting to the usurpation, and shortly afterwards resigning his office. Governor Beriah Magoffin [Ky.] also refused to assemble the legislature to take action on the issue, and issued a public address in which he appealed to the other Southern States as follows:
"To South Carolina, and such other States as may wish to secede from the Union, I would say: The geography of this
country would not admit of a division; the mouth and sources of the Mississippi River cannot be separated without the horrors of civil war. We cannot sustain you in this movement merely on account of the election of Lincoln. Do not precipitate us, by premature action, into a revolution or civil war, the consequences of which will be most frightful to all of us. It may yet be avoided. There is still hope, faint though it be. Kentucky is a border State, and has suffered more than all of you. She claims that, standing upon the same sound platform, you will sympathize with her, and stand by her, and not desert her in her exposed, perilous border position. She has a right to claim that her voice, and the voice of reason, and moderation, and patriotism, shall be heard and heeded by you. If you secede, your representatives will go out of Congress, and leave us at the mercy of a Black Republican Government. Mr. Lincoln will have no check. He can appoint his cabinet, and have it confirmed. The Congress will then be Republican, and he will be able to pass such laws as he may suggest. The Supreme Court will be powerless to protect us. We implore you to stand by us, and by our friends in the free States; and let us all, the bold, the true, and just men in the free and the slave States, with a united front, stand by each other, by our principles, by our rights, our equality, our honor, and by the Union under the Constitution. I believe this is the only way to save it; and
we can do it."
The South Carolina convention met at Columbia on December 17, and unanimously passed a resolution of secession. Owing to an epidemic of small-pox in the capital, the convention adjourned to Charleston, where it assembled the next day in "Secession Hall.” On December 20 a formal Ordinance of Secession was unanimously passed, and a Declaration of Causes therefor was adopted, among which was chiefly named the failure of the Northern States to fulfil their constitutional obligations in the matter of slavery, particularly the return of fugitives. This failure, the declaration said, absolved South Carolina, as a contracting party to the Union under the Constitution, from its obligations to the rest of the Union, and the State therefore had the right to secede from the contract, there being no common arbiter between the States.
The convention resolved that a commissioner be sent