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was thus set aside, a fact which largely influenced action later.1
Governor Gist's message to the legislature advised that the legislature remain in session and prepare for any emergency, "in view of the 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, hostile to our institutions and fatally bent upon our ruin." In the event of Lincoln's election he was constrained to say that the only alternative was the secession of the state. He also recommended the use of all the available means of the state for arming every man between eighteen and forty-five, and that the services of ten thousand volunteers be immediately accepted. To this movement new impulse was given by the refusal of the grand jury of the United States district court, November 7, to make presentments, and by the resignation of Magrath, the judge of the court, who announced that, "feeling an assurance of what will be the action of the state, I consider it my duty, without delay, to prepare to obey its wishes. Let us not forget . . . that he who acts against the wish or
1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 11; Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lin、 coln, II., 306–314; cf. Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., §§ 51, 52.
without command of his State, usurps that sovereign authority which we must maintain inviolate.” 1
The action of the legislature upon Governor Gist's message was the prompt and unanimous passage by the Senate, November 10, of a bill calling for elections December 6, to a convention to be held December 17; two days later it passed the House with like unanimity.
The convention met at Columbia on the day set, and, on account of an epidemic of small-pox, adjourned to Charleston, where, at 1.15 P.M. of the 20th, the ordinance of secession was passed. It was notably brief, as follows: "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 of May, in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and eighty eight, whereby the constitution of the United States was ratified and all the acts and parts of acts of the general Assembly of this state ratifying amendments of the said constitution are hereby repealed, and the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and the other states, under the name of the 'United States of America,' is hereby dissolved." 2
For this momentous action no rashness of youth can be pleaded; more than half of the members of the convention were over fifty years of age; very
1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 13.
2 Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., 185.
many had had large experience of public life, four as senators, five as governors of the state, nine as judges; eight as members of the nullification convention of 1832-1833; twenty-eight as members of the convention of 1852, which affirmed the right of the state to secede.1
South Carolina followed up the ordinance of secession with a declaration of independence which attempted to justify her action. It asserted that "The states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa have enacted laws which either nullify the acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them." The non-slave-holding states "have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions, and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the states and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery." It complained of the open establishment of abolition societies; of the encouragement of slaves to escape, or rebel; of the election, by a section, of one who had declared that the "government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free"; of the elevation to citizenship of persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens"; of the announcement that the South "shall be excluded from the common 1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 46.
territory; that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease." It declared "all hope of remedy is rendered vain by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief." No mention of the tariff as a grievance is made in the document. All of the South Carolina senators and congressmen had voted for the tariff of 1857, and the fiery Keitt himself could say in the secession convention, in reply to a suggestion that it be mentioned, that no tariff since that of 1832 had caused any desire for secession.
Popular feeling in Georgia was so strong against separate state secession, that the legislature was obliged to rescind a resolution of December 7 looking to individual action. A convention was called for January 16, 1861; and December 14 an address, signed by fifty-two members of the legislature, then in session, was issued to the people of South Carolina. Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and of such other slave states as might hold conventions earlier than that called in Georgia, asking that delegates be appointed to a general convention of the southern states, and that until such convention should meet no final action should be taken by a separate state as to secession,
South Carolina, well knowing the danger to the
1 Channing and Hart, Am. Hist. Leaflets, No. 12.
2 Am. Annual Cyclop., 1861, p. 337.
secession movement from such a course, and with an instinctive feeling of the power of sympathy by which her sister states would be drawn to uphold actual accomplishment of her own designs, refused even to receive the message. Throughout, the leaders in this unfortunate state showed a deep knowledge of human nature; of its waves of sympathy; its acceptance of actualities; its tendency to push forward a cause once the Rubicon was passed. It was Mephistophelian, but none the less effective, and deceived none more completely than the unhappy president of the United States.
The numerous public meetings in Georgia were dignified and conservative in language and clearly indicated that hostility to the Union was neither deep-seated nor bitter.”1 Alexander H. Stephens did much by his powerful speech before the legislature of Georgia, November 14, to fix this temper; he denied the right to secede because of Mr. Lincoln's election; he appealed to the people to maintain the Constitution and not to be its undoers by withdrawing on such a plea; and still more, not to anticipate a threatened evil. If Lincoln should violate the Constitution, then would be the time to act. "Do not let us break it, because, forsooth, he may. . . . The president of the United States is no emperor, no dictator-he is clothed with no absolute power. He can do nothing unless backed by power in Congress. The House of Representatives is largely in the 1 Am. Annual Cyclop., 1861, p. 338.