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SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
On the 5th day of November, 1860, the Legislature of South Carolina convened in extra session at Columbia in compliance with the proclamation of Governor Gist. This extra session was called ostensibly for the purpose of appointing electors of President and Vice-President, in conformity with the Act of Congress, which fixed the time when these electors were to be appointed on a day when the Legislature of the State was not in session. In his message to this Legislature,Governor Gist uses the following language:
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 consolidated despotism, to be governed by a fixed majority of Congress, hostile to our institutions, and fatally bent upon our ruin, I would respectfully suggest that the Legislature remain in session and take such actions as will prepare the State for any emergency that may arise. That an expression of the will of the people may be obtained on a question involving such momentous consequences, I would earnestly recommend that in the event of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, a convention of the people of this State be immediately called to consider and determine the "mode and measure of redress."
The success of Mr. Lincoln in being elected to the presidency having been announced, resolutions were introduced in the House, and also in the Senate, declaring it to be the duty of South Carolina to withdraw from the Federal Union, and that for this purpose a convention of the people should be called to assemble at an early day.
In compliance with the provisions of these resolutions, delegates from the several districts and parishes of the State were elected, who assembled in convention at Columbia, on the 17th day of December, 1860.
Upon the organization of the convention Honorable David F. Jamison was chosen president. Without delay such committees were appointed by him as were necessary to formulate the work of the convention. Most important among these was the committee to which was entrusted the duty of drafting an ordinance of secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. The committee was composed of the following: John A. Inglis, R.B. Rhett, James Chesnut, Jr., James L. Orr, Maxcy Gregg, B.F. Dunkin and W.H. Hutson. They drafted an ordinance and submitted it to the convention, which adopted it unanimously on the 20th day of December, under the head of Ordinance of Secession.
It appears to have been the fixed determination of the people of South Carolina,
whatever it may have been in other Southern States, to withdraw from the Union should the
Republican party succeed in electing the President, and get control of the government of the
United States. Under the dominion of the Republican party we had no hopes of being able to
preserve our equiality in the Union for any length of time and thought it better part company and
go our own way and let them go theirs. Acting according to this resolution, without waiting even
to try Mr. Lincoln and see whether he would be false or true to his oath of office, a convention of
the people was called soon after the result of the election was known. The Act of the Legislature
calling the convention was ratified on the 13th day of November, 1860, and the delegates from
the several election Districts of the State assembled in the Baptist Church, in the town of
Columbia, at twelve o'clock m., on the 17th day of December, 1860. The day was Monday.
The delegates from Edgefield were Francis Hugh Wardlaw, R. G. M. Dunovant, James
Parsons, Carroll, William Gregg, Andrew J. Hammond, James Tomkins, James C. Smyley.
"Gentleman, 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, 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
our fixed determination to throw off a government to which we have been accustomed, and to
provide new safeguards for our future security. If anything 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."
Three days thereafter on the 20th of December, 1860, the Ordinance of Secession was
passed by the Convention without a single dissenting voice. The Ordinance was as follows:
"In the progress of this movement we have two great dangers to fear - overtures from
without and precipitation within. I trust 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 high 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 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 emissaries of Emigrant Aid
Societies in a crusade preached from Northern pulpits, when church men and women contribute
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 be no longer 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 the
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 numerous
section. The other danger to which I referred may arise from to 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 other motto than Danton's at the commencement of the French
Revolution: To dare! and again to dare! and without end to dare!"
The Civil War in South Carolina