Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 20

On this date in 1860, the state of South Carolina issued an ordinance to “dissolve the union” between itself and its 32 fellow states. The vote was 169-0. Summoned into existence by the South Carolina legislature on November 5 -- the day after Lincoln’s election to the presidency -- the “secession convention” gathered on December 17 and issued its infamous declaration three days later.
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 twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, 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acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the "United States of America," is hereby dissolved.
At the bottom of South Carolina’s decision lay an unfounded concern that the federal government under Republican leadership might eradicate the institution of slavery, on which the plantation economy and the illusion of Southern white supremacy depended. No evidence existed to support such a conclusion, of course; the Republican Party was committed at the moment to nothing in principle except the exclusion of slavery from the Western territories. Without a federal amendment -- one that did indeed pass after 630,000 lives had been extinguished -- slavery in Lincoln’s America would have remained safely protected by a Constitution originally drafted with the interests of slaveholders at its heart.

The fire-eaters of South Carolina, however, looked upon the Republicans as a devious, sectional party that had risen to power for the sole aim of humiliating the South and threatening its “rights of property.” Four days after the secession ordinance had been issued, the state legislature clarified its decision by casting total blame upon the madmen of the North and their abolitionist minions.
Those States have assume 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; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
Describing the federal government as an “enemy” and proclaiming that the election of Lincoln amounted to a proclamation of “war” against slavery, the state of South Carolina chose to commit treason in defense of the principle of eternal black subjection.

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