150 years ago today, the South Carolina Secession Convention convened at First Baptist Church, Columbia. The vote was 169-0 to exercise their 10th Amendment right to secession and resumption of their sovereignty as an independent republic.
View of Baptist Church, Columbia, SC, December 17, 1860“When the [secession] convention met December 17, South Carolina was confident that her action would soon be followed by other States. Governor Gist in his message to the legislature at the end of November, had stated that there was not the least doubt that Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Arkansas would immediately follow, and eventually all the South. No longer, he said, was there any jealousy of South Carolina in the resistance States; rather they were urging her to take the lead.Soon thereafter [published in South Carolina December 18] the very encouraging address of Southern congressmen to their constituents appeared. “The argument is exhausted. All hope of relief in the Union through the agency of committees, Congressional legislation, or constitutional amendment, is extinguished, and we trust the South will not be deceived by appearances or the pretense of new guarantees. In our judgment the Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor, safety and independence of the Southern People require the organization of a Southern Confederacy – a result to be obtained only by separate State secession”
View inside Baptist Church, Columbia, Dec 17, 1860Joseph LeConte thought the secession convention was the “gravest, ablest, and most dignified body of men” he had ever seen together. Of it Dr. James H. Thornwell wrote:“It was a body of sober, grave and venerable men, selected from every pursuit in life, and distinguished, most of them, in their respective spheres, by every quality which can command confidence and respect. It embraced the wisdom, moderation and integrity of the bench, the learning and prudence of the bar, and the eloquence and piety of the pulpit.It contained retired planters, scholars and gentlemen, who had stood aloof from the turmoil and ambition of public life, and were devoting an eloquent leisure…to the culture of their minds, and to quiet and unobtrusive schemes of Christian philanthropy… It was a noble body, and all their proceedings were in harmony with their high character. In the midst of intense agitation and excitement, they were calm, cool, collected and self-possessed. They deliberated without passion, and concluded without rashness.”
View inside, Baptist Church, Columbia, Dec 17, 1860To speak for her in her most critical hour the State had chosen the best of her talent and character. No constitutional guarantees could now protect the South; the Constitution having failed in the past to prevent aggression by the North, the South should no longer be duped by paper securities.”
Source: Charles E. Cauthen, South Carolina Goes to War (Columbia: USC Press, 2005), 67-69.