The people of South Carolina saw the Union broken by several Northern States nullifying the United States Constitution with their personal liberty laws, the same States which railed against South Carolina in 1832 over tariff nullification. The incessant abolitionist agitation which threatened violent slave insurrection, and the election of a purely sectional president settled the matter for South Carolina as it chose to peacefully form a more perfect union.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
South Carolina Withdraws from the Union
“On November 13, the General Assembly in joint session ratified and act calling for a convention in Columbia on December 17. The election of delegates was set for December 6. Five former United States senators, the chief officers of Furman University and Limestone College, two railroad presidents, and a dozen clerics were among the 169 men elected as delegates to the convention. The majority were college graduates. More than one hundred were planters, and many of these planters had also passed the bar. More than forty had served in the State Senate, more than one hundred in the House of Representatives.
The convention assembled in Columbia’s First Baptist Church and, on its first day, unanimously resolved that “the State of South Carolina should forthwith secede from the Federal Union.” John A. Inglis introduced the resolution. Before the convention adjourned . . . [a committee was formed] to draft an ordinance and appointed John A. Inglis as chairman. By the next evening, the committee had agreed on the text that they would introduce for South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession.
On November 29, the [Charleston] Mercury printed a draft ordinance contributed by a “W.F.H.,” who noted that “the speedy secession of the State may be considered a fixed fact” and offered “a sort of diagram on which the problem can be worked.” The draft took nearly one hundred lines of newsprint.
On December 4, the Mercury responded to the draft submitted by its “esteemed correspondent.” Robert Barnwell Rhett, Jr., son of the secessionist leader and editor of the newspaper . . . objected to the “batch of details” which blurred the draft’s “force and dignity.”
We do not know how many drafts the committee had to consider in the few hours in which it did its work, but besides the draft printed in the Mercury, a manuscript document containing two other drafts, both unsigned, survives.
The longest of these additional drafts, “An Ordinance to withdraw from the Confederacy heretofore existing under the name of the United States of America,” is dated December 11. Its preamble cites tariffs, the obstruction of the recovery of fugitive slaves, “hostile agitation against the Southern institution of Slavery,” and the election of Abraham Lincoln as its justification and notes the declaration of 1852.
Eleven sections follow. They declare “the Confederacy heretofore existing between the State of South Carolina and the other States” dissolved, amend the State constitution, direct the governor to send a commissioner to President [James] Buchanan, provide for [foreign] trade, and empower the governor to appoint postmasters.
Ingliss’s committee, doubtless to satisfy those who wanted no further delay in officially leaving the Union, chose to present a much shorter and simpler text. [In] the afternoon of December 20 , Chairman Inglis rose to present the committee’s [Ordinance of Secession]. There was no need for debate. Behind closed doors, a roll call vote was taken, alphabetically by surname, ending with “Mr. President.” It began at 1:07 P.M. and ended eight minutes later, at 1:15 when [convention President] David F. Jamison said “aye.” South Carolina had seceded by unanimous vote.”
(Relic of The Lost Cause, The Story of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, Charles H. Lesser, South Carolina Department of Archives & History, 1990, pp. 4-5)