Description[South Carolina Declaration of Secession]. Declaration of Independence of the State of South Carolina, in Convention. One page, printed broadside, 12.25" x 19.75", Charleston, December 20, 1860. Printed by "Evans & Cogswell, 3 Broad Street, Charleston." Chromolithographed in blue and red. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln's election, the General Assembly of South Carolina called forth a convention to discuss and create an Ordinance of Secession. The vote to secede was unanimous and all 170 delegates' names are featured. Several of the signers went on to serve in the Confederate government or the Confederate military. The document reads, in full:
"Declaration of Independence of the State of South Carolina, in Convention, at the City of Charleston, December 20, 1860.
"An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled 'The Constitution of the United States of America.'
"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Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby Dissolved."
The document has separation along the folds and has been dry mounted to a board for safety. Aside from a few chips and stains along the top and bottom edge, it is in fine condition.
South Carolina's made the decision to formally break ties with the United States following the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln. Soon after the election, the state government adopted the "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union" which outlined the immediate causes of their unhappiness, all of which were violations against the institution of slavery. Their action set in motion a chain of events that led to a bloody, four year struggle which tore the nation apart.
While South Carolina, and the ten States which followed suit, were the first to make good on their promise, secession threats were not new to the American political landscape. They have been tossed around since the birth of the country, which in itself was an act of secession: "We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress...solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved." (Declaration of Independence, 1776)
The first serious threat to disunion post-Revolution occurred in 1798 when Virginia House of Delegates member (and future U. S. Senator) John Taylor pushed for the secession of Virginia from the Union in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson, writing to James Madison, echoed Taylor's sentiments when he wrote that if the federal government would not return to her "true principles," Virginia must "...sever ourselves from that union we so much value, rather than give up the rights of self government." (James Morton Smith, ed., The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Jefferson and Madison 1776-1826, Vol. 2, p. 1119)
Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, several New England Federalists, led by Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, threatened to separate into a pro-British New England. In 1808, Massachusetts considered secession after the Embargo Act of 1807. South Carolina first flirted with it after the passage of the Tariff of 1828 (the so-called Tariff of Abominations). In 1836, the State of Texas gained its own experience with it when she successfully gained her independence from Mexico during the Texas Revolution. Secession, however, is not exclusive to the eighteenth and nineteenth century. It continues, even into the twenty-first century, to be a part of the American political scene.
Reference: Parrish & Willingham Confederate Imprints 3759; Crandall 1872; Sabin 87433.
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