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grave, if not graver question, whether a new nation shall take her place among the nations of the world. Upon these great questions, which of you fellow-citizens had made up your minds when you voted for delegates? Nay, how many of you voted at all? The delegates elected represent about one-fourth of the voters of our district, and many of them do not represent more than three or four hundred voters out of three thousand.
The same small minorities elected delegates in nearly every district in the State, and a convention thus created is about to seal our destiny. The present election furnishes the only probable opportunity before the meeting of this convention for the people to declare their will. It has been loudly asserted that a majority of our people are in favor of immediate secession from the Union, and both parties have turned to this election to assertain the fact. You will perceive then at once that if the advocates of secession elect the members to the Southern Congress, it will confirm this assertion and in all probability will induce them to carry out their measure as speedily as the convention can be assembled. You are, therefore, in fact now determining the question whether South Carolina shall at once secede alone from the Union.
In deciding this question it is important that all barriers should be removed, which prevent you from looking directly into its whole merits. One of the most formidable of these barriers is an impression that the State stands committed by pledges to take separate action, which as men of honor her citizens are bound to redeem. Let us, therefore, in the first place examine the facts, and see how and to what extent the State stands committed.
We will go back as far as 1848, although that date is two years ahead of the late action of Congress. At the session of the Legislature in December, 1848, the following report and resolutions contain the action to which the State was pledged:
[Extracts from the Reports and Resolutions, 1848, p. 147, Joint Committee on Federal Relations.]
In the House of Representatives, December 12, 1848, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives upon Federal Relations, to whom were referred so much of the Governor's message as relates to the agitation of slavery and sundry resolutions upon the same subject, beg leave to report the following resolutions as expressing the undivided opinion of this Legislature upon the Wilmot proviso, and all similar violations of the great principle of equality, which South Carolina has so long and so ardently maintained should govern the action of the States and the laws of Congress upon all matters affecting the rights and interests of any member of this Union.
Resolved, unanimously, That the time for discussion by the slaveholding States as to their exclusion from the territory recently acquired
from Mexico has passed, and that this General Assembly, representing the feelings of the State of South Carolina, is prepared to co-operate with her sister States in resisting the application of the principles of the Wilmot proviso to such territory at any and every hazard.
Resolved, unanimously, That the Governor be requested to transmit a copy of this report to the Governors of each of the States of this Union and to our Senators and Representatives in the Congress of the United States.
Mark the words: "South Carolina is prepared to co-operate with her sister States." This is the whole extent of our pledge in 1948.
In 1849 the subject was brought before the Legislature by the Governor, and each house had a report from its own committee, and it is quite remarkable that in each separate report separate State action is not once alluded to, but each recommends concert of action with the other States of the South. Read the reports for yourselves, which, for your information, I have copied verbatim from the record.
[Extracts from the Reports and Resolutions, 1819, pp. 312, 313, 314.]
In the Senate, December 13, 1849: The Committee on Federal Relations, to whom was referred so much of the message of his Excellency the Governor as relates to the recommendation of the people of the State of Mississippi for a convention of the people of the Southern States, to be held in Nashville in June next, and also so much of the message as relates to convening the Legislature of this State in the event of the passage by Congress of the Wilmot proviso, or any kindred measure, beg leave to report that they cordially concur with the views expressed by his Excellency the Governor as to the necessity on the part of the Southern people of a united action against the encroachments upon their domestic institutions and their condition of equality in this confederacy by the people of the North and by the Congress of the United States, and rejoice with him in the lofty and dignified position assumed by the people of the State of Mississippi against any such infractions of the compromises of the Constitution, and the appeal which she has made to the people of her sister States of the South to unite with her in common counsel against common aggression. The committee are of the opinion expressed by this Legislature, at its last session, that the period of decisive action has arrived, and that the authorities of South Carolina should be prepared promptly to take such steps as the other States of the South shall recommend and her own position demands. The committee, therefore, in conformity with their own opinions, and, as they believe, with the expressed and understood wishes of this Legislature and of the people of the whole State, recommend for adoption the following resolutions:
Resolved, That in the event of the passage by Congress of the Wilmot proviso, or any kindred measures, that his Excellency the Governor be
requested to forthwith convene the Legislature, in order to take such steps as the rights, interests and honor of this State and of the whole South shall demand.
Resolved, That the Senate do agree to the report.
Ordered, That it be sent the House of Representatives for concur
W. E. MARTIN, C. S.
In the House of Representatives, December 19, 1849:
T. W. GLOVER, C. H. R.
In the House of Representatives, December 18, 1849: The Committee on Federal Relations, to whom was referred so much of the Govornor's message as relates to the recommendation to the Southern States, by a convention of the people of Mississippi, to send delegates to meet at Nashville to consult in common upon common rights, with a view to unity of action.
And, also, so much of the message as relates to the convening of the Legislature upon the Wilmot proviso, or any kindred measure, becoming a law of Congress, report that the people of this State entertain an ardent desire and fixed determination to resist the lawless and unjust encroachments of Congress on the rights of the South, and have pledged themselves, through their legislatures, to co-operate with the other Southern States in opposition to all such measures. They, therefore, concur with his Excellency in the belief that South Carolina hails with delight the proffer by the people of Mississippi of meeting, by delegates, in common counsels, at Nashville, and will heartily and promptly send delegates there to represent them; that they concur, also, with his Excellency in the propriety of calling together the Legislature should any such contingency occur, as is alluded to by his Excellency, and therefore recommend the adoption of the following resolutions:
Resolved, That should the Wilmot proviso, or any kindred measure, become a law of Congress, the Governor is hereby earnestly requested to call together the Legislature, should it not be in session at the time of the passage of such law.
Resolved, That the House do agree to the report.
Ordered, That it be sent to the Senate for concurrence.
In Senate, December 19, 1849:
T. W. GLOVER, C. H. R.
Resolved, That the Senate do concur in the report.
Ordered, That it be returned to the House of Representatives.
W. E. MARTIN, C. S.
It is important to observe how carefully the Senate insist upon "the necessity, on the part of the Southern people, of a united action against the encroachments of the North," and declare this State to be prepared "promptly to take such steps as the other States of the South shall recommend." With equal care the House of Representatives declares that "the people of this State have pledged themselves, through their legislatures, to co-operate with the other Southern States in opposition to all such measures."
Here, then, are all the pledges of South Carolina. They are distinct and definite for co-operation with our sister States of the South. Not one word is there of separate State action or secession.
The proceedings of the session of 1850 strengthen this view of the subject. At this session no resolutions were adopted, but several leading measures distinctly evince the position of the State. The first of these measures was the act calling a convention and Southern Congress. The preamble to this act, as well as its provisions, manifestly speak the views of the Legislature.
The act is entitled, an act to provide for the appointment of Deputies to a Southern Congress, and to call a Convention of the people of this State; and here is its preamble:
'Whereas, the convention of the slave-holding States, lately assembled at Nashville, have recommended to the said States to meet in Congress or Convention, to be held at such time and place as the States desiring to be represented may designate, to be composed of double the number of their Senators and Representatives in the Congress of the United States, entrusted with full power and authority to deliberate with the view and intention of arresting further aggressions, and, if possible, of restoring the constitutional rights of the South; and, if not, to recommend due provision for their future safety and independence." And what is the declared object of this convention? By the terms of the act itself, it is assembled "for the purpose, in the first place, of taking into consideration the proceedings and recommendations of a Congress of the slave-holding States, if the same shall meet and be held; and for the further purpose of taking into consideration the general welfare of this State, in view of her relations to the laws and government of the United States, and, thereupon, to take care that the Commonwealth of South Carolina shall suffer no detriment."
Is it in the power of human ingenuity, with these proceedings open before you, to persuade you now that South Carolina is pledged to secession? Nay, is it not most clear that she is pledged exactly to the reverse-to concert and union with her sister States?
If there were any doubt remaining, it would be dispelled by the fact that when the Legislature elected, at the last session, the delegates who were to represent the State at large in this Southern Congress, they
elected R. W. Barnwell, Langdon Cheves, Wade Hampton, and John P. Richardson, all of whom, at the time, were supposed to be opposed to separate secession, and three of whom still maintain the same opinions. While we have before us these same records of the action and pledges of our State, let us examine another of the statements by which the secession party have misled the people. Those who oppose secession are continually traduced as insincere in their professions of resistance; the people are told everywhere that the Co-operation party are mere timeservers, disguised submissionists, and that Secessionists alone are the real active movers of resistance. Let us test the professions of both parties by their practice, and we shall arrive at more just conclusions. At the last session of the Legislature three practical measures were brought forward which were deemed necessary to resistance in any form. The first of these was the raising of money by increase of the taxes; the second, the formation of a board for judiciously expending the money; and, the third, the building of steam-packets for creating a direct trade with Europe, and providing the State with armed steamers to assist in defending her coast.
You are, of course, prepared to expect that these measures were introduced and urged by the secession leaders; what will be your surprise to learn that they were all introduced by co-operation men, and two of them were actually opposed by several of the most prominent secession men; and if this opposition had been successful, the third would have failed, because it depended upon one of the others.
The increase of taxes was proposed by myself, and in and out of the House it was urged as incumbent on South Carolina, where alone the resistance party had possession of the government, to provide arms and munitions of war, not only for herself, but for the confederates which we expected soon to have from the South. It had been urged by the Union party in several of our sister States that in case of conflict with the general government, there was not powder enough in the whole South to supply a single engagement. Nay, some of you may remember that even in South Carolina the Governor had replied to a company at Walterborough that he was unable to supply them with arms. To meet these exigencies, to encourage our friends in the South, and to exhibit to our enemies at the North a spirit of determination which could not be put down, we urged an increase of the taxes. Let the record speak what followed. I have copied the following from the Journal (page 221):
"Mr. Harrison moved to reduce the tax on lands from fifty-three to twenty-five cents. Mr. Memminger moved to lay the amendment on the table-yeas 74, nays 38. Among the nays are the following namesMessrs. Abney, Easley, Evins, Harrison, Hutson, Ingram, Lyles, Moorman," etc. Those acquainted with the names will recognize among the nays the active legislative leaders of the secession party.