The Sons of Confederate Veterans is hoping to erect a monument commemorating the 170 South Carolinians who signed the ordnance of secession in December 1860. The South Carolina division is proposing to install an 11 1/2-foot-tall stone memorial as the centerpiece of a 40-foot by 40-foot landscaped plaza at Patriots Point. According to the news article:
The name of each of the signers and the wording of the secession document would be among the text and images engraved on each side of the monument. Albert Jackson, chairman of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ monument committee, called the secession debate and the subsequent unanimous approval of the ordinance “a significant action” for South Carolina. Most people are not aware of the history behind it, he said.
Mr. Jackson is no doubt correct that “most people are not aware of the history behind” South Carolina’s decision to secede from the Union within weeks of Abraham Lincoln’s election. Here is South Carolina’s Ordnance of Secession:
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acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the “United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.
Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty.
What the SCV Leaves Out
Unfortunately, if this is the extent of the text that will be included on the SCV’s monument than it is safe to say that Mr. Jackson’s own commitment to educating the public as to why this ordnance was passed will have gone unfulfilled. Perhaps the SCV should propose a much larger monument so as to include text that would explain why this decision was made. I shared this story, along with the text from the ordnance, with students in my Civil War Memory course this morning and when I asked whether the text was sufficient to explain this event they immediately asked why it was carried out. That seems like a reasonable question. Luckily, the same body explained to the citizens of the state why secession carried the day in its “Declaration of Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina” which was adopted on December 24, 1860. Here is a short excerpt, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety:
We affirm that these ends for which the government was instituted have been defeated, and the government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding states. Those states have assumed the right of deciding upon the right of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property as 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.
I assume that the educated members of the SCV are aware of this document. The SCV wishes to commemorate an event without any acknowledgment of the reasons behind it. That’s called bad history and the manipulation of the past. Will the citizens of South Carolina allow their own history to be butchered on one of the most prominent spots in Charleston? We shall see.