South Carolina Rejects Secession Monument

Update: “The board of the Patriots Point Development Authority on Tuesday split 3-3 on whether to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place an 11 1/2-foot granite monument to the ordinance signers at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. The tie vote meant the idea failed.”

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acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the “United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.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.

24 comments… add one
  • stephen gosling Mar 28, 2010 @ 12:28

    I stand corrected regarding my attributing to Allan Tate views he did not possess regarding the taking of a partisan view of history to understand its course and content; I was thinking of fellow Fugitive Frank Owsley.

  • stephen gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 23:05

    Apologies to anyone I may have upset during this dialog, especially the host of this first class blog. I chose a bady day to impart my worlview. Thanks.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 17, 2010 @ 23:11

      I don't think you upset anyone. We enjoy and embrace intelligent discussion here. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts in the future.

      • stephen gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 23:23

        Thank you. I shall return to the great dialog in near future. sg

  • steohen gosling Mar 16, 2010 @ 19:15

    Their are worse sins a society or nation can engage in than the maintainance of a state of slavery. Slavery has its variables in terms of its humanity or lack thereof. Slavery has gone, thank God, however, it should not be the tool with which one should impart a dishonest and dishonorable message about brave and good men who were in the last resort defending home and hearth. The monument under discussion has as much credibility as the Declaration of Independence Site(s)

    • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2010 @ 20:11

      Yes, that defense of home as indicated in the proclamation was a defense of slavery. By ignoring crucial aspects of the text itself the SCV has distorted the very event that they wish to commemorate. Don't you think it is quite telling that in order to celebrate an event you have to intentionally distort it? I find that to be quite interesting. Thanks for the comment.

      • stephen gosling Mar 16, 2010 @ 21:15

        It is a great regret that the patriotism of good and honest men should be connected to the defence of such a pernicous institution. Most of these men were attached to a belief in a republican form of goverement equally, if not more , than any committment to the institution of slavery by itself. For that we can be grateful. Thanks.
        Their are more things that unite us than divide us.

        • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2010 @ 21:22

          Based on my own reading of the relevant primary sources written by these “good and honest men” they would not have so clearly distinguished between their understanding of republican government, slavery, and freedom. I highly recommend historian Edmund Morgan's classic, _American Slavery and American Freedom_ as well as vol. 2 of William Freehling's _Road to Disunion_. Thanks again.

          • stephen gosling Mar 16, 2010 @ 21:35

            I suppose it is a matter of looking at the Southern experience and seeing in its defence of its institutions more than a mere defence of slavery(although it was a major factor). Was the South different in its fundamental institutions and the metaphysical foundations of its defence. Was the South different regardless of slavery? I believe it was and their is a sufficiency of primary sources(See Genovese) to give support to the thesis of a “Southern Exceptionalism'.
            Even Lincoln recognised this. Thanks. I read your blog on regular basis and find it invigorating.

            • Kevin Levin Mar 16, 2010 @ 22:14

              Good point. I am not suggesting that we reduce the South to the institution of slavery, though as you acknowledge it is central to it. I am merely suggesting that the structure of this monument fails to capture the meaning of states rights and republican government in the context of the event and document that the SCV wishes to commemorate.

              …and thank for the kind words. 😀

            • Bob_Pollock Mar 17, 2010 @ 3:50

              “Was the South different in its fundamental institutions and the metaphysical foundations of its defence.”

              Could you elaborate on this also; what institutions did the South have that were different than the North other than the insitution of slavery? I'm afraid I don't understand what “metaphysical foundations of its defence” means.

          • stephen gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 20:14

            sorry you did not see fit to publish my further replies to this dialog.

            your obt. svt.


            • Kevin Levin Mar 17, 2010 @ 20:37

              I have not deleted any of your comments. In fact, I've enjoyed this little exchange. You are more than welcome to resend whatever it is that you believe to have been deleted.

        • Bob_Pollock Mar 17, 2010 @ 3:46

          In what way was a “republican form of government” threatened by the mere election of a President?

          • stephen gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 19:08

            Southern leaders correctly unserstood that A republican in the white house and with a majority in the Congress would represent a threat to the retention of Southern Institutions. It would result in the expansion of goverment powers in the interests of the rising industrial power that would be inimical to the original understanding of limited goverment and the end of the republican ethos

            • Kevin Levin Mar 17, 2010 @ 19:39

              I think this is much too simplistic a view of how white southerners perceived Lincoln. Clearly, in the Deep South there was more of a concern about the intentions of a Republican president, but that was by far not uniform throughout the South. I highly recommend reading William Freehling's most recent study on this. Your comment also points to too sharp a distinction between regional divides surrounding industry. The South was developing industrially in a number of places on the eve of the Civil War. Many in the South believed that a more progressive and industrial South would both increase its wealth and function as an added protection to the institution of slavery. You may want to read new books by Frank Towers and John Majewski.

            • Bob_Pollock Mar 17, 2010 @ 21:01

              First, what “Southern Institutions” were threatened other than the institution of slavery?

              Second, did a “threat” really justify revolution?

              Third, what is/are “the republican ethos” and why do you believe only Southerners had it/them? Have you considered that the real “republican ethos” was better represented by the Republican Party? Why do you think they named their new party “Republican”? You see, Northerners were convinced that it was the slave aristocracy of the South that was the real enemy of republicanism. Your comment above, regarding a “master class” is exactly what they would have said was truly inimical to a “republican ethos.” I suggest reading Michael Holt's essay “Making and Mobilizing the Republican Party, 1854-1860” in the book “The Birth of the Grand Old Party: The Republicans' First Generation” from which the following is quoted:

              In July 1854, the Michigan Republican state platform, the first ever issued by the embryonic Republican party, cogently justified the mission and name of the new party. After denouncing the institution of African American slavery as a “relic of barbarism” and insisting that Congress stop slavery expansion to end the “unequal representation” of the South in Washington, it declared that the purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to “give the Slave States such a decided and practical preponderance in all measures of government as shall reduce the North…to the mere province of a few slaveholding oligarchs of the South – to a condition too shameful to be contemplated.” It then proclaimed that “in view of the necessity of battling for the first principles of republican government and against the schemes of aristocracy the most revolting and oppressive with which the earth was ever cursed, or man debased, we will cooperate and be known as Republicans until the contest be terminated.”

    • ak Mar 16, 2010 @ 19:36

      There may indeed be worse things. The past century may include more than one example. But what kind of defense is that? Keep in mind what we’re talking about.

      Do you remember a story in the news last year? A young woman was found, who 18 years earlier had been stolen from her family. She had been held captive on a man’s property for all those years. Do you remember what you thought about the man who imprisoned her, when you heard the story? Now consider that what he did was exactly the same as slavery. What he did is what the confederacy was fighting for.

      There may indeed be worse things. But this thing is bad enough.

      • stephen Gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 20:06

        I do not see any connection between this event and the question of slavery in the Southern States.

        • ak Mar 17, 2010 @ 23:55

          “I do not see any connection between this event and the question of slavery in the Southern States”

          You don't?

          (1) Stolen from her home … Yes. Slaves were stolen from their homes.
          (2) Held captive … Just like slaves.
          (3) Had to do whatever her captor forced her to do. …. Yep.
          (4) Could only do what her captor allowed her to do. … Pretty much like life for slaves.

          This isn't just similar to slavery, it's the definition of slavery. The only difference I can see is that now it's illegal, and the modern day slave-owner had to keep it a secret. Back in the day, the slave-owners bragged about it.

          I brought up the example because I remember how I felt when I read the news article. It was outraged: I was angry. I hoped the law would land on the guy with both feet. And then I wondered why I could read about Southern Slavery without any emotion at all. Of course, it happened a long time ago, and history is full of outrages. I can't make myself feel angry about all of them. But whether I feel it or not, slavery in the south deserves the same anger. It was exactly the same thing as the modern outrage.

          And if I were on the jury for the modern kidnapper, I wouldn't be the least bit impressed if he argued “There were worse things I could have done.”

    • Bob_Pollock Mar 17, 2010 @ 3:40

      “Their are worse sins a society or nation can engage in than the maintainance of a state of slavery.”

      Could you elaborate on what those “worse sins ” might be? Particularly given the system of race based, cradle-to-the-grave slavery that existed in the south; the system that allowed the break-up of families and other atrocities too numerous to list here? Confederates declared they would rather die than be slaves themselves.

      “in the last resort defending home and hearth.”

      Is it your opinion that the North was the aggressor, that the North started the war? Do you believe the U. S. Army ever would have attacked any people in the South if Ft. Sumter had not been fired on and federal property had not been seized? What in your opinion is the definition of treason?

      • stephen gosling Mar 17, 2010 @ 19:00

        Break up of families is certainly something we have retained without the institution of slavery. Southern defence of slavery allied with defence of liberty for master class has a firm foundation in classical literature and history and the Southern perception of a republican polity.

        • Kevin Levin Mar 17, 2010 @ 19:41

          You said: “Break up of families is certainly something we have retained without the institution of slavery.”

          Sorry, but this seems like a stretch to me. What's the point?

    • margaretdblough Mar 17, 2010 @ 4:36

      Unfortunately, that begs the question of from what danger were they were defending hearth and home? Lincoln didn't take office until March 4. Some of the most vehement defenders of slavery argued in favor of relying on the system of checks and balances and giving Lincoln a chance to prove himself. Those arguments were summarily rejected by the secessionists. The language of the monument distorts by commission and omission. It's a bowlderized modern distortion of what the actual secessionists stated. As Lawrence Keitt, as fire-breathing a secessionist as they came, state in the South Carolina Secession Convention: “But the Tariff is not the question which brought the people up to their present attitude. We are to give a summary of our causes to the world, but mainly to the other Southern States, whose co-action we wish, and we must not make a fight on the Tariff question.

      The Whig party, thoughout all the States, have been protective Tariff men, and they cling to that old issue with all the passion incident to the pride of human opinions. Are we to go off now, when other Southern States are bringing their people up to the true mark? Are we to go off on debateable and doctrinal points? Are we to go back to the consideration of this question, of this great controversy; go back to that party's politics, around which so many passions cluster? Names are much — associations and passions cluster around names.

      I can give no better illustration than to relate an anecdote given me by a member from Louisiana. He said, after the election of Lincoln, he went to an old Whig party friend and said to him: We have been beaten — our honor requires a dissolution of the Union. Let us see if we cannot agree together, and offered him a resolution to this effect –Resolved, That the honor of Louisiana requires her to disrupt every tie that binds her to the Federal Government. [Laughter.]

      It is name, and when we come to more practicability we must consult names. Our people have come to this on the question of slavery. I am willing, in that address to rest it upon that question. I think it is the great central point from which we are now proceeding, and I am not willing to divert the public attention from it.<<

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