November 1860. With Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, winning the Presidency of the United States, Southerners feared an abolitionist oligarchy had overthrown the general government of the United States. In response, South Carolina, as well as many other States moved to hold secession conventions. Each State’s General Assembly authorized a convention through a Joint Resolution. The Resolution, in some cases, specified, in the event of the election of a President advocating the anti-slavery principles and actions of the Republican party, the Governor had the duty to call for a convention. The goal of each convention was to determine the State’s relations with the general government.
Here is the transcript of South Carolina’s General Assembly call for Convention:
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, now met and sitting in the General Assembly, and by the authority of the same, That a Convention of people of the State of South Carolina is hereby ordained to be assembled in the City of Columbia, on the 17th day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, for the purpose of taking into consideration the dangers incident to the position of the State in the Federal Union, established by the Constitution of the United States, and the measures which may be necessary and proper for providing against the same, and thereupon to take care that the Commonwealth of South Carolina shall suffer no detriment.
Section 2. That on the 6th day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, the Managers of elections for the several Districts in the State shall, after giving public notice as in cases of elections for members of the Legislature, open the Polls and hold elections in their respective Districts for delegates to the said Convention, in all respects in the same manner and form, and at the same places, as elections are now conducted for Members of the Legislature. And all persons who are qualified and entitled, by the Constitution and laws of this State, to vote for members of the Legislature, shall be qualified and entitled to vote for said Delegates to said Convention; and in case of any vacancy occurring, by death, resignation or removal from the State, or refusal to serve of any person elected a Delegate to the said Convention, the Presiding Officer of the said Convention shall issue his writ authoring and requiring the managers of Elections in the Election Districts in which such vacancy may have occurred, after giving due notice thereof, to open a Poll and hold an election to fill such vacancy as in cases for the election of Members of the Legislature. Meet on the 7th and declare the election.
Section 3. That each Election District throughout the State shall be entitled to elect and send to the said Convention a number of Delegates equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives which such District is now entitled to send to the Legislature and the Delegates to the said Convention shall be entitled to the freedom of arrest in going to, returning from, and whilst in attendance on, said Convention, as is extended to the Members of the Legislature.
Section 4. That all free white male citizens of this State, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, and who are entitled to vote for members of the State Legislature, shall be eligible to a seat in the said Convention.
In the Senate House, the thirteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty and in the eighty-fifth year of the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America.
William D Porter, President of the Senate
James Simons, Speaker House Representatives.
Resolved, That the clerks of the Senate and House of Representatives be, and are hereby, instructed to publish the “Act to provide for the calling of a Convention of the people of this State,” in one newspaper in each election District in the State, once a week until the day of election of the Delegates to said Convention; and that it is the sense of this General Assembly that the Managers of Election are bound to proceed to give the usual notice of election, and hold the same, as directed by said act, without awaiting further instructions.
WM. E. Martin, C.S.
John T. Sloan, C,H.R
November. 21. 3t.
SOURCE: The Lancaster News – Lancaster, SC – December 5, 1860 – Page 3
LEGALITY OF THE RESOLUTION. The thing that gives this resolution life is the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of South Carolina. Interesting that South Carolina’s Constitution of 1790 doesn’t mention specific language style as some other State Constitution did.
CAUSES. Slavery is not mentioned as a cause for the convention from the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina in the convention announcement only “dangers”. The dangers to the State are not specifically defined in the Resolution.
INTENTION. There is no mention of secession as a already decided remedy.
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