Republic of South Carolina
|Republic of South Carolina|
Dum spiro spero* (Latin)
Animis opibusque parati† (Latin)
Map of the Republic of South Carolina on December 20, 1860
|Languages||English (de facto)|
|Governor||Francis Wilkinson Pickens|
|-||Lower Chamber||House of Representatives|
|-||Established||December 20, 1860|
|-||Disestablished||February 4, 1861|
|-||1860 census est.||703,708|
|Currency||Confederate States of America dollar|
The Republic of South Carolina was declared when the State of South Carolina declared its secession from the United States on December 20, 1860. This was the second Republic of South Carolina, since South Carolina declared its independence (from Britain) the first time on March 26, 1776, more than three months prior to the United States Declaration of Independence. On February 8, 1861, South Carolina joined other Southern states to form the Confederate States of America. South Carolina after secession was frequently called the "Palmetto Republic".
After South Carolina declared its secession, former congressman James L. Petigru famously remarked, "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum." Soon afterwards, South Carolina began preparing for a presumed Federal military response while working to convince other southern states to secede as well and join in a confederacy of southern republics.
South Carolina had long before the War of Secession/American Civil War been a region that had to some extent supported individual states' rights, especially to maintain the rights of slaveholders as the state saw fit, which South Carolina and many other states saw as in jeopardy from increasing Abolitionist sentiment in the North. As much as historical revisionism painted the state as a bulwark for states' rights, South Carolina had actually been an ardent supporter of the federal government, especially in the federal enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. As Northern states failed to fulfill their obligations under the act, the state began to see Washington as increasingly ineffective in protecting its economy. Therefore, political leaders such as John C. Calhoun and Preston Brooks had inflamed regional (and national) passions, and voices cried for secession. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and saw the first shots of the Civil War when Citadel cadets fired on a civilian merchant ship Star of the West bringing supplies to the beleaguered Federal garrison at Fort Sumter on January 9, 1861.
Very few South Carolina whites saw emancipation as an option. Whites feared that if blacks – the vast majority in most parts of the state – were freed, they would try to "Africanize" their cherished society and culture as they had seen happen after slave revolutions in some areas of the West Indies. Many white Southerners also believed that slavery, as practiced in the South, was "the mildest and most humane of all institutions to which the name of 'slavery' has ever been applied," and that this "benign institution" had transformed "unprofitable savages" into "efficient Christian laborers." Carolinian leaders were divided between devoted Unionists that opposed any sort of secession, and those who believed secession was a state's right. John C. Calhoun noted that the dry and barren West could not support a plantation system and would remain slaveless. Thus, Calhoun proposed that Congress should not exclude slavery from territories but let each state choose for itself whether it would allow slaves within its borders. After Calhoun's death in 1850, however, South Carolina was left without a leader great enough in national standing and character to prevent more militant Carolinian factions' desire to secede immediately. Andrew Butler argued against Charleston publisher Robert Rhett, who advocated immediate secession and, if necessary, independence.[clarification needed] Butler won the battle, but Rhett outlived him.
When it was seen that President Abraham Lincoln would be elected, a number of conventions organized around the Deep South to discuss the options. States with strong pro-secession movements such as Alabama and Mississippi sent delegates to the convention where they advised the Carolinians to "take the lead and secede at once". On December 20, 1860, South Carolinians in Charleston voted to secede from the Union. President James Buchanan declared the secession illegal but did not act to stop it.
Six days later, on the day after Christmas, Major Robert Anderson, commander of the U.S. troops in Charleston, withdrew his men into the island fortress of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. South Carolina militia swarmed over the abandoned mainland batteries and trained their guns on the island. Sumter was the key position to preventing a naval invasion of Charleston, so Carolina could not afford to allow federal forces to remain there indefinitely. More important, having the Union control its largest harbor meant that the Confederacy was not really independent.
On February 4, a congress of Southern states met in Montgomery, Alabama, and approved a new constitution for the Confederate States of America. Lincoln argued that the United States were "one nation, indivisible" and denied the Southern states' right to secede. Upper Southern states such as Virginia and North Carolina, which had not yet seceded, called a peace conference, to little effect. South Carolina entered the Confederacy on February 8, 1861 ending less than six weeks of being an independent State of South Carolina.
- Cauthen, Charles Edward; Power, J. Tracy (2005). South Carolina goes to war, 1860-1865. University of South Carolina Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-57003-560-9.
- Walter B. Edgar. "South Carolina: A History". Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1998
- Burger, Ken (February 13, 2010). "Too large to be an asylum". The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina: Evening Post Publishing Co). Retrieved April 22, 2010. Paragraph 4
- Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, p. 66
- Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, passim
- Edgar, Walter. South Carolina: A History, (1998) the standard scholarly history
- Wallace, David Duncan. South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948 (1951) standard scholarly history
- WPA. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State (1941)
- Wright, Louis B. South Carolina: A Bicentennial History' (1976)