- 20 Dec 2018 12:38
December 20, Thursday
“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and parts of Acts, of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying amendments of the said Constitution are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of ‘The United States of America’ is hereby dissolved.” By vote of 169 to nothing the convention has severed the ties of Union and the act so long spoken of is done.
In the evening the formal signing takes place in Institute Hall, while Charleston goes wild with joy and expectation. It is a warm, bright, cloudless day; the streets had been filled from afternoon on. Placards announce the news, church bells ring, cannons roar, the governor and public officials appear. However, Judge James Louis Petigru, a highly respected pro-Union citizen of Charleston, speaks out: “I tell you there is a fire; they have this day set a blazing torch to the temple of constitutional liberty, and, please God, we shall have no more peace forever.” But Edmund Ruffin, a Virginia secessionist present, writes that when everyone had signed and South Carolina was proclaimed “to be a free and independent country, the cheers of the whole assembly continued for some minutes, while every man waved or threw up his hat, & every lady waved her handkerchief.... In the streets there had been going on popular demonstrations of joy, from early in the afternoon. Some military companies paraded, salutes were fired, & as night came on, bonfires, made of barrels of rosin, were lighted in the principal streets, rockets discharged, & innumerable crackers fired by the boys.... I hear the distant sounds of rejoicing, with music of a military band, as if there was no thought of ceasing.—” Another observer says, “The whole heart of the people had spoken.”
Swiftly the news spreads elsewhere. President Buchanan is attending a wedding reception in Washington when South Carolina Congressman Laurence Keitt comes in, crying, “Thank God! Oh, thank God!” Told the news quietly, the President looks stunned, falls back, and grasps the arm of his chair. Buchanan leaves at once.
At Springfield President-elect Lincoln receives the news of secession calmly.
Earlier in the day President Buchanan has named prominent Washington attorney and Democratic leader Edwin M. Stanton, originally from Ohio, Attorney General to succeed J.S. Black, who had become Secretary of State. It is the first major role for Stanton, a man whose name is to become both famous and infamous in the years to come. In the Senate Vice-President Breckinridge names the Committee of Thirteen to look into the condition of the country. It includes Senators Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and Robert Toombs of Georgia, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, William H. Seward of New York, and Ben Wade of Ohio. Thus many shades of opinion from secessionist to Radical are included.
We are all ignorant, only in different ways, and no one is as ignorant as an educated man outside his own field.
To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.