Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Resolution to Call Lincoln's Election a Hostile Act, 9 November 1860

[The South Carolina Department of Archives and History contains many records documenting the Palmetto State’s experience during the Civil War. As we approach some key dates marking the Civil War Sesquicentennial, we hope to provide a regular series of posts based on the records in our collection.]

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. This news left the nation on edge as all eyes looked to South Carolina to see if the Palmetto State would actually make good on its threat to secede from the Union. This General Assembly Resolution of November 9, 1860 (see below) may be the state's first official response to Lincoln's election. South Carolina's decision to “dissolve her connection with the government of the United States” led to the most profound constitutional crisis and bloodiest war in our history.

Written by John Winsmith of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly, this resolution was introduced before the House on November 9, 1860. It directly addressed the concerns and fears of white South Carolinians about the election of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s election, as this resolution states, was “based upon principles of open and avowed hostility to the social organization and peculiar interests of the slaveholding states.”

Immediately after Winsmith’s resolution, George A. Trenholm introduced another resolution regarding the election of a “Black Republican President.” His resolution outlined how Lincoln’s victory was a detriment to South Carolina and other slaveholding states. Additionally, South Carolina ought to preserve her sovereign rights by raising supplies and preparing a plan to arm the state. Due to the similarities of these two resolutions, Winsmith’s resolution was added as an amendment to the Trenholm resolution. On November 10th, 1860, the resolution was discharged as a Special Order. This resolution served as a harbinger of what ultimately came to pass on the evening of December 20, 1860, at the Institute Hall in Charleston, the Ordinance of Secession.

The document featured above is but one example of the many records that can be found on the state archives Online Index. A search for “Lincoln, Abraham” reveals five records, one of which being the resolution featured above.

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