On the 12th of October, 1860, he issued his proclamation convening the Legislature of South Carolina in extra session, “to appoint electors of President and Vice-President ... and also that they may, if advisable, take action for the safety and protection of the State.” There was no external peril menacing either the commonwealth or its humblest citizen; but the significance of the phrase was soon apparent.
[Sidenote] South Carolina “House
Journal,” Called Session, 1860,
pp. 10, 11.
A caucus of prominent South Carolina leaders is said to have been held on October 25, at the residence of Senator Hammond. Their deliberations remained secret, but the determination arrived at appears clearly enough in the official action of Governor Gist, who was present, and who doubtless carried out the plans of the assemblage. When the Legislature met on November 5 (the day before the Presidential election) the Governor sent them his opening message, advocating both secession and insurrection, in direct and undisguised language. He recommended that in the event of Lincoln’s election, a convention should be immediately called; that the State should secede from the Federal Union; and “if in the exercise of arbitrary power and forgetful of the lessons of history, the Government of the United States should attempt coercion, it will be our solemn duty to meet force by force.” To this end he recommended a reorganization of the militia and the raising and drilling an army of ten thousand volunteers. He placed the prospects of such a revolution in a most hopeful and encouraging light. “The indications from many of the Southern States,” said he, “justify the conclusion that the secession of South Carolina will be immediately followed, if not adopted simultaneously, by them, and ultimately by the entire South. The long-desired cooeperation of the other States having similar institutions, for which the State has been waiting, seems to be near at hand; and, if we are true to ourselves, will soon be realized.”
Governor Gist’s justification of this movement as attempted was (in his own language) “the strong probability of the election to the Presidency of a sectional candidate by a party committed to the support of measures, which if carried out will inevitably destroy our equality in the Union, and ultimately reduce the Southern States to mere provinces of a consolidated despotism to be governed by a fixed majority in Congress hostile to our institutions.”
This campaign declamation, used throughout the whole South with great skill and success, to “fire the Southern heart,” was wholly defective as a serious argument.