As to the alleged destruction of equality, the North proposed to deny to the slave-States no single right claimed by the free-States. The talk about “provinces of a consolidated despotism to be governed by a fixed majority” was, in itself an absurd contradiction in terms, which repudiated the fundamental idea of republican government. The acknowledgment that any danger from anti-slavery “measures” was only in the future, negatived its validity as a present grievance. Hostility to “our institutions” was expressly disavowed by full constitutional recognition of slavery under State authority. The charge of “sectionalism” came with a bad grace from a State whose newspapers boasted that none but the Breckinridge ticket was tolerated within her borders, and whose elsewhere obsolete “institution” of choosing Presidential electors by the Legislature instead of by the people, combined with such a dwarfed and crippled public sentiment, made it practically impossible for a single vote to be cast for either Lincoln or Douglas or Bell—a condition mathematically four times as “sectional” as that of any State of the North.
Finally, the avowed determination to secede because a Presidential election was about to be legally gained by one of the three opposing parties, after she had freely and fully joined in the contest, was an indulgence of caprice utterly incompatible with any form of government whatever.
There is no need here to enter upon a discussion of the many causes which, had given to the public opinion of South Carolina so radical and determined a tone in favor of disunion. Maintaining persistence, and gradually gathering strength almost continuously since the nullification furor of 1832, it had become something more than a sentiment among its devotees: it had grown into a species of cult or party religion, for the existence of which no better reason can be assigned than that it sprang from a blind hero-worship locally accorded to John C. Calhoun, one of the prominent figures of American political history. As representative in Congress, Secretary of War under President Monroe, Vice-President of the United States under President John Quincy Adams, for many years United States Senator from South Carolina, and the radical champion of States Rights, Nullification, and Slavery, his brilliant fame was the pride, but his false theories became the ruin, of his State and section.
[Sidenote] South Carolina “House
Journal,” Called Session, 1860,
pp. 16, 17.
Governor Gist and his secession coadjutors had evidently still a lingering hope that the election might by some unforeseen contingency result in the choice of Breckinridge. On no other hypothesis can we account for the fact that on the 6th of November, when Northern ballots were falling in such an ample shower for Lincoln, the South Carolina Legislature, with due decorum and statute regularity, appointed Presidential electors for the State, and formally instructed them to vote for Breckinridge and Lane. The dawn of November 7 dispelled these hopes. The “strong probability” had become a stubborn fact.