When the certain news of Lincoln’s election finally came, it was hailed with joy and acclamation by both the leaders and the people of South Carolina. They had at length their much coveted pretext for disunion; and they now put into the enterprise a degree of earnestness, frankness, courage, and persistency worthy of a better cause. Public opinion, so long prepared, responded with enthusiasm to the plans and calls of the leaders. Manifestations of disloyalty became universal. Political clubs were transformed into military companies. Drill-rooms and armories were alive with nightly meetings. Sermons, agricultural addresses, and speeches at railroad banquets were only so many secession harangues. The State became filled with volunteer organizations of “minute men.”
The Legislature, remaining in extra session, and cheered and urged on by repeated popular demonstrations and the inflamed speeches of the highest State officials, proceeded without delay to carry out the Governor’s programme. In fact, the members needed no great incitement. They had been freshly chosen within the preceding month; many of them on the well-understood “resistance” issue. Their election took place on the 8th and 9th days of October, 1860. Since there was but one party in South Carolina, there could be no party drill; but a tyrannical and intolerant public sentiment usurped its place and functions. On the sixteen different tickets paraded in one of the Charleston newspapers, the names of the most pronounced disunionists were the most frequent and conspicuous. “Southern rights at all hazards,” was the substance of many mottoes, and the palmetto and the rattlesnake were favorite emblems. There was neither mistaking nor avoiding the strong undercurrent of treason and rebellion here manifested, and the Governor’s proclamation had doubtless been largely based upon it.
[Sidenote] South Carolina, “House
Journal,” Called Session, 1860,
pp. 13, 14.
The first day’s session of the Legislature (November 5) developed one of the important preparatory steps of the long-expected revolution. The Legislature of 1859 had appropriated a military contingent fund of one hundred thousand dollars, “to be drawn and accounted for as directed by the Legislature.” The appropriation had been allowed to remain untouched. It was now proposed to place this sum at the control of the Governor to be expended in obtaining improved small arms, in purchasing a field battery of rifled cannon, in providing accouterments, and in furnishing an additional supply of tents; and a resolution to that effect was passed two days later, The chief measure of the session, however, was a bill to provide for calling the proposed State Convention, which it was well understood would adopt an ordinance of secession. There was scarcely a ripple of opposition to this measure. One or two members still pleaded for delay, to secure the cooeperation of Georgia, but dared not record a vote against the prevailing mania. The chairman of the proper committee on November 10 reported an act calling a convention “for the purpose of taking into consideration the dangers incident to the position of the State in the Federal Union,” which unanimously became a law November 13, and the extra session adjourned to meet again in regular annual session on the 26th.