South Carolina Ordinance of Secession (1860)

views updated


john c. calhoun, the foremost theorist of secession, had argued that the United States Constitution was a compact among sovereign states. When one of the parties to the compact (federal government or other state) had violated its terms by enacting or condoning unconstitutional acts, and other remedies such as interposition and nullification proved futile, an aggrieved party could withdraw from the compact and resume the independent status it enjoyed previously.

In response to abraham lincoln's election, the South Carolina legislature called a convention to consider secession. On December 20, 1860, the convention, meeting at Charleston, unanimously adopted the Ordinance of Secession, a brief statement declaring that "the union now subsisting … is hereby dissolved." Four days later, the Convention approved the "Declaration of the Causes of Secession," a brief exposition of secessionist and compact theory. In it, the Carolinians accused the free states of violation or half-hearted enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Acts, tolerating abolitionist agitation, and electing a presidential candidate pledged to the eventual abolition of slavery. Therefore South Carolina declared itself an "independent state, with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do."

William M. Wiecek


Potter, David M. 1976 The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. New York: Harper & Row.

About this article

South Carolina Ordinance of Secession (1860)

Updated About content Print Article


South Carolina Ordinance of Secession (1860)