Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

By John B. Edmunds Jr. | Go to book overview

1. Young Radical

S outh Carolina's secession in December 1860 did not just happen. For over thirty years Palmetto State radicals intent on defending their perceived rights had been ascertaining the best means by which to have their own way or bring down the Union. Their efforts brought on movements that would bring disorder and turmoil to the state and the nation. The individuals who participated were all arrogant, strong-willed figures who, for the sake of appearances, disavowed their love for political office, yet they were always seeking to appease their insatiable ambitions. Although these men varied in their degree of enmity for the Union, their radicalism represented the most extreme states' rights philosophy. South Carolina was small in population and poor in resources; nevertheless, her outlandish behavior and extremism determined that she would emerge as the most provocative state in the Union. Her actions during the nullification controversy and subsequent radical movements prior to secession caused reactions that polarized the sections so dramatically that only the dissolution of the nation and a way of life could result. Since Francis Pickens was involved in all of the state's important political movements, his career can be used as a vehicle to study the individuals, factional intrigues, and political happenings that made South Carolina unique. Not only did the state harbor an unsettled hostility toward the Union, but many of her leaders felt a deep hatred for one another as well. In the final analysis this ongoing animosity prevented cooperation during the Civil War. Constantly battling among themselves, they took pleasure in the failures of old adversaries. Friendships were ephemeral, but enmity long lasting. Adding to this failure of cooperation, and promoting internal instability, South Carolina had also shunned national political parties, fearing that any such allegiances would jeopardize the fierce independence of action which the rural society of the state promoted.

Francis Pickens was a typical Carolina patrician. He embraced the political principles of Thomas Jefferson and, like others of his class, section, and time, was influenced by a romanticism that was reflected by quixotic sentimentality in his public and private life. So desirous was he of rising; yet, like others, he was held in check by John C. Calhoun and by South Carolina's archaic political system. His frustrations were shared by his equally ambitious contemporaries.

-3-

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Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1. Young Radical 3
  • 2. a Provocative Course 21
  • 3. a Vile Association 47
  • 4. Harbinger of Doom 71
  • 5. a Litany of Destruction 95
  • 6. an Insolvable Dilemma 112
  • 7. a Mere Office-Seeker 120
  • 8. the Rose of Texas 137
  • 9. a Fire-Eater Down to the Ground 150
  • 10. Governor and Council 167
  • 11- "There Can Lay No Peace for Me" 173
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 223
  • Index 241
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