Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

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

7. A Mere Office-Seeker

T he acceptance of the Compromise of 1850 by President Millard Fillmore signaled that it was time for South Carolina to unite with her sister southern states and prepare for separation.1 Governor Whitemarsh Seabrook urged caution; in order to be prepared, he requested that the state continue to strengthen the militia. General agitation was a phenomenon in South Carolina but not throughout the South. The legislature was late in electing a governor to succeed Seabrook, and other business was delayed while debates ranged over what posture South Carolina should assume to combat the impossible situation.2 The General Assembly argued that a state convention should be called, as suggested by the rump of the Southern Rights Convention which had reconvened in Nashville in November 1850. South Carolina hoped that all this would lead to the development of a southern congress which could speak with a single voice. Each congressional district was urged to elect two delegates to this congress (which would never meet).3 Voters were urged to elect men who would be true to South Carolina's ideals. There was the widespread feeling that congressional oppression would force the South to unite, but that the Palmetto State would and could resort to independent state action if that did not come to pass. The election for delegates to the state convention was to be held on the second Monday in February 1851, even though the legislature had determined that the convention would not meet for a year. Pickens, M. L. Bonham, F. H. Wardlaw, and three others were delegates from Edgefield. Of the one hundred sixty-nine men elected to this convention, about one-third were against separate state secession.4

The newspapers reflected the mood by publishing numerous letters and editorials on both sides of the issue. By this time most South Carolinians desired secession, but many feared a solitary journey. Although Pickens had just been defeated in the gubernatorial race, he was again being spoken of as a candidate for the Senate. A. P. Butler, his fellow vestryman at Trinity Church, Edgefield, was rumored to be contemplating retirement, and a likely successor was rumored to be Pickens.5 Although the rumors proved groundless and Pickens's hopes met with frustration, he was to play an important role in the events that were unfolding.

The passage of time was a critical factor in determining South Carolina's

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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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