Ratification in South Carolina
We will never have true freedom until we abolish the system of agriculture. . . . If we pass this resolution, the large landowners will keep the land in their hands. If they are obliged to sell their lands, the poor man will have a chance to buy.
--A black delegate to South Carolina's 1868 constitutional convention, urging his fellow delegates to defeat a resolution offering relief to indebted planters
South Carolina, viewed from the battlements of the North, was the archetypal Southern state. From the days of Calhoun and nullification on, its "fire-eaters" had defiantly seethed the doctrine of states' rights. South Carolina had been the first state to secede from the Union, and the Civil War began when its militia fired on Fort Sumter. For these reasons, General Sherman laid waste the state. He wanted to destroy the symbolic citadel of the Confederacy. 1
In fact, South Carolina was atypical. 2 It was more prosperous, had fewer Unionist sympathizers, and had far more blacks and many more free educated blacks than did most other Southern states. Precisely because of these differences, South Carolina had led the Southern resistance; for the same reasons, it initially rejected the Fourteenth Amendment.
Although the legislature did not have before it any committee report on the amendment, members were thoroughly familiar with its provisions when they voted it down in December 1866 with but one dissenting vote in the House. 3 The amendment, after all, had been widely discussed. Contemporary accounts in leading South Carolina newspapers reflect the nature of that discussion and, presumably, the legislature's understanding of the amendment.
As might be expected from those who had schooled themselves in constitutional debate for more than a generation, white South Carolinians marshaled