South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLIX
WAITING FOR THE SOUTH, 1852-1860

The Nashville Convention, 1850. --As the Nashville Convention ( June 3-12, 1850) assembled South Carolina was divided into four factions: secessionists, favoring immediate action by South Carolina alone; the co-operationists, insisting that it was also essential to secure other States; conditional secessionists; and a much smaller group of uncompromising Unionists. Rhett was so precipitate for immediate secession by South Carolina alone that Hammond, long a convinced co-operationist, considered his indiscretion "criminal." The venerable Langdon Cheves, one of the State's greatest minds and characters, was of the same view as Hammond, as, of course, had been Calhoun. B. F. Perry, Unionist in 1832 and 1860, yet held now that the passage of the Wilmot Proviso would be "tantamount to a dissolution of the Union." Petigru and Poinsett regarded disunion as worse than any possible Northern aggression. Poinsett ( 1779-1851), who in 1832 was ready to fight for the Union against his own State, wrote, secession "will lead to immediate civil war and too probably terminate in defeat and humiliation. . . . If the revolution comes, for there can be no peaceable secession or dissolution of the Union, I am ready to take my part and stand among the sons of the South in the ranks or in organizing our defenses, but without hope."

How little the South was yet ready to follow South Carolina appeared when only nine States sent representatives to the Nashville Convention and only South Carolina sent a full delegation. Virginia's one representative was elected by the minority in one county after the majority had voted not to be represented. The convention repeated the old demand for equal rights in the territories and added the new one of the Federal protection of slave property there, though it said, as an extreme concession, the South would consent to a division of the territory by extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. It refused to recommend plans of resistance to measures not yet adopted ( Clay's compromise measures being still under debate), but agreed to reassemble if Congress failed to meet its demands.

The moderate action of the Nashville Convention tended temporarily to quiet South Carolina secessionists, but not Rhett or Pickens. Rhett inaugurated an active campaign for immediate secession. The

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