-- Dilemmas of Compromise --


The Charleston Mercury, December 21, 1860

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The 20th Day of December, in the Year of Our Lord, 1860

Inscribed among the calends of the world - memorable in time to come -- the 20th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1860, has become an epoch in the history of the human race. A great Confederated Republic, overwrought with arrogant and tyrannous oppressions, has fallen from its high estate amongst the nations of the earth. Conservative liberty has been vindicated. Mobocratic license has been stricken down. Order has conquered, yet liberty has survived. Right has raised his banner aloft, and bidden defiance to Might. The problem of self-government under the check- balance of slavery, has secured itself from threatened destruction.

South Carolina has resumed her entire sovereign powers, and, unshackled, has become one of the nations of the earth.

On yesterday, the 20th of December, 1860, just before one o'clock, p.m., the Ordinance of secession was presented by the Committee on "the Ordinance," to the Convention of the people of South Carolina. Precisely at seven minutes after one o'clock, the vote was taken upon the Ordinance -- each man's name being called in order. As name by name fell upon the ear of the silent assembly, the brief sound was echoed back, without one solitary exception in that whole grave body -- Aye!

At 1:15 o'clock, p.m. - the last name was called, the Ordinance of Secession was announced to have been passed, and the last fetter had fallen from the limbs of a brave, but too long oppressed people.

The Convention sat with closed doors. But upon the announcement outside, and upon the MERCURY bulletin board, that South Carolina was no longer a member of the Federal Union, loud shouts of joy rent the air. The enthusiasm was unsurpassed. Old men went shouting down the streets. Cannon were fired, and bright triumph was depicted on every countenance.

But before the Great Seal of the State was affixed to the Ordinance of Secession, and the names of the Delegates to the Convention were signed, it was proposed that this ceremony should be postponed until 7 o'clock that evening; when the Convention should reassemble and move in procession from the St. Andrew's Hall, where they then sat, to the great Secession Hall; and that there, before the assembled citizens of the State, the Great Seal of the State should be set, and each signature made. The proposition was favorably received.

At 6 1/2 o'clock p.m., the Convention reassembled at St. Andrew's Hall. At 6 3/4 o'clock p.m., they formed in procession and moved forward in silence to Secession Hall.

The building was filled to overflowing, and they were received by some three thousand people in the Hall.

The Convention was called to order. The scene was one profoundly grand and impressive. There were a people assembled through their highest representatives -- men most of them upon whose heads the snows of sixty winters had been shed -- patriarchs in age -- the dignitaries of the land -- the High Priests of the Church of Christ -- reverend statesmen -- and the wise judges of the law. In the midst of deep silence, an old man, with bowed form, and hair as white as snow, the Rev. Dr. BACHMAN, advanced forward, with upraised hands, in prayer to Almighty God, for His blessing and favor in this great act of his people, about to be consummated. The who assembly at once rose to its feet, and with hats off, listened to the touching and eloquent appeal to the All Wise Dispenser of events. At the close of the prayer the President advanced with the consecrated parchment upon which was inscribed the decision of the State, with the Great Seal attached. Slowly and solemnly it was read unto the last word -- "dissolved" -- when men could contain themselves no longer, and a shout that shook the very building, reverberating, long-continued, rose to Heaven, and ceased only with the loss of breath. In proud, grave silence, the Convention itself waited the end with beating hearts.

The President then requested the Delegates (by previous decision) to step forward as they were called in the alphabetical order of the Districts which they represented, and sign the Ordinance. Two hours were occupied in this solemn ceremony - the crowd waiting patiently the end. As the delegation from St. Phillip's and St. Michael's came forward, again, the hall was filled with applause. And as the Hon. R.B. RHETT advanced to the parchment, the shouts became deafening, long-continued, until he had seated himself, signed and retired. It was a proud and worthy tribute, gracefully paid, and appreciated. The same special compliment was paid to our Ex-Governor GIST, who recommended in his message to the extra session, the immediate secession of South Carolina from the Union.

At the close of the signatures the President, advancing to the front of the platform, announced that the Seal of the State had been set, the signatures of the Convention put to the Ordinance, and he thereby proclaimed the State of South Carolina a separate, independent nationality.

To describe the enthusiasm with which this announcement was greeted, is beyond the power of the pen. The high, burning, bursting heart alone can realize it. A mighty voice of great thoughts and great emotions spoke from the mighty throat of one people as a unit.

The State of South Carolina has recorded herself before the universe. In reverence before God, fearless of man, unawed by power, unterrified by clamor, she has cut the Gordian knot of colonial dependence upon the North - cast her fortune upon her right, and her own right arm, and stands ready to uphold alike her independence and her dignity before the world. Prescribing to none, she will be dictated to by none willing for peace, she is ready for war. Deprecating blood, she is willing to shed it. Valuing her liberties, she will maintain them. Neither swerved by frowns of foes, nor swayed by timorous solicitations of friends, she will pursue her direct path, and establish for herself and for her posterity, her rights, her liberties and her institutions. Though friends may fail her in her need, though the cannon of her enemies may belch destruction among her people, South Carolina, unawed, unconquerable, will still hold aloft her flag, "ANIMIS OPIBUSQUE PARATI." ["READY IN SPIRIT AND DEEDS"]