Declaration of the Immediate
Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal
The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the
26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United
States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved
rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the
Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other
slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that
time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance
ceases to be a virtue.
And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal
place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of
America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate
causes which have led to this act.
In the year 1765, that portion of the British Empire embracing Great Britain,
undertook to make laws for the government of that portion composed of the
thirteen American Colonies. A struggle for the right of self-government ensued,
which resulted, on the 4th of July, 1776, in a
Declaration, by the Colonies, "that they are, and of right ought to be, FREE
AND INDEPENDENT STATES; and that, as free and independent States, they have full
power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and
to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do."
They further solemnly declared that whenever any "form of government becomes
destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the
people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government." Deeming the
Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they
declared that the Colonies "are absolved from all allegiance to the British
Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great
Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
In pursuance of this Declaration of
Independence, each of the thirteen States proceeded to exercise its separate
sovereignty; adopted for itself a Constitution, and appointed officers for the
administration of government in all its departments-- Legislative, Executive and
Judicial. For purposes of defense, they united their arms and their counsels;
and, in 1778, they entered into a League known as the Articles of
Confederation, whereby they agreed to entrust the administration of their
external relations to a common agent, known as the Congress of the United
States, expressly declaring, in the first Article
"that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every
power, jurisdiction and right which is not, by this Confederation, expressly
delegated to the United States in Congress assembled."
Under this Confederation the war of the Revolution was carried on, and on the
3rd of September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty
was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the independence of the
Colonies in the following terms: "ARTICLE
1 -- His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New
Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND
INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs
and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and
territorial rights of the same and every part thereof."
Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies,
namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to
abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was
instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the
fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE,
SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE.
Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of
Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended for
the adoption of the States, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United
The parties to whom this Constitution was
submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree,
and when nine of them agreed the compact was to take effect among those
concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested
with their authority.
If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have
remained as they then were-- separate, sovereign States, independent of any of
the provisions of the Constitution. In fact,
two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long
after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that
interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.
By this Constitution, certain
duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of
their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence
as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, an amendment was added,
which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States,
respectively, or to the people. On the 23d May , 1788, South Carolina, by a
Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution,
and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the
obligations she had undertaken.
Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with
definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This
limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause
reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any
specification of reserved rights.
We hold that the Government thus established is subject to the two great
principles asserted in the Declaration of
Independence; and we hold further, that the mode of its formation subjects
it to a third fundamental principle, namely: the law of compact. We maintain
that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual;
that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of
the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other; and that where no
arbiter is provided, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the
fact of failure, with all its consequences.
In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that
fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill
their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the
The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides
as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation
therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on
claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact
would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held
slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a
stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the
government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States
north of the Ohio River.
The same article of the
Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of
fugitives from justice from the other States.
The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect
these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But
an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the
institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the
laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the
Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress
or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the
fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has
the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The
State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her
constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her
more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by
her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right
of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio
and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and
with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the
constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the
non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is
released from her obligation.
The ends for which the Constitution was framed
are declared by itself to be "to form a more perfect union, establish justice,
insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each
State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own
institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free
persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and
burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by
authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for
the rendition of fugitives from labor.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been
defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the
action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of
deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the
rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have
denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open
establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the
peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have
encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those
who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it
has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the
forms of the Constitution, a
sectional party has found within that Article establishing the
Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A
geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of
that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President
of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is
to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has
declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,"
and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course
of ultimate extinction.
This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been
aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the
supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes
have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive
of its beliefs and safety.
On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the
Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common
territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war
must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
The guaranties of the Constitution will then
no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding
States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and
the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of
remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has
invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious
We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention
assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our
intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between
this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the
State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world,
as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude
peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and
things which independent States may of right do.
Adopted December 24, 1860