As If Repetition Would Do Any Good

Saturday, November 10, 1860

South Carolina’s junior US senator, James Chesnut (husband of now-famous diarist, Mary Chesnut)1 , had long been a Unionist. On this date, however, he resigned his seat. Chesnut’s favor had changed to that of leaving the Union with the election of Lincoln (actually a bit before). The state’s senior senator, James Hammond, a long-time secessionist in favor of an organized and well thought out withdrawal, remained the state’s only senator in Washington DC (much to his embarrassment and surprise).

Governor, William Gist, also of South Carolina, called a special session of the legislature to decide what the state should do now that Lincoln was elected. They immediately decided that there should be a state convention to officially consider seceding from the Union. Every member of both houses voted for the convention. Delegates for the convention were to be elected on December 6. The convention itself would be held on December 17.2

__________________

Southern Unionists had been hoping for a word from Lincoln on the slavery issue that would perhaps quell the growing storm. Lincoln wrote to the editor of the Missouri Republican, “I could say nothing which I have not already said, and which is in print and accessible to the public….. If I thought a repetition would do any good, I would make it.”3

By now, newspapers throughout the major cities of the north and south called for peace, called for secession and called for blood.



  1. I originally had the spelling as “Chestnut,” but was corrected. I’m a horrible speller. []
  2. From Days of Defiance; Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War by Maury Kline, Vintage Press, 1999. []
  3. Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Truman Smith, November 10, 1860. []
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As If Repetition Would Do Any Good by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International
  1. “If I thought a repetition would do any good, I would make it” is an awesome line.

    I am totally going to use that line when giving directions to my students.

    • I’d agree. Obviously, Lincoln had quite a handle on the English language when he put his mind to it.

      One of the big critiques of Lincoln was that he spoke like some backwoods hick. Even his First Inaugural Address (“mystic chords of memory…”) and the Gettysburg Address were critiqued in that way.

      Crazy.

    • You are, of course, correct. As previously stated, spelling is not my best quality. I’m a horrendous speller.

      Thank you very much for the head’s up. I really do appreciate it.

      -Eric