Second Day of SC’s Secession Convention; Lincoln Picks Bates

Tuesday, December 18, 1860

In the wee morning hours, a steam train with a consist of eight coaches made its way from Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina, to Charleston, the heart of secession. The South’s first Secession Convention was forced to move due to an outbreak of smallpox. The train was filled with the 160 delegates, the state legislature and visitors.

They reached Charleston at 1pm, arriving to a fifteen gun salute (one gun for each Southern state).

The Convention assembled at 4pm in Institute Hall with nearly 700 spectators filling the galleries. The meeting was very parliamentary, as most of these types of meetings were. Motions were presented to form committees for various things like printing the Convention proceedings. A committee of seven members was appointed to make an address while two delegates bickered over how many clerks were needed for the convention (one delegate wanted just one, but another delegate wanted a main clerk and an assistant clerk).

With all this mostly out of the way, it was carried that the Convention find a more suitable place to hold their meetings.

Until then, however, some useful committees were formed (each with seven members) to look into relations with the Slaveholding States, Foreign Relations, Commercial Relations, and the Constitution of the State. Another committee was to look into Federal property contained within the borders of South Carolina (arsenals, offices, forts, etc).

Having then decided that the Convention would meet again at 11am the next day, the meeting was adjourned at 5 o’clock.1

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In Springfield, Lincoln officially announced that Edward Bates would be appointed a seat in his Cabinet. Bates had been a Missouri state representative in the 30s, but more recently had run against Lincoln in the Republican primary. Like Lincoln, he had been a Whig who became a Republican when the former party disintegrated in the mid 1850s.2

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The Senate Committee of Thirteen was formed in response to the obvious secession crisis. Their main job was to somehow come up with an idea, a compromise, that would keep all the states in the Union. Members included Robert Toombs of Georgia, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and William H. Seward of New York (who was to be Lincoln’s Secretary of State).

This committee was to offer proposals, decide upon a few ideas and then present them before the Senate as a bill and very possibly a proposed Constitutional amendment.



  1. Details from the Richmond Daily Dispatch, December 19 & 20, 1860. []
  2. Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Edward Bates, December 18, 1860. []
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2 thoughts on “Second Day of SC’s Secession Convention; Lincoln Picks Bates

  1. Thank again for another great blog post. I feel I should comment on your statement regarding the 1860 convention as “the south’s first Secession Convention.” That’s not quite accurate, since there were at least two prior conventions of note. You are most likely aware of the Nashville Convention of 1850 where delegates from nine slaveholding states met to discuss secession and decide how to react to the proposed Compromise of 1850. This Nashville Convention passed a number of resolutions in response to the compromise, but it was clear that the secessionists were still something of a minority faction as far as those that wanted to leave the Union right away. Also, South Carolina held a secession convention of its own in 1852. At the SC convention, on 30 April 1852, they passed ordinance declaring South Carolina’s right to secede “in exercise of her Sovereign Will.”

    Hope this helps the discussion. Keep up the good work.

    1. That is true and you’re most definitely right. I should have been more careful in saying that it was the “civil war’s first secession convention” or something similar. The history surrounding the idea of disunion from both the north and the south through the 1840s and 1850s is wildly interesting if you’re into the political side of things.

      Thank you very much for the correction. I do really appreciate it.

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