The Tea Has Been Thrown Overboard

Thursday, November 8, 1860

The mood of the southern states had not brightened two days after the election. In fact, the Charleston Mercury spelled it out plainly:

“The tea has been thrown overboard, the revolution of 1860 has been initiated.”

100 miles down the coast, at a rally in Savannah, Georgia, the first flag of secession was lofted upon the Nathanael Greene monument. It played on the old Revolutionary War motto “Don’t Tread On Me,” adding “Our Motto, Southern Rights, Equality of the States” before it.

The Georgia state government in Macon penned a declaration of independence, which listed the grievances they held against the North. It would not be formally adopted until the end of January (then called the Declaration of Causes of Secession). As might be imagined, slavery figured prominently into their reasoning, railing against anti-slavery factions in the Federal government.

Farther south, in Pensacola, Florida, Lincoln was hanged in effigy.


Though it might seem odd from the modern point of view, Lincoln had never met his running mate in person. As was customary, he didn’t even select who would be his vice president. The Republican Convention selected both him and Hannibal Hamlin.

It was on this date, two days after the election, that Lincoln wrote to Hamlin, suggesting that they should finally meet.

My dear Sir. I am anxious for a personal interview with you at as early a day as possible. Can you, without much inconvenience, meet me at Chicago? If you can, please name as early a day as you conveniently can, and telegraph me; unless there be sufficient time, before the day named, to communicate by mail. Yours very truly,

They would finally meet on November 21st.

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The Tea Has Been Thrown Overboard by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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8 thoughts on “The Tea Has Been Thrown Overboard

  1. Thanks for this post. A small detail here, but you might want to correct the spelling you have for Nathanael Greene’s first name (note the “ael” at the end not “iel” as is more common)..

    1. Thank you for that. Spelling is definitely not one of my strong points. Actually, if I remember correctly, I had to dig around to even find out what the monument was. All I had to go on was the image and some time with Google Earth. The mistake, however, was definitely my own.

      Thanks again!

    1. Thank you. I’m really thrilled to find your blog. While I’m just reporting, much like a parrot, you’re showing your own learning process in first-person accounts of your discovery/realizations, etc. Your blog is now in my regular “read everyday” feed.


  2. A note of interest to me is the way that “States’ Rights” have been redefined in recent decades. Once upon a time the rights of individual States of the Union were strongly defended for various reasons. Now, in our time, States’ Rights have become a buzzword for racism. It is unfortunate that this has been allowed to happen, since I believe the overreaching federal government is one of our greatest challenges today. I was reminded of this unfortunate re-appropriation of the term as I was catching up to your blog.

    1. Hi Sean!

      Most things are redefined as we go as far as history is concerned. I’m supposing it’s just human nature coupled with politicking. Fortunately with the Civil War, there’s enough period documentation to help us toward the right idea.

      As for “states rights,” as it was used in the 1860s – 1880s, it was often a kinder way to say “a state’s right to have slaves.” At that time, there was only one (major) “right” that some states had and other hadn’t and that was slavery.

      Since then (and actually, because of then), the Federal government has expanded far over what it used to be. Some feel it’s a good thing, others do not.

      This was also an issue prior to the Civil War. As Henry David Thoreau put it: “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least’; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — ‘That government is best which governs not at all’; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

      1. It is because states’ rights were so misused during this period that it is remembered most in that context. There have been many times, before and since, that states successfully argued their right to determine things more locally and without interference from the federal government. It is in fact the reason (those other uses) that many of us construe the Constitution to be a document that limits the government of the nation, rather than empowering it. The constitutional convention was more frequently about what to exclude than what to include, in the powers granted. It is why our Constitution is so poetically short compared to other documents of governance. The European Union, for instance, spends more time on how futball shall be governed than documentation of citizenship. =)

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