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The Charleston Convention–The Seceders in Council.


May/June 1860

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, May 2, 1860.



The Seceders in Council.

CHARLESTON, May 1.—St. Andrews’ Hall last night was thronged with members of the bolters from the convention; John C. Preston, of South Carolina, presiding.

On taking the chair, Mr. Preston delivered a short address. He considered this a great occasion. He said, we only know that the institutions of our country are imperiled, and we are here to preserve our rights and redress our wrongs. If we had submitted we would have done that which would have driven us from the land of our forefathers and deprived us of the liberty they fought for, and ultimately would have driven us from the spot on which their sacred ashes repose.

Mr. Yancey followed with a statement of his views of the position occupied by the Southern delegates. We appear here simply as citizens of the State in which we live. We were sent to the National Democratic Convention as delegates, but our mission has been fulfilled, and we return as mere citizens from the late National Convention, which is now a mere sectional gathering. A few Southern delegates still remain there, it is true, but it is in the hope of inducing these to forego their Black Republican purposes.

Mr. Yancey proposed that they should take no action, but to remain here and watch the proceedings of the regular Convention. Should that Convention nominate Douglas, it would then become their duty to present and recommend to the people of the United States candidates for President and Vice President and on a National and Constitutional basis, and, therefore, a Southern basis. He thought no steps should be taken by the seceding Convention until the proper time.

Mr. Bayard of Delaware, did not regard the influence that overruled principle in the National Convention so much as the spirit of Black Republicanism-it was a struggle for power and plunder-the corruptions and bargains of a general scramble for office.

Mr. B. was very severe on the New York delegates who came here, he said, professing a desire to join in such a nomination as would suit the South, but as soon as they had secured their seats, turned their backs on the South. He trusted that other States would withdraw from that Convention, and that it would be utterly dissolved. He did not consider that seceders had the power to make regular nominations, but he would recommend, if it should be found necessary, that they should join in the recommendation of some reliable candidate with a written address to their constituents.

Mr. Mathews, of Louisiana, on behalf of his delegation, asked that no action should be taken by this body until we see that instead of eight States we do not to-morrow number fifteen, and perhaps seventeen. We should wait till to-morrow, and we should do nothing positively, until we hear from those States who asked for an adjournment last evening, in order to have an opportunity of consulting as to the course they should pursue.

A call of the States was then made. When New York was reached, Dr. Skinner of the Wood delegation, responded. He said he came there to attend a National Convention, and had been sitting out in the cold for eight days, his delegation having been ousted from their seats by fraud. He was a Hard, and the difference between a Hard and a Soft was, the former sacrificed place for principles, and the latter principles for place. He had no doubt Mayor Wood would have been here if he had known the meeting was to be held.

Delaware was called, and Bayard and one other delegate came forward.

Maryland no answer.

Virginia was responded to by Mr. Fisher, who said there would be more of that of that State here. He also said he had sent an invitation to Mayor Wood to be here.

South Carolina called. Mr. Reed said he was one of the three whose names were not signed to the project. He had hesitated about leaving the Convention, in the hope of securing harmony. But where Abraham goes, there the Carolinas will go also; and he was satisfied Georgia will be with us before to-morrow night, and also, he hoped, every Southern State.

Georgia was called, and Mr. Lamar responded and said he believed a large majority of his delegation will, before to-morrow morning, enroll their names.

Florida called, when the entire delegation responded.

All the seceded States signed the roll. The Convention then adjourned, to meet again to-morrow. Mr. Yancey afterwards addressed, at the City Hall, a mass meeting of seceders.


CHARLESTON, May 1.—The Southern seceders appointed a Committee on Organization, and will meet at noon to-day, when an organization will be perfected. Mr. Douglas professes satisfaction with the result, declaring that the seceders don’t represent the popular sentiments of the States. The Wood delegation all joined the seceders.

The Convention Proper.

CHARLESTON, May 1.—The floor and north gallery of the Convention were literally inundated with ladies, and the south and west galleries were filled with spectators. The President’s table was lined with bouquets. The seats of the seceding delegates were filled with South Carolina ladies. The Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina delegates were in their seats.

The Convention was called to order at half-past ten, and a prayer for the Union and harmony was offered by Rev. Mr. Ingersoll.

Mr. Richardson, of Illinois, inquired what was the business in order.

The President stated that three separate motions to reconsider the platform resolutions were pending at the time of adjournment yesterday, and that Mr. Merrick, of Illinois, was entitled to the floor.

Mr. Benning, of Georgia, rose to a privileged question, stating that the Georgia delegation had been in anxious consultation, and had passed a series of resolutions, the first of which instructed the chairman of the delegation to inform the President of the Convention that they could no longer participate in the proceedings of this Convention. He added that they would now withdraw.

The resolution was signed by twenty-four delegates. Four other delegates seceded with them on the ground that they felt compelled to act with the majority. Eight other delegates remained in the Convention.

Arkansas then presented her protest and withdrew.

Mr. Irving of Tenn., asked leave for that delegation to retire for the purpose of consultation with some fo the retiring delegates of the South.

A portion of the Maryland delegation asked to retire for consultation.

A portion of the Kentucky delegation announced that they had no desire to retire.

The North Carolina delegation asked leave to retire for consultation.

Mr. Cohen, of Ga., one of the remaining delegates proceeded to address the Convention. From early manhood he had been in the front ranks of those who had been foremost of the extremest sect of the States Rights School, yet he was here after a majority of his associates had retired.

He had been induced to remain here in the hope that the cup of conciliation may not be dashed to the earth. While in sentiment he was with those who retired, he had chosen to remain and make an effort for peace and union. There was no division of sentiment at the South, and there never had been any division except as to a question of time. The South is in earnest. He could see in this division a distraction of the Democratic party-a ripple that would swell to a wave and carry to the Presidential chair the arch-fiend of Black Republicanism.

His appeal for conciliation and compromise was most impressive. He concluded by declaring that he intended to remain in the Convention until the last feather was placed on the camel’s back, and then he would be among the foremost to leave it.

Mr. Flournoy, of Arkansas, said his advice was never to give up the ship, but to call up the crew and face the storm. He had been reared in the midst of the institution. He believed that slavery was a benefit to master and slave. All he had in the world was the product of slave labor, and, therefore, he trusted that he was above suspicion. He believed his Southern friends had acted wrong in this matter. He believed that the South cannot be united on the ground they have taken, and that they will not be sustained by their constituents.

Mr. Montgomery, of Pa., was opposed to these speeches on either side. If there are more delegations prepared to leave, let them go. They have all made up their minds, and we have made up ours. We wish to proceed with business.