December 20th, 1860

02688p1Just over 150 years ago today, just following the election of Abraham Lincoln as our 16th President, South Carolina sought to become the first State to secede from the Union. Perhaps ironically on the 57th anniversary of the completion of the Louisiana Purchase, a deal that vastly expanded the territory of the United States, and the 254th anniversary of the Virginia Company setting sail to establish the first English Colony in North America, the Union threatened to be dissolved because the South did not approve of the election of the Northern Republican who claimed a plurality of not even 49% of the popular vote, but a clear win in the Electoral College. At stake was not just a question of slavery, an abomination that had haunted the United States since the Founding of the Nation, but also a question of Self-Government. Were States allowed to leave the Union because they did not like the results of an Election? Were they allowed to dissolve the Union because their candidate did not win? If they were would the republican principles embodied in this great experiment laid out not even a hundred years prior work or would it always be doomed to fail as we proved ourselves ill-equipped to hand the dominate political questions of our age. South Carolina wouldn’t be the last state, within less than a month Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida would leave, the number would rise, and by early February the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America would be signed, it would be replaced by a more permanent document as more states joined, and by April 12th the Civil War had begun.

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