[SECESSION]. SOUTH CAROLINA CONVENTION. Charleston Mercury Extra: Passed Unanimously at 1:15 o'clock, P.M. December 20th 1860. An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled 'The Constitution of the United States of America'...The Union is Dissolved! [Charleston, S.C., 20 December 1860]. Folio broadside, 23 7/8 x 11 15/16 in., tipped at corners and fold edges to acid-free board, minor mat-burn, slight wear along central vertical fold with a few holes to blank portion, minor spotting along left-hand edge, , otherwise an excellent example of this extremely fragile, ephemeral item. FIRST PRINTING OF THE FIRST SECESSION ORDINANCE. Crandall 1888; Ray O. Hummell, Southeastern Broadsides Before 1877, no. 2434 (locating six copies); Sabin 87439; Streeter sale 1271.
"THE UNION IS DISSOLVED!": THE FIRST CONFEDERATE IMPRINT, ISSUED MINUTES AFTER SOUTH CAROLINA BECAME THE FIRST STATE TO SECEDE FROM THE UNION
The Election of 1860, which propelled the Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln into the White House, proved the decisive catalyst to secession, and, as a direct result, Civil War. But South Carolina enjoyed a long tradition of resistance to Federal authority, extending back to Senator John C. Calhoun's powerful 1832 opposition to a Federal tariff. Calhoun, a principal advocate of states' rights, postulated that any state legislature had the right to nullify any Federal statute it considered unconstitutional. It was during this Nullification Crisis of 1832, resolved without violence by a Compromise tariff engineered by Henry Clay, that the first calls for secession were voiced by South Carolinians. The intensifying anti-slavery agitation of the 1850s, which heightened sectional divisions, proved fertile ground for radical politicians like Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865) and Robert Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876), editor of the Charleston Mercury, who was the primary author of the secession ordinance which his newspaper printed with such fanfare in the present broadside. In response to what he saw as a threat to the sovereignty and rights of the state, Governor Pickens had called for a special Convention of the legislature, to meet in Charleston on December 20. There were few dissenters at the Convention, and the secession ordinance was the only item on the agenda: "because the ground had long since been plowed and planted, the harvest of disunion came quickly after the thunderstorm of Lincoln's election" (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 234). Only a single vote was taken, and the momentous ordinance was passed unanimously, 169 to 0. Within fifteen minutes, it is reported, the present broadside announcement, probably set in type while the Convention met, was in circulation on the streets of Charleston. The ordinance itself, consciously adopting the wording of the preamble to the Constitution, reads "We the People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention Assembled, do declare and ordain...That the Ordinance adopted by us in Convention on [23 May 1788], whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified, and also, all Acts...ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby dissolved..."
This graphic broadside consitutes the first printing of the secession ordinance. It was the first such secession resolution enacted. South Carolina's action was followed in close succession by Mississippi (January 9), Florida (January 10), Alabama (January 11), Georgia (January 19), Louisiana (January 26), and Texas (February 1). Virginia (April 17), Arkansas (May 6), North Carolina (May 20) and Tennessee (June 8) followed suit only after Lincoln's call for volunteers in response to the attack upon Fort Sumter.
Provenance: The Estate of Calvin Bullock (sale, Christie's, 14 May 1985, lot 273).