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Role of Politics in South Carolina’s Secession


South Carolina secession was the first in the line to occur before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861. Carolina led a secession from the United States and provided the first battleground for the civil war in April 1861. Also, South Carolina, alongside ten more southern states, separated from the union during the winter of 1860 and 1861.

Roles of politics in South Carolina’s secession

Many South Carolina women saw the events of late 1860 as virtually millenarian, giving their works a feeling of urgency. To avoid being chastised for being too emotional, women hid their feelings in their diaries and letters, using religious references to God’s vengeance to support their claims of impending hardship. According to Pribanic-Smith (2013), scholars say that women used their Christian purity to obtain new legitimacy in the public realm during the Civil War. By combining religion and politics, women could enter the male-dominated world of politics while remaining within the bounds of appropriate womanly conduct.

Southern women were encouraged to engage in political rituals and performed the bulk of the chores around Victorian mourning culture. Thus public, political, and symbolic action was well within their area of appropriateness. Men wore the black mourning bands for months, while women were liable for a year of full mourning, then half-mourning, and finally a reduction in the quantity of black worn. They were required to buy and wear bereavement jewelry, stationery, and apparel (Gordon, 2017). This overt appropriation of Victorian mourning culture, which was frequently a woman’s responsibility, was a politically acceptable form of expression. Elite South Carolinian women were both present and participated in the Democratic National Convention held in Charleston, according to newspaper accounts from spring 1860. They acted as political sawyers by exerting social peer pressure on state delegates who were hesitant to leave the conference. Despite their involvement, women did not dedicate a significant amount of mental energy to understanding political events.

The election of Abraham Lincoln for presidency in 1860 demonstrates the beginning of a series of events that culminated in the civil war in April 1861. Lincoln was the first Republican president, a remarkable accomplishment for a political party that had only been around for a decade. According to DeVelvis, (2020), In 1860, the Republican National Convention was held in Chicago. Lincoln defeated many other contenders, most notably New York’s William H. Seward. Contrary to popular belief, Lincoln was not a backwoods farmer; instead, he was a prominent Illinois lawyer who gained national notoriety during his 1858 Senate race against Stephen A. Douglas.

Lincoln’s win was practically inevitable due to the Democratic Party’s breakdown during its choice of candidate. The front-runner, Illinois’ Stephen A. Douglas, was hated by Democrats in the Deep South. As a consequence, the Democratic National Convention adjourned without electing a presidential nominee. The Democratic Party then nominated its candidates, with Kentucky’s John C. Breckinridge representing the Democratic Party’s Deep South faction and Stephen A (Rogers,2016). Douglas described the Democratic Party’s Northern and border-state coalition. Former Whigs and other groups established the Constitutional Union Party, which chose Tennessee’s John Bell as its presidential candidate.


In 1832 South Carolina enacted an Ordinance of Nullification, which meant to notify the United States government that South Carolina would not accept a high tax. In Lincoln’s instance, the Irish immigrants to the eastern cities and the Southern-born citizens of the northern states were significantly adverse to African Americans and, thus, to emancipation. At the same time, many other Northerners felt fatigued and alienated as the war went on forever.


Pribanic-Smith, E. J. (2013). Conflict in South Carolina’s Partisan Press of 1829. American Journalism30(3), 365-392.

Gordon, D. (Ed.). (2017). Secession, State, and Liberty. Routledge.

DeVelvis, M. (2020). Gendering Secession: Women and Politics in South Carolina, 1859-1861 (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina).

Rogers, S. (2016). Seccession over Dishonor: An Examination of the Role of Southern Honor in Events Precipitating Secession.


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