Sandlapper Society

Grade 8: SC Secession

Grade Level: Grade 8

Subject Area Addressed: History

To download complete lesson plan, click here.


Commemorating South Carolina's Secession

by Katherine Giles
Lesson plan by Lisa Ray, NBCT

We, the People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain… that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of "The United States of America," is hereby dissolved.

– South Carolina Ordinance of Secession

On December 20, 1860, the delegates of a special South Carolina state convention voted unanimously to secede from the Union. Secession had been brewing for more than a decade, as white South Carolinians became increasingly alarmed about the protection of state sovereignty under the U. S. Constitution. Slavery, the backbone of South Carolina's economy, was under fire from abolitionists, and those who profited from this "peculiar institution"—both directly and indirectly—feared the loss of their cultural, economic, and political way of life. The November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, who was widely believed to harbor "opinions and purposes…hostile to slavery," finally spurred South Carolina's leaders to action. The result was one of the most decisive events in American history: secession!

The subsequent civil war raged for four years, devastating the nation and spawning social and political consequences that would linger for generations. In 2010, the Palmetto State will mark the sesquicentennial of this pivotal event, an anniversary that will be commemorated by the South Carolina Historical Society throughout the year.

At the Annual Meeting in February, the society held its first-ever book sale, proceeds from which will make possible the restoration of a recently acquired, rare lithographic copy of the Ordinance of Secession (quoted above). A multimedia exhibit, funded in part by the South Carolina Humanities Council and titled "What They Were Thinking: South Carolinians and Secession, 1860," is currently in development and eventually will be made available to students and others throughout the state. A formal dinner is scheduled for September 28 to launch the exhibit. And in December, the SCHS is co-sponsoring a symposium on secession with The Citadel and the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Historical Trust. This symposium will feature a number of major historians, including David Blight, William C. Davis, William W. Freehling, Mark Neeley, Bud Robertson, and William Scarborough.

The SCHS invites all South Carolinians to join us for a closer look at this landmark event in our state history.