20 December 2010 by Published in: Neo-Confederate hooey 7 comments

150 years ago today, the fire-eaters of South Carolina lit the fuze for the tinderbox of the Civil War by enacting an Ordinance of Secession. I doubt that they realized what their actions would trigger, and I seriously doubt that any of them anticipated that 600,000 Americans would die as a consequence of their foolhardy and ill-considered actions.

I know that some view the passage of that ordinance of secession as a good thing, but I don’t. I view it as one of, if not THE, greatest tragedy in the history of our Republic. For reasons that are nearly a complete mystery to me, a Secession Ball is being in held in Charleston tonight, as if this tragedy is something to celebrate through light-hearted activities such as cotillions. While the passage of the Ordinance of Secession is certainly worthy of commemoration, I surely don’t view these events as something to be celebrated, and I have to state that I hardly think that a Secession Ball, intended to celebrate treason as if it was a good thing, is appropriate, and I regret that such an event is being held.

My friend John Hoptak has a very thoughtful discussion of why these are not events to celebrate on his blog today, which I commend to you.

I can only hope that it is a once-and-done thing and no other such inappropriate celebrations are contemplated any time soon.

Scridb filter


  1. Todd Berkoff
    Mon 20th Dec 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Hi Eric. I completely agree. Regardless of your politcal views, today is not a date to celebrate. South Carolina’s secession was the first official step toward the eventual death of 620,000 American lives, the destruction of the South, and a war that nearly broke this country into two nations. Oh yes, what a merry occasion.

  2. Mike Peters
    Tue 21st Dec 2010 at 12:28 pm


    Ranger Hoptak is spot on!


  3. John Foskett
    Tue 21st Dec 2010 at 12:35 pm

    As usual, Eric, you’re right on target. As for me, I enjoy the analysis but it’s always been quite simpler in the end. Take the secessionists at their own words (e.g., see the material in the fine Apostles of Secession). This act was based on reprehensible, morally wrong views about race and concerns that the North’s growing political dominance in Congress would stifle the expansion of an evil institution which by 1860 was illegal in most of the planet, with aberrant exceptions such as the United States and Brazil. This is worth “celebrating” or “commemorating”?

  4. Lee
    Tue 21st Dec 2010 at 2:04 pm


    I completely agree with you that the secession of South Carolina and the other southern states is nothing to celebrate. It’s clear that slavery was the main cause of secession, and it goes without saying that slavery was a horrible thing. In addition, given that in the years since the Civil War, the U.S. has grown into the most powerful and one of the most prosperous nations ever, I’m extremely glad it didn’t break up, and would feel this way even if the Confederacy had nothing to do with slavery.

    I do take issue with one of your points, though. I don’t agree with criticizing the secessionists for commiting “treason” because doing so seems rather hypocritical. After all, the British could use that same argument to say that Americans shouldn’t celebrate July 4th!

  5. Lyle Smith
    Wed 22nd Dec 2010 at 1:16 am

    (I posted this originally at Mr. Holpak’s nice blog, but wanted to share it here as well.)

    Secession definitely was about slavery. States’ Rights was about slavery. What was slavery about though? Wealth, prestige, class, and the hope of prosperity.

    I mean this is why Thomas Jefferson didn’t free all of his slaves through his will… they were too valuable financially and culturally, i.e., his family would lose his accumulated wealth, prestige of the plantation, prestige of the planter class, and the hope of prosperity in agrarian Virginia.

    So South Carolina seceded from the Union because of slavery, but slavery wasn’t just the ownership of human beings… but it was more importantly about the wealth, prosperity, prestige, and class of the slave owner at that time. Even some free blacks (very, very few of them) in the South wanted to own slaves, and did… because they wanted wealth, prestige, class, and the hope for prosperity as free peoples part of a slave based economy.

    For me at least, this makes understanding secession better. Of course the system was wrong, but if you were a part of it, i.e. you benefited from it or hoped to one day… you wouldn’t want it to go away over night or even in time. You wouldn’t want to go from millionaire to carpet bagging out West, or lose the ability to sell your couple of slaves off to see off the debt collectors.

    … and this was all acceptable as well because, because well the white South and North thought blacks were inferior, not even human beings, lesser beings than the reviled Indians (Thomas Jefferson’s own view).

    All wrong and tragic, but that is what our people were. So perhaps not to be celebrated, but perhaps not to be reviled either (not that you imply that).

  6. James F. Epperson
    Thu 23rd Dec 2010 at 10:29 am

    Look at it this way, Eric: If the South Carolinians hadn’t done it (and I love Petigru’s comment about SC being too small for a republic, and too large for an insane asylum), what would you have to write about? You’d have to be a full-time lawyer!

Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress