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The Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union was a legal proclamation issued on December 24, 1860, by the government of South Carolina, explaining its reasons for seceding from the United States. The actual ordinance of secession had been issued on December 20. The declaration was written by Christopher Memminger.
The opening portion of the declaration outlines the historical background of South Carolina and offers a legal justification for its secession. It asserts that the right of states to secede is implicit in the Constitution and this right was explicitly reaffirmed by South Carolina in 1852. The declaration states that the agreement between South Carolina and the United States is subject to the law of compact, which creates obligations on both parties and which revokes the agreement if either party fails to uphold its obligations.
The next section asserts that the government of the United States and of states within that government had failed to uphold their obligations to South Carolina. The specific issue stated was the refusal of some states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and clauses in the US Constitution protecting slavery and the federal government's perceived role in attempting to abolish slavery.
The next section states that while these problems have existed for twenty-five years, the situation had recently become unacceptable due to the election of a President (this was Abraham Lincoln although he is not mentioned by name) who was planning to outlaw slavery.
The final section concludes with a statement that South Carolina had therefore seceded from the United States.
While later claims have been made that the decision to secede was prompted by other issues such as tariffs, these issues were not mentioned in the declaration. The primary focus of the declaration is the perceived violation of the Constitution by northern states in not extraditing escaped slaves (as the Constitution required in Article IV Section 2) and actively working to abolish slavery (which they saw as Constitutionally guaranteed and protected). The main thrust of the argument was that since the Constitution, being a contract, had been violated by some parties (the northern abolitionist states), the other parties (the southern slave-holding states) were no longer bound by it.
The declaration does not make a simple declaration of states' rights. It asserts that South Carolina was a sovereign state that had delegated only particular powers to the federal government by means of the US Constitution. It furthermore protests other states' failure to uphold their obligations under the Constitution. The declaration emphasizes that the Constitution explicitly requires states to deliver "person(s) held in service or labor" back to their state of origin.
The declaration was one of three documents to be officially issued by the South Carolina Secession Convention. The first was the Ordinance of Secession of South Carolina itself. The third was The Address of the people of South Carolina, assembled in Convention, to the people of the Slaveholding States of the United States, written by Robert Barnwell Rhett, which called on other slave holding states to secede and join in forming a new nation.
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- Full text of the declaration
- Text of the Ordinance of Secession and list of delegates
- Articles of Secession of Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas
la:Declaratio Praesentium Causarum Quae Secessionem Carolinae Meridionalis ex Unione Foederali Impellunt et Purgant