Thursday, November 8, 2007

"The Tea Has Been Thrown Overboard"

Mary Boykin Chesnut

As the train made its way through South Carolina, Mary Boykin Chesnut’s traveling companion tapped her on the shoulder. “Lincoln’s elected,” she whispered.

“How do you know?”

“The man over there has a telegram.”

As word spread throughout the cabin, the “excitement was very great” and everyone began “talking at the same time.” One man stood up and announced: “The die is cast; no more vain regrets; sad forebodings are useless; the stake is life or death.” Another man cried out: “Now that the black radical Republicans have the power I suppose they will [John] Brown us all.”

Mary knew something important was happening. She recorded the scene in her diary and faithfully kept adding to it for the next four years.

The passengers aboard the train were not alone in their outrage. The Charleston Mercury had been calling for secession for several months. Now, just two days after the election, the newspaper called on South Carolina to take action.

I have added the following editorial to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:

“The News of Lincoln’s Election”

Mercury [Charleston, South Carolina]

November 8, 1860

Yesterday, November the 7th, will long be a memorable day in Charleston. The tea has been thrown overboard; the revolution of 1860 has been initiated. Intense though quiet excitement prevails throughout the community. The Government officials, as our columns will show, have resigned. From early evening on Tuesday, until two o'clock the next morning, the MERCURY office was crowded with anxious expectants of the news from New York. All day yesterday our bulletin board was surrounded and our office filled with a continually flowing crowd. At twelve o'clock was unfurled from our windows and stretched across the street a red flag, with the Palmetto and the Lone Star. A shout from below, and twice three hearty cheers, greeted its appearance. The Association of 1860 immediately assembled, and arrangements have been made for a public meeting to endorse the action of the Legislature in the call of a State Convention to assemble as soon as practicable. The feeling on all hands is for prompt separate State action. The Federal officers who have resigned their places are expected to address the meeting to assemble as soon as the Legislature shall have acted. Charleston is not behind the State, and will play her part in the grand drama now before us, as becomes her intelligence, her stake and her civilization. On every lip is the stern cry "vive la liberta!".

The city of Charleston looks to its legislators, as far as lies in their power, to see that the Commonwealth receives no detriment.

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