Speech from William King Easley of Pickens supporting Secession, December 1860
William King Easley (1825-1872) was a state legislator from Pickens County, signer of the Ordinance of Secession, and the state's first adjutant general. In this speech from December 1860 prior to the signing of the Ordinance, Easley lays out the reasons South Carolina must leave the Union.
Expressing the urgency of the time, Easley stated that "the North has nourished dark and insidious designs against our independence" and that the government was no longer "an association of sovereign states united for their mutual benefit and protection." Instead, Easley contends, the nation was rapidly becoming "consolidated" in favor of the northern states and that the interests of the southern states were being pushed aside. Lincoln's election brought fears of abolition and "servile war" as well as a near absolute loss of power among the southern slaveholding states. Easley stated "When the slaves are emancipated and made our equals if they do not exterminate us or drive us out of the country we will lose one fifth of our representation in congress we will lose all power to share in the management of the nations."
Easley likened the southern secessionists of 1860 to the patriots of the Revolution. He urged his fellow South Carolinians not to submit to the power of northern interests, "for the children of Carolina must ever be free and so long as the Palmetto waives in the breeze so long will they rally around it by hundred and by thousands will they fall in defense of their rights."
Easley seemed sure that war would come with secession and that the cause was just since "all freedom has been purchased by blood." He ended his speech with the following Latin phrase: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” [Translation: "It is sweet and fitting to die for your country."]
Speech, December 1860. William Easley King Papers, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.
Indicator 3-4.4 Outline the course of the Civil War and South Carolina’s role in significant events, including the Secession Convention, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Union blockade of Charleston, and Sherman’s march through South Carolina.
Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.
Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalism fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, state’s rights, the election of 1860, and secession.
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.
Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.
Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.
Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the successes and failures of the abolitionist movement, the conflicting views on states’ rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.