Baptists and the American Civil War: September 13, 1865

South Carolina Civil War MapToday the post-war South Carolina constitutional state convention meets at the First Baptist Church of Columbia to form a post-war Provisional Government. The venue is the same as that of the earlier declaration of secession, December 20, 1860. And today’s delegates, all white elites, are just as defiant as were secession delegates in 1860 (many of the same serving in both conventions).

Forced to recognize that the Confederacy is no more and that black slavery is over, the delegates repeal their secession ordinance and outlaw slavery … except in the case of certain criminals.

Voting, however, remains a privilege for white males only, South Carolina’s elites insist during the course of the Constitutional Convention. African Americans are denied suffrage when the convention ends, and are barely referenced at all in the new constitution.

Evidencing disdain for the United States, the first resolution submitted reads:

Resolved, That under the present extraordinary circumstances it is both wise and politic to accept the condition in which we are placed; to endure patiently the evils which we cannot avert or correct; and to await calmly the time and opportunity to affect our deliverance from unconstitutional rule.

The resolution fails, but the sentiments expressed are the strategy that South Carolina and other Southern states utilize in the late 19th century to create a system of apartheid.

For the moment, displaying their disdain of democracy, they do not submit the constitution to the voters for ratification.

The 1865 Constitution remains in effect for only a year and a half. Due to the recalcitrant nature of South Carolina’s post-war leaders, men who often ignore mandates from the United States government, the United States imposes military rule upon South Carolina in March 1867. Under the supervision of U.S. forces, a new constitution is crafted and put into effect in 1868, including suffrage and government offices for black citizens.

Undaunted, the state’s white supremacist elite determine to resist, of which the Ku Klux Klan becomes a significant part. In the 1890s, South Carolina succeeds in enacting apartheid.

Sources: John S. Reynolds, Reconstruction in South Carolina, 1865-1877, pp. 15-24 (link); “South Carolina: Meeting of the Constitutional Convention,” New York Times, September 28, 1865 (link); Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, Held in Columbia, S.C., September 1865 (link); Minutes of the Rhode Island Baptist Anniversaries, p. 66 (link)