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Charleston Mercury Broadside, December 1860

Civil War. Charleston Mercury Extra Proclaiming that the Union is Dissolved
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_3657
Document Description
Charleston Mercury broadside proclaiming dissolvement of the Union between the State of North Carolina and other states united under the Constitution of the United States of America, December 20, 1860.

Passed unanimously at 1.15 o’clock, P. M., December 20th, 1860.


To dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained,

That the Ordinance adopted by us in Convention, on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also, all Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed ; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of  “The United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.

How did communities get information during the Civil War?
Where do you think this poster was hung?
Where would you hang this poster so the greatest number of people would see it?
What do you think the reaction was to the posters in South Carolina’s communities? In Northern communities? In the middle states?
Do you think that when South Carolina left the Union, the whole Union was dissolved, or just the state's part in it?
If they repealed the U.S. Constitution, what do you think the South Carolina General Assembly did immediately after?
Historical Challenges
During the Civil War, the Southern states attempted to lure European countries into the war with "Cotton Diplomacy." What was this? Did it work? What would have happened if a European country had stepped in to support either side?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: What technology was available to print mass quantities of important documents such as this poster? What would we use today?
English Language Arts: Write a Northern and a Southern editorial concerning South Carolina’s decision to secede.
Hansen, Joyce. The Heart Calls Home. HarperCollins Publishers, December 2001. ISBN: 0380732947
Cooper, Michael L. From Slave to Civil War Hero: The Life and Times of Robert Smalls. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, September 1994. ISBN: 0525674896


About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
During the first half of the nineteenth century America was splintering into differing social, cultural, economic, and political factions. These factions were closely tied to geography. The northwest and northeast were industrial economies that utilized paid labor. The abolitionist movement was supported throughout these free states. Conversely, the southeast and the budding economies of the southwest were agricultural economies dependent on slave labor. Politically, tensions were increasing, since the issue of slavery was legislatively avoided. This was illustrated by the Compromise of 1850. With the birth of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860, the interests of the southeast and southwest seemed to be eclipsed by the slave-free North.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Twelve other states followed, the last one seceding in May of 1861. On February 4, 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected President of the Confederate States of America. The constitution of the Confederacy was very similar to the United States’ Constitution, although the Confederate constitution had stronger evidence of individual states' rights and specifically protected the institution of slavery.

Essential Question
How does war change a society?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this broadside and evaluate the impact of the message on local communities.