“Too small for a Republic….

South Carolina wanted to secede in 1860. Maybe we should have let it go.

and too large for an insane asylum.” 

        —former South Carolina Congressmember James L. Petigru on the proposed secessionist “Republic of South Carolina”, 1860

As the Washington Post notes this morning, it’s still true..

“Mark Sanford, Jim DeMint and Joe Wilson. Boy, that’s a trinity isn’t it?” said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and longtime resident. “South Carolina is filled with crazy [expletive], excuse my French.”

He forgot Strom Thurmond.  Maybe it’s just that South Carolina is the most conservative state in the Union (the latter despite its wishes).

I can think of a few South Carolina politicians whom I respect: former Education Secretary Richard Riley comes to mind.  But they are rare.  Just go back a few more decades and you get the likes of egregious white supremacist Pitchfork Ben Tillman and reactionaries like Cotton Ed Smith.

Maybe we should have let it secede: the US would have been a more progressive country, and the Republic of South Carolina would have been another backwards, oppressive, impoverished, corrupt dictatorship.  of course, getting rid of slavery was worth having to put up with these kinds of politicians.  But it really does show how right Sherman was.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

3 thoughts on ““Too small for a Republic….”

  1. Maybe we could still let it secede. It is much closer than the Cayman Islands and just think of the foreign tax shelters you could erect there!

  2. My comment earlier in Mark's RESPECT post beat you to the insane assylum/republic quote, though of course it was bound to be brought up. I'll just add a few other notable political specimens from the Palmetto state:

    Preston Brooks – the caner of Charles Sumner, whose boots Brooks wasn't fit to lick

    John C. Calhoun – the slavocracy's contribution to political theory

    Wade Hampton – Klansman extraordinaire, and redeemer of the state from "negro domination."

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are others, perhaps less successful in their hate and less loud in their objections to any change away from the world as it existed in 1820, which, incidentally, was I think the last time South Carolina's economy looked anything close to dynamic.

  3. We are the only country in the modern era that required a fratricidal war in order to get rid of slavery. That is not something to be celebrated, but mourned, investigated, and learned from. I hope. But I'm not holding my breath.

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