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South Carolina Secretary of State Reports to Governor on Foreign Affairs of the “Nation”
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in anticipation of the Convention of the Seceding States, a common necessity should induce a common obligation on these States to share with each other, the means of defence or the dangers of attack.

[SECESSION]. ANDREW G. MAGRATH. Autograph Letter Signed, likely retained copy, to Francis W. Pickens, Charleston, South Carolina, March 24, 1861. 4 pp., 7⅞ x 12½ in.

Inventory #24671.04       Price: $4,000

Complete Transcript

     State of South Carolina,

     Executive Office, State Department,

     Charleston, 24 March, 1861.


           In obedience to a resolution of the Executive Council, I beg respectfully to report to you, such matters transacted in the Department of the Executive Council under my charge, as may be of interest to the Convention.

The printed series of Executive Documents which accompany this Report, will fully & sufficiently explain the circumstances which induced them. To these, no more particular reference, is necessary, than such as it may be proper to make in explanation of the mission committed to the Hon. I. W. Hayne. The real purpose of that mission was to determine with precision the precise position occupied by the Government of the U States to the state of South Carolina. The repulse of the Star of the West with reinforcements changed or rather defined more sharply the former relations of the State; & the communication the commander of Fort Sumter required that the power to execute a purpose like that threatened by him; should not be within the control of any one <2> larger than was necessary to accomplish its overthrow To demand the surrender of the Fort, therefore became a duty; & if a duty, to transfer the demand to the Government by which the transfer only could be ordered, was manifestly proper. In the prosecution of the demand, it was regarded as fortunate, that circumstances, not invited by the State, but yet commanding its respectful attention, should have intervened: and that these should have led to the exposure of the pretended grounds upon which the maintenance of Fort Sumter was rested by the Government of the U States; & at the same time in a just deference to the wishes of Sister States, have incidentally involved a delay of great consequence to the State in the preparation of its defences.

           Among the papers of this Department which are not published, but which may be of interest, are the despatches communicated to the Commissioners of the State to the several States, then about to secede. These despatches show the interest taken in the welfare of that State supposed to be the most defenceless. The commissioner to Florida was requested to give to that State the assurance that its cause was regarded by the other States with as much solicitude as their own; <3> and that in anticipation of the Convention of the Seceding States, a common necessity should induce a common obligation on these States to share with each other, the means of defence or the dangers of attack. The more full expression of these opinions will be found in the copies of despatches herewith enclosed.

No occasion has arisen in which it was considered necessary during the separate condition of the State to require distinctly from the representative of any Foreign Power the recognition of its political independence except in the case of the appointment of a successor to the Spanish Consul at this port. The communication then addressed to Mr Moncado,[1] will show the course pursued in regard to such officials within the limits of the State. Upon the ascertainment of the fact, that the President of the U States had recognized a successor to Mr Moncado, a letter was addressed to that gentleman, informing him that his successor would not be allowed to enter upon his office within the limits of the State, unless he would present his credentials & be recognized by the Governor of this State. The hope was expressed that the consul who was then in office would be allowed to remain at this port. The letter was communicated by the Spanish Consul to the Spanish minister at Washington The successor who was recognized, has not however <4> appeared. At this stage of the correspondence, the papers were transferred to the Department of State at Montgomery.

The several documents as directed by a resolution of the Convention have been delivered to the representatives of Foreign Powers at Washington.[2] It was intended that a special commissioner should be sent to the principal courts of Europe. But the meeting of the Convention of the seceding States at an early day; & other considerations also of a controlling character, led to the conclusion, that under the circumstances it would be most expedient not to send any persons charged with that duty.

                                                                       Respectfully Your Obt Svt

                                                                       A G Magrath

For the Governor

Historical Background

From the passage of its secession ordinance on December 20, 1860, until it ratified the Confederate Constitution on April 3, 1861, South Carolina proclaimed itself an independent nation. This letter from South Carolina Secretary of State McGrath to Governor Francis W. Pickens is one of several reports presented to the Convention of the People of South Carolina when they reconvened in Charleston on March 26, 1861, to consider joining the Confederacy. Pickens transmitted this report, along with similar reports from the Secretaries of War, Treasury, Interior, and Postmaster General, to the Convention.

This report deals with the state’s “foreign affairs,” including Fort Sumter, the crisis provoked by the Star of the West, Isaac W. Hayne’s mission to President James Buchanan, and the recognition of South Carolina by foreign nations. Because President Abraham Lincoln had recognized a new Spanish consul for Charleston, the State of South Carolina would not allow him to assume his post until he had presented his credentials to the Governor, though they preferred to retain Francisco Munoz Ramon de Moncada as the consul. He remained throughout the war and was friendly toward the Confederacy.

Andrew G. Magrath (1813-1893) graduated from South Carolina College in 1831, attended Harvard Law School, and was admitted to the South Carolina bar. He served in the state legislature from 1838 to 1841. In 1856, President Franklin Pierce appointed him as judge of the U.S. District Court for South Carolina. He resigned in 1860 to participate in South Carolina’s secession convention and then served as South Carolina’s Secretary of State until the formation of the Confederacy. He served as judge of the Confederate States District Court in South Carolina from 1861 to 1864, where his states’ rights views often clashed with a centralizing Confederate government. He was governor of South Carolina from December 1864 to May 1865, when the Union Army arrested him and sent him to prison at Fort Pulaski in Georgia. Released in December, Magrath returned to Charleston and resumed the practice of law.


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[1] Francisco Muñoz Ramón de Moncada served as Spanish consul to Georgia early in 1860. When the Spanish consul at Charleston, Don Vicente Antonio Larranga, died in August 1860, Moncada transferred to Charleston. He remained there throughout the war as Spanish consul to North and South Carolina and Georgia.

[2] On January 4, 1861, the Convention passed a resolution directing the governor to send copies of “the Ordinance 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,’ and of the two Addresses setting forth the causes of the withdrawal of South Carolina from the Confederacy of the United States to all the Ministers of Foreign Powers resident at Washington.” Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, Held in 1860, 1861 and 1862 (Columbia, SC: R. W. Gibbes, 1862), 156-57, 171.

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