Memminger, Christopher A.

The former CSA Treasury Secretary talks South Carolina Reconstruction politics with a fellow Signer of the Ordinance of Secession

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(1803-1888) German-born 1st Confederate States of America Secretary of the Treasury. His widowed mother immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, but died of yellow fever in 1807. At 11, he was taken under the care of prominent lawyer and future Governor Thomas Bennett. He entered South Carolina College at 12, graduated 2nd in his class at 16, passed the bar in 1825, and became a successful lawyer. He was a leader of the opponents in the nullification crisis. He published “The Book of Nullification” (1832–33) which satirized its advocates in biblical style. He served in the South Carolina legislature 1836-52 & 1854-60, and for almost 20 year headed the Finance Committee. He was a staunch advocate of education and helped give Charleston one of the most comprehensive public school systems in the country. Considered a moderate on secession, after Lincoln's election, he decided secession was necessary. When South Carolina seceded in 1860, Memminger was asked to write the “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” which outlined the reasons for secession. After other states also seceded, he was selected a delegate to the Provisional Congress which formed the Confederate States of America, and chaired the committee which drafted the Confederate Constitution, the 12-man committee producing a provisional constitution in 4 days. When Jefferson Davis formed his first Cabinet, Memminger was chosen as Secretary of the Treasury on Feb. 21, 1861. Memminger attempted to finance the government initially via bonds and tariffs (and confiscation of gold from the US Mint in New Orleans), but was soon forced to more extreme measures such as income taxation and fiat currency. A supporter of hard currency before the War, he found himself issuing increasingly devalued paper money, which by War's end was worth less than 2% of its face value in gold. Memminger was featured on the Confederate $5.00 bill. He resigned as Secretary on July 18, 1864, replaced by fellow South Carolinian George Trenholm, and returned to his summer residence in Flat Rock, Henderson County, North Carolina. In the post-War years, Memminger returned to Charleston, received a presidential pardon in 1866, and returned to private law practice and business investment. He continued work on developing South Carolina's public education system and was voted to a final term in the state legislature in 1877. The 1876 South Carolina gubernatorial election was held Nov. 7. The campaign was a referendum on the Radical Republican-led state government and their Reconstruction policies. The result was contested, but challenger Wade Hampton III took office in April 1877 after President Hayes withdrew federal troops and incumbent Daniel H. Chamberlain left the state. Governor Chamberlain's inability to preserve the peace as riots were breaking out across the state, most notably the Hamburg Massacre, led many black and white voters to support the Democratic ticket in November. The turbulent atmosphere ended before election day, which was peaceful. ALS "C. A. Memminger", 3pp (2 8 x 5 leaves), August 4 1876, to “My Dear McCrady” (likely Edward McCrady Sr.), written from his summer home in Flat Rock, No. Carolina (begun as a gathering place for the Cherokee, it was established as a village in 1807 by wealthy Charlestonians). Memminger says that although they are “all most out of the world”, they feel the “impulse of the wars which are agitating elsewhere.” He mentions a controversial Episcopal churchman, Rev. Wm. Jackson of Greenville, who has been called back to Virginia. Turning to the heated 1876 election campaign in South Carolina, he mentions a black Republican (Whipper), a controversial white Republican (Bowen) and feels (Republican) Governor Chamberlain (running for reelection) “…would be a better Governor for us than any of our men.” Some of his handwriting is difficult to decipher. Written at a difficult period of South Carolina’s political history! EDWARD McCRADY SR. (1802-1902) Prominent Charleston lawyer, member of the So. Carolina secession convention with Memminger, Signer of the Ordinance of Secession. DANIEL H. CHAMBERLAIN (1835-1907) Mass.-born 76th Governor (R) of So. Carolina 1874-77. In 1863 became a 2nd Lieut. in the 5th Mass. Cavalry, a regiment of black troops. Moved to So. Carolina 1866 and in 1868 was a delegate to the state constitutional convention. He was So. Carolina Attorney General 1868–72. After failing to win the 1872 Republican nomination for governor, he practiced law in Charleston. In 1873, he was elected to the board of trustees of the Univ. of So. Carolina as the 1st black students and faculty joined the institution. He was elected Republican governor in 1874, noted for support of civil rights and opposition to excessive spending and patronage. After a bitterly fought 1876 campaign, his 2nd term hinged on disputed votes from 2 counties, where counts greatly exceeded the population, and overwhelmingly favored his opponent, ex-Confederate Wade Hampton III. He left So. Carolina in 1877 when President Hayes withdrew Federal troops from the state. WILLIAM J. WHIPPER (1834-1907) Penna.-born, moved to Ohio and was active in the abolition movement. In 1864 he volunteered for the 31st Colored Troops. After his Nov. 1865 discharge he moved to Charleston and became a lawyer. In 1868 he was elected to the state constitutional convention, 1st ratified by the majority of the state's whole population. Elected to the legislature in 1868, Whipper was one of 3 black lawyers there and elected chair of the judiciary committee. He ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court, the Circuit Court, and Criminal Court of Charleston but in Dec. 1875, he was elected to the Circuit Court. Republican Gov. Chamberlain refused to issue commissions for him to be seated as he was trying to curry favor with white Democrats. Whipper was an outstanding trial lawyer, involved in murder and other major criminal cases in several counties. One of the biggest trials in the history of Georgetown County occurred in June 1875. The defendant, Sheriff Christopher Columbus Bowen, of Charleston County, a former Congressman, was accused of murder. As Charleston County GOP boss, he was a controversial figure, once convicted of bigamy and pardoned by President Grant. He was acquitted. Whipper remained in Beaufort, active in law and politics. He was elected Probate Judge in 1884, denied re-election by a fraudulent vote count then jailed for contempt when he refused to turn over court records to his white opponent. He chaired the state Republican Party to 1889. He was a delegate to his 2nd state constitutional convention in 1895. CHRISTOPHER C. BOWEN (1832-1880) Rhode Island-born So. Carolina US Rep (R) 1868-71. Admitted to the bar in 1862, practiced in Charleston. Enlisted in the CSA Army and was a captain in the Coast Guard. After the War, he resumed law in Charleston. He was a member of the May 1867 Republican State convention at Charleston, was 1st chairman of the So. Carolina Republican State central committee, and a delegate to the Nov. 1867 State constitutional convention. On readmission of So. Carolina to the Union, he was elected as a Republican to the 40th & 41st Congresses, unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1870. He was a member of So. Carolina House of Representatives 1871-72, and elected sheriff of Charleston in 1872.

Condition: Very good
Type:Letter






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