Saturday, October 2, 2010

South Carolina Ordinance of Secession Draws Premium Price at Auction

Ordinance of Secession draws premium price

A copy of the 1860 Ordinance of Secession, the document many historians point to as the official start of the Civil War, sold at auction for $25,000, well over the pre-sale estimate.

With the auction buyer’s premium of 20 percent, the buyer actually will pay $30,000 for the document, one of 200 copies of the ordinance created for the men who originally signed it.

The bidding at Swann Auction Galleries in New York on Thursday drew tremendous interest. There were several advance bids, seven bidders by phone and several more at the auction, said Rick Stattler, Swann’s director of printed and manuscript Americana. Swann didn’t have permission to give out information on the buyer other than to say it was a South Carolina collector.

South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession was drafted during a constitutional convention that began in Columbia Dec. 17, 1860, and ended three days later in Charleston. The ordinance states that South Carolina has repealed the Constitution and disassociated itself from the United States. Other states in the South followed suit over the next few months, and the bloody combat raged from 1861 to 1865.

The original ordinance remains in the possession of the state at the S.C. Archives and History Center in Columbia. It will be displayed starting in November at the archives center to mark the sesquicentennial commemoration of the war, with a trip to Charleston in December to mark its signing there.

Archives director Eric Emerson considers the original the most important historical document owned by the state.

The convention wanted each of the 169 signers to have a copy of the document, and printer Evans and Cogswell of Charleston was contracted to make 200 lithograph copies of the original. The copies were so exact they include the ink blots of the original.

The copy up for sale had been passed down through the family of signer Edward McCrady of Charleston. After the auction drew publicity, a family member contacted the auction house to question the authenticity of the copy. He claimed his branch of the family had long held the McCrady copy.

But further investigation by the McCrady family and the auction house revealed the family had had two copies for generations. The assumption is that one of Edward McCrady’s sons acquired one of the extra printed copies, Stattler said.

The auction house updated the document description to state that it came from the estate of one of McCrady’s great grandsons, though it might not have been the copy given directly to Edward McCrady for signing the original.

The fact that there were duplicate McCrady copies didn’t seem to hurt the bidding. Another copy of the ordinance came up for auction recently for $18,000 and didn’t get any bids at that cost, Stattler said.

There are plenty of copies floating around. During the war, Northern troops collected several of the copies. One Michigan officer took one of the lithograph copies north and made copies of it. Also, during the Civil War centennial events in the early 1960s, thousands of new copies of the ordinance were distributed.

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