Money, Money, Money

Where did it come from? Coinage was the backbone of monetary systems around the world. But here on U.S. soil, we did not have the precious metals that were used for coinage so the colonies turned to paper. Massachusetts was the first to use paper money in 1690 and the colony of South Carolina was second in 1703. This money was printed on behalf of the colonial governments. The money was circulated and guaranteed by the government. This was fine until after the American Revolution when the new country was left with a hefty monetary depreciation because Britain did not back the paper money with coinage as before. (A British pound was a legal tender whose value floated relative to the value of gold.) Our founding fathers hoped to take care of this situation for future generations by addressing the coinage issue in the Constitution. Guidelines in the Constitution stated that States could not be involved with coinage; only the national government. The interesting thing is that the Constitution mentioned nothing about paper money. So who would be able to handle the demand for paper currency? (The U.S. was still lacking the precious metal needed for coinage) The banks! South Carolina had 20 banks printing paper money. The paper money was a walking advertisement for the bank. So the money reflected the environment it was created in. Fancy scenes, portraits of influential people and picturesque designs were the rage. Money also reflected the current events of time. This was especially true of the time between the Compromise of 1850 and the beginning of the Civil War. Images of slavery...

151 Years Ago- Secession

151 years ago on December 20, 1860, the Civil War started in Charleston, South Carolina. What you are probably thinking is “no April 12, 1861 was the start of the Civil War” and yes that is correct too. April 12, 1861 was the 1st actual shots of the war. The “War” really began with a piece of paper; “The Ordinance of Secession”. Secession was not entirely a new concept for Americans and especially Southerners’ at this time. In 1812, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut almost secede over the war with Britain. By 1832, it was a hot topic for Southerners. The federal government had passed a tariff that favored Northern industry. Southerners called the tariff “The Tariff of Abominations”. At one time, the tariff was at 47% which almost doubled the cost of foreign goods purchased by Southerners. Northern merchants used the situation to raise their prices. It also caused a decline in Britain’s orders for Southern cotton. This tariff lead to John C. Calhoun writing the “Nullification Papers” (He wrote this manuscript at a house on 94 Church Street.) Calhoun at this time was the Vice President under Andrew Jackson. This document declared that a “state could refuse to obey federal laws if a state deemed them unconstitutional. “ Things quieted down for a bit and then started to heat up again in 1851. Every year on “Carolina Day”, Charleston citizens would celebrate at Fort Moultrie the Battle of Fort Sullivan. This battle during the American Revolution was where Colonial William Moultrie was able to beat the British and save Charleston from being captured. It was one of the...

Charleston Firsts

Welcome to the first blog of Charleston History. Just to let you know a little about myself, my name is Lee Ann and I am a licensed tour guide in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is an amazing city and so much has happened here over the last 341 years that I wanted to share with you the society, scoundrels and conflicts that have defined Charleston. For those that have visited our fair city before, I hope this will be an entertaining way to stay in touch with what is going in Charleston in the present and in the past. For those that have not visited, I hope this will entice you to make a journey to Charleston so that you can experience this enchanting city for yourself. Charleston is a city of many things and since this is my first blog, I thought I would tell you about some of “Charleston’s Firsts”: On December 20, 1860, the South Carolina assembly voted unanimously to become the first state to secede from the Union and it happened right here in Charleston. Georgia or Alabama was supposed to secede first but Charlestonians’ got tired of waiting for them to make up their minds so we went ahead and did the “big deed” ourselves. Yes, patience has never been our strength. 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Charlestonians were the ones to fire the 1st shot of the Civil War. It was cool and misty on April 12, 1861 when 43 guns started firing rhythmically on Fort Sumter at 4:30 in the morning. The chess match between...