Francis Wilkinson Pickens

Francis Wilkinson Pickens

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Francis Wilkinson Pickens (April 7, 1805 January 25, 1869) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 who served as the 69th Governor of South Carolina
Governor of South Carolina
The Governor of the State of South Carolina is the head of state for the State of South Carolina. Under the South Carolina Constitution, the Governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the South Carolina executive branch. The Governor is the ex officio...

 when the state seceded
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...


Early life and career

Pickens was born in Togadoo, St Paul's Parish, in Colleton County, South Carolina. He was the son of former Gov. Andrew Pickens
Andrew Pickens (governor)
Andrew Pickens, Jr. was an American military and political leader who served as the 46th Governor of South Carolina from 1816 until 1818.-Biography:...

 and a grandson of Gen. Andrew Pickens
Andrew Pickens (congressman)
Andrew Pickens was a militia leader in the American Revolution and a member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina.-Early life:...

, an American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

ary soldier at the Battle of Cowpens
Battle of Cowpens
The Battle of Cowpens was a decisive victory by Patriot Revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War...

 and former U.S. Congressman]]. A cousin of his grandmother was South Carolina Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

. His son-in-law was Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 General and U.S. Senator Matthew C. Butler, a son of congressman William Butler (1790-1850)
William Butler (1790-1850)
William Butler was a United States Representative from South Carolina. He was a son of William Butler , brother of Andrew Butler, and father of Matthew Butler, all of whom served in the United States Congress...

; grandson of congressman William Butler
William Butler (1759-1821)
William Butler was a United States Representative from South Carolina.Born in Prince William County, Virginia, he moved to South Carolina as a young man. He served in the Snow Campaign under Colonel Richard Richardson in 1775 and in Gen. Andrew Williamson's expedition against the Cherokee Indians...

 and a nephew of Senator Andrew Butler
Andrew Butler
Andrew Pickens Butler was an United States Senator and one of the authors of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.-Biography:...


Pickens was educated at Franklin College (now a part of the University of Georgia
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia is a public research university located in Athens, Georgia, United States. Founded in 1785, it is the oldest and largest of the state's institutions of higher learning and is one of multiple schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States...

) in Athens, Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Athens-Clarke County is a consolidated city–county in U.S. state of Georgia, in the northeastern part of the state, comprising the former City of Athens proper and Clarke County. The University of Georgia is located in this college town and is responsible for the initial growth of the city...

, and at South Carolina College
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina is a public, co-educational research university located in Columbia, South Carolina, United States, with 7 surrounding satellite campuses. Its historic campus covers over in downtown Columbia not far from the South Carolina State House...

 in Columbia
Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan...

. He was admitted to the bar in 1829, the same year that he constructed "Edgewood," a mansion
A mansion is a very large dwelling house. U.S. real estate brokers define a mansion as a dwelling of over . A traditional European mansion was defined as a house which contained a ballroom and tens of bedrooms...

 in Edgefield
Edgefield, South Carolina
Edgefield is a town in Edgefield County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 4,449 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Edgefield County.Edgefield is part of the Augusta, Georgia metropolitan area.-Geography:...

. He joined the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 and served in the South Carolina house of representatives from 1832–34, where he was an ardent supporter of nullification
Nullification Crisis
The Nullification Crisis was a sectional crisis during the presidency of Andrew Jackson created by South Carolina's 1832 Ordinance of Nullification. This ordinance declared by the power of the State that the federal Tariff of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and therefore null and void within...

. As chairman of a sub-committee, he submitted a report denying the right of Congress to exercise any control over the states.

Pickens served in Congress as a representative from South Carolina from 1834 until 1843 (5th District 1834–37; 6th District 1837–39; 5th District 1839–41; 6th District 1841–43). He was a member of the South Carolina state senate from 1844 until 1846. He was offered the position of Minister
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 James K. Polk
James K. Polk
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States . Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the 17th Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 12th Governor of Tennessee...

, and the Minister to France by President John Tyler
John Tyler
John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States . A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President . He was the first to succeed to the office of President following the death of a predecessor...

, but declined these diplomatic posts. He served as a delegate to the Nashville Convention
Nashville Convention
The Nashville Convention was a political meeting held in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 3 – 11, 1850. Delegates from nine slave holding states met to consider a possible course of action if the United States Congress decided to ban slavery in the new territories being added to the country as a...

 in 1850. Twice a widower, he married Lucy Petway Holcombe
Lucy Pickens
Lucy Petway Holcombe Pickens was a 19th-century American socialite, known during and after her lifetime as the "Queen of the Confederacy"...

 (1832–1899) on April 26, 1856, and in 1859 she gave birth to Douschka Pickens
Douschka Pickens
Francis Eugenia Olga Neva "Douschka" Pickens Dugas was the daughter of Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens and Lucy Holcombe Pickens, wife of George Couvier Dugas. She was born in 1859 in Russia and rumour was that she was actually Tzar Alexander II's daughter. After the American Civil War she was...

. Under President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

, Pickens was Minister to Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 from 1858–1860, where he and his wife were befriended by Czar Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...


American Civil War

Under his administration as Governor of South Carolina (1860–1862), the state seceded and demanded the surrender of the Federal forts in Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 harbor. He strongly advocated the secession of the Southern states
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 but he did not sign the South Carolina ordinance of secession
Ordinance of Secession
The Ordinance of Secession was the document drafted and ratified in 1860 and 1861 by the states officially seceding from the United States of America...

, as is commonly reported. He protested against Major Robert Anderson
Major Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson was an American military leader. He served as a Union Army officer in the American Civil War, known for his command of Fort Sumter at the start of the war. He is often referred to as Major Robert Anderson, referring to his rank at Fort Sumter...

's removal from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

, and offered to acquire the fort from the United States as part of an equitable settlement of the assets and debts of what Pickens considered to be now-dissolved federal union. On January 9, 1861, Governor Pickens sanctioned the firing upon the relief steamship Star of the West
Star of the West
The Star of the West was a civilian steamship hired by the United States government to transport military supplies and reinforcements to the garrison of Fort Sumter, but was fired on by Confederates in its effort to do so at the dawning of the American Civil War...

which was bringing supplies to Anderson's beleaguered garrison. He also approved of the subsequent bombardment of Fort Sumter. He remained a fervent supporter of states rights.

Later life

Pickens was a member of the South Carolina constitutional convention called in September 1865 shortly after the end of the Civil War. He was one of more than 100 representatives from around the state, many of them drawn from the cream of South Carolina society. During the convention, Pickens introduced a motion to repeal the Ordinance of Secession
Ordinance of Secession
The Ordinance of Secession was the document drafted and ratified in 1860 and 1861 by the states officially seceding from the United States of America...

. It was almost breathtakingly brief, according to proceedings recorded by the Charleston Courier:

"We, the Delegates of the People of the State of South Carolina, in General Convention met, do Ordain: That the ordinance passed in convention, 20th of December, 1860, withdrawing this State from the Federal Union, be and the same is hereby repealed."

According to the New York Times: “The passage was received in silence – strikingly suggestive when one remembered with what dramatic applause the ordinance of secession was proclaimed passed.”

The motion passed by a vote of 105-3 with the only dissenting votes coming from three delegates from the Barnwell District: A.P. Aldrich, J.J. Brabham and J.M. Whetstone. Pickens counseled against inaction, according to historian Francis Butler Simkins
Francis Butler Simkins
Francis Butler Simkins was a historian and a past president of the who made important contributions to the study of race relations. Born in Edgefield, South Carolina, United States, Simkins received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina in 1918 and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia...


“It doesn’t become South Carolina to vapor or swell or strut or brag or bluster or threat or swagger,” Pickens said. ” ... She bids us bind up her wounds and pour on the oil of peace.”

Pickens died in Edgefield, South Carolina
Edgefield, South Carolina
Edgefield is a town in Edgefield County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 4,449 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Edgefield County.Edgefield is part of the Augusta, Georgia metropolitan area.-Geography:...

, and was buried at Willow Brook Cemetery in Edgefield.

External links