The incomparably elegant John L. Manning, a former South Carolina governor and one of the wealthiest grandees of the antebellum South, was asked in 1861 why he hated republics.
Because, Manning snarled, the mob rules republics.
The herd. The unwashed. A numerous democracy, as it was frightfully called by John Locke and Anthony Ashley Cooper as far back as the Fundamental Constitutions. In proper genteel sneer, the canaille.
For planters like Manning, who had controlled South Carolina since colonial times, secession was both about preserving slavery and the unique aristocratic tone of the states politics and culture.
Against that backdrop, the loss of Charleston signaled the immediate end of the slaveholding Confederacy, but it also ushered in a second kind of civil war, an internal struggle between the antique ethic and a newer, empowered force of democracy.
The contest between the two took an additional 30 years to complete.
The vanguard of Mannings much-feared masses were the African-Americans who wrote South Carolinas most democratic constitution, in 1868, during Reconstruction.
When Reconstruction was overthrown in 1877, Carolina aristocrats enjoyed a kind of interregnum only to be usurped themselves and, eventually, overwhelmed by the fearsome power of Ben Tillman and his farmers movement.
The year 1895 begot a new constitution it still governs South Carolina in highly revised and amended form birthed of the shotgun wedding of democracy and white supremacy.
By then, the ethic of gentility had begun the long fade into sepia-toned memory.
Tillmans victory consummated a movement that had actually begun long before the Civil War, in the aftermath of the American Revolution. Conflicts existed in other states where aristocratic rule had been considered both proper and virtuous before 1776.
But two things gave special force to the tension in South Carolina. The first was the sheer grandeur of the Carolina elite. The second was geography; tension between the aristocratic and democratic ethics was rooted and durable in the soil.
The Lowcountry was home to planters and slaveholders who numbered among the wealthiest of all Americans. The Upcountry was a place apart, home to independent-minded farmers whom Tillman one-eyed, vulgar, all verbal fists and raw physicality later would come to represent so well.
It says a lot, in fact, that nobody in South Carolina conceived a middle ground between one place and the other, one ethic and the other a middle country that has morphed into todays usage of Midlands before 1790.
Still, if the tension was old by 1865, the victory of democracy was new.
It is an exaggeration to say that the aristocratic ethic died altogether or even that its center of power was always Charleston. What made Carolina unique before the Civil War, after all, was the spread of plantation slavery across the entire state after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793.
But it is not an exaggeration to say that Charleston had always been the ethics cultural and symbolic home. (Thats one reason Charlestons fall was a cause of such piqued satisfaction for the Union army.) It is a distinction she once wielded powerfully, and one she still holds proudly.
Long ago, a famous historian named Carl Becker said that the American Revolution was not just a question of home rule, but of who shall rule at home. The same was true of the Civil War and of Reconstruction.
And it was true, or so the story goes, of John L. Manning.
In one of the Civil Wars last acts of chivalric bravado, Manning gamely came to his front door in April 1865 and stood down the Union troopers sent to burn his magisterial plantation home.
But poised at the back door, in history at least, ready to pull the house apart like a mob of the old Revolution, was the canaille.
Paul Christopher Anderson teaches South Carolina and Civil War history at Clemson University. Clemsons collaborative Web project on the sesquicentennial in South Carolina, called battleground/BLOODFIELD, launches in April.