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THE COMMONWEALTH OF SOUTH CAROLINA? | 2000-06-02

At the University of South Carolina, I was a member of the Euphradian Society, one of two debating societies dating back to 1806. When I joined the Euphradians, there was a single vote at the end of each debate.

That vote only decided which side had made the best case. I pushed through an amendment which changed that to two votes, one on the best debaters, and the second on the question itself.

In other words, we had one vote to decide which side debated best, and another vote to decide which side of the question we actually favored.

Each year the Euphradians held a joint debate with the other debate society, the Clariosophic Society. Once while I was there the debate was on the question: "Resolved, that South Carolina should be become a Commonwealth in the United States."

It is true that Virginia calls itself "The Commonwealth of Virginia" and that Louisiana 's official title is "The Commonwealth of Louisiana," but that was not what we had in mind. What we meant was the real, legal commonwealth status only one area of the United States enjoys: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has all the advantages of statehood with the exception of congressmen and senators. It has only a single non-voting delegate in congress. But in return for giving up its right to help legislate for the rest of the country, Puerto Rico HAS ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY WITHIN ITS OWN BORDERS AND THE RIGHT TO SECEDE.

So the question we were debating was this: Would South Carolina be willing to give up its rights to make laws for the rest of the United States in return for complete sovereignty within our own borders?

The vote that resulted was very revealing. On the first vote, it was decided that those arguing for continued statehood had made the best points. But on the second vote A SOLID MAJORITY FAVORED COMMONWEALTH STATUS FOR SOUTH CAROLINA!

Those of us advocating Southern sovereignty today have the impression that no one has favored it since 1860. This vote proves that that is not so. This vote was not the result of a movement, or of any preparation at all. In the late 1950's, when the question came up, a roomful of pretty representative educated Southerners voted that they would prefer sovereignty over our own affairs to running the affairs of the rest of the country.