Did the states exist before the Constitution and the creation of the federal government? Well, for most students of history the answer should be a resounding yes. One would think that there would be no dispute that the original states which won their independence from Great Britain got together and created the federal government, not the other way around, right?
Well, apparently that understanding is incorrect, at least according to the Republican Party of South Carolina. Yesterday, that group wished the State of South Carolina a happy birthday on Facebook. According to them, the state is now 228 years old.
In case you didn’t know, the SCGOP is wrong; the state of South Carolina is, in fact, much older. For example, in 1629 King Charles I gave vast tracks of land including present day South Carolina to Robert Health. The date for the Province of Carolina starts then. Although both North and South Carolina were at one time one colony, the two began to split in 1719 and were declared two different colonies in 1729. So is that then the proper date of South Carolina’s birth? Or is it March 26, 1776 when the colony declared their independence from Great Britain? On July 4th of 1776, the state (or independent republic) elected their first president, John Rutledge. How could South Carolina elect a president if the state wouldn’t even exist for another 12 years?
Nevertheless, it seems that the South Carolina GOP declares it to be May 23, 1788, which was the date it ratified the U.S. Constitution. Never mind the fact that that date isn’t the birth of the United States either, as the nation was previously governed under the Articles of Confederation (which South Carolina ratified on February 5, 1778).
Although it would be proper for the South Carolina Republican Party to wish South Carolina a happy 228th anniversary of their ratification of the Constitution, to offer a happy birthday instead in this case makes about as much sense as declaring an individual’s wedding date to be their birthday. I suppose if that were true, then I do not legally exist and I am still waiting to be born.
Unfortunately, this proclamation by the Republican Party of South Carolina is disturbing because it either demonstrates ignorance of what a birthday is, or, even worse, a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of South Carolina and the spirit and principles on which the United States of America was founded. Many states, such as South Carolina and the rest of the 13 original colonies, and other formerly independent nations such as Vermont, Texas, and California existed (or were born) before they became part of the United States.