With St. Michael’s and St.Philip’s congregations returning to the Anglican fold, the historic Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul is now the oldest Episcopal Church on the Charleston peninsula. Consecrated as St. Paul’s Churchin 1816 in the area known as Radcliffeborough, the structure was designed by architects James and John Gordon in Classic Revival style. The Gordons also designed the Second Presbyterian Church on Meeting Street, and the two buildings are very similar in their details and great size. Apparently steeples for such massive structures were a problem in the Gordons’ design, and neither church has a full spire. Nevertheless, St. Paul’s had bells in its Gothic tower, which were melted down for cannon during the Civil War.
Historically nicknamed “Planters’ Church” St. Paul’s was situated on a small bluff overlooking a section of the western peninsula that was mostly marshes and creeks well into the 19th century, and whose pleasant breezes attracted numerous planters to build stately homes in the area.
The congregation merged with St. Luke’s in 1949, and became the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul. !n 2001, eight new bells were installed in the tower which are now rung by hand in the method known as “change ringing” , in which ringers change the sequence of rings to change the octaves that the eight bell notes can create.
Standing high above us is a fitting location at Marion Square for John C. Calhoun – a man whose genius dwarfs that of most American politicians before or since. Despite the stereotype that he was some crusty, backward yokel, Calhoun was Yale-educated and one of America’s most outstanding orators, and was twice elected Vice President of the United States, while also serving as Secretary of War and Secretary of State, as well in the U.S. Senate.
Calhoun’s grasp of the purpose of government, being formed to serve and protect its people, not rule them, was as astute as any of the founding fathers. Calhoun’s brilliant “Disquisition on Government”, written nearly 200 years ago, provides a good example of his concise, logical perspective, as well as a good lesson in what ails our government and society today. For example, he envisioned in the 1840’s, a “despotism in numbers” where tax consumers could out vote and control tax payers and impose majority will on a voiceless minority. He stressed, as Jefferson had years before, the principle of nullification and concurrent consent, which the South had voiced in response to tariffs passed by a Northern majority in Congress that favored one region at the expense of another, which is prohibited under Section 1 of the US Constitution.
“In such case,” he wrote, “ it would require so large a portion of the community, compared with the whole, to concur, or acquiesce in the action of the government, that the number to be plundered would be too few, and the number to be aggrandized too many, to afford adequate motives to oppression and the abuse of its powers.”