Charleston was also the cultural and commercial center of South Carolina, a state perhaps more attached to the institution of slavery, and in 1860 more determined to break with the union, than any other state.
Charleston was the summer gathering place of all the large plantation owners of coastal South Carolina; where they came to escape the deadly "miasmic air" (in reality, malaria mosquitoes were the main threat) of the swampy coastal plane. It was dominated by the views of such men. It alone, tried a showdown with the federal government, in 1832, when John C. Calhoun claimed the doctrine that a state could, after a certain democratic procedure, declare a federal law (the tariff in particular) to be null - hence the nullification crisis.
A description circa 1815 and later, when James Henry Hammond was growing up there. "Rustic as it was, with a population of scarcely a thousand, the town was laid out on a monumental scale. Boulevards more than a hundred feet wide marked off four-acre blocks dotted with wooden houses regularly trimmed in yellow and grey. ... The statehouse, atop a three-hundred-foot hill covered with oaks, dominated the town. Just across the street lay the brick buildings of the college."