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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Secession Movement 1860‑1861

by
Dwight Lowell Dumond

in the
Negro Universities Press edition,
New York, 1968

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 11
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p189 Chapter X
The Secession of the Gulf States

The failure of Congress either to consider seriously the adoption of constitutional guarantees for the security of Southern institutions, or to provide for a national constitutional convention, assured the election of immediate secession majorities to the conventions of the six Gulf states. Every new indication of sectional hostility was given wide circulation by Southern newspapers, and Southern statesmen kept their constituents informed of what was transpiring at Washington.

Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, was the most influential member of Buchanan's Cabinet and a power in the lower South. He was besieged with anxious inquiries concerning the possibility of compromise and the course the Southern states ought to pursue. Unwilling to refuse an answer to these inquiries, and equally reluctant to subject the administration to unjust criticism by remaining in the Cabinet after a public expression of his convictions, he decided to publish an address to the people of Georgia and resign his position.1

Cobb's address was published on December 6, 1860. As to whether Lincoln's election was sufficient justification for a dissolution of the Union, it said that after March 4, 1861, the federal government would "cease to have the slightest claim either upon your confidence or p190your loyalty; and, in my honest judgment, each hour that Georgia remains thereafter a member of the Union will be an hour of degradation, to be followed by certain and speedy ruin. . . . Arouse, then, all your manhood for the great work before you, and be prepared on that day to announce and maintain your independence out of the Union, for you will never again have equality and justice in it." This conclusion was based upon an analysis of the principles of the Republican party, and of the prospect of the permanent ascendancy of that party in the federal government. That party had its origin in hostility to slavery and continued hostility was its strongest bond of union. It regarded the institution of slavery as a moral and social evil, unrecognized by the Constitution. It maintained that slave property was not entitled to protection by the federal government, nor to the privileges and rights accorded to other property outside the limits and jurisdiction of the several states. It claimed that Congress should prevent the admission of any more slave states into the Union, and encourage the decline and ultimate extinction of slavery where it already existed. It had secured control of the executive department of the federal government by appealing to the abolition fanaticism of the Northern people. It would never recede from its advanced position.

Cobb denied that the Republican party was likely to disintegrate because internal differences of every kind were subordinated to hostility to slavery. He enumerated many convincing facts to substantiate his denial that the Republican party would surrender its fundamental principles: the substantial majorities in the presidential election; the known faithfulness of Lincoln to principles and personal pledges; the faithful adherence of the party leaders and party press to the doctrine of congressional exclusion; p191the avowed reorganization of the Supreme Court; the rapidly increasing numerical majority of the Northern states; and the enlistment of the agencies of the churches and schools in furthering anti-slavery propaganda. He denied that the opposition majorities in Congress were sufficient guarantee against Republican aggression. They were too small, constantly decreasing, and powerless to stem the growing power of the party, repeal the personal liberty laws, override a presidential veto, or control the distribution of patronage. Concluding his analysis with a consideration of the course the South should adopt, Cobb declared that the election of Lincoln could "be regarded in no other light than a declaration of the purpose and intention of the people of the North to continue, with the power of the Federal Government, the war already commenced by the ten nullifying States of the North upon the institution of slavery and the constitutional rights of the South. . . . The issue must now be met, or forever abandoned. Equality and safety in the Union are at an end; and it only remains to be seen whether our manhood is equal to the task of asserting and maintaining independence out of it."2

The following day Cobb resigned his position in the Cabinet and returned to Georgia to assist in the promotion of the secession movement.3 After a strenuous campaign through the mountain districts of the state, he was sent as a delegate to the Montgomery convention, was elected chairman of that body, and was mentioned prominently for the presidency of the confederacy.

p192 The second important document, published by Southern statesmen, was an address by thirty congressmen from the slave states to their constituents on December 14, 1860. This address, telegraphed to the newspapers of the Southern states, stated that the Republican congressmen would make no concessions and that all hope of compromise was futile. It was occasioned by the attitude of the Republican members of the Committee of Thirty-three on the preceding day. Rust of Arkansas had offered a resolution to the effect that unrest among the Southern people was not without cause, and that guarantees of their constitutional rights sufficient to allay the discontent were "indispensable to the perpetuation of the Union." The Republican members opposed the resolution of Rust so vigorously that the Southern members accepted as a substitute a resolution offered by Dunn of Indiana. This resolution stated that Southern discontent and hostility to the federal government were "greatly to be regretted"; and whether "without just cause or not, any reasonable, proper, and constitutional remedies, and additional and more specific and effectual guarantees of their peculiar rights and interest as recognized by the Constitution, necessary to preserve the peace of the obscure and perpetuation of the Union, should promptly and cheerfully be granted."4 This substitute did not admit that there was just cause for Southern unrest, and that admission was an essential prerequisite of substantial guarantees. The Republican members on the committee from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhod Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Wisconsin voted against even this noncommittal resolution. Taken in connection with the vote against the appointment of the committee, the fact that up to that p193time the Republicans had prevented the appointment of a committee in the Senate, the peculiar composition of the Committee of Thirty-three, and the hostile speeches of King, Hale, and others in the Senate, it was fairly conclusive evidence that all hope of obtaining satisfactory congressional action was gone.5 Subsequent events fully substantiated the prophecy of the Southern congressman, and the approaching elections in Alabama and Mississippi justified a report to their constituents which otherwise would have seemed premature.

The day following the publication of the address, Judge William L. Harris, commissioner from Mississippi to Georgia, arrived at Milledgeville and addressed the legislature. This was the same day on which his colleague, C. E. Hooker, reached Columbia and, in conjunction with J. A. Elmore of Alabama, became active in promoting the secession of South Carolina. Harris's address contained none of the convincing logic of Stephens and none of the invigorating enthusiasm of Toombs. It was an eloquent appeal to the vanity and courage of the Georgians. He spoke affectionately of the great governors of other days; of Baldwin, Jackson, Troup. Georgia, he said, "glorious old mother" of Mississippi, had been the "brightest exemplar among the advocates and defenders of State Rights and State remedies." Would she fail now that the safety of the South was threatened? To the Georgians he said: "Mississippi indulges the most confidential expectation and belief, founded on sources of information she cannot doubt, as well as on the existence of causes, operating upon them alike as upon her, that every other Gulf State will stand by her side in defense of the position she is p194about to assume."6 To his own state, two weeks later, he reported; "There is but one voice in Georgia as to her secession, in event that Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida shall have taken that step before the meeting of her convention on the 16th of January."7 Following the address of Harris, the legislature adopted resolutions in favor of the immediate secession of the state from the Union. This indication of the probable action of the state was important. Georgia was the pivotal state of the cotton belt, and was generally spoken of as the "Great Empire State of the South." Thousands of her native sons had migrated westward and were counted among the influential citizens of Mississippi and Alabama. Many looked to the state of their nativity for guidance in the crisis. The first of the elections in the Gulf states were held in Mississippi on the day that South Carolina seceded from the Union and in Alabama four days later. The secession of South Carolina sent a wave of enthusiasm throughout the lower South, but the reaction that would have resulted from success by the coöperationists in Georgia would have been a deathblow to immediate action in the West.

In Mississippi, a competent observer declared as early as November 12, "that nine out of every ten who voted for Breckinridge will vote for direct secession; and I know that most of the Douglas men, to repel the free-soil suspicion their late conduct has subjected them to, are already earnest advocates of secession. Many good men besides, who voted for Bell and Everett, did so in an honest effort to defeat Lincoln, and thus avoid a cause p195which they think sufficient to justify secession."8 One month later the Alabama commissioner to that state, E. W. Pettus, reported that previous party lines had been obliterated. He is authority for the statement that the entire congressional delegation from that state, the governor, the three judges of the supreme court, the auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and all except three of the members of the state legislature were in favor of immediate secession. These men were representatives of public opinion, and there was little doubt as to the outcome of the election. There was, however, a great deal of concern over the ability of Mississippi to maintain a separate national existence because of the lack of a seaport for foreign trade. Most of the commerce of the state passed through Alabama or Louisiana, and had those states been reluctant to take similar action, Mississippi might have shown considerable hesitation. Pettus was there, however, with assurances of Alabama's position. He advised with finality that Alabama would secede, that she would take no part in a conference of states before resuming her independence, and that as soon as possible thereafter she would participate in the formation of a Southern confederacy with other states which might take similar action. Similar assurances as to the course Louisiana would pursue were received from Wirt Adams, commissioner to that state from Mississippi,9 from the message of Governor T. O. Moore to the state legislature, and from the prompt action of the legislature in providing for a state convention and for arming the state.

So thoroughly did the interstate commissioners do their p196work in counteracting all tendencies toward discord, and in securing concurrent and harmonious action among the states of the lower South, that the Weekly Mississippian was able to declare on the day preceding the election in that state, that the seven states of the lower South would, within sixty days, join in the formation of a new confederacy, that a convention would be held, to which would be sent "men of clear heads, calm judgment, but prompt in action and resolute in purpose"; that the old Constitution, with some slight amendments, would be adopted and referred to the state conventions for ratification; and that the work would be completed before March 4, 1861.

In Mississippi less than a dozen of the sixty counties sent coöperation delegates to the convention.10 The result was much closer in Alabama, but there was little doubt as to the ultimate action of the state. An analysis of the popular vote is virtually impossible because (1) no contest was made in some counties; (2) the contest in some counties was along personal lines between two sets of secession candidates or two sets of coöperation candidates; and (3) the vote in some counties was very small in comparison to that cast in the presidential contest. These facts make it equally impossible to estimate the popular sentiment from the fact that fifty-four secessionists and forty-five opposition delegates were elected to the convention. The consensus of opinion seems to have been that the popular sentiment was strong for immediate action, and that the opposite would have been true if the Republicans in Congress had shown a disposition to accept the Crittenden amendments.11 Additional assurance that p197those amendments would not be approved was given to the people of the South by Robert Toombs on the day preceding the election in Alabama.

Toombs had remained in Georgia until the fifteenth, and did not take his seat in the Senate until the nineteenth of that month. Before leaving Georgia he had stated that he did not favor delaying the secession of the state beyond March 4, but that he was perfectly willing to yield the point if active measures for a redress of Southern grievances should be undertaken immediately by the Northern people. He had faith in only one method of securing redress within the Union and that was by constitutional amendment. He regarded all other remedies as "delusions and snares, intended to lull the people into false security, to steal away their rights, and with them the power of redress." He proposed, therefore, that whatever amendments were deemed necessary for the security of Southern rights should be offered in Congress; and, if adopted by that body, secession should be suspended until the several state legislatures could be convened and take definite action.12 The Senate agreed to create the Committee of Thirteen on December 18, the day before Toombs took his seat. He asked for a place upon that committee and was given it. At the second session of the committee he proposed that the following definitive amendments to the Constitution be recommended: (1) recognizing the right of every citizen to emigrate to the territories with his property (including slaves), and to be protected in its enjoyment until the formation of state constitutions for admission into the Union; (2) guaranteeing the right of protection for slave property equally with p198other property by the federal government; (3) providing for the surrender of fugitives from justice, with the laws of the state in which the act was committed constituting the test of criminality; (4) providing for the punishment of persons aiding and abetting invasion and insurrection; (5) denying the right of habeas corpus and trial by jury to fugitive slaves; (6) providing that no law relative to slavery in the states or territories should ever be passed by Congress without the consent of all the states where slavery existed.13 This was the extreme Southern platform and was not voted upon in committee until December 24, when it was defeated in its entirety. Immediately after Toombs submitted his proposed amendments, however, those of Crittenden were taken under consideration and defeated.14 The following day, December 23, Toombs telegraphed to the newspapers of the South that the refusal of the Republicans to accept the Crittenden amendments was indicative of their general hostility to all such guarantees and conclusive evidence that hope of constitutional relief was gone. He said in conclusion:

I have put the test fairly and frankly. It is decisive against you; and now I tell you upon the faith of a true man that all further looking to the North for security for your constitutional rights in the Union ought to be instantly abandoned. It is fraught with nothing but ruin to yourselves and your posterity.

Secession by the fourth of March next should be thundered from the ballot-box by the unanimous voice of Georgia on the second day of January next. Such a voice will be your best guarantee for liberty, security, tranquillity, and glory.15

There can be no minimizing of the influence of his action. p199Many conservative men of the state still hoped for constitutional guarantees from Congress against further interference with slavery. Stephens had rekindled hope in many a doubtful heart in spite of the address of the Southern congressmen to their constituents; but even Stephens gave up hope of compromise thereafter.16

The Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama conventions assembled on schedule. There was no question as to the success of the secession movement in any of the three states. In Florida the only opposition came from those who wanted the secession of the state to follow rather than precede that of Alabama and Georgia; and the ordinance was passed on January 9 by a vote of 62 to 7. In the Mississippi convention the immediate secession forces outnumbered those of the opposition by more than four to one; and the opposition members, who had been elected on the coöperation ticket, were not all opposed to secession. Some favored coöperating with the entire South; others wished to make the ordinance ineffective until the other Gulf states had taken similar action; and still others urged that the ordinance be submitted to the people for ratification. The ordinance, as reported on the second day of the session, in addition to resuming all powers previously delegated to the federal government and repealing all ordinances and laws supporting the same, consented to the formation of a new confederation on the basis of the Constitution of the United States. J. S. Yerger of Washington County offered as an amendment (1) that, in the opinion of the convention, Mississippi could no longer remain with safety as a member of the United States unless amendments to the Constitution were p200passed granting equality in the Union to the slave states and forever settling the slavery controversy; (2) that the safest and most efficient means of securing such redress was through a convention of all the slaveholding states; (3) that all states willing to unite in such action should be invited to a convention at Lexington, Kentucky, on February 10; and (4) that if such amendments were not secured, this Southern convention should reassemble and form an independent confederacy. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 78 to 20. A second amendment, offered by J. L. Alcorn of Coahoma County, providing that the ordinance should not go into effect until Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana also resumed their independence, was defeated by a vote of 74 to 25. A final amendment, offered by Walker Brooke of Warren County, providing for the submission of the ordinance to popular vote on February 4, was defeated by a vote of 70 to 29. Following these defeats, the opposition forces divided. The ordinance of secession was passed by a vote of 83 to 15, and was signed by every member of the convention. The variation between the votes cast for the several amendments and that cast against the ordinance on the final vote is a fair index of the extent to which secession sentiment had gained in strength since the election. Brooke and Alcorn both voted for the ordinance. In explanation of his vote, Brooke said:

I was elected by a large majority, as what is known as coöperationist — which means, as I understand it, one who was in favor of united Southern action for the purpose of demanding further guarantees from the North, or failing in that, the formation of a Southern Confederacy. . . . Previous coöperation, coöperation before secession, was the first object of my desire. Failing in this I am willing to take the next best, subsequent coöperation or coöperation after secession. p201The former is now impossible. I therefore am willing to adopt the latter. Should I vote against the ordinance after what has passed, I should consider myself as voting for the convention to do nothing. Shall the convention adjourn without action? Should we do so we would make ourselves obnoxious [sic.] to the scorn and ridicule of the world. The next breeze from the north, or from the East, may bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Perhaps already the calm and peaceful waters of Charleston Bay are dyed and tinged with the blood of our friends and countrymen. . . . Influenced by considerations of this sort which I cannot now fully express, I therefore feel it my duty, painful as it may be, to part from those with whom I have heretofore acted, to assume the responsibility of casting at least one of the votes of Warren County for the passage of the ordinance as reported.

The fifteen votes cast against the ordinance did not represent factious opposition to it. They were of men who openly declared that there were no submissionists among their constituents, but felt that their obligations to them were not fulfilled until they had registered their votes against the ordinance.17

The relative strength of the immediate secessionists and the coöperationists in the Alabama convention was 54 to 45. As in Mississippi, the opposition forces represented various opinions, some favoring coöperation with the slaveholding states; others favoring coöperation with the Gulf states; and still others desiring popular ratification of the ordinance of secession. The leading members of the opposition resented every implication that they were submissionists. Smith of Tuscaloosa County said: "It is true, that it has been ascertained by the elections which have just been had here, that we are a minority. I am of that minority; but I do not associate with submissionists! There is not one in our company. We scorn the prospective p202Black Republican rule as much as the gentleman from Calhoun [Whatley] or any of his friends."18 Similar sentiment was expressed by other members of the group, and, as proof of the unity of the convention with respect to the issue before the country, it passed unanimously on the first day of the session a resolution stating that the state of Alabama could not and would not submit to the administration of Lincoln and Hamlin.19 A. P. Calhoun, commissioner from South Carolina, addressed the convention on the second day of its session. He invited Alabama to join in forming a Southern confederacy with the Constitution of the United States as a basis for a provisional government; and suggested the first Monday of February as a date agreed upon by the South Carolina commissioners before leaving Charleston.20 The secession sentiment prevailing in the convention received frequent stimulus from telegrams sent by congressmen and commissioners to other states. Congressmen Moore and Clopton wired from Washington that the Republican party in the House of Representatives had refused to consider the border-state compromise, and had endorsed the action of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Anderson in Charleston harbor.21 Commissioners Hopkins and Gilmer wired from Richmond that the Virginia legislature had passed, by a vote of 112 to 5, a resolution to resist coercion of a seceding state, and urged immediate action by the Alabama convention.22 Another dispatch from Governor Pettus promised the secession of Mississippi before January 9.

The committee appointed to draft an ordinance of secession p203reported on January 9, the third day of the session. The majority report provided for the immediate secession of Alabama, and for a convention of delegates from all the slaveholding states at Montgomery on February 4 for the purpose of "consulting with each other as to the most effectual mode of securing concerted and harmonious action in whatever measures may be deemed most desirable for our common peace and security." The minority report provided for a convention of delegates from all the slaveholding states at Nashville, Tennessee, on February 22. The Alabama delegates to this convention were to demand as a basis for settlement of the difficulties between the North and South irrepealable amendments to the Constitution providing for (1) a faithful execution of the fugitive slave law, (2) explicit provisions for the surrender of fugitives from justice, (3) a guarantee that Congress should not interfere with the interstate slave trade and slavery in the District of Columbia, (4) protection for slavery in the territories, and (5) the right of transit with slaves through the free states.23 The report pledged Alabama to resist meanwhile any attempt to coerce a seceding state, and provided that in event of a failure to secure the proposed constitutional guarantees Alabama should look to separation and independent national existence for her future security.

Every provision of the minority report was defeated by a vote of 54 to 45; and the ordinance of secession was adopted 61 to 39. By voting for the minority report, certain of the coöperationists felt they had fulfilled their obligation to their constituents. They then voted for the ordinance because they were unwilling to give any basis for a claim that Alabama was divided on the question p204of resistance to Republican rule.24 Explaining their position, Clemens said:

The act you are about to commit, is, to my apprehension, treason, and subjects you, if unsuccessful, to all the pains and penalties pronounced against that highest political crime, or noblest political virtue, according to the motives which govern its commission. Whatever may be my opinion of the wisdom and justice of the course pursued by the majority, I do not choose that any man shall put himself in danger of a halter in defense of the honor and rights of my native State, without sharing that danger with him. I believe your Ordinance to be wrong — if I could defeat it, I would; but I know I cannot. It will pass, and when passed it becomes the act of the State of Alabama. . . . I am a son of Alabama; her destiny is mine; her people are mine; her enemies are mine. Acting upon the convictions of a lifetime, calmly and deliberately, I walk into revolution. Be its perils — be its privations — be its sufferings what they may, I shall share them with you, although as a member of this Convention I opposed your Ordinance.25

More than half of those who voted against the ordinance voluntarily pledged themselves to devote their energies in peace or in war to the support of the state.26 Northern newspapers stated that the convention was far from unanimous, and that a large part of the state was decidedly opposed to extreme measures. On the other hand, Hodgson states, in his Cradle of the Confederacy, that if secession had required every vote in convention the ordinance would have passed. Apparently neither was correct. Thirty-three members of the convention refused to sign the ordinance and published an address stating their reasons for not signing it. They refused (1) because it was not submitted to the people for ratification, p205and (2) because Alabama did not consult with the other slave states before taking action. But the address also stated that "in refusing to sign the Ordinance of Secession, the undersigned are actuated by no desire to avoid the responsibilities that now attach, or may hereafter attach, to the act by which the State withdrew from the Federal Union. Not only will they share these responsibilities alike with those who sign the Ordinance, but if it shall appear that the public interest or expediency require the affixing of their signatures, they will unhesitatingly and cheerfully do so. . . ."27 Thirteen of the thirty-three members who joined in the address were among those who had pledged their lives to the support of the state; and no doubt can exist concerning the sincerity of those who affixed their signatures to it.

On the same day that the convention passed the ordinance of secession, it passed a resolution inviting the delegates of all slaveholding states to meet in Montgomery on February 4 for the purpose of forming a Southern confederacy. A further resolution strongly urging this action upon the state was passed on January 14, following the receipt of a report from J. L. M. Curry and J. L. Pugh at Washington concerning the action of the Committee of Thirty-three. This report declared hope for compromise to be losing ground in the upper South, and sentiment in the North to be against coercion. It urged the immediate formation of a confederacy to influence the states of the upper South and deter any thought of coercion.28 The election in Georgia had resulted in a substantial victory for the immediate secession forces; and the events which transpired between the time of the p206assembling of the convention on January 16 did much to weaken the strength of the opposition. Among the members of the convention were Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, Benjamin H. Hill, Henry L. Benning, and other influential men of the state. J. L. Orr, commissioner from South Carolina, addressed the convention on the first day of its session. He urged the acceptance of Alabama's invitation to a convention in Montgomery, and recommended the Constitution of the United States as a basis for the formation of a provisional government.29 The test of the relative strength of the secession and opposition forces came on the second day of the session. E. A. Nesbit introduced a resolution declaring that in the opinion of the convention Georgia should secede from the Union and coöperate in the formation of a Southern confederacy.30 Herschel V. Johnson offered as an amendment that "whilst the State of Georgia will not and cannot, compatibly with her safety, abide permanently in the Union without new and ample security for future safety, still she is not disposed to sever her connection with it precipitately, nor without respectful consultation with her Southern Confederates." His resolution provided for a conference of the slaveholding states at Atlanta on February 16, and named the following as conditions on which Georgia would remain in the Union: (1) that Congress should have no power to prohibit slavery in the territories; (2) that slaveholders should be compensated for all losses incurred through nullification of the fugitive slave law; (3) that heavy penalties should be provided for enticing slaves away from their masters; p207(4) that slave property should receive equal protection with all other property by the federal government; (5) that Congress should not interfere with the interstate slave trade; (6) that slaveholders should enjoy the right of transit with their property; and (7) that negroes should never be allowed to hold federal offices. The resolution further stated that Georgia would not remain in the Union unless all personal liberty laws were repealed; that she would join in protecting against coercion any state which might resume its independence; that Fort Pulaski should temporarily remain in the possession of the state; and that, if her demands were refused by the Northern states, the convention should reassemble on February 25 for the purpose of joining other states in forming a Southern confederacy.31 A direct vote on the Johnson resolutions was prevented by a demand for the previous question, and the resolution offered by Nesbit was adopted by a vote of 166 to 130. A communication from Governor Morgan of New York to Governor Brown was then presented to the convention. It contained resolutions passed by the New York state legislature which denounced as treason the action of the South Carolina authorities in firing upon the Star of the West, and tendered men and money to be used in enforcing the laws and upholding the authority of the federal government. The convention immediately adopted, by a unanimous vote, a resolution endorsing the action of Governor Brown in seizing Fort Pulaski, and ordered a copy forwarded to Governor Morgan.32 The incident served to stimulate secession sentiment, and on the following day an ordinance of secession was adopted by vote of 208 to 89.

p208 The election of delegates to the Louisiana convention was not held until January 7, and by that time the rapid march of events had neutralized opposing forces. It was of little consequence, so far as secession was concerned, which set of candidates received the majority of votes. The strongest arguments of the opponents of immediate secession had lost their validity. The attitude of the Republicans in Congress had eliminated the possibility of securing definitive constitutional amendments. The incidents in Charleston harbor, followed by the sending of reinforcements to Southern forts, served to increase the danger of delay in withdrawing from the Union. The election of large secession majorities in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, together with the certain knowledge that a Southern confederacy would be formed, established secession as a prerequisite to coöperation. Whatever might have been the prevailing sentiment at an earlier date, the election showed a tremendous majority for immediate secession.

The state convention assembled at Baton Rouge on January 23. The respective strength of the immediate secession and coöperation forces, as shown by the vote for president of the convention, was 81 to 42. Following the organization of the convention, however, party lines were obliterated. The fact that five states had already resumed their independence, and had provided for a convention at Montgomery on February 4, altered the plea for further delay in order to enable coöperation with other states to a plea for immediate secession and the appointment of delegates. Coöperation with the other states of the lower South in the formation of a Southern confederacy was urged by Commissioner Manning of South Carolina, and by Commissioner Winston of Alabama.33 p209An amendment to the ordinance of secession providing for a convention of the slaveholding states at Nashville, Tennessee, on February 25 was defeated by a vote of 106 to 24.34 The ordinance of secession was adopted on January 26 by a vote of 113 to 17. A resolution approving Governor Moore's action in ordering the occupation of the federal forts was passed by a vote of 118 to 5. A resolution recognizing the free navigation of the Mississippi River was adopted by a unanimous vote.35

The Texas state convention assembled on January 28, and passed an ordinance of secession three days later by a vote of 166 to 8. The same force of circumstances operated in Texas as in Louisiana to eliminate opposition to the ordinance, and it was approved by a popular vote of 46,129 to 14,697. John McQueen, commissioner from South Carolina, addressed the convention and urged Texas to join in forming a Southern confederacy.36 In a declaration of the causes which impelled the state to secede from the Union, the convention declared: "By the secession of six of the slaveholding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South."37

Secession in the states from South Carolina to Texas was not a triumph of one party over another but rather a p210demonstration that the lower South was finally united. The plan for a confederacy, conceived by the South Carolina convention, and advocated by the interstate commissioners, swept many coöperationists into the ranks of the secessionists because they feared a disintegration of the South. The failure of Congress to sanction guarantees for the security of Southern institutions converted those coöperationists who had favored delay because they believed such guarantees could be secured. The apparent inclination of the federal administration to hold the Southern forts as an aid to the enforcement of federal authority, coupled with the ominous silence of the President-elect and the aggressive attitude of Republican congressmen, completed the virtual unity of the lower South.

The Southern convention assembled at Montgomery, Alabama, February 4, 1861. Delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana were present, bearing credentials from the conventions of their respective states, equal in number to each state's former congressional representation. The Texas delegates did not reach Montgomery in time to participate in the work of constructing a provisional government, but they were admitted and affixed their signatures to the constitution on March 2. Four days only were required to frame a constitution for the provisional government of the Confederate States of America. By this the convention was converted into a congress empowered to exercise all the functions exercised by both branches of the Congress of the United States and also to frame a permanent constitution. The provisional president and vice president, to be elected by the provisional congress, were to hold office for one year, unless automatically suspended by the establishment of a permanent government. Each state was created p211into a separate judicial district, with all powers previously vested in the district and circuit courts, and the several judges were constituted the Supreme Court of the confederacy. The president was to have power to veto any separate appropriation without vetoing the whole bill of which it might be a part. The African slave trade was prohibited. Congress was given the power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any state not a member of the confederacy. All appropriations were to originate with the cabinet. Members of congress were not forbidden to hold other offices under the provisional government. All reference to capitation taxes and export duties were omitted. States were not forbidden to maintain armies in times of peace. Compensation was provided for slaves lost by abduction. Congress was empowered to amend the constitution by a two thirds vote at any time. The provisional government was required to immediately settle all matters of property and debts arising from the separation of the states. Montgomery was chosen as the temporary capital of the confederacy. The constitution was to continue in force for one year unless suspended by a permanent government, and no provision was made for its ratification by the several states.38

The two clauses of the provisional constitution of special interest to those slave states which had not yet withdrawn from the Union were those respecting the African slave trade and the introduction of slaves from the outside the confederacy. The African slave trade was opposed by the people of the lower South primarily on the ground of public policy. It was generally conceded that any objection to the slave trade on grounds of morality p212applied more forcibly to the sale of negroes from the upper South to the lower South than to the foreign traffic. Behind the whole controversy which had raged over the question of the rights of slavery in the territories was the fear of slave increase and greater danger of insurrections. Moreover, Europe and the United States condemned the trade on moral grounds, and maintained a strict surveillance of the high seas to prevent it. Any attempt to reopen the trade would probably provoke hostilities, and the new nation desired and needed peace. On the question of the introduction of slaves from the states of the upper South the confederacy faced a perplexing problem. They feared that, unless it were prohibited, those states which remained in the Union would be inclined to dispose of their slaves in the markets of the confederacy. Those states would then face the same problem of unnatural increase of the slave population that would arise from a reopening of the African trade, and would be paying a much higher price for their slaves. It was also to the interest of the confederacy to keep those states which did not join the confederacy slave states as long as possible.

On February 9, 1861, the congress unanimously elected Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens as president and vice president respectively of the confederacy. They then authorized the acceptance of one hundred thousand volunteers for twelve months' service in the army, provided for the issue of one million dollars of treasury notes, and passed acts to organize a navy, a postal system, and a court system. A commission headed by Yancey was sent abroad to obtain recognition and negotiate treaties, and commissioners were appointed to treat with the United States Government for the division of the territories and debts, and to arrange for future friendly relations.


The Author's Notes:

1 Howell Cobb to James Buchanan, December 8, 1860, in American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1911, II, 517‑518.

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2 Howell Cobb to the People of Georgia, December 6, 1860, ibid., 505‑506.

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3 See Howell Cobb to his Wife, December 10, 1860, ibid., 518‑519. Thomas R. R. Cobb to Howell Cobb, December 15, 1860, ibid., 522; A. Hood to Howell Cobb, December 19, 1860, ibid., 524.

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4 Journal of the Committee of Thirty-three, 7.

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5 For a different interpretation, see Rhodes, History of the United States, 1850‑1896, III, 64‑65; and Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, II, 436‑438.

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6 Harris, "Address before the Georgia Legislature, December 15, 1860," in Journal of the Mississippi State Convention . . . 1861, 205‑207; Weekly Mississippian, January 2, 1861.

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7 Harris to Pettus, December 31, 1860, Journal of the Mississippi State Convention . . . 1861, 197.

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8 Fontaine to Pettus, November 12, 1860, Official Correspondence of Governor John J. Pettus, 1859‑1860.

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9 Wirt Adams to John J. Pettus, December 13, 1860, in Weekly Mississippian, December 19, 1860.

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10 For a classified list of the delegates, see ibid., January 2, 1861.

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11 The Montgomery Daily Advertiser, December 26, 1860; Hodgson, The Cradle of the Confederacy, 491‑492; Smith, op. cit., 19‑33.

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12 Robert Toombs to E. B. Pullin and others, December 13, 1860, in American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1911, II, 519‑520.

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13 Journal of the Committee of Thirteen, 2‑3.

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14 Ibid., 5‑6.

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15 Robert Toombs to the People of Georgia, December 23, 1860, in American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1911, II, 525.

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16 Alexander H. Stephens to J. Henly Smith, December 31, 1860, in ibid., 526‑527.

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17 Weekly Mississippian, January 16, 1861.

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18 Smith, op. cit., 26.

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19 Ibid., 30.

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20 Calhoun, "Address before the Alabama Convention, January 8, 1861," in ibid., 31‑34.

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21 Clopton and Moore to Watts, January 7, 1861, ibid., 34.

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22 Hopkins and Gilmer to Moore, January 8, 1861, ibid., 34.

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23 Ibid., 78‑80.

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24 Crumpler, Remarks in the Convention, ibid., 78‑80.

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25 Ibid., 117‑118.

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26 Ibid., 93‑118.

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27 Ibid., 445‑447.

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28 Pugh and Curry to Brooks, Official Records . . . Armies, Series IV, Vol. I, 46‑47.

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29 Orr, "Address before the Georgia Convention, January 16, 1861," Journal of the Convention of the People of Georgia . . . 1861, 305‑306.

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30 Ibid., 15.

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31 Ibid., 15‑20.

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32 Ibid., 24‑26.

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33 "Address of Ex-Governor Manning of South Carolina," in The New Orleans Bee, January 26, 1861; "Address of Ex-Governor Winston of Alabama," in ibid.

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34 "Proceedings of the Louisiana State Convention," in ibid., January 27, 1861.

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35 "Proceedings of the Louisiana State Convention," in ibid., January 25, 1861.

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36 Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, 1861, 50‑52.

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37 "A Declaration of the Causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union," in ibid., 61‑66.

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38 "Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America," in Official Records . . . Armies, Series IV, Vol. I, 92‑99.


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