The Civil War occurred in 1861 as a result of the secession of the Upper and Lower South states. However, they did not leave the Union in the same manner. The fervor of excitement created by the South Carolina convention after Lincoln's election led many Lower South states to quickly secede. These states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas; had an overwhelming secessionist vote during their state conventions. These votes reflect the perception that Lincoln and the Republican Party was under minded by abolitionists who would seek to destroy slavery.
Unlike the Lower South states, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee did not immediately desert the Union. These states made up what can be called the Upper South contingency. They did not feel that leaving the Union would benefit their economies, protect their political interests, and would cause more harm than good to their individual welfare. The Upper South states believed that a Civil War could be avoided and they sought compromise over conflict.
However, it was due to the actions of President Abraham Lincoln that forced the Upper South states to choose where their loyalties stood. If Lincoln did not force action at Ft. Sumter and call for troops to fight the Deep South in 1861, I believe the Civil War could have been repressed. Secession in the Lower South Secession in the Lower South began on December 20, 1860 in Charleston, South Carolina. The South Carolina convention regarding secession voted 169-0 in favor of leaving the Union and creating an independent nation. This decision to secede came a little over a month after Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln was elected president over Democrat's Stephen Douglas, John C.
Breckenridge, and John Bell. Steven A. Channing in his book Crisis of Fear explains the perception that the electing of Lincoln signaled a means for secession. "Secession was the product of logical reasoning within a framework of irrational perception.
The party of Abraham Lincoln was inextricably identified with the spirit represented by John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, and the furtive incendiary conceived to be lurking even then in the midst of the slaves. The election of Lincoln was at once the expression of the will of the Northern people to destroy slavery, and the key to that destruction" (Channing, 286). This "perception" Channing writes about stems from the idea that the Republican Party was filled with abolitionist who would slowly over take the South and their sacred institution of slavery. Just as in Kenneth Stampp's book The Peculiar Institution, the abolitionist mimicked the sly and undermining "Yankee." Stephen Davis believed that "Lincoln, that blackest of all Republicans" (Oates, 354), was the catalyst that would lead for such changes in the South. When Lincoln became President fear broke out throughout the South, especially in the lower states. The Lower states' economy was based around the production of cotton.
The Lower states understood that Lincoln's insistent denial of the extension of slavery challenged their economic, social, and political well being. Furthermore, the Lower South states had reason to believe that Lincoln worked in conjunction with abolitionists within the Republican Party. "Nowhere was this aberrant perception more apparent, and nowhere were the consequences more fatal than in the way South Carolinians viewed the rise of the Republican Party. Whatever the true nature of Republican policy, the party was from its inception regarded as the coalescence of decades old anti-slavery and free soil factions" (Channing, 78). Anti-slavery radicals were heard most loudly throughout the Lower South.
Resonating in further were attempts by these radicals to physically challenge the institution of slavery. The raid at Harper's Ferry by John Brown only fueled the idea that a slave insurrection could occur in the Lower South. John Brown and Harper's Ferry was seen by the Lower South as an act of the Republican Party. Harper's Ferry also reminded many in South Carolina and the Lower South of the slave uprising that occurred in Santo Domingo.
"In 1791 the slaves of Santo Domingo began their bloody decade long-revolution from French rule. By 1803 the Negroes had secured control of the colony and proclaimed their independence as the first black republic in the New World. This successful insurrection at once became the principal evidence for Southerners of the dangers of weakening the chains of slavery" (Channing, 60). South Carolina feared that any slave uprising would be successful due to the shear amount of blacks in the state.
In the Upper Country, blacks outnumbered whites, 4: 1. In the Low Country it was closer to half whites and half blacks. However, the more populous Upper Country in South Carolina created an exaggerated fear to whites throughout the South. South Carolina's initiative to secede first made other Lower South states' decision to leave the Union much easier. The Lower South states would no longer accept the warnings, the John Brown raid and the election of Abraham Lincoln, by the North that slavery would soon be extinguished. Capitalizing on the excitement created by the South Carolina convention the Lower states began to discuss a means to repel such a change to their society.
Lower South states, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas took the lead of South Carolina and within three months of South Carolina's decision to secede, all had left the Union. The ideological differences that were imposed by the Republican Party made Civil War inevitable in the Lower South. The perception that Lincoln's federal power would exhort the ideals of abolitionists and that slavery would be lost, left little decision that the Lower South had but once choice: secession. Secession in the Upper South The Upper South did not as quickly in seceding as the states that made up the Lower South.
This decision by Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina were important due to the shear power they held in the balance of the Civil War. These three states held half of the population of the confederacy. The Upper South also would create a clear geographical split in the Union if they did secede. However, the difference in regional economy and the notion of egalitarian overtones delayed the decision of the Upper South.
Daniel W. Crofts book Reluctant Confederates provides the events, reasoning, and final decisions the Upper South would have to make in 1861. Crofts believed that strong pro-Unionist support was heard in these Upper South states. This voice could have played an important role in averting the Civil War. Unionists in the Upper South disagreed with the Lower South's acceptance that an independent Southern nation would enhance their economy. They believed that an independent confederate state would cut commercial ties with England and France.
This would stunt the industrial and commercial growth that the Upper South had recognized as a need for future prosperity. Avery Craven argues in The Coming of the Civil War these sentiments that Southern Unionists sought. The need for agricultural reform, southern manufacturers, and an increased transportation system would be lost if the South seceded from the Union. "Virginia Unionists thus dismissed secessionist assertions about the bright economic future their state would enjoy in a cotton confederacy. They concluded instead that the economic interests of the Upper and Lower South were 'irreconcilably antagonistic' and 'in direct collision'" (Crofts, 107). For the Upper South, there were no economic interests that linked the slaveholding states of the South.
Simply, the Upper South was no longer apart of "King Cotton." Their industries were becoming more diversified with agriculture, trade, and industry. In the Upper South class difference had begun to be exposed and a non-slaveholding voice emerged in opposition to the "slave power." This non-slaveholding power decreased the amount of support towards the Democratic Party. "Relatively smaller concentrations of slaves and slave owners, plus statewide political arenas in which the two major parties competed on close terms, made the Upper South less receptive to secessionist appeals. The combination of fewer slave owners and more formidable opposition to the secession leaning Democratic Party kept Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee in the Union during early 1861" (Crofts, 130). Upper South states had created a more equal two-party system than the Lower South; this slowed down the call for immediate secession.
The Unionist support in the Upper South tried hard to preserve the Union till it had no choice. In Virginia, the state legislature sponsored a Peace convention on February 4 th of 1861. Unionist sponsors sought a compromise that would save the Union. They invited delegates from all of the states in the Union and those who had seceded in the previous months.
However, delegate from the seceded states did not attend the Peace convention. Secessionists refused to attend the convention because of the referendum vote on secession in Virginia on the same day. "The legislature scheduled the election of convention delegates for the same day the Peace Conference would meet in Washington. The contest received national attention as the first clear indication of how the Upper South would respond to the secession crisis" (Crofts, 139). The ability by Unionists to increase support for saving the Union briefly preserved Virginia's decision in 1861. In Tennessee and North Carolina similar Unionist parties began to emerge.
The non-slave owning voters in these states emerged as the deciding factor in the secession voting. Unionists in the Upper South echoed sentiments that the Union could still be saved heard by Stephen Douglas. "If we could find a reasonable and satisfactory terms of adjustment with Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and the border slave states, maybe it could create a Union Party in the cotton states that would be strong enough at the ballot box to vote the Lower South back into the Union" (Oates, 366). The Upper South states believed that through legislative compromise the Civil War could be avoided.
These states desired to preserve their country until they were forced to act otherwise. Why the Civil War became Irrepressible The Civil War was put off until the Upper South conceded its Unionist intentions and was forced to join the Lower South in creating a clear sectional crisis. I believe the Upper South would not of had to make this decision if it had not been for the actions of elected President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's refusal to create a compromise regarding the extension of slavery forced the Lower South to immediately secede the Union. Lincoln did not take this move by the Lower South seriously. "In truth, I did not take the secession threat seriously.
'It's all humbug,' I said. 'The Southern people love the Union too much to let secession take place. Yes, I'm aware of Southern complaints. They " re wrong. I'm not hostile to the Southern people... No, I wont make any public statement to 'ally's southern fears" (Oates, 355).
Lincoln did not recognize how quickly the Lower South would rally around the South Carolina convention's decision to secede. The most important reason I feel the Civil War occurred was Lincoln's decision to call for troops and force the issue at Fort Sumter on April 15 th, 1861. Lincoln not only called for troops in the Northern Union states but for volunteers in Southern states. This action caused the Upper South to choose where their loyalties lied: Union or Southern allegiance. "Former Unionists again and again identified the proclamation as the decisive element that forced them and their states to abandon the Union.
'Lincoln's arrogant and infamous usurpation of power', confronted James B. Dorman with a stark choice: 'The issue presented is of a fight and the question simply is 'which side will you take?' " (Crofts, 337). This decision to call troops by Lincoln was so unfathomable that most in the South regarded the proclamation as a hoax. Had Lincoln chose to rally behind the Unionist support that was occurring in the Upper South states, the Civil War could have been repressed. Lincoln overreacted in his decisions regarding Fort Sumter. Upper South Unionists who tried all means to resolve the North and South's differences had to succumb to the side of their Lower South brethren..