Historical Issue Of Secession Prior To The Civil War
Secession is the withdrawal of a group or organization of people from a larger group, political entity, union, organization or military alliance. America’s Confederate states were formed by 11 southern states from the U.S, which was a historical secession that took place before the civil war. The underlying issues of secession were based on socio-political factors at the time. There existed disagreements over tariffs, state rights and the legality of slave ownership. The southerners wanted to preserve the institution of slavery. Slave ownership had become a culture of the southerners and hence they felt that the Union was soon going to undermine their activities as the slaves were the major source of labor in their agricultural activities. Taxation and tariffs also contributed to the secession of the 11 states.
As the United States acquired more states to the west, the southern states started to panic on whether slave ownership would be allowed in the newly acquired territories. The southern states feared that it was only a matter of time before addition of non-slave holding states would make the government abolish slavery (Turley, Par. 3). It was also apparent that the northern states were going to establish businesses and factories in the new territories, but they could not freely move to the new territories. They feared that if they moved to the new territories, their slaves could be free, and it is them that provided labor for their agrarian activities.
A widening chasm ensued in the period the 1830s and 1860 between the north and the south on the issue of slavery. The southern slave owners felt that their interests were under threat due to the prohibition of slavery in the new territories (Turley, Par. 6). The issue of popular sovereignty that permitted members to decide whether to retain slaves or abolish slavery, the Dred Scott Decision and the Missouri Compromise intensified the secession debate. The southerners wanted to end gradually slavery by emancipation process but were strongly against perpetuating it forever.
The 1860 elections further aggravated the debate. Abraham Lincoln had promised to abolish totally slave ownership to the present current status. As a result, on the 20th December of 1860 South Carolina became the first state to secede from the union. It was later followed by Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Virginia with the exclusion of the northwestern counties of the present West Virginia broke away from the union to join the Confederates. The new states were Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas, who elected Jefferson Davis as the president of the SouthernConfederacy (Merton, Pg. 3).
The reasons for secession provided above shows that every state had its interest that it wanted to defend at all cost. The northern states were after acquiring new territories where they could establish new factories and businesses to increase the income for the union government. The southern on the other hand were worried about their future in agrarian activities heavily supported by slave labor. The ensued debate was based on conflict of interest as every state wanted to maintain domination.
The issues presented in the historical debate also indicate the impact of party politics on the unity of any state. For instance, the election of the republican’s Abraham Lincoln heavily contributed to the secession. Lincoln had promised to abolish slavery that did not go well with the southerners. In addition to that, a person’s origin (whether from southern states or northern states) can influence his/her perspective on the topic.
Coulter, E. Merton. The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865. Vol. 7. LSU Press, 1950.
Jonathan Turley. Secession.George Washington University(2010) Cited from