The Completely Unneccessary Secession Crisis

One of the many tragedies of the Civil War is that the Secession Crisis that precipitated it was completely unnecessary. 

If southern representatives and senators had remained in their seats in Congress, they could have blocked any legislation they feared with the help of Northern Democrats. They would have quickly realized that no, Lincoln wasn’t going to take away their slaves, put them in jail and have their slaves and carpet baggers from the North running things in their states.  Lincoln had pledged not to interfere with slavery in the states, and, absent a war, he lacked the power to do so.  Secession was a completely over the top reaction to the election of Lincoln, and, like many over the top reactions, it ultimately brought about what was feared.

Lincoln even supported an amendment to enshrine slavery in the Constitution if that would mollify the South. The amendment passed Congress and was ratified by three states before it became a dead issue due to the ongoing war. That such an amendment passed the Congress without most Southern senators and representatives being present is a clear indication of how willing Northern Democrats and many Republicans were to allay the fears of the South. Northern Democrats would have been happy to join Southern members of Congress in bottling up Republican legislation. After four frustrating years Lincoln would probably have joined the long list of one term Presidents which was the norm after Andrew Jackson. The South had absolutely nothing to fear from Lincoln. Instead, Southern fire-eaters stampeded more moderate colleagues  to secede from the Union by portraying Lincoln as a mortal threat to slavery.  It was the secessionists, by provoking a war they were bound to lose, who signed the death knell of slavery. God must have enjoyed the rich irony.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. Interesting thought! Mob rule took over. Wasn’t it one of the fears of the first congresses and why republic form of government instead of true democracy was selected for governance of the 13 colonies???
    In Christ
    Dennis McCutcheon

  2. Wiser heads in the South Dennis, including Sam Houston and Robert E. Lee, thought secession was a disaster for the South. It was as if an entire section of the nation was infected with a fever and acting out of delerium. This of course had been building for decades, and the election of Lincoln was seized upon by secessionist activists, always a small minority in the South, to create an atmosphere of panic which stampeded the South out of the Union.

  3. Secession was, in many ways, one of the most boneheaded moves in the history of our country – and for the reasons you’ve outlined.

  4. Mark, I deleted your comment to this post, along with your other comments, and I have banned you from this site. This site exists for the study of the history of this country and not to refight the Civil War. You appear to be the mirror image of some Neo-Confederates I have had to ban in the past. Reasoned debate is always welcome here; vitriol and bile can go find other venues on the internet.

    • excellent. I probably lean towards states rights and reduction of federal government as much or more than any editor on this site, our views can only have stature if they can be expressed with respect. Thoroughly enjoy the discussions on this page. Keep up the good work.
      In Christ
      Dennis McCutcheon

  5. […] points to the fact that slavery was not under threat.  Secession to defend slavery was a reaction to a completely phantom threat to the Peculiar […]

  6. “our views can only have stature if they can be expressed with respect.”

    Well said Dennis. If the Civil War taught us nothing else, it should have taught us that.

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