Rethinking the secession of the Lower South: the clash of two groups.
Serious problems, however, confront any interpretation that explains secession by reference to a single ideology or mind-set, whether rational or irrational, whether focused on slavery or republicanism. Citizens in almost every state in the Deep South were seriously divided over the wisdom of secession. Explanations that trumpet a single theme might explain those who chose disunion, but they ignore the sizeable minority that rejected such rash actions. At least 40 percent of voters, and in some cases half, opposed immediate secession in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. In Texas more than 20 percent of the electorate rejected disunion, and even South Carolina had important pockets of resistance. (5)
The nature of this division has proven elusive. Several scholars have suggested a split between unionist small farmers and secessionist slaveholders, but any generalization that seeks to link the split over secession in the Deep South to wealth or slaveholding will not stand. The ranks of ardent secessionists included many small farmers in the southern districts of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; in peninsular Florida; and in southwestern Louisiana. To be sure, some nonslaveholding farmers in the Lower South were consistent, outspoken unionists; but their role should not lead us to generalize about a whole class. (6)
Two studies that closely analyze the opposing sides in the secession debate highlight the weak connection between slaveholding and disunion in the Lower South. An analysis of the votes for the secession conventions in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana concludes that "the variance in the cooperationist vote is explained by factors other than the percentage of slaveholders." The correlation computed was extremely low, with slaveholding explaining only 17 percent of the vote for secession. (7) Another scholar reaches the same conclusion through a different method. Ralph Wooster's study of the members of the secession conventions demonstrates that comparable groups of small farmers and slaveholders stood on both sides of the issue. Wooster observes: "In the conventions of the lower South the percentage of those who held 20 slaves or more was almost the same for the secessionists and their opponents, 41.8 percent of secessionists and 41.0 percent of the cooperationists." (8)
This essay suggests a new approach to secession and the events leading up to that crisis by contending that the battle over secession in the Lower South was the culmination of a long-standing struggle between two groups--one with strong ties to the Union and one that flourished in relative isolation from the states to the north. The article looks first at the nature of this division: its sources and the differing worldviews of the two camps. Then it examines the emergence of these two groups in every Deep South state by midcentury, their importance during the 1850s, and finally the role the two sides played in the secession crisis. (9)
Two factors in particular shaped the clashing societies of the cotton states--the origins of the settlers and the patterns of the regional economy. These elements also gave rise to conflicting worldviews that guided the behavior of the two groups. The two camps, it should be emphasized, were loose coalitions. No firm geographical features defined their boundaries. Their ideological borders were permeable and shifted from issue to issue. Furthermore, the opposing sides shared many fundamental values, including a dedication to slavery and a deep-rooted racism. References to two "societies" must be taken figuratively, not literally.
Still these qualifications should not obscure the importance of these groupings. The opposing sides are not ahistorical conceptions. Contemporaries were well aware of the lines that split several states of the Deep South into northern and southern reaches and divided others along similar, geographical lines. During the crisis of 1849-52 and the secession winter of 1860-61, these warring camps shattered the Democratic party and disrupted the Whig-Opposition party. A close analysis of this division helps us understand the ardent secessionists as well as their more moderate opponents. (10)
The first of the two forces shaping these groups was the origins of the settlers. The white people who populated the Lower South came from distinct sending areas and set the imprint of contrasting cultures on states from South Carolina to Texas. One set of migrants came from the Upper South, although many could trace their family ties back to Northern Ireland and the continent of Europe. Typically, the ancestors of these migrants had landed in Philadelphia and resided for a time in southeastern Pennsylvania. Over the course of generations, these families had migrated south through the Appalachian highlands before spreading through large areas of the Upper and Lower South. These migrants from the Upper South arrived in South Carolina and Georgia before the Revolution and moved into the other Gulf states during the period of initial settlement. A second group of migrants came from a different "hearth": the tidewater region of South Carolina and Georgia. Many of these Lower South residents had ancestors who hailed from southern England. These two large-scale migrations divided the Deep South into distinct regions. The most important line of division separated several states into northern and southern regions. Settlers from the Upper South predominated in the northern reaches of South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, as well as northeastern Mississippi; Lower South residents dominated the southern districts in these states. The two groups of migrants had different outlooks, distinct family histories, and different ways of building their homes and talking to their neighbors. (11)
John C. Calhoun described the two societies within his own state of South Carolina. "Our State was first settled on the coast by emigrants principally from England, but with no inconsiderable intermixture of Huguenots from France...," he noted in 1846. "The portion of the State along the falls of the rivers and back to the mountains had a very different origin and settlement. Its settlement commenced long after, at a period, but little anterior to the war of the Revolution, and consisted principally of emigrants who followed the course of the mountains, from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia & North Carolina. They had very little connection, or intercourse for a long time with the old settlement on the coast." (12)
Migrants from the two hearths influenced politics and society in Texas and Florida, although these groups did not follow the pattern of settling along a north-south axis. In Texas, Upper South migrants dominated the northern and west central counties. (13) Similarly, a study of Florida shows that Upper South settlers arrived in the 1830s, became wealthy cotton planters, and controlled the politics of "Middle Florida," the term for the Panhandle counties between the Suwannee and Apalachicola Rivers. These districts supported the Whigs and were moderate in sectional politics. The most striking difference between the Democratic and Whig leaders was their origins. Fully 64 percent of prominent Florida Democrats were from the Deep South, while only 37 percent of the Whigs originated from that area. (14)
Conflicts over Southern rights often featured politicians with different origins. For example, the clash in Texas pitted John Reagan and Sam Houston, both with strong Tennessee roots, against Louis Wigfall of South Carolina. The division in Mississippi found on one side cooperationist James Alcorn, who was raised in Kentucky, and on the other side secessionist Albert Gallatin Brown of South Carolina. In Alabama moderates William King and George Smith Houston from the Upper South dashed with Georgians Dixon Hall Lewis and William Lowndes Yancey. There were exceptions to the rule. Some prominent secessionists, such as Kentuckian Jefferson Davis, were scions of the Upper South. (15)
The distinction between these two migrations constituted the most important cultural divide in the Lower South, but it was not the only one. Several groups in the more southerly reaches of the Deep South stood apart from the migrants from South Carolina and Georgia. In Louisiana the Creoles and Acadians rejected the cotton planters' Southern nationalism. In 1842 William Elmore reported from Louisiana about Calhoun's supporters: "In the city of New Orleans he has a great many friends among the American democrats, but among the french and creole population his claims have not been canvassed." (16) The majority of Germans in south-central Texas opposed slavery and secession; in 1854 a group of them met in San Antonio to endorse a free soil movement. The Mexicans in Texas also denounced slavery and disunion and frequently sheltered runaway slaves. (17)
Most Northerners who settled in the Deep South decried the extremes of Southern nationalism. Such individuals composed an influential minority in the towns. For example, in Mobile, Alabama, nonresident cotton factors and representatives of Northern firms dominated commerce. "Half our real estate is owned by non residents of the same section [i.e., the North]" Joseph Lesesne reported from Mobile in 1847. "Our whole sale and retail business--every thing in short worth mentioning is in the hands of men who invest their profits at the North. The commercial privileges extended by the Constitution to these people has wholly deprived us of a mercantile class." (18)
This discussion of migration and its impact, it should be noted, dovetails with a growing body of scholarship on antebellum mobility. (19) These studies suggest how stable social and political structures coexisted with the "torrent of migration." In each community the small group of "persisters" held a disproportionate share of wealth and influence and provided continuity in turbulent times. (20) Works on the antebellum North also emphasize the far-reaching impact of migration on politics. Greater New England provided a foundation for the Republican party, while settlers from the Upper South became the strongest supporters of the Democrats. Richard Steckers precinct-level voting study illustrates this point. He concludes: "Migration was a major force--perhaps a dominant factor--shaping political conflict in the Midwest." (21)
Economic activities constituted a second set of factors that divided the citizenry of the Lower South, reinforcing (for the most part) the divisions established by the patterns of settlement. To begin with, wheat cultivation, garden crops, and home manufactures gave the northern reaches of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas an economic unity that mirrored the settlers' shared origins. Wheat was a common note throughout much of this region (Map 1). Although the quantities raised were far below the levels in the North, wheat growing was an important facet of the regional culture. The crop fostered a society of independent farmers, small milling centers, skilled craftspeople, and vigorous local exchanges. Steven Hahn's study of counties in northern Georgia indicates that seven of ten households had spinning wheels and looms, and one in ten heads of free households was an artisan. The union-leaning population of northern South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, it must be emphasized, included large planters as well as yeomen. But nonslaveholding farmers were a particularly vigorous component. (22)
Lines of transportation also did more to divide the Lower South than to unify it. Most of the rivers that drained these states, from the Pee Dee in South Carolina to the Pearl in Mississippi and from the Sabine to the Nueces in Texas, served the coastal region but not the counties that lay further inland. Only the Mississippi, Savannah, and Red Rivers provided navigation that went far into the interior. The Tennessee River was the route of choice for northern Alabama, but it flowed north, joining the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky. Beginning in the 1820s the planters of northern Alabama lobbied for improvements to this waterway, which was obstructed at Muscle Shoals. With funds from the sale of land donated by the federal government, a canal was completed in 1831. But this route soon fell into disrepair. The state legislature refused to provide the small sum needed for its upkeep, arguing the canal helped Tennessee more than Alabama. (23)
Similarly, railroads failed to tie together the coast and northern reaches of the Lower South. Before the Civil War lines were built north from Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans. The impact of these railroads was mixed. The route from Charleston, which reached Atlanta by the mid-1840s, was flawed. The line did not bridge the Savannah River. While this gap inconvenienced travelers, it posed an insurmountable obstacle to the shipment of bulky goods. The Savannah line successfully spanned Georgia, entering Atlanta in 1846 and Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1849. But in linking Georgia to the railroad terminus at Chattanooga, it strengthened the bonds between north Georgia and the Upper South. The lines that went north from Mobile and New Orleans did not reach Tennessee until the eve of the Civil War. During the 1840s and 1850s the most important railways for northern Alabama and Mississippi traveled east-west and linked these regions to the entrepots of the Upper South. In the mid-1840s capitalists in northern Alabama completed a line that paralleled the defunct canal and allowed the shipment of goods around Muscle Shoals. The Memphis & Charleston Railroad, chartered in 1850, constructed a road that began in Memphis, traversed northern Mississippi and northern Alabama, and entered Chattanooga by 1857. (24)
The result of these links between the Upper South and the northern part of the cotton states was an overland trade that expanded markedly in the years before secession. Finished goods and foodstuffs were shipped to the Deep South; bales of cotton moved northward. Hence, commercial ties separated small farmers and planters in the northern reaches of the Deep South from small farmers and planters residing in southern parts of these states. (25)
The decision by the Confederacy in February 1861 to levy a tariff on the import of goods provoked a discussion about the expanding trade between the Upper and Lower South. Observers also noted the correlation between this trade and divisions within the cotton states. "The inland export of cotton," B. G. Wilkins of Charleston remarked, "has assumed proportions alarming to our tradesmen, injurious to the ports, and a heavy distress upon the incomes of the tributary rail roads, besides there is a political significance that should challenge notice and command arrest.... Self interest will beget the opposition of the planters residing upon the confines [i.e., outskirts] of the Confederacy." (26) William McBurney also fretted about the growth of inland trade. He remarked, "What is to hinder Wilmington and Charlotte, N.C., from becoming depots from which the upcountry of S.C. may be supplied. And so of Knoxville, Chattanooga, & Memphis, Tennessee, for the other states?" McBurney favored a light duty on goods entering the Confederacy: "A small percentage would have the advantage of giving to the Seaboard Cities the importing business and the supply of the interior merchants, whereas an entire exemption would enable to the interior merchant to do as many of them have always done--buy in northern cities--at least there would be no impediment in their way of so doing." (27)
The separation of the Deep South into northern and southern regions was the most important division produced by economic activities, but others may be noted. The Louisiana sugar planters, who enjoyed the protection of federal tariffs, looked favorably on the Union. In the Bayou State crop preferences often became political preferences. (28) Finally, commercial activities tied many city and townsfolk to the North and made them less willing to entertain extreme states' rights views during the secession crisis. Northern capital financed the sale of Southern staples and the import of finished goods into the South. A few traders advocated secession, but most were unionists. These city dwellers were more likely to join the Whig party, which became the party of moderation. (29)
The division that emerged from differences in birthplaces and economic activities reflected opposing outlooks. These distinct mind-sets can best be understood in the context of the debate between historians James Oakes and Eugene Genovese. For Oakes the South was characterized by an "entrepreneurial ethos" and an "intense devotion to the capitalistic spirit of accumulation." Genovese, by contrast, emphasizes the "premodern quality of the Southern world." The slave lords, he asserted, were "precapitalist, quasi-aristocratic landowners" who "grew into the closest thing to feudal lords imaginable in a nineteenth-century bourgeois republic." (30) Other historians and economists have chosen sides in this debate. Both sides suggest the universality of their conclusions. All planters, indeed, all white Southerners, these works contend, conformed to a single mold. (31)
A closer look at the divisions within the Lower South suggests that we must credit the insights of both Oakes and Genovese--but in each case for only one of the two groups. The cohort with roots in the Upper South and North embodied the buoyant, entrepreneurial spirit that Oakes delineates. The bustling economic activities of the small farmers in northern counties of their states disturbed outspoken advocates of Southern rights. Daniel Hamilton of Charleston shared his concerns with radical congressman William Porcher Miles. "How long would it be after disunion," Hamilton asked in January 1860, "before we should have the same hungry manufacturing population infesting the upper part of So. Ca., Cherokee [i.e., northern] Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina (French Broad [River] with its exhaustless water power) and even the upper portion of Alabama?" He continued: "Why not five years would elapse before they would be setting their looms to work on every stream in these locations under the impulse of occupation and the introduction of numbers, they would soon make their presence felt.... A few years more and you would have a strong party of our own people in favour of a protective Tariff, and advocating all those extravagant expenditures for Internal Improvements." (32)
Wealthy planters as well as small farmers in this region shared this entrepreneurial outlook and a desire to build a more diversified economy. James Orr, the upcountry leader of the South Carolina National Democrats, pointed out the path to growth. "The first step to be taken ...," he explained in an 1855 speech, "to reinvigorate our decaying prosperity, and to develop our exhaustless resources, is for our planters and farmers to invest the whole of the net profits on agricultural capital in some species of manufacturing; the field is broad and inviting, and but little has yet been occupied. With prudence and energy there can be no failure in any branch." (33) Fellow upcountry politician Benjamin Perry, who often boosted manufacturing in his newspaper, applauded these remarks: "One such speech as this of Col. Orr's will do more good in the State than all the patriotic fustian and bombast which have been delivered in South Carolina for the last twenty years." (34) Other planters shared these views. James Alcorn, the prominent north Mississippi politician (and opponent of secession), hoped the state would support new enterprises. He observed, "The wealth of a State consists in the property and intelligence of her people; every intelligent proposition which has for its object the increase of knowledge, or the enhancement of aggregate wealth, should receive the calm judgment of the Legislature." (35)
Merchants, traders, and other townsfolk also applauded diversification, and their views were reflected in the Whig press. The Milledgeville, Georgia, Southern Recorder noted in 1843 that "our climate, the face of our country, our copious and unfailing water power, the abundant supply of raw materials, and the cheap labor which we command, invite us to apply a portion of our labor and capital to manufactures." (36) The Mobile Advertiser concurred, remarking in 1848 that cotton planters, "instead of investing their surplus capital in negroes and lands, [should] invest it in manufactures." (37)
Spokesmen for the settlers who came from the South Carolina-Georgia "hearth" enunciated a different outlook, one that was more in keeping with Genovese's depiction of the Southern economy. These individuals were proud that Southerners were not like the hard-trading, entrepreneurial Yankees. In 1855 Alabama fire-eater William Lowndes Yancey expounded on the differences between the North and South: "The climate, the soil and productions of these two grand divisions of the land, have made the character of their inhabitants. Those who occupy the one are cool, calculating, enterprising, selfish and grasping; the inhabitants of the other, are ardent, brave and magnanimous, more disposed to give than to accumulate, to enjoy ease rather than to labor." (30) Mississippi radical John F. H. Claiborne agreed. He remarked in 1860, "Sedentary and agricultural, we cherish the homesteads and laws of our ancestors, and live among the reminiscences of the past." (39) Jefferson Davis echoed these views. During the Panic of 1857 he rejoiced in the strengths of the Southern way. "Ours was an agricultural people, and in that consisted their strength," he told an audience in Jackson, Mississippi. "Their prosperity was not at the mercy of such a commercial crisis as the one with which the country had just been visited. Our great staple was our safety." (40)
These states' rights advocates relegated manufacturing to a minor role. Few went as far in condemning enterprise as John Forsythe, the editor of the Columbus (Georgia) Times, who declared in 1850, "I would to God we had fewer miles of railroad, fewer millions invested in manufactures and stocks, fewer proofs of enterprise, and thrift and money-making, and more of that chivalry of Georgia, of the olden time, which, on more than one occasion, has interposed her sovereignty to check the usurpations of the federal government." (41) Most politicians of all persuasions favored railroads, but states' rights leaders condemned the spread of manufacturing and argued that fresh soils, not factories, were the key to continuing prosperity. (42)
In short, the origins of the settlers and their economic activities created within the Lower South two opposing societies whose spokesmen expounded different approaches to development. One set of individuals, typically located in the towns and northern counties, favored diversification and saw advantages in links with the states to the north and, more generally, in the Union. The other group, whose strength lay in the southern reaches of the Lower South, defended an economy focused on slaves, cotton, and rice. They were more ready to separate as the threat to Southern institutions increased in the 1840s and 1850s.
The divisions evident in several states by the mid-1840s came into sharp relief throughout the Deep South during the crisis of 1849-52. In many states the new alignment split the traditional parties, the Democrats and Whigs. Typically, the midcentury advocates of states' rights became the immediate secessionists of 1860-61, and the unionists of 1850 would form the reluctant secessionists of 1860-61.
In Georgia the split between the unionists of the northern counties and the Southern nationalists of south Georgia shaped politics by the early 1840s. Howell Cobb, a Democratic congressman who represented northeast Georgia, emerged as leader of the unionists. Almost from his entry into national politics, Cobb opposed Calhoun and his supporters in south Georgia. Edward Black, a states' rights congressman, informed Calhoun in September 1843: "After I returned from Washington I exerted myself to get as many of our friends from lower Georgia into the [state] Convention as possible. I went, as a member, myself, and had the satisfaction to see our labours crowned with your nomination [for president]." Black continued, "One of our members elect to Congress made every effort to defeat you. For this opposition Cobb is mainly responsible, as he sustained and directed it." (43)
The geographical division was formalized during the controversies over the new territories acquired in the Mexican War. In January 1849 Calhoun issued his "Southern Address" calling on all congressmen in the South to unite against Northern encroachments. Cobb dissented, with the support of north Georgia Democrats. In June Cobb explained the split in Georgia to James Buchanan: "I have the gratification of knowing that my course on slavery and all other questions meet with the entire approval of my democratic constituents. It is in other portions of the State that the effort is made to make the Calhoun address the test of democratic fellowship." (44)
The battle for Georgia intensified during 1850, dividing both parties along regional lines. Southern nationalists denounced the Compromise of 1850 and formed Southern Rights Associations in many of the counties of south and central Georgia. Unionists in these regions were dispirited. "The Democratic party of this section of the State is becoming rapidly demoralized in reference to the great question of the preservation of the Union," a correspondent wrote Cobb in July from Macon. "The mass of the Whig party is taking the right course, but the number lost and likely to be lost from their ranks is not small. The only effectual check however to which we can look must come from that party, and from the Democrats of your district and Hackett's." (45) When Cobb returned from Washington in September he joined with two Whig congressmen from north Georgia to defend the Union cause. These three men--Cobb, Alexander H. Stephens, and Robert Toombs--turned the tide in favor of the Compromise and the Union. They helped secure a unionist majority for the state convention held in Milledgeville that December. At the convention the triumvirate formed a new party, uniting the Whigs and Democrats of north Georgia. The Constitutional Union party affirmed the "Georgia Platform," which the convention had drafted. This policy statement reluctantly accepted the Compromise of 1850 and declared that the South would suffer no further encroachments. Their opponents (who denounced the Compromise) coalesced into the Southern Rights party. (46)
The new unionist coalition showed its strength in 1851 and then gradually dissolved in 1852 as sectional tensions eased. In 1851 the Constitutional Union party elected Cobb governor and sent Toombs to the Senate, replacing states' rights senator John M. Berrien. Unionists also elected a majority of pro-Compromise congressmen in the fall. Map 2 shows the states' rights strongholds in the 1851 Georgia congressional election. In 1852, with the crisis past, divisions within the Democratic and Whigs parties healed. Still the Georgia Democratic party fielded two separate tickets in the 1852 presidential election. Votes for these slates showed the continuing division between the two regions of Georgia. (47)
A north-south sprit also characterized Alabama politics, and, as in Georgia, this division was evident well before midcentury. Democrats dominated state politics but were divided into northern and southern factions. The northern group, known familiarly then as the "Hunkers" was unionist, while the southern partisans, the "Chivalry" applauded states' rights. Whigs with their strength in towns and the planting districts also split, though most supported the north Alabama group. The two sections jostled over the choice of senators and governors and, more generally, over federal policies toward slavery.
The two regions clashed in 1844 as Alabamians debated Calhoun's presidential bid and the selection of a U.S. senator and governor. States' rights advocate John Campbell explained the provenance of Calhoun's supporters. "Look at the map of Alabama," he stated. "Every county east of the Alabama & Coosa [Rivers] save one is his. Every county South of Tuscaloosa is his save one.... The northern counties will have to be acquired but we have the means to do it." (40) The same division prevailed when the legislature chose Dixon H. Lewis as the new senator. The votes of south Alabama lawmakers elected Lewis, an ardent Southern nationalist. Lewis's victory lifted the spirits of states' rights supporters. One correspondent told Calhoun: "We expect also, unless policy forbids it, to place a States right man, in the gubernatorial chair. The Northern part of the State claim the right from custom, to fill the chair & are presenting two very unworthy candidates to us, neither of whom we will take, unless absolutely necessary to preserve harmony in the [Democratic] party." (49)
Sectional divisions reemerged in 1847 when the legislature reappointed Lewis to the Senate. Lewis's victory at first blush seemed like another triumph for the Chivalry and the advocates of states' rights. "You have heard before this of Mr. Lewis' election & Col. King's defeat," John Campbell told Calhoun in December. "As Col. [William R.] King was bound up with the Northern democrats of a very doubtful order, & as he was the candidate of the Hunkers here this was a work very well done)' But Lewis was forced to accept terms set down by the unionists, agreeing, for example, to support the candidate chosen by the Democratic national convention. "The plain reason of this is," Campbell continued, "that the mountain democracy command the State and our politicians defer to their wishes." (50)
The quarrel between states' rights partisans in south Alabama and unionists in the northern counties continued in 1848. Southern rights politicians, led by William Lowndes Yancey, dominated the local Democracy. Yancey persuaded the state convention to adopt the "Alabama Platform" This Southern rejoinder to the Wilmot Proviso declared that the territory gained from Mexico should be open to slavery. After the national Democratic convention in Baltimore overwhelmingly rejected this plank, Yancey explored the creation of a states' rights party. North Alabama leaders condemned these steps. (51) The selection of a U.S. senator was another divisive issue that heightened regional tensions. Governor Reuben Chapman angered northern Alabamians by appointing Benjamin Fitzpatrick to complete the term of Dixon Lewis, who had died on a trip to New York City. Fitzpatrick's appointment gave the state two senators from the southern counties. (52)
Regional parties battled each other in Alabama during the crisis of 1849-52. Unionist anger over the senatorial appointment led to a new legislative ballot in 1849 and the selection of Jeremiah Clemens, a moderate politician from northern Alabama. In 1850 the Democratic press divided over the Compromise with newspapers in the Tennessee Valley supporting the deal while most other journals opposed it. Despite the strength of the Chivalry in the press and the state conventions, Alabamians reaffirmed their ties with the Union. In the congressional elections of 1851 voters in most districts returned union Democrats or their moderate Whig allies. In 1852 a group of south Alabama fire-eaters bolted from the Democratic party, nominating George Troup for president on a states' rights ticket. The response, even in south Alabama, to this initiative was tepid. Nonetheless, the areas of Troup support (displayed in Map 2) suggest the locus of states' rights fervor in southern Alabama. (53)
Like Georgia and Alabama, South Carolina divided along north-south lines and here too the split was evident by the mid-1840s. But South Carolina was different: on both sides of the divide the political spectrum was shifted toward the states' rights end. The Southern nationalists in the lowcountry, or "parishes," were more ardently secessionist than their counterparts in the other states. The Union-leaning individuals in the backcountry were less committed to the nation than their counterparts. (54) Several reasons explain this pro-Southern tilt. To begin with, the institutional framework weakened the unionists. An unfair apportionment limited upcountry representation in the legislature and gave the parishes more power than their population warranted. And (unlike the case in all other states) the legislature rather than citizenry chose presidential electors, further checking the growth of opposition parties. Reinforcing these institutional arrangements was the extraordinary dominance between 1830 and 1850 of one man--John C. Calhoun. His preeminence in state politics kept South Carolina the flag bearer for states' rights. Finally, the economic problems South Carolina faced help explain its radical tradition. South Carolina was the oldest of the cotton states and the first to experience soil depletion. Hence South Carolina stood alone in denouncing Washington and the tariff during the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33; the planters to the west, who were enjoying higher profits, saw little reason to disrupt the Union. (55)
In the "first secession crisis" of 1849-52, Carolinians from the southern districts battled those from the northern reaches of the state. Initially, however, only a few hardy unionists dared criticize the states' rights fervor that swept the state. Local meetings applauded Calhoun's "Southern Address." A convention held in Columbia in May 1849 declared South Carolina ready to join with the other states and resist the adoption of the Wilmot Proviso "at every hazard" The legislature responded quickly to Mississippi's call for a Southern convention to meet in Nashville in June 1850. Benjamin Franklin Perry, from the upcountry district of Greenville, was among the few unionists to dissent publicly and support the Compromise of 1850. "There is a spirit of disunion abroad in South Carolina, which I am sorry to see,' Perry lamented in the summer of 1850. "I love the Union & am not willing to give it up." (56)
Gradually in 1851 the north-south division emerged in South Carolina, as the conflict shifted to the issue of separate state secession. A series of setbacks for the radicals made clear that there would be no concerted Southern resistance. Louisiana sent no representative to the June 1850 Nashville convention, and still fewer states chose delegates for the second Nashville meeting in November. Howell Cobb's triumph in the Milledgeville convention in December showed South Carolina secessionists they would get no support from Georgia. Lowcountry leaders remained undeterred. But many other South Carolina politicians, who initially had supported vigorous steps, now considered separate state action foolish. James Orr, the congressman who would become the leader of the National Democrats in the upcountry, was prominent in this group and helped organize the opposition. A correspondent wrote Orr in August 1851, "Hope that you will give a good account of Laurens as well as your other districts.... Our Parish country is very hot." (57) Charlestonians now supported the cause of moderation, as did many merchants in the backcountry towns. These moderates called themselves Cooperationists, indicating that they supported strong measures only if South Carolina acted in unison with the other Southern states. The October 1851 vote for delegates to a Southern Congress showed the opposing blocs (Map 2). The Cooperationists, with their strength in the populous northern districts, won handily, 25,062 to 17,617. The Charleston Mercury commented, "The Co-operationists have given to their ticket a large majority, and though it will be diminished by the Parishes, it cannot be overcome." (50) In 1852 Orr and the Union Democrats supported the national Democratic candidate, Franklin Pierce, despite the sniping of the secessionists that South Carolina could not "mingle actively in the canvass without dishonor." (59)
In Mississippi conflict between the northern and southern counties shaped the response to the crisis of 1849-52. Tension between different regions over such issues as representation and banking had long been evident. (60) Only with the first secession crisis, however, did the clash of the two areas redefine party lines. In 1849 and 1850 north and south Mississippi battled over the election of a U.S. senator. Jefferson Davis, a states' rights politician from Warren County in southern Mississippi, had been appointed to the Senate in 1847. In October 1849 he toured north Mississippi to garner support for his reelection by the legislature and to awaken the citizenry to the dangers of Northern aggression. His reception was lukewarm. He told the audience at Holly Springs that "he was not the senator of a section of the State, but of the whole State; and that if he was more partial to one portion of the State than another, it was to the North." (61) Many in the northern portions of the state ignored such appeals and backed his rival, Roger Barton. Davis complained in January 1850, "It is mortifying to me to feel that any section of the state should assume the attitude of opposition to me under the idea that one part of Mississippi is less dear to me than another." Votes from the lawmakers of south Mississippi helped reelect Davis in February. (62)
Divisions in the state deepened in 1850 after Mississippi's other senator, Henry Foote, endorsed Henry Clay's efforts at compromise. Governor John A. Quitman, an outspoken supporter of states' rights, along with two-thirds of the legislators, condemned this stance. Quitman declared: "I believe there is no effectual remedy for the evils before us but secession." Dissident Democrats supported Foote, as did most Whigs, whose strength lay in the towns and in the wealthier planting counties of north Mississippi. Quitman scored the loyalties of the commercial classes: "With the exception of the merchants, the traders, the brokers, the millionaires, and their dependents, the people are with us." (63)
Reflecting the regional split, Mississippians in 1851 formed new parties: the Union party and the States Rights party. The results of two contests between these groups clearly reveal the geographical and ideological fault lines. The Union party selected as its gubernatorial candidate Henry Foote, who resigned from the Senate to concentrate on his campaign. The States Rights party chose Quitman to oppose him. Quitman, however, labored under several disadvantages. He was a poor debater; he angered even some states' rights supporters, such as Davis, with his extremism; and the tide clearly had turned in the South against separate, unilateral state action. (64) In May a correspondent told Quitman: "Secession on the part of this state, under the circumstances which now surround her, can not be carried. It will defeat the most popular man in existence." (65) In September Quitman withdrew from the race and was replaced by Davis. Although Davis was more popular than Quitman, he lost to Foote in the November election. The returns underscore that Davis's support lay in the southern districts, while northern Mississippi backed Foote. (66)
The lengthy gubernatorial campaign overlapped with a second contest that divided the citizenry along north-south lines. In September voters selected delegates to a state convention to determine Mississippi's response to the Compromise. The unionists, who won a decisive victory, had their strength in the northern districts, while the states' rights advocates clustered in the southern counties. Map 2 shows the division in the contest for convention delegates. Despite Foote's glee at the results ("Quitman and Quitmanism are dead, dead, DEAD!"), Southern nationalists had suffered only a temporary setback. The Union party was short lived, and in 1852 the familiar split between Whigs and Democrats reemerged in Mississippi. (67)
Although the differences between the two societies of Louisiana (Whiggish French sugar growers vs. Democratic English cotton planters) were evident, the state remained more moderate than the commonwealths to the east. While the Democrats divided over the Compromise, virtually all Whigs supported the deal. Northern-born Democrat John Slidell noted in 1852: "In this state (and I believe, Texas) a very great majority of our party approved of the compromise; yet those who were opposed are sufficiently numerous to make our defeat certain in any contest when their support shall be withheld." (60) New Orleans, with its wealthy merchants and its Northern and French population, remained a bastion of unionism. One observer remarked, "New Orleans is almost Free Soil in their opinions. The population is one-half Northern Agents, another 1/4 or 1/3 are foreigners. The remnant are Creoles, who cannot be made to comprehend their danger until the negroes are being taken out of the fields." (69) Indeed, few politicians from either party demanded separate state action. The Louisiana Spectator observed, "Except an occasional Carolinian, there [is] not a disunionist in Louisiana." (70)
In Texas, as Slidell suggested, most Democrats along with virtually all Whigs endorsed the Compromise of 1850. Texans had good reason to applaud the federal government. The United States had just roundly defeated the Mexicans, securing Texas statehood. The Compromise of 1850 expanded the state boundaries and allotted $5 million to fund Texas bonds at full face value. Both Democratic senators, Sam Houston and Thomas Rusk, as well as the two Democratic representatives endorsed most components of the plan. Houston was one of only four Senators voting for all six bills that made up the Compromise. There was dissent, reflecting the presence of the two societies of the Lower South in Texas. Louis Wigfall, who represented the eastern, cotton-growing county of Harrison in the state legislature, condemned Houston and the Compromise. Wigfall, a transplanted South Carolinian, had been a Southern rights extremist in his native state. The lawmakers who agreed with Wigfall's views selected him as the Texas delegate to the Southern rights convention in Nashville. Although Wigfall did not attend (he nominated another Texan for the post), he drew up a set of constitutional proposals for the gathering to consider. (71)
The midcentury crisis also divided Floridians, with birthplace being a key factor in delineating the two camps. Politicians from the Upper South headed the Whig party and charted a moderate course. Virginian Edward Cabell, the state's lone representative, opposed Calhoun's "Southern Address." Cabell's efforts were enthusiastically seconded by another Virginian and Whig, Governor Thomas D. Brown, who denounced the Nashville convention as "against the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution of the United States." Both men backed the Compromise of 1850. Still, the Southern rights opposition was strong. Pressure from Democratic districts led the legislature to appoint delegates to Nashville. Among the leaders of the Democrats were the West Indian-born Senator David Yulee and James E. Broome, who was (according to a Whig paper) from "the strictest sect of the South Carolina separationists." In 1852 Broome defeated Cabell in a close vote for Florida's congressional seat. Broome's election marked the end of the brief era of Whig dominance in Florida. (72)
The divisions that had emerged by midcentury across the Deep South remained evident in the 1850s even though the intensity of the "first secession crisis" had subsided. In South Carolina the new parties continued; the National Democrats, with their strength in the backcountry, battled the Southern Rights Democrats, who spoke for the lowcountry. The National Democrats pushed (unsuccessfully) for legislative reapportionment, and (more successfully) urged participation in the 1856 Democratic national convention and continuing the prohibition on the slave trade. The States Rights party opposed these initiatives. In 1860 National Democrat leader James Orr once again persuaded the state Democratic party to send a delegation to the Democratic national convention--a step that enraged the Southern Rights Democrats. William Henry Trescott remarked: "I do most earnestly protest against the right of a portion of the state to make going into the convention a test by which to organise a state party." (73)
Although elsewhere the Union and States Rights parties were short lived, the midcentury clash between the two societies of the Deep South had permanently changed the political landscape. Before 1850 northern districts often elected secessionists. For example, backcountry South Carolina sent Southern nationalist Daniel Wallace to the House of Representatives, while north Alabama chose disunionist Reuben Chapman. Similarly, moderates served from southern districts: Northern-born Whig Thomas B. King represented southeast Georgia. After 1852 such mismatches between district and man were less common. Orr defeated Daniel Wallace when their two districts were merged. Secessionist James Seward took over King's southern Georgia seat. The northern districts now were represented by unionists such as Orr and John Ashmore in South Carolina, Howell Cobb and Alexander Stephens in Georgia, and Williamson Cobb in Alabama. The southern districts elected such ultra-Southerners as Lawrence Keitt and William Porcher Miles in South Carolina, James Seward in Georgia, and John Quitman in Mississippi. (74)
Political change was evident as well in Texas and Florida. Elections in Texas became more polarized. Unionists such as Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson Hamilton allied with the Know-Nothings, reflecting that party's strength among the small farmers in the western districts. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers from east Texas helped send secessionist Louis Wigfall to the Senate. In Florida the Democratic party, long identified with the cause of Southern rights, grew steadily stronger. The Democrats were buoyed by the large influx of Georgians, the most important non-native group in Florida, and by South Carolinians. These new settlers, who now filled the counties of peninsular Florida, helped defeat the Whigs and their Upper South leaders. (75)
Finally, these divisions help us understand the clash over secession. The close juxtaposition of the 1860 presidential election and the clash over separation sheds light on the fault lines within the Lower South. To be sure, there was no direct link between votes for Democrat John Breckinridge, the leading candidate in the Lower South, and support for secession. The moderate, union-leaning small farmers in the northern districts of states such as Georgia and Alabama backed Breckinridge, as did their fire-eating counterparts in the southern counties. (76) But for the other two parties that fielded candidates in the South, there were significant continuities between party preference and secession. Support for both groups mirrored the divisions emphasized in this essay. The voters who favored Stephen Douglas in 1860 resisted immediate secession. These partisans were concentrated in three areas that long had been favorable to the Union: north Georgia, north Alabama, and the sugar-growing parishes of Louisiana. Similarly, supporters of the Constitutional Union candidate, John Bell, usually opposed immediate secession. Bell's support came from Whig-Opposition areas that long had displayed unionist leanings, including the northern Mississippi delta, the northern black belt in Georgia, the Florida panhandle, and many of the Louisiana sugar parishes. (77)
The battle over secession pitted the two societies of the Lower South against one another. Map 3, which displays the secessionist strongholds, suggests the two sides. The map is based on votes for convention delegates in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; the makeup of the delegations in Georgia; and the vote on ratifying the secession ordinance in Texas. The geographic lines separating the two camps were irregular. The secessionists, however, were strongest in the areas that long had been in the forefront of the states' rights crusade: the southern districts of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; the Red and Mississippi River cotton counties of Louisiana; the cotton counties of east Texas; several planting counties in the Florida panhandle along with small farming districts in the peninsula. Their union-leaning opponents gained the most votes in northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; in the sugar-growing parishes of Louisiana; in northern and western Texas; and in the Whig counties of the Florida panhandle. (70)
To be sure, the opponents of immediate secession varied in outlook and ranged from unconditional unionists to cautious secessionists who simply wanted better coordination among the Southern states. Still the divisions were deep. Had the "cooperationists" and "conditional unionists" won the day, the course of Southern history would have been different. Underlying the struggle was the clash of two societies. (79)
The arguments set forth by the two sides during the secession crisis reflected their divergent outlooks. Those who hailed from the Upper South or had strong economic ties with the states to the north believed the South could continue to grow even within a nation run by Republicans. The Vicksburg Daily Whig offered its own solution to the deepening sectional conflict. "What remedy have we?" it asked. "Why, in the first place, let us withdraw one-third, or even one-half of our capital from agricultural operations, and invest it in the establishment of manufactories of cotton" The editorial concluded that the encouragement of industry, along with direct trade to Europe, would bring new wealth and contentment to Mississippi: "Thus we might become the most happy, prosperous, wealthy and intelligent people, upon whom the sun has ever smiled." (80) In the secessionist conventions, defenders of the Union emphasized the prosperity that ties with the Union had brought the South. Alexander H. Stephens, from northern Georgia, told his fellow delegates, "I notice in the Comptroller-General's report that the taxable property of Georgia is six hundred and seventy million dollars and upwards,--an amount not far from double what it was in 1850. I think I may venture to say that for the last ten years the material wealth of the people of Georgia has been nearly, if not quite doubled.... Have we any assurance that had we regarded the earnest but misguided patriotic advice, as I think, of some of that day, and disrupted the ties which bind us to the Union, we would have advanced as we have? I think not." (81)
Individuals whose family origins could be traced to South Carolina and Georgia rejected such talk of diversification and insisted that the fate of the South rested with the plantation economy and bound labor. For these politicians the outlook was grim. The prospect of free territories and the "ultimate extinction" (to use Lincoln's oft-repeated term) of slavery frightened these individuals. They dismissed Republican reassurances about respecting the peculiar institution where it existed and judged secession the only recourse. Editorialists and politicians underscored this position. The Charleston Mercury announced: "The issue before the country is the extinction of slavery." (82) Several speakers at the Georgia secessionist convention elaborated the same theme. Henry Benning stated: "The meaning of Mr. Lincoln's election to the Presidency is the abolition of slavery as soon as the Republican party shall have acquired the strength to abolish it." (83) Charles Dew's recent book on the secessionist commissioners makes clear that many in the Lower South were motivated by their deep concerns for the survival of slavery. (84)
These opposing sides were not carved in stone. The shifting loyalties of many individuals, and particularly of unionist leaders, help us understand the difficult decisions Southerners faced as the region moved toward secession. Few unionists, at least among the upper classes, remained loyal to the United States after secession. Jeremiah Clemens of Alabama and Andrew Jackson Hamilton of Texas were among the handful who fled to the North and denounced the Confederacy. James Petigru refused to back the new government and remained in South Carolina as an elderly, respected lawyer. Others, such as James Orr of South Carolina and Howell Cobb of Georgia, supported the Union until the Democratic party collapsed in the summer of 1860. Both became secessionists. Southern Georgians were delighted by Cobb's change of heart. "Can you find time to make two or three speeches in So. West Ga.?" one politician asked him. "Our people are all anxious to hear you .... You know our district has always been hostile to you. Can you not find time to remove the hostility?" (85) Many other unionists condemned secession until that fateful step was taken and then "went with their state." In this category were Sam Houston of Texas and Alexander Stephens of Georgia.
The near-unanimity among wealthy Southerners once secession was declared should not blind us to the deep divisions that had long characterized the region or to the difficult choices many unionists confronted. James Alcorn of Mississippi and John Ashmore and Benjamin Perry of South Carolina were three individuals from the northern part of the Lower South. All opposed secession but in the end backed the Confederacy. After the war Alcorn reflected on the dilemma he had faced in 1861: "I and others agreeing with me determined to seize the wild and maddened steed by the mane and run with him for a time. We voted for secession and signed the ordinance." (86) We might be skeptical of an account penned after the Confederate defeat, but Ashmore's and Perry's anguish is unmistakable. Ashmore served as congressman from the Pendleton district in South Carolina. He wrote Perry at the end of 1860: "I have been driven in spite of myself in the course of the last 12 months to the conviction that it is utterly impossible for the North & South to live longer together under the same Government.... God knows it has caused me many & painful struggles & sleepless nights to come to such conclusions & if my life would restore the country to peace & harmony I believe that I have enough patriotism to sacrifice it." Perry echoed these sentiments in his journal entries, writing in February 1861, "My heart has been rent by another affliction, which I must feel more deeply than I can express as a man & a patriot. It is the destruction of my country, the dismemberment of that great & glorious Union, cemented by the blood of our fathers." (87) All three men soon swore their loyalty to the new government and were honored with high offices. Alcorn was elected brigadier general, Ashmore was made colonel of a state regiment, and Perry was appointed district attorney.
The unconditional unionists of the Deep South were found not among the affluent but among the small farmers in the areas that had long opposed secession. Unionist districts in the Deep South, led by southern Louisiana and northern Alabama, contributed well over 10,000 soldiers to the Northern army. (88)
The divisions over the secession conventions, the ideological clashes during these months, and the distress felt by many members of the elite point back to the central argument that the conflict over secession in the Deep South was the culmination of a contest between two long-lived groups with well-developed, opposing views of the Union. Economic activities and distinct origins defined the two societies, even if their boundaries were never firmly drawn. On the one side were the unionists, many of whom had ties with the Upper South. Their strength lay in the northern counties, the towns, the sugar-growing parishes of Louisiana, and, more generally, those districts where migrants from the Upper South had settled. On the other side were the states' rights supporters, who often could trace their origins to coastal South Carolina and Georgia. They settled in the southern districts of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; the cotton-growing counties of Louisiana; east Texas; and many counties in Florida. The secessionists triumphed in the early months of 1861, but the contest between these groups would continue even after these states left the Union. (89)
For their valuable comments on this essay, I would like to thank William Barney, Daniel Crofts, Stanley Engerman, Lacy Ford Jr., Michael F. Holt, Elizabeth Varon, and Gavin Wright.
(1.) James Tice Moore, "Secession and the States: A Review Essay," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 94 (Jan. 1986): 60-76; William J. Donnelly, "Conspiracy or Popular Movement: The Historiography of Southern Support for Secession," North Carolina Historical Review 42 (Winter 1965): 70-84; Ralph A. Wooster, "The Secession of the Lower South: An Examination of Changing interpretations" Civil War History 7 (June 1961): 117-27.
(2.) Steven A. Channing, Crisis of Fear: Secession in South Carolina (New York: W. W. Norton, 1974); William L. Barney, The Secessionist Impulse:Alabama and Mississippi in 1860 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1974); J. Mills Thornton III, Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1978); Lacy K. Ford Jr., Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1800-1860 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 338-73.
(3.) Michael E Johnson, Toward a Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1977); Walter L. Buenger, Secession and the Union in Texas (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1984).
(4.) James M. McPherson, "The Heart of the Matter," New York Review of Books, Oct. 23,1997; Charles B. Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 2001); Maury Klein, Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
(5.) David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 491-99, summarizes the votes on secession
(6.) Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850-1890 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1983), 114-16; Daniel W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989), 376-81; Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), 277-304.
(7.) Peyton McCrary, Clark Miller, and Dale Baum, "Class and Party in the Secession Crisis: Voting Behavior in the Deep South, 1856-1861" Journal of Interdisciplinary History 8 (Winter 1978): 447-57.
(8.) Ralph A. Wooster, The Secession Conventions of the South (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1962), 256-66.
(9.) For a discussion of parallel developments in the North, see Marc Egnal, "The Beards Were Right: Parties in the North, 1840-1860," Civil War History 47 (Mar. 2001): 30-56.
(10.) James H. Broussard, "Some Determinants of Know-Nothing Electoral Strength in the South, 1856," Louisiana History 7 (Winter 1966): 5-20; Thomas B. Alexander, "Persistent Whiggery in the Confederate South, 1860--1877," Journal of Southern History 27 (Aug. 1961): 305-8.
(11.) David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), 605-782, 817-18; Rupert Vance, Human Geography of the South: A Study in Regional Resources and Human Adequacy (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1932), 110; D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Vol. 2: Continental America, 1800-1867 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993), 221-40, map 233; Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1969), 78-117; Gordon R. Wood, Vocabulary Change: A Study of Variation in Regional Words in Eight of the Southern States (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1971), 325-52, maps 3-5, 358-59.
(12.) Calhoun to lames L. Orr et al., Nov. 1846, The Papers of John C Calhoun, ed. Clyde N. Wilson and Shirley Bright Cook, vol. 23, 1846 (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1996): 512.
(13.) Terry G. Jordan, "The Imprint of the Upper and Lower South on Mid-Nineteenth Century Texas," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 57 (Dec. 1967): 667-90; E. Bagby Atwood, The Regional Vocabulary of Texas (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1962), 3-26.
(14.) Herbert J. Doherty Jr., The Whigs of Florida, 1845-1854 (Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press, 1959), 63-72. Significantly, South Carolina and Georgia planters dominated Jefferson County, the only wealthy Democratic district in middle Florida.
(15.) See biographies of John Reagan, Samuel Houston, Albert Gallatin Brown, William King, James Alcorn, and George Smith Houston in American National Biography, ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, 24 vols. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999).
(16.) William A. Elmore to Robert Barnwell Rhett, Nov. 10, 1842, Robert Barnwell Rhett Papers, Southern Historical Society, Chapel Hill, N.C. (hereafter SHC); D. L. A. Hackett, "Slavery, Ethnicity, and Sugar: An Analysis of Voting Behaviour in Louisiana, 1828-1844," Louisiana Studies 13 (Summer 1974): 73-118; Thomas F. Redard, "The Election of 1844 in Louisiana: A New Look at the Ethno-cultural Approach," Louisiana History 22 (Fall 1981): 419-33; Roger W. Shugg, Origins of Class Struggle in Louisiana: A Social History of White Farmers and Laborers during Slavery and After, 1840-1875 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1939), 145-50.
(17.) Laura Wood Roper, "Frederick Law Olmsted and the Western Texas Free-Soil Movement," American Historical Review 56 (Oct. 1950): 58-64; Wendell G. Addington, "Slave Insurrections in Texas," Journal of Negro History 35 (Oct. 1950): 408-34; Robin E. Baker and Dale Baum, "The Texas Voter and the Crisis of the Union, 1859-1861," Journal of Southern History 53 (Aug. 1987): 395-420.
(18.) Joseph W. Lesesne to John C. Calhoun, Sep. 12, 1847, Calhoun Papers 24:552; Thornton, Politics and Power, 42; D. Clayton James, Antebellum Natchez (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1968), 164-65.
(19.) Richard H. Steckel, "The Economic Foundations of East-West Migration during the 19th Century," Explorations in Economic History 20 (Jan. 1983): 14-36; Steckel, "Household Migration and Rural Settlement in the United States, 1850-1860," Explorations in Economic History 26 (Apr. 1989): 190-218; Donald F. Schaefer, "Locational Choice in the Antebellum South," Journal of Economic History 49 (Mar. 1989): 145-65. Also see the sources cited in note 11.
(20.) Kenneth J. Winkle, "The Voters of Lincoln's Springfield: Migration and Political Participation in an Antebellum City," Journal of Social History 25 (Spring 1992): 595--611; Charles Stephenson, "A Gathering of Strangers? Mobility, Social Structure, and Political Participation in the Formation of Nineteenth-Century American Workingclass Culture," in American Workingclass Culture: Explorations in American Labor and Social History, ed., Milton Cantor (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979), 31-60; Richard S. Alcorn, "Leadership and Stability in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America: A Case Study of an Illinois Town," Journal of American History 61 (Dec. 1974): 685-702; Peter R. Knights, Yankee Destinies: The Lives of Ordinary Nineteenth-Century Bostonians (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1991); Kenneth I. Winkle, The Politics of Community: Migration and Politics in Antebellum Ohio (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988). Washington Irving uses "torrent of migration" in the opening of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" The Sketch Book (1820; rpt., New York: Penguin Books, 1961), 331.
(21.) Richard H. Steckel, "Migration and Political Conflict: Precincts in the Midwest on the Eve of the Civil War," Journal of Interdisicplinary History 28 (Spring 1998): 583-603; William E. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), 538,-39; Gienapp, "Who Voted for Lincoln?" in Abraham Lincoln and the American Political Tradition, ed. John L. Thomas (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 74-84; Lois K. Mathews, The Expansion of New England (1936; rpt., New York: Russell & Russell, 1962); Egnal, "Beards Were Right," 39-45.
(22.) Steven Hahn, "The 'Unmaking' of the Southern Yeomanry: The Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1860-1890," in The Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation: Essays in the Social History of Rural America, ed. Steven Hahn and Jonathan Prude (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985), 180-85,197; David F. Weiman, "The Economic Emancipation of the Non-Slaveholding Class: Upcountry Farmers in the Georgia Cotton Economy," Journal of Economic History 45 (1985): 71-93; Wilma A. Dunaway, The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700-1860 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1996), 225-26, 231-45. Sam B. Hilliard, Atlas of Antebellum Southern Agriculture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1984), 58--62, illustrates the evolution of this wheat-growing area.
(23.) Daniel Dupre, "Ambivalent Capitalists on the Cotton Frontier: Settlement and Development in the Tennessee Valley of Alabama;' Journal of Southern History 56 (May 1990): 215-40; Thornton, Politics and Power, 107-8; Charles C. Bolton, Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1994), 86-90.
(24.) R. S. Cotterill, "Southern Railroads and Western Trade, 1840-1850," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 3 (Mar. 1917): 427-41; Cotterill, "Southern Railroads, 1850-1860" Mississippi Valley Historical Review 10 (Mar. 1924): 396-405. This argument linking lines of transportation with divergent views on secession parallels the case made in Kenneth W. Noe, Southwest Virginia's Railroad: Modernization and the Sectional Crisis (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994).
(25.) On trade between the Upper and Lower South, see Gordon B. McKinney, "Economy and Community in Western North Carolina, 1860-1865" in Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Mary Beth Pudup et al. (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1995), 163-84; John C. Inscoe, Mountain Masters, Slavery, and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1989), 25-53; Dunaway, First American Frontier, 132-45, 200--208.
(26.) B. G. Wilkins to William Porcher Miles, Mar. 13, 1861, William Porcher Miles Papers, SHC; E. Merton Coulter, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1950), 173-74.
(27.) William McBurney to William Porcher Miles, Feb. 21, 1861, William Porcher Miles Papers, SHC; Forrest McDonald and Grady McWhiney, "The Antebellum Southern Herdsman: A Reinterpretation" Journal of Southern History 41 (May 1975): 160-62.
(28.) William A. Elmore to Robert Barnwell Rhett, Nov. 10, 1842, Robert Barnwell Rhett Papers, SHC; Shugg, Origins of Class Struggles, 152-54, 157.
(29.) Charles G. Sellers Jr., "Who Were the Southern Whigs?" American Historical Review 59 (Jan. 1954): 335-46, justly notes the strength of Whigs in Southern towns but exaggerates the influence of the townsfolk on the surrounding countryside.
(30.) James Oakes, The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 191; Eugene D. Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South (New York: Random House, 1965), 3-39. Although Oakes and Genovese have refined their positions recently, they maintain the essence of earlier arguments. Oakes reaffirms that a Southern "slave society emerged within rather than apart from the liberal capitalist world," while Genovese continues to assert "the antagonism between slave and bourgeois society." See Oakes, Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 79; Genovese, The World the Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in Interpretation (1969; rev. ed., Middleton, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1988), vi.
(31.) Supporters of Oakes's contentions include Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974). Among the studies backing Genovese is Fred Bateman and Thomas Weiss, A Deplorable Scarcity: The Failure of Industrialization in the Slave Economy (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981). For more on this debate see Marc Egnal, Divergent Paths: How Culture and Institutions Have Shaped North American Growth (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), 232-37.
(32.) Daniel Hamilton to William Porcher Miles, Jan. 23, 1860, William Porcher Miles Papers, SHC.
(33.) James L. Orr, "Development of Southern Industry" DeBow's Review 19 (July 1855): 1-22; Egnal, Divergent Paths, 63-68.
(34.) Lillian A. Kibler, Benjamin F. Perry: South Carolina Unionist (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1946), 303.
(35.) Lillian A. Pereyra, James Lusk Alcorn: Persistent Whig (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1966), 31.
(36.) Milledgeville Southern Recorder, Aug. 29, 1843, quoted in Larry Keith Menna, "Embattled Conservatism: The Ideology of the Southern Whigs" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1991), 173.
(37.) Mobile Advertiser, Nov. 27, 1848, quoted in Larry K. Menna, "Southern Whiggery and Economic Development: The Meaning of Slavery Within a National Context," in David Roediger and Martin H. Blatt, eds., The Meaning of Slaver), in the North (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 64.
(38.) "Yancey: Speech at Columbus, Georgia, 1855" in John W. DuBose, The Life and Times of William Lowndes Yancey, 2 vols. (1892; rpt., New York: Peter Smith, 1942), 1:301.
(39.) J. F. H. Claiborne, Life and Correspondence of John A. Quitman, 2 vols. (New York: Harper, 1860), 2:273; Egnal, Divergent Paths, 21-32, 87-101.
(40.) The Papers of Jefferson Davis, ed. Haskell M. Monroe Jr. and James T. McIntosh, 10 vols. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1971-99), 6:157.
(41.) John Forsythe to "Gentlemen of Charleston," Sep. 12, 1850, DuBose, Yancey 2:426.
(42.) Genovese, Political Economy, 180-239; William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, The Web of Progress: Private Values and Public Styles in Boston and Charleston, 1828-1843 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 18-20, 40-53,222-24.
(43.) Edward J. Black to Calhoun, Sep. 1, 1843, Calhoun Papers 17:389-90.
(44.) Howell Cobb to James Buchanan, June 17, 1849, The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb, ed. Ulrich B. Phillips (1913; rpt., New York: DaCapo Press, 1970), 164; Calhoun, "The Address of the Southern Congressmen" Jan. 1849, in Works of John C. Calhoun, ed. Richard K. Cralle (6 vols.: New York: D. Appleton, 1851-56), 6:290-313; Richard H. Shryock, Georgia and the Union in 1850 (192.6; rpt., New York: ALMS Press, 1968), 178-216.
(45.) Absalom H. Chappell to Howell Cobb, July 10, 1850, Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb Correspondence, 193.
(46.) Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), 610-13; Shryock, Georgia and the Union, 264-342, map facing 320.
(47.) Horace Montgomery, Cracker Parties (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1950), 26-52.
(48.) John A. Campbell to Franklin H. Elmore, Jan. 4, 1844, Calhoun Papers 17:699.
(49.) Hilliard M. Judge to Calhoun, Dec. 6, 1844, ibid. 20:488.
(50.) John A. Campbell to Calhoun, Dec. 20, 1847, Joseph W. Lesesne to Calhoun, Jan. 30, 1848, ibid. 25:22-23,156.
(51.) George S. Houston to Cobb, June 26, 1849, Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb Correspondence, 166.
(52.) George S. Houston to Cobb, Aug. 10, 1849, ibid., 173; Thornton, Politics and Power, 182-83.
(53.) Thornton, Politics and Power, 182-84,192-200, 262-65; Holt, Rise and Fall, 616.
(54.) "Backcountry" and "lowcountry," which contemporaries used and which appear here in the text to describe the regional division, only approximate the north-south split in the state. In fact, the northern districts in the lowcountry--Marion and Horry---often sided with the unionists. Some of the southern districts in the backcountry (particularly, Barnwell and Orangeburg) frequently favored the secessionists. See the map in John Barnwell, Love of Order: South Carolina's First Secession Crisis (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1982), xi.
(55.) Ford, Southern Radicalism, 99-144, 183-85, 281-307; Barnwell, Love of Order, 3-31. On soil depletion, see Hilliard, Southern Agriculture, 67-71; DeBow's Review 11 (Dec. 1851): 617-21; Genovese, Political Economy, 85-105; Gavin Wright, The Political Economy of the Cotton South: Households, Markets, and Wealth in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 15-17.
(56.) Kibler, Perry, 239-59; J. M. Rutland to B. F. Perry, Mar. 17,1851; J. R. Poinsett to B. F. Perry, Mar. 28, 1851, Perry Papers, SHC; Ford, Southern Radicalism, 183-96.
(57.) Robert W. Barnwell to James L. Orr, Aug. 26, 1851, Orr-Patterson Papers, SHC.
(58.) Barnwell, Love of Order, 121-90; Kibler, Perry, 260-77.
(59.) Ford, Southern Radicalism, 212-14.
(60.) John McCardell, "John A. Quitman and the Compromise of 1850 in Mississippi," Journal of Mississippi History 37 (Winter 1975): 240-41; James R. Sharp, The Jacksonians versus the Banks: Politics in the States after the Panic of 1837 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1970), 68, 86-108; Bolton, Poor Whites, 117-20.
(61.) Davis, "Speech at Holly Springs," Oct. 25, 1849, Davis Papers 4:50.
(62.) Davis to William R. Cannon, Jan. 8, 1850, ibid. 4:55, 57n.
(63.) Quitman to J. J. McRae, Sept. 28, 1850, Claiborne, Quitman 2:44, 46; "Henry Stuart Foote," in American National Biography. Ferdinand L. Claiborne told Davis that Natchez was a "Hot bed of Whiggery." See Davis Papers 3:274.
(64.) Davis to David L. Yulee, July 18, 1851, Davis Papers 4:218-19; McCardell, "Quitman," 251-64.
(65.) Unknown to Quitman, May 20, 1851, Clairborne, Quitman 2:121.
(66.) For the gubernatorial vote, see McCardell, "Quitman" 2.65-66; Davis Papers 4, endpaper map.
(67.) McCardell, "Quitman," 264.
(68.) John Slidell to Howell Cobb, Jan. 28, 1852, Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb Correspondence, 276; James K. Greet, "Dissension among the Democrats and Acceptance of the Compromise of 1850," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 12 (Oct. 1929): 570-89.
(69.) Letter to Calhoun, Jan. 12, 1849, quoted in M. J. White, "Louisiana and the Secession Movement of the Early Fifties," Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association 8:278.
(70.) Quoted in Shugg, Origins of Class Struggle, 158; James D. B. DeBow to Calhoun, Apr. 23, Dec. 6, 1847, E. Warren Moise to Henry W. Conner, July 18, 1847, Calhoun Papers 24:334, 25:42-43, 24:472; Holt, Rise and Fall, 617.
(71.) Buenger, Secession and Union, 24-25; Jordan, "Imprint of Upper and Lower South," 667-74; Potter, Impending Crisis, 111-12; Eric H. Walther, The Fire-Eaters (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1992), 169-71; Holman Hamilton, Prologue to Conflict: The Crisis and Compromise of 1850 (Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1964), 179-81,191-200.
(72.) Doherty, Whigs of Florida, 38, 52; Dorothy Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida, 1850-1861," Florida Historical Quarterly 12 (July 1933): 3-24.
(73.) William Henry Trescott to William Porcher Miles, Mar. 10, 1860, Robert B. Rhett Jr. to William Porcher Miles, Mar. 28, 1860, William Porcher Miles Papers, SHC; Channing, Crisis of Fear, 168-70; Ford, Southern Radicalism, 341; Ronald T. Takaki, A Pro-Slavery Crusade: The Agitation to Reopen the African Slave Trade (New York: Free Press, 1971), 185-97, presents maps showing the division in the South Carolina legislature.
(74.) Edward M. Steel, T. Butler King of Georgia (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1964), 31-130; Holt, Rise and Fall, 609; Ford, Southern Radicalism, 341; Robert S. Burnet, "Creating the 34th Congress: House and Senate Elections, 1854-1855" (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1997), 306-31, 1170-351.
(75.) Gregg Cantrell, "Sam Houston and the Know Nothings: A Reappraisal," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 96 (Jan. 1993): 327-44; Doherty, Whigs of Florida, 54-57.
(76.) This generalization must be modified on a state-by-state basis. In Alabama and Georgia Breckinridge voters split over secession. But in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas they favored disunion. McCrary, Miller, and Baum, "Class and Party," 440-47. Voting data are from The Great American History Machine, CD-ROM (College Park, Md.: Academic Software Development Group, 1995); Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential Ballots, 1836-1892 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1955).
(77.) McCrary, Miller, and Baum, "Class and Party," 449-47, suggest that Douglas supporters were more consistent in their opposition to secession than were Bell supporters; Jordan, "Imprint of Upper and Lower South"; Alexander Stephens to J. Henly Smith, Sept. 30,1860, Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb Correspondence, 500. For continuities in Alabama that modify McCrary, Miller, and Baum's findings, see Thomas B. Alexander, Thomas B. and Peggy J. Duckworth, "Alabama Black Belt Whigs during Secession," The Alabama Review 17 (July 1964): 181-97.
(78.) John F. Reiger, "Secession of Florida from the Union--A Minority Decision?" Florida Historical Quarterly 46 (Apr. 1968): 348-68.
(79.) Ollinger Crenshaw, The Slave States in the Presidential Election of 1860 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1945), 2-55-56; Thornton, Politics and Power, 426-42.
(80.) Vicksburg Daily Whig, Jan. 18, 1860, in Dwight L. Dumond, ed., Southern Editorials on Secession (New York: Century, 1931), 14-15; Vicki V. Johnson, The Men and the Vision of the Southern Commercial Conventions, 1845-1871 (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1992), 40-65.
(81.) Alexander H. Stephens, speech, Nov. 14, 1860, in William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson, eds., Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992), 66.
(82.) Charleston Mercury, Nov. 3,1860, New Orleans Daily Crescent, Dec. 14,1860, in Dumond, Southern Editorials, 204, 331-32; Robert F. Durden, "J. D. B. DeBow: Convolutions of a Slavery Expansionist," Journal of Southern History 17 (Nov. 1951): 441-61; John McCardell, The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), 119-33.
(83.) Henry Benning, speech, Nov. 19, and Robert Toombs, speech, Nov. 13, 1860, in Freehling and Simpson, Secession Debated, 118, 40.
(84.) Dew, Apostles of Disunion.
(85.) A. Hood to Howell Cobb, Dec. 19,1860, Toombs, Stephens, and Cobb Correspondence, 524.
(86.) Pereyra, Alcorn, 44.
(87.) Kibler, Perry, 340, 349. Similar testimony can be found in the unionist newspapers of the Lower South. For example, see Augusta Daily Constitutionalist, Dec. 30, 1860, New Orleans Daily True Delta, Feb. 15, 1861, in Dumond, Southern Editorials, 380-86,457-60.
(88.) Kibler, Perry, 347-50; Pereyra, Alcorn, 41-44; Richard N. Current, Lincoln's Loyalists: Union Soldiers from the Confederacy (Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 1992), 89-110; "James Alcorn," "Samuel Houston," "Benjamin Perry," "Alexander Stephens," in American National Biography; Crofts, Reluctant Confederates, 334-52.
(89.) Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 110, 112; Allen W. Trelease, "Who Were the Scalawags?" Journal of Southern History 29 (Nov. 1963): 445-68.
Map 1. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Agriculture of the Unites States in 1860 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1864).
Map 2. For South Carolina: John Barnwell, Love of Order: South Carolina's First Secession Crisis (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1982), 198-99, tabulates the poll for the 1851 convention. For Georgia: The Great American History Machine (CD-ROM; produced by the Academic Software Development Group, College Park, Md.), presents the 1851 congressional vote. Map 2 shows counties voting 49 percent or more for the States Rights party. For Alabama: The Great American History Machine details the support for the States Rights party in 1852. Map 2 displays counties where the party received 5 percent or more of the vote. For Mississippi: John McCardell, "John A. Quitman and the Compromise of 1850 in Mississippi," Journal of Mississippi History 37 (1975): 266, shows the vote for the 1851 convention.
Map 3. For Georgia: Consult Ralph A. Wooster, The Secession Conventions of the South (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1962), 81. Map 3 shows the counties where the entire delegation supported immediate secession. For Alabama and Mississippi: William L. Barney, The Secessionist Impulse: Alabama and Mississippi in 1860 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1974), 317-20, presents returns. Map 3 indicates the counties where secessionists received 65 percent or more. For Louisiana: Charles B. Dew, "Who Won the Secession Election in Louisiana," Journal of Southern History 36 (1970): 26-29, provides data. Map 3 shows the districts where secessionists received 65 percent or more. For Texas: Consult Joe T. Timmons, "The Referendum in Texas on the Ordinance of Secession, February 23,1861: The Vote," East Texas Historical Journal 11 (Fall 1973): 15-16. Map 3 shows all counties where 85 percent or more of the voters supported the secession ordinance. The percentage is set so high because Texans seemed to have little choice; they voted after all other states in the Lower South had seceded.
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|Publication:||Civil War History|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2004|
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