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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 12/13/2010

Frank Williams: What motivated South carolin to secede so quickly?

By Frank Williams

Chairman of The Lincoln Forum


South Carolina, or the hotheads leading public opinion there, could not wait to secede. Any act by the North or Northerners would and did precipitate secession by (1) electing Lincoln president and (2) President Buchanan's weak-hearted attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter with the "Star of The West."

There is a theory promulgated by Douglas Edgerton and others that Southern firebrands [Robert] Rhett and [William] Yancey conspired with others to insure the defeat of Stephen A. Douglas - a fellow Democrat - and insure Lincoln's election so Southern states could secede. Buchanan's reaction to South Carolina was limp and only an excuse for the state to leave.

William W. Freehling said it best in his "The Road to Disunion" (Oxford), "The northern majority would no longer tolerate the southern minority's sway, either in the National Democratic Party or in the nation. South Carolinians would not tolerate the supposedly mobocratic agitation of a Southern Republican Party. James Buchanan would not tolerate the losers' failure to obey the election winners. Lower South states would not tolerate Buchanan's "Star of the West." Abraham Lincoln would not tolerate southern possession of Forts Pickens and Sumter. The Middle South would not tolerate Lincoln's coercion of seceded states. Once South Carolina's tiny minority of Southerners dared, three decades of mounting intolerance - and hatred - had eaten away too many pillars of majoritarian Union."

By Frank Williams  | December 13, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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