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

John Marszalek: What motivated South Carolina to secede so quickly?

By John Marszalek

Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history at Mississippi State University

Over the years there has been a good deal of writing on secession and the coming of the war, and South Carolina, which went first, always receives particular interest. I continue to believe, however, that the best analysis of South Carolina secession remains an older but still classic publication: Steven Channing's, "Crisis of Fear in South Carolina" (1970).

The title gives insight into the thesis, but one must read the entire book to understand the subtlety and thoroughness of Channing's argument. It was fear about the future of slavery that drove South Carolina to leave the Union.

In a brief statement of Channing's argument: South Carolina feared what the newly organized Republican Party under new president Abraham Lincoln would mean to them. Lincoln said in his first inaugural that he would not touch slavery where it already existed, as in South Carolina, but that he would not allow it to expand into the new territories. In other words, slavery could only exist where it already did. However, South Carolinians feared slavery insurrection and what that would do to their white society. If slavery could not expand into the new territories, not only would land within the state soon be depleted, but blacks would come to outnumber whites by such a huge number that they would rise up and take over, egged on by the militant abolitionists.Thus, in order to protect themselves from such possibilities, to deal with such fears, South Carolina had to secede for self protection right away. Time was running out.

By John Marszalek  | December 13, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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Next: Lonnie Bunch: What motivated South Carolina to secede so quickly?


Lincoln stayed at the Crenshaw house while campaigning. In Equality, Illinois, Saline County. Hickory Hill as it was called was a slave house. He danced while slaves were in breeding rooms a floor above. Lincoln got into politics to create new river routes and he is the only president with a patent, to raise grounded riverboats and get them flowing again, up North. First thing he brought back into the union was the Mississippi. Slavery was in ALL the states. Difference was you could own them in the South. You had to lease them in the North. Industries used indentured servants. The South wanted a slave empire. If they had a guaranty of a free flowing Mississippi, the war would not have been fought. It was fear of a Southern empire, in the North, and a fear of slavery being squeezed in the South. Greed then as greed now rules. Now we have young black men walking around in Nike caps. I don't know why they don't just put on white hoods. Means the same thing. No one minds slave labor today. Why would anyone really care then? The old South on average takes in about 1.50 for every dollar they pay in taxes. The South loves Federalism. Yells small government, practices a big overbearing plutocracy sucking in pork as fast as they can. We still are so self centered we don't see our own hypocrisy. Not much has changed in 150 years. Next time, let them go. It will cut down on the debt and we can fly our goods in.

Posted by: GriffBennett | December 20, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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