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Posted at 9:39 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Dennis Frye: Why did South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas choose to secede?,

By Dennis Frye

Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Frye

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest in the world.”

Mississippi’s Declaration of Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State did not equivocate. Each of the inaugural Confederate states—in their own departure documents--shared Mississippi’s resolution that “a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Slavery cemented the Confederate coalition. Underlying principles justified it.

Minority rights in government (meaning fair representation for the South) appeared threatened. The election of 1860 resulted in Republican control of the White House, the US House, and Northern legislatures. Texas declared the Federal government “under control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies.” Georgians determined the party of Lincoln “shall not rule over them.”

This “hopeless minority of the slave-holding states” endangered property rights. Slave owners estimated their slave property at $4 billion in 1860. Extraordinary, considering the average worker earned $1.00 a day. Southerners witnessed anti-slavery measures make their property illegal in the North; unwelcome in new territories; and denied in new states. Laws pertaining to the return of slave property had been ignored or legislated against--in direct violation of the Constitution (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3), “thereby annulling a material provision of the compact.”

South Carolina best enunciated the principle of compact, preached for decades by its native son John C. Calhoun--states had voluntarily joined the Union (the compact), and voluntarily could separate. “We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual.” The Palmetto State argued that since the North had enacted laws that “nullify the Acts of Congress” and rescinded its constitutional obligations to return fleeing slaves (property), “the compact had been deliberately broken.” The North, therefore, first and continually breached the compact, offering the South the right to dissolve it entirely.

The right to peaceful existence also exploded the Southern thermometer. After 20 years of abolitionist agitation and the John Brown Raid, Georgia asserted: “The public law of civilized nations requires every State to restrain its citizens or subjects from committing acts injurious to the peace and security of any other State and from attempting to excite insurrection, or to lessen the security, or to disturb the tranquility of their neighbors.”

Racial inequality was another fundamental principle. Texas declared the Confederacy was established “exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their prosperity.” The African race “were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.”

Citing the Declaration of Independence, South Carolina reminded the North that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”

By Dennis Frye  | February 22, 2011; 9:39 AM ET
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Comments

Great article!!!!

Posted by: persingerce | February 24, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

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