Seven Deep South states passed secession ordinances by February 1861 in
the aftermath of the 1860 presidential election.
Examine the South's arguments for secession and the reaction to secession in the North
Declaring themselves the Confederate States of
America, seven states elected Jefferson Davis as the provisional
president and began raising an army.
Secessionists justified their actions by
claiming that the U.S. Constitution was a compact between states that could be
dissolved at any time by state legislatures when the federal government
encroached upon their sovereignty.
As part of its efforts to assert independence,
the Confederacy appointed several ministers to European nations and refused to
surrender U.S. federal arsenals or properties to Washington, precipitating the
events that led to the Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861.
A cultural and geographic subregion of the American
South. Historically, it is differentiated from the "Upper South" due
to its higher dependence on plantation-type agriculture during the pre-Civil
War period. The Deep South also was commonly referred to as the "Lower South" or
the "Cotton States."
The Confederate States of America (also called the "Confederate States," the "CSA," and the "South") was a government set up from 1861
to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states that had declared their independence from
the United States union.
As part of their justification for leaving the Union after the election
of 1860, secessionists argued that the Constitution was a compact among states
that could be abandoned at any time without consultation, and that each state
reserved the right to secede from the compact. South Carolina invoked the
Declaration of Independence to defend their right to secede from the Union,
seeing their declaration of secession as a comparable document. Seven Deep
South states passed secession ordinances by February 1861 prior to Abraham Lincoln
acceding to office. Declaring themselves the Confederate States of America,
these seven states elected Jefferson Davis as their provisional president; declared Montgomery, Alabama, the nation's capital; and began raising an army.
In the aftermath of the
1860 presidential election, sitting President Buchanan did little to halt the
wave of Southern secession. Believing that the key to good government was
restraint, he refused to deploy troops or additional artillery to federal
properties under threat. Paradoxically, in his final address to Congress,
Buchanan denied that states had a right to secede from the Union, but also held
that the federal government could not prevent secession from happening through
the use of force. Instead, Buchanan proposed a constitutional amendment
reaffirming slavery as a protected American institution, strengthening existing
fugitive slave laws, and preventing Congress from legislating against the
expansion of slavery into federal territories.
In Congress, many proposals were drafted in an attempt to appease the Southern seceding states. The Crittenden Compromise of December 1860 proposed
that the old Missouri Compromise latitude boundary line be extended west to the
Pacific. Unfortunately, this proposal was in direct conflict with the stated
policies of the Republican Party and president-elect Lincoln, and Southern
leaders refused to agree to the compromise without a full endorsement from
Republicans. This resulted in a stalemate between both sides, and the
Crittenden Compromise was ultimately voted down in the Senate.
On February 4, 1861, a Peace Conference convened in Washington, D.C., comprised of more than 100 of the leading politicians of the antebellum period.
Many attended with the belief that they could avert the crisis toward which
secession was heading, whereas some attended in order to safeguard their own
sectional interests in what they believed to be an unstoppable escalation of
hostilities. Delegations from Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota,
California, Oregon, and all of the Deep South states were not present at the
also initially tried to pacify the seceding states in his presidential inaugural address, in which he explicitly promised to preserve slavery in the states it
already existed in and implied support for the proposed Corwin Amendment, which
would have given further protections to slavery in the Constitution. However,
efforts by the Confederate States to forcibly remove U.S. troops and federal
presence from its territory, culminating in the Battle of Fort Sumter, pushed
the two factions irreversibly toward war.
Progression of Hostilities
After the Confederate
attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and Lincoln's subsequent call for
troops on April 15, four more states declared their secession. By spring 1861,
the Confederacy was composed of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Although slaveholding Delaware and Maryland did not secede, citizens from those
states exhibited divided loyalties, and Lincoln implemented a system of
compensated emancipation and slave confiscation from "disloyal
citizens" in these border states during the Civil War.
The U.S. government did
not declare war on the Confederate States, but it did conduct military efforts
beginning with a presidential proclamation issued April 15, 1861, which called
for troops to recapture Southern forts and suppress a Southern rebellion.
Immediately following Fort Sumter, the Confederate Congress declared war
against the United States and the Civil War officially began.
During the four years of
its wartime existence, the Confederacy asserted its independence by appointing
dozens of diplomatic agents abroad. The U.S. government, on the other hand,
regarded the organization of Confederate states a rebellion and refused any
formal recognition of their government. The United States issued warnings to Europe
(particularly Britain) that threatened hostile relations if the Confederacy was
recognized internationally. Throughout the early years of the war, British
foreign secretary Lord John Russell, Napoleon III of France, and other foreign
leaders showed interest in recognizing the Confederacy, or at least in a mediation
in the war. However, Europe remained largely neutral in the Civil War,
unwilling to lose trading relations with the United States. At the same time,
foreign governments curiously watched the political evolution of the
Confederacy and sent military observers to assess Confederate autonomy in the
event that the South prevailed in its fight for nationhood.