Apostles of Disunion

556 words | 2 page(s)

According to Charles Dew, why did many Southerners believe their states should secede from the Union after Lincoln was elected president in November 1860?

In November 1860, Southerners moving to separate themselves from the Union is referred to as “secession winter” and the cause of this has been the subject of much debate over the decades. The debate focuses on whether Confederate states seceded to uphold states’ rights or if they seceded because they wanted to hang on to the institution of slavery, as they felt it was part of their rights to have slaves.
During this time, politicians who were slave owners served as commissioners that wrote letters encouraging people to disband from the Union by secession and also war. The purpose of this was to stand up for the rights of the states, particularly as it pertained to slavery. Dew stated that those in favor of secession were very vocal about what they thought about slavery. President Lincoln and the Republican party were practicing abolitionists who believed in equal rights for the black race and they pushed to achieve racial equality. Those opposed had feared cultural destruction in the white race, if racial equality was allowed. They also felt threatened by race wars and racial mixing in society, and felt the Republican’s way would cost southerners their property, liberties and “the sacred purity” of their daughters (79). It is evident that those who opposed President Lincoln and the Republican party’s rule had their own motives for not wanting slavery abolished. They were afraid that the black race would somehow take over and strip them of what they possessed.

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President Lincoln and the Republican party’s rule left the states to decide about slavery themselves, and the secessionists felt separating from the Union was their best option. Dew highlights that Republicans had intentions of bypassing what the Constitution mandated that slavery would not be extended into the territories.

It certainly appears, even though the Democrats denied it, that they wanted to protect slavery and their “rights” to have slaves and felt threatened because President Lincoln and the Republican party were willing to embark upon civil war and not move toward changing slavery currently in existence, but was adamant about not extending slavery.

Secessionists’ racial fears were a large part of their motivation for separating from the Union, but they propose that the issue of slavery and race had much to do with causing the Civil War. This was apparently evident in the letters from the secession commissioners, which showed animosity toward President Lincoln and the Republicans for wanting to abolish slavery (81). This was, no doubt, aggravated by the choice the Republican party put forth, and that was that “the slave states could secede and establish their independence, or they could submit to ‘Black Republican’ rule with its inevitable consequences” (80). Due to this, states in the Deep South as well as the Confederates were advocates for secession from the Union. The premise was that white Southerners preferred to revolt rather than be “degraded” by being subjected to treating black people equally. This was the motivation of the secessionist commissioners who believed that electing Lincoln would lead to the degradation of their racial “rights” as citizens who were for slavery, rather than being against it.

  • Dew, C. B. Apostles of Disunion. University Press of Virginia, 2002. Print. 21 November 2013.

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