The secession of southern slave states from the Union, starting in 1860, caused a ripple effect. South Carolina was the first state to break from the Union, and was followed by Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861), Texas (February 1, 1861), Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), Tennessee (May 6, 1861), and North Carolina (May 21, 1861).
The first succession wave occurred within a two month period. South Carolina justified breaking from the Union on the argument that the Federal government had stripped the state of powers granted by the U.S. Constitution. The state of South Carolina declared that the Federal government had “assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution” . This was a direct reference to slavery. One month later, Mississippi followed South Carolina under the same constitutional justification and stated in a declaration that “our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth” . Furthermore, Mississippi accused the federal government of numerous other accusations to include the denial of property rights, advocating negro equality, refusing the admittance of new slave states, nullifying the Fugitive Slave Laws, and enlisting the press, pulpit and schools against the south .
Florida did not offer a declaration for succession on January 10, 1861, but a day later Alabama broke from the Union by passing an Ordinance of Secession in which it stated that all “powers over the territory of said state, and over the people thereof, heretofore delegated to the government of the United States of America, be and they are hereby withdrawn from said Government, and are hereby resumed and vested in the people of the state of Alabama” . Georgia was eight days behind their neighbor Alabama with the same slavery-justifying argument as all slaveholding states that had already broken from the Union. Georgia accused the Federal Government’s stance against slavery as outlawing “$3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union”  and “not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides” , obvious references to possible emancipation of American slaves. Louisiana and Texas were the final two states of the first wave to secede.
After the first wave of succession was completed, all the seceded states adopted a Confederate Constitution in Montgomery, Alabama (the same city which would see the origins of a Civil Rights Bus Boycott a century later) during the first week of February 1861 with Jefferson Davis being elected as the president of the Confederate States. Meanwhile, President Lincoln provided his Inauguration speech on March 4, 1861 and stated that “a husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this” . Lincoln refused to accept Confederate succession, and the Union attempt to maintain control over Fort Sumter in Confederate territory prompted the first battle of the Civil War which caused the second wave of succession to begin. Previous to the events at Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s summoning of 75,000 militia men to attack Fort Sumter, the states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina had loosely remained with the Union . Virginia succession followed rapidly after the Fort Sumter episode with an Ordinance that “the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States” . Arkansas and Tennessee followed a month later. Arkansas, through very tough words, passed an ordinance stating “war should be waged against”  any powers trying to coerce any state that had seceded from the “old Union” . North Carolina was the last state to break from the Union.
It is clear that the issues of American slavery, industrial technology, and economic capitalist exploitation of human beings were the cause of American division and the chain reaction of succession. The arguments of constitutional rights and loud patriotic cries of property rights being trampled seem incredible today….simply because they were used to justify civil war and, more importantly, mass human enslavement. The physical destruction caused by the Civil War was basic damage compared to the massive social and economic ramifications caused by American slavery; ramifications that still exist grow and fester today.
1. Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Sucession of South Carolina From the Federal Union. 1860. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/south_secede/south_secede_southcarolina.cfm
2. A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. 1860. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/south_secede/south_secede_mississippi.cfm
3. A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. 1860. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/south_secede/south_secede_mississippi.cfm
4. Ordinance of Secession of Alabama Passed January 11, 1861. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed February 7, 2014 from http://www.csawardept.com/documents/secession/AL/
5. Georgia Declaration of Secession. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.civil-war.net/pages/georgia_declaration.asp
6. Georgia Declaration of Secession. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.civil-war.net/pages/georgia_declaration.asp
7. Abraham Lincoln. Inaugural Address of March4, 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25818
8. Abraham Lincoln. Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed February 7, 2014 from http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/proc-1.htm
9. Virginia Ordinance of Secession. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed February 7, 2014 from http://www.wvculture.org/history/statehood/ordinanceofsecession.html
10. Ordinance of Succession of Arkansas Passed May 6, 1861. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.csawardept.com/documents/secession/AR/
11. Ordinance of Succession of Arkansas Passed May 6, 1861. 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 7, 2014 from http://www.csawardept.com/documents/secession/AR/
SUPPLEMENTAL: HOW DID SOUTHERN LEADERS VIEW SUCCESSION?
Before Mississippi passed its ordinance to succeed from the Union, Jefferson Davis represented that state in the Senate. Many of his views concerning succession can be understood through his January 21, 1861 resignation speech before the U.S. Senate. Davis was a strong proponent of state rights, to include the right to succession, and he refuse to acknowledge nullification. Looking at nullification, Davis viewed it to only be justified when a state had violated its constitutional obligations, and certainly felt that the succession of Mississippi and the other Confederate states were not in violation of those obligations. Davis held the view that the state was a sovereign entity, and that succession was not a rebellion or uprising because the people of a succession state were not bound to those Union laws because through succession each state “surrenders all the benefits (and they are known to be many), deprives herself of the advantages (they are known to be great), severs all the ties of affection (and they are close and enduring), which have bound her to the Union; and thus divesting herself of every benefit, taking upon herself every burden, she claims to be exempt from any power to execute the laws of the United States within her limits” . Davis was also in favor of state property rights and held extremely pro-slavery views which are shown by his declaration that “when our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for the very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the footing of equality with white men - not even upon that of paupers and convicts; but, so far as representation was concerned, were discriminated against as a lower caste, only to be represented in the numerical proportion of three-fifths” .
The views of Davis were echoed throughout the south and the new Confederacy, and this is clear by his nomination and election to Confederate presidency. The Vice President of the Confederate states was Alexander H Stephens, a long term Representative in the U.S. House from the state of Georgia, who held similar views as Davis. In his address dated March 21, 1861, he described the new Confederate government as one where “no citizen is deprived of life, liberty, or property” , a hypocritical proclamation to protect the interests of slavery under a government where “all the essentials of the old Constitution, which have endeared it to the hearts of the American people, have been preserved and perpetuated” . To leaders such as Davis and Stephens, the issues that had caused southern succession were predominantly based on Constitutional and state rights. Despite enslaving other human beings, the human injustice of slavery was second nature to these types of white southern leaders as the majority of this demographic truly felt that their rights had been severely victimized by the federal government. The arguments of constitutional and property rights while protecting the economic interests of human slavery must certainly must have been one of the most hypocritical argument views of human history.
1. Jefferson Davis. 1861. Senate Chamber Speech dated January 21, 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 10, 1861. https://jeffersondavis.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=87
2. Jefferson Davis. 1861. Senate Chamber Speech dated January 21, 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 10, 1861. https://jeffersondavis.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=87
3. Alexander H. Stephens. 1861. Conerstone Address dated March 21, 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 10, 1861. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1861stephens.asp
4. Alexander H. Stephens. 1861. Conerstone Address dated March 21, 1861. Public Domain. Accessed on February 10, 1861. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1861stephens.asp