The secession of the southern states



Already in 1856 an intention not to submit to the decision of the people, if adverse to the views of the slave-holders, had been manifested. A secret convention of Southern governors was held at Raleigh, North Carolina, in October, 1856, whose animus was afterwards indicated by Governor Wise, of Virginia, in the statement that if Fremont had been elected an army of twenty thousand men would have marched to Washington and seized the Capitol, in order forcibly to prevent his inauguration. In October, 1860, a meeting of prominent politicians was held in South Carolina, which resolved on secession in the event of Lincoln's election. Similar meetings were held in several of the Gulf States. This was no idle threat. The most joyful enthusiasm was manifested in Charleston, South Carolina, when the news of Lincoln's election reached the "Fire-Eaters" of that city, and they felt that the opportunity for what they had long desired was at hand. The fact that the Democrats still retained a majority in Congress was not enough for the ultra Southern leaders. The passions of the people were at fever-heat. Secession had been already determined upon. It could at that time be attempted with advantage, from the fact that the administration was still Democratic, and there was little fear of active interference with measures of disunion before March, 1861. Compromises were attempted, but no one would listen to them. Before New-Year's day, 1861, South Carolina had passed an ordinance of secession and set up as an independent power. Other States followed,--Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The northern range of slave States as yet refused to follow this example, and did not do so until after war had actually broken out.

These acts of secession were quickly followed by the seizure of the United States forts and arsenals in the seceding States, to which action the authorities at Washington manifested no opposition, and indeed, as has been declared, took good care that they should be well supplied with munitions of war. Major Robert Anderson, in charge of the forts in Charleston harbor, promptly evacuated Fort Moultrie, as incapable of defence, and established himself in Fort Sumter with his small garrison of one hundred and twenty-eight men. The remaining forts and the arsenal were at once seized, and volunteers came pouring into the city. Similar seizures were made in the other seceding States, and even in North Carolina, which had not seceded. About thirty forts, mounting over three thousand guns, and having cost the United States twenty million dollars, were thus forcibly taken possession of. A convention was held at Montgomery, Alabama, a Constitution adopted, and Jefferson Davis elected President, with Alexander H. Stephens for Vice-President, of the Confederated Southern States.





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