Words Essay

Topics: United States, Confederate States of America, Southern United States Pages: 8 (979 words) Published: October 2, 2014
 Ambiguous Words

Essay Question: “Southerners maintained that secession was the ultimate expression of democracy, while Lincoln claimed it was rejection of democracy. How

did they explain and justify their principles.”

On December 20, 1860, the Confederacy was born when South Carolina

seceded from the federal Union. The Union and the Confederacy severely clashed in

their views on the Constitution; the South felt that individual states should have the right

to nullify laws, while Abraham Lincoln believed the federal government should appoint

representatives for individual states. The South and Abraham Lincoln contrasted

sharply on the idea of secession because the Constitution was ambiguous regarding

Immediately following the election of Lincoln, the southern secessionists wanted

to separate from the Union. Southerners feared that the Republican victory in 1860

would “interfere in their domestic concerns–particularly their right to property and slaves

as guaranteed by the fifth amendment of the Bill of Rights” (Jones 24). As a result, the

state of South Carolina held a convention and voted to secede from the Union.

Following South Carolina’s lead, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and

Texas also seceded. “Their growing minority status had left them vulnerable to northern

oppression; their right to withdraw from the governing pact remained a fundamental

precept of the Declaration of Independence” (24). Representatives from each state

convened on February 1860, to create the Confederate States of America. Although

this document was roughly based on the Constitution, it assigned limits on the

government’s power to impose tariffs and restrictions on slavery. The southerners felt

that they needed to create a new constitution because “the preamble to the Constitution

. . . does not propose to make the old Union more perfect, but to ‘form a more perfect

Union;’ that is, to create a new and better one” (6). At the convention, the southerners

declared that “they are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states” (Stampp

5). Southern whites felt that they were acting in the tradition of the Revolution of 1776;

therefore, they had a right to national independence and to nullify a constitutional

compact that did not protect them from northern cruelty. “Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

argued that the old compact ‘had been repeatedly broken by every state in the Union;

and . . . when the parties to a treaty violate it, it is no longer binding” (7). Continuing

with this notion, the southern states justified their succession with the idea that the

federal government was interpreting the Founding Fathers’s documents incorrectly,

thus, infringing on their natural rights to life, liberty and property. Additionally, the

seceded states claimed that they had a legal right to secede from the Union because

they voluntarily joined the Union, and the Constitution had no clause prohibiting

withdrawal from the Union. The Confederacy’s last defense was “that the states are

older than the Union. . . they created the Union but without yielding any party of their

sovereignty,” (5). Therefore, if the Union tried in anyway to relieve the South of their

sovereignty, they would secede under their Constitutional rights. The South believed

that when the Declaration of Independence stated “all men are created equal,” the

document was only referring to white men owning property. As a result, their

interpretation of the Declaration of Independence was the opposite of Lincoln’s, causing

Contrarily, Lincoln saw no reason why the South would secede from the Union.

He felt that there was no economic advantage to joining an independent slave South.

“[The Confederacy] rejected secessionists arguments that an identity of economic

interest linked all slaveholding sates” (Crofts 106). Lincoln, along with...

Bibliography: Crisis. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
Jones, Howard. Abraham Lincoln and a new birth of freedom: the Union and slavery
the diplomacy of the Civil War. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
Stampp, Kenneth M. The Imperiled Union. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
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