Secession and the Civil War--
About the Process of Secession-- HOME PAGE
. . . Holding the Union Together
Holding the Union Together Commander & Chief
of the United States
Soon after Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in
November 1860, seven southern states seceded from the Union.
In March 1861, after he was inaugurated as the 16th
President of the United States, four more followed.
The secessionists claimed that according to the
Constitution every state had the right to leave the Union.
Lincoln claimed that they did not have that right. He
opposed secession for these reasons:
Definition: To secede–verb (used without object),
-ced·ed, -ced·ing. to withdraw formally from an alliance, federation, or
association, as from a political union, a religious
With these Lincoln thoughts and values, the United States
would enter a four-year Civil War, 1861-1865. Lincoln did
not allow the seceded states' stars to be taken off the
flag. He considered his job, one of ending the division,
and making the country one again. This would take great
leadership skills, as well as political skills. The United
States was seemingly falling apart, but Abraham Lincoln
wasn't going to allow it.
"Cannot or Should not Secede" reasons:
The Union Viewpoint
The Confederate Viewpoint
Your Opinion: Should they have & Why?
1. Physically, the states cannot
separate from the union . .. .
2. Secession is unlawful. .
3. A government that allows secession
will disintegrate into anarchy.
. . .
4. That Americans are not enemies, but
5. Secession would destroy the world's
only existing democracy, and prove for all time,
to future Americans and to the world, that a
government of the people cannot survive. .
. . .
Secession was not a new idea. During the history of the
U.S., politicians in cities and states would get irritated
with the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and mention the idea of
secession. New York City considered secession.
1. About the same time that Abraham Lincoln was elected
President, a small group of southern states had already
seceded. What states were first to secede?
2. List all the states that seceded from the U.S.
3. What did the President think about secession?
4. Did President Lincoln remove the seceded states' stars
from the U.S. flag?
5. What was the main cause of the Civil War?
6. What act of war occurred (when, where and what) to start
the Civil War?
SECESSION: States would declare that
were leaving the Union. Secession had been considered by states
as far back as Jefferson's time, and even by cities such as New York
It was not a new idea, but is one that most patriotic Americans do not
to think of as a part of our history.
Soon after Abraham Lincoln was
to the presidency in November 1860, seven southern states seceded from
Union. In March 1861, after he was inaugurated as the 16th President of
the United States, four more followed.
This secession movement brought about the American Civil
War. The position of the Union was that the Confederacy
was not a sovereign nation—and never had been, but that
"the Union" was always a single nation by intent of the
states themselves, from 1776 onward—and thus that a
rebellion had been initiated by individuals. Historian
Bruce Catton described President Abraham Lincoln's April
15, 1861, proclamation after the attack on Fort Sumter,
which defined the Union's position on the hostilities:
After reciting the obvious fact that "combinations too
powerful to be suppressed" by ordinary law courts and
marshals had taken charge of affairs in the seven
secessionist states, it announced that the several
states of the Union were called on to contribute 75,000
militia "...to suppress said combinations and to cause
the laws to be duly executed." ... "And I hereby command
the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to
disperse, and retire peacefully to their respective
abodes within twenty days from this date.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST SECESSION
1. Physically, the states cannot
separate from the union
2. Secession is unlawful.
3. A government that allows
secession will disintegrate into anarchy.
4. That Americans are not enemies,
5. Secession would destroy the
world's only existing democracy, and prove for all time, to future
and to the world, that a government of the people cannot survive.
Carolina Secedes "The First To Act" December 20,
The doctrine of state's
rights, the legality of secession, and the institution of black slavery
had been issues of debate in the United States for decades before the
election of Abraham Lincoln brought on the secession of the Southern
states. Time after time the South had forced political compromises by
threatening to dissolve the union, but by 1860 many Northern politicians
had come to view the threat as a bluff and were sick of compromising
when it came to slavery. Southerners were thoroughly indoctrinated in
the issues, and their education emphasized the inviolability of the
Constitution and honored such state's-rights leaders as Thomas Jefferson
and John C. Calhoun.
"The tug has to come and
better now, than any time hereafter," wrote President-elect Lincoln in
response to the movements among Southerners toward making good their
threat to remove themselves from the United States if he were elected.
On November 10, 1860, four days after the election, the legislature in
South Carolina, the undisputed leading agitator for secession and the
home of John C. Calhoun, became the first of the Southern congresses to
call for a convention to consider secession.
Meeting in Charleston on
December 20, that convention passed unanimously the first ordinance of
secession, which stated, "We, the people of the State of South Carolina
in convention assembled, do declare and ordain... that the Union now
subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of
'the United States of America,' is hereby dissolved," making South
Carolina a free and independent country. The people of Charleston went
wild with joy amid fireworks, booming cannon, and ringing bells. Within
six weeks, six other states in the Deep South followed South Carolina
out of the Union. Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote, "We are
divorced, North and South, because we have hated each other so."
. . . With these Lincoln thoughts and
values, the United States would enter a four-year Civil War,
1861-1865. Lincoln did not allow the seceded states stars to be
taken off the flag. He considered his job, one of ending the
division, and making the country one again. This would take
great leadership skills, as well as political skills. The
United States was seemingly falling apart, but Abraham Lincoln
wasn't going to allow it.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850-- A federal law that demands
that runaway slaves be returned from the north, and no aid be given to
them. Jail time and a $1,000 fine could occur by persons breaking this
Songs used by slaves to communicate to each other. Very few could read
& write, and it would be very dangerous to use written notes, so
.......A song like
"Follow the Drinking Gourd" was used to provide secret
messages on how to travel on the railroad. Songs slaves sang often had
double meanings. Since slaves were forbidden to read and write, they had
to communicate in ways that would not be obvious to their slave owners.
One way was through song. (In tribal cultures of Africa, songs were
often used to transmit information and therefore historians tell us
that slaves used this same method when captured and enslaved in
America. Have students listen to and/or read the lyrics to the song
the Drinking Gourd” and then challenge them to crack its code.
(Historians know that the lyrics secretly identified landmarks and
constellations to guide slaves along the trail to freedom. A “drinking
gourd” described the Big Dipper constellation and its North Star, since
slaves were familiar with carved gourds which they used to scoop water
from buckets to get a drink.)
the lyrics of "Follow the Drinking Guard." Teachers can find lyric
meanings at the
NASA Quest Archives.