Topic One-hundred-thirteen: Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy
THE CONFEDERACY FORMS WITH SECESSION
A feeling of triumph erupted throughout the South when the Confederate government was formed in 1861. A sense of liberation pervaded the secessionist states, as Southerners believed they could finally be free from the tyrannous North, which sought to undermine the slave-based economy and Southern way of life. Most secessionists saw themselves as neo-patriots, carrying on the revolutionary tradition of their forefathers to safeguard liberty. Many in the South saw Lincoln as the new King George III of Britain and viewed the South as the righteous underdog.
Southerners were also optimistic about their chances of winning the war. They realized that the North would have to fight an offensive war on Southern territory, whereas the South had only to fight a limited war to defeat Union armies or match them in a stalemate. As a result, many Southerners saw victory as inevitable.
The Confederate Government is Planned
Delegates from the first seven states to secede—South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana—formed the government of the new Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861. They wrote a new constitution, established a new capital at Richmond, and chose Jefferson Davis as president.
Federation vs. Confederation
Although the government of the Confederacy looked on the surface much like the government of the United States—the Confederacy used the U.S. Constitution as a template—the two were in reality quite different. As states’ writers, the drafters of the Confederate constitution made sure that their federal government was relatively weaker than the governments of the individual states. Whereas the United States was a federation of states bound by a strong central government, the South was a decentralized confederation of states loosely allied with each other for common defense. In many ways, the Confederacy resembled the United States under the Articles of Confederation. As it turned out, though, the Confederacy’s weak central government proved to be a major handicap during the war.