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“The temper of the Republicans is not to give us our right in the Union, or allow us to go peaceably out of it” … Jefferson Davis to Francis W. Pickens, Governor of South Carolina

I cannot place any confidence in the adherence of the [Lincoln] administration to a fixed line of policy. I take it for granted that the time allowed to the garrison of Fort Sumter has been diligently employed by yourselves, so that before you could be driven out of your earthworks, you will be able to capture the fort which commands them. I have not sufficiently learned your policy in relations to the garrison at Fort Sumter, to understand whether the expectation is to compel them to capitulate for want of supplies, or whether it is only to prevent the transmission of reports and the receipt of orders. To shut them up with a view to starve them into submission would create a sympathetic action much greater than any which could be obtained on the present issue. I doubt very much the loyalty of the garrison, and it has occurred to me that if they could receive no reinforcements–and I suppose you sufficiently command the entrance to the harbor to prevent it–and there could be no danger of the freest intercourse between the garrison and the city… from the same letter

In early February 1861, the states of the lower South established a new government, the Confederate States of America, in Montgomery, Alabama, and drafted a constitution. Although modelled on the U.S. Constitution, this document specifically referred to slavery, state sovereignty, and God. It explicitly guaranteed slavery in the states and territories, but prohibited the international slave trade. It also limited the President to a single six-year term, gave the President a line-item veto, required a two-thirds vote of Congress to admit new states, and prohibited protective tariffs and government funding of internal improvements.

As President, the Confederates selected former U.S. Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (1808-1889). The Alabama secessionist William L. Yancey (1814-1863) introduced Davis as Confederate President by declaring: “The man and the hour have met. Prosperity, honor, and victory await his administration.”

Davis was far more qualified to be President than Lincoln. Unlike the Republican President, who had no formal education, Davis was a West Point graduate. And while Lincoln had only two weeks of military experience, as a militia captain, without combat experience in the Black Hawk War, Davis had served as a regimental commander during the Mexican War... from Digital History


Days of defiance : Sumter, secession, and the coming of the Civil War    New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1997 Maury Klein Secession Southern States, Fort Sumter (Charleston, S.C.) Siege, 1861 Hardcover. 1st. ed. xii, 496 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [470]-482) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

A dramatic narrative that depicts how secession struck at the heart of republican government itself in the five months leading up to the Civil War. Klein  notes that the 1860 presidential election featured three candidates (Stephen Douglas, John Breckinridge, and John Bell) splintering the Democratic Party along sectional lines, with the successful Republican, Abraham Lincoln, taking only 40 percent of the popular vote, and all of his electoral votes were from the North.

The party system, Klein writes, mirrored a country riven by differences arising from a growing immigrant population and, more important, from state and local customs regarding “every shared national concept–democracy, religion, [and] freedom.”

Southern states, threatened by Republican opposition to the economically ruinous policies and denial of their sovereign rights, seceded one after another. Klein’s focus on how individuals on both sides stumbled their way through this crisis throws these issues of nationalism into sharp relief.

In Washington, lame-duck Democratic president James Buchanan, exhausted by sectional controversies, impotently declared that the South had no right to secession and the North no power to impede it. In Charleston Harbor, Major Robert Anderson, after waiting in vain for explicit orders from Buchanan, sought a more fortified position by moving his command to the supposedly secure Fort Sumter AND training his guns on the city – the first overt act of war.

Meanwhile, Congress debated and peace commissioners from North and South met to no effect; Secretary of State William Seward gave private assurances to Confederate emissaries that Fort Sumter would be evacuated; and Lincoln, whose inscrutability matched his inexperience, finally hit upon how to place the onus for starting the war on the new Confederate government: by providing provisions to Sumter but no reinforcements and so engineered the start to the war that John Brown had wanted, his radical abolitionists supporters demanded and his railroad partners acquiesced to in order to get a strong central government that could provide the right of way for their transcontinental railroad.

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