Why Did Alabama Secede?

Alabama didn’t publish a separate document explaining her reasons for seceding, but her Ordinance of Secession took care of that:

[begin quote] AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of Alabama and other States united under the compact styled “The Constitution of the United States of America.”

Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the officers of President and Vice-President of the United States of America by a sectional party avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama, preceded by many and dangerous infractions of the Constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security; Therefore,

Be it declared and ordained by the people of the State of Alabama in convention assembled, That the State of Alabama now withdraws, and is hereby withdrawn, from the Union known as “the United States of America,” and henceforth ceases to be one of said United States, and is, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and independent State.

SEC. 2. Be it further declared and ordained by the people of the State of Alabama in convention assembled, That all the powers over the territory of said State and over the people thereof heretofore delegated to the Government of the United States of America be, and they are hereby, withdrawn from said Government, and are hereby resumed and vested in the people of the State of Alabama.

Be it resolved by the people of Alabama in convention assembled, That the people of the States of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri be, and are hereby, invited to meet the people of the State of Alabama, by their delegates in convention, on the 4th day of February, A. D. 1861, at the city of Montgomery, in the State of Alabama, for the purpose of consulting with each other as to the most effectual mode of securing concerted and harmonious action in whatever measures may be deemed most desirable for our common peace and security.

And be it further resolved, That the president of this convention be, and is hereby, instructed to transmit forthwith a copy of the foregoing preamble, ordinance, and resolutions to the Governors of the several States named in said resolutions.

Done by the people of the States of Alabama, in convention assembled, at Montgomery, on this the 11th day of January, A. D. 1861. [end quote] [OR Series IV, Vol 1, pp. 4344]

Even prior to Lincoln’s election, Alabama’s General Assembly passed resolutions regarding the sectional conflict:

[begin quote] WHEREAS, anti-slavery agitation persistently continued in the non-slaveholding States of this Union, for more than a third of a century, marked at every stage of its progress by contempt for the obligations of law and the sanctity of compacts, evincing a deadly hostility to the rights and institutions of the Southern people, and a settled purpose to effect their overthrow even by subversion of the Constitution, and at the hazard of violence and bloodshed; and whereas, a sectional party calling itself Republican, committed alike by its own acts and antecedents, and the public avowals and secret machinations of its leaders to the execution of these atrocious designs, has acquired the ascendancy in nearly every Northern State, and hopes by success in the approaching Presidential election to seize the Government itself; and whereas, to permit such seizure by those whose unmistakable aim is to pervert its whole machinery to the destruction of a portion of its members would be an act of suicidal folly and madness, almost without a parallel in history; and whereas, the General Assembly of Alabama, representing a people loyally devoted to the Union of the Constitution, but scorning the Union which fanaticism would erect upon its ruins, deem it their solemn duty to provide in advance the means by which they may escape such peril and dishonor, and devise new securities for perpetuating the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity; therefore,

1. Be it resolved, That upon the happening of the contingency contemplated in the foregoing Preamble, namely, the election of a President advocating the principles and action of the party in the Northern States calling itself the Republican Party, it shall be the duty of the Governor, and he is hereby required, forthwith to issue his Proclamation, calling upon the qualified voters of this State to assemble on Monday not more than forty days after the date of said Proclamation, at the several places of voting in their respective counties, to elect delegates to a Convention of the State, to consider, determine and do whatever in the opinion of said Convention, the rights, interests, and honor of the State of Alabama requires to be done for their protection.

2. Be it further resolved, That said Convention shall assemble at the State Capitol on the second Monday following said election.

3. Be it further resolved, That it shall be the duty of the Governor as soon as possible to issue writs of election to the Sheriffs of the several counties, commanding them to hold an election on the said Monday so designated by the Governor, provided for in these Joint Resolutions, for the choosing of as many delegates from each county to said Convention as the several counties shall be entitled to members in the House of Representatives of the General Assembly; and said election shall be held at the usual places of voting in the respective counties, and the polls shall be opened under the rules and regulations now governing the election of members to the General Assembly of this State, and said election shall be governed in all respects by the laws then in existence, regulating the election of members of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly, and the persons elected thereat as delegates, shall be returned in like manner, and the pay, both mileage and per diem, of the delegates to said Convention, and the several officers thereof, shall be the same as that fixed by law for the members and officers of said House of Representatives.

5. Be it further resolved, That copies of the foregoing Preamble and Resolutions be forwarded by the Governor as soon as possible to our Senators and Representatives in Congress, and to each of the Governors of our sister States of the South.[end quote]

In response to Lincoln’s election and these resolutions, Gov. Andrew B. Moore sent a letter to the legislature which said, in part, “Who is Mr. Lincoln, whose election is now beyond question? He is the head of a great sectional party calling itself Republican: a party whose leading object is the destruction of the institution of slavery as it exists in the slaveholding States. Their most distinguished leaders, in and out of Congress, have publicly and boldly proclaimed this to be their intention and unalterable – determination. Their newspapers are filled with similar declarations. Are they in earnest ? Let their past acts speak for them.

Nearly every one of the non-slaveholding States have been for years under the control of the Black Republicans. A large majority of these States have nullified the fugitive slave law, and have successfully resisted its execution. They have enacted penal statutes, punishing by fine and imprisonment in the penitentiary, persons who may pursue and arrest fugitive slaves in said State. They have by law, under heavy penalties, prohibited any person from aiding the owner to arrest his fugitive slave, and have denied us the use of their prisons to secure our slaves until they can be removed from the State. They have robbed the South of slaves worth millions of dollars, and have rendered utterly ineffectual the only law passed by Congress to protect this species of property. They have invaded the State of Virginia, armed her slaves with deadly weapons, murdered her citizens, and seized the United States Armory at Harper’s Ferry. They have sent emissaries into the State of Texas, who burned many towns, and furnished the slaves with deadly poison for the purpose of destroying their owners.

“All these things have been effected, either by the unconstitutional legislation of free States, or by combinations of individuals. These facts prove first that are not only in earnest and intent upon accomplishing their wicked purposes, but have done all that local legislation and individual efforts could effect.

“Knowing that their efforts could only be partially successful without the aid of the Federal Government, they for years have struggled to get control of the Legislative and Executive Departments thereof. They have now succeeded, by large majorities, in all the non-slaveholding States except New Jersey, and perhaps California and Oregon in electing Mr. Lincoln, who is pledged to carry out the principles of the party that elected him. The course of events show clearly that this party will, in a short time, have a majority in both branches of Congress. It will then be in their power to change the complexion of the Supreme Court so as to make it harmonize with Congress and the President. When that party get possession of all the Departments of Government, with the purse and the sword, he must be blind indeed who does not see that slavery will be abolished in the District of Columbia in the dock-yards and arsenals, and wherever the Federal Government has jurisdiction.

It will be excluded from the Territories, and other free States will in hot haste be admitted into the Union, until they have a majority to alter the Constitution. Then slavery will be abolished by law in the States, and the “irrepressible conflict” will end; for we are notified that it shall never cease, until “the foot of the slave shall cease to tread the soil of the United States.” The state of society that must exist in the Southern States, with four millions of free negroes and their increase, turned loose upon them, I will not discuss—it is too horrible to contemplate.”

In setting up its secession convention, the Alabama legislature passed a number of resolutions.  Some of these resolutions dealt with what they felt would lead to a settlement of the sectional problems that then existed:

[begin quote]Be it further resolved, That our delegates selected shall be instructed to submit to the general convention the following basis of a settlement of the existing difficulties between the Northern and the Southern States, to wit:

1. A faithful execution of the fugitive slave law and a repeal of all States laws calculated to impair its efficacy.

2. A more stringent and explicit provision for the surrender of criminals charged with offenses against the laws of one State and escaping into another.

3. A guaranty [sic] that slavery shall not be abolished in the District of Columbia, or in any other place over which Congress has exclusive jurisdiction.

4. A guaranty that the interstate slave-trade shall not be interfered with.

5. A protection to slavery in the Territories, while they are Territories, and a guaranty [sic] that when they ask for admission as States they shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery as their constitutions may prescribe.

6. The right of transit though free States with slave property.

7. The foregoing clauses to be irrepealable by amendments to the Constitution. Be it further resolved, That the basis of settlement prescribed in the foregoing resolution shall not be regarded by our delegates as absolute and unalterable, but as an indication of the opinion of this convention, to which they are expected to conform as nearly as may be, holding themselves, however, at liberty to accept any better plan of adjustment which may be insisted upon by a majority of the slave-holding States.[end quote]  [OR Series IV, Part 1, p. 45]

Like others, Alabama sent commissioners to other slaveholding states to make the case for secession.  These commissioners were the official representatives of the state, appointed by the governor.

In a letter to the Alabama Secession Convention, Governor Andrew B. Moore wrote:

[begin quote]The General Assembly at its session passed unanimously, with two exceptions, resolutions requiring the Governor, in the event of the election of a Black Republican, to order elections to be held for delegates to a convention of the State. The contingency contemplated having occurred, making it necessary for me to call a convention, writs of election were issued immediately after the votes of the Electoral College were cast. It was my opinion that under the peculiar phraseology of the resolutions I was not authorized to order elections upon the casting of the popular vote. I therefore determined not to do so.

As the slave-holding States have a common interest in the institution of slavery, and must be common suffers in its overthrow, I deemed it proper, and it appeared to be the general sentiment of the people, that Alabama should consult and advise with the other slave-holding States, so far as practicable, as t what is best to be done to protect their interests and honor in the impending crisis. And seeing that the conventions of South Carolina and Florida would probably act before the convention of Alabama assembled, and that the Legislatures of some of the States would meet, and might adjourn without calling conventions, prior to the meeting of our convention, and thus the opportunity [be lost] of conferring with them upon the great and vital questions on which you are called to act, I determined to appoint commissioners to all the slave-holding States. After appointing them to those States whose conventions and Legislatures were to meet in advance of the Alabama convention, it was suggested by wise counselors that if I did not make similar appointments to the other Southern States it would seem to be making an invidious distinction, which was not intended. Being convinced that it might be so considered, I then determined to appoint commissioners to all the slave-holding States, and made the following appointments: A. F. Hopkins and F. M. Gilmer commissioners to Virginia, John A. Elmore commissioner to South Carolina, I. W. Garrott and Robert H. Smith commissioners to North Carolina, J. L. M. Curry commissioner to Maryland, David Clopton commissioner to Delaware, S. F. Hale commissioner to Kentucky, William Cooper commissioner to Missouri, L. P. Walker commissioner to Tennessee, David Hubbard commissioner to Arkansas, John A. Winston commissioner to Louisiana, J. M. Calhoun commissioner to Texas, E. C. Bullock commissioner to Florida, John Gill Shorter commissioner to Georgia, E. W. Pettus commissioner to Mississippi.

All these gentlemen are well known to the people of Alabama, and distinguished for their ability, integrity, and patriotism. The following is a copy of the commission to each of them, in substance.[end quote] [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 30]

John Gill Shorter was Alabama’s commissioner to Georgia.  His letter of appointment from Gov. Moore reads, in part, “Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln, a Black Republican, to the Presidency of the United States by a purely sectional vote and by a party whose leading and publicly avowed object is the destruction of the institution of slavery as it exists in the slave-holding States; and whereas, the success greatly endanger the peace, interests, security, and honor of the slave-holding States, and make it necessary that prompt and effective measures should be adopted to avoid the evils which must result from a Republican administration of the Federal Government, and as the interests and destiny of the slave-holding States are the same, they must naturally sympathize with each other, they therefore, so far as may be practicable, should consult and advise together as to what is best to be done to protect their mutual interests and honor:”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 55]  The other commissioners received similar letters of appointment.

In a letter to Georgia Governor Joseph Brown, Shorter wrote, “The unnatural warfare which, in violation of the Federal compact and for a long series of years, has been unceasingly waged by the anti-slavery States upon the institutions, rights, and domestic tranquillity of the slave-holding States, has finally culminated in the election of an open and avowed enemy to our section of the Union; and the great and powerful party who have produced this result calmly awaits the 4th day of March next, when, under the forms of the Constitution and the laws, they will usurp the machinery of the Federal Government and the laws, they will usurp the machinery of the Federal Government and madly attempt to rule, if not to subjugate, and ruin the South.”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 16]

John Winston was Alabama’s commissioner to Louisiana.  In his report back to Gov. Moore, Winston wrote, “In obedience to your instructions I repaired to the seat of government of the State of Louisiana to confer with the Governor of that State and with the legislative department on the grave and important state of our political relations with the Federal Government, and the duty of the slave-holding States in the matter of their rights and honor, so menacingly involved in matters connected with the institution of African slavery. Owing to the fact that the Legislature was in session only three days, and other unavoidable causes, I did not arrive at Baton Rouge until After the Legislature had adjourned. But I met many members of the legislative corps, and communicated with them and with His Excellency Governor T. O. Moore on the purposes of my embassy, and have the pleasure to report that the legislative mind appeared fully alive to the importance and the absolute necessity of the action of the Southern States in resistance of that settled purpose of aggression on our constitutional and inherent natural rights by the majority of the people of the non-slave-holding States of the Federal Union, which purpose and intention has culminated in the election of a man to the Presidency of the United States whose opinions and constructions of constitutional duty are wholly incompatible with our safety in a longer union with them.”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, pp. 12]

David Hubbard was Alabama’s commissioner to Arkansas.  In his report to Gov. Moore he wrote, “I took the ground that no State which had seceded would ever go back without full power being given to protect themselves by vote against anti-slavery projects and schemes of every kind. I took the position that the Northern people were honest and did fear the Divine displeasure, both in this world and the world to come, by reason of what they considered the national sin of slavery, and that all who agreed with me in a belief of their sincerity must see that we could not remain quietly in the same Government with them. Secondly, if they were dishonest hypocrites, and only lied to impose on others and make them hate us, and used antislavery arguments as mere pretexts for the purpose of uniting Northern sentiment against us, with a view to obtain political power and sectional domination, in that event we ought not to live with them.”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 3]

David Clopton was Alabama’s commissioner to Delaware.  In a letter to Gov. William Burton of Delaware, Clopton wrote, “In the succession of party triumphs and defeats which have marked the political history of the country, the power and patronage of the Executive Department of the Federal Government will on the 4th of March next pass for the first time under the control of a purely sectional party, which has succeeded by a purely sectional vote. The principles and purposes of this party includes the additional fact that its aim will be, by all the means of legislation and of the administration of the Government, to promote and foster the interests and internal prosperity of one section, and to debase the institutions, weaken the power, and impair the interests of the other section. Its animus, its single bond of union, is hostility to the institution of slavery as it exists in the Southern States.”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 34]  Clopton further wrote, “He may suppose that the people of the slave-holding States will be satisfied with the assurance that he does not intend to interfere with slavery in the States; but, in thus supposing, he supposes further, that they have not the manhood and honor to assert and maintain, or do not possess the intelligence to understand, their rights in the Territories or wherever else the jurisdiction of the Government extends, and that they are willing to surrender all the outposts, and leave the citadel unguarded, liable to first covert then open attacks. Notwithstanding this assurance, common sense and experience, our knowledge of human nature and all history, teach that, believing slavery to be a moral and political evil, a wrong to the Government, and that these States cannot exist half free and half slave, Mr. Lincoln will exert all his powers, influence, and patronage ‘to place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction.’ ”  [Ibid., p. 35]  Later in the letter he asserts, “Laws passed in compliance with such new guaranties for the security and protection of property in slaves will avail nothing where their execution depends upon the Republican appointees of a Republican President.” [Ibid., p. 37]

Alabama’s commissioner to Maryland was J. L. M. Curry, who wrote in a letter to Gov. Thomas Hicks of Maryland, “Having watched with painful anxiety the growth, power, and encroachments of anti-slaveryism, and anticipating for the party held together by this sentiment of hostility to the rights and institutions of the Southern people a probable success, too fatally realized, in the recent Presidential election, the General Assembly of Alabama, on the 24th of February, 1860, adopted joint resolutions providing, on the happening of such a contingency, for a convention of the State ‘to consider, determine, and do whatever the rights, interests, and honor of Alabama require to be done for their protection.’ ” [OR Series IV, Vol 1, p. 39]  In that letter, on the same page of the Official Records, he writes of “accomplishing a deliverance from Abolition domination.”  Curry continues, “Superadded to the sectional hostility the fanaticism of a sentiment which has become a controlling political force, giving ascendancy in every North State, and the avowed purpose, as disclosed in party creeds, declarations of editors, and utterances of representative men, of securing the diminution of slavery in the States and placing it in the course of ultimate extinction, and the South would merit the punishment of the simple if she passed on and provided no security against the imminent danger.” [Ibid., p. 40]  He says, “When Mr. Lincoln is inaugurated it will not be simply a change of administration–the installation of a new President–but a reversal of the former practice and policy of the Government, so thorough as to amount to a revolution. Cover over its offensiveness with the most artful disguises, and the fact stands out in its terrible reality that the Government, within the amplitude of its jurisdiction, real or assumed, becomes foreign to the South, and is not to recognize the right of the Southern citizen to property in the labor of African slaves.”  [Ibid.]  In writing of Republicans, Curry declares, “They refuse to recognize our rights of property in slaves, to make a division of the territory, to deprive themselves of their assumed constitutional power to abolish slavery in the Territories or District of Columbia, to increase the efficiency of the fugitive slave law, or make provision for the compensation of the owners of runaway or stolen slaves, or place in the hands of the South any protection against the rapacity of an unscrupulous majority.” [Ibid., pp. 4041]  He goes on, “If our present undoubted constitutional rights were reaffirmed in, if possible, more explicit language, it is questionable whether they would meet with more successful execution. Anti-slavery fanaticism would probably soon render them nugatory. The sentiment of the sinfulness of slavery seems to be embedded in the Northern conscience. An infidel theory has corrupted the Northern heart.” [Ibid., p. 41]  Curry says to Hicks, “it is not probable that the settled convictions at the North, intensely adverse to slavery, can be changed by Congressional resolutions or constitutional amendments. Under Republican rule the revolution will not be confined to slavery and its adjuncts. The features of our political system which constitute its chief excellence and distinguish it from absolute governments are to be altered. The radical idea of this confederacy is the equality of the sovereign States and their voluntary assent to the constitutional compact. This, from recent indications, is to be changed, so that to a great extent power is to be centralized at Washington, Congress is to be the final judge of its powers, States are to be deprived of a reciprocity and equality of rights, and a common government, kept in being by force, will discriminate offensively and injuriously against the property of a particular geographical section.”  [Ibid.]  In speaking of why Alabama chose secession, Curry says, “With Alabama, after patient endurance for years and earnest expostulation with the Northern States, the reluctant conviction has become fixed that there is no safety for her in a hostile Union governed by an interested sectional majority. As a sovereign States, vitally interested in the preservation and security of African slavery, she will exercise the right of withdrawing from the compact of union.  Most earnestly does she desire the co-operation of sister Southern States in a new confederacy, based on the same principles as the present. having no ulterior or unavowed purposes to a accomplish, seeking peace and to be increased by importations from Africa, shall not be localized and become redundant by excess of growth beyond liberty of expansion, she most cordially invites the concurrent action of all States with common sympathies and common interests. Under an abolition Government the slave-holding States will be placed under a common ban of proscription, and an institution, interwoven in the very frame-work of their social and political being, must perish gradually or speedily with the Government in active hostility to it. Instead of the culture and development of the boundless capacities and productive resources of their social system, it is to be assaulted, humbled, dwarfed, degraded, and finally crushed out.” [Ibid.]

Finally, we come to Stephen F. Hale, Alabama’s commissioner to Kentucky.  In a letter to Gov. Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky, Hale wrote, “African slavery has not only become one of the fixed domestic institutions of the Southern States, but forms an important element of their political power, and constitutes the most valuable species of their property, worth, according to recent estimates, not less than $4,000,000, 0000; forming, in fact, the basis upon which rests the prosperity and wealth of most of these States, and supplying the commerce of the world with its richest freights, and furnishing the manufactures of two continents with the raw material, and their operatives with bread. It is upon this gigantic interest, this peculiar institution of the South, that the Northern States and their people have been waging an unrelenting and fanatical war for the last quarter of a century; and institution with which is bound up not only the wealth and prosperity of the Southern people, but their very existence as a political community. This war has been waged in every way that human ingenuity, urged on by fanaticism, could suggest. They attack us through their literature, in their schools, from the hustings, in their legislative halls, through the public press, and even their courts of justice forget the judicial ermine to strike down the rights of the Southern slave-holder and override every barrier which the Constitution has erected for his protection; and the sacred desk is desecrated to this unholy crusade against our lives, our property, and the constitutional rights guaranteed to us by the compact of our fathers.”  [OR Series IV, Vol 1, pp. 56]  Referring to Abraham Lincoln, Hale wrote, “He stands forth as the representative of the fanaticism of the North, which, for the last quarter of a century, has been making war upon the South, her property, her civilization, her institutions, and her interests; as the representative of that party which overrides all constitutional barriers, ignores the obligation of official oaths, and acknowledges allegiance to a higher law than the Constitution, striking down the sovereignty and equality of the States, and resting its claims to popular favor upon the one dogma–the equality of the races, white and black.” [Ibid., p. 8]  Hale asserts of William H. Seward, “He claims for free negroes the right of suffrage and an equal voice in the Government; in a word, all the rights of citizenship, although the Federal Constitution, as construed by the highest judicial tribunal in the world, does not recognize Africans imported into this country as slaves or their descendants–whether free or slaves–as citizens.” [Ibid.]  Referring to Lincoln and his incoming administration, Hale claims, “Hence it is that in high places among the Republican party the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed not simply as a change of administration, but as the inauguration of new principles and a new theory of government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property, and her institutions; nothing less than an open declaration of war, for the triumph of this new theory of government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans. Especially is this true in the cotton-growing States, where, in many localities, the slave outnumbers the white population ten to one.” [Ibid.]  He claims further, “If the policy of the Republicans is carried out according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, and the South submits, degradation and ruin must overwhelm alike all classes of citizens in the Southern States. The slave-holder and non-slave-holder must ultimately share the same fate; all be degraded to a position of equality with free negroes, stand side by side with them at the polls, and fraternize in all the social relations of life, or else there will be an eternal war of races, desolating the land with blood, and utterly wasting and destroying all the resources of the country. Who can look upon such a picture without a shudder? What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters in the not distant future associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped by the heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed? In the Northern States, where free negroes are so few as to form no appreciable part of the community, in spite of all the legislation for their protection, they still remain a degraded caste, excluded by the ban of society from social association with all but the lowest and most degraded of the white race. but in the South, where in many places the African race largely predominates, and as a consequence the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation or the extermination of the one or the other would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should. [Ibid., pp. 8-9]  He says no compromise is possible:  “How can this be reconciled and a spirit of fraternity established? Will the people of the North cease to make war upon the institution of slavery and award to it the protection guaranteed by the Constitution? The accumulated wrongs of many years, the late action of their members in Congress refusing every measure of justice to the South, as well as the experience of all the past, answers, No, never!

Will the South give up the institution of slavery and consent that her citizens be stripped of their property, her civilization destroyed, the whole land laid waste by fire and sword? It is impossible. She cannot; she will not. Then why attempt longer to hold together hostile States under the stipulations of a violated Constitution? It is impossible. Disunion is inevitable.” [Ibid., p. 10]  He also says that the time is at hand.  “Shall we wait until our enemies shall possess themselves of all the powers of the Government; until abolition judges are on the Supreme Court bench, abolition collectors at every port, and abolition postmasters in every town; secret mail agents traversing the whole land, and a subsidized press established in our midst to demoralize our people? Will we be stronger then or better prepared to meet the struggle, if a struggle must come? No, verily. When that time shall come, well may our adversaries laugh at our folly and deride our impotence.” [Ibid., pp. 1011]

Through all of this, one constant theme comes through.  From the governor to the legislature to the official representatives of the state to the secession convention, Alabama was concerned about the future of slavery.  They perceived an attack on slavery by the free states, and in Abraham Lincoln they perceived a clear and present danger to the future of slavery, and also a danger to white supremacy.  There are even more documents from Alabama one can see, such as the letter from Isham Garrott and Robert Smith to the Governor and Legislature of North Carolina, or the correspondence between James Martin Calhoun and Sam Houston of Texas.  It’s very clear the reason why Alabama seceded is their concern over slavery and white supremacy.

One other thing we can look at is the Alabama Constitution approved January 7, 1861. In this constitution we find what was important to these men. Let’s see what they’re interested in:


Section 1. No slave in this State shall be emancipated by any act done to take effect in this State, or any other country.

Section 2. The humane treatment of slaves shall be secured by law.

Section 3. Laws may be enacted to prohibit the introduction into this State, of slaves who have committed high crimes in other States or territories, and to regulate or prevent the introduction of slaves into this State as merchandise.

Section 4. In the prosecution of slaves for crimes, of a higher grade than petit larceny, the General Assembly shall have no power to deprive them of an impartial trial by a petiti jury.

Section 5. Any person who shall maliciously dismember or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a free white person, and on the like proof, except in case of insurrection of such slave.

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