Excerpt from Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865
This Terrible War
Secession, Civil War, and Emancipation
A pre-emptive conservative counter-revolution
The meaning of secession
On November 6, 1860, Americans elected a President for the eighteenth time. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed in 1854, the political party he represented had not existed. In the election of 1860, the name Abraham Lincoln did not even appear on the ballot in many southern states. When he nonetheless won, it took but a month for South Carolina, the leading slaveholding state of the Deep South, to secede from the Union and declare its independence — despite that the new President had often averred that slavery was legal in the states where it existed, and had promised that under his presidency he would continue to protect it. "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists," he had stated. "I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Ten slaveholding states of the South nonetheless withdrew from the national compact. Their secession led, indirectly though inexorably, to the destruction of the very institution it sought to preserve. Chattel slavery as a legal entity in the United States ended as a consequence of the Civil War. And the war itself began because President Abraham Lincoln refused to accept the dissolution of the union. The elevation to the Presidency of a politician who stood against the expansion of slavery into the western territories thus triggered the formation of the Confederacy. And the war that was necessary to re-unite the country destroyed slavery.
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