American Civil War | US History Lecture 39 of 84

American Civil War | US History Lecture 39 of 84

[Music] we left off last time on the eve of the presidential election of 1860 a seismic political contest that enfolded against a backdrop of sectional suspicion fueled by events such as john brown’s raid on harpers ferry in this lecture we will analyze the campaign examine the secession of the seven states of the lower south and the establishment of the confederate states of america discuss northern attitudes toward the lower south’s departure from the union and close with analysis of the crisis at fort sumter and abraham lincoln’s subsequent call for volunteers in april 1861 to suppress the rebellion the presidential election of 1860 was the most fateful in united states history because on its outcome rested the fate of the union the democrats met first in april uh just four months after john brown’s execution and they met in charleston south carolina the worst imaginable place to meet because that was an absolute hotbed of sectional uh feeling that feelings run very high in charleston stephen douglas was the favorite of the northern wing of the democratic party but he was unacceptable to the radical southern fire eaters the fire eaters being the extreme southern state rights advocates in the antebellum years he was unacceptable to them because of his position on the dred scott decision and for other reasons the southerners at the convention wanted a plank guaranteeing the right to take slave property into the territories douglas’s supporters opposed this they said no we favor popular sovereignty and douglas won a majority of the delegates and was able to seem to be on the verge of walking away from the convention with the nomination however he needed two-thirds this was a democratic uh sop in the years before the civil war toward the south that required a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority uh in the conventions he could not get the two-thirds his supporters got the platform to endur to endorse popular sovereignty uh after which delegates from most of the cotton states simply walked out of the convention the convention adjourned without selecting a candidate so the democrats went to charleston proved unable to settle on a candidate and agreed to reconvene in baltimore in june the baltimore convention opened with disputes over whether to seat the delegates who’d walked out of the convention in charleston or to seat new delegates from those states it was decided to seat new ones new ones who supported stephen a douglas and the convention went on to nominate douglas and affirm its support for popular sovereignty meanwhile delegates from 11 southern states walked out again in baltimore and set up their own convention in baltimore where they selected john c breckenridge of kentucky as their nominee breckenridge was vice president under james buchanan the southern democrats platform called for explicit federal protection of slavery in the territories and for the annexation of cuba they thought cuba might be turned into at least one and perhaps several new slave states the republicans met in chicago they were well aware of the fact that the turmoil in the democratic party offered them a golden opportunity william henry stewart of new york seemed to be the leading candidate he’d been on the scene a long time but he had given a famous speech not long before where he spoke about an irrepressible conflict and the convention decided in the end to select someone with more moderate views who didn’t have as many enemies and didn’t have as long a career in politics as seward they settled in the end on abraham lincoln the key in the election would lie in the northern states that james buchanan had carried pennsylvania new jersey indiana illinois and california what would those voters do republican platform was aimed at various segments of the north tried to cater to various segments keep slavery out of the territories of course that’s the main plank of the party but the platform also said that the republicans would accept slavery where it existed there’s no abolitionist element to the republican platform the platform called for a high tariff which would appeal to many voters in pennsylvania a transcontinental railroad which would appeal to many western voters a homestead act which was very popular in the midwest and internal improvements the platform in short would satisfy the old wigs in the party the free soilers in the party and would appeal to the four key states that buchanan had carried in 1856 that the republicans wanted to take away from the democrats this time a fourth party entered the field as well it was called the constitutional union party so you have regular democrats southern democrats republicans and now the constitutional union party it was made up of persons who above all didn’t even want to talk about the slavery issue they tried to run a campaign saying nothing but we love the union we want the union as it exists we don’t want the union to change our whole reason for being is the union they nominated john bell of tennessee a former whig and a substantial slave holder they drew support from old wigs north and south and from some southern no-nothings former know nothings their platform as i said was very simple uphold the constitution uh keep the union as it is as in 1856 the election broke down into two contests in the north the contest was between abraham lincoln and stephen douglas bell and breckenridge were on the ballots but they polled very few votes in the south it was breckenridge versus bell abraham lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in many of the slave holding states not even on the ballot southerners announced early on that a republican victory would be a disaster and might bring secession only stephen douglas campaigned across the whole nation and it took great courage on his part to campaign in much of the south where he was very unpopular in the end it was a completely sectional result of uh in this election lincoln carried every northern state except new jersey douglas carried just missouri and three of new jersey’s electoral votes bell took virginia kentucky and tennessee john c breckenridge took the remaining 11 slave states so a very sectional response by the voters in the united states lincoln won in the electoral college with 180 votes to breckenridge is 72 bell’s 39 and douglas is 12. if you put all of the other three candidates votes together they still fall short of lincoln’s total so lincoln would have won even if all of the voters who voted for the other three candidates had voted for one candidate in the popular vote lincoln had only about 40 percent of the overall vote just under 40 percent douglas about 30 percent uh breckenridge and bell split the rest lincoln was a minority candidate and has now become a minority president who received not a single vote in 10 of the slave states not one vote only john quincy adams had entered the white house with so little support the south took little if any consolation from the fact that the republicans gained control of neither house of congress they focused on the fact that a party with no support in the slave states they being the slave holding south a party with no support in the slave states now controlled the white house and that the major plank of that party called for prohibition of slavery in the territories slaveholders emphasized that the republican party contained people who had supported john brown and john brown’s raid people who voted for personal liberty laws who belong to abolitionist societies in short people devoted to the destruction of the institution of slavery and by extension destruction of the southern social and economic system the white south was long used to either controlling the presidency all those virginians early on tennesseans later on and doe faces from the north in the 1850s they’ve been used to having the white house pretty much in their control and now they are very upset they see a vision now looking down the road they see a vision of a united states with the north running roughshod over the south the north controlling the presidency the more populous north controlling congress and of course if you control the presidency for long enough you also control the supreme court because uh you will by increments get to name new candidates for uh those justice ships what the white south really feared was that if those things happened if the north uh dominated by the republicans really took control of the government that the republicans would not only keep slavery out of the territories but at some point down the line would strike at slavery where it already existed in the 15 southern states that held slaves in 1860 well northerners had virtually no patience with this view they said my god the slave power has been running things for years and years there are more of us than there are people in the south and we have abided by the result of elections even though things haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go we didn’t in essence pick up our marbles and go home we played by the rules and now that an election hasn’t gone your way said northerners to the white south especially republicans we expect you to abide by the rules of the game as well everyone understood that the month following the election might prove crucial in terms of the reactions by the slave-holding states and what they saw over that next month was the beginning of a movement towards secession and it began in south carolina which didn’t surprise anybody south carolina was the most extreme of the southern states in the course of this crisis one south carolina unionist would make the comment the famous comment that uh highlighted how different south carolina was he said that south carolina was too small to be a republic but too large to be an insane asylum uh even though it often seemed to act as if it were an insane asylum a convention called by the south carolina legislature met in charleston and on december 20th 1860 voted unanimously to secede over the next six weeks six other lower south states left the union the whole tier of lower south states left going from west to east texas and louisiana mississippi alabama georgia and florida joined south carolina having left the union in texas old sam houston the great hero of the texas revolution was a unionist governor he opposed the session said it would be the greatest mistake texas ever made so the texas legislature removed sam houston from the governorship and moved on to secede the pro-secession feeling in these states was not unanimous there were some who preferred waiting they were called cooperationists they weren’t against secession but they were against immediate action they wanted all of the slave states to cooperate on whatever they decided to do they said let’s get together let’s work out a course of action and let’s move as a group but these seven states uh did not have enough cooperation of sentiment uh to carry the day and so they went out one at a time each of the states of the deep south most of these states declared that the union was a compact among sovereign states that the states had the right to pull out of it whenever they believed that the agreement had been broken we went into this with good faith they said there seems not to be good faith on the part of the national government anymore and we are going to withdraw and they pointed to a number of things as evidence of bad faith on the part of the north now they pointed to the north’s refusal to return fugitive slaves they pointed to encouragement of john brown they pointed to support for abolition societies that uh targeted slavery wanted to destroy slavery those kinds of elements of northern society said secessionists meant the northern states had broken the compact and it was the right of the southern states to withdraw it’s very important to keep in mind the constitution doesn’t give a clear answer to whether a state could withdraw this way or not good lawyers on both sides at the time argued it different ways the civil war would decide that secession was unconstitutional the constitution itself does not make that clear the upper south and the border states there are 15 slave states all together seven are gone by february first 1861 so eight have opted not to secede eight have decided that lincoln’s election alone was not worth pushing them out of the union the seceding states met in convention in montgomery alabama in february 1861 and adopted a provisional constitution creating a new slaveholding republic that they called the confederate states of america moderates rather than fire eaters controlled events in montgomery it’s very common often the revolutionaries who push things along aren’t the ones who gather at the end of the revolution actually to establish a government a sam adams from the american revolution stands out as an example of that moderates are in charge in montgomery and they wrote a new constitution that was very closely modeled on the u.s constitution you can almost see them with the u.s constitution in one hand and a blank piece of paper in the other pretty much just copying everything uh from one to the other with notable exceptions their new documents specifically protected slavery and used the word uh in the document the u.s constitution used euphemisms it also uh called for state sovereignty state rights it forbade the central government from passing protective tariffs or from funding internal improvements those had been southern positions through much of the antebellum period jefferson davis of mississippi former secretary of war under franklin pierce a hero of the mexican war at the head of mississippi troops and a prominent uh member of congress who in some ways had inherited the mantle of john c calhoun as the most prominent southern politician he was chosen to be president of this new republic alexander h stevens a cooperationist from georgia was selected to be vice president moderate leaders the thinking was that if the convention selected moderate leaders it would give them broader appeal with the states that had the slave states that had not yet seceded and might attract support there the delegates at montgomery insisted they were not making a revolution but were returning to the original system under which the constitution had left sovereignty with the states their object was to prove to preserve their system of labor and social order a system of labor in a social order based on black slavery the irony would be apparent later that the act of secession failed utterly to protect the institution of slavery it at the end of the war had killed it uh remaining in the union almost certainly would have protected slavery for many many years the republican platform said that it specifically would permit slavery where it still existed lincoln said the same thing the democrats still controlled congress after the election of 1860 and in terms of a constitutional amendment that would kill slavery it takes three quarters of the states to ratify and it would have been almost impossible to get that the point being the deep south is gambling to protect something and it’s going to be a gamble that does not pay off and there’s no question that slavery is what was fueling secession and the new confederacy after the war many former confederates said that slavery wasn’t really what they were worried about that they were worried about constitutional issues they weren’t confused during the secession crisis alexander stevens gave him a famous speech that put slavery right at the center of what was going on this is march 1861 he said our new government is founded upon its foundations are laid its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and moral condition this our new government is the first in history history of the world based upon this great physical philosophical and moral truth it’s all about slavery in secession and the founding of the confederacy and we need to be very clear about that well how did the north react to secession it reacted with a wait-and-see attitude in many ways many northerners believed the union had been created by the people not by the sovereign states that the people were dominant not the states under the constitution so they didn’t accept the state sovereignty argument many of them they thought that the states were subordinate both to the constitution and to the overall people the collective people of the united states the passionate language of daniel webster liberty and union now and forever one and inseparable must have come to mind for many in the north and many in the north did think that secession threatened the mission of the united states in the world this sense of american exceptionalism very much came to the fore here americans believed that the united states was a democratic beacon to the rest of the world which had not yet adopted democracy and many in the north said if the states are allowed the southern states are allowed to destroy the union this beacon of democracy may in the end fail but even believing that they weren’t willing to take drastic measures initially they weren’t willing to use force james buchanan certainly wasn’t he’s president for the first several months of this lincoln would not take office until march 4th 1861 but cannon said that secession was illegal but he said he was powerless to do anything about it because the southern states weren’t engaging the seceding states were not engaging in active violence against the united states it wasn’t an armed rebellion they were just asserting uh they said their sovereignty he didn’t want to make things worse by taking any overt uh action and so he just sat and watched and hoped that he would get out of office before everything fell apart completely there were some forces at work for moderation in congress and elsewhere uh the the new congress wouldn’t meet the congress elected in november of 1860 on the old uh system would not meet until december of 1861 more than a year before the congress that was elected would meet so it’s the old congress that’s still in session in that congress senator john jay crittenden of kentucky uh led a movement to reach compromise uh he argued for a couple of things and those who supported him they said why don’t we just extend the 3630 line of the old missouri compromise let’s send it all the way to california everything south of it will be open to slavery everything north of it will not south of it’s a big territory cuba for example is south of 36 30. so if the united states grabbed cuba some time it could be slave territory they also argued some of the compromises that a constitutional amendment might help resolve the situation let’s have an amendment uh that can never be replaced we’ll put that in the language could never be repealed protecting slavery where it now exists so this two-edged thing will let slavery expand uh westward below 36 30 will protect it forever where it already exists but cannon thought those were good ideas as did some moderates in both free and slave states but the republicans said no their main plank had been no extension into the territories they couldn’t accept this 36 30 compromise they would not compromise on that and didn’t see why they should have to lincoln also made it known he was quiet through most of this period no public statements but he let it be known that he opposed the 3630 idea many extremist southerners opposed it too they said we don’t just want slavery below 36 30 we want it everywhere in the territories so it’s another example of no real room for compromise here certainly between the far ends of the spectrum of opinion the minimum demands of the republicans in much of the north and the minimum demands of much of this white south were simply irreconcilable prohibition of slavery in the territories on the one hand absolute protection of slavery in the territories on the other and as we’ve seen around these minimum demands stood a cluster of deeper concerns on each side much of the north believed southern slavery in the territories would slow down economic development and compete with free labor eventually would open up the whole nation to slavery perhaps and perpetuate southern power in congress where northern numbers should have been holding sway said republicans and other northerners why do so few in the south have so much power in the united states government many in the south in contrast believe they would see the end of their society if slavery was restricted to the south if you limit it to the south you will prevent our being able to be a dynamic element of the american economy said many in the south you can’t hem us in that way we have to have the freedom to expand our economic and social system or we will be at a disadvantage in the long term and eventually will be held under the thumb of the more numerous and within this scenario more powerful north the final crisis came to a head at fort sumter fort sumter a united states military installation that sits in charleston harbor right out in that broad harbor the situation when abraham lincoln took office in march 1861 was this seven states had seceded they had set up the confederate states of america their capital montgomery alabama northern opinion at first badly divided about how to respond to secession had begun to move more toward the idea of coercing the southern states back into the union this notion of the failed experiment the failed american democratic experiment was beginning to have more power also many northern businessmen were becoming afraid that a permanent loss of southern markets for finished goods might hurt them and they also might be hurt uh if for some reason the two nations ended up being antagonistic toward one another uh perhaps cotton wouldn’t flow to the northeastern textile mills in the quantities that those mills required lincoln in his inaugural address promised to leave slavery alone in the south he couldn’t promise anything else that’s what the platform for his party had said so in that regard he’s been reassuring to the slave holding south we’re not going to try to kill slavery where it exists he also said that he would support a constitutional amendment protecting slavery where it already existed but he reiterated yet again that he would not compromise on the question of slavery in the territories slavery would be forbidden from the federal territories he also condemned secession unequivocally and he said that he would quote hold occupy and possess all united states property in the seceded states lincoln was determined to take no offensive move he wanted the south to be responsible for inaugurating violence if violence were to begin he didn’t want to be seen to be the aggressor in this neither to jefferson davis on the other side nobody on either side really with the exception of sort of uh crackpot extremists wanted to be the one that precipitated shooting lincoln certainly didn’t but he put the ball squarely in the south court he said he’s not going to start anything and all rests on the shoulders of what he called my dissatisfied fellow countrymen who lived in these seceded states hold occupy and possess what did that apply to in terms of united states property well there are only four military installations left in the united states control in all of the seceded states and only two of them mattered fort pickens off pensacola florida and fort sumter in charleston harbor sumpter became the critical post because south carolina was demanding that it be turned over that the united states relinquished control uh south carolina said this is south carolina territory and by extension this is the confederacy this is not united states territory uh this little piece of land that fort sumter sits on in charleston harbor rings are a ring of cannons soon extended around charleston harbor pain appointed at fort sumter the implicit message being that if you don’t give us fort sumter the message from the south to the united states that we are going to put in place uh the military power to take it the situation was especially critical because the fort was low on supplies and had been for some time james buchanan had authorized a little expedition back in january uh to a relief expedition sent toward the fort and it had been fired on by cannons in the harbor and the ship had simply sailed away war had not come at that point now the time uh was at hand for lincoln to decide he either had to resupply the fort or he had to abandon it he talked with his cabinet members and others winfield scott general in chief of the united states army and others secretary of state william seward said why don’t we start a war with great britain that will divide i mean that will unite the united states even uh the seceded states might think they need to come back if we get into another war with britain a really bizarre idea lincoln kept his eye much more on the realities and in the end decided to resupply the fort many told him to give it up he knew that northern opinion would be very upset if the united states backed down in the face of this demand from the confederacy but he wanted to make it as as a little controversial as possible he told the governor of south carolina the vessel was coming it’s an unarmed vessel it’s not bringing ammunition it’s not bringing reinforcements it’s merely bringing food and supplies he said and this is when it will be there now the ball was in jefferson davis’s court he talked to his advisors they were upset when they learned of lincoln’s decision they interpreted it as a hostile act they said it might not have guns on it but it’s still a hostile act coming toward an installation that’s on confederate soil they also had constituents who didn’t want uh to give up uh their argument that fort sumter belonged to the confederacy so you have political pressure on both sides both on lincoln and on davis and in the end davis decided to demand the capitulation of the fort if it didn’t capitulate the confederates were to open fire early on the morning of april 12 1861 the cannons in charleston harbor began to shoot at fort sumter in the fort’s garrison commanded by a kentuckian named robert anderson replied for hour after hour the exchange continued citizens in charleston gathered on rooftops to watch the spectacle finally on the 13th of april the guns fell silent and robert anderson surrendered the fort there was one casualty one united states soldier was mortally wounded during a farewell salute to the flag as it came down in the fort no one was actually killed during the bombardment but the firing on fort sumter galvanized both north and south northerners who’d been reluctant who’d been lukewarm in terms of forcing these states back the seceded states back now rallied to the effort to save the union because the flag had been fired upon the south seemed clearly the aggressor the south had fired the first shot it seems as if we were never alive till now never a country till now wrote a new yorker and a boston man remarked i never before knew what a popular excitement can be lincoln’s strategy of making the south fire the first shot had been successful in uniting the north at least temporarily on april 15th lincoln called for 75 000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion and that is the key call that sends the upper south out of the union those states of the upper south arkansas and tennessee and virginia and north carolina had been willing to wait and watch as long as there wasn’t force applied to compel those seven slave states to come back into the union but these four states were not about to help invade their fellow slave states and one by one they left the union their departure is incredibly important because they are very popular states they have enormous industrial capacity and logistical capacity as well in deference to virginia’s place in the union it’s important the confederate capital was moved to richmond from montgomery alabama so here we are at the as we are at the end of the spring of 1861. 11 slave states have seceded four are still in the union but 11 are gone and we’ll end this lecture with the nation sundered in anticipating a war that most people in the north and south thought would be brief next time we’ll begin our look at that conflict which soon raged beyond the scale that anyone could imagine in the spring of 1861.
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American Civil War | US History Lecture 39 of 84

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