Post by mike stone Post by email@example.com
In every history class I have taken, President Buchanan was criticized
for his inaction when confronted with secession. However, based on
other information I received in my history courses, I can't help but
wonder if he was right, and if Lincoln had continued in his path, maybe
the Civil War could have been avoided? My history courses always
suggested the Southern states that initially seceded had a shakey
economy , and that without the support of Virginia, the CSA were not
going to survive. Of course, Virginia was very reluctant to join the
Confederacy, and only did so in response to Lincoln's request that the
states supply troops to quell the rebellion (sending the signal that
you're either with us or against us) . If Lincoln had never undertaken
the preparation for a military campaign, thus keeping Virginia out of
the hands of the CSA,
It wouldn't have.
Once the news of Ft Sumter reached Richmond, a jubilant procession marched on
the State Capitol, where they hauled down the US flag and hoisted the Stars and
Bars. A battery fired a 100-gun salute to celebrate the "southern victory". An
observer reported "Everyone in favour of secession". It would take a few more
days for the formalities to be completed, but practically speaking Va had taken
the plunge without waiting to see what Lincoln did. The atmosphere was similar
in Tenn and NC.
The Richmond mob was noisily secessionist, but they had been
all along, and the convention had nonetheless resisted the
pressure to declare secession. Even after Fort Sumter, the
vote was only 88-55 in favor. So I don't think the popular
reaction to Sumter was decisive by itself.
Neither was Lincoln's call for troops to suppress rebellion.
IMHO, what _was_ decisive was the realization that the secession
declarations of the Deep South states were irrevocable, and that
there would be no settlement of the crisis.
In January 1861 (IIRC) the VA legislature passed a resolution
stating, in effect, that if the secession crisis was not resolved,
VA would go out too. IOW, they wanted the North to 'come to their
senses' and accept all the slaveowners' demands, which the
Virginians considered eminently just and sensible. Then (they
thought) the Deep South would rescind secession. Most of them did
not want secession at all, even peaceful secession.
This hope was of course a complete fantasy. Neither Lincoln nor
the North in general would ever make the concessions VA expected,
much less what might have placated the Deep South. Nor is it
likely that the fire-eaters who controlled the Deep South states
would have rescinded secession on any terms.
Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops dispelled the fantasy,
leaving the VA assembly no real choice except the path the VA
legislature had previously indicated.
Many neo-Confederates and other cranks insist that it was only
the call for troops that 'flipped' VA. It is probable that some
of convention delegates 'flipped' due to this factor. OTOH it
also seems probable that some delegates would have supported
secession if it was safe, but voted 'no' because they feared the
consequences to VA of participating in a war with the Union,
which Lincoln had said he would wage. It should be noted that
all of the delegates from the counties along the upper Potomac
(from Washington to Harpers Ferry) voted 'no', even though they
had the same demographics as typical counties to the S and E,
whose delegates nearly all voted 'yes'. My estimate is that
these two factors were about equal.
Nothing which was ever expressed originally in the English language resembles,
except in the most distant way, the thought of Plotinus, or Hegel, or Foucault.
I take this to be enormously to the credit of our language. -- David Stove