Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859

By Elizabeth R. Varon | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
The Rubicon Is Passed
THE WA R AND BEYOND

“The question of Union or Disunion is dead and buried,” declared an article that ran in the Staunton Vindicator in March 1861, during Virginia's secession convention. Led by South Carolina and the Deep South states, dissolution had already taken place, and now Virginia faced a stark choice between joining its “sister States” or “subordination of our section to Black Republican and abolition aggression and outrage.” Secessionists promised those white Southerners who embraced the Confederacy, among many other bounties, linguistic clarity—an end to the long, harrowing debates over the causes and imagined consequences of disunion, and a new emphasis on the justness of secession, the need for martial vindication, and the bright prospects of the Southern nation.1

This book has argued that from the very founding of the United States, the “question of Union or Disunion” was inseparable from the issue of slavery's destiny. The central premise of American political culture, in the North and South alike, was that the republic was fragile—beset by external and internal enemies, and in perpetual danger of moral decline. Americans proved endlessly creative in tapping deep anxieties about the republic's survival as a rhetorical weapon in their political combat. By the time immediatists took the stage, Americans with rival political agendas had already, for nearly half a

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