The Confederate Congress

By Wilfred Buck Yearns | Go to book overview

I
SECESSION AND CONFEDERATION

THE MEETING OF THE CONFEDERATE CONGRESS ON FEBRUARY 4, 1861, was the climax of a long sequence of events. Secession, which had finally occurred earlier in the winter, seemed to most Southerners the logical result of a series of sectional contests in each of which the South had been compelled to retreat. During the last half of the 1850s events had become critical. The struggle over Kansas was proof enough to the South that the North intended to confine slavery to its existing realm and ultimately to abolish it. Until this time two national party organizations had helped bind the nation together, but the decrepit Whig party fell apart over the Kansas issue, while the Democrats barely managed to hang together. In 1856 the election of the Democrat James Buchanan gratified the South, and two days after his inauguration the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision. Since the decision ruled that Congress could not bar slavery from any territory, to the South the slavery issue seemed settled. The North, however, denied the permanency of this ruling, and Southerners began to believe that not even the Constitution could guarantee their rights within the Union. In 1859 John Brown, the leading anti-slavery zealot in Kansas, came eastward to liberate the slaves. Federal troops easily broke up his raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and on December 2 he was executed. But Southerners misjudged Northern sympathies and were inclined to feel that Horace Greeley expressed the majority opinion when he wrote that "the noblest manhood in America swings off the gallows of a felon."1

Sectional antagonism was aggravated by the upsurge of the Republican party. While this party favored a curb on the extension of slavery, not its abolition, Southerners seldom distinguished between the two ideas and believed that a strong sectional party with an anti-slavery basis was the ultimate threat to their

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The Confederate Congress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - Secession and Confederation 1
  • II - Life at the Confederate Capitals 11
  • III - Trial and Error Government 22
  • IV - Congressional Elections 42
  • V - Mobilization of Man Power 60
  • VI - Conscription Under Attack 74
  • VII - More Men! 86
  • VIII - Of Officers and Men 102
  • IX - Economic Organization 116
  • X - The Conduct of the War 140
  • XI - The Writ of Habeas Corpus 150
  • XII - Foreign Affairs 161
  • XIII - The Peace Movement 171
  • XIV - Financing the War 184
  • XV - The Loyal Opposition 218
  • Appendix 236
  • Notes 245
  • Bibliography 270
  • Index 280
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