UNIONISTS HAVE THEIR DAY
Geography set the stage for nineteenth-century Alabama politics. A Black Belt of rich soil bisects the state; to the south lies the coastal plain, particularly fertile in southwest Alabama. Directly north of the Black Belt rise the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and behind this hilly plateau is the fertile Tennessee Valley. A plantation economy developed in the Black Belt, Tennessee Valley, and southwestern Alabama, and most of the slave population was concentrated in these areas. A white population predominated in southeastern Alabama and the mountain counties, where a small-farm economy developed.
In the antebellum period little intercourse existed between north and south Alabama, although Montgomery was the state capital after 1846. No railroads linked the country north of the mountains with the rest of the state. Commercially, the Tennessee Valley was closer to Charleston and New Orleans than to Mobile, and geographically it belonged to Tennessee. Politicians in antebellum Alabama were cognizant of this transportation deficiency and regularly proposed construction of internal improvements to connect north Alabama with the port of Mobile.
Geographic and economic differences within antebellum Alabama led to resentful sectionalism. With mounting frustration north Alabama watched the Black Belt rule the state, grasp the "lion's share of state honors, offices and benefits," and impose an "undue portion of the public burdens upon the weaker and less wealthy section, North Alabama."1 This domination peaked in 1860-61, when south and central Alabama urged secession, while north Alabama was a Unionist stronghold. North Alabamians were unenthusiastic about slavery and feared economic strangulation should Alabama secede and Tennessee remain in the Union. The loyal whites narrowly lost Alabama to the secessionists when a state convention approved an ordinance of secession in January, 1861.
In the months between Alabama's secession and the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Alabama Unionists refused to believe that a reconciliation with the Union could not still take place. Their opinions on how to accomplish this adjustment ranged from one recommendation that the
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Publication information: Book title: The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1881. Contributors: Sarah Woolfolk Wiggins - Author. Publisher: University of Alabama Press. Place of publication: Tuscaloosa, AL. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 5.
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