Disrupting the Union: The House Divided
What can be said about the most traumatic event in United States history? Abraham Lincoln asserted that a house divided against itself could not stand; his election to the presidency in November 1860 was the catalyst that proved he was right. Almost immediately after the results of the election were announced, the South, led by fire-eaters in South Carolina, made definitive plans for secession, which four decades of debate and compromise had only postponed, not prevented.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on December 20; South Carolina's declaration of secession ended with this paragraph:
We, therefore, the people of South Carolina, by our delegates in convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this state and the other states of North America is dissolved; and that the state of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as [a] separate and independent state, with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.1
Very quickly, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed suit, in that order, and delegates met in February in Montgomery, Alabama, to form a Confederate government. In a matter of days, they adopted a provisional Constitution and elected a provisional president and vice president ( Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and Alexander Stephens from Georgia).
Writing a new Constitution was not difficult for the delegates. For decades, Southerners had been arguing in strong support of the United States Constitution, in fact, contending that all the South really wanted was to live