Constitutional Development in Alabama, 1798-1901: A Study in Politics, the Negro, and Sectionalism

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE SECESSION CONVENTION OF 1861

The Alabama legislature in February, 1860, instructed the governor to call a convention of the people of Alabama in case of the election of "a president advocating the principles and action of the party in the Northern states calling itself the Republican Party."2 After the election of Abraham Lincoln, Governor Andrew Barry Moore issued a proclamation on December 6, for the election on December 24 of delegates to a convention, allowing about three weeks for the campaign.3 Each county was to have as many delegates as it had members of the House of Representatives. The question of calling a convention was not submitted to the people as it had been in 1852 and 1856.

As the campaign for the convention progressed amid great excitement, it became evident that a large majority of the people of Alabama were inclined to secession, but the secessionists were divided among themselves. The "immediate secessionists" advocated prompt and separate state secession; the "cooperationists" favored a southern convention to consider secession and a redress of grievances.4 Candidates of both

____________________
1
The author has not attempted in this chapter to discuss the background, theory, or politics of secession in Alabama. Secession was the primary work of the convention, but as a constitutional question, it involved the federal rather than the state constitution. Those who believed that secession was legal argued that a constituent assembly had ratified the ordinance making Alabama a part of the Union and a like assembly could legally withdraw Alabama from the Union by repealing that ordinance. Emphasis in this chapter is placed on the part the convention played in the interim period (when Alabama was no longer in the Union, yet not a member of the Confederate States of America); the role of the convention in establishing the Confederacy; and constitutional changes made by the convention. The secession movement in Alabama has already been well worked. The best monograph on the subject is that of Clarence Phillips Denman, The Secession Movement in Alabama. See also Lewy Dorman, Party Politics in Alabama from 1850 through 1860; John W. Dubose, Life and Times of William L. Yancey; Walter L. Fleming, Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama. Good printed primary sources are Joseph Hodgson, The Cradle of the Confederacy, and William Rusell Smith, History and Debates of the Convention, an account kept by an antisecessionist member of the convention and published in 1861.
2
Acts of Alabama ( 1859- 1860), 686. There were but two dissenting votes against the resolution. But, later Governor A. B. Moore resisted considerable pressure from North Alabama to call the legislature into special session to rescind the resolution and refer any crisis to a vote of the people. Denman, The Secession Movement in Alabama, 90.
3
Smith, History and Debates of the Convention, 90.
4
Denman, op. cit., 87-122. Dorman, op. cit., 167, says: "There were various shades of opinion among the cooperationists, varying from unconditional unionism

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