Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water
East Tennessee gave few indications in the antebellum period that it would divide so completely from the rest of the South. East Tennessee leaders had not differed noticeably from the rest of the state on sectional issues, and Knoxville had hosted the 1857 Southern Convention. Both Whigs and Democrats had defended the institution of slavery, attacked Northern abolitionists, and promoted Southern expansion and economic development. Nonetheless, when war came the majority of East Tennesseans refused to leave the Union, and neither appeals nor threats would move them from this position.
In the antebellum period most Tennessee leaders had adopted a moderate position on sectional issues. Democrats tended to be more outspoken than Whigs in defense of Southern rights, but both parties had rejected radical measures. In 1847 the Tennessee Senate declared its opposition to the Wilmot Proviso, but voted down proposals to nullify any Federal statutes barring slavery in the territories. The majority of Tennesseans apparently supported the Compromise of 1850, and few Tennessee delegates attended a Southern convention held in Nashville in 1851 to discuss Southern grievances. Senator John Bell opposed both the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the LeCompton Constitution. And after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, Representative T. A. R. Nelson condemned agitation of the slavery issue by both Southerners and Northerners. 1
Moderation likewise prevailed in the presidential election of 1860. Tennessee played a leading role in the organization of the Constitutional Union Party, provided the new party with its presidential candidate, John Bell, and gave Bell twelve of his thirtynine electoral votes. Tennessee's voting in this election followed