Some Northern reactions to secession

Georgia Sixth

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#1
Just read this over the weekend and want to share it. From "The Civil War: An American Illiad", a book that attempts to tell the story of the war using the actual words of participants and observers of the time.

This excerpt is from the reaction of the northern states to South Carolina's move to secede:

Influential Northern journals had foreseen the secession of South Carolina, and were in sympathy with it. Three days after Lincoln's election, Horace Greeley's New York Tribune had declared that it held with Jefferson to the inalienable right of countries to allow or abolish governments that had become oppressive. It then went on:

"If the Cotton States shall decide that they can do better out of the Union, we insist on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary right, but it exists, nevertheless."

On December 17, Greeley enlarged on this statement.

"If the Declaration of Independence justified the secession of three millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it should not justify the secession of five millions of southerners in 1861."

The independent New York Herald agreed.

"Each State is organized as a complete government, possessing the right to break the tie of the Confederation. Coercion, if it were possible, is out of the question."

The Albany Argus, organ of Thurlow Weed, a prominent Republican editor and politician, leaned still further toward the Southern point of view.

"We sympathize with the South. Their rights have been invaded to the extreme limit possible within the forms of the Constitution; their feelings have been insulted, their interests and honor assailed by almost every form of invective. We think that all the instincts of manhood rightfully impelled them to resort to a separation from the Union. We wish them Godspeed in the adoption of such a remedy."
 

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#2
One Southern reaction to secession....

Editorial titled “The True Question” which appeared in the Richmond Enquirer on November 1, 1814.

The Union is in danger. Turn to the convention in Hartford, and learn to tremble at the madness of its authors. How far will those madmen advance? Though they may conceal from you the project of disunion, though a few of them may have even concealed if from themselves, yet who will pretend to set the bounds to the rage of disaffection? Once false step after another may lead them to resistance to the laws, to a treasonable neutrality, to a war against the Government of the United States. In truth, the first act of resistance to the law is treason to the United States. Are you ready for this state of things? Will you support the men who would plunge you into this ruin?

No man, no association of men, no state or set of states has a right to withdraw itself from this Union, of its own accord. The same power which knit us together, can only unknit. The same formality, which forged the links of the Union, is necessary to dissolve it. The majority of States which form the Union must consent to the withdrawal of any one branch of it. Until that consent has been obtained, any attempt to dissolve the Union, or obstruct the efficacy of its constitutional laws, is Treason--Treason to all intents and purposes.

Any other doctrine, such as that which has been lately held forth by the ‘Federal Republican’ that any one State may withdraw itself from the Union, is abominable heresy – which strips its author of every possible pretension to the name or character of Federalist.

We call, therefore, upon the government of the Union to exert its energies, when the season shall demand it – and seize the first traitor who shall spring out of the hotbed of the convention of Harford. This illustrious Union, which has been cemented by the blood of our forefathers, the pride of America and the wonder of the world must not be tamely sacrificed to the heated brains or the aspiring hearts of a few malcontents. The Union must be saved, when any one shall dare to assail it.

Countrymen of the East! We call upon you to keep a vigilant eye upon those wretched men who would plunge us into civil war and irretrievable disgrace. Whatever be the temporary calamities which may assail us, let us swear, upon the altar of our country, to SAVE THE UNION.
 
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#5
Interesting. Then the historian either attached him to the wrong paper or quoted a paper that Weed had nothing to do with. :O o:
Historian quoted the Argus; Weed was not associated with the Argus at the time. Weed did work for the Argus 40+ years before the civil war. But from the 1830s up to the war he was the power behind the Albany Evening Journal. By 1860 the Argus and the Journal were the voices of the two opposing parties in Albany.
 
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#6
This is the sort of thing Weed's paper was writing:

"We should do all that can be done, in the way of justice, equality, conciliation and forbearance, to avert a conflict, but if all efforts in that direction prove fruitless, it is better to rebuke Treason, enforce the Laws, and preserve the Union, cost what it may, than suffer its Dismemberment." - Albany Evening Journal December 17, 1860.
 

Bruce Vail

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#9
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#11
Just read this over the weekend and want to share it. From "The Civil War: An American Illiad", a book that attempts to tell the story of the war using the actual words of participants and observers of the time.

This excerpt is from the reaction of the northern states to South Carolina's move to secede:

Influential Northern journals had foreseen the secession of South Carolina, and were in sympathy with it. Three days after Lincoln's election, Horace Greeley's New York Tribune had declared that it held with Jefferson to the inalienable right of countries to allow or abolish governments that had become oppressive. It then went on:

"If the Cotton States shall decide that they can do better out of the Union, we insist on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary right, but it exists, nevertheless."

On December 17, Greeley enlarged on this statement.

"If the Declaration of Independence justified the secession of three millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it should not justify the secession of five millions of southerners in 1861."

The independent New York Herald agreed.

"Each State is organized as a complete government, possessing the right to break the tie of the Confederation. Coercion, if it were possible, is out of the question."

The Albany Argus, organ of Thurlow Weed, a prominent Republican editor and politician, leaned still further toward the Southern point of view.

"We sympathize with the South. Their rights have been invaded to the extreme limit possible within the forms of the Constitution; their feelings have been insulted, their interests and honor assailed by almost every form of invective. We think that all the instincts of manhood rightfully impelled them to resort to a separation from the Union. We wish them Godspeed in the adoption of such a remedy."
Expanding on the Tribune's editorial, probably written by Horace Greeley:

"If the Cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless ... And whenever a considerable section of our Union shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures designed to keep it in. We hope never to live in a republic where of one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets."
 

Zack

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#13
Kenneth Stamp argued in the 1950s in And the War Came that Northern attitudes evolved (roughly) as follows:

1860 - shock and surprise at the secession of South Carolina. Firm belief in the power of compromise
January 1861 - South Carolina fires on the American ship Star of the West trying to resupply Fort Sumter. Northern attitudes begin to shift - some are starting to doubt compromise.
January - February 1861 - the Crittenden Compromise, the last ditch effort to avert war, is struck down. Faith in compromise disappears. Should we let them go or make them stay? Some say the former, some the latter.
February - April 1861 - Northern attitudes harden into the belief that it is worth fighting for the union
April 1861 - Fort Sumter is fired on and the outrage of being under attack (much like after Pearl Harbor in WW2) helps push the North the last steps to supporting open war.

This particular author writing in the 1950s downplayed the role of slavery but modern authors have re-centralized it and talked about northern attitudes. The north was pretty solidly anti-slavery and that certainly shaped attitudes. I'm still digging into the ways that anti-slavery attitudes shaped Northern opinions on a pending Civil War.

So what do you guys think?
How did Northern attitudes towards pending war evolve?
Did it vary by region?
Were Northeasterners more radical than Midwesterners (or vice-versa)?
How did abolitionist sentiment shape Northern attitudes during the Secession Winter?
How shocked were Northerners at the secession of South Carolina?
How did they respond to subsequent secessions?
What were the dominating emotions? Shock? Fear? Confusion? Anger?
How would Northerners who wanted to leave the South alone have discussed secession with those who wanted to bring the South back? How prevalent were each of these sentiments? Did they fall along geographic, social, class, gender, etc. lines?
How did African Americans living in the North react to the coming war?
Did men and women react differently or similarly?

It may seem lightning fast in retrospect, but December 20, 1860 to April 12, 1861 is a LONG time to be living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty. For example, I read that when a 34-gun salute was fired in Washington DC to celebrate the entry of Kansas into the Union on January 29, 1861 some Washingtonians panicked and thought either a secessionist uprising was underway or they were being invaded by the South (1861: The Civil War Awakening).
 

Bruce Vail

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#14
Which reminds me, if I lived in a nearby Northern State and Lincoln called out for troops to invade the South, me personally, I would have said "What? Why the heck would I want to do that?" If the South wants to Secede, then let them Secede.
I don't mind saying that that was the same conclusion I reached as a Northern teenager in the 1970s and feel pretty much the same today.

War rarely solves political problems. but it always creates new ones.
 

grace

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#15
I don't mind saying that that was the same conclusion I reached as a Northern teenager in the 1970s and feel pretty much the same today.

War rarely solves political problems. but it always creates new ones.
My family would have been running down South to lend a hand. Which is reflected in my story...also, a lot of our friends would be furious with our choice.
 

Old_Glory

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#17
Expanding on the Tribune's editorial, probably written by Horace Greeley:

"If the Cotton States
Interesting how Greeley is describing them as the Cotton states instead of Slave states. It looks like the narrative was yet to be nailed down at this point.

It would be interesting to note how often the terms were used before and after secession.
 
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9,229
#19
Kenneth Stamp argued in the 1950s in And the War Came that Northern attitudes evolved (roughly) as follows:

1860 - shock and surprise at the secession of South Carolina. Firm belief in the power of compromise
January 1861 - South Carolina fires on the American ship Star of the West trying to resupply Fort Sumter. Northern attitudes begin to shift - some are starting to doubt compromise.
January - February 1861 - the Crittenden Compromise, the last ditch effort to avert war, is struck down. Faith in compromise disappears. Should we let them go or make them stay? Some say the former, some the latter.
February - April 1861 - Northern attitudes harden into the belief that it is worth fighting for the union
April 1861 - Fort Sumter is fired on and the outrage of being under attack (much like after Pearl Harbor in WW2) helps push the North the last steps to supporting open war.

This particular author writing in the 1950s downplayed the role of slavery but modern authors have re-centralized it and talked about northern attitudes. The north was pretty solidly anti-slavery and that certainly shaped attitudes. I'm still digging into the ways that anti-slavery attitudes shaped Northern opinions on a pending Civil War.

So what do you guys think?
How did Northern attitudes towards pending war evolve?
Did it vary by region?
Were Northeasterners more radical than Midwesterners (or vice-versa)?
How did abolitionist sentiment shape Northern attitudes during the Secession Winter?
How shocked were Northerners at the secession of South Carolina?
How did they respond to subsequent secessions?
What were the dominating emotions? Shock? Fear? Confusion? Anger?
How would Northerners who wanted to leave the South alone have discussed secession with those who wanted to bring the South back? How prevalent were each of these sentiments? Did they fall along geographic, social, class, gender, etc. lines?
How did African Americans living in the North react to the coming war?
Did men and women react differently or similarly?

It may seem lightning fast in retrospect, but December 20, 1860 to April 12, 1861 is a LONG time to be living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty. For example, I read that when a 34-gun salute was fired in Washington DC to celebrate the entry of Kansas into the Union on January 29, 1861 some Washingtonians panicked and thought either a secessionist uprising was underway or they were being invaded by the South (1861: The Civil War Awakening).
More bovine droppings!! (Hilite is mine) The South wasn't after ruling the world, just Independence!
 


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