In the discussion thread: Lincoln - what if he had really negotiated with the South ? [View all]
Response to LVZ (Original post)
Mon Nov 12, 2012, 11:23 AM
csziggy (17,808 posts)
16. Southerners were intractable about wanting to secede
I have not read a lot about the general political climate but in reading local histories that cover the period 1840-1860 the South had factions advocating for secession for decades before the Civil War began. I don't think Lincoln could have overcome those strong forces.
In reading a history of plantations in North Florida (The Red Hills of Florida, 1528-1865 by Clifton Paisley), it was striking to me how adamant many were about dividing the country as early as 1846 in response to the Wilmot Proviso to prohibit slavery in new territories. "In Florida a bipartisan committee in the Whig county of Madison complained about an 'infamous war' that was being conducted by 'northern Whigs and northern Democrats' against 'southern institutions'." (from The Red Hills of Florida) A resolution introduced in the General Assembly in 1849 declared that "under no circumstance will the people of this state be willing to recognize as binding any enactment of the Federal Government which has for the object the prohibition of slavery in any territory south of the line of the Missouri Compromise." (ibid)
Henry Clay, who was instrumental in the Missouri Compromise, also promoted the Compromise of 1850 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Clay#The_Compromise_of_1850) which delayed secessionist movements but did not stop them.
Even the Quakers were split by the slavery issue. Again, this is from reading family history rather than general histories. My husband's ancestor was a Quaker who attended a yearly meeting in Indiana in 1842. Because of his descriptions of the turmoil in a letter home, and his mention of Henry Clay, and because that particular letter was undated I did some research into that meeting:
It was slavery and abolition that caused great tension and a split amongst the Friends of the 1840ís and 50ís. Quakers were well-established in Indiana politics by the 1840ís. They were officeholders and state legislators, usually members of the Whig party and solidly anti-slavery. Indianaís first anti-slavery newspaper, the "Protectionist", was published by a New England Quaker in a room over Levi Coffinís store in Newport. Another journal published in Newport was the "Free Labor Advocate". This was the journal of the Free Labor Movement which advocated discontinuing the use of, or purchase of, any goods or foodstuffs made or raised with the use of slave labor. This cause was championed by Abolitionist leader Levi Coffin and Free Labor stores where opened by several Quakers in the Whitewater Valley. Abolitionist Friends wrote for both of the journals to the great dismay of more moderate Hoosier Quakers. They also founded, and joined, abolitionist societies. This, most moderate and conservative Friends felt, was against the Quaker notion of appropriate quiet and retiring demeanor. Membership in Abolition Societies brought far too much notoriety to such members and disrupted the notion of unity, so valued by Friends. In 1842 Levi Coffin and other influential Friends were disciplined by the Yearly Meeting for their outspoken, and very public behavior, relating to slavery. The next day the Meeting welcomed slave owner Henry Clay as an honored guest. Outraged, the Anti-slavery friends retired to Newport and formed the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends. Levi Coffin, Charles Osborn and Henry Weeks were among the leaders of the Indiana Anti-Slavery Friends. The orthodox Friends were much grieved by the split. But, by 1857, these Friends had become, for the most part, abolitionists themselves. That year the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends dissolved and most members rejoined the Indiana Yearly Meeting. (Rudolph: 203-205; See Hamm: Chapter9A. Quakers and African Americans)
(My husband is also related to Charles Osborn, mentioned in this account.)
By the time Abraham Lincoln started his campaign to be President the country was already divided philosophically. IMO nothing he could have tried would have prevented the Southern states from seceding.
If even the Northern pacifistic Quakers split over this issue nearly two decades before Fort Sumter, how could Lincoln or any politician have been able to negotiate a settlement once the lines were so distinctly drawn?
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