Today my Civil War class will continue to discuss the background leading up to Lincoln’s election and the first wave of secession that took place between December 1860 and February 1861. My students are pouring through a collection of documents related to the secession conventions as well as speeches by Alexander Stephens and Jefferson Davis. For Monday they will read a selection from Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War.
Those of you familiar with the documents in question and Dew’s study in particular know that collectively they place slavery – or the fear that the new Republican administration constituted a direct threat to the expansion of slavery and even its future in the South – at the center of the narrative.
This post is for those of you who find this narrative to be problematic for one reason or another. Perhaps you want to hear about states’ rights, tariffs, etc. If this resonates with you my question is if you had to choose one or two documents that date from the period referenced above to introduce to students what would they be? Please provide a link if the document is available online and feel free to sketch out your own interpretation of the document.