Reasons for the Secession of the Southern States
One approach to analyzing the secession of the South from the North is to look into the “Declaration Clauses”. These are documents that were issued or submitted by the Southern States of South Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Mississippi as explanations for their secession. By examining them, the reasons for the secession can arguably be deciphered.
It is worth starting by highlighting the significance of slavery to the United States of the time. While the economy of the North relied on industrialization, the economy of the South was predominantly based on agriculture. The economy of the South was therefore reliant on slave labor.
In their declarations, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas openly attack the abolition of slavery, construing it as a way of inciting violent uprisings. As it is put in the declaration by South Carolina, the abolitionists in the North had – for two and a half decades – been planning to subvert the Union’s institutions and servile war among the Union’s States, as had been evident in the invasion of a slave-labor-dependent state. The state of Mississippi thought of the abolition as advocating for the social and political equality of the Negro to the whites, and promoting insurrection amidst all states. According to the State of Texas, all the slave-free states had united to conspire against the South by proclaiming the doctrine that all races and colors were equal – a doctrine that conflicts with nature, that was not in agreement with mankind’s experience, and that violates the revelations of Divine Law.
Another reason was the interpretation that the compactness of the Union was one that could be annulled in the event of dissatisfaction with what was received in return from the federal government or other states. The declaration by the State of South Carolina interprets the States of Iowa and Ohio’s refusal to bring to trial fugitives accused of homicide, as a disregard for the constituted compactness of the Union, thus relieving South Carolina of its obligations to the Union. The declaration by the States of Texas points to the violation by the Northern States of the Clause on Fugitive Slave in the Union’s constitution, and argues that the violation annuls the provision of the compact, thus releasing Texas from the Union.
Yet another reason for the secession was the (perceived) exploitation of the South by the North for their manufacturing interests, and the North’s dominance of the Federal government. The declaration by the state of Georgia complains about the bias of the federal government towards the North (and against the South). The federal government had subsidized, bailed out and protected (from competition) the factories and industries in the North, as well as lift their business burdens, through the very same Federal treasury that the South contributes to. Owing to the lack of equal treatment by the federal government among all state, the State of Georgia saw a justification to secede.
Thus, the reasons for the secession of the south from the north emerge from the Declaration Clauses: the South’s disapproval of the abolition of slavery; the violation of the compactness of the union, which as such justified secession; and the bias of the federal government in favor of the North. Thus, the confederacy could not have survived.
- Could the Confederacy have survived?
The government of the southern states that seceded from the north joined up to form a republic – the Confederate States. The North’s refusal to grant the Confederacy a peaceful secession resulted to a civil war in the United States. But there was no chance the Confederacy could have survived the war.
Firstly, the Confederacy was not firmly united. The central government’s attempts to consolidate the militaries of its constituent states was resisted by those states as each preferred to keep control of their resources and men in their individual states.
Another challenge the confederacy government faced is the problem of limited resources. The government was poor. The federal government had imposed a blockade on the Southern trade, thus deteriorating the foreign trade of the South and, as a consequence, draining its financial reserves. The confederacy government’s attempts to raise money by other means failed.
Thirdly, owing to the disapproval of slavery by the black population in the Southern States, the black population could not be loyal to the confederacy. Further, the Northerners liberated slaves during the period of the invasion, and won the support of the black population of the South.
The confederacy also faced military problems pertaining to supplies. Maintaining the supplies of food, equipment and medicine were hindered by the south’s limited infrastructure. They even went as far as nationalizing the railway to help supply the military.
Thus, owing the above problems, and the fact that the North was better off in terms of the federal resources it had, the union of its members and the ability to mobilize and supply the military – all of which the confederation lacked – the confederation would not have survived.