Sat 30 Jan, 2010 06:47 pm
This morning browsing around Wikipedia I found this short article about the real possibility of another schism developing prior to the Lincoln administration, this being a movement of secessionists who wanted their mid-Atlantic states and states as far west as Missouri to be known as the Central Confederacy. I have never heard of this, and questions began to crop up. That is, shortly after imaging a trip south on I-95 and having to deal with three different countries.
How serious was this movement? Lincoln must certainly be aware of it, but I don't recall him addressing it. Do any of his policies or speeches show political calculations with this second threat in mind?
I have no idea (sorry!) but I'll bump this for Setanta and anyone else who is a Civil War buff (plus I'm curious, too).
I've never heard of this either--however, it should be borne in mind that secessionist proposals were pretty common before the American civil war began. I do not pretend to an exhaustive knowledge of American history, so that is not evidence that the claim is not true.
Your comments about Lincoln are naive. Lincoln was not some kind of all powerful ruler, whether actual or potential, who could have "done something" about a situation before he became the president. In 1860, in fact, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would be elected. Had Douglas and Breckenridge not split the Democratic ticket, Lincoln would not have been elected. The Republicans had put Frémont up for the office of president in 1856, and had lost. The Republican Party might well not even have existed for very long if Lincoln had not been elected in 1860. He did not take office until March, 1861, by which time the war was already under way. For the life of me, i can't imagine what you think Lincoln could have done about this.
I'm off to read the link you provided.
Your article appears to be highly suspect. It speaks of fears about the growth of the Federal government during the Lincoln administration. The Lincoln administration did not exist until March, 1861. It speaks of attitudes changing after the attack on Fort Sumter. Although modern Americans may not be aware of it, the first shots in the war were fired at Pensacola, Florida in January, 1861. You can bet people at that time were aware of it. I suspect that what you have here is a revisionist historian who has come across some disparate and unimportant political rants, and raised them to the undeserved level of a movement. That a few people proposed such a thing in December, 1860 is not evidence that it was ever a serious political movement, or that it was seriously considered by even a significant fraction of the population.
Look at this claim in a rational light. This article says that the proposed confederacy would have consisted of Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio. Uh huh . . . why is Maryland not included? Does not Maryland, as a slave state, have more political interest in common with Virginia, Delaware and Missouri--all slave states--than it would with New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania? What is Ohio doing in that list at all? What about Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois? Is Missouri just to have been a far-flung appendage, not contiguous with it's fellow states? What are New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to have had in common with the rest which would justify secession and the formation of a confederacy.
This entire thing looks suspiciously like someone's imagination run wild. I don't deny that some crackpot might have proposed this in 1860, but i seriously doubt that it got any serious consideration at that time.
The final nail in the coffin of this story is that the formation of a confederacy of states is expressly forbidden by the constitution. Whether Lincoln had been inaugurated yet or not, the formation of such a confederacy would at the least have inspired sufficient protest to have made war very possible. The most ludicrous part, though, remains the suggestion that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio would have had any part in such a plan.
Article One, Section Ten, first paragraph of the U. S. constitution:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Thanks, Setanta. I think your analysis is solid, as I'm finding no place to poke a hole, particularly in regard to the dime-a-dozen schemes of this nature. I followed a few more Wiki links around and discovered the Central Confederacy page is part of a broader category of secessionist movements in the U.S. alone, of which 44 are listed. It's probably true that the disjointed nature of this confederacy was nothing more than make-believe wishful thinking on the part of a few disenchanted citizens, as you point out.
In regard to Lincoln, I more fully recognize the timeline involved after a night of digestion and your response. But what prompted the question was the matter of John Pendleton Kennedy, former Secretary of the Navy under Millard Fillmore, and a leading proponent of the Central Confederacy. I read that Kennedy had been considered for Vice President under Lincoln, and immediately wondered if this was Lincoln's way of diffusing the perceived threat. Likely there is no way to know, and it appears Kennedy was a qualified man in his own right. In any event, hostilities ended the pipe dream called the Central Confederacy.
It is important to an understanding of "pre-Civil War" America that secession had been mooted before it actually took place. The details of those, while interesting in themselves to anyone who likes such things, are not very important to an understanding of American history. The causes for the discontent which lead people to call for secession are important, but can be understood and appreciated without reference to hysterical calls for secession.
In the end, what is important to know about secession is that it did take place, that it took place in an atmosphere of hysteria among slave-owners, and that it took place after Lincoln's election, but before he was even inaugurated into his office. By the time Lincoln was inaugurated, the war had begun (in Pensacola and Charleston), many states had passed acts of secession and a confederacy of seceded states had already been formed.