The word secession is found as early as 1776 when South Carolina said they would separate from the Union when Congress decided to tax the colonies based upon their total population, including their slaves. This became a major concern to a few of the members during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia. In theory, the secession was linked closely to the Whig thought meaning they had the right to rebel against a dictatorial government. Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and the British Commonwealth men disagreed with this idea, thus playing an important part in the American Revolution.
In the 1850s, there was an increasing level of hostilities with the slave holders and planters who were at the forefront for secession. They joined the Breckinridge movement for support of their civil rights and stood against the attacks from the North, who were against slavery. The Breckenridge demanded federal protection for slavery in the area, which was their answer to the Republican promise of free land. Because the slave owners were heavily indebted with land and slaves, slave prices were increasing due to financial difficulties. This economic crisis and selfish pride forced them into secession when Lincoln was elected. They believed his election threatened their ability to maintain the lives they were establishing for themselves by putting an end to slavery.
In the beginning, in the lower and upper south nine states cut their ties with the Union. The best well-known secessionists became known as the fire-eaters, The most prominent of this was William Lowndes Yancey from Alabama, Edmund Ruffin from Virginia and Robert Barnwell Rhett from South Carolina; these three men earned this title because of their adamant and long standing dedication to Southern independence. The fire-eaters constantly took a firm stand for rights of the south, and pushed sectional concerns to the extreme and celebrated the fall of the Democratic party in 1860. Their fight for secession became very popular among the southern group and was facilitated largely by the fears caused by John Browns raid.
The first seven states to break away from the union set up a temporary government in Montgomery, Alabama. Once the fighting began at fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861 the bordering states Tennessee, North Carolina , Virginia, and Arkansas joined the newly formed government, which relocated and established the new capital in Richmond, Virginia. The Union became divided along approximate geographic lines, the eleven slave states became the Confederate States of America with the twenty-one northern and adjoining states retained the name of the United States. The Newly found organization soon learned there was no united South as South Carolina had no support during the nullification disaster when Calhoun appealed to the South to stand up for its rights against the Yankee invaders. In 1850 and 1851 the secessionists were secluded in South Carolina and Mississippi. It was impossible for any type of unity to develop because of the statewide and regional separations of geography and social differences.
The secessionists decided to follow the lead set by Virginia, they believed that the key to secession fell within separate state action allowing them to control by strength and permanent momentum. “Resistance or submission”: It became the united call of the secessionists. Frightened young white men often encouraged by white women, organized or joined military groups and associations of “Minute Men,” all of which promised to defend the South.
On March 4, 1861, when Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, federal troops only had possession of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, Fort Pickens near the Florida coast and a couple of other settlements in the South. The new administration was uneasy about the allegiance from Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky and offered the slave states an amendment to the constitution which would allow slavery to remain where it was previously legally allowed. President Lincoln vowed to retain only federal property that was already part of the Union on March 4, 1861. The immediate action from the Lincoln administration following the attack and defeat of Fort Sumter acquired Maryland and Delaware for the Union. Kentucky announced its neutrality; however, ultimately stayed loyal to the Union. Missouri also contributed heavily in both resources and men to the Union even though it was a major battlefield for the opposing military.
After the war was joined, there were a lot of strong conflicting beliefs on both sides, however, the secession was a ended with defeat of the southern armies and the death of six hundred thousand men, Jefferson’s compact theory was preserved in that a “nation could not have teen formed, nor a war fought, if the states were wholly independent of any central authority.”