Viewed as a practical tactic to secure concrete goals

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Viewed as a practical tactic to secure concrete goals, secession did not make a great deal of sense. Yet to dwell on the impracticality of secession as a choice for the South is to miss the point. The events of the 1850s persuaded many southerners that the North had deserted the true principles of the Union. Southerners interpreted northern resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act and to slavery in Kansas as either illegal or unconstitutional, and they viewed headline- grabbing phrases such as “irrepressible conflict” and “a higher law” as virtual declarations of war on the South. To southerners, it was the North, not the South, that had grown peculiar. More fundamentally, southerners believed that the North was treating the South as its inferior, as no more than a slave. “Talk of Negro slavery,” exclaimed southern proslavery philosopher George Fitzhugh, “is not half so humiliating and disgraceful as the slavery of the South to the North.” Having persuaded themselves that slavery made it possible for them to enjoy unprecedented freedom and equality, white southerners took great pride in their homeland. They bitterly dismissed Republican portrayals of the South as a region of arrogant planters and degraded white common folk. Submission to the Republicans, declared Democratic senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, “would be intolerable to a proud people.” 14-4.3 The Upper South and the Coming of War Despite the abruptness of the Lower South’s withdrawal from the Union, uncertainty laced the movement for secession. Many southerners had resisted calls for immediate secession. Even after Lincoln’s election, fire-eating secessionists had met opposition in the Lower South from so- called cooperationists, who called upon the South to act in unison or not at all. Many cooperationists had hoped to delay secession to wring concessions from the North that might remove the need for secession. Jefferson Davis, inaugurated in February 1861 as president of the Confederacy, was a reluctant secessionist who remained in the U.S. Senate two weeks after his own state of Mississippi had seceded. Even zealous advocates of secession had a hard time reconciling themselves to secession and believing that they were no longer citizens of the United States. “How do you feel now, dear Mother,” a Georgian wrote, “that we are in a foreign land?” At first, the Upper South states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas flatly rejected secession (see Map 14.5). In contrast to the Lower South, which had a guaranteed export market for its cotton, the Upper South depended heavily on economic ties to the North that would be severed by secession. Furthermore, with proportionately far fewer slaves than the Lower South, the states of the Upper South doubted the loyalty of their sizable nonslaveholding populations to the idea of secession. Virginia, for example, had every reason to question the
allegiance to secession of its nonslaveholding western counties, which would soon break away to form Unionist West Virginia. Few in the Upper South could forget the raw nerve touched by the

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