Thursday, April 19, 2018

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2018, April 18: The secession controversy in Mississippi

Catching up again, here with the post for yesterday's date, I'm looking at another older journal article taking a version of the Lost Cause perspective, An Analysis of the Secession Controversy in Mississippi, 1854-61 by Percy Rainwater Mississippi Valley Historical Review 24:1 (Jun., 1937).

In the next post, I'll look at a couple of his points that fall into the neo-Confederate spectrum. But, despite operating in that perspective, in this piece his task is to look at the political disputes in Mississippi around secession. Empirical research is always a special challenge for a neo-Confederate perspective. And this essay makes clear that one issue was central to the secession controversy. Speaking of the militant secessionists versus those less convinced, he writes:
Both of these groups regarded the benefits of the Union as secondary to the preservation of slavery, which was the support of the state's social and economic system. In short, all classes in the state, slaveholders and non-slaveholders alike, looked upon the society in which they lived as representing the realization of a social ideal sanctioned alike by God and nature. This ideal, on its positive side, was beneficial both to the master and the slave; and, although social and economic lines between white groups were not permanently fixed, the system did provide for a wholesome regimentation of the nether herd. On its negative side, the institution of slavery, with its attendant effects upon all groups and classes, created an atmosphere in which, unlike that in the free states, undesirable and dangerous innovations in the religious life and in the general mores of the people could not live.

All groups in Mississippi in 1860 believed apparently that the social system based upon slavery was economically advantageous and socially elevating, and that only upon such a social soil could the highest type of republican government be built. All groups proceeding, it is true, upon a priori arguments, united in the belief that their social system was superior to that based upon free labor at almost every point by which civilization could be evaluated. When, therefore, the institution of slavery was endangered by the election of Lincoln, both the slaveholder and the non-slaveholder arose with religious zeal to defend their social heritage, which, like their religion, was not a subject for the detachment of the laboratory. The rich and the poor, the high and the low, the slaveholder and the non-slaveholder were "so indissolubly united in feeling and interest," said 0. R. Singleton, "that if you but touch a chord connected with either, it vibrates through our whole social system, and unites in more rapid motion the blood of every heart."

Thus united in their loyalty to a social system whose benefits, all agreed, far surpassed the benefits of the Union, the people nevertheless differed sharply concerning the degree of danger to which Lincoln's election subjected slavery and the effect disunion would have on the future of that institution.

No comments: