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8.3.4 Unionists, Cooperationists, and Secessionists

Things to Do


Things you need to know.  
When dealing with the American Civil War secession means to leave the Union, to break away from the United States

o Members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union.  

o However, there were arguments. Many folks wanted to stay with the
union. Others wanted to break away only if other states did. 

Still others were ready to break away from American as soon as possible

o Unionists favored the idea of remaining part of the Union.  

o Although Unionists did not necessarily agree with the actions of the Northern states or the federal government, they believed that the United States Constitution was well-equipped to protect South Carolina’s way of life. 
o Cooperationists were South Carolinians who favored seceding from the Union.  

o However, this was a last resort and only if it was done with the support of all of the southern states.  

o They believed that it would be a big mistake for South Carolina to secede without the cooperation and support of other southern states.  

o On the other hand, secessionists, also known as radicals or fire-eaters, argued that breaking apart from the Union prior to the Civil War was the only answer for South Carolina.  

o They believed that the issue was not debatable and were ready to secede as early as 1852.  

o It was the events of the 1850s and the election of Lincoln that convinced most South Carolinians to support the position of the fire-eaters. 

The Secession Convention
o When it became clear that Lincoln was to be the 16th president of the United States, the leaders of South Carolina carried through with their threat to secede.  

o The South Carolina legislature issued a call for a convention to determine the relationship between South Carolina and the Union.  

o Before the convention, communities throughout the state held meetings to discuss the issue.  

o The convention met at the First Baptist Church in Columbia but they quickly adjourned and moved to Charleston because of rumors of a smallpox outbreak.  

o When the meeting reconvened the leaders unanimously adopted an Ordinance of Secession.  

What the document said

o This political statement said that the federal government should not interfere with the decision making and freedoms of the individual states (states’ rights). The document mentions that slavery is the state right they are talking about.  

o Because Lincoln was a Republican and therefore opposed to slavery in the territories, many Southerners assumed that the federal government would soon make slavery illegal.  

o Ending slavery would, in turn, end southern wealth, political influence and way of life.  

o Without waiting for Lincoln to be inaugurated, South Carolina and other southern states seceded from the union to protect the institution of slavery and the Southern way of life. 

Things to Know