Formation of the Confederate States of America

By early 1861, the North was engaged in a bitter debate with itself over the secessionist activities taking place in the South. Some people argued that the United States should allow South Carolina and the other secessionist states to establish their own country without any interference. This sentiment was voiced in towns

^^ People to Know

Robert Anderson (1805-1871) Union major who surrendered Fort Sumter to Confederates in April 1861

Pierre G. T. Beauregard (1818-1893)

Confederate general who captured Fort Sumter in April 1861; also served at First Bull Run and Shiloh

James Buchanan (1791-1868) fifteenth president of the United States, 1857-61

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) president of the Confederate States of America, 1861-65

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) sixteenth president of the United States, 1861-65

William Seward (1801-1872) U.S. secretary of state, 1861-69

and cities all across the North by citizens and political leaders who were weary of dealing with their stubborn Southern neighbors. This feeling was also strong in some abolitionist circles, since the departure of the secessionist states meant that slavery might be more easily stamped out in other parts of the United States. But other Northern communities called for the Federal government to maintain the Union by force if necessary. These people ranged from farmers, who wanted to make sure that they could continue to transport goods down the

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Kentucky senator John Crittenden's proposed series of compromises regarding slavery was rejected by both the Union and Confederacy.

(Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Mississippi River, to Northern manufacturers and merchants, who worried about the impact of Southern independence on their business dealings. The most important factor in the North's opposition to Southern secession, however, was the widespread feeling that Southern selfishness was threatening to destroy a growing nation just when it was on the verge of becoming a world power.

In the South, meanwhile, the states that had seceded went about the business of forming a new government. In February 1861, delegates from each of the six states gathered in Montgomery, Alabama, to draw up a constitution for their new nation, called the Confederate States of America. As it turned out, the Confederate Constitution was very similar to the U.S. Constitution in most respects. But the document created in Montgomery was different in two major ways. First, it gave individual states greater freedom to run their own affairs while also putting significant restraints on the power of the central government. Second, the Confederate Constitution explicitly protected the rights of slaveowners and confirmed slavery's importance to the states of the Confederacy. After the Constitution was approved, newly elected Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens (1812-1883) of Georgia rejoiced, saying that "the new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists among us. . . . [Our new government's] foundations are laid . . . upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery— subordination to the superior race—is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

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