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Arguments on Secession

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The outbreak of the Civil War was the

conclusion to the decades-long series of
regional issues that threatened American
unity and South Carolinas identity as one of
the United States. To understand how South
Carolina came to be at the center of this
conflict, you will be able to evaluate the
arguments of unionists, cooperationists, and
secessionists on the issues of states rights
and slavery and the ways that these
arguments contributed to South
Carolinas secession.

Members of the South Carolina

secession convention in 1860 voted
unanimously to secede from the
Union. However, there were South Carolinians who strongly discouraged secession prior to the
national election of 1860. Unionists favored the idea of remaining part of the Union. Although
Unionists did not necessarily agree with the actions of the Northern states or the federal
government, they did believe that the United States
Constitution was well equipped to protect South Carolinas
way of life. Cooperationists were South Carolinians who
favored seceding from the Union but only as a last resort and
if other southern states joined with South Carolina. They
believed to secede alone would be a big mistake.
Secessionists, or fire-eaters, were radicals who felt that leaving Image from: Union was the only answer to preserve South Carolinas
you-have-been-a-Confederate-or-Unionculture. Fire-eaters had supported secession since 1852, but
most South Carolinians only supported this view after the
2. Which perspective (unionist,
turbulent 1850s and Lincolns election.

1. How do you feel this cartoon represents antebellum


cooperationist, secessionist) do
you feel was the correct and

Once Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United

States in 1860, South Carolina carried out its threat to secede.
The South Carolina legislature called a special convention that
met at the First Baptist Church in Columbia. The convention moved to Charleston, where
support for secession was the strongest, after a small pox outbreak was rumored to be

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3. Based on the map which

perspective (unionist,
cooperationist, secessionist)
was in the majority in the

spreading in Columbia. The

leaders voted unanimously to
adopt an Ordinance of
Secession, a political statement
that said the federal government
should not interfere with states rights. Many South Carolinians felt that since Lincoln was a
Republican that the federal government would make slavery illegal-ending southern culture
and influence. Before Lincoln could be inaugurated, South Carolina was joined by six other
southern states that seceded from the Union in attempt to protect the institution of slavery
upon which their way of life depended.

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4. Was the South justified in

seceding from the Union?