Mississippi Votes to Secede: 84 to 15
Mississippi became the second state to secede from the United States. It convened its secession convention in Jackson on January 7, 1861 and, with a vote of 84 to 15, voted to secede just two days later.
As Mississippi Senator Albert G. Brown put it two days after Christmas, 1860:
“It seems to me that northern Senators most pertinaciously overlook the main point at issue between the two sections of our Confederacy. We claim that there is property in slaves, and they deny it. Until we shall settle, upon some basis, that point of controversy, it is idle to talk of going any further.”
Mississippi’s other senator, Jefferson Davis, had equally made it clear that protecting the institution of slavery was the primary concern of the South when he proposed (on
Christmas Eve, 1860) a constitutional amendment that would have nationalized slavery. Davis proposed that slavery should be protected as all other kinds of property were protected under the provisions of the Fifth Amendment. Had it been ratified, Davis’s amendment would have removed the protection of slavery from state control and placed it firmly under federal control.
But the clearest expression of what motivated Mississippi’s secession movement was developed by the delegates themselves. Two weeks after passing the ordinance of secession that formally separated the state from the Union, the convention passed “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.”
“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery–the greatest material interest in the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. …
… We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every species of property.”
As President of the Convention, William S. Barry, adjourned the convention, he observed that:
“The action of this Convention is of vast importance. Its record is a part, for good or evil, of the history of the country. In obedience to the will of the people, you have accomplished the work of destruction; but the courage, the thought, the wisdom, necessary to destroy are not always equal to the task of re-building. More is required in the future than has been in the past.”
Just how much more courage, thought, and wisdom would be required to re-build the country following Appomattox, no one among the assembled delegates could possibly imagine.
– Submitted by Dwight T. Pitcaithley, New Mexico State University