One of the more controversial issues concerning the Civil War is, what was the “cause” of Confederate secession? Why did the slaveholding states feel the need to reject the election of president Abraham Lincoln, and form a separate Confederate nation?
Many say that the central issue of secession was slavery. Others say the central issue was the desire to protect their states rights.
Myself, I don’t think those are mutually exclusive statements. I believe that Confederate secession was about states rights – that is, the states’ rights to maintain slavery.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s let the Southerners tell their own tale.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. On December 24, 1860, the state issued its Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. This document is South Carolina’s declaration of independence from the Union.
The following text is an excerpt from the document, and a very large excerpt at that. For emphasis, I have bolded the word slave, or other references to slavery, such as labor, which refers to slave labor; and persons. In some cases, I’ve added a parenthetical note, with the abbreviation Ed. (for Editor), to explain a comment which might not be immediately understood by the reader. I make some comments on the text further below.
I think it’s quite clear when you read this: South Carolina politicians believed that the institution of slavery was in peril, and they seceded as a way to protect that institution. Here, in their own words, is South Carolina’s reason for leaving the Union: