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This Week in Georgia Civil War History
November 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Lincoln was a Republican, running on a platform that called for denying the extension of slavery into U.S. territories in the west, and in favor of a protective tariff (among other items).
Abraham Lincoln in 1860
Lincoln was elected without carrying any southern states. But he did carry all of the northern states (except Missouri) and the West. The Democratic Party had split into southern and northern factions, primarily over the issues of states' rights and slavery. A fourth contestant - the Constitutional Union Party - was also involved. The northern faction of the Democratic Party ran Stephen Douglas (a famous previous opponent of Lincoln in the Illinois Senatorial race of 1858), with Georgian Herschel Johnson as his running mate.
The southern faction ran John Breckenridge, while the Constitutional Union party ran John Bell. These three effectively split the southern vote, leading to Lincoln's victory in the election. Georgia's electoral votes went to the southern Democratic faction, despite a native son on the other Democratic ticket. The Georgia Weekly Telegraph of Macon, in its November 8 issue, reported the victory of Lincoln, although returns were still not complete. Interestingly, in the returns that are reported, Lincoln is not mentioned at all - just the votes for Breckenridge, Douglas, and Bell. In another interesting note, the Macon Daily Telegraph, in its November 6 (day of the election) issue, listed the Georgia electors for the Breckenridge and Douglas tickets - one of which was Alexander Stephens, who would become the vice-president of the Confederacy.
November 7, 1860: Georgia governor Joseph Emerson Brown addressed a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly in Milledgeville (then the state capital), in which he called for a statewide convention to determine Georgia's response to the election of Abraham Lincoln. In the lengthy, defiant speech, Brown insisted that any course of action taken could include no more compromise, and concluded with these statements:
If the madness and folly of the people of the Northern States shall drive us of the South to a separation from them, we have within ourselves, all the elements of wealth, power, and national greatness, to an extent possessed probably by no other people on the face of the earth. With a vast and fertile territory, possessed of every natural advantage, bestowed by a kind Providence upon the most favored land, and with almost monopoly of the cotton culture of the world, if we were true to ourselves, our power would be invincible, and our prosperity unbounded.
If it is ascertained that the Black Republicans have triumphed over us, I recommend the call of a Convention of the people of the State at an early day; and I will cordially unite with the General Assembly in any action, which, in their judgment, may be necessary to the protection of the rights and the preservation of the liberties of the people of Georgia, against the future aggressions of the enemy, which, when flushed with victory, will be insolent in the hour of triumph.
For the purpose of putting this State in a defensive condition as fast as possible, and prepare for an emergency, which must be met sooner or later, I recommend that the sum of one million of dollars be immediately appropriated, as a military fund for the ensuing year; and that prompt provision be made for raising such portion of the money as may not be in the Treasury, as fast as the public necessities may require its expenditure. "Millions for defence, but not a cent for tribute," should be the future motto of the Southern States.
To every demand for further concessions, or compromise of our rights, we should reply, "The argument is exhausted," and we now "stand by our arms."
Joseph Emerson Brown
November 8, 1860: Secession fever was sweeping the state of Georgia, as evidenced by a demonstration in one of Savannah's public squares, where one of the earliest secession flags was raised. The demonstration was captured in a drawing by Henry Cleenewerck:
A closer view of the flag can be seen here.
But not all were ready to rush into secession, as evidenced by this editorial in Augusta's Chronicle & Sentinel:
We have met the enemy and they have conquered. We do not yet know much of the details, nor have we much stomach for them. It is sufficient to know that Lincoln has carried nearly if not altogether the entire North, while the South is divided. And what does this election show? A triumph of sectionalism certainly, but is it a triumph also of antislavery fanaticism? It looks very much so, but still we must all know besides anti-slavery there was another powerful element that came in to the aid of the Republican party. And that was undying hatred to Democracy, and it may be that hatred of Democracy had as much to do with it as hatred of slavery. ...
But now the question is, what shall be done? No one can doubt that there is a demoniac, fanatic, anti-slavery sentiment in the North...No one can doubt that this spirit is manifest in the Republican party...
What shall be done? Well, in the first place, the times require that we should be perfectly cool, or as cool as we can be, and that we proceed in this business with due deliberation, putting aside rashness and passion as far as possible...
Reprinted from The Civil War: Primary Documents on Events from 1860-1865, Edited by Ford Risley, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2004, pp. 31-32
The Southern Watchman of Athens was also leary of the secession movement, although not pleased with the election of Lincoln.
The Georgia Weekly Telegraph of Macon printed the news of Lincoln's election, although returns were still incomplete.
November 9, 1860: The South Carolina legislature called for a convention, to meet on December 17, to decide if that state would secede from the Union. It would be the first state to make that decision. The decision to call for an early convention may well have been influenced by a secession demonstration in Charleston similar to the one that had taken place the previous night in Savannah. In fact, several men from Georgia - including Henry Rootes Jackson and Francis Bartow - came to Charleston to attend that city's demonstration, giving stirring speeches and assuring them of Georgia's support. A rumor even spread that Georgia Senator Robert Toombs had resigned his seat, though this turned out to be premature.
Henry Rootes Jackson |
Meanwhile, people in the North were taking notice of what was happening in the South. Notably, one of the observers was William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. In a letter published in the November 9, 1860 edition, he wrote:
So far as the North is concerned, a marvellous change for the better has taken place in public sentiment in relation to the anti-slavery movement. The struggle for freedom of speech and of the press has every where been fought, and the victory won. A general enlightenment has taken place upon the subject of slavery. The opinions of a vast multitude have been essentially changed, and secured to the side of freedom. The conflict between free institutions and slave institutions is seen and acknowledged to be irrepressible - not of man's devising, but of God's ordering - and it is deepening in intensity daily, in spite of every effort of political cunning and religious sorcery to effect a reconciliation. The pending Presidential election witnesses a marked division between the political forces of the North and of the South; and though it relates, ostensibly, solely to the question of the further extension of slavery, it really signifies a much deeper sentiment in the breasts of the people of the North, which, in process of time, must ripen into more decisive action.
So far as the South is concerned, she has apparently waxed worse and worse - grown more and more desperate - revealed more and more of savage brutality and fiendish malignity, until her crimes and atrocities, not only as perpetrated upon her dehumanized slaves, but as inflicted upon Northern citizens and strangers within her limits, have become too numerous for record, and almost too horrible for belief.
But all this is the sign that the end is rapidly approaching. Peaceably, or by a bloody process, the oppressed will eventually obtain their freedom, and nothing can prevent it.
William Lloyd Garrison
November 10, 1860: South Carolina Senator James Chesnut became the first Southern politician to resign his seat with the United States over the possibility of secession. He would go on to serve in the Confederate Army, while his wife Mary would keep one of the more famous Civil War diaries - A Diary from Dixie.
Go to November 11-17, 1860
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