27 May 2009

More On Northern Secessionists

New York:

"There were 337 weekly newspapers in New York, according to the 1860 United States Census. Of these, it was possible to locate and determine the positions of secession taken by 98 dailies or weeklies and three monthlies."

"Of these 101, 46 newspapers endorsed some form of secession. None of them favored New York's joining the South. However, the Albany Atlas and Argus wanted New York to join a central confederacy. Twenty-four opposed the use of coercion and argued that the South be permitted to leave the Union. An additional seven opposed coercion of the South but did not advocate that the South be permitted to go in peace, even though the end result would be the same. Three New York newspapers recommended that New York City secede, they were the New York Morning Express, Day Book, and Daily News." ~ The Secession Movement in the Mid-Atlantic States by William C. Wright (Associated University Presses, Inc., 1973), page 198. (Emphasis mine).

It should be obvious to even the casual student of the WBTS that secession was certainly not out of the mainstream of political thought in 1861. There was a fair amount of secessionist sentiment in Northern states, even among some politicians. Secession was not a new or radical concept and it was actually first used as a wedge by Northern states years before the crisis of 1861. Some historians and CW bloggers have become rather loose with labeling as a "neo-Confederate" anyone who suggests that Southerners legitimately believed they had a right to leave the Union in 1861 and that secession was, in their view, constitutional. Furthermore, those who suggest that Southerners were traitors for favoring secession are participating in a morality play and attempting to forward an agenda. They really have no understanding of 19th century political thought and theory. Such accusations really have no place for those interested in serious discussion of the political forces that were in play in 1861.


James F. Epperson said...

I don't see the morality play in reading the Constitutional definition of treason, looking at the historical record of what the Confederates did in 1860-1865, and concluding that the latter fits the former.

I've not seen/read anyone being called a neo-Confederate simply for saying "that Southerners legitimately believed they had a right to leave the Union in 1861 and that secession was, in their view, constitutional." That's an over-broad definition which would include most serious historians of the period, including such liberal luminaries as James McPherson and myself. (OK, I'm not a luminary, but I am liberal.)

Jubilo said...

Dear Old Dom.,
Obviously Andy Jackson felt differently about secession regarding his own home state/original colony of South Carolina , and Jackson was a nineteenth century man. Consider also Sam Houston. Both were Southron heroes .
David Corbett

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Southerners saw secession as a constitutional right, many of the founding fathers would have concurred, including Thomas Jefferson. That's not treason regardless of how many times you repeat that it is.

The very term "neo-Confederate" is over broad and has been so misused that its become meaningless. Its consistently used by academics to slander just about anyone who memorializes Confederate history and Southern heritage.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Sam Houston was born just a few miles South of my birthplace here in the Shenandoah Valley.

James F. Epperson said...

I'm sure many in the South saw secession as a Constitutional right. Their believing so doesn't make it so. As for TJ, he does tend to sound as though he would have supported secession, although there is a letter of his in which he writes of coercing a state that was out of line. I also would like to see his comments on the Hartford Convention. Many politicians evolved their views as the country got older and more established; they might have supported something in, say, 1798 but not in 1820.

People do throw labels around too much. (It's a problem on a certain conservative blog I read ;-) I have what I think is a fairly restrained and pointed notion of neo-C, but I do know of folks who are far too broad in their notion of the term.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Richard. We see the misuse or the intended pejorative of neo-Confederate everyday. Let's put it this way, if breaking from a government that is not protecting your rights, property, or pursuit of happiness is traitorious, then the South as well as most civilizations of the world were traitors to despotism. In fact, it's our duty to overthrow tyranny just like it's our duty to criticize inappropriate detractors of southern history and culture.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Let me be clear, I'm not endorsing secession - then or now. However, there is no argument that the Union was seen as voluntary by many of the founders. A casual study of their writings leaves no doubt.

"I'm sure many in the South saw secession as a Constitutional right. Their believing so doesn't make it so."

No, but the facts that supported their belief do.

Brboyd said...

Why be upset when a neo-socialist calls you a neo-confederate? They call you that because they are afraid of anyone who would stand up and point out tyranny.

chaps said...

A Union in which a State, having voluntarily entered, cannot voluntarily leave without being subject to violence resembles a street gang more than a Nation.

Re: treason. One has to be a citizen of the United States to be guilty of treason. Confederates were no longer citizens of the US, else why did States have to apply to be readmitted and why did individuals have to apply to have citizenship restored?

A question for Mr Epperson: why were no Confederates, not even Jefferson Davis, ever tried for treason?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Yours is the final word on this post as we are now entering territory that has been thoroughly debated here before.

Thanks for everyone's participation. Comments are now closed.