What Should White Southerners Have Done in the Winter of 1860-61?

I have always thought that the decision of white southerners to seek independence in the aftermath of the election of 1860 was a logical response to the election of Abraham Lincoln (just as I think there’s much sense to be found in the arguments advanced by their opponents in the secession debates). Indeed, one can see what happens during the winter of 1860-61 (and beyond in the case of the upper South) as a debate over the future of the South. Participants in that debate were quite serious in their contention that the fate of the region depended on the choice they made. Those debates also make clear the centrality of slavery to the debate over secession: both advocates and opponents of secession put slavery and its future at the center of their arguments. For many people the primary question was whether slavery was safer inside or outside the United States.

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