Explain why the Southern states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee seceded from the Union.  

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The states listed in the question—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas—voted to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as president. The reason for the decisions by these states to break away from the Union...

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The states listed in the question—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas—voted to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as president. The reason for the decisions by these states to break away from the Union had its roots in the earliest periods of European colonization of North America and was the most contentious and, at the time, unresolved of the issues debated at the Constitutional Conventions. The issue that remained unresolved until the South’s defeat in the Civil War in 1865 was slavery.

The southern states were completely economically dependent on agriculture—specifically, the growing and processing of cotton, tobacco, and rice. Southern politicians and businessmen argued that in order for their economy to survive and prosper, plantation owners and others needed slaves as a source of cheap labor. Slaves brought over from Africa were considered ethnically inferior and valued solely for the manual labor they could provide. If, as Northern politicians wanted, slavery were abolished, the Southern economy would die, and with it the way of life that Southerners cherished. As one congressman from South Carolina, Lawrence Keitt, argued,

African slavery is the corner-stone of the industrial, social, and political fabric of the South; and whatever wars against it, wars against her very existence. Strike down the institution of African slavery and you reduce the South to depopulation and barbarism.

For the American South, the preservation of slavery was existential, and these states felt so strongly about the issue that they were willing to break away from the United States in order to secure that institution’s survival. President Abraham Lincoln’s response to the secession of most Southern states was the use of military force to compel reunification. Once war was underway and the possibility of peaceful reconciliation was eliminated, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery.

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