Secession and Civil War

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How did southern states react to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860?

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In short, the southern states reacted to Abraham Lincoln's election by seceding from the Union. A number of the southern states had already threatened to secede if Lincoln was elected. By the time Lincoln was sworn into office in March seven states had already carried through with this threat, forming the Confederate States of America under the leadership of their appointed president, Jefferson Davis. Four more states would soon follow suit. The next month, the war began with the siege of Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This signaled the beginning of open rebellion in the southern states.

While Lincoln's election was the catalyst for the secession of the southern states, it is quite possible that such a national crisis would have eventually happened anyway. The long series of compromises over the legality and proliferation of slavery had delayed the conflict for at least a generation but clearly failed to prevent it.

However, Lincoln had made it clear during his campaign that he opposed the spread of the institution of slavery. The southern states, fearing that the new president would make moves to outlaw slavery, or at the very least stop its spread, rebelled against the Union in an effort to create a territory in which the institution of slavery would be guaranteed.

It should be noted, however, that not all slave states responded to Lincoln's election by seceding. Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware remained loyal to the Union despite having slaves. Also, the western region of Virginia chose not to rebel and stayed in the Union which led to the creation of the state of West Virginia.

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Prior to Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, the southern states had already threatened to secede. The southern states were not ready for a Republican president especially one who raised serious questions about slavery. Lincoln was against the spread of slavery, and he made his position public. After the elections, and by the time he was giving his inauguration speech in 1861, seven southern states lived up to their threats and seceded. The seven southern states officially instituted the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis as their president. The move was considered illegal by the official United States government and led to the onset of the American Civil War in April 1861. After the start of the Civil War, four more southern states declared secession and joined the Confederacy. The war raged on until Confederate forces surrendered and the Confederate government was disbanded.

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