34. THE CONFEDERACY. When the election of Mr. Lincoln by the practically unanimous vete of the free States was an nounced in. the autumn of 1860, the slave States of the lower South made preparations to exer cise what they regarded as their constitutional right of seceding from the Union. The Re publican party had triumphed on a platform which declared the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court to be a dangerous political heresy and which announced a determination to exclude slavery from the Territories. This platform was regarded by the South as the culmination of a long line of grievances; its triumph seemed to justify secession. It is true that the Republicans were still in the mi nority in both houses of Congress and on the Supreme bench; but the election showed the increasing power of that party and pointed to its ultimate success. It is now evident that it was folly for the South to suppose that seces sion would be successful, but if it was to be attempted, the South showed great political sa gacity and foresight in not waiting longer. The anti-slavery sentiment had been growing apace in the North, and to the writer the autumn and winter of 1860-61 seems to have been pre cisely the time to strike for a separation. The South, weak though it was, was stronger than it could have been at any subsequent period. This point should not be obscured by the dis astrous consequences of secession. However this may be, it now seems clear that the slavery question, in its various phases, was the princi pal, if not the only, cause of secession, and, in its turn, secession was the cause of the war. This was the view taken by Vice-Presi dent Alexander Stephens after the war had begun—a view not inconsistent with his decla ration before the war (21 March 1861) that °slavery was the cornerstone of the new Con federacy? This latter statement, it may be added, is often quoted by those who forget that 25 years before in the case of Johnson v. Tompkins, Judge Baldwin of the Supreme Court said: °Thus you see that the founda tions of the (Federal) government are laid and rest on the right of property in slaves. The whole structure must fall by disturbing the cornerstone 1D The struggle on the Northern side, therefore, was primarily to resist seces sion and to preserve the Union. Subsequently the destruction of slavery was included in the program. On the Southern side, while the opposition of the Republicans to the extension of slavery in the Territories, the °personal liberty laws,* and the reproaches of the North touching the iniquity of the institution, carried all but the border States into secession, the ac tive force in the war that followed this rash act was not so much the preservation of slav ery as it was the determination to resist inva sion and to maintain the right of secession or the right of revolution. The motive that led
to secession was replaced by the motive of resistance to coercion. Thus can be explained the heroism and sacrifices of the four-fifths of the Southern people who owned no slaves.
On 4 Feb. 1861, a Congress of delegates from all the States that had seceded met in Montgomery, Ala. At this date only six States had left the Union: South Carolina, 20 Dec. 1860; Mississippi, 9 Jan. 1861; Florida, 10 January; Alabama, 11 January; Georgia, 18 January; Louisiana, 26 January. In Texas the ordinance of secession was not passed until 5 February, and it had still to be submitted to the people. The Texan delegates, how ever, arrived in Montgomery before this final ratification. All the delegates were elected by the same conventions that had passed the ordi nances of secession.
The Montgomery Congress immediately pro ceeded to form a provisional government. On 8 February it adopted a provisional constitu tion, differing in some important particulars from the Constitution of the United States. Under this Constitution, which, being provi sional was not submitted to the States, the delegates elected a President and a Vice-Presi dent of the Confederate States of America, each State being allowed one vote. By the unanimous vote of the six States present, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected President and Alexander H. Stephens of Geor gia, Vice-President. On the 18th, some three weeks before Mr. Lincoln was sworn in, these officers were duly inaugurated. The Consti tution of this provisional government resembled so closely the permanent Constitution, to be described later, that its provisions need not be given. It was to continue in force for one year, unless altered by a two-thirds vote of Congress or superseded by a permanent govern ment. A committee of two from each State represented in Congress having drawn up a permanent Constitution, this instrument of government was promptly adopted by the Con 11 March, and being submitted to the seceded States was with almost equal prompt ness adopted by them. This was accomplished by action of the same conventions that had passed the ordinances of secession. Where these conventions had adjourned, they were reassembled for the purpose. In no case does there seem to have been any demand for the calling of new conventions to ratify the Con stitution. It was thought important to organize the government as soon as possible.