Mississippi Becomes Second State to Secede from the Union
When South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860, politicians, newspapers, and the general public in both the North and South knew other states would soon follow. The divisions between the two halves of the country over the issues of slavery and states’ rights had grown too wide for effective compromise, and secessionist talk was heard throughout the South. It did not take long for other states to follow South Carolina’s example.
On Jan. 9, 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union, stating in its official declaration that slavery is “the greatest material interest of the world.” Florida seceded the next day, and Alabama the day after that. Within a month seven seceding states formed the Confederate States of America, to be joined by four additional Southern states after the attack on Fort Sumter began the Civil War.
The following three newspaper articles are about Mississippi’s secession from the Union. The first article, from a Southern newspaper, is a news report of the official act of secession and the wild celebrations in the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi. The second article, from a Northern newspaper, is also a news report of Mississippi’s secession—with an editorial comment thrown in for good measure. The third article is an actual editorial, from a newspaper in Washington, D.C., arguing that cool heads should prevail and peace be maintained now that secession was a reality: “One calamity is enough. Add not to the pains of disruption the horrors of civil war.”
This article was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on Jan. 10, 1861:
Important from Mississippi
The Secession Ordinance Passed
Illuminations, Fireworks, &c., &c.
Jackson, [Mississippi], Jan. 9.—The ordinance declaring the immediate secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union passed the Convention by a vote of 84 against 15.
The delegations from the States of South Carolina and Alabama took seats on the floor of the Convention amid great applause.
An effort to postpone the action of Mississippi was made, but afterward voted down.
The fifteen opposing voters will sign the ordinance tomorrow, making it unanimous.
The most prominent places are brilliantly illuminated tonight, guns are being discharged, and rockets fired.
The most intense excitement prevails.
This article was published by the Albany Journal (Albany, New York) on Jan. 10, 1861. The “events at Charleston” referred to was the attack on the Union-hired merchant vessel Star of the West by South Carolina cadets in Charleston Harbor while the ship was attempting to reinforce and resupply the Union garrison in Fort Sumter—an attack that occurred on January 9, the very day Mississippi seceded:
Another State Seceded!
Mississippi has followed the lead of South Carolina. Her Convention adopted the Ordinance of Secession yesterday by a large vote. The indications are that Alabama will follow in a day or two, and Florida in a few days more, unless the events at Charleston shall induce the Seceders to pause in their precipitate career towards the destruction of the Union and of themselves.
This editorial was published by the Constitution (Washington, D.C.) on Jan. 10, 1861:
The Great Fact
South Carolina now has several States to share her fortunes and her peril. The movement for secession, at first like a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, has spread with a rapidity unparalleled in political agitation, and now involves the greater part of the entire South. Florida has formally terminated connection with the Union. So has Mississippi. Alabama has assumed ground which renders any other course than secession impossible. Georgia has pledged herself to the assertion of State sovereignty. Louisiana has defeated the co-operationists in their very stronghold, and may be pronounced a seceding State. From Texas come tidings of a degree of unanimity which leaves no room to doubt the future of the Lone Star State. There is no presumption, then, in setting down the seceding States as already numbering seven. For all the purposes of the argument, seven stars are even now blotted from the federal flag.
…And though the signs of quickened action in Maryland and North Carolina, and Tennessee and Kentucky, are less distinctly marked than those which are apparent throughout Virginia, there is not wanting evidence that in all of these States the secession element gains ground daily. But one thing is needed to rally them, with Arkansas and Missouri, around the standard of the Southern Confederacy; and that is an attempt on the part of the North, or of federal officers doing the bidding of the North, to enforce attachment to the Union by belching blood from the cannon’s mouth.
The great fact, then, admits not of misapprehension. Seven States virtually out of the Union. Other States treading the same track at a pace which adverse coercive effort will but hasten. And yet there are political moles and bats to whom this fact is not visible, and by whom this movement is altogether ignored!
But partisan blindness and fanatical hate afford no excuse for congressional indifference. The fact is before the country. The crisis approaches its height. The danger is at our doors. And nothing whatever has been done to meet circumstances which, though constitutional in form, are revolutionary in essence, and the consequences of which are almost altogether dependent upon the wisdom or the madness that shall prevail in high places. Congress may pass force resolutions if it pleases. It may threaten to its heart content. But the movement will go on, augmenting in volume and velocity. Dame Partington, driving back the Atlantic with a mop, was as sagacious as the man or the party who would stay secession, and maintain the Union intact, by brandishing the sword of a lieutenant-general before the faces of the Southern people. With justice they had been satisfied. Denied justice, no power on earth can hold them in subjection.
What should be done? Plainly, one thing, and one only.
Recognize secession, as you would any other incontrovertible fact. Acknowledge that the Union is broken. And then seek to mitigate the misfortune which you have no longer power to avert.
Since secession is inevitable let care be taken to render it peaceful. One calamity is enough. Add not to the pains of disruption the horrors of civil war. Multiply not griefs by arraying in hostile attitudes sections of a people once united under a common government, and now severed only because the Union had become an instrument of sectional domination rather than a guarantee of State equality and freedom.
The allegation that Congress is impotent in the premises is not true. To the extent of preserving the Union as it was, Congress is indeed powerless. By no practicable compromise can it stay secession. But it may still do much, nevertheless.
What? Remove all likelihood of civil war by removing the causes of difference between the General Government and the seceding sovereign States. Abandon the idea of collecting revenue in communities which no longer owe to you allegiance. Withdraw your troops, which, whilst insufficient for the perpetuation of federal power, constitute a menace to which no spirited people will patiently submit. Surrender your forts in States that have cast off your authority, and that are entitled to all federal property within their borders, as in part a settlement of their claims upon the federal estate. And thus, not only put an end to prevailing apprehensions of desolation and bloodshed, but create guarantees of future friendly intercourse between neighboring confederacies.
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