The Mississippi Secession Convention

The Mississippi Secession Convention: Delegates and Deliberations in Politics and War, 1861-1865

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Mississippi Secession Convention
    Book Description:

    The Mississippi Secession Conventionis the first full treatment of any secession convention to date. Studying the Mississippi convention of 1861 offers insight into how and why southern states seceded and the effects of such a breech. Based largely on primary sources, this book provides a unique insight into the broader secession movement.

    There was more to the secession convention than the mere act of leaving the Union, which was done only three days into the deliberations. The rest of the three-week January 1861 meeting as well as an additional week in March saw the delegates debate and pass a number of important ordinances that for a time governed the state. As seen through the eyes of the delegates themselves, with rich research into each member, this book provides a compelling overview of the entire proceeding.

    The effects of the convention gain the most analysis in this study, including the political processes that, after the momentous vote, morphed into unlikely alliances. Those on opposite ends of the secession question quickly formed new political allegiances in a predominantly Confederate-minded convention. These new political factions formed largely over the issues of central versus local authority, which quickly played into Confederate versus state issues during the Civil War. In addition, author Timothy B. Smith considers the lasting consequences of defeat, looking into the effect secession and war had on the delegates themselves and, by extension, their state, Mississippi.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-056-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. Prologue— DRAMATIS PERSONAE: The Major Actors in the Mississippi Secession Convention
    (pp. 3-10)

    John j. pettus—The chief secessionist in the state, Pettus is governor, chief executive officer, and chief promoter of leaving the Union. He is forty-seven years old, and his rise to power in the state has been long and continuous from his birth in Tennessee during the War of 1812. He makes his home on a plantation in Kemper County, from which he was elected to the lower house of the legislature as a Democrat in 1846. He has also represented the area in the higher branch of the legislature, spending nearly the entire decade of the 1850s in that...

  5. 1 ELECTIONS: November–December 1860
    (pp. 11-28)

    The statehouse in jackson, mississippi, was abuzz with activity on the final Monday in November 1860. The state legislature had gathered, which was always a festive event, but this time it was not for its normal biannual meetings. This gathering was in reaction to national developments. Abraham Lincoln had been elected to the presidency, causing a massive and potentially violent reaction from the Southern states, from which he had not received a single electoral vote. Assuming that if they had no say in a presidential election they would have no say in other major matters of the day, Southern political...

  6. 2 DELEGATES: January 1861
    (pp. 29-44)

    Four decades after the meeting of the mississippi secession convention in 1861, the youngest member of that body, Thomas H. Woods, reflected on what had happened, how it had happened, and the men who had made it happen. He was in a nostalgic mood as he wrote; he was, after all, one of only a few members still alive at that point. Despite the disastrous results of the war the convention had helped bring on, Woods placed a chivalric halo around the convention, presenting the delegates as heroes of a lost cause and the elite of antebellum society. “It can...

  7. 3 ORGANIZATION: January 7–8, 1861
    (pp. 45-62)

    Jackson, mississippi, was a comparatively small semifrontier town in January 1861. With a population of only 3,191, the city was tiny compared to some of the more urban and cosmopolitan locales in the South such as New Orleans or Charleston. For an area that was only a generation or two removed from frontier status and even less from Native American possession, Jackson was nevertheless an important place for the citizens of Mississippi. It was the center of the state’s society, politics, and economy, especially after the railroad boom brought two lines crossing there. One visitor noted that Jackson “was one...

  8. 4 SECESSION: January 9, 1861
    (pp. 63-80)

    L. q. c. lamar was the man of the hour. He was well known in Mississippi, a planter, educator, and politician. He was one of Mississippi’s congressmen, but he left Washington in mid-December to give his full attention to secession. He was elected to the convention from Lafayette County and had even begun working on a draft of a secession ordinance weeks ahead. Although his position on immediate secession had shifted since his election, as apparently had that of many delegates, he came to Jackson armed with his draft. Everything went like clockwork—from his calling for a committee to...

  9. 5 COMMITTEES: January 10–12, 1861
    (pp. 81-97)

    After the ordinance of secession was passed on january 9 and the nightlong celebration was completed, a new day dawned in Mississippi. The weather changed from warm and muggy to cool and clear, and so did the attitude of the delegates. Secession was the major aim of the convention, and it had been on that basis that the delegates had heretofore aligned themselves. Party loyalty, declining in Mississippi anyway, was not an absolute issue on secession. As a general rule, more Democrats were secessionists and more former Whigs were cooperationists, but those brands did not hold altogether firm during the...

  10. 6 CEREMONY: January 14–15, 1861
    (pp. 98-109)

    When the mississippi secession delegates reconvened at 10:00 a.m. on a showery and windy Monday, January 14, the easy and most glamorous part of their work had been done. In one week they had organized themselves, seceded from the Union, and then begun the process of committee work that would govern the remainder of their deliberations. How much of a break the delegates took on Sunday is unknown, and it probably varied with each delegate according to his religious dedication, committee assignments, and work ethic. Some members representing counties close to Jackson went home, theVicksburg Evening Citizenreporting on...

  11. 7 DIVERGENCE: January 16–19, 1861
    (pp. 110-122)

    As the delegates returned to their rooms and boardinghouses after the ceremonial but mostly unified signing of the secession ordinance that Tuesday, January 15, none could have known what lay ahead on the next day, a raw and cloudy Wednesday. But the growing fissures in the delegates’ presecession coalitions soon worsened, and there were delegates who seemed to revel in increasing the growing divide. And to almost everyone’s surprise, it began immediately when the delegates reassembled the next morning.¹

    The budding organization and unity seen the day before in the signing of the secession ordinance took a dreadful turn as...

  12. 8 VOTES: January 21–23, 1861
    (pp. 123-135)

    By the time the delegates to the mississippi secession convention returned to work on the rainy and disagreeable Monday, January 21, several things had changed. Mississippi’s remaining member of Congress, Senator Jefferson Davis, left Congress that day. In a long, sad, and affectionate speech, Davis threw his lot in with his state and bid his colleagues “a final adieu.” Closer to home, the convention was in a new venue, meeting for the first time in the Masonic Hall on the second story of Jackson’s city hall. Having planned to meet at first in the unfinished concert hall and even spending...

  13. 9 ADJOURNMENT: January 24–26, 1861
    (pp. 136-147)

    Just because the delegates had made major progress during the first days of the third week of the convention, this did not mean that their work was anywhere nearing completion. Although they had passed five ordinances, including arguably the most important ones, there were many more still in committee and awaiting action on the floor. These would prove to be divisive as well, ensuring long and vociferous debate. And the members were digging themselves into a hole by continually delaying action on so many of the ordinances, and they would continue to do so for the next several days. Thus,...

  14. 10 INTERIM: February–March, 1861
    (pp. 148-159)

    When the delegates left jackson in late january, their work was not over. The members and the many other entities they set up in the January session of the convention remained hard at work on everything from the growing military activity to their own personal and public finances. All knew they would eventually be called back together in session at the statehouse. They also knew in a larger context that many of them would be involved in the war effort, which was already heating up. Perhaps some even thought of their possessions, slaves, and land and wondered what effect the...

  15. 11 RATIFICATION: March 25–30, 1861
    (pp. 160-173)

    As soon as the confederate congress adopted a constitution, all eyes in Mississippi turned to the state convention to see whether it would make Mississippi a part of the Confederate States of America. In reality, there was little doubt that Mississippi would join the other seceded states. Yet despite David Glenn’s forceful leadership at the first session of the convention, it was still not a given that the sitting convention would be able to make that decision. Nevertheless William Barry put out the call even before he left Montgomery and hurried home to prepare for the assembly that was to...

  16. 12 WAR: 1861–1865
    (pp. 174-186)

    Mississippi congressmen james t. harrison could clearly see trouble ahead early in 1861. Almost in prophetic terms, he declared, “The danger is in the United States Government attempting to collect the revenue and keeping the forts now in their possession.” And Harrison was not alone, at least in Mississippi and at least in regard to the coming of war. Numerous delegates had expounded on their idea that war was inevitable, with several even giving Northern abolitionist and now Lincoln’s secretary of state William Seward credit for his “irrepressible conflict” idea. It was widely known that even President Davis was convinced...

  17. Epilogue— CONSEQUENCES: 1865–1921
    (pp. 187-192)

    While debating the southern confederacy ordinance in mid-January 1861, Jeremiah Clapp said perhaps more than he knew when he argued for the importance of the decision about to be made. “We are now touching chords that will vibrate throughout the world, and for coming years,” he noted, “vitally affecting not only the interests of our State and of the South, but of this continent and the world.” While the decisions made at the Mississippi secession convention indeed had a stark effect on the state as well as the nation, those effects continued long after the war, and in some cases...

  18. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 193-221)
    (pp. 222-226)
    (pp. 227-228)
    (pp. 229-230)
  23. NOTES
    (pp. 231-272)
    (pp. 273-282)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 283-296)