The North’s incessant slavery agitation caused the South’s peaceful secession from the Union in 1861, though this did not warrant a war waged against it. When eleven States seceded from the Articles of Confederation, Rhode Island and North Carolina did not wage war to bring the eleven back into that Union.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Lack of Northern Devotion to the Union
“As, then, the North has the absolute control over the government, it is manifest that on all questions between it and the South where there is a diversity of interests, the interest of the latter will be sacrificed to the former, however oppressive the effects may be, as the South possesses no means by which it can resist, through the action of the government.
[The] relation between the two races in the Southern section [constituted] a vital portion of her social organization . . . [and] Every portion of the North entertains views and feelings more or less hostile to it. Those most opposed and hostile regard it as a sin, and consider themselves under the most sacred obligation to use every effort to destroy it . . . While those who are least opposed and hostile regard it as a blot and a stain on the character of what they call the nation, and feel themselves bound to give it no countenance and support.
On the contrary, the Southern section regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness, and accordingly feel bound, by every consideration of interest and safety, to defend it.
This hostile feeling on the part of the North . . . long lay dormant, but it only required some cause to act on those who felt most intensely that they were responsible for its continuance to call it into action. The increasing power of this [federal] government, and of the control of the Northern section over all its departments, furnished the cause. This was sufficient of itself to put the most fanatical portion of the North in action, for the purpose of destroying the existing relation between the two races in the South.
The first organized movement towards [slavery agitation] began in 1835. Then, for the first time societies were formed, presses established, lecturers sent forth to excite the people of the North, and incendiary publications scattered over the whole South, through the mail. [By Congress refusing to hear antislavery petitions] . . . That was the time for the North to have shown her devotion to the Union; but unfortunately both of the great parties of that section were so intent on obtaining or retaining party ascendancy that all other considerations were overlooked or forgotten.
With the success of their first movement, this small fanatical party began to acquire strength, and with that, to become an object of courtship to both the great parties. The necessary consequence was a further increase of power, and a gradual tainting of the opinions of both of the others parties with their doctrines, until the infection has extended over both, and the great mass of the population of the north, who, whatever may be their opinion of the original abolition party . . . hardly ever fail [to] cooperate in carrying out their measures.
Instead of being weaker, all the elements in favor of abolition are stronger now than they were in 1835, when it first commenced, while all the elements of influence on the part of the South are weaker. Unless something decisive is done, I again ask, what is to stop this agitation . . . if something is not done to arrest it, the South will be forced to choose between abolition and secession? Indeed, as events are now moving, it will not require the South to secede, in order to dissolve the Union. Agitation will of itself effect it, of which its past history furnishes abundant proof . . .”
(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, excerpts, pp. 180-187)