Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union Assignment

After the Civil War, many southern veterans and politicians created the “Lost Cause,” a movement devoted to perpetuating a specific set of memories about the South, slavery, and the Confederate war effort. Some ex-Confederate politicians and military officers wrote histories and memoirs of the recently ended war and groups like the United Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and Sons of Confederate Veterans raised funds to erect memorials to Confederate veterans and to the Confederacy in general.

The “Lost Cause” typically entailed holding to a certain set of beliefs about the Old South (pre-Civil War) and the Confederacy including:

1. Secession, not slavery, caused the Civil War, and states’ rights the cause of secession.

2. African Americans were “faithful slaves,” loyal to their masters and the Confederate cause and unprepared for the responsibilities of freedom.

3. The Confederacy was defeated militarily only because of the Union’s overwhelming advantages in men and resources.

4. Confederate soldiers were heroic and saintly.

5. The most heroic and saintly of all Confederates, perhaps of all Americans, was Robert E. Lee.

6. Southern women were loyal to the Confederate cause and sanctified by the sacrifice of their loved ones.*



We do not have the time to fully investigate the historical accuracy (or inaccuracy) of each of the tenets of the Lost Cause, but for this assignment we will look at what is probably the most debated aspect of the movement: the reason for the secession of eleven southern states. Was slavery the issue that drove the southern states to secede from the Union or was it something else? Fortunately for historians, there are a number of primary sources that provide a solid answer to this kind of question; and, fortunately for you all, you only have to read a couple of them.

First, you will read Mississippi’s “Declaration of Causes,” a statement passed by the state’s government to explain why they were seceding from the Union. Second, you will read Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech,” which he delivered to the first meeting of the Confederate Congress in March 1861. After reading these two pieces (attached below), answer the following questions with at least 250 words. Then, as usual, respond to a classmates’ posting. Your response should be more than a simple, “I agree.”

  1. Do you think the state of Mississippi and Alexander Stephens see slavery as either a “necessary evil” as some slave-owners in the early days of our nation viewed it (meaning, that while many recognized it as evil, it was something white slave owners tolerated because they did not see a way to successfully wean themselves off of relying on slave labor) or as a “positive good” (meaning, believing that slavery was thoroughly good for all involved — slaves and slave owners alike) as later pro-slavery advocates like John Calhoun viewed it?
  2. Why did Mississippi feel that it was better off seceding from the Union?
  3. In his address, Stephens contrasts the founding of the Confederate nation with that of the United States. What is his opinion of Jefferson’s view of slavery and liberty as found in the Declaration of Independence? Explain.
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