-- Dilemmas of Compromise --

Wednesday February 13, 1861

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Commentary: Secession Stalls

The election of Unionist delegates in Virginia presented good news for those hoping to avoid war and bring about a peaceable restoration of the Union. Virginia was the key to the upper and border South. By electing delegates who opposed immediate secession, Virginia halted the momentum towards secession that had engulfed the deep South. After February 4, not a single southern state joined the Confederacy. On February 18, for example, the voters in both Arkansas and Missouri elected a majority of Unionists to their conventions. Attachment to the Union and aversion to war were very much alive in the non-seceding states.

Yet by remaining in session, determined to resist coercion of any southern state, the Virginia convention demonstrated the conditional quality of its loyalty to the Union. Those opposing immediate secession generally were adamant in upholding southern rights and threatening resistance to the use of force against the South.

Bibliography: Potter, Impending Crisis, pp. 507-13; Potter, Lincoln and His Party, pp. 354-56; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 422-23.

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