Gillian Cote, "Virginia's Secession from the Union"


"…declare[d] principles inimical to the rights and honor of Virginia…."34 For many supporters of secession, the control that the Republicans held over Northern politics, since they symbolized all that the South feared and hated about the North, was the final straw that broke their feelings of allegiance to the Union.

Following Lincoln's election and inauguration, the fear of the power of the Republicans was heightened in many Virginians who already supported secession. An editorial from The Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner stated that "…a mere election of a man will be the actual destruction of political institutions of the United States."35 This author believed that Southern institutions, namely slavery, had lost all protection in the federal government due to Lincoln's election. Furthermore, once Lincoln was inaugurated in March, many secessionists in Virginia felt that the Union had become unbearable, especially after hearing his inaugural address in which he declared, "The power confided to me, will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts" from the South.36 One editorial from The Richmond Dispatch stressed the gravity of Lincoln's inaugural: "The Inaugural Address of ABRAHAM LINCOLN inaugurates civil war, as we have predicted it would from the beginning."37 The author of this editorial believed that only the Border States could stop Lincoln from undertaking his policy and that, therefore, "…every Border State ought to go out of the Union within twenty-four hours."38 A final example of this fear of Lincoln in Virginia is demonstrated by another editorial:

Mr. Lincoln's Inaugural Address is before our readers - couched in the cool, unimpassioned, deliberate language of the fanatic, with the purpose of pursuing the promptings of fanaticism even to the dismemberment of the Government with the horrors of civil war. Virginia…has the denial of all hope of peace. Civil war must now come. Sectional war, declared by Mr. Lincoln, awaits only the signal

34. "Will the Eyes of Virginia Be Opened?," The Richmond Enquirer, 1 February 1861.
35. "The Policy of the Southern States," The Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner, 27 November 1860, Dumond, 266.
36. Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address," 4 March 1861, Delbanco, 198.
37. "The Inaugural," The Richmond Dispatch, 5 March 1861, Dumond, 475.
38. Ibid.
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