American Civil War and Mississippi Essay

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The Road to War (1846-1860)
By Clay Williams
The Road to War Timeline
Preamble and Resolutions Adopted by the Convention of the State of
Mississippi, November 30, 1850. All documents courtesy Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.
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Resolutions of the Legislature of the
State of Mississippi declaring secession to be the proper remedy for the Southern States, November
30, 1860. (Senate Journal 1860) All documents courtesy Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.
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A Declaration of the Immediate causes which induce and justify the
Secession of Mississippi from the

The American Civil War (1861-1865) left Mississippi in chaos with its social structures overturned, its economy in ruins, and its people shattered.
Historians continue to debate why Mississippi and her sister southern states chose to leave the Union.
Issues such as state’s rights and high tariffs are frequently cited as causes of the war, but
Mississippi's defense of the institution of slavery was the ultimate reason the state seceded from the
Union. Indeed, a Declaration from its January 1861 state convention on whether to secede from the
Union stated, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.”
Slavery grew rapidly in Mississippi during the decades before the Civil War. By 1860, its Black slave population was well over 430,000 while there were only 350,000 Whites in the state. Yet, most Whites were not slaveholders and even those who did have slaves — other than plantation owners — had less than ten. The state's economy was primarily based on the production of cotton, which depended heavily on slaves to provide the necessary labor. Slavery was as much a social structure, however, as it was an economic system. Most slaveholders believed in the inferiority of slaves and thought their Black servants to be no more than property.
As the “peculiar institution” further entrenched itself

Federal Union and an Ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Mississippi and other states united with her under the compact entitled
“The Constitution of the United
States of America.” January 9, 1861.
All documents courtesy Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.
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Speech of Jefferson Davis on retiring from the U.S. Senate, January 21,
All documents courtesy Mississippi
Department of Archives and History.
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on the state’s economy and its people, more and more of its White citizens felt the need to defend it against increasing attacks from the growing abolitionist movement. Not only did White
Mississippians defend slavery at home, they felt it was their right to carry slaves into new territories as well. Most Mississippians felt secure in their institution’s continued existence as long as a balance remained in
Congress between free and slave states. The country maintained this balance through compromises.
When a new free state entered the Union, another slave state was also accepted to maintain the balance. Mississippi’s greatest fear was that free states would outnumber slave states. The state believed if this happened it could lead to legislation limiting and eventually abolishing slavery. The balance was maintained until the late 1840s when territories gained by the American-Mexican War
(1846-1848) threatened to upset this equilibrium.
The American-Mexican War
The American-Mexican War had barely begun in
1846 when the question of slavery in the territories became an issue. The introduction of the Wilmot
Proviso, a bill that prohibited slavery from all lands acquired from Mexico, enraged many
Mississippians. Although the bill was not passed, it was simply the first in a series of events that moved
Mississippi closer to secession.

John A. Quitman (1799-1858). A state’s rights…