Murphy
ENG 100
14 Sept. 2004
“Why Did the Lower South Secede?”: A Summary of Marc Engal’s
“Rethinking the Secession of the Lower South: The Clash of Two Groups”
Historians believe that the South seceded because of one of the
following five reasons. The first reason is psychological; Steven Channing
argues that “the South seceded because of a “crisis of fear”, fed by
anxieties about abolitionists and the large slave population” (qtd. in
Egnal 261).Another reason is rationality; According to William Barney,
“the desperate need of the planters for fresh soils, which the newly
elected Republican Party now denied them” (qtd. in Egnal 261). A third
reason was ideological. Lacy K. Ford says “South Carolinians were
dedicated to republican values and preferred secession to abandoning their
principles” (qtd. in Egnal 261-2). Internal discord was another reason.

Michael P. Johnson felt that “the tensions between wealthy slave holders
and poorer whites lay at the heart of the story in Georgia” (qtd. in Egnal
262). The plantation owners started the secession and created a
“patriarchal republic” because of concerns that Republican patronage might
dis-a-line class conflict. The final reason is the “traditional wisdom
that the defense of slavery drove the confederates” to start the secession
(qtd. in Egnal 262). “Whether rational or irrational, whether focused on
slavery or republicanism,” or in reference to “single ideology or mindset”
there were serious problems confronted (Egnal 262). I always believed that
the last reason, slavery, was why we had the Civil War.

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This essay suggests a new approach to secession by saying that the
battle in the “Lower South” was the true struggle between the two groups
(Egnal 263). The first one with strong ties to the Union and the other
making its way without the help from the North. Egnal first looks at the
division: its sources and the differing views of the two groups. Then, he
looks at the importance of the two groups in every “Deep South” state by
the 1850’s (263). Finally, it examines what part the two groups had in the
secession.

“Two factors in particular shaped the clashing societies of the
cotton states-the origins of the settlers and the patterns of the regional
economy” (Egnal 263). I didn’t think that these factors would really have
anything to do with why the south seceded. I guess I was wrong. This also
gave rise to the different views that led the conduct of the two groups.

The two sides shared several values, including slavery and racism. Only 50
to 60 % of voters approved action toward the secession.

Many of the migrants came from the “Upper South,” and could trace
their heritage to Northern Ireland and Europe (Egnal 264). The other set
migrants came from a different “hearth”: the tidewater region of South
Carolina and Georgia. Many of these “Lower South” residents had “ancestors
who hailed from Southern England” (Egnal 264). Most importantly was the
separation of states into northern and southern regions. The migrants had
different views, family history, and even different ways that they built
their homes as well as how thy talked to their neighbors and friends.

“Economic activities constituted a second set of factors that divided
the citizenry of the “Lower South”, reinforcing the divisions established
by the pattern of settlements. Wheat cultivation, garden crops, and home
manufactures gave the northern reaches of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, and Texas an economic unity that mirrored the settlers’ shared
origins. Wheat was a common note throughout much of this region. Although
the quanities raised were far below the levels of the North, wheat growth
was an important facet of the regional culture. The crop fostered a
society of independent farmers, small milling centers, skilled
craftspeople, and vigorous local exchanges” (Egnal 267). I do understand
why this is.

The types of transportation did more to divide the “Lower South” than
to unify it (Egnal 268). Most of the rivers in these states ran into the
oceans making transportation to that part of the state easy to get to. Most
of the people that did this did not transport to all of the other counties
other than the ones on the river. Railroads were unable to make travel
from the coast to the northern part of the “Lower South” convenient (Egnal
269). “The result of these links between the “Upper South” and the
Northern part of the cotton states was an overland trade that expanded
markedly in the years before secession” (Egnal 269). I think that they
should have made the transportation better for the “Lower South”, then
maybe we