Charles B Dew’s book Apostles of Disunion (published by University of Virginia Press) attempts to prove that Southern secession in 1860-61 was all about slavery. Indeed, the question of slavery (but especially its relationship to the much broader and more important issue of race and civilisation) and how to address it was the occasion for disunion, though as early as 1827 some Southern leaders were calling for secession over the issue of the Northern protective tariff (in fact, South Carolina and the US Federal Government nearly went to war over the tariff in 1833 before a last minute compromise preserved the peace). The Southern nationalist movement had been growing for decades prior to the 1860s and every political and social issue of that age which divided the South and the North had been fiercely contested. Dew, a self-hating Southerner (his introduction is all about how he became such; notice his choice of words in this short excerpt; even the endorsements of the book on its back cover are extremely anti-Southern), does provide much interesting information in his short work despite his admitted bias in writing the book. On pages 37-39, for example, he describes the Lower South’s (notice that he uses the pejorative Yankee term ‘Deep South’) advancement towards secession and confederation after the Northern radical Abraham Lincoln was elected US president:
On December 24 the Charleston Mercury enthusiastically endorsed the idea of putting a new Southern government in place as quickly as possible. “The Convention now sitting in South Carolina, and all the other Conventions which shall assemble to dissolve the existing Union, have the power… of speedily organizing a Confederacy,” the editor wrote. “Uncertainty and delay are dangerous,” he warned, and other seceding states would be looking to South Carolina for leadership. The editorial suggested a meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, in early February “to form a Constitution for a Southern Confederacy, and to put the same into operation.”
The Mercury was the organ of Robert Barnwell Rhett, one of South Carolina’s most outspoken secessionists. Rhett was also a convention delegate and the chairman of the Committee on Relations with the Slaveholding States. Attorney General Hayne’s ideas came back to the floor of the convention on December 26. Rhett’s committee proposed the immediate selection of commissioners and their dispatch to other Southern states that had announced they would call conventions. South Carolina’s agents, like their counterparts from Alabama and Mississippi, were to do everything in their power to advance the cause of secession, but they were given an additional charge as well. They were to propose a meeting in Montgomery on February 13, 1861, to draft a constitution for a Confederate States of America.
…The day after their appointment by the convention, the South Carolina commissioners met in Charleston to plan strategy. They agreed to suggest Montgomery as the site for a constitutional convention. Convenient rail and river access and good hotel accommodations recommended the Alabama capital, and the fact that Montgomery was the home of William L Yancey made it doubly attractive to the South Carolinians. They also decided to propose the earliest possible date for this meeting – the first Monday in February. South Carolina’s commissioners were now ready to sow the seeds of revolution across the Deep South.