President and chief executive of the Museum of the Confederacy

It is difficult for us today, even with the benefit of hindsight, to understand the motivations of the people of the day. And we are led to believe that there were only two sections of the country--the abolitionist North and the slave-holding South. But history is far more complicated.

The election of any Republican, not just Abraham Lincoln, directly led to the secession of the Deep South--the Cotton South--primarily over the issue of slavery. But the Upper South considered secession and rejected it by large majorities. The whole issue then turned on “coercion”--whether the federal government would attempt to preserve the Union by force, because an attempt to enforce the Union would fly directly in the face of the “consent of the governed.” In the panoply of the founding principles of the Union, this consent was deemed to be paramount--”We the People” are the beginning words of the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.”