Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861


What was the third state to leave the Union?

Florida had already called for a convention, and on January 10, 1861, its delegates approved the Ordinance of Secession by 62 to 7.

We, the people of the State of Florida, in convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish, and declare, That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America and from the existing Government of the said States; and that all political connection between her and the Government of said States ought to be, and the same is hereby, totally annulled, and said Union of States dissolved; and the State of Florida is hereby declared a sovereign and independent nation; and that all ordinances heretofore adopted, in so far as they create or recognize said Union, are rescinded; and all laws or parts of laws in force in this State, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union, be, and they are hereby, repealed.

Given Florida’s tiny population (140,424 in 1860) and great dependence on the federal government, it was strange that Florida would depart the Union so early. Slavery was an important aspect of Florida’s economic life, but she was not a true “Cotton State” like Louisiana. Even so, her delegates voted Florida out of the Union by 67–11.

All eyes turned to the White House, but all eyes were confounded by what they saw. President Buchanan was fully aware of the situation, along with its dire possibilities, but he did not see any constitutional remedy, or political response, to secession. The White House, meanwhile, was losing some of its last political figures. Buchanan’s secretary of war, John Floyd, and Vice President John C. Breckinridge made no secret of their support for Southern secession.


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