The arbiters of compromise: sectionalism, unionism, and secessionism in Maryland and North Carolina

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christine Rowse Flood (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Mark Elliott

Abstract: The upper south was a region that was in the literal and figurative middle during the secession crisis of 1860-1861. In the late antebellum period, the upper south had diverse populations, burgeoning economic growth and still-vibrant two-party politics, even after the collapse of the Whig party. As the north and the cotton states descended into more radicalized political positions, the upper south maintained a strong sectional identity that positioned the region as the only sane and rational part of the deteriorating nation. Upper south sectional identity was rooted in general distaste for extremism of any sort, a political culture that could allow negotiation on the question of slavery in the territories, a willingness to give the Lincoln administration a chance, and the belief that the upper south states would provide the political and social leadership to forestall secession and war. Though seemingly dissimilar at first glance, Maryland and North Carolina were two states which approached the matter of union of disunion with similar caution, and were the home of strong examples of upper south sectional identity. Through a study of both the unionist and secessionist leadership in each state, this dissertation reveals the development of the upper south sectional identity and the significant attempts at compromise that were being present in Maryland and North Carolina during the secession winter. These two states provide two excellent case studies of upper south sectional identity, as each state had populations and political leadership that was not tied to perpetual and unrestricted slavery, as well as leadership drawn from the slaveholding and non-slaveholding population. These two states also shared competing political parties that each drove state and national elections, and large populations of non-slaveholding whites. Compromise failed in 1861, although Maryland and North Carolina political leaders worked extraordinarily hard to achieve it. With the coming of the war, Maryland’s unlikely Union affiliation and North Carolina’s reluctant participation in the Confederacy would end upper south sectional identity, which was split apart by secession. Even in its failure, upper south sectional identity as represented by Maryland and North Carolina provides an instructive perspective on the coming of the Civil War and the dissolution of the Union. This dissertation examines the unique political culture of upper south sectionalism during the secession crisis winter of 1860-1861. Reflecting a sectional identity that traditionally arbitrated compromise between sectional interests, leaders from Maryland and North Carolina offered the best hope for political compromise. These two states are clear examples that illustrate the force of this identity as the home of political, social, and cultural leaders who worked to shape the important role the upper south played as arbiter between the more radical factions of the Union. This work traces the collapse of upper south sectionalism, particularly in these two states that did not act together and ended up taking different sides over secession. This dissertation examines two states—one that remained with the Union and one that joined the Confederacy—together in an analysis of sectionalism, unionism and secessionism.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Civil War, Maryland, North Carolina, Secession, Sectionalism, Unionism
Maryland $x Politics and government $y 1775-1865
North Carolina $x Politics and government $y 1775-1865
Southern States $x Politics and government $y 1775-1865
Unionists (United States Civil War) $z Southern States
Secession $z Southern States
Sectionalism (United States)
United States $x History $y Civil War, 1861-1865 $x Causes

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