Stephen A. Channing,
Crisis of Fear:
Secession in South Carolina

(W.W. Norton, 1974)

Stephen Channing ascribes the secessionist movement of 1860 in South Carolina to a "crisis of fear."

South Carolinians, ever conscious of the black majority in their state, worried continuously about controlling the Negro in the absence of slavery. This fear, according to Channing, was crystallized into rife paranoia in the wake of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Internal tensions, such as the perpetual contest between upcountry and lowcountry planters for primacy in state government, were eclipsed by this terrible fear.

Moderates, who had opposed secession or, at the least, the secession of the Palmetto state on its own, essentially handed over the reins of leadership to the radicals -- at the time, it appeared that the dire warnings long spewed forth by the fire-eaters were becoming reality. Channing implies that Southern culture differed from that of the North to such a degree that secession was inevitable, and he contends that slavery was at the core of the mindset that animated the War Between the States.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 21 May 2005

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