The election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States may have precipitated the Secessionary movement of the Southern States; but it certainly did not produce it. For many years the thought of Disunion had gathered in the South, and it was at last executed by a small number of politicians - for there is nothing more singular in the history of the war, than the narrow and exclusive control, in the South at least, which managed its initiation, compelled the people to it, and brought upon the country the rage of sectional arms.
We shall have future occasion to see how the war was compelled by a few politicians, and to what extent the people were excluded from the early drama of its inauguration. How these few persons were able to do so much can only be understood from the peculiar constitution of society in the South. In that part of the Union there had long been a singluar aristocracy - not that oligarchy of slaveholders generally imputed to it - but an aristocracy that was not constituted by birth, wealth, or manners, but that rested mainly on the titles and dignities of public life. The aristocracy of the South is properly described as an aristocracy of politicians - men who had naturally other coincident claims to superiority, who, perhaps, owned slaves, possessed wealth, or might assert some sort of social merit, but who governed the masses and reposed their superiority mainly on the eminence of public office. Such an aristocracy is naturally narrow, restless, and badly ambitious. It had ruled the South for many years; in that part of the Union there was not only a marked and close monopoly of public office, but even some trace of hereditary descent in it; and the greater politicians of the South were as distinct and imperious a class as men in any single occupation have ever formed.
It was this class in the South that had long indulged the thought of Disunion, and that for years had paved the way to its consummation. Many of them saw in it new careers; the more ardent sought in it opportunities of ambition; and not a few old and spent politicians hoped to gratify in it a mean and slothful greed of office. The war took such men neither by surprise nor by force. They had plotted and desired it; they saw in the accommodations of the contest, new fortunes and emoluments for themselves; and they seized with alacrity the occasion to realize the hopes of years.
Life of Jefferson Davis with a Secret History of The Southern Confederacy by Edward Alfred Pollard, pages 43-44
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