The Creation of the Confederacy: Leadership & Goals

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  • 0:05 A New Government
  • 2:25 New Leadership
  • 4:41 Confederate Goals
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will take a look at the 1861 creation of the Confederate States of America. We will examine the new country's government, meet its leaders, and learn about its goals.

A New Government

After Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in November of 1860, several Southern states decided that they had taken all they could bear from the U.S. government. They were sick to death of what they saw as Northern oppression, and they were terrified that the North would try to take away their slaves and their Southern way of life.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas also left the Union by February 1, 1861. Delegates from these seven states met in Montgomery, Alabama on February 4 to create a brand-new government for the new country they proudly called the Confederate States of America.

By March 11, the delegates had already adopted a constitution. In many ways, this new governing document was similar to that of the U.S. It repeated much of the U.S. Constitution's language and imitated many of its provisions, including a three-branch government with a president and vice president, a two-house congress, and a supreme court. The delegates did, however, introduce some South-specific elements into their new constitution:

  • Congress' powers were sharply limited. It could not impose tariffs, give bounties, or designate money for internal improvements.
  • Many powers held by the U.S. government were designated to Confederate state governments.
  • Slavery was specifically recognized and protected in all Confederate states and territories.

After the clash at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, four more states - Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee - joined the Confederacy. Officials decided to move the government from Montgomery to the new Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. As far as they were concerned, the Confederacy was now independent, firmly established, and ready to meet the world.

New Leadership

A new government needs new leaders, and the Confederacy certainly wasn't short on those. Let's meet a few of the men who gladly stepped into positions of power in the new country.

In the country's top office, we find Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Born in 1808 in Kentucky, Davis was a West Point graduate, a former U.S. Representative, and a veteran of the Mexican War. He was also a Mississippi planter and slave owner. This dignified and rather quiet man was named Provisional President in February of 1861 and elected to a six-year term later in the year. He was popular at first, but his appeal soon faded as wartime controversies and privations increased.

Davis' second-in-command was Vice President Alexander Stephens. As a U.S. Representative, he had vigorously defended slavery, but he also opposed Southern secession until he felt there was no other choice. Other Confederate officials hoped that Stephens would draw the support of moderate Southerners.

Judah P. Benjamin held three different offices in the over four years of Confederate existence. He first served as Attorney General, then Secretary of War, and finally Secretary of State. Before the war, he had been a railroad man and a U.S. Senator. He also owned a sugar plantation and many slaves. Benjamin was especially apt at leading Confederate spy rings and conducting foreign diplomacy.

James Seddon was one of Benjamin's successors as Secretary of War. Seddon, who was a Virginia aristocrat and lawyer, served in that office for most of the war. He was one of the President's most trusted advisers.

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