In the beginning of the South’s secession crisis, many in North Carolina believed that secession form the Union over the election of a Republican president, was unnecessary. While many in NC did not support Lincoln for president (his name never appeared on NC ballot), North Carolinians did not see his election as cause to leave the Union. While in other states a cry for secession went out, when the official results of the 1860 election came in, especially those voices in South Carolina. In an editorial on November 1860 in The Daily Herald, points to the rashness of South Carolina to leave the union, saying “ The State that secedes must pass through a baptism of blood, in which the garments of her surrounding sisters will be freely dipped, although against their will” (Item 271). North Carolina, did not want to be dragged into a war where it could just as easily be prevented through political mitigation. North Carolinians across the state did not feel that the intuition of slavery was threatened by Lincoln, as long as other states in the south did not over react. When South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860 many North Carolinas disapproved of South Carolina’s actions, and worried over the consequences of southern states seceding.
In January of 1861, the divisions in the state started to show. In coastal areas especially those areas around Wilmington and Elizabeth City where the slave populations were the greatest, were proposing that NC secede form the Union as well. Although throughout the rest of the state, was adamantly pro-Union. In the Fayetteville Observer response to the raising of the secession flag at Wilmington, said
“As to the old Confederation, the states had found the agreement, originally made, called ‘a Confederation,” totally inefficient, they all admitted this and they all met together in convention under the call of Congress to make a new agreement—“to form a more prefect Union.” There was no secession, nor anything like secession, by one state or by nine States, The same process may be gone through with now, this difference: that whereas each State then had the right to ratify or reject and be in or out as it chose. Now a ratification of a change by three-fourths is binding upon the whole.” (Item 311)
In other words it was the view of North Carolinas that Southern states had not right to leave the Union, and by doing so southern states broke the original contract that it Had formed when joining the Union. North Carolinians were so worried over the issue whether or not the state would leave the Union that counties petition the governor to call a special session of the General Assembly. Anson County located in the western part of the state was one of the majorities. There petition to the governor stated “being convinced that the exigencies of the times and the scenes that are being enacted around us, …from the present lights before us, we believe will be continued, demand some action on our part as a people, and believing the same with regard to the State” (Item 533). Many in the west feared that the eastern dominated slave holding members of the General Assembly would move to have North Carolina secede without consulting the rest of the state.
Governor Ellis did convene a special session of the General Assembly, in late January 1861. The first Propositions that passed through committee in the legislature dealt with establishing North Carolina’s position on secession. The resolutions reflected the position of NC, and wanted to reaffirm it to the Union as well as members of its own state, the resolutions said that “North Carolina is devotedly attached to a constitutional union of the states the Union of our fathers and still hopes that it may be restored” (Item 535). The Special Assembly wanted to further guarantee that no North Carolinians would be unjustly pushed or bullied into secession, but also giving the Union and out, in order to keep North Carolina in the Union, “ that a convention of this people ought to be authorized to decide what [?] this state should adopt with reference to remaining in the Union with Free States or form a union with the slave holding states” (Item 535).
The state Legislature continued its debate for the next two months, people within North Carolina, still had the strongly held belief that a compromise could be reached with the Union. While many in the state disliked Lincoln, the Union was valued more. In a letter form John W. Hallibourton, he says “I have seen Lincoln's inaugural. It declares that he will collect the revenue and hold on to UNS property. It amounts to coercion. Still it does not make me a secessionist only an anti-Lincoln man. His life is of less value than the Union. I can hate him and still love the Union” (Item 305). Hallibourton illustrates the beliefs held by many North Carolinians living in the western part of the state, that the Union should not be abolished just because of one man and his actions. Even in Raleigh many of the newspapers, kept promoting the position that North Carolina would not leave the Union. In The Raleigh Standard on April 4, 1861, published an editorial stating that “North Carolina will not secede from the Union for existing causes” (Item 313 ). Within a month, the state would secede, due to influence of the eastern part of the state and the realization that the Union would not amend the constitution to protect slavery. There is a strong Unionist voice in the western part of the state throughout the Civil war, while some might have changed their position on secession, many of the Yeomen farmers in western North Carolina did not support the decision to secede. The loyalty to the union during the secession crisis illustrated the dichotomy present in the state between the land holding elite and the rest of the state, and in the end who had the most political power.