Lincoln Writes to Stephens for a Bit of Hope – Mississippi’s Had Enough

Friday, November 30, 1860

Lincoln had read about Alexander Stephens’s speech to the Georgia legislature on November 14. The speech, according to the northern papers Lincoln was reading, had printed that Stephens was calling not for secession, but to remain in the Union. Hoping for a possible ally in the South, he wrote to Stephens, requesting a copy.

Springfield, Illinois, November 30, 1860. Hon. Alexander H. Stephens.

My dear Sir: I have read in the newspapers your speech recently delivered (I think) before the Georgia legislature, or its assembled members. If you have revised it, as is probable, I shall be much obliged if you will send me a copy. Yours very truly,

A. Lincoln.

What seemed to be a simple request for a copy of the speech was actually an attempt to open a dialog with a prominent, hopefully Unionist, respected politician of the South.


All of the hope and friends in the South seemingly couldn’t keep the Mississippi legislature from drawing up and agreeing upon their Resolutions on Secession. Though they had not yet seceded, they had, as the title would indicate, resolved to secede.

Unlike many resolutions of the time, it was short. In a relative handful of simply paragraphs, the Mississippians laid out their grievances with the Union and their solution: secession.

Basically, the Mississippi legislature resolved that the union with the federal government was on a voluntary, state-by-state basis and thus could be dissolved when any of the states wished to leave. Also, the institution of slavery existed before the US Constitution and was protected in it. The federal government had not only made laws that restricted slavery, but had enticed their slaves from them.

The Resolutions made note that the federal government was trying to stop slavery in the new territories and were, in essence, attempting to abolish slavery altogether.

With all this in mind, “the secession of each aggrieved state is the proper remedy for these injuries.”1

  1. The Mississippi Resolutions of November 30, 1860. []
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Lincoln Writes to Stephens for a Bit of Hope – Mississippi’s Had Enough by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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