The Southern Manifesto and Cass’s Last Straw

Thursday, December 13, 1860

In response to the House Committee of Thirty-three, thirty Southern congressmen (23 representatives and seven senators) met to draw up their own plan. United States congressmen from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina met to talk of secession and to come up with a plan to leave the Union.

At this meeting “The Southern Manifesto” was written, authored by Louis Trezevant Wigfall, a senator from Texas. “All hope of relief in the Union through the agency of committees, Congressional legislation, or constitutional amendments, is extinguished.”

The republicans were the problem. They “are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that will or ought to satisfy the South.” Because of this impasse, the Southern congressmen concluded that “the honor, safety, and independence of Southern people require the organization of a Southern Confederacy.”

This would, of course, require not just the secession of South Carolina, but that “the primary object of each slave-holding State ought to be its speedy and absolute separation from a union with hostile States.”

They resolved that though South Carolina would secede first, each of the Southern states would follow her example. Each state would first hold a convention to debate secession, but it was hoped that each state would follow through and that a Southern Confederacy would be established.1


While the separate committees met, one to preserve the Union and one to secede, Secretary of State Lewis Cass attempted to convince President Buchanan that Major Anderson in Charleston Harbor should be reinforced immediately. He stated that while other members of the Cabinet claimed to be a “Georgian” or “Virginian” or “Carolinian” he would claim that he was a citizen of the United States. If these Georgians, Virginians or Carolinians refused to follow the laws of the United States, he, as a United States citizen, was duty-bound to enforce them.

Cass demanded that the forts be reinforced, but President Buchanan differed in opinion. “I have made up my mind.” And that was that.2


Seventy-one year old Brigadier-General Daniel Twiggs of Georgia had served the United States since the War of 1812. He was one of four generals in the Federal army. His command was now based out of San Antonio and included the entire Department of Texas. His main duty was keeping the peace between whites, Mexicans and Indians. He had nearly 2,500 soldiers under his command, including Colonel Robert E. Lee whom he had just sent to command Fort Mason.

It was Twiggs’s opinion that the Union would be dissolved and that he would resign to head back to Georgia when it did. Until then, however, he would continue following the orders of General Winfield Scott, commander of all Federal forces.

General Twiggs wrote to General Scott asking him for suggestions about what to do with the Federal property (forts, arsenals, etc) when the South secedes. He also assured Scott that he would remain at his post “and protect this frontier for as long as I can.”

Twiggs would wait for a reply.3

  1. From The True History of the Civil War by Guy Carleton Lee, J. B. Lippincott company, 1903. []
  2. From Lewis Cass By Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin, Houghton, Mifflin, 1899. []
  3. Official Records, Vol. 1, p579. []
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2 thoughts on “The Southern Manifesto and Cass’s Last Straw

  1. This isn’t a comment on this (or any other) particular post. It’s just that I’ve only now caught up with you and I want to say Huzzah! I subscribed to the RSS feed well ahead of Abe’s election and had every intention of reading every post as soon as it appeared. But stuff happened and the stack of unread posts grew. (Writing faster than some people can read:-) The blog is wonderful. — entertaining & educational. I’m really going to try to pay attention from here on out.

    1. Oh I know very well what that’s like. Thanks for reading and commenting, I really do appreciate it. Hope all is well on the American Road board. I’ve just been so slammed with this project I’ve had no time for anything else at all.

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