The results of the presidential election of 1860 reflected the sectional divide between North and South.
Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee and the victorious candidate, swept the Northeast and Midwestern states, where the Republican platform of opposing the territorial extension of slavery, promoting free labor, upholding tariffs and supporting federal internal improvement projects appealed to a wide range of voters.
The usually dominant Democratic party split between voters who both opposed the Republican agenda and disunion, and voters, mostly Southerners, who believed that a Republican victory would lead to the destruction of slavery and mean economic and social ruin for the South. These Democrats called for Southern secession should the Republicans win.
The Democrats held separate conventions and nominated separate candidates (Stephen A. Douglas was pro-Union and John C. Breckinridge was pro-secession). Although Lincoln did not win a majority of the popular vote, he easily won enough electoral votes to gain the presidency. A fourth political force, the Constitutional Union party, composed mostly of former Whigs, only won one state – Missouri.
After Lincoln’s election on November 6, 1860, several Southern states began making preparations for secession.
Florida Governor Madison Starke Perry urged his state to convene a secession convention. The legislature passed a bill in favor of holding an election on December 22 for choosing convention delegates, who would then convene in Tallahassee on January 3, 1861. Governor Perry approved the bill on November 30.
A bill to be entitled
An Act to provide for calling a convention of the people of the State of Florida.
Section 1. Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Florida in General Assembly convened, That a convention of the people of the State of Florida is hereby ordained to be assembled in the City of Tallahassee on Thursday the third day of January Anno Domini One thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty one, for the purpose of taking into consideration the dangers incident to the position of this State in the Federal Union, established by the Constitution of the United States of America, and the measures which may be necessary and proper for providing against the same, and to amend the constitution of the State of Florida so far as the same in the judgment of said convention may be necessary, and thereupon to take care that the commonwealth of Florida Shall suffer no detriment.
The delegates to Florida’s secession convention, formally known as the “Convention of the People of Florida,” assembled in Tallahassee on January 3, 1861, to vote on secession. Of the 69 delegates eligible to vote for the adoption of an ordinance of secession on January 10, 1861, 62 voted yea and seven voted nay.
According to historian Ralph A. Wooster:
Ordinance of Secession
We, the people of the State of Florida in Convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish and declare: That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing Government of said States: and that all political connection between her and the Government of said States ought to be and the same is hereby totally annulled, and said union of States dissolved: and the State of Florida is hereby declared a Sovereign and Independent Nation: and that all ordinances heretofore adopted in so far as they create or recognize said Union, are rescinded: and all laws or parts of laws in force in this State, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union be and they are hereby repealed.
Done in open Convention, January 10th, A. D. 1861.
John C. McGehee President.
Attest William S. Harris, Secretary.
According to Ordinance No. 7 of the Convention of the People of Florida (secession convention) passed on January 17, 1861, all nonjudicial federal offices which existed in Florida up to January 10, 1861, (the date of secession) would continue to exist under state authority. All such state officeholders were required to take an oath of allegiance to the state “to be prescribed by law.” Under Florida’s Constitution of 1838, all civil and military officeholders had to take the following oath before they entered office:
“I do swear (or affirm,) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the office to which I have been elected, (or appointed) and will, to the best of my abilities, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State, and of the United States.”
A month after seceding (January 10, 1861), Florida joined six other Southern states to form the Confederate States of America on February 8, 1861. Florida’s secession convention then moved to adapt a new constitution that reflected the state’s membership in the Confederacy. Florida’s Constitution of 1861 maintained the language of the old oath of office but substituted “Confederate States of America” for “United States” at the end of the oath.
After the Civil War began, however, some Florida lawmakers believed that a more strident oath of office was needed to reflect the state’s fight against the Union. Although it never became law, the following draft of a Senate bill proposed language that described the United States as a foreign and threatening power.
An Act prescribing the form of the Oath of Allegiance.
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representative of the State of Florida in General Assembly convened that the within thirty after the passage of Oath of Allegiance required by the 7th Ordinance of the late Convention of the people of Florida shall be in the following form.
“I _________________ do solemnly swear that I will support, maintain, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida to the best of my skill and ability, against the so cal
All foreign powers whatsoever and more particularly against the so called United States of America.”
After the Civil War began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Florida would need to muster all of its resources to defend itself against the “so called United States of America.”