One hundred and fifty years ago, secession fever was sweeping across south Arkansas counties. Though popular belief dictates that Arkansas was ready to secede from the United States this week in 1861, the majority of delegates sent to represent their respective counties at the first secession convention in Little Rock were, in fact, overwhelmingly pro-Union. On the same day Arkansans were deciding whether or not to secede from the union, Abraham Lincoln delivered his inaugural address to the nation after. Arkansas had a very important decision to make: would she decide to remain a part of the United States and support a president that was not even on the ballot during the election that took place last November?
The various issues discussed in his first inaugural address included several historical surprises to the average Civil War enthusiast. Among these issues outlined in his March 4, 1861 speech, he promised to not interfere with the institution of slavery. Honest Abe also noted that the Union would not use force against the South unless it became necessary to “hold, occupy, and possess the property and places” belonging to the federal government.
While the sixteenth president of the United States takes his oath on the steps of the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., which was still under construction by using slave labor, the streets of downtown Little Rock began to fill with curious onlookers as Arkansas’ first secession convention begins in Little Rock and lasted for about two and a half weeks. Would Arkansas cast her lot with her neighboring states and secede from the Union? The next two columns will outline the various going-on at Arkansas’ first secession convention.