With hesitant resolve: Arkansas moves toward secession and war
Vandiver, Frank E.
Master of Arts
This work surveys the history of ante-bellum Arkansas until the passage of the Ordinance of Secession on May 6, 1861. The first three chapters deal with the social, economic, and political development of the state prior to 186. Arkansas experienced difficult, yet substantial .social and economic growth during the ante-belium era; its percentage of population increase outstripped five other frontier states in similar stages of development. Its growth was nevertheless hampered by the unsettling presence of the Indian territory on its western border, which helped to prolong a lawless stage. An unreliable transportation system and a ruinous banking policy also stalled Arkansas's economic progress. On the political scene a family dynasty controlled state politics from 183 to 186, a situation without parallel throughout the ante-bellum South. A major part of this work concentrates upon Arkansas's politics from 1859 to 1861. In a most important state election in 186, the dynasty met defeat through an open revolt from within its ranks led by a shrewd and ambitious Congressman, Thomas Hindman. Hindman turned the contest into a class conflict, portraying the dynasty's leadership as "aristocrats" and "Bourbons." Because of Hindman's support, Arkansans chose its first governor not hand-picked by the dynasty. By this election the people handed gubernatorial power to an ineffectual political novice during a time oi great sectional crisis. In the Presidential race of 186, Hindman and the dynasty joined in an uneasy alliance to carry Arkansas for Breckinridge, the most radical southern candidate. In voting for Breckinridge, the state expressed its belief in slavery and its legitimate expansion into the territories. With Lincoln's election, the question of secession rearranged traditional political alignments , and a geo-political division between a secessionist southeastern Arkansas against a Unionist northwestern region emerged. These new alignments became evident in February, 1861, with the election of delegates to the Secession Convention. So heated did these geo-political differences become that there was talk of splitting Arkansas in half. Until Fort Sumter the state refused to secede, but once war became inevitable, Arkansas's cultural, geographical, economic, and political ties to the South proved too strong to ignore. Arkansas became the ninth state to secede from the Union on May 6, 1861. While narrating Arkansas's political history until secession, particular attention is given the regional, racial, and class antagonisms present within the state during the great national crisis of 186-61.