We can bury out back the silly Baby Boomer idea that our Southern heritage has nothing to do with race. It had absolutely everything to do with race. Everyone knew at the time that the South was a White Man’s Country.
The only people in America at the time who advocated anything resembling the multiracial democracy of BRA that we have today were radical abolitionists like John Brown and Black Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner:
“Southerners drew on a wide range of disunion images in their responses to the Republican victory in 1860. As Charles B. Dew shows, when the Deep South secessionists formed the Confederacy after Lincoln’s election urged the Upper South to join the new nation, they focused on the perils of remaining in an abolitionized Union, conjuring up specters of slave insurrection, race competition, and race mixing. This dystopian litany had been pressed into service repeatedly during the antebellum decades by proslavery forces seeking political leverage and protection within the Union – now it serve to prove that the Union was irredeemably corrupt.”
“The central argument of the fire-eaters was that the Republican contempt for the South would grow as Republican electoral power grew. … The inevitable Republican victory would have disastrous consequences that would exceed the “most exaggerated fears or extravagant fancies of the Southern mind” – the South would like prostrate before the rapacious North as it imposed abolition, race and class war, and moral degradation on the region.”
Sometimes, in a convenient elision, the Democratic press referred to the “Black Republican Know Nothing party,” a coalition united so Democrats alleged, by its determination to “overthrow … our glorious Union.” In lockstep with Southern papers, the party organ, the Democratic Review, based in New York, fumed that Republicans had “incorporated in their disunion creed” the dread doctrines of “womans-rights-ism” and “socialism” and “whatever cause … a frenzied brain might find attraction in.” The opposition, in other words, represented not only sectionalism but also infidelity to the divinely ordained social hierarchy.
Some Northern Democrats tried to draw a moral and functional distinction between Southern and Northern invocations of disunion. When Calhoun had used the word, the Democratic Review opined, he had done so with “melancholy grandeur.” But when abolitionists and Republicans spoke of disunion, they were geniuses of “evil-doing.” Thus the younger generation of fire-eaters who “blurted out the filthy, execrable word” did so only because abolitionists who “deify niggers” had provoked them to, “pandering to a vicious craving after excitement.”