January 3, 1861: Delaware Votes Not to Secede

On this day in 1861, the Delaware legislature voted not to secede from the Union, becoming the first slave-holding state to do so prior to the Civil War.

On this day in 1861, the Delaware legislature voted not to secede from the Union, becoming the first slave-holding state to do so prior to the Civil War.

After South Carolina voted to secede just two weeks earlier, a commissioner from Mississippi addressed both the Delaware House and Senate regarding leaving the Union. By that time, Delaware had all but abolished slavery, the “but” being 1,800 African-Americans still living under slavery in the state.

According to The New York Times, the commissioner “addressed both Houses in a strong Southern speech, taking ground in favor of South Carolina and secession, and inviting Delaware to join in a Southern Confederacy. He claimed the right of the Southern States to secede, and said that if they were not allowed to do so, war was inevitable.”

The legislature rejected the idea of secession and passed the following resolution:

Resolved, That having extended to Hon. H. DICKENSON, Commissioner from Mississippi, the courtesy due him as a representative of a sovereign State of the Confederacy, as well as to the State he represents, we deem it proper and due to ourselves and the people of Delaware to express our unqualified disapproval of the remedy for the existing difficulties suggested by the resolutions of the Legislature of Mississippi.

Six days later, Mississippi voted to secede from the Union and nine more states followed suit. However, three other slave states, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, joined Delaware in remaining with the Union.

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