by Max Brantley
Revealing both the unique features of the secession story in Arkansas and the issues that Arkansas shared with much of the rest of the South, this collection illustrates how Arkansans debated their place in the nation and, specifically, how the defense of slavery—as both an assurance of continued economic progress and a means of social control—remained central to the decision to leave the Union and fight alongside much of the South for four bloody years of civil war.The irony, of course, is that Republicans fought hard against Arkansas secession. Now members of that party hold the Confederacy dear.
The Arkansas secession convention adopted several resolutions explaining why the state was declaring secession. They stated that the primary reason for Arkansas' secession was "hostility to the institution of African slavery" from the free states. The free states' support for "equality with negroes" was another reason. Three years later, one Arkansas man, supporting the view of the secession convention regarding slavery, stated that if the Union were to win the war, his "sister, wife, and mother are to be given up to the embraces of their present dusky male servitors."Also, on March 2, 1861, Gov. Rector declaimed to the convention:
The area of slavery must be extended correlative with its antagonism, or it will be put speedily in the 'course of ultimate extinction.'... The extension of slavery is the vital point of the whole controversy between the North and the South... Amendments to the federal constitution are urged by some as a panacea for all the ills that beset us. That instrument is amply sufficient as it now stands, for the protection of Southern rights, if it was only enforced. The South wants practical evidence of good faith from the North, not mere paper agreements and compromises. They believe slavery a sin, we do not, and there lies the trouble.Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. Sit in a session of the Arkansas legislature some day and see what I mean.