Digital History>eXplorations>Why Did the South Secede?>The Secession Movement

The movement of several Southern states toward secession in early 1861 is portrayed as a doomed enterprise. The artist shows Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, all represented by men riding donkeys, following the lead of South Carolina toward a cliff. The work is fact based on an 1837 satire criticizing Jacksonian fiscal policy and its bullionist pursuit of the "Gold Humbug."

Georgia rides down an inclined path rather than follow the group, confessing, "We have some doubts about "the end" of that road and think it expedient to deviate a little."

South Carolina, who rides a pig, pursues a butterfly "Secession Humbug."

South Carolina, reaching for the butterfly, says, "We go the whole hog.--Old Hickory is dead, and now we'll have it."

The reference to Andrew Jackson ("Old Hickory") is in keeping with the anti-Democratic line of the cartoon.

Florida, immediately behind South Carolina, cries, "Go it Carolina! we are the boys to "wreck" the Union."
Alabama declares, "We go it blind, Cotton is King!'"
Mississippi says, "Down with the Union! Missippi "repudiates her bonds.""
Last is Louisiana, who says, "Go it boys! We'll soon taste the "sweets" of secession," alluding to the state's domination of the sugar trade.
   

"THE 'SECESSION MOVEMENT'." Currier & Ives 1861. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Copyright Digital History 2014