Faced now with the imminent prospect of a Republican president and the presumed disastrous repercussions, state legislators declared it “their solemn duty to provide in advance the means by which they [might] escape such peril and dishonor, and devise new securities for perpetuating the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.” In February of 1860, members of the General Assembly—the joint body of Alabama’s Senate and House—passed a vital resolution: Should a Republican win the presidential election, the governor of Alabama would be required to call a Convention of the State to discuss the preservation of Alabama’s independence—a secession convention.
By choosing to wait to discuss secession until after the presidential election in the fall, Alabama’s elected officials exercised pragmatic restraint. In fact, most Alabamians remained skeptical about the idea of secession, despite all the efforts of Yancey and the radicals. Nevertheless, by 1860 most white men in Alabama were concerned that the growing Republican Party, with a victory in the presidential election, could threaten the institution of slavery. As they prepared for the national Democratic convention and the looming election, they expected the worst.