The enthusiasm surrounding Douglas was limited, however, and Breckenridge carried the state. Recognizing the inevitability of a Republican victory, Tuscaloosa’s Independent Monitor pleaded with the southern slave states to put off secession, urging them to “await with calmness the onset—the course, and the final development of [Lincoln’s] administration—supporting it wherever it deserves their support.” Lincoln, the paper’s editor contended, would act constitutionally, supporting the rights of slave-owners. Nevertheless, Tuscaloosa’s citizens, like many voters in the state of Alabama, cast their lots with Breckenridge. It was the paper’s contention, however, that Tuscaloosans had cast their votes “on the side of the Constitution, the Union, and the enforcement of the Laws. If secession and its horrid train of evils, come upon us, we have had no agency in it, but did all we could to avoid the bloody issue, and are prepared whenever it comes, to do what duty and patriotism demands of every citizen.”
The “bloody issue” did consume Alabama in the final weeks of 1860, after Lincoln’s election, and many Alabamians made plans to secede from the United States. In a few northern counties of Alabama, staunch Unionists planned to avoid secession at all costs. There was even talk of forming an independent state, Nickajack, which would remain with the United States, should Alabama secede. For Democrats who had supported Bell and Douglas, however, the decision was more complicated. But many, after weighing the consequences of secession versus unionism, chose to support secession in the end. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, former Governor Winston, who had supported Douglas, believed that Alabamians should “take steps for a separacy.” At this point, though, the state’s citizens began to disagree over when and how to secede. Yancey and his radicals favored immediate secession, proposing that Alabama secede from the United States independently of the other southern states. But many other voters, especially those who had supported Bell and Douglas, took a cooperationist stance, urging their fellow Alabamians to secede in unison with other southern states. Despite these disagreements, cooperationists and immediatists selected delegates for a secession convention. In January of 1861, Alabamians would gather again in Montgomery to vote on the question of separation from the United States.