February 4, 1861: The Confederate States of America is formed.
In November of 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a one-term U.S. representative and candidate for the newly-formed Republican Party, was elected President of the United States with just under 40% of the popular vote. Rather than remain in a union whose president had won the election with a party promising “free labor, free land, free men”, seven southern slaveholding states seceded. The first was South Carolina, birthplace of John C. Calhoun and historical hotbed of states’ rights sentiment, and the last of the original seven was Texas, which seceded in February, a little over a month before Lincoln took office.
Six delegates convened in Montgomery, Alabama in the chambers of the state senate on February 4, 1861. Their first meeting marked the founding of the Confederate States of America, and in the coming months the Montgomery Convention drafted a Constitution and appointed former Secretary of War and veteran congressman Jefferson Davis president opposite the comparatively inexperienced Abraham Lincoln. In his Cornerstone Speech (March 21, 1861), the Confederate States’ vice president Alexander Stephens asserted that “our peculiar institution African slavery" was the "immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution”. He also declared that the founding principle of the new Confederate state, for which hundreds of thousands of lives would soon be spent, should be the principle of black racial inferiority:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.