Study Questions

Charles B. Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

Introduction. What is the author's background? How did he come to write this book?

1. How has the issue of the causes of the Civil War played out in recent events? Two states wrote preambles to their secession ordinances and four states issued declarations of the causes for secession; what was the primary reason they gave for seceding? How did President Jefferson Davis's inaugural address and Vice President Alexander Stephens's "cornerstone speech" differ? After the Civil War, what did Davis and Stephens give as the primary cause of the war? Who were the secession commissioners and why are their speeches and writings important for the question of the cause of the Civil War?

2. Why were the first commissioners appointed and where were they sent? Identify the "Southern Manifesto" (which was issued in response to the Crittenden Compromise, which Dew does not mention). What were the commissioners' arguments why immediate secession was the South's only choice?

3. Where did the South Carolina secession convention send commissioners? What unified message did they deliver? Why did South Carolina feel an urgency?

4. What purpose did Alabama's commissioner have? What dire predictions did they make regarding the South's future under Republican rule? How successful were they?

5. Why did seceding states regard it as crucial that Virginia secede, too? What reasons did the three commissioners give why immediate secession was the only logical course for the slave states? How did Virginia delegates receive their speeches? Why was John Smith Preston's speech so anticipated and what impact did it have?

Conclusion. How did John Smith Preston's and Jabez L. M. Curry's postwar justifications of secession differ from the arguments they gave before the war? What three threats did all the commissioners see in the South's future in the United States? Did they really believe what they were saying?

Afterword. How did the author realize the importance of commissioners' economic arguments after he had published the first edition of Apostles of Disunion? What provisions governing the slave trade did the Confederate Constitution have and how would they affect slave states not in the Confederacy? How valuable was the slave trade? What evidence did the author find that slave traders were stirring hysteria in Virginia to promote secession? In the end, what was the most important fear that the commissioners played on? The Civil War was fought over what important issue?