The Institutional Determinants of Southern Secession

49 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2016 Last revised: 3 May 2017

See all articles by Mario Chacon

Mario Chacon

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Jeffrey L. Jensen

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 30, 2016

Abstract

We use the Southern secession movement of 1860-1861 to study how elites in democracy enact their preferred policies. Most states used specially convened conventions to determine whether or not to secede from the Union. We argue that although the delegates of these conventions were popularly elected, the electoral rules favored slaveholders. Using an original dataset of representation in each convention, we first demonstrate that slave-intensive districts were systematically overrepresented. Slaveholders were also spatially concentrated and could thereby obtain local pluralities in favor of secession more easily. As a result of these electoral biases, less than 10% of the electorate was sufficient to elect a majority of delegates in four of the six original Confederate states. We also show how delegates representing slave-intensive counties were more likely to support secession. These factors explain the disproportionate influence of slaveholders during the crisis and why secessionists strategically chose conventions over statewide referenda.

Keywords: Secession, US Political Development, Representation and Voting Behavior

JEL Classification: D72, P16, P26, H77

Suggested Citation

Chacon, Mario L and Jensen, Jeffrey, The Institutional Determinants of Southern Secession (June 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2827503 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2827503

Mario L Chacon (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

HOME PAGE: http://mariochacon.com

Jeffrey Jensen

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

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