Political science quarterly, Volume 26 By Academy of Political Science (U.S.), Columbia University. Faculty of Political Science, Academy of Political Science in the City of New York, 1911
...In the election, Bell did not carry a single state in the lower South; but he received a large vote, and he and Douglas, that is, the conservative candidates, together received a majority of the votes cast in Georgia and Louisiana. In these two states we find that the vote cast by the slaveless whites amounted to at least 62 and 57 per cent respectively of the total vote. From
this we might conclude that the slaveless whites were inclined to be conservative; but when we find that in Mississippi, where they cast at least 56 per cent of the total vote, Breckinridge received 58 per cent of it (a majority of 12,474), and that in Alabama, where they cast at least 58 per cent of the total vote, he received 60 per cent of it (a majority of 7305), our confidence in this view is shaken. It is still more shaken by a glance at some of the totals. The total vote in Georgia was 106,365, of which Breckinridge received 51,889, though there were only 41,084 slaveholders in the state and it is known that many of these did not vote for him. Even less reconcilable with the view in question are the returns from Texas, where Breckinridge received 47,547 out of 62,659 votes, though the slaveholders numbered only 21,878.1
But the strongest evidence against the view that the slaveless whites were conservative is to be found in the returns from single counties. In Alabama, the home of Yancey, the protaggonist of secession, Douglas carried five counties and Bell five, and, but for the results in other counties, the conservative victories here might be attributed to the votes of non-slaveholders; for if all the slaveholders in the five Douglas counties had voted, they would have cast only 33 per cent of the vote polled, and in the five Bell counties the slaveless whites cast at least 56 per cent of the total vote. In one of the Bell counties they cast at least 83 per cent. But in four other counties which went for Breckinridge the slaveless whites cast at least 71 per cent of the vote, and in eight other counties they cast 63 per cent. An examination of the statistics of these counties as regards the value of realty and of personalty does not seem to warrant any distinction between conservative and radical counties on the basis of wealth. It is worth noting, however, that four of the poorest counties, where the farms were worth only $3,230,893 and the personalty $4,994,871, gave Breckinridge clear majorities.
In Mississippi Bell carried ten counties. These were all on the Mississippi River or close to it and were distinctly the region
of the great slaveholders. The total population of these counties was 145,028, of which the blacks composed 74 percent. The value of the farms in nine of these counties—the Census contains no statistics for Washington county—was $50,913,401, and that of the personalty, of which slaves made up a great part, was $91,581,564. Of 4428 farms, 1752 contained from 100 to 499 acres each; 438, from 500 to 999 each; and 139 contained over 1000 each. Of 953 small farms, ranging from 20 to 49 acres, 776 were in two counties. Of 4702 slaveholders, 2067, or 44 per cent, owned ten or more slaves. Had all the slaveholders in these counties voted, they might have cast nearly 54 per cent of the vote polled, which was 8739.
In twelve other counties of Mississippi, Bell received about 40 per cent of the votes; Breckinridge, 58 per cent; and Douglas, two per cent. The population of these counties was 203,175, of which the blacks made up 61 per cent. The farms were valued at $70,207,110, the personalty at $141,314,042. The slaveholders numbered 7268, of whom those owning ten or more made up 52 per cent. The number of slaveholders was equal to 42 per cent of the vote cast.
In thirteen selected counties Breckinridge received 75 or more per cent of the votes cast. The population of these counties was 93,031, of which the whites made up 64 per cent. The farms in these counties were valued at only $22,179,447, the personalty at $47,981,650. The slaveholders numbered 4227, of whom those owning ten or more slaves made up 28 per cent. The total number of slaveholders was equal to only 45 per cent of the vote cast.
If the great slaveholders led, one is tempted to ask: which of them and which way? In Issequana county there were 587 white people and 7244 slaves. There were 115 slaveholders, of whom 98 owned over ten slaves, while 44 owned 50 or more. Out of 243 votes cast, Bell received 133; Breckinridge, 104; Douglas, six. In Teshemingo County there were 19,159 whites to 4981 slaves. Out of 707 slaveholders only 157 owned over ten slaves. Of the total vote polled, 3453, the slaveholders, had they all voted, could have cast but 24 per cent; yet Breckinridge received 1748, or nearly 55 per cent. In other words, just as in Issequana, the vote was almost equally divided between the conservative and the radical parties.
On the whole, it seems a little safer to venture on generalizations in Mississippi than in Alabama. In Mississippi nine counties which voted for Bell had 2067 slaveholders owning over ten slaves each, while thirteen Breckinridge counties had only 1152 of these oligarchs. The farms in the nine Bell counties were valued at $50,913,401 and the personalty at $91,581,564, while in the thirteen Breckinridge counties the figures were $22,179,447 and $47,981,650 respectively. This would seem to indicate a tendency toward conservatism in the wealthy slaveholding counties and toward radicalism in the poorer counties where there were fewer slaveholders.
In Louisiana, Bell carried nine parishes and received 40 per cent of the total vote of the state; Douglas carried three parishes and received 15 per cent, of the vote. The parishes carried by Bell had a population of 180,895 whites to 63,356 slaves, or, leaving out New Orleans, 31,832 whites to 48,872 slaves. In only two parishes carried by Bell outside of New Orleans was the white population greater than the black, and these were wealthy parishes. The population of the three Douglas parishes stood 18,629 whites to 21,867 slaves, and in one parish the whites slightly outnumbered the blacks. In fifteen Breckinridge counties the population was 59,540 whites to 133,585 slaves and in only one of these were the whites more numerous. In several the excess of the black population was very great, as in Concordia, where there were only 1242 whites to 12,542 slaves, and in Tensas, where there were 1479 whites to 15,592 slaves. The Breckinridge counties were somewhat more wealthy than those voting for Bell and Douglas. New Orleans, like Mobile, voted a conservative ticket...
1 All election returns are taken from the Tribune Almanac, 1861. All figures relating to slaveholding are taken from the Census of 1860.