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The Free State of Attala

Note: Mr. Woods, a Unionist, believed the slavery issue was a "red herring" in order to achieve secession.

Thomas H. Woods, a member of the Mississippi Convention for secession wrote...

"It is not inappropriate here to emphasize the influence of the foray of that murderous fanatic whose methods of pillage, incendiarism and incitation of servile insurrection, with all its unspeakable actrocities, Mr. Lincoln, voicing the sentiments of the radicals, pointed out as one of the two plans to be adopted for the final settlement of the controversy between the slave-holding and the non-slave-holding States. That the triumphant majority which carried Mr. Lincoln into the presidential chair, in 1860, then either openly or covertly sympathized with John Brown's lawless methods and work was felt to be morally certain. Southern detestation and horror of that robber-insurrectionist was fittingly expressed in a paragraph of the "Declaration of the immediate causes which induce and justify the secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union," which was adopted by a Convention and published to the world in vindication of its action. In enumerating the acts of Northern hostility to the institution of slavery, amongst other counts in the Declaration, it is alleged that "It [a spirit of hostility] has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings and the weapons of destruction to our lives."

The vote for secession was 85 yea to 15 nay. When it came to signing the Ordinance of Secession, only two did not sign it; Col. J. J. Thornton of Rankin County and John W. Wood of Attala County.

John W. Wood wrote in 1863....

"The origin of the doctrine of secession may be traced step by step to the speech of Mr. Calhoun, on the Force Bill, in the United States Senate, in 1833, in which he used this language: "Is this a Federal Union or Union of States, as distinct from that of individuals? Is the Sovereignty in the several States or in the American people in the aggregate? ...I maintain that Sovereignty is in its nature indivisible. It is the supreme power in a State, and we might just as well speak of half a square or half a triangle as of half a Sovereignty. It is a great error to confound the exercise of Sovereign powers with the surrender of surrender any portion of his Sovereignty to another, is to annihilate the whole."...

From the teachings of Mr. Calhoun, the Southern people very readily embraced the popular doctrine of States Rights appealed to the pride and prejudices of the people, and required no investigation to commend it to the hearty approval of the masses. After the doctrines of the Democratic State Rights party had become so popular among the masses of the people, it required but one step further to induce them embrace the doctrine of Secession. When the National Democratic party met at Charleston in 1860, they were divided upon a question of no practical utility whatever, at that time, viz: whether Slavery should be protected in the Territories, when really there was no territory whatever, since the settlement of the question in Kansas, where slavery was likely to go. But the leaders of the secession movement then saw what would be the result, and doubtless, many of them designed to effect a division in the National Democratic party for no other purpose than to elect Abraham Lincoln, and thereby obtain a sufficient pretext for a dissolution of the Union.

...Being called upon by the citizens of the central County of Mississippi, (Attala,) called by the Secessionist "the free State of Attala," to become a candidate for a seat in the Convention, I issued a list of appointments and mounted my horse for a canvass of the county, addressing the people nearly every day from two to three hours, and sometimes longer, till the day of the election. The result was, my election by a majority of only thirty-four votes. The Union candidate in 1850 was elected by only one vote. I made the issue upon the direct question of "Union" or "Disunion". Our tickets were printed "Union Ticket."

Attala Presidential Returns, 1860.

525 for Bell
1030 for Breckinridge
5 for Douglas

33% against the radical party during the election and looks, from Mr. Woods accounts, the county was split almost evenly between secession and union during the secession debate in January, 1861.

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