The Georgia Platform

America after the compromise. (via Wikipedia) Southern Unionists would turn fire-eater.

America after the compromise and forever, or Southern Unionists would turn fire-eater. (via Wikipedia)

The first blow to South Carolina Governor Seabrook’s conspiracy to break the Union came in the form of Texas’ private choice to take federal cash for its western claims, but the first public blow came from elections for Georgia’s state convention. Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs successfully convinced the voters to send 240 Unionist delegates to that convention of 264, a total of 90.91%.

Such an overwhelming Unionist win might look like a profound repudiation of secession. On December 10, 1850, the convention adopted the Georgia Platform which resolved that:

if the thirteen original parties to the contract, bordering the Atlantic in a narrow belt, while their separate interests were in embryo their peculiar tendencies scarcely developed, their revolutionary trials and triumphs, still green in memory, found Union impossible without Compromise, the thirty-one of this day, may well yield somewhat, in the conflict of opinion and policy, to preserve that Union which has extended the sway of republican government over a vast wilderness to another ocean, and proportionally advanced their civilization and national greatness.

Compromise and Union, as one would expect from the election. Georgia maintained its attachment to the principle that the Congress had no power to regulate slavery in the territories, but would trade purity of principle for a fair deal. Looking at the final measures, the convention saw

the rejection of propositions to exclude slavery from the Mexican territories and to abolish it in the District of Columbia, and whilst she does not wholly approve, will abide by it as a permanent adjustment of this sectional controversy.

Emphasis mine. Compromise rarely leaves everyone entirely happy, but Georgia resolved to live with the new status quo. They could have slavery with Union, provided the finality of the Armistice. Georgia could give a little to get a little. But

the State of Georgia in the judgment of this Convention, will and ought to resist even (as a last resort,) to a disruption of every tie which binds her to the Union, any action of Congress upon the subject of slavery in the District of Columbia, or in any places subject to the jurisdiction of Congress incompatible with the safety, domestic tranquility, the rights and honor of the slave-holding States, or any refusal to admit as a State any territory hereafter, applying, because of the existence of slavery therein, or any act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the territories of New Mexico and Utah, or any act repealing or materially modifying the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves.

Georgia proclaimed for Union, but only subject to the Armistice’s finality, only subject to the preservation of slavery in Washington, only subject to the continued admission of slave states, only subject to the preservation of slavery within the slave states, only subject to New Mexico and Utah remaining open to slavery, and only subject to the new Fugitive Slave Act’s inviolacy.

Those conditions reiterate the Armistice terms, but at the very least also lay markers against nigh any future source of sectional strife even should it come on grounds unrelated to the final settlement. More ominously, Georgia pledged itself to disunion if, on some future date, it did not receive satisfaction. The convention laid one marker above all others in the platform’s final resolution:

That it is the deliberate opinion of this Convention, that upon the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Bill by the proper authorities depends the preservation of our much loved Union.

All the other conditions could go hang if Congress and the North did not keep their promise on the measure most odious to the North. Should they fail to do so, the Unionists promised Georgia would rise up and break the Union.

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