Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Nashville Convention: Southern Movement for Unity, 1848-
185o. By Thelma Jennings. (Memphis: Memphis State University
Press, 1980. Pp. x+3o9. Appendixes, notes, bibliographic essay.
The Nashville Convention of 1850 grew out of a desire on the part
of southern states' rights advocates to present a united front to the
North on the question of the expansion of slavery into the territories.
Convinced that passage of the Wilmot Proviso was possible, defenders
of southern rights looked to the meeting in Nashville as a remedy for
the long-standing inability of their states to act in concert. After years
of northern gains in Congress, here was a chance to confront the North
with a choice-guarantee southern rights or risk secession. But the
delegates who gathered in the Tennessee capital must have been dis-
appointed, for just nine of the fifteen slave states sent representatives.
None of the Border States sent a delegation, and, more ominously,
neither did Louisiana or North Carolina. The first session of the con-
vention passed moderate resolutions asserting that Congress could not
bar slavery from the territories, but the convention was willing to
settle for an extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.
Should Congress, then considering Henry Clay's resolutions, fail to
satisfy this demand, the convention would reconvene to take further
action. Six weeks after passage of the compromise measures of 1850,
the convention reassembled. This time just seven states were repre-
sented, and the membership was decidedly secessionist. The delegates
rejected the Compromise and affirmed the right of secession. A week
after adjournment of the second session, unionists in Georgia soundly
defeated secessionists in a vote for delegates to the state convention.
It soon became apparent that the South as a whole would ignore the
recommendations of the convention and, somewhat reluctantly, acqui-
esce in the Compromise.
In this first book-length treatment of the subject, Professor Jennings
examines the background and proceedings of the convention. Much
of the ground she covers is familiar, and at times she strains in her
effort to demonstrate that the convention "had a greater impact upon
the course of our nation's history than has been acknowledged hereto-
fore" (p. v). Conceding that the convention produced little action,
Jennings argues that by a less tangible measure it was a success. It
thrust southern grievances before the nation, forced southern leaders
of different philosophies to exchange views in open debate, and
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed March 14, 2014.