The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979 Page: 234
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
a referendum on secession in the South." He demonstrates that the Con-
stitutional Unionists often voiced strong proslavery sentiments regard-
ing federal protection of slavery and he argues that because of this
extremism northern conservatives refused to ally themselves with the
party. Moreover, he concludes that all of the contending parties in the
South contained lovers of the Union and that large numbers of them
voted for the Democrat John C. Breckinridge. Finally he indicates that
the leaders of the Constitutional Union party were primarily interested
in furthering "their political fortunes." Most of Mering's statements are
doubtless valid; yet many of his deductions are debatable. For example,
when he denies that real differences existed between the Democratic
and Constitutional Union parties, he has confused temporary tactics
and campaign rhetoric with a political record of national conservatism
and of pro-Union principle. Appeals to the same voters did bring the
parties closer together in their pronouncements (and perhaps in out-
look). Nevertheless, this sharing of constituencies did not cause the
parties to become absolutely alike either in the way the voters perceived
them or in the way they perceived themselves. It is true, of course, that
many unionists voted for Breckinridge; but it is equally true that almost
all well-known secessionists were in the Democratic party, and that in
the crisis of 1861 antisecessionist and moderate leadership was generally
provided by those of the Whig tradition. Finally, the fact that the Con-
stitutional Union party received little support in the North does not
conclusively prove Mering's contention that northern conservatives
were driven from the Constitutional Union movement by southern
extremism within the party. Rather it seems just as conceivable that by
the years 1858-186o the conservative wing of the Republican party had
already won the support of most northern conservatives and Whigs.2
Many Whigs were among the numerous newcomers to Texas follow-
ing independence and statehood; and despite the fact that nationally
the Whig party had not championed the annexation of Texas nor the
Mexican War, that party's candidate (Zachary Taylor) received 31 per-
2John V. Mering, "The Slave-State Constitutional Unionists and the Politics of Con-
sensus," Journal of Southern History, XLIII (Aug., 1977), 395, 396 (quotations), 397-410.
For examples of works which consider the Constitutional Union party's contribution to the
unionist movement see the following- Stabler, "Constitutional Union Party"; Ollinger
Crenshaw, The Slave States in the Presidential Election of r86o (Baltimore, 1945); Thomas
B. Alexander, "Persistent Whiggery in the Confederate South, 1860-1877," Journal of
Southern History, XXVII (Aug., 1961), 305-329; Robert (;ray Gunderson, Old Gentle-
men's Convention: The Washington Peace Conference of 1861 (Madison, 1961); Nevins,
The Emergence of Lincoln, II, 261-262; and Avery O. Craven, The Coming of the Civil
War (New York, 1942), 416-418.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979, periodical, 1978/1979; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/m1/286/: accessed May 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.