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The Institutional Determinants of Southern Secession

Author

Listed:
  • Mario Chacon
  • Jeffrey Jensen

    () (Division of Social Science)

Abstract

We use the Southern secession movement of 1860 to 1861 to study how elites in democracy enact their preferred policies. Most states used specially convened conventions to determine whether or not to secede from the Union. We argue that although the delegates of these conventions were popularly elected, the electoral rules favored slaveholders. Using an original dataset of representation in each convention, we first demonstrate that slave-intensive districts were systematically overrepresented. Slave-holders were also spatially concentrated and could thereby obtain local pluralities in favor of secession more easily. As a result of these electoral biases, less than 10% of the electorate was sucient to elect a majority of delegates in four of the six original Confederate states. We also show how delegates representing slave-intensive counties were more likely to support secession. These factors explain the disproportionate in uence of slaveholders during the crisis and why secessionists strategically chose conventions over statewide referenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Mario Chacon & Jeffrey Jensen, 2017. "The Institutional Determinants of Southern Secession," Working Papers 20170001, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Mar 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:nad:wpaper:20170001
    as

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    File URL: https://nyuad.nyu.edu/content/dam/nyuad/academics/divisions/social-science/working-papers/2017/0001.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2017
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bertocchi, Graziella & Dimico, Arcangelo, 2014. "Slavery, education, and inequality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 197-209.
    2. Tiberiu Dragu & Jonathan Rodden, 2010. "Representation and regional redistribution in federations," Working Papers 2010/16, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:104:y:2010:i:02:p:243-267_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:81:y:1987:i:02:p:405-423_19 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Chen, Jowei & Rodden, Jonathan, 2013. "Unintentional Gerrymandering: Political Geography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 8(3), pages 239-269, June.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:66:y:1972:i:04:p:1234-1245_14 is not listed on IDEAS
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