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1861

Delaware rejects secession

On this day in 1861, just two weeks after South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, the state of Delaware rejects a similar proposal.

There had been little doubt that Delaware would remain with the North. Delaware was technically a slave state, but the institution was not widespread by 1861. There were some 20,000 blacks living in the state, but only about 1,800 of them were slaves.Most of the slaves were concentrated in Sussex, the southernmost of the state’s three counties.

After South Carolina ratified the ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860, other states considered similar proposals. Although there were some Southern sympathizers, Delaware had a Unionist governor and the legislature was dominated by Unionists. On January 3, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to remain with the United States. For the Union, Delaware’s decision was only a temporary respite from the parade of seceding states. Over the next several weeks, six states joined South Carolina in seceding; four more left after the South captured South Carolina’s Fort Sumter in April 1861.

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