At the beginning of 1861, Dora Miller was a young girl living in New Orleans among her family and friends. But Dora felt very much alone. Everyone in New Orleans seemed wild with enthusiasm for having Louisiana secede from the Union and join the new Southern Confederacy. But Dora Miller was committed to maintaining the Union.
Unable to share her anti-secession feelings with her friends and family, Dora confided them to her diary. Her entry for January 26, 1861 records the coming of the long-dreaded day – Louisiana’s secession from the Union had become an established fact.
Dora wrote, “The solemn boom of cannon to-day announced that the convention have passed the ordinance of secession.”
Then, showing that she had a better grasp than many of the state’s politicians on what the precedent of a minority deciding they could secede from the majority at will really meant, she noted:
“It will be bad if New Orleans should secede from Louisiana and set up for herself.”
She was right. If Louisiana could legitimately secede from the United States, why couldn’t New Orleans secede from Louisiana? Or the Fifth Ward from New Orleans?
Dora understood that once the principle of secession was accepted, any time a minority didn’t like what the majority voted to do, they could either secede, or at least hold the threat of secession over the head of the majority to demand to get their way.
But Dora appeared to be the only person in New Orleans that day who foresaw the dangers of secession.
“The faces in the house are jubilant to-day,” she recorded.
As the Civil War that resulted from secession took hold, that jubilation quickly faded.
Jan. 26, 1861.
The solemn boom of cannon to-day announced that the convention have passed the ordinance of secession. We must take a reef in our patriotism and narrow it down to State limits. Mine still sticks out all around the borders of the State. It will be bad if New Orleans should secede from Louisiana and set up for herself. Then indeed I would be “cabined, cribbed, confined.” The faces in the house are jubilant to-day. Why is it so easy for them and not for me to “ring out the old, ring in the new”? I am out of place.
Dora Miller’s Diary