Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Mackey, Thomas C., 1956-

Author's Keywords

Kentucky Unionism; Antebellum era Kentucky; Politics in antebellum Kentucky; Secession in Kentucky; Kentucky Civil War era; Kentucky Civil War politics


Kentucky--History--1792-1865; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Causes


During the secession winter of 1860-61 the Commonwealth of Kentucky found itself caught in the middle of the great sectional controversy. With the Union's fate hanging in the balance Kentucky figured as a prominent player in the outcome of that conflict. While the Commonwealth of Kentucky featured strong social and cultural ties to the South, its economic ties ran to both sections. Further, a majority of the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shared a nationalist perspective rooted in the old line Whig political ideology that they had a constitutional right to hold property in persons which contributed to their pro-Union sentiment. In the end, Kentucky, an Upper South border slave state, remained loyal to the Union. This master's thesis examines the origins and development of Kentuckian's Unionist sentiment during the antebellum era and addresses the question: Why did Kentucky, a border slave state, forgo secession and remain loyal to the Union? Although cultural, social, economic, and political factors contributed to Kentuckian's pro-Union sentiment, in the end, Whig ideology constituted the key factor in Kentucky's decision to remain loyal to the Union.