A Convention of States in “Gone With the Wind”

Rob at James Madison's home in Virginia

Rob at James Madison’s home in Virginia

Margaret Mitchell, the author of the hugely popular novel Gone With the Wind, was a newspaper reporter and the child of a family steeped in history. Her father, a prominent Georgia attorney, was one of the leading lights in the state historical society.

That her book has a plethora of references to historical events occurring during the 1860s is therefore not surprising.

In early 1861, after some of the Southern states had seceded, Virginia sought to head off further secession and civil war by calling a general (national) convention of the states. The goal was to propose a constitutional amendment that both sides would find acceptable.

All but a few states sent commissioners to the Convention, which met from February 4 through February 27. More information about the convention appears here.

On page five of Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara refers to it:

“You know there isn’t going to be any war,” said Scarlett, bored. “It’s all just talk. Why, Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our commissioners in Washington would come to—to—an—amicable agreement with Mr. Lincoln about the Confederacy.”

Scarlett was intelligent, but she was a spoiled young girl who had avoided studying her history or her Latin, and she was not much interested in current events, except insofar as they affected the availability of adoring “beaux.” On a number of occasions, Mrs. Mitchell demonstrates Scarlett’s ignorance, and this may be one of those occasions. At the time Scarlett was supposedly speaking, the Washington Convention already had adjourned. Moreover, her own state of Georgia seceded during the month before the convention and therefore had not sent “commissioners” to Washington.