On January 16, 1861, when John Greenleaf Whittier wrote this poem, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama had already seceded from the Union. Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas would follow suit by month's end. Far from suggesting that the Lincoln administration should go to war to "weld anew the chain" that bound them together, Whittier urged the government to let the Southern states depart if they so chose. It was the poet's opinion that the Union would be helped rather than hurt by separating itself from the evils associated with slavery and the states that practiced it.
"A Word for the Hour"