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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

David L. Swain (1801-1868)

When Republican Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election, many white southerners concluded that his party's platform endangered slavery. North Carolina, however, did not leave the Union during the first wave of southern secession. University president David L. Swain led a faction of prominent politicians who favored remaining in the Union, hoping to reach a proslavery compromise. After Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in April 1861, President Lincoln issued a call for troops to suppress the rebellion. Believing Lincoln had abandoned compromise, Swain and his associates changed positions and endorsed secession.