What If... the south had been allowed to secede peacefully?

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
***Posted as Moderator***
A reminder: this is a 'What If?' thread. The underlying assumption is that no war resulted from the secession of some Southern states. There are no right or wrong answers. Analogies are acceptable so long as they do not derail the thread.
Please stay on-topic and respect the views of others.
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
The 13 colonies were just that: colonies. She still had many other colonies - India, Canada, Caribbean islands, etc - and the home country was territorial intact and barely harmed.

The seceded states represented a significant part of the United States.



If one side of a disagreement is willing to resort to violence to get their way it's hard to find options other than yielding the disagreement or responding with violence.



Successful negotiations require both sides be willing to negotiate.



In 1861, legally they did not, nor would probably 95% of the other 60% have been willing at that time to risk their lives on behalf of the wishes of those enslaved people.



And yet the Tory/Loyalist side of the American Revolution is treated completely differently than the Confederate side of the American Civil War.
Careful on that description of Britain circa late 1700's. India was not yet a crown Colony of Britain and only a few Brits lived in India and they the employees of the British East India Company. Canada's population was almost entirely francophone, except for the sparsely populated Maritimes. Also, few Brits actually lived in the West Indies and Australia and New Zealand and South Africa were not yet settled at all by the British. In short, the 2.5 million colonists circa 1770's represented a good portion of the British population and the land mass of the colonies considerably greater than the home islands,. Yet, despite this loss Britain was able to do quite well after the Revolution, making up for the lost population and claiming and settling vast regions, despite having lost the Thirteen Colonies. There is no reason to conclude that the loss of the original seven states of the Confederacy, whose population loss was about equal in proportion to that lost by Britain in 1783, and its territorial loss even greater, would have grievously crippled the continued growth of the US. Perhaps the loss of those 700,000 Americans in the war, some of our best and bravest, did much more harm to America than the loss of those erring sisters would have done.
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
I've read multiple times on this board people argue that President Davis ordered the attack on Fort Sumtner bc he needed a war to unite the South and keep the Confederacy together.

I believe their is a quote from an Alabama congressman to Davis along the lines that unless blood is sprinkle in the faces of the people of South they will return to the Union.

If one accepts Davis needed a war to unite the South then it is responsible in this "What if" of no war that the South does not unite and the Confederate government falls apart resulting in the Southern states reuniting with the Union.
I think it just as likely that Davis ordered the firing on Fort Sumter because South Carolina was going to do just that with or without Montgomery's blessing and allowing one of the CSA states to initiate hostilities would have weakened the new Confederacy, even calling into question its raison d'etre.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
After giving it some thought they wouldn't have wanted to be trapped in the old Union where Southern influenced would have been further diminished after the departure of the deep South states.
Thanks for your response.
You bring up a good point. The other slaveholding states had cooperated since the beginning of our country, generally as a block. If that block broke down, leaving fewer slaveholding states in the Union, that might very well have been enough to convince other states to emulate the successful, peaceful secession process.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
The idea was not lost with Hollywood writers who twisted the thought of that and had Confederates winning the war and predicting another Civil War...it's now highly unlikely but I wonder what if the HBO series "Confederate" was actually made?:
https://deadline.com/2018/02/confed...mmitment-disneys-star-wars-movies-1202279608/
Some writers have also taken on the 'South wins the war' idea. However, I am not familiar with any who followed the 'peaceful secession' thesis.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Without a war and the debilitating loss of manpower and resources that war entails an independent CSA would have been in an even better position to succeed and prosper.
Thanks for your response.
True, both sides would have been better off in many ways, at least in the short term. The real issue becomes what happens with the passage of time?
Assuming that some sort of CSA results, it will have the same issue of a large population held in bondage, who some feared might rebel at any time. The same reasons southern leaders gave for wanting to spread slavery to new territories would exist, with possibly increased pressure to annex Cuba or parts of Mexico. Instead of fighting the US, this new CSA might find itself fighting wars for expansion against Mexico, France, and Spain.
Though some here have assumed that a peaceful secession would also involve the US giving some of its western territories to this new CSA, I don't believe there is any indication that they would. Did the South Carolina 'Peace Commission' suggest such an arrangement?
As to the now smaller United States, there is no indication that westward expansion, immigration, and industrialization would be lessened. And, without what became a massive, unprecedented wartime debt nonexistent, US finances might have been better positioned to support this growth.
Further, I suspect that some sort of trade arrangement would have developed, continuing internationally the existing regional trade partnership as long as cotton was profitable: Export cotton to European nations; European nations invest in northern industrialization; northern factories supply the needed equipment for western food production; western foodstuffs and northern manufactured goods support the continuing cotton industry....
Of course, a failed cotton crop or new sources for cotton could easily have destroyed this relationship, with most of the impact on the cotton-growing CSA.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Folks, about all this talk of "What if the South Had Been Allowed To Secede Peacefully" there is no way the U.S. ever allows the South (or in this case the CSA) to ever secede without a fight at best there'd only be a short term peace at worst just delaying the inevitable tension and war.
Except that this thread intentionally ignores that option, seeking instead to explore others.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Given that "the South"* didn't peacefully pursue secession to begin with, there was never any question of "allowing" them to "secede peacefully" -- only of surrender.
Except that the premise of this thread is that those events never happened- or if they did, they had no impact. For whatever reason, say South Carolina petitioned to withdraw and Congress agreed. that is just one example of the background assumed by this thread.
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
If one side of a disagreement is willing to resort to violence to get their way it's hard to find options other than yielding the disagreement or responding with violence.
But the basis for this thread is that there was no violence on either side.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
There is no reason to conclude that the loss of the original seven states of the Confederacy, whose population loss was about equal in proportion to that lost by Britain in 1783, and its territorial loss even greater, would have grievously crippled the continued growth of the US.

The loss of states/provinces vs colonies is more than just square miles, population, and GDP. It is a psychological difference.

Thought experiment: Connecticut and Puerto Rico contain comparable population and area. Yet CT leaving the Union would be a much bigger deal than PR.

I don't think the loss of the Deep South or Deep + Upper South would be "grievously crippling" but it would be significant. It certainly weakens the country overall in the long run in terms of manpower and GDP. The USA without the South is a viable nation, but a weaker nation. Not a great power or superpower or world economic power. No Panama Canal, no USA capable of a two-front war in WW2.

Significantly, the South seceding unilaterally but peacefully sets a precedent that the Union is not perpetual and states can leave essentially on a whim. Many have theorized a Pacific Republic is a secondary outcome of a peaceful Southern secession.
 

steve59p

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
The loss of states/provinces vs colonies is more than just square miles, population, and GDP. It is a psychological difference.

Thought experiment: Connecticut and Puerto Rico contain comparable population and area. Yet CT leaving the Union would be a much bigger deal than PR.

I don't think the loss of the Deep South or Deep + Upper South would be "grievously crippling" but it would be significant. It certainly weakens the country overall in the long run in terms of manpower and GDP. The USA without the South is a viable nation, but a weaker nation. Not a great power or superpower or world economic power. No Panama Canal, no USA capable of a two-front war in WW2.

Significantly, the South seceding unilaterally but peacefully sets a precedent that the Union is not perpetual and states can leave essentially on a whim. Many have theorized a Pacific Republic is a secondary outcome of a peaceful Southern secession.

If the deep south left peacefully without conflict the union would be weaker. Loss of population, tax revenue and also a lot of the southern markets as their likely to look more towards cheaper European goods. However its not likely to be a massive blow economically. The union will no doubt maintain a larger army and has to consider potential conflict as well as loss of ports and other facilities in the south which will make trade along the lower Mississippi dependent on non-conflict with the south as well as lose ability to project power in the Caribbean, at least for the moment. However they could well respond by building a permanent navy earlier and seeking basing rights somewhere in the region. Possibly will attack Spain earlier over Cuba and gain bases there or in Puerto Rico.

Unless you see a number of other states leaving the union or serious internal unrest I think the US would still be capable of being a great power, including a two front war in the 1940's if that still occurs. A canal in Panama might be seen as even more important in this scenario, although an earlier attempt, before adequate knowledge of the causes of pandemic diseases in the region is know could mean a 1st attempt could be costly.

While slavery lasts and hence means a lot of the land and wealth is tied up in large plantations and a small number of hands your probably still going to have a flow of poorer white leaving the south to look for better lives in the US and this could increase fairly dramatically if, as many suspect, the south would struggle economically and/or politically. Without a bloody divorce the two nations are likely to be very friendly and as resources increase in the north you could well see investment in the south by northerners. [Although this will of course depend on its economic and political stability and what happens with slavery and attitudes to it in both north and south.]

I can't see the south expanding against neigbours as its really lacks the strength, especially if consisting of only the deep south. Also with a largely decentralised government how is it going to orgamise and fund such actions. I doubt in the next ~50 years it would be really able to attack Spain or Mexico to extract lands. Not to mention the probably reaction of Britain and the US to any attempt to export slavery to new lands.
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Thanks for your response.
True, both sides would have been better off in many ways, at least in the short term. The real issue becomes what happens with the passage of time?
Assuming that some sort of CSA results, it will have the same issue of a large population held in bondage, who some feared might rebel at any time. The same reasons southern leaders gave for wanting to spread slavery to new territories would exist, with possibly increased pressure to annex Cuba or parts of Mexico. Instead of fighting the US, this new CSA might find itself fighting wars for expansion against Mexico, France, and Spain.
Though some here have assumed that a peaceful secession would also involve the US giving some of its western territories to this new CSA, I don't believe there is any indication that they would. Did the South Carolina 'Peace Commission' suggest such an arrangement?
As to the now smaller United States, there is no indication that westward expansion, immigration, and industrialization would be lessened. And, without what became a massive, unprecedented wartime debt nonexistent, US finances might have been better positioned to support this growth.
Further, I suspect that some sort of trade arrangement would have developed, continuing internationally the existing regional trade partnership as long as cotton was profitable: Export cotton to European nations; European nations invest in northern industrialization; northern factories supply the needed equipment for western food production; western foodstuffs and northern manufactured goods support the continuing cotton industry....
Of course, a failed cotton crop or new sources for cotton could easily have destroyed this relationship, with most of the impact on the cotton-growing CSA.

Cotton was and is a major Southern crop whether the South remained in the US or became the CS. There is no reason the CS wouldn't become more depended on manufacturing and industrialization as the population grew. North Carolina, the poorest state in the South in 1860 had over 50 cotton and woolen mills in the state. That was the main reason North Carolina was able to make its own uniforms during the war. There would have been ample room for future economic growth in this state and the CS.
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Thanks for your response.
True, both sides would have been better off in many ways, at least in the short term. The real issue becomes what happens with the passage of time?
Assuming that some sort of CSA results, it will have the same issue of a large population held in bondage, who some feared might rebel at any time. The same reasons southern leaders gave for wanting to spread slavery to new territories would exist, with possibly increased pressure to annex Cuba or parts of Mexico. Instead of fighting the US, this new CSA might find itself fighting wars for expansion against Mexico, France, and Spain.
Though some here have assumed that a peaceful secession would also involve the US giving some of its western territories to this new CSA, I don't believe there is any indication that they would. Did the South Carolina 'Peace Commission' suggest such an arrangement?
As to the now smaller United States, there is no indication that westward expansion, immigration, and industrialization would be lessened. And, without what became a massive, unprecedented wartime debt nonexistent, US finances might have been better positioned to support this growth.
Further, I suspect that some sort of trade arrangement would have developed, continuing internationally the existing regional trade partnership as long as cotton was profitable: Export cotton to European nations; European nations invest in northern industrialization; northern factories supply the needed equipment for western food production; western foodstuffs and northern manufactured goods support the continuing cotton industry....
Of course, a failed cotton crop or new sources for cotton could easily have destroyed this relationship, with most of the impact on the cotton-growing CSA.

The 19th century was an age of imperialism, I see no reason to see an independent CS any less inclined to participate than the US or any of the European countries. I do see a not too friendly US to the north and west as having a hampering effect. I really don't see the underpopulated CS sending occupation forces too far afield as long as that threat remained.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
It would be difficult to know if manufacturing based on slave labor would have been efficient over the long term. I see no real reason slaves could not be used in manufacturing, but have to wonder if, over the next 50 years or, manufacturing based on slave labor would not have fundamentally changed slavery. A new thread about how slave labor manufacturing would have changed slavery would make an interesting what if thread.

Still there are differences between free labor manufacturing and slave labor manufacturing. The Confederate slave factories would have had to compete with free labor factories. It is uncertain if slave labor factories would have been successful competitors. Also manufacturing in 1860 is different than manufacturing in 1920. Could slave labor factories have successfully kept up with the changes in manufacturing?
 
  • Like
Reactions: WJC

amweiner

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Location
Monterey, CA
I said what I meant and was correct. I haven't looked yet, but maybe the other fella started that "what if Jeff Davis started the war" thread; if not feel free and discuss to your heart's contentment.
All light-heartedness aside, yes, you said what you meant, but let's be clear that it is your opinion rather than a demonstrable fact.
 
Top