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

JonnyReb_In_MI

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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.

No... there is a stark difference between an opinion and a fact.

My opinion, for instance, is that the South was right to secede and that it's a shame that they did not succeed in defending their independence. That is clearly my opinion.

When someone says, "Jefferson Davis started the war," it is an assertion, not an opinion, and an examination of the facts available to us in the records of history can either prove the assertion to be true or false; my examination of the facts regarding that very assertion tells me that it most certainly is demonstrably false. That, however, is not at all the topic that is being discussed in this post, and so I am suggesting for someone who cares to delve into that "alternate reality" to start a new thread in the '"What if..." Discussions' section of the forum for that purpose.
 

amweiner

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No... there is a stark difference between an opinion and a fact.
Keenly aware of that, thanks.
When someone says, "Jefferson Davis started the war," it is an assertion, not an opinion
Fine, we can split hairs all day long if you like. You made an assertion with no evidence to bolster your interpretation of events, and I feel no need to create the umpteenth thread about who deserves a greater share of the blame for starting the War. The arguments are here on CWT if you care to look for them.
it most certainly is demonstrably false
And again, this assertion/opinion/whatever you care to call it has been done to death. There are many learned people here who have drawn quite different conclusions.
 
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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.

Your observation suggests there might be a more intelligent approach to the question. For example, "what if states desiring to secede had first approached Congress under Article IV, section 3, for a peaceful distribution of federal property and at the same time introduced a constitutional amendment explicitly recognizing the right of secession?"

Of course, phrasing the question that way would acknowledge that they did not go to Congress or seek a legal solution first, but instead acted aggressively with no regard to existing law or the concerns of other states. And that acknowledgement would, in turn, militate against the whole cult of southern victimization...
 
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Your observation suggests there might be a more intelligent approach to the question. For example, "what if states desiring to secede had first approached Congress under Article IV, section 3, for a peaceful distribution of federal property and at the same time introduced a constitutional amendment explicitly recognizing the right of secession?"

Of course, phrasing the question that way would acknowledge that they did not go to Congress or seek a legal solution first, but instead acted aggressively with no regard to existing law or the concerns of other states. And that, in turn, would militate against the whole cult of southern victimization...
do it

but, of course, being a whatif it acknowledges nothing

what if the yankees were the evil slavers and davis' dauntlessly daring and dashing dandies attacked ft sumter to free all those opressed black soules

see? in a whatif you can do whatever you want
 
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wausaubob

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Denver, CO
Peaceful secession probably would have led to at least four countries in place of the United States.
1. The northeast and northern Atlantic coast, centered on New York.
2. The deep south, centered on fast growing Texas.
3. The Midwest centered on Chicago.
4. The west centered on San Francisco.

No. 1 would have resembled England, minus the transoceanic empire.
No. 2 would have resembled France, possibly, if the rich guys would pay for a navy.
No. 3 had a very heavy German influence.
No. 4 was an amalgamation from the start, with a unique internationalism.

No. 1 and No. 4 immediately saw they needed each other. No. 3 was going to demonstrate that in America they were going to be equal and legitimate citizens, and war was an easy way to prove it.
No. 2 had plenty of warriors. They were somewhat short on gunboats, steam sloops, railroad mechanics and experience locomotive operators. Not as many iron mills turned out to be a big problem.

Lots and lots of people, both powerful and ordinary, in Nos. 1, 3 and 4, saw it was either a bad war immediately, or a series of European style wars. Each war would be bigger, and each time the weapons would be faster, and have greater range.

So if you like really big, bloody wars, with some true population reduction involved, and I talking about death tolls in the millions, with bombed out cities and wilful slaughter, then you certainly would have wished for peaceful secession.

But in 1861 people were comparing the history of Napoleon to the history of George Washington. So they made a distinctive choice in favor of federalism. There is a reason southerners like Andrew Johnson and Winfield Scott were not willing to join the Confederate experiment. Fun thread though. :sabre::cannon::bomb:
 

Bruce Vail

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Joined
Jul 8, 2015
My two cents:

A peaceful secession of the southern states would have resulted in war with the North in less than a year. The South wanted Md., Ky,, and Mo. as members of the slave republic and would have pressed their claim hard, even to the point of war. Further, the CSA would have laid claim to roughly 50 percent of the US territories and war would certainly have erupted over that eventually.

Both the USA and CSA were expansionist countries steeped in traditions of military aggression. It is impossible that there would have been peaceful coexistence.
 

Andersonh1

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I am one who does not accept that line of thinking. Davis, of all men in the entire Confederacy as a then-recent past U.S. Secretary of War, knew that the South was not prepared for armed conflict with the North in virtually any way. It defies all logic to suggest it.

Agreed. From what he knew at the time, Davis believed an attack from Lincoln was on the way, and his options had dwindled to either reducing the fort, or fighting against both the fort and the fleet at sea.
 

WJC

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Your observation suggests there might be a more intelligent approach to the question. For example, "what if states desiring to secede had first approached Congress under Article IV, section 3, for a peaceful distribution of federal property and at the same time introduced a constitutional amendment explicitly recognizing the right of secession?"

Of course, phrasing the question that way would acknowledge that they did not go to Congress or seek a legal solution first, but instead acted aggressively with no regard to existing law or the concerns of other states. And that acknowledgement would, in turn, militate against the whole cult of southern victimization...
Thanks for your response.
As a 'What If?' thread free from historical fact, one can make it as simple or complex as one desires.
The only requirement is that however it was accomplished, secession was done without bloodshed.
 

WJC

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Which is why I think one of the first things the US would have done was to pass a Constitutional amendment banning secession.
How? Passage of an amendment is an involved process. The difficulty at that time is shown in the failed attempt to pass the original Thirteenth Amendment.
My own opinion is that it would have never made it through 'the system' before the precedent of acknowledged legal secession would have made it meaningless.
Then too, one can argue that since secession is not mentioned in our Constitution, it is best to determine its validity based on available evidence, precedent and opinion without altering our Constitution- the path Lincoln actually took.
 

CSA Today

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How? Passage of an amendment is an involved process. The difficulty at that time is shown in the failed attempt to pass the original Thirteenth Amendment.
My own opinion is that it would have never made it through 'the system' before the precedent of acknowledged legal secession would have made it meaningless.
Then too, one can argue that since secession is not mentioned in our Constitution, it is best to determine its validity based on available evidence, precedent and opinion without altering our Constitution- the path Lincoln actually took.
Then too, attempting to pass a constitutional amendment banning secession in 1861 0r 1862 would be an admission that there had been nothing in constitution banning it.
 

BlueandGrayl

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Well assuming there is a peaceful secession without war I see this split into one scenario:
The South doesn't fire upon Fort Sumter, North doesn't attack
Result: The peace is short lived, an event that triggers war between the Northern States and Southern States occurs (i.e. Pro-Confederate sympathizers demonstrate in Baltimore and Union troops are sent to quell the protests by using lethal force to fire upon the protestors angering the populace of the Upper South states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky to secede and join the Confederacy).
 

kevikens

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Well assuming there is a peaceful secession without war I see this split into one scenario:
The South doesn't fire upon Fort Sumter, North doesn't attack
Result: The peace is short lived, an event that triggers war between the Northern States and Southern States occurs (i.e. Pro-Confederate sympathizers demonstrate in Baltimore and Union troops are sent to quell the protests by using lethal force to fire upon the protestors angering the populace of the Upper South states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky to secede and join the Confederacy).
I don't know that I can see it that way. If there is no attack on Fort Sumter, there is no mobilizing of Union troops so why should protests by pro secessionists in Baltimore result in Union troops showing up to quell a disturbance? If the governor calls out the militia to quell that disturbance then the Maryland state government takes the heat, not the North. I just cannot see Lincoln trading a fort for a state causing a war in the war the way that fighting to keep it did.
 

wausaubob

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A slave empire surrounded by wild tribes that also practice slavery is one thing. Then its just a question of who enslaves whom. In an era in which life spans are very short, the slaves tend to die out anyway.
But a slave country surrounded by countries that use paid labor, when the functional world empire is British, and they have shifted from slavery to colonialism as the method of exploitation, when the slaves are 4th and 5th generation of descendants native to the country itself, is another thing entirely. The system has to be defended from outside scrutiny, and neither language or cultural barriers apply any longer. Only race prevents the outsiders from interfering with the system, and that is unstable protection.
Peaceful co-existence of the paid labor and coerced labor systems was impossible.
 

BlueandGrayl

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I don't know that I can see it that way. If there is no attack on Fort Sumter, there is no mobilizing of Union troops so why should protests by pro secessionists in Baltimore result in Union troops showing up to quell a disturbance? If the governor calls out the militia to quell that disturbance then the Maryland state government takes the heat, not the North. I just cannot see Lincoln trading a fort for a state causing a war in the war the way that fighting to keep it did.
I've already mentioned that Baltimore was very much sympathetic towards the Rebels (see James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom)band was already the site of the Baltimore. The thing is that having a band of secessionists making loud demonstrations wouldn't be exactly what Lincoln would want and neither would the Union Army.
 

Andersonh1

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How? Passage of an amendment is an involved process. The difficulty at that time is shown in the failed attempt to pass the original Thirteenth Amendment.
My own opinion is that it would have never made it through 'the system' before the precedent of acknowledged legal secession would have made it meaningless.
Then too, one can argue that since secession is not mentioned in our Constitution, it is best to determine its validity based on available evidence, precedent and opinion without altering our Constitution- the path Lincoln actually took.

I have a hard time believing than a man like Lincoln, who believed secession was anarchy, would not do whatever he could to stop any future secession by states. I think even in this hypothetical peaceful scenario that is true, and it's certainly true if the CSA managed to win the war.
 

WJC

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I have a hard time believing than a man like Lincoln, who believed secession was anarchy, would not do whatever he could to stop any future secession by states. I think even in this hypothetical peaceful scenario that is true, and it's certainly true if the CSA managed to win the war.
Thanks for your response.
In this 'What If?' scenario, why assume peaceful secession occurs during Lincoln's administration? We know that South Carolina unilaterally seceded December 20, 1860. So let's assume the mutually agreeable secession of that state was on or before that date. Buchanan would have been president, not Lincoln. Once that was accomplished peacefully, Mississipi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas could have followed the same mutually agreeable path before Lincoln's inauguration.
Under this scenario, Lincoln's role is reduced to that of a peacetime president of a smaller Union, keeping the remaining states together.
 
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