Alternate Reality: What If The South Had Won The Civil War?

confederateThis is the first of a series of articles I am writing on Alternate Realities for myFiveBest.  What do you think would have happened in a world where the Confederate States of America (CSA) had defeated the Union Army?  Would the world be much different today or do you think things would be pretty much the same? Here are five ideas that might have occurred had the southern states been victorious over the North during the Civil War:

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The Southern States were suing for peace as early as 1863.  While they were the ones who had declared war on the Union, they also desired peace.  In fact, General Robert E. Lee had a letter requesting an end to hostilities in exchange for recognition as a sovereign state had the Federal army been destroyed at Gettysburg.  The CSA had been sending out diplomatic envoys throughout Europe all during the conflict and had been recognized by Great Britain who would have probably given them assistance had it looked like they were to be victorious.  If this had been the case, with Great Britain’s help, the western Federalist states would have most likely fallen leading to a Confederate victory.  The aftermath, however, might have proven too much for the CSA leading to ultimate control by Britain, using the CSA as an expanded colony and regaining control over land in the New World.  Had this not happened, the North probably would not have followed through with non-aggression, continuing to harry the South while its economic strength grew and forcing the CSA to lose ground.




Even if the South had won the Civil War, slavery would have not lasted much longer.  As the Industrial Revolution gripped the North, it would have been necessary for the South to follow suit or fall behind.  Having slaves would have made the economic situation that much more difficult. Southern slave owners would have found that it was easier to pay a man a day’s wage and then charge them for living expenses than to own them and house the people themselves.  Additionally, with the North influences letting slaves know of freedom, it wouldn’t be good to have an uprising on your own lands.  Slavery would have ended within years of the Civil War.  If the British had turned the CSA into a colony of England, this turnabout would have come even sooner. Britain had ended slavery in 1833 with the Abolition of Slavery Act.  However, deep resentment between the races would have lasted longer than it did in the United States, with the Civil Rights not occurring in the late fifties and sixties. 



Throughout the South, economic times were rough.  An agrarian culture wasn’t making the change with the Industrial Revolution.  Change was necessary to succeed, so they would have been dependent on importing the technology.  While the CSA had put in place a tax, they failed miserably in curbing the black market trade and were unable to monitor the taxation.  Assuming they had defeated the Union Army, getting their citizens to conform to the new government would have been challenging.  Economic depressions would still have occurred in 1873 and 1893 and – without the support of a strong industrial complex or help from another superpower, such as Britain, the South would have eventually collapsed upon itself. 




The Southern states were very much concerned about a state’s rights.  This would have clashed with the concept of the CSA’s emerging government.  While the new government would have been more forgiving than the Federalists, eventually, they would have fallen back to arguing between themselves.  Would this have led to further secessions?  Doubtful, but it would have slowed down the progress of the new nation.  Eventually, individual states would have made trade agreements with the Union so they could strengthen their economies, but this would make them easy prey to the North who would try and absorb them back into the Federal government.  Unless these states could leverage themselves into being self-sufficient (through a tourist trade, for instance), they would find themselves having to reform with the North.




The secession would have helped to shape world politics.  At the turn of the twentieth century, the separate halves of the United States would have been too weak to offer any sort of military or diplomatic strength.  Spain would still be a power in Cuba, the Philippines, and the Caribbean.  When World War One broke out, the North and the South would not be in an economic position to join the war. The South would have entered the war, because of the alliance with Britain, but would not have been as impactful.  Thus, Germany would have won WW1 and not have been plunged into a deep depression.  Without the economic stress and military restraints, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party would not have ascended to the German leadership and World War Two may not have occurred in the European theater.  Japan, much stronger since the U.S. did not negotiate peace during the Russo-Japanese War in 1902, would still have attacked the Northern United States and the CSA would have joined forces with them to eventually defeat Japan.