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JLeslie's avatar

What would the north and south be like if the south had seceded?

Asked by JLeslie (46179 points ) December 18th, 2010

Would we have avoided the civil war if we had just let the south go?

Would each state in the south have been its’ own country basically? Or, would the southern states still have been united?

Would the south have maintained the same constitution as the North, just interpret it differently?

Would the north basically be as the US is today?

I’m interested in any thoughts you have regarding the topic on how the north and the south might be different today, better or worse.

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23 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I think this is the problem that Lincoln wrestled with when he decided that the Union had to be preserved. If you allow secession, then where does it end? Can East Tennessee secede from West Tennessee? Can Mobile secede from the rest of Alabama? Can Upstate New York secede from Manhattan and Long Island secede from both?

Had secession been ‘allowed’ then it is very likely that the entire Union would have broken up into small fiefdoms along the lines of what was then Germany.

MacKinlay Kantor wrote an interesting article (for Life magazine?) in the 1950s, titled “If the South Had Won the Civil War” which was so popular that he made it into a book of the same title. In the book, everything works out great, and we go on to win WW1 and 2… and then reunite (with Texas, who would have also seceded from everyone else).

But I doubt very much whether we would have won the Cold War in like manner.

JLeslie's avatar

@CyanoticWasp When you mentioned the cold war it made me think of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Would they have had missiles pointed at Florida? So many twists and turns in history might have been different. I wonder how the rest of the world would have viewed the Confederacy and the Union over time.

marinelife's avatar

First, the South did secede. I think you mean if they were successful in secession.

They did have a constitution, which was somewhat similar to the Constitution of today, but provided for less federal power and more state power.

I think that the South would have broken up if left alone. The issues in Texas were very different from those of the Carolinas, say.

The North would have continued on as it was I believe. It would have become a haven for escaped slaves.

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife Thanks for the correction @marinelife my history knowledge is so poor. I hated history in school. As an adult I am very interested in learning and understanding more about it. Living in the south now makes me even more aware of the differences between north and south.

marinelife's avatar

@JLeslie The Civil War is a fascinating period. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend this set by Shelby Foote.

iamthemob's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – There was also the CSA (confederate states of america) – a movie addressing the same hypothetical.

As to the OP – I think that @marinelife‘s assessment is probably the most accurate. The profoundly federalist nature of the confederacy probably wouldn’t have allowed for a stable large state governing body.

zenvelo's avatar

The South most likely would have found itself very isolated because of slavery, while dependent on an agrarian economy. The North’s economy was just beginning to accelerate because of the industrial revolution. I think the South would have had to end slavery within 20 years, and by the end of the 19th century would have been asking for reunification.

marinelife's avatar

@zenvelo I agree with your assessment.

crazyivan's avatar

I have a feeling the south would be all but a 3rd world country (sorry, PC is “developing” now, isn’t it?). Without the North as a viable trading partner we would probably be dealing with immigration issues with southerners.

In order to maintain a viable economy they would have had to get rid of slavery eventually anyway so the outcome would have been very similar in that respect, though I imagine that legalised discrimination would have lasted a lot longer and would be far more pervasive today.

The other question is what would have happened to the North? While the south was largely democratic after the Civil War (damned if they were going to vote for Lincoln’s party) they are now a solid conservative block. How might that have changed the outcome of national elections or the make up of the congress/supreme court over the years? I’d be just as interested to hear people’s thoughts on what differences they’s expect in the north as well.

BTW, great question! This is exactly why I hit up Fluther everyday.

JLeslie's avatar

If they were separate countries, do you think the north would allow asylum from the south and vice versa? So the people who were stuck on the wrong side when the lines were drawn would have opportunity to live where they felt it better suited them?

crazyivan's avatar

I would think that the nation with the greater economy (undoubtedly the north) would limit asylum to a much higher degree than the other. We would probably have asylum for the south much in the way we currently offer asylum to Cubans, which is to say begrudgingly.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Jefferson Davis, president of the CSA, was married to the daughter of President Zachary Taylor. She died shortly after their wedding.

JLeslie's avatar

@crazyivan Limit asylum from Cuba? If you make it to our shores you get asylum. Do you mean the north would have strong border patrol? Ironic. It seems like we are saying we would want to keep the southerners out, more than we are worried about Cubans and Latin Americans in general.

That’s another thing. If TX was part of the south, I wonder what the border would be like?

BarnacleBill's avatar

⅓ of the US was once owned by Spain. If the Spanish Conspiracy of the 1780’s had succeeded, most of the US would be Spanish-speaking.

mammal's avatar

more war and more bloodshed, for decades. Bad for the American continent, but i feel the world would have been spared the harshest aspects of subsequent American Imperialism.

crazyivan's avatar

@JLeslie I’d say begrudgingly aptly describes our nations policy toward Cuban immigration. Yes. If they make it to our shores they get asylum. And the American people embrace them with open arms…

Paradox's avatar

I would say most likely there would have been more civil wars. More anarchy. What would it be like today in my opinion? I’m not sure since so many different outcomes could have rose out of the south winning. We may have been divided into seperate smaller nations. Good question though.

JLeslie's avatar

Regarding @Paradox statement, if the south had won the war (originally on my question I was thinking we would have avoided the war of we just let the south separate) then would the entire country have followed what the south wanted? Or, would it simply be that we would have let the southern states go, and the north would have continued as they wanted?

Dutchess_III's avatar

They would have had to depend on the North to protect them.

Paradox's avatar

@JLeslie Perhaps even if the war would have been avoided altogether the outcome might have still have been similar to what I described above. Maybe we would be called the United Nations of America instead. I’m not sure history isn’t my top subject unless it’s related to science.

Dutchess_III's avatar

All the South really wanted was to keep their slaves. That would have ended regardless. Yes, I know about tariffs and all of that, but the cheap labor was the backbone of their economy.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The US probably would not have gotten into the Spanish-American war or WWI.

The North and South would have been separate countries at the time, probably fighting several border wars over the west.

The Mormons in Salt Lake probably would have been successful in creating their own country.

Oregon, Washington and California, seperated from the rest of the country would either have joined the mormons or gone their sepeate ways as well.

The North needed the south to feed its people, without the Texas cattle drives after the civil war, Chicago would not have become the city it is, there would have been no meat packing industry to boost its economy and growth.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Y’all’d be tockin lak thee-iss, an’ yud be eatin gree-yits.

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