What if the South had won the War?

What would our world be like today?

For a moment, let's imagine the South had won the Civil War; that Pickett's Charge had been successful in breaking the Union Lines at Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg; that Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had crushed and crippled Union forces. He would have then be freed to sweep down through Philadelphia, Baltimore, to capture the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Once defeated, the North would have reluctantly been forced to recognize the Confederate States of America (CSA) as a legitimate and sovereign state. In all likelihood, Lincoln would have been captured and released to serve out his term mending a defeated nation. Basically, his political career would have been over. After a short occupation, Lee would have probably ordered all troops home, both North and South, and the two countries would have had to learn to live together in peace, just like we do with our neighbors to the north, Canada.

Such a scenario presents some intriguing prospects regarding history, not only in North America, but globally as well. Over time, both the USA and CSA would have recovered economically, and both would continue to operate with the same laws and customs as before the war. I doubt another conflict would erupt as both sides were exhausted by the debacle and finally learned the perils of embarking on another such venture. Following the war, slavery would still be accepted in the South, but abolished in the North. The civil rights movement of the 1960s may have occurred in the north, but certainly not in the South. Whether a black person today would still be a slave in the south is doubtful as slavery is generally frowned upon by the world community. Keep in mind though, it was the Union's victory that greatly influenced world opinion regarding slavery. Had the Union lost however, segregation would most likely still be with us and countries like South Africa would still be practicing apartheid.

As two separate countries it is unlikely we would have had as much influence in world affairs as we have experienced. Both countries would be strong, but the division would keep us from becoming a super power to challenge countries like the Soviet Union. Both countries would have likely served on the same side during the two world wars, but would have been much weaker than a unified nation. In all likelihood, Great Britain would remain the dominant super power of the free world as the Americas would be divided, and the rest of Europe in shambles following World War II. Without the United States as a super-power, Communism would have likely flourished and spread to more countries and the Russians would have undoubtedly won the space race.

The energy resources of the middle East would have inevitably fallen under Soviet rule which would threaten the free world and cause the two Americas to increase production. The only benefit to having the Soviets controlling the Middle East, particularly under Stalin, would be the suppression of Muslim radicals and peace would reign. As the dominance of the Soviet Union grew, the two Americas would likely have withdrawn and become more isolationist in nature.

So where does this leave us; what would North America be like today? More importantly, what would we be like as a people? What are the cultural implications assuming the two countries survived to this day? First, as part of the its terms for peace, the CSA would have insisted that runaway slaves would have to be returned to the South. This means there probably wouldn't be a massive migration of blacks to the North, that they would have been stuck in the South. An uprising for freedom may arise over time, but this would be harshly suppressed much to the dismay of the people in the North. The point is, the demographics of the populace would be significantly different than what we know today.

Regardless of the movement of the masses, I cannot help but believe the north would become a bastion of liberalism as it would primarily be driven by New Englanders. The South would consider itself more conservative than its counterpart in the North and would be less likely to bend traditions and change social rules. Both sides would suffer during the Great Depression of the 20th century. Inevitably, Franklin Roosevelt would emerge in the North and be more likely to pass sweeping social legislation. Without a conservative coalition to challenge him, it is likely he would have implemented changes to the Constitution, such as his court-packing plan to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to obtain favorable rulings to his liking. In other words, a greater social agenda would likely emerge in the North, much greater than his "New Deal" legislation. The South would not be so willing to implement such changes. Nonetheless, the two countries would wallow in depression until entering World War II which would finally ignite industry in both countries.

Following World War II, Roosevelt's social agenda would be carried forward in the north resulting in a massive and intrusive government. In contrast, the South would be less likely to follow the policies of their neighbors to the north. Government would be smaller and less invasive in the lives of its citizens and businesses. Whereas the North would likely mock their "country bumpkins" in the South as being backwards, the CSA would industrialize and develop their natural resources. So much so, it would eventually supersede the output of the North.

Whereas a lot of the freedoms as specified in the Constitution would be challenged in the North, the South, with its own separate Constitution, will be more inclined to defend it. Consequently, patriotism, citizenship, and religion would more likely flourish in the South as opposed to the North.

The biggest difference between the two countries would inevitably be ideology; Liberals gravitating to the North, and conservatives to the South. The two countries would both be strong in their own way, but nowhere near as powerful as a unified nation. Then again, knowing the politics of today, maybe this would have been a better scenario than what we all experiencing today where the government is gridlocked over ideological differences.

It is not clear to me what our standard of living would be like. I'm sure both countries would have prospered following victory in World War II, but maybe not to the degree we experienced in the 1950s and 1960s. If the South successfully industrialized, which seems clear they would, they may very well have had a higher standard of living than the North. The division between the two countries would have impacted technological developments. Keep in mind, we experienced a tremendous technological revolution as a result of the space race, but if the Soviet Union had won the race, they would probably be in the driver's seat as opposed to North America.

If Pickett had broken the Union's lines at Cemetery Ridge, life would be substantially different than we know it today. Between our differences in culture, technology, and ideology, our standard of living and position in the world community would be noticeably different.

One thing is for certain: had Lee taken the field in Gettysburg, Lincoln and Kennedy would likely have not been assassinated, and there probably wouldn't be a Panama Canal.

Keep the Faith!

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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rick barasso January 04, 2012 at 10:06 PM
One does not have to be very imaginative to see what the country would have been like, had the south won the civil war. We only need to look to the states of the "deep south" to get a pretty fair idea as to what the future would have looked like. A Plutocracy run by a hand full of privileged, religious zealots, imposing their will and denying basic freedoms (like the right to vote) and human rights of the uneducated plebeian masses. The land barrons and monopolies would accumulate great wealth, while the majority of the population, who created that wealth through their labor, are treated like serfs, with poor housing, healthcare, educational opportunities, poor nutrition, and little chance of rising above their caste. Come to think of it, no imagination necessary. Sincerely, Rick
Brendan Tierney January 05, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I am not going to bother with commenting on the questionable moral ideas being promoted in ad-vocation a continuation of African slavery for any period of time. I will however correct some factual errors. Contrary to Mr. Bryce's belief, the end of African slavery in a large majority of the world had little or nothing to do with the Civil War in the United States. The United States was actually one of the last western nations to abolish slavery. "Abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in 1542. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, the French colonies abolished it 15 years later, while slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." (Citation) I know that Mr. Bryce is trying to make a point, saying that the Confederate States of the Civil war are akin to the Conservatives ideologues of today and the Northern States are of the Liberal. However his assumptions on the course of history are greatly misaligned.
Brendan Tierney January 05, 2012 at 03:29 AM
"The nature of the result of the Battle of Gettysburg has been the subject of controversy for years. Although not seen as overwhelmingly significant at the time, particularly since the war continued for almost two years, in retrospect it has often been cited as the "turning point", usually in combination with the fall of Vicksburg the following day. This is based on the hindsight that, after Gettysburg, Lee's army conducted no more strategic offensives—his army merely reacted to the initiative of Ulysses S. Grant in 1864 and 1865—and by the speculative viewpoint of the Lost Cause writers that a Confederate victory at Gettysburg might have resulted in the end of the war." (Citation) The facts surrounding the American Civil War have been studied at great length. Even though there are several competing theories as to the impact of many of the battles, it is widely known that the Confederate States were never going to win the war. The South was doomed partially due of the overwhelming advantage in manpower and industrial might possessed by the North as well as it's own philosophy regarding its creation.
Brendan Tierney January 05, 2012 at 03:32 AM
"Historian Frank Lawrence Owsley argued that the Confederacy "died of states' rights."According to Owsley, strong-willed governors and state legislatures in the South refused to give the central government the soldiers and money it needed because they feared that Richmond would encroach on the rights of the states. Georgia's governor Joseph Brown warned that he saw the signs of a deep-laid conspiracy on the part of Jefferson Davis to destroy states' rights and individual liberty. Brown declaimed: "Almost every act of usurpation of power, or of bad faith, has been conceived, brought forth and nurtured in secret session." He saw granting the Confederate government the power to draft soldiers as the "essence of military despotism.""(Citation) Even without these errors and over simplistic view of historical events, Mr. Bryce holds the belief that the same political timeline would be in place if the Confederate States still existed separate from the United States. He seems to think that the same Presidents and Representatives to the Congresses have would been elected. That the same laws would be passed. That the First and Second World wars would have ended with Allied Victories without a unified United States to support the cause, or that the aftermath of those wars would have resulted in the Space Race.
Brendan Tierney January 05, 2012 at 03:34 AM
He might be correct that President Abraham Lincoln may not have been assassinated in Ford's Theater, but I can guarantee that John F. Kennedy would never have existed. Neither would the Interstate Highway System, the United States Power Transmission Grid, or the states of Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska or Hawaii. The point that I believe that Mr. Bryce is trying to make is that we should continue to allow different ideas and philosophies to divide us. That we are better off not finding common ground. That the facts don't matter and that everyone should put their fingers in their ears and yell "LA LA LA" when confronted with a differing point of view instead of listening and learning. I however, respectfully disagree. Citations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gettysburg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Civil_War
Kathleen Devlin March 01, 2013 at 02:49 PM
This type of conjecture, while entertaining, is pointless. This particular theory leaves so many factors out & relies on way too many assumptions, such as omitting the CSA's expansionist agendas and the possible responses of the European powers of the day to the failure of their former colonies' union.


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