Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Musings on an Independent Confederacy, Part 3

Guest post by Chris Nuttall.

Writing a response to a response is always a tricky problem, but I do think that there are several points that should be made.

I believe that I did note that there were differences between the North and South, although I didn’t give them as much attention as Richard.  However, some issues – like geography – remain fairly consistent throughout history and others – like economics and military technology – change rapidly.  The fact of the matter is that the CSA was an agricultural state that did not share the Northern industrial base prior to the war and had to struggle quite hard to accomplish as much as it did.  I am in no way disagreeing that the CSA had a remarkable level of success; my point is that the CSA could not hope to keep up with the North over a long period (and certainly never managed to match the North for the four years of warfare in OTL).

This happened, at least partly, because the political dominance of the South was in the hands of people who had invested heavily in land and farming (and slaves.)  It was not in their interests, prior to the war, to invest in industrialisation and there is no reason to believe that they would change their attitude very willingly in an independent South.  There are several separate reasons for that, but the main one (IMHO) was that the South’s aristocracy (in all, but name) would not want to reward workers as extensively as the North could and did.  They would see an industrial class as a threat to their power – and slaves make poor industrial workers.  It would be very difficult for them to translate their power from slave plantations to industrial complexes.

I mention slavery quite extensively because it WAS the stone around the CSA’s collective neck.  I agree that the people of that era saw nothing wrong in slavery, but as the years wore on slavery became less and less efficient whatever the political structure of the USA/CSA.  While slavery has been in existence since earliest times, there were significant differences between Roman slavery (for example) and the kind practiced by the CSA; specifically, slavery being largely restricted to blacks.  A roman slave had a good chance of freedom and even rising to a prominent position in society; a black freedman in the south was held in bondage even after he was manumitted by his owner.  Leaving aside modern morality, this was not a system for getting the best from one’s population.  There was nothing the average black in the CSA could do to escape the curse of being born black.

Even in OTL, the South managed to push blacks down under Jim Crow laws; I can think of no good reason for assuming that they would do less if the CSA managed to become independent.  At the very least, the slaves would remain enslaved for years – again, not something conductive to social development.  The average Southerner thought of ‘niggers’ as a separate subhuman race, not as fellow human beings.  They were property.  ‘Niggers’ were demonised to an extent that would shock us today.  The thought of black men having sex with white women (but not the reverse, provided it was just an affair (or rape)) was horrifying to them.  They simply did not see the black man as human.

But it doesn't really matter WHAT the South thought of slavery.  The economics of the situation don’t change, short of something happening to alter them from the outside.

Give up slavery?  The slaveholders would demand compensation for their lost property.  Make compensation?  But who would pay for the slaves?  And even if they do, the blacks are not suddenly going to become full citizens of the CSA.  My bet is that they’d be treated as a subhuman underclass right from the moment they were declared ‘free.’

It is impossible to say what would have happened if the South had become independent.  All I can do is point to trends that existed within the South and how they might have developed if the CSA had been allowed to leave the Union.  I do not believe that the South enjoyed a basis for true independence AND stability, at least in the long-term.  In some ways, it would be like India in 1947, rather than America in 1776; there would be serious social strains right from day one.  How would the CSA cope as the world changed around it?

I don’t think they could do very well, unless they managed to give their black (and Hispanic) underclass(s) a stake in the system.  And that was probably beyond them.  The Southern Culture was unable to adapt to the idea of black equality for years in OTL.  Their culture was also ill-adapted to face the modern world, but that’s a different issue.

Allowing modern morality to infest history is a valid problem.  Slavery was not the be-all and end-all of the origin of the war.  However, I did my best to put morality aside and stick to the facts (and how they might be extended if the CSA won the war.)

Thank you for writing the response.  I rarely get such interesting feedback.

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Chris Nuttall blogs at The Chrishanger and has a website by the same name. His books can be found on Amazon Kindle.

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