Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Preventing the Civil War

My younger son has been reading Civil War history, starting with Jeff Hummel's book. A few days ago at dinner, we got into a discussion of possiblities for alternate history, starting with the observation that both sides greatly underestimated how bad the war was going to be. Bill cited Hummel's estimate that the cost to the North alone would have been enough to buy every slave in the south and provide each with thirty acres and a mule. What if they had known?

Imagine that someone in our future is equipped with a device capable of delivering packages to the past. He makes a list of thirty or forty of the most influential people in the U.S. as of (say) the 1850's, prepares for each a package of history books, and delivers the package to the recipient's desk a week or two before some prominent natural event, such as an earthquake or eruption, is due to occur.

Each package includes a dozen identical color photographs and a cover letter. The letter predicts in detail the event about to occur and explains that the package is being sent in the hope of preventing a very bloody war. The photographs could not have been produced with mid-19th century technology; the hope is that they plus the prediction will be enough to persuade at least some of the recipients that the package really is from the future. What happens?

Bill's guess was that the deep South states would respond by immediately seceding. My reaction—not inconsistent with his—was that what the intervention has created is a high stakes game of Chicken. Leaders in the North can tell those in the South that they might as well surrender now, since the alternative is a long and bloody war that they will lose. Leaders in the South can argue in response that the North, knowing what the cost of the war will be, will have to back down and let them go.

It could make the plot of an interesting novel. If I were writing it—not likely to happen—I would be inclined to show the intervenors from the future as naive do-gooders who take it for granted that if only both sides had known, the war would of course be averted. The recipients are both more realistic and more sophisticated; each sees both his new information and his knowledge that others have the same information as merely additional elements in the complex political game already ongoing.

One question is how long before the war the intervention happens. Another is whether the recipients attempt to make their new knowledge public, and if so how many people believe them. Readers are invited to indulge their own imagination.

123 Comments:

At 4:51 PM, May 25, 2010, Blogger sconzey said...

This assumes that the decision to enter the War (for the North) was indeed about slavery. Looking at some of Lincoln's other actions, I believe slavery was a post-hoc justification used by obsessive unionists.

 
At 5:06 PM, May 25, 2010, Blogger Micah said...

There's a fun series about this from Eric Flint... a modern Appalachian coal town gets moved (both geographically and temporally) to the beginning of the Hundred Years War. The Americans figure they know what everybody's going to do, because they have the history books to prove it.

Unfortunately, a lot of the school's European History books get stolen and shuffled around to various leaders of European states, who then change plans accordingly (killing and imprisoning rebels before they actually rebel, changing strategies entirely, inventing new tech decades before it's supposed to come out, etc.

The series is 1632. It's a fun read.

 
At 6:02 PM, May 25, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps an equally interesting experiment would be to consider if the packages hand been delivered to the constitutional convention in 1787 instead; the time that was arguably at the root of the crisis. Imagine, if you will, the Federalist papers in such a scenario.

 
At 11:26 PM, May 25, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

Micah mentions 1632, which I also enjoyed. The effect of the history books there was probably one of the things that suggested the idea of using such deliberately to me.

In response to Sconzey, I think it would be too simple to say that the decision to enter the war was about slavery--the decision to enter the war, I think, was about secession.

But the secession, and the series of political conflicts leading up to it, were in considerable part about the South wanting to keep slavery and reasonably fearing that the north, if it had control of the federal government, would make doing so increasingly difficult.

 
At 2:36 AM, May 26, 2010, Anonymous David Tomlin said...

I'm reminded of an episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie'. Major Nelson went back in time and met Napoleon. He advised Napoleon not to invade Russia, and not to fight Wellington at Waterloo. It occurred to me at once that following the first advice would presumably make the second moot.

Were I a recipient of the books, I wouldn't be convinced. That contemporaries had secretly developed superior methods of photography and geological prediction would seem to me overwhelmingly more probable than time travel.

Going public would be a bad idea, sacrificing credibility and influence. I can imagine how the 'hoax' and its supporters would be ridiculed in the press.

A third explanation would be deception by the devil. That theory wouldn't have been as widely acceptable in the middle of the nineteenth century as it would have been in the middle of the seventeenth, when educated opinion generally favored the prosecution of witchcraft, but I think it still would have been more widely acceptable than it would be today.

Most people on both sides thought God was their ally. Probably many believed the other side was inspired by the devil, and would suspect the packages were a diabolical attempt to deceive the good guys into what we would call 'appeasement'.

It occurs to me that Darwin has had a subtle impact on how educated people think about the supernatural. (Origin of Species was published in 1859.) It's well known that Darwinism made outright atheism more intellectually acceptable. But even for those who still believed in God, Darwin brought the Newtonian revolution to biology, making living things into chemical machines. Spirit was banished a bit further from the world. It became a bit less habitual to think of the supernatural intervening directly and daily in the world of experience.

 
At 7:42 AM, May 26, 2010, Blogger sconzey said...

Well yes, for the South, the war was about seccession, and seccession was about slavery.

But for the North, for those who would be recipients of the aforementioned packages, the war was about seccession of most of the largest contributors to the treasury.

Micah: I'll have to track down that book; sounds interesting.

David Tomlin makes an excellent point, that the predictions might not be believed. Certainly the incentives facing a package-recipient are a bit odd: if he continues with the present policy, hundreds of thousands of other people will die. If he obeys the package, he may be subject to ridicule, lose his job, etc.

The best recipients of the packages then would be the people who don't actually survive the war, or those who loose the most from it.

 
At 9:30 AM, May 26, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

"The best recipients of the packages then would be the people who don't actually survive the war, or those who loose the most from it."

Except that the whole scenario assumes the future can be altered--I'm ignoring the fact that if the war doesn't happen the packages will never be sent. Presumably this is a multi-branched reality.

And since it can be altered, the packages will a alter it, even if not exactly as intended. So even if the war happens, different people will die. So you need people who will lose a lot from any likely version of the war.

 
At 10:07 AM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Alex said...

In common with many scams, though, they could be telling the truth about the volcano, and lying about the outcome and costs of the war. Surely, only someone with an axe to grind would be bothering to do this in the first place. Axe grinding is a resource-intensive enterprise. This is David Tomlin's "deception by the devil" in a secular guise.

 
At 10:13 AM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Glen Whitman said...

"Bill cited Hummel's estimate that the cost to the North alone would have been enough to buy every slave in the south and provide each with thirty acres and a mule."

What would have happened if an attempt had been made to buy all the slaves? I suspect this would have just constituted a massive increase in the demand for slaves, thus driving up their price. It's the same as if you tried to buy all the shares of a major corporation at their current price; the price would rise rather quickly, would it not?

There's even the possibility that the slave buy-up would result in more Africans being captured as slaves, although there was officially a ban on slave importation beginning in 1808.

 
At 11:19 AM, May 26, 2010, Anonymous David Tomlin said...

Glen Whitman:

I suspect this would have just constituted a massive increase in the demand for slaves, thus driving up their price.

I've read the book, but it's been a long time.

I think what Hummel had in mind was the governments of the southern states agreeing to implement 'compensated emancipation', in the same way some northern states had done previously, but with the national government bearing all or part of the cost. The slaveowners would be forced to sell at a fixed price.

The problem you raise is one I thought of long ago, pondering a different but parallel question: Could the Zionist movement have raised enough money to buy out all the private landowners in Palestine?

Land and slaves are durable goods, whose stock is typically many times the amount sold in a give day, month, or year. The market price equals or exceeds the marginal value, plus the seller's transaction cost, for that minority of owners who sell at the market price. Marginal value plus transaction cost is higher for the vast majority of owners, evidenced by the fact that they are not selling at the market price.

Assuming voluntary transactions, the cost of buying the whole stock is likely to be much higher than the size of the stock multiplied by the prevailing market price. That's true even if the buyer(s) can price discriminate. It gets worse if the owners know there is a well-funded effort to buy the whole stock and hold out for even higher prices.

I don't think it's possible to make a useful ex ante estimate of the cost of such an all-voluntary buyout. Information about the preferences of the owners who aren't selling just isn't available.

 
At 1:26 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Coincidence: what you describe is a variant of a fantasy I've entertained for some years, in which a time-traveller equipped with convincing future technology presents Southern leaders with a pile of history books and invites them to reconsider the situation.

It didn't even occur to me to contact Northern leaders too: I wouldn't expect them to be daunted by the cost of winning the war. After all, it was a war they could have stopped at any time if the cost had been too much for them.

What I wonder is whether, faced with a ruinous war ending in defeat, the Southerners would find some way out of fighting it; or whether they'd press on regardless and hope to gain a military advantage from the information received. (I think the latter would be a bad bet: they'd probably lose anyway.)

I haven't read Hummel's book, nor heard of it before. Seems interesting, but relatively high-priced.

 
At 1:35 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Coury said...

Anyone read Tom DiLorenzo's writings on the Civil War and Lincoln?

 
At 1:38 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

On the subject of slavery, I've read that only a small minority of Southerners were slave-owners. The rest had no real stake in slavery; except that many of them were worried by the prospect of millions of freed slaves running around out of control. As it turned out, the slaves were freed and there seems to have been no orgy of looting, rape, and murder; but it was a walk into the unknown, and no-one could have known for sure how it would turn out.

 
At 1:56 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Isegoria said...

A bunch of libertarian economists are discussing causes of the Civil War, and no one has mentioned tariffs yet?

 
At 1:56 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Coury said...

@sconzey - There were abolitionists who were also secessionists which lived in both the north and the south. Lysander Spooner is one off the top of my head.

@Jonathan - With information from the textbooks, the confederates could see how easy it would be for them to invade Washington after the First Battle of Bull Run and possibly win the war. Of course the Northerners would be privy to this as well, so who knows.

Like David said, it wouldn't be the same future once they have such knowledge. The military strategy of both sides would most definitely have to be revised.

 
At 7:19 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger Eric Rasmusen said...

Good question. Some relevant info, though:

1. By January 1864, the North knew that to win would be hideously expensive, even ignoring sunk costs. (The South maybe knew too, or maybe hoped Lincoln would lose the 1864 election.)

2. After the November 1864 election, the South knew it would lose, yet it kept on fighting.

Why?

 
At 9:25 PM, May 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Books? Pfft. I know exactly what I'd bring back in time, a bolt-action rifle. I'd stroll up to Robert E. Lee and say: "Look here, Robert, the powder and ball are both contained in a single cartridge, you pull back the bolt *clack* ejecting the spent cartridge and then push it back *click* loading the next round". This would have changed history just the way I want it.

EDIT: I have just learned that bolt-action rifles have been around since 1841 and that the U.S. even purchased a bunch for Civil War use, but ultimately decided they were "too complicated" for the average soldier to use (and possibly because of payola to the Springfield Rifle Co.) Forget it, I'd go back in time with an AC-130 and claim I commanded the power of God's hand. Then I'd whip those monkeys into shape. "too complicated" sheesh.

 
At 9:40 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger montestruc said...

Having spent an awful lot of time in reading the history of the period immediately before the war and in groups that study counter-factual history, I think that your experiment is heavy handed, and has lots of side effects.

On the other hand, the sequence of events that lead straight to the war in my opinion, the Kansas-Nebraska act which made whether or not those territories became free or slave up to local votes, that led to a lot of local violence by partisans of both sides, and travel to those areas by hardcore violent partisans of both sides. That lead to much greater national polarization on that issue. Then John Brown, one of the most violent partisans of the abolitionist side did his famous raid and was executed for it.

However the more important thing is that the money men in the north who knowingly bankrolled him were never prosecuted at all. This, combined with his aim of creating a mass slave rebellion where slaves were planned to rise up and kill their masters (men women and children), created a climate of fear in the south that the abolitionists were plotting their murders, and they could get no help from the federal government.

That is what made secession by the south politically very popular in at least the deep south if a republican was elected.

Then the dominant Democratic party fragmented in convention in 1860. That is the only way the Republicans could have won the 1860 presidential race.

Once Lincoln was elected, the secession of the deep south was impossible to stop. Then Lincoln made a series of blunders that caused Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina to join in. This being after Virginia had voted down secession.

Had Lincoln handled it with a bit more finesse, he might well have kept all but the deep south and used a war of blockade and diplomacy to end the secession, or not. The deep south alone was not really very viable as a great nation, and would not have the economy or population to threaten the remainder of the USA.

 
At 3:40 AM, May 27, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Coury, I'm not so sure that the Confederates could have had a pushover after First Bull Run if they'd just chosen to act. The enemy from the battlefield was in flight, true, but there were surely other Union troops around. More to the point, the Confederate troops had just fought their first major battle, they were exhausted and in disarray. Presumably there were no logistical plans to support a general advance at that time. With a more experienced army, pursuit might have been feasible.

 
At 5:48 AM, May 27, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

Two comments:

"Bill cited Hummel's estimate that the cost to the North alone would have been enough to buy every slave in the south and provide each with thirty acres and a mule."

This estimate is entirely unconvincing; the market price of a good does _not_ reflect the cost of buying it out of existence. I'd gleefully accept $10,000 for my car, but I'd charge a lot more for a promise never to buy another car.

"A bunch of libertarian economists are discussing causes of the Civil War, and no one has mentioned tariffs yet?"

It _is_ (favorably) surprising--the posters seem aware that tariffs were not an important driver of secessionist feeling. In December 1860 tariffs were lower than they had been since the 1790s, and the tariff in effect had been approved by vast majorities of both Southern and New England representatives.

 
At 5:54 AM, May 27, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

One more:

"[F]for the North . . . the war was about secession of most of the largest contributors to the treasury."

What is your source for this? There appears to be no credible evidence that the slave states contributed a disproportionate share of Federal revenues. Only 10% of tariffs in the period 1854-59 was collected in slave-state ports, and only 7% in ports in later-seceding states.

 
At 9:28 AM, May 27, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L, I haven't read the Hummel book, but I suppose he must have assumed compulsory purchase of all slaves at a typical market price as determined by the government.

Of course, voluntary purchase of all slaves would be a non-starter. Some owners might refuse all offers.

 
At 3:18 PM, May 28, 2010, Anonymous David Tomlin said...

Former3L:

the posters seem aware that tariffs were not an important driver of secessionist feeling.

Actually, no, I just felt more interested in commenting on other matters.

As I recall, Hummel was also against attaching much importance to the tariff question, but didn't really argue the point. I thought his sketchy treatment of the issue was the one weakness of an otherwise excellent book.

Btw, the title is Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, and I recommend it highly.

For us moderns, especially modern libertarians, the tariff is a more respectable ground for secession. But at the time the opposite was true.

After all, the constitution specifically authorizes federal duties (Art. I, Sec. 8). There's no enumerated power to interfere with slavery within a state, and even Lincoln and other Republicans agreed there was no such implied power.

If a person favored secession primarily because of the tariff, he would still be likely to rest his public arguments more on slavery. This is often overlooked, and as I recall Hummel overlooked it.

 
At 6:05 PM, May 28, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

"If a person favored secession primarily because of the tariff, he would still be likely to rest his public arguments more on slavery."

Only if he was a fool with no sense of political strategy.

Resistance to taxes, including tariffs, was a venerable political tradition in the USA (consider, among many other examples, the nullification crisis). Had the tariff been considered too high in 1860, an anti-tariff policy could have united the upper midwest, the west coast, and all of the south except maybe Louisiana (which benefited from sugar tariffs).

Pro-slavery arguments could not unite these areas.

The point is moot anyway, since the tariff in 1860 was low.

Foreign support for the CSA would also have been more likely had the "public arguments" for secession not concerned slavery. (Not that such support was likely in any case, though).

 
At 7:47 PM, May 28, 2010, Blogger sconzey said...

@David, surely what matters is not whether they actually die, but whether they believe they are likely to, and the only way to avoid death is to avert or truncate the war.

 
At 7:53 PM, May 28, 2010, Blogger sconzey said...

@Former3L, I'm afraid I don't have a source; just recounting something I once heard somewhere, so I'll bow to your superior knowledge :P

 
At 12:27 AM, May 29, 2010, Anonymous Rex Little said...

"I'd go back in time with an AC-130. . ."

It's been done, more or less. Read The Guns of the South, by Harry Turtledove.

 
At 11:08 AM, May 30, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

I have indeed read Turtledove's book, which is good on overall story and historical feel, though it makes its moral points with leaden feet. Worth reading, but too politically correct for its own good.

Only a few people in the book have both good and bad points (Forrest, Benny Lang); in real life practically everyone has both.

 
At 5:44 PM, May 30, 2010, Blogger Colin said...

Last year I came up with a "foolproof" method for the South to "win" the Civil War. Step 1: Promise the Federal Government that under no conditions will any violence be offered to the Federal army (keep that promise as long as possible). Step 2: Announce to the world that slavery will come to an end in the south at some (distant) time in the future - say 50 years out. Step 3: promise some form of compensation to the Federal Government for any property that the new Confederacy needs to take over - offer negotiations with the most senior government leaders.
Step 4: Big public relations in the northern states and KEEP their members of Congress in Congress as long as they are allowed to stay there.

By these methods they would have completely undercut the desire by the north to go to war. By seeming to be reasonable, the South could won independence without firing a shot.

Personally I'm very glad the South went to war and had slavery ended for them as I regard it as an abomination to hold another man in bondage.

 
At 7:37 PM, May 30, 2010, Blogger montestruc said...

Regarding the Tariff argument. That the import comes to the USA in NYC and goes through customs their, does not mean that is where the end use is, that the tariff is not collected in New Orleans, does not mean that the end user is not in Louisiana.

Factually the southern planters tended to be largely self-sufficient or locally sufficient in food, textiles building materials and other heavy tonnage items. They tended to import things better described as luxuries. Exotic foods, and spirits, fine furniture, firearms and so on. Those sorts of things were often ordered via merchants in NYC.

In addition most pre-war sales of cotton bound for overseas was through NYC, where a large fraction of planters had bank accounts.

That the tariffs collected in southern ports was small does not mean the end users that paid the tariffs were not in the south.

 
At 8:19 PM, May 30, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

"Regarding the Tariff argument. That the import comes to the USA in NYC and goes through customs their, does not mean that is where the end use is, that the tariff is not collected in New Orleans, does not mean that the end user is not in Louisiana."

Can you explain the relevance of this to the idea that the tariff was an important driver of secessionist feeling? Bear in mind that the tariff, as of December 1860, was lower than it had been since the 1790s.

As I stated, there is no credible evidence that the slave states contributed a disproportionate share of Federal revenues. Certainly you have provided none here.

 
At 8:50 PM, May 30, 2010, Anonymous SheetWise said...

Maybe we've actually been get these letters for a long time, and the history we're living is a result the best decisions we could make.

 
At 11:48 PM, May 30, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

I agree with Colin that slavery was a Bad Thing and ending it was a Good Thing. However, a four-year war costing a million casualties and a vast amount of suffering and damage was hardly an ideal or cheap way of achieving that effect. Furthermore, the main objective of the war was to end secession; the ending of slavery was a side-effect.

 
At 2:53 PM, May 31, 2010, Anonymous Order not design said...

I guess changing the knowledge of the people from the past would make this knowledge invalid and whole concept a complete contradiction.

The knowledge X possesed by mister Y from the 1900 and delivered him by mister Z from 2010 is different than the kowledge X' from 2010 because it posseses one additional proprety - is known by the person from 1900.

The second thing is: the knowledge from 2010 would be valid in 1900 only if it would cause any changes in action of people from 1900 to whom it was delivered

 
At 2:54 PM, May 31, 2010, Anonymous Order said...

*would not, of course

 
At 8:39 PM, May 31, 2010, Blogger montestruc said...

"Can you explain the relevance of this to the idea that the tariff was an important driver of secessionist feeling?"

In and of itself it is not.

As I said elsewhere the driving issue was fear of being murdered in an abolitionist inspired slave rebellion, which was actually not all that irrational. In addition fear of loss of lifestyle and social position was another.

"As I stated, there is no credible evidence that the slave states contributed a disproportionate share of Federal revenues."

Not directly no, but it is an undeniable fact that slave grown agricultural exports were the vast majority (much more than 50%) of the value of all US exports in that era. That is adding together cotton, tobacco, and sugar.

If these exports disappear, with what are the importers going to pay for the goods they wish to sell in the USA?

The answer is obviously they have less goods to sell for money in the old world and so less money to buy goods in the old world with.

So clearly the south was indirectly at least paying a large fraction of the tariffs.

 
At 10:01 AM, June 01, 2010, Blogger neil craig said...

My guess is that most pf the recipients would destroy/hide the evidence & convince themselves (not exactly improbably) that the whole thing was hoax. That those who went public would find the rest of the public saying the same thing.

The ability of people to believe what is in their own interests should not be underestimated.

To take a modern example how many of the people who said, duting the Bush boom years, that this would go on forever were arithmetically unequipped to see that house prices rising at 10% could not go on forever. How many, even now, are unequipped to see that if national social security commitments substantially exceed assets & are rising faster they cannot be paid in full.

 
At 10:48 AM, June 01, 2010, Anonymous Sebastian said...

"The ability of people to believe what is in their own interests should not be underestimated."

Depends on the time preference. In reference to the housing bubble: there could be people who had to decide what kind of company to establish. Those who prefered quick profit chose to build houses, those who knew that decision will be punished avoided that move. Or make bets against the first part :)

 
At 8:49 PM, June 01, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[me]"As I stated, there is no credible evidence that the slave states contributed a disproportionate share of Federal revenues."

[Montestruc] Not directly no, but it is an undeniable fact that slave grown agricultural exports were the vast majority (much more than 50%) of the value of all US exports in that era. . . . .If these exports disappear, with what are the importers going to pay for the goods they wish to sell in the USA?

The trouble is, where do you stop tracing back? Without massive loans from free-state banks, the slave states would not have grown nearly as high a volume of export crops as they did.

Although you still haven't explained any relevance of any of this to the secession crisis anyway, and in fact seem to have admitted (as the facts would compel anyone familiar with the era to admit) that there is, in fact, no evidence that tariff policy was an important driver of secessionist feeling. The existing tariff in December 1860 was one which was very low, and had been approved by Southern representatives. Had all slave-state Senators remained in place, it is highly doubtful any change to the tariff would have been enacted.

I will admit to some curiosity about what the cutoff for being a "great nation" is (the initial seven-state CSA apparently not qualifying). Of course, the idea that the Upper South would accept emancipation rather than defecting from the USA to the CSA is ludicrous anyway, so it's not a terribly important point.


[Jonathan] "I agree with Colin that slavery was a Bad Thing and ending it was a Good Thing. However, a four-year war costing a million casualties and a vast amount of suffering and damage was hardly an ideal or cheap way of achieving that effect."

The important question, then, being what other possibilities were available. Nonresistance to aggression from slaveholders (seizing US property at gunpoint, as started well before Sumter) was likely to result in slavery persisting for several generations at least.

The hard fact is that, after the secessions, there was no "ideal" or "cheap" way to deal with the problem of slavery in the USA. Neither allowing a government explicitly dedicated to protecting and extending slavery, nor fighting that government, would qualify.

 
At 10:33 PM, June 01, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

In the 19th century slavery, which had been common practice all over the world throughout human history, was rapidly dying out everywhere. It would have died out in the Confederacy too without any war; especially with the USA giving sanctuary to runaways.

Brazil, which had millions of slaves, ended slavery of its own accord in 1888.

 
At 10:43 PM, June 01, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

"Of course, the idea that the Upper South would accept emancipation rather than defecting from the USA to the CSA is ludicrous anyway ..."

The answer is that they wouldn't have been asked to accept it; at least, not in the short term. It's clear that Lincoln was primarily concerned with keeping the Union intact, and was willing to tolerate slavery to that end. The only thing he couldn't tolerate was secession. If the Upper South had stayed on board, he would have respected its preferences. Even the Emancipation Proclamation during the war applied to Confederate states only.

 
At 9:28 PM, June 02, 2010, Blogger montestruc said...

With regard to the comments of Former3L

I never said that tariffs were a critical issue to secession. They did however cause the start of hostilities as no would be nation can tolerate another nation collecting taxes on it's citizens inside it's territory.

On to other matters;

1) None of the original colonies were "free states".

2) Slavery was legal in most northern states well into the 19th century.

3)Most of the capital accumulation in northern banks came originally from the slave trade via bankrolling slave ship owners and also plantation owners.

Their was no reasonable point "before" slavery while the USA was in existence, or the founding colonies had been in existence for more than two generations. In all that time most of the capital of the USA was based on funds generated by the business of slavery in one form or another till AFTER the civil war.

Their is no reasonable basis to expect bankers not to loan money to profitable businesses. Had northern bankers not done so, English and other bankers would have.


Your 'How far back" comment shows a shocking lack of comprehension of this subject.

New York was not a "free state" till the 1830s IIRC, and profits off of slave related businesses were driving the US economy till the war.

The slave trade was the economic bedrock of New England's shipping industry. The money for loan to planters was not coming from idealistic "free states" in the sense you seem to mean it.

The money was coming from hard-nosed bankers who's fathers and grandfathers had banked on enslavement of (relatively) free people in Africa for transport and sale in the New World at enormous profit to all but those enslaved and their kin.

 
At 3:37 AM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "the 19th century slavery, which had been common practice all over the world throughout human history, was rapidly dying out everywhere."

No, it wasn't. This is a common misconception. The number of slave _societies_ was dropping (mostly as European colonizers forced emancipation on their colonies, as Britain and France did), but the number of slaves was not declining. As of 1860, the number of New World slaves was at a record high, and growing (basically, the increase in the USA's slave population was outpacing the decline in that of Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico). No pressure was being applied to the USA to end slavery, and it is doubtful any would have been applied to an independent CSA for many years.

"It would have died out in the Confederacy too without any war; especially with the USA giving sanctuary to runaways."

When would it have died out? And why wouldn't the CSA have been able defend the institution it was willing to kill and die for? I have never seen any remotely satisfactory explanation of this; if you can refer me to one I would be quite grateful.

"It's clear that Lincoln was primarily concerned with keeping the Union intact, and was willing to tolerate slavery to that end. The only thing he couldn't tolerate was secession. If the Upper South had stayed on board, he would have respected its preferences."

So you seem to be saying slavery _wouldn't_ be ended in the Upper South. Which sort of undercuts your earlier claims about the inevitability of ending slavery.

 
At 3:46 AM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Montestruc] "I never said that tariffs were a critical issue to secession. They did however cause the start of hostilities as no would be nation can tolerate another nation collecting taxes on it's citizens inside it's territory."

There was no change in US tariff collection policy at any time around the start of the CSA's assault on Fort Sumter (even accepting this very arguable definition for "start of hostilities"--the CSA has been seizing US property at gunpoint for weeks before that). So this claim is exceedingly implausible.

I see no possible relevance for Montestruc's other comments, and therefore decline to reply to them. I wrote nothing about "idealistic 'free states'" and Montestruc's claims of displayed ignorance are wildly off-base.

I was merely made the point that it is ludicrous to regard the slave states as entirely separate for some purposes and but as completely integrated for others. Montestruc argued that the southern states must be "indirectly" paying an outsized fraction of the tariff because their crops brought in much of the USA's foreign exchange--this is merely stopping the tracing back of economic relationships at a point he finds convenient.

Of course, he now seems to be arguing that all US states were really slave states (or something like that), so I'm not really sure what point he's trying to make.

 
At 5:43 PM, June 03, 2010, Blogger montestruc said...

Reply to Former3L

Most historians hold that the formal start of hostilities in the American Civil War was the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Others have made the argument as you do that the seizure of various federal properties by state governments or state militia counts, though no shots were fired and no one was killed. One could also make the argument that the Harper's Ferry raid was the start as persons were killed and the persons who funded the raid went unpunished.

Whatever.

As to the lack of change in US tax collection practices, we agree, they did not change and that started hostilities.

You pretty clearly buy the argument that secession was intrinsically illegal and necessarily rebellion hook line and sinker.

My position is that that is purest nonsense and than one can look to the ratification of the constitution by Virgina and New York where they explicitly reserved the right of secession, and one can make a like argument from the 9th and 10th amendment.

Further the US Federal government and all property it holds is by the theory of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the USA the abject chattel property of the people of the USA.

Where the people legally decide to abolish or modify government, then they have the right to confiscate it's property. As the secession conventions were organized in the same manner and under the same authority as the ratification conventions, they were just as legal.

 
At 7:02 PM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous David Tomlin said...

Former3L:

The number of slave _societies_ was dropping (mostly as European colonizers forced emancipation on their colonies, as Britain and France did) . . .

Latin American countries abolished slavery after independence.

And why wouldn't the CSA have been able defend the institution it was willing to kill and die for? I have never seen any remotely satisfactory explanation of this; if you can refer me to one I would be quite grateful.

Have you read the book under discussion? As I recall Hummel discussed this in some detail.

The most effective pressure would be refusal by the northern states to return runaway slaves. Given the pesky fugitive slave cause in the Constitution, the best way would be for either the northern or southern states to secede. Failing that, Congress could revise its fugitive slave legislation so as to effectively give full discretion to state and local governments.

 
At 7:35 PM, June 03, 2010, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

To comment on the sci-fi side of this, echoing sheetwise. (Larry) Niven's Law suggests that if information could be gotten into the past, then that would (from the POV of the present) change everything instantly. Which would in turn change whatever message was sent into the past, on in a loop. A loop we could theoretically get stuck in, however instantaneously it worked. Therefore time/reality/history would not move again until it had found some equilibrium. And who knows what that might be? Especially if the initial sending of info somehow reduced or even destroyed the possibility of the original reality ever occurring again.

At that point, one's belief whether the possible paths of life are few or many would dictate how your particular daydream came out. Fun stuff, though.

Alt-history is more fun than just about anything, but it runs into the logical barrier implied above: everything changes. All bets are off. Even 1870 might be so unrecognisable to us that if we could view it, we might conclude that nothing like our present reality could ever descend from it. A great many of us - perhaps even all of us who had any ancestors anywhere in the US at the time - would cease to exist, being replaced by 0-10 other people.

If you brought one superior spearhead and dropped it off anywhere in history, we would all be gone.

 
At 7:36 PM, June 03, 2010, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Last paragraph. I meant prehistory.

 
At 8:39 PM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Me] "And why wouldn't the CSA have been able defend the institution it was willing to kill and die for? I have never seen any remotely satisfactory explanation of this; if you can refer me to one I would be quite grateful."

[David Tomlin] "Have you read the book under discussion? As I recall Hummel discussed this in some detail.
The most effective pressure would be refusal by the northern states to return runaway slaves."

I have read the book in question, and you recall incorrectly.

Hummel's discussion is extremely cursory and unconvincing (really, it's more of a tossed-off aside than an argument made in any detail).

Hummel simply assumes that the number of escapes by slaves would increase massively, and that the failure of northern states to return them would cause the slave system to collapse. But he gives no reason for thinking this would be true.

In the years 1850-60, only around 300 escaped slaves were returned under the Fugitive Slave Act, or around 30 a year. Using census figures and other data, Hummel estimated in his doctoral thesis that there were around 1,000 escapes annually--so only about 3% were being returned under federal law. (To keep this in perspective, the USA's slave population was increasing by around 2%, or comfortably over 70,000 a year, so the institution was in no danger of dying out).

In the event of CSA independence (or Northern secession) CSA slaveowners near the US border would, if they felt their slave "property" insecure, simply sell to other owners further inland. This would involve some costs, but they would be well worth it to slaveowners. Slavery in Texas did not seem to be much affected by the neighboring presence of Mexico, where slavery was illegal.

There are all sorts ways slaveowners could have stepped up enforcement against runaways, reducing the likelihood of successful flight and thereby keeping slavery more profitable. The CSA could crack down harder on free blacks, making it difficult for runaways to pass themselves off as free, or simply enslave the CSA's free black population.

There could be laws mandating harsh treatment of runaways, removing the discretion of owners in the matter (this would make it harder for a runaway who was the child of the owner, for instance, to count on any mercy if returned). Aiding runaways could be punished more harshly. And this by no means exhausts the list.

It should also be noted that the CSA government could fund its anti-escape measures via a cotton export tax, exploiting its market power and throwing much of the cost onto the world's cotton buyers.

The slaveowners in an independent CSA would have a huge financial incentive to find ways of keeping the number of runaways to a manageable level. My impression is that libertarians generally believe in the power of financial incentives--but Hummel simply ignores them.

As I said, perhaps someone else has developed the argument in more detail, and if so I would be interested in learning about it.

 
At 8:46 PM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

Montestruc now seems to have shifted to arguing that the CSA's secession was legal; I disagree but I think it a subject unrelated to the matter at hand. However, I will point out that his claim that

"As to the lack of change in US tax collection practices, we agree, they did not change and that started hostilities."

is wildly off-base; the USA had the same tariff collection policies in December 1860 as in April 1861. The (lack of) change in tariff policies cannot therefore be said to have begun hostilities, no matter what opening point one selects.

 
At 8:58 PM, June 03, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Me] "The number of slave _societies_ was dropping (mostly as European colonizers forced emancipation on their colonies, as Britain and France did) . . ."

[David Tomlin] "Latin American countries abolished slavery after independence."

True, but this process had been pretty much completed by 1830 at the latest. In the generations immediately before the US Civil War, freeings of New World slaves were mostly of colonial slaves.

In 1830, there were approximately 4.9 million New World slaves: 2 million in the US, 1.4 million in Brazil, 880,000 in British and French colonies, 350,000 in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and 300,000 in all other areas where slavery was still legal.

By 1860, despite emancipations by the British, French, Swedes, and Danes in their colonies and by several Latin American countries including Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador, the number of slaves had increased to 6.3 million. Over half (3.95 million) were now in the USA. Brazil had 1.9 million, and Cuba and Puerto Rico another 420,000.

So, although slaveholding was becoming more concentrated, it was emphatically _not_ dying out. There is no basis but hope for Hummel's claim that allowing CSA independence would have been "a viable antislavery option".

 
At 12:35 PM, June 04, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

If you merely count the slaves, you would have to say that slavery was not dying out in Brazil in the 19th century. But it expired in 1888 when Brazil put an end to it.

Historical forces were putting an end to slavery. Technology was changing and making slaves less useful; morality was changing and making slaves more embarrassing. The change happened all over the world and I don't think the Confederacy would have been immune to it for long.

If the states of the Upper South had not seceded, I believe they would have been allowed to retain slavery, in the short term. This is no contradiction: in the longer term they would have given it up like everyone else.

I agree with montestruc that the 'illegality' of secession was and is highly questionable. The US Constitution even today makes no mention of secession; and the general rule is that anything is legal unless there's a law against it.

Any club that people can join should have an agreed procedure by which they can leave. The failure to provide such an agreed procedure will obviously cause trouble, and in this case caused big trouble.

I suggest that the first act of the American Civil War was the invasion of Fort Sumter by US troops. Fort Sumter was deep inside Confederate territory. Countries are not normally relaxed about foreign troops taking up residence in their territory without permission.

 
At 2:19 PM, June 04, 2010, Blogger james said...

Suppose the war had been prevented, but not the secession. With the precedent set, would other groups of states have followed suit as new disagreements came up? I'd expect the map would have looked quite different; and that the European powers would have taken an interest in inter-confederation rivalries. WWI might have wound up with an American front.

 
At 2:29 PM, June 04, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

"If you merely count the slaves, you would have to say that slavery was not dying out in Brazil in the 19th century. But it expired in 1888 when Brazil put an end to it."

Actually, wrong. The number of slaves in Brazil peaked sometime around 1850, when the UK got serious about stopping the transatlantic slave trade. Unlike the USA, Brazil's slave population was being maintained only by imports, and when the supply of new slaves dried up Brazil's slave population began to decline. By 1860 it had dropped by several hundred thousand (and, relatedly, the free black population had markedly increased).

In contrast, the US slave population was increasing, and showed no sign of ceasing to do so. And the free black population, as a percentage of the populaiton, was remaining very low.

"Historical forces were putting an end to slavery."

A nonfalsifiable statement, clear only in hindsight.

"Technology was changing and making slaves less useful;"

Also quite unclear. Slaves could be used in many occupations, including in technologically-advanced factories. There were hundreds of factories using slave labor in the US south, but the cotton boom was pricing them out of the slave market.

"morality was changing and making slaves more embarrassing."

Possibly, but slave-state governments were quite willing to protect and subsidize slavery, and no pressure of any kind was being exerted on the US to end slavery. It is doubtful any would have been applied to the CSA for a long time.

"The change happened all over the world and I don't think the Confederacy would have been immune to it for long."

Actually, it _didn't_ happen "all over the world". Several Arab states had legal chattel slavery into the 1960s (Saudi Arabia, for instance, ended slavery in 1962). An independent CSA could have retained slavery for a long time. Postwar declarations by defeated Confederates that they were just about to get rid of slavery Real Soon Now are completely unconvincing self-exculpatory statements.

"I suggest that the first act of the American Civil War was the invasion of Fort Sumter by US troops. Fort Sumter was deep inside Confederate territory. Countries are not normally relaxed about foreign troops taking up residence in their territory without permission."

Fort Sumter was also the legal property of the US government, which had paid for its construction and held clear legal title. National governments are not normally relaxed about being told they can't use property they have paid for and legally own.

One thing I find fascinating about the idea (popular among some libertarians, as shown here) that fighting the CSA was wrong and the slave-state governments should have been left along to do as they pleased is that it's an idea almost never applied to any other rights-violating governments.

Should libertarians not have opposed the USSR in the 1960s or 1970s because "Historical forces were putting an end to communism?" Should they not have opposed South African racism because "Historical forces were putting an end to apartheid?"

And what current political problems are in the process of ending because of historical forces, and therefore should be ignored?

 
At 11:14 PM, June 04, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

"Fort Sumter was also the legal property of the US government, which had paid for its construction and held clear legal title."

That title transferred to the CS government on secession. The southern states had paid their share of federal taxes up to secession; they were entitled to a share of federal properties paid for by those taxes. The obvious share to take was the federal properties on their own territory.

Furthermore: even you own a building in another country, that doesn't give you the right to station a military force there.

 
At 11:36 PM, June 04, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11:39 PM, June 04, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

"... what current political problems are in the process of ending because of historical forces, and therefore should be ignored?"

This line of argument is completely irrelevant. The USA fought the CSA to end secession, not to end slavery. Most people in the northern states wouldn't have been willing to fight a war over slavery, and Lincoln knew it. Slavery was still legal in a number of northern states when the war ended, and there were 40,000 slaves in Kentucky.

I give no support to slavery; I support the right to secede in any country.

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." That was the opinion of the British colonists in America when they seceded from Britain, and it still sounds good to me.

 
At 12:11 AM, June 05, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

«"Historical forces were putting an end to slavery."

A nonfalsifiable statement, clear only in hindsight.»

You can try to analyze history without benefit of hindsight if you like; but it's rather difficult to do and seems to me rather pointless. Why not use all the information we have?

«Several Arab states had legal chattel slavery into the 1960s (Saudi Arabia, for instance, ended slavery in 1962). An independent CSA could have retained slavery for a long time.»

Saudi Arabia and the CSA were very different countries. Yes, the CSA could have retained slavery for quite a long time, but no comparable countries actually did. What might have happened in an alternate world is a matter of speculation: no-one knows.

 
At 1:01 AM, June 05, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

I see that the various countries in which slavery was still legal in the 20th century were generally non-European cultures, speaking non-European languages.

With the exception of Germany, which revived slavery briefly under the Nazis, and Peru, which retained something similar to slavery until 1969.

 
At 4:04 PM, June 05, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Me] "... what current political problems are in the process of ending because of historical forces, and therefore should be ignored?"

[Jonathan] This line of argument is completely irrelevant. The USA fought the CSA to end secession, not to end slavery.

The CSA didn't think so. They throught that by seceding they would be better able to preserve their favored institution. Preventing CSA independence was an action in favor of the containment of slavery and its eventual extirpation, even if not all those who fought the CSA favored immediate abolition.

[Jonathan] I give no support to slavery; I support the right to secede in any country.

So it was OK for West Virginia to leave Virginia, right? And the US government would have been well within its right to back up the West Virginians when the CSA tried by force to keep them within that country, correct?

[Me, initially quoting] «"Historical forces were putting an end to slavery."
A nonfalsifiable statement, clear only in hindsight.»

[Jonathan] You can try to analyze history without benefit of hindsight if you like; but it's rather difficult to do and seems to me rather pointless. Why not use all the information we have?

Well said; my statement was incoherent. What I was trying (and signally failing) to point out was that one of the more important of the "historical forces" at work was the willingness of the opponents of slavery and its expansion to use armed force.

It is perfectly true that as of 1936 "historical forces were putting an end to Nazism." But had opponents of Nazism been unwilling to apply armed force, the issue might well have turned out very differently.

[Me] «Several Arab states had legal chattel slavery into the 1960s (Saudi Arabia, for instance, ended slavery in 1962). An independent CSA could have retained slavery for a long time.»

[Jonathan] Saudi Arabia and the CSA were very different countries. Yes, the CSA could have retained slavery for quite a long time, but no comparable countries actually did.

Now we're getting into "No True Scotsman" territory. Slave societies that end slavery before (say) 1890 count as evidence the institution was doomed, but slave societies that held on much longer don't count as counterevidence.

The CSA was different in some important ways from other slave societies remaining at the time. It had a very high proportion of the free population diretly tied to slavery (over 1/3 of the free population of the CSA was in slaveholding families, and over 50% in wide areas of the Deep South). It had a very small free black population.

The CSA states, far from making manumission easier as was happening in most other slave societies of the time, were discouraging or even banning the practice entirely. And the CSA produced well over 50% of one of the world's most important cash crops.

No other slave society shared these characteristics. It cannot be assumed that slavery in an independent CSA would have been destroyed nearly as easily as in other slave societies.


[Jonathan] What might have happened in an alternate world is a matter of speculation: no-one knows.

So it is at best an overstatement to be so sure that "Historical forces were putting an end to slavery"

 
At 1:09 AM, June 06, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

The relationship between the American Civil War and slavery is rather subtle. Slavery (or the fear of its sudden ending) seemed to be the main motive for the Confederates in seceding. However, the US government and people went to war to end secession, not to end slavery. Lincoln made this quite clear in his statements.

The Emancipation Proclamation came halfway through the war, and was a war measure aimed at weakening the CSA: it applied only to ten states that were not under US control at the time.

Wikipedia: "Lincoln had declared in peacetime that he had no constitutional authority to free the slaves. Even used as a war power, emancipation was a risky political act. Public opinion as a whole was against it."

Thus, it was not a war fought to end slavery: the ending of slavery was a happy side-effect of a war fought over the general right to secede.

Former3L: "So it was OK for West Virginia to leave Virginia, right? And the US government would have been well within its right to back up the West Virginians when the CSA tried by force to keep them within that country, correct?"

Right on both counts, in principle, although it seems there were considerable irregularities in the voting in West Virginia.

Former3L: «So it is at best an overstatement to be so sure that "Historical forces were putting an end to slavery"»

Correct. It's my opinion, but I'm not entitled to be at all sure about it. Slavery is by now illegal everywhere; but how long it would have taken for an independent CSA to abolish slavery is a matter of pure speculation.

From my point of view, both sides in the ACW went to war with the immoral aim of governing without the consent of the governed: the CSA wanted to govern its slaves, the USA wanted to govern the CSA.

 
At 1:52 AM, June 06, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

It may be worth noting that Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee seceded only when the US government started raising an army against the Confederacy. Thus, they seceded primarily in support of the right to secede.

 
At 4:50 PM, June 06, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "The relationship between the American Civil War and slavery is rather subtle."

True. One subtle point is that many people in the North (and, to a lesser extent, the South) who were not willing to kill or risk death to bring about an immediate end to slavery _were_ willing to apply lethal force to stop the territorial expansion of slavery.

Thus, the conflict over slavery expansion was an important parallel to the dispute over what should happen to the institution of slavery. In fact, in the five years or so before the outbreak of war many more US citizens had died in violence aimed at promoting or stopping the expansion of slavery than in fights over whether slavery should be legal (this comparison, obviously, omits slaves beaten to death or otherwise killed for fighting slavery; they were not US citizens).

The slave-state leadership had made clear its desire to extend its favored institution into the western territories, and had shown its willingness to use violence in that cause. Stopping secession was clearly aimed at stopping the expansion of slavery. It therefore _was_ anti-slavery, even if not aimed at immediate abolition. Just as containment of communism was anti-communist, containment of slavery was anti-slavery. The slave-state leaders certainly thought so.

The idea that, in the context of the political crisis of 1861, the conflict over "secession" was separate from the one over "slavery" is completely ahistorical.

 
At 2:28 AM, June 07, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Well, I didn't say that slavery had nothing to do with the war. However, it seems to me that the primary aim of the war for the US government and people and soldiers was to end secession; and the primary aim of the war for the CS government and people and soldiers was to maintain secession.

The ending or retention of slavery was at most a secondary aim. Although some on both sides had a burning interest in the subject, I think the majority had less interest and wouldn't have been willing to fight a major war over it.

The lesser fighting over the slavery issue before the war was presumably amongst the minority of people on both sides who had a burning interest in the subject.

By way of anecdote, I quote from "Letters of a Civil War Surgeon". This text was written by Major William Watson of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in February 1863, referring to the bill for the organization of negro regiments.

"I am entirely and unconditionally opposed to this bill. And I am certain I am speaking the true sentiments of the Army of the Potomac when I say not one officer in twenty can be found willing to accept command in these Regts… At best it is but an experiment— for in the first place we don't know whether the Negro will enlist—and secondly are not sure they will fight even when enlisted. Instead of this nigger question, if the administration with Congress will devote itself entirely to our financial affairs and the vigorous prosecution of the war the rebellion will be suppressed in less time than it will take to organize, equip and discipline the niggers. Place a black Regt. side by side with the 105th and this Regt., though composed almost entirely of Republicans, would charge and drive them with more delight than they would the rebels. I don't say I approve of this—but I do say it would be done. In my opinion the passage of this bill will tend to the demoralization of our Army and to the success of the rebels. You have no idea how greatly the common soldiers are prejudiced against the Negro. An officer can scarcely retain a colored servant. I have seen with pity and indignation a poor, unfortunate and inoffensive contraband kicked, cuffed and maltreated without cause. The soldiers do this because they think the Negro considers himself their equal and that before long he will be made so by Congress and the administration."

 
At 9:22 AM, June 07, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "I didn't say that slavery had nothing to do with the war. However, it seems to me that the primary aim of the war for the US government and people and soldiers was to end secession; and the primary aim of the war for the CS government and people and soldiers was to maintain secession.
The ending or retention of slavery was at most a secondary aim."

You are welcome to this opinion, but there is extensive contemporary evidence that secession was regarded as intimately bound up with slavery. The secessions were the latest actions of the organized slaveowners, done for the explicitly avowed reason of protecting and extending slavery, and a major reason that so many Northerners (and some Southerners too) were willing to fight to put down secession was in order to stop the expansion of slavery.

Duelling quotes are always fun; here's one I'm fond of.

"'The people of the South,' says a contemporary, 'are not fighting for slavery, but for independence.'
Let us look into this matter. It is an easy task, we think, to show up this new fangled heresy -- a heresy calculated to do us no good, for it cannot deceive foreign statesmen nor peoples nor mislead any one here or in Yankeeland. . . . 'The people of the South are not fighting for slavery, but for independence.'
Why, this is tantamount to saying that the South is fighting for independence at the expense of slavery. It is an acknowledgement that slavery is either an evil or unimportant --- a doctrine which we hold to be opposed to the experience of ethnologists and of every agriculturalist of the South.
If the new heresy is intended to conciliate European nations it will fail for it does not tally with our history as the Southern people know. The first are not to be hoodwinked by so transparent a fallacy; the second cannot agree to hold our great industrial institution at so low a figure. Is the new heresy intended to conciliate the Yankees? If so, worse still, as we should never consent to eat our words and our principles face to face with that negro stealing race.
Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED, and for the preservation of other institutions of which slavery is the ground
work."

--Unsigned article (presumably by the editor, John Wilford Overall, in the September 19, 1864 issue of _Southern Punch_ (published in Richmond). Emphasis in the original.

As for your quote, it illustrates my point that even people who don't like blacks much (or actively dislike black people) can take anti-slavery action. By February 1863 the Union armies had freed tens of thousands of slaves under the Emancipation Proclamation. And these soldiers were volunteers; the US did not enact conscription until March 1863. Thus, even if we accept the surgeon's statement as completely accurate, it does not show any lack of willingness to fight slavery on the part of the Northern armies.

It is a curious doctrine that anyone interested in fighting slavery must necessarily be in favor of fully equal rights for blacks, and transparently false on the historical record.

 
At 9:56 AM, June 07, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: I think we're starting to go around in circles in a way that will bore other readers.

The initial secession of seven states was mainly on account of slavery; I think they made that clear. The next four states seceded over the right to secede (as I mentioned before); and the war was fought over the right to secede.

I don't think the ordinary soldiers mentioned by Watson had any interest in fighting slavery. They freed slaves if ordered to do so, just as they did many other things in response to orders.

And, if the Confederate soldiers were fighting for slavery, they must all have been insane. Most of them weren't even slaveowners. Would you risk your life for some rich man's property? Even the rich man with the property would have to be a bit insane to risk his life on a Civil War battlefield for it. If you die, you lose everything.

Maybe it's also a bit insane to risk your life "for your country", but a lot of people seem to do it, and I reckon that's what most soldiers on both sides thought they were doing.

 
At 10:13 AM, June 07, 2010, Blogger neil craig said...

Southern soldiers may not have been fighting so much to keep the blacks as slaves as to stop them being philosophically their equals & in practice equally entitled to meet their women. That is indeed what soldiers have done since time immemorial.

In that context Jonathan's quote from Major Watson suggests the soldiers on both sides didn't much disagree it is just that the northeners could be more philosophical because they didn't expect the blacks to be living in their neighbourhoods. It is rather like the attitude today of "liberals" sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

I thibnk debate of whether it was about slavery or seccession is a bit like debating which link in a chain holds it together.

 
At 10:18 AM, June 07, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Neil, thanks for your constructive and interesting contribution. Concise, too.

 
At 7:55 PM, June 07, 2010, Blogger Will McLean said...

In the actual secession crisis in our timeline, both sides were already playing a game of chicken or high stakes poker.

In your hypothetical, to continue the poker analogy, the intervention from the future turns more cards face up.

This doesn't give an obvious conclusion, but it shifts the result, because the South was, in retrospect, playing a weaker hand. In 1862, many people overrated the South's chances of prevailing.

Men like Sherman, on the other hand, expected a long, hard war the South would lose. Perfect prescience would not change their bets by much.

It also reshuffles the deck. If we assume both Northern and Southern leaders get packets from the future, if war is declared the North benefits more, because the North made more mistakes in our timeline, IMO.

Most of the Southern leaders were slaveowners, and had a huge incentive to avoid our timeline where their investment value dropped to zero in 1865.

 
At 4:38 AM, June 08, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "I think we're starting to go around in circles in a way that will bore other readers.

Quite possibly, but I am willing to chance it that they may be interested in a few more factual corrections.

[Jonathan] "The initial secession of seven states was mainly on account of slavery; I think they made that clear. The next four states seceded over the right to secede (as I mentioned before); and the war was fought over the right to secede."

This is one possible interpretation, but a terribly plausible one, particularly where the state of Virginia is concerned. By their actions, the leaders of Virginia made it clear they were not fighting for any "right to secede"; they attempted to militarily crush West Virginia's attempt to set up a separate government.

A better interpretation, I think, is that the later-seceding Upper South states were just about as interested in preserving slavery but were (1) better acquainted with Northern politics and society than the Deep South states and (2) were facing a different set of incentives, especially the fact that if a war occurred it would be fought largely in the Upper South (particularly Virginia). Thus, the Upper South states argued that secession was unnecessary and that slavery could be adequately protected without it, and hung on as long as they could without committing to any armed conflict. But after the CSA's attacks on US properties brought about large-scale war, the Upper South fought to preserve slavery.

[Jonathan] "I don't think the ordinary soldiers mentioned by Watson had any interest in fighting slavery."

Possibly true (although Major Watson says nothing specifically on point), but unlikely if they were members of a Pennsylvania regiment "composed almost entirely of Republicans." Free-Soil factions were quite strong in the Pennsylvania Republican party, and free-soilers were quite interested in fighting the Slave Power (as they called it) in order to arrest the spread of slavery.

[Jonathan] "They freed slaves if ordered to do so, just as they did many other things in response to orders."
And just as CSA soldiers fought to preserve and extend slavery.

 
At 4:47 AM, June 08, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "And, if the Confederate soldiers were fighting for slavery, they must all have been insane."

Not all, not by a long shot.

[Jonathan] "Most of them weren't even slaveowners. Would you risk your life for some rich man's property?"

Maybe, depending on who the rich man was. If he was my father, and I stood to inherit the slaves in question (and to be cut out of the will if I declined to fight), quite possibly I would.

If I thought I might be able to own slaves later in life, or if my family owned a business dependent on patronage from large slaveholders (these motivations affected many nonslaveholders in the South), that might also affect my view of the situation.

And, of course, many CSA soldiers were draftees--the CSA started its draft nine months before the USA did and had a higher percentage of conscripts in its ranks.

In any case, it's not at all clear what percentage of CSA soldiers (especially if we omit draftees from the calculation) had a direct interest in slavery. It's definitely true that nothing like a majority personally owned slaves, but since soldiers are typically in their early 20s and a slave (by 1860) was worth several times the typical annual income of a free Southerner this proves very little. Around a third of free citizens of the CSA-joining states were in slaveholding families, and the percentage was significantly higher in the Deep South. And when you consider that the (white) Southerners who fought for the US Army (around 80,000 - 100,000) were disproportionately from areas with few slaves, and that border-staters who joined the CSA Army were disproportionately slaveholders, it's quite possible that a narrow majority of those who volunteered to fight for the CSA were in slaveholding families.

[Jonathan] "Even the rich man with the property would have to be a bit insane to risk his life on a Civil War battlefield for it. If you die, you lose everything."

Then you'd also have to be "a bit insane" to attack Fort Sumter, or to secede in the first place.

Here's another group who "must all have been insane": freed blacks who volunteered to fight for the North. They were (by definition) free already. Why should they risk their lives to fight the CSA? Yet tens of thousands did.

All you're showing is that the actions of people in the 1860s don't accord very well with a _homo economicus_ model. True, but not very illuminating. The penchant of leading Southerners for duelling (also quite irrational by this standard) would have proved it anyway.

[Neil Craig] "I think debate of whether it was about slavery or secession is a bit like debating which link in a chain holds it together."

I agree (as does the _Southern Punch_ article): in the context of the 1860-61 crisis, secession and slavery were inextricably entwined.

 
At 12:45 PM, June 08, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: I'm becoming short of time and won't try to reply point by point. I regard the ACW as a war fought against secession because that's how it was promoted by the US government at the time. It wasn't promoted as a war against slavery, because that would have been a hard sell.

A vocal minority of Northerners opposed slavery; I think the majority of Northerners weren't bothered about it. They were willing to fight Southerners for other reasons, but as a crusade against slavery? Yawn.

This is mere personal opinion. However, if Lincoln had felt politically able to pursue a war against slavery, I think he would have done so in a much more obvious fashion. He was opposed to slavery himself, but felt constrained by his electorate. There was no move against slavery until the war had been going for more than a year; there was no commitment to put a definite end to slavery until after the war was over.

Regarding your question about being cut out of the will, I'd rather be alive and disinherited than dead. Admittedly, I'm British and born in the mid-20th century: I have little in common with Civil War warriors, Yankee or Reb.

In a spirit of honesty, perhaps I should add that my late father was a good man, but was habitually in debt and left me nothing; so I can't speak from personal experience about inheritances.

 
At 10:33 PM, June 08, 2010, Blogger David Friedman said...

"The penchant of leading Southerners for duelling (also quite irrational by this standard) would have proved it anyway."

You might want to look at "The Duel: Can These Gentlemen be Acting Efficiently?" JLS 1984.

 
At 12:07 PM, June 09, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

From James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", chapter 10:

«In his message to the special session of Congress on July 4, 1861, Lincoln reaffirmed that he had "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the States where it exists ... On July 22 and 25 the House and Senate passed similar resolutions ... affirming that the United States fought with no intention "of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of [the seceded] States"»

Chapter 16 quotes Lincoln on August 22, 1862: "My paramount object in the struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all of the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

He expressed himself very clearly. This was a war "to save the Union", not a war against slavery. After much hesitation, freedom was eventually offered to Confederate slaves mainly in order to weaken the enemy. And even that was seen as a politically risky initiative at the time.

I'm surprised that anyone believes that the USA went to war to free the slaves. There was no such intention, except among a minority of abolitionists, who were initially ridiculed.

 
At 12:24 PM, June 09, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

To return to the original question: if both sides were informed in advance about the history of the 1860s as we know it, what would happen?

I doubt that the North would be deterred by the high cost of the war, or that the South would expect it to be. Why should it be deterred in advance, when it could see that it had victory in prospect, considering that it was not deterred during the conflict itself, when victory seemed distinctly uncertain at times?

The South was perhaps too proud and obstinate to be deterred by any vision of the future. But I think there is some possibility that it might add the cost of the war to the prospect of miserable defeat, and be deterred by the sum total. Of course, there's no way to know without trying it.

 
At 12:41 PM, June 09, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

The South would presumably be glad to achieve secession without war, especially with the benefit of hindsight. The problem is that secession without war would be almost impossible to achieve.

And yet to avoid war by avoiding secession would be a very large and bitter pill to swallow, given the widespread Southern belief that they had every right to secede from the USA, just as their forefathers had proudly and successfully seceded from Britain.

 
At 2:16 PM, June 09, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Me] "The penchant of leading Southerners for duelling (also quite irrational by this standard) would have proved it anyway."

[David Friedman] "You might want to look at "The Duel: Can These Gentlemen be Acting Efficiently?" JLS 1984."

I have read that article and I am familiar with its contents. Under its standard of rationality, which differs from that employed by Jonathan, many who enlisted in the CSA army were acting quite rationally.

 
At 2:23 PM, June 09, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "He expressed himself very clearly. This was a war "to save the Union", not a war against slavery."

You continue to miss the point that a war to put down CSA secession (which is what "saving the union implies) is a war to stop slavery expansion. It is therefore an anti-slavery war, even if not one aimed at immediate and universal emancipation.

The CSA's leaders understood this very well. It is odd that many libertarians today do not.


[Jonathan] "I'm surprised that anyone believes that the USA went to war to free the slaves. There was no such intention, except among a minority of abolitionists, who were initially ridiculed."

Well, I certainly don't believe that, and I've never said that.

But the evidence clearly shows that frustrating the expansionist designs of the Slave Power (as free-soilers, who were quite distinct in many cases from abolitionists, called it) was an important factor motivating the USA to put down the CSA's secession attempt.

Had the abolitionists been the CSA's only enemies, the CSA could not possibly have lost. But they were opposed by the free-soilers as well.

And stopping slavery expansion is anti-slavery, as slaveowners clearly comprehended.

 
At 8:50 AM, June 10, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: The ACW had various side-effects, among them the ending of slavery in North America.

If you like, you can say that it was an anti-slavery war in effect: one of its effects was to stop slavery (and, naturally, the expansion of slavery).

By the same argument, you can say that it was a war to increase the size of the US Navy: it had that effect too.

However, the only important objective of the war as clearly declared by Lincoln was to regain the states he had 'lost'.

I'm not missing your point; I'm disagreeing with it. Lincoln said himself that the states could keep slavery if they'd only return to the fold and stop this secession nonsense.

"Battle Cry of Freedom" again, referring to the Seven Days' Battles in summer 1862: «... the profound irony of Lee's achievement. If McClellan's campaign had succeeded, the war might have ended. The Union probably would have been restored with minimal destruction in the South. Slavery would have survived in only slightly modified form, at least for a time.»

In fact, if you ask what the two sides were fighting for, the answers are basically very simple: the USA wanted to absorb the CSA into itself, and the CSA didn't want to be absorbed. This same pair of matched motives has existed in most wars throughout human history.

 
At 9:33 AM, June 10, 2010, Blogger markbahner said...

Hi,

Here are some observations and comments I made in a debate about whether Washington (yeah!) or Lincoln (boo!) was the better president.

http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2007/02/the_greater_pre.html

On 2/21/07 I made the following observations and comments:

1) The overwhelming majority of Southerners did not own slaves. Of the 1.6 million Southern families, only 384,000 (24 percent) owned slaves.

2) Of those 384,000 (24 percent), 88 percent owned fewer than 20 slaves. So only 46,000 families (out of 1.6 million, or about 3 percent) owned more than 20 slaves.

3) And only 3000 families (0.2 percent!) owned more than 100 slaves.

4) Therefore, if the U.S. government had paid EVERYONE who owned less than 20 slaves full market value--or even greater--that would have covered 97 percent of all Southerners. And if the U.S. government had paid everyone who owned less than 100 slaves full market value, that would have covered 99.8 percent of all Southerners. (The remaining 0.2 percent might think they got a bad deal, but who really gives a damn about a few rich slave owners?)

4) The total market value of the approximately 4 million slaves in the U.S. in 1860 has been estimated at $3.3 billion.

5) This can be compared with an estimate of the Civil War's *immediate* costs of $9.3 billion ($6.2 billion for the North, and $3.0 billion for the South) Not to mention the deaths of 600,000 mostly-young male soldiers (the value of their lifetime earnings alone could easily have exceeded $3 billion). Not to mention the pensions for veterans that easily exceeded the immediate costs.

Civil War cost estimates

Lincoln could have allowed the South to secede peacefully (except for the battle at Fort Sumter, where NOT ONE Union soldier was killed by a Confederate). He could have then urged Congress to make a reasonable offer to buy the freedom of ALL the slaves in the U.S. (including those in the Union!). If he had done so, it is certainly possible that the massive bloodshed, suffering, destruction, and expense of the Civil War could have been avoided.

You can say all you like about how the "Southern culture" precluded the acceptance of a reasonable offer (e.g., full market value, or even greater, for all owners of fewer than 100 slaves). But I'm virtually certain that men like General Lee knew early on--or even before the war--that the war was going to end badly. Any halfway rational analysis of the comparative wealth, population, and industrial might of the North versus the South would end with the conclusion that, at best, the South could have fought to a "victory" like North Korea's "victory" in the Korean War. There was simply no way the South could ever invade and conquer the North! The best the South could hope for would be to fight to a bloody draw that allowed secession. If Lincoln had embarked on a campaign to PERSUADE the South and the North (ala the Federalist Papers) that continued union with an ending to slavery was preferable to secession and war, he might very well have been successful. After all, he WAS a brilliant orator.

And y'all can exclaim all you want about what a great president Abraham Lincoln was. But the FACTS strongly suggest otherwise. He was a brilliant orator. But his role in the Civil War was NOT evidence that he was a great president. No truly great president would embark--and follow through!--on such massive bloodshed, suffering, destruction, and expense without first trying--or continuing to try--other reasonable options.

Like I wrote before, it isn't even close. Washington was by far the better president.

 
At 10:58 AM, June 10, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

markbahner: I agree that buying the slaves and then freeing them sounds a nice solution from our modern point of view, and there is at least some small possibility that both sides could have been persuaded to do it if they were given access to our history books first.

However, I wouldn't blame Lincoln myself for not proposing the idea at the time: I think it would have been rejected by both sides.

 
At 11:57 AM, June 11, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "If you like, you can say that it was an anti-slavery war in effect: one of its effects was to stop slavery (and, naturally, the expansion of slavery).
By the same argument, you can say that it was a war to increase the size of the US Navy: it had that effect too.However, the only important objective of the war as clearly declared by Lincoln was to regain the states he had 'lost'.
I'm not missing your point; I'm disagreeing with it. Lincoln said himself that the states could keep slavery if they'd only return to the fold and stop this secession nonsense."

This analogy would make sense if the size of the navy had been an increasingly divisive issue in national politics for the generation preceding the war, with dozens of deaths resulting from violence over the issue.

But that wasn't the case, and the analogy is nonsensical.

It does shows the curious double standard often employed in libertarian discussion of the Civil War: the CSA is judged by a favorable interpretation of the words of its leaders (with their actions ignored), the USA by an unfavorable interpretation of either the words or acts of its leadership or of common people (whichever may better suit the rhetorical result desired). Those who supposedly fight for a right of secession need not display any consistency or ideological purity; in fact, they can attempt to put down separatist movements with armed force (as in West Virginia). As long as they say they're defending secession, that's enough.

Those fighting for the containment of slavery, though, must describe their conflicts as Holy Crusades Against Slavery, or they are to be dismissed as liars and connivers. Longtime opposition to slave expansion combined with the organization of a political coalition to contain slavery does not suffice; a goal of immediate universal emancipation must be explicitly declared.

An odd way to look at the world, I think, but one that seems most resistant to counterevidence.

 
At 12:08 PM, June 11, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

Markbahner's numbers for "southern families" seem to include states that did not secede as well as those that did, and therefore significantly understate the level of support for slavery in what would have been an independent CSA.

The wealthiest southern slaveholders also had a social and political influence far greater than their numbers would suggest.

More importantly, Markbahner gives no hint of how the US government was supposed to come up with $3.3 billion in 1860. That figure is more than the sum of all federal revenues from 1789 to 1860. Even paying 1% interest on such an amount would mean annual expenditures equal to half of _all_ federal revenues in 1860.

So, with his suggested proposal, Lincoln would in effect have been asking US citizens to increase their taxes by 50% and hand over all the extra collections to the South's slaveholders, with half of the compensation going to Southern slaveholders owning 20 slaves or more.

Such a proposal would (at best) be politely ignored.

[Markbahner[] "Like I wrote before, it isn't even close. Washington was by far the better president."

Hard to see why--he didn't offer the British a sum equal to 70 years' government revenue in order to stave off the costs of the Revolutionary War. Of course, no sane person would have accepted such an offer, but that's not supposed to stop Lincoln.

 
At 12:48 PM, June 11, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: My analogy was between two side-effects of the war: the ending of slavery and the increase in size of the US Navy. The fact that one was a divisive political issue and the other wasn't seems irrelevant to me. My point was that neither of them was a deliberate objective of the USA when it set out to fight the war.

I'm not interested in favouring the Confederates, who weren't my kind of people at all. Obviously they weren't libertarians. I merely point out that the Unionists weren't libertarians either. Not that this should come as a surprise: libertarians are pretty thin on the ground even today.

 
At 1:40 PM, June 11, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

P.S. My take on the American Civil War is that both sides were seriously in the wrong. The CSA for denying liberty to their slaves and causing them much suffering; the USA for denying liberty to the Confederates and causing them much suffering.

If the latter had been a direct response to the former (i.e. if the war had been a crusade against slavery), it would arguably have been morally justified; but that wasn't the case.

It seems clear that the USA was motivated to fight against secession, whatever the reason for secession might have been. If there had never been any slaves in North America, but the southern states had seceded for some other reason, the same war would have been fought.

 
At 10:13 PM, June 11, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Markbahner's numbers for "southern families" seem to include states that did not secede as well as those that did, and therefore significantly understate the level of support for slavery in what would have been an independent CSA."

I wrote, "Of 1.6 million Southern families, only 384,000 (24 percent) owned slaves."

How many families do you think were in the secession states, and how many of them (what percentage) do you think owned slaves?

 
At 10:25 PM, June 11, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More importantly, Markbahner gives no hint of how the US government was supposed to come up with $3.3 billion in 1860."

The U.S. government--the NORTH alone...completely ignoring the secession states--came paid $2.3 billion direct government expenditures for the Civil War.

And the South spent $1.0 billion.

So that's $3.3 billion right there.

Should I give you an idea of how the North and the South came up $3.3 billion to pay for the Civil War?

 
At 10:47 PM, June 11, 2010, Blogger markbahner said...

"So, with his suggested proposal, Lincoln would in effect have been asking US citizens to increase their taxes by 50% and hand over all the extra collections to the South's slaveholders, with half of the compensation going to Southern slaveholders owning 20 slaves or more."

I did not propose paying slaveholders owning 20 slaves or more anything. I merely observed:

"Therefore, if the U.S. government had paid EVERYONE who owned less than 20 slaves full market value--or even greater--that would have covered 97 percent of all Southerners. And if the U.S. government had paid everyone who owned less than 100 slaves full market value, that would have covered 99.8 percent of all Southerners."

If I had been Lincoln, I would have proposed offering full market value to only people owning less than perhaps 10 slaves.

 
At 7:52 PM, June 12, 2010, Anonymous markm said...

Should I give you an idea of how the North and the South came up $3.3 billion to pay for the Civil War? By income taxes - with the Supreme Court too cowed to look at their constitutionality until after the war, very high rates of other taxes, and running the printing presses. All of this was politically impossible except when required to fight a war.

The war was about secession, not slavery, but secession was definitely about slavery - and expanding slavery into new territories. An unofficial war had already been going on in Kansas about that for several years. John Brown didn't just pop up out of nowhere; he was in Kansas, saw friends murdered in broad daylight for opposing the further spread of slavery, and finally got mad enough to murder slavery advocates in return.

Lincoln was not proposing to end slavery, but his election was the signal that there would be no more slave states. The slaveowners could not agree to that. If Lincoln had granted the South's right to secede and evacuated Fort Sumter, the war still would have started in Kansas or some other point on the CSA's western frontier.

 
At 8:34 PM, June 12, 2010, Anonymous markm said...

And since [the future] can be altered, the packages will a alter it, even if not exactly as intended. So even if the war happens, different people will die. So you need people who will lose a lot from any likely version of the war.

Which leads to military men, or more precisely military officers capable of seeing the war as something horrible rather than as a career opportunity, which finally brought me to one man: Robert E. Lee.

The trouble is, Lee already understood that the war would be horribly costly and that the CSA would lose by the numbers. He opposed secession until VA made the final decision for it. Additional knowledge would not have made him more persuasive.

OTOH, would it have been possible to persuade him that the best thing he could do for Virginia was to join the other side and end the war as quickly as possible? He actually was offered the command of all the Union armies, under only Lincoln and the Secretary of War, but took a lower position with the CSA out of loyalty to Virginia. And fought well enough that the Army of Northern Virginia could only be defeated by attrition, and by destroying much of the rest of the South first.

If he'd been in command of the Union forces, it would still have been a hard-fought war, with the rifled muskets racking up unprecedented death tolls[1] - but the attempts to invade Virginia wouldn't have been marred by McClellan's nervousness and his successors' rank incompetence, nor would the opposing CSA army have been quite as effective. (Jackson was a better battlefield leader than Lee and may have been as good a strategist, but he could only be in one place at a time.) It's unlikely that Richmond could have held out past the summer of 1863. Richmond wasn't just the capital of Virginia and the CSA, it was almost the only industrial center in the CSA. When it fell, the CSA would lose both Virginia (I think still the most populous and wealthy sourthern state) and much of it's production of guns, as well as other necessities such as horse shoes. Sherman would not have needed to march to the sea, because the south would have crumbled before he reached the starting point.

But Lee was most of all a southern gentlemen, concerned with honor above all other considerations. I have no idea at all how he would have decided. And educating a bright rebel general (and top-notch engineer) about how technology had changed warfare, when everyone else still had to learn it by experience would not have been a good thing...

[1] IIRC, the Crimean War was fought with rifled muskets and Minie balls or similar ammunition, so the mass slaughter possible with those weapons was not strictly new. However, no one in the USA seems to have learned from it. Certainly not "The Little Napoleon" (George McClellan), who was sent to Crimea as an observer, and came back with a great design for cavalry saddles, plus a bunch of books with prewar European strategic and tactical theories.

A final thought: What if you showed it to McClellan and no one else? Might McClellan have publicly discredited himself before he had the chance to screw up an actual command? And (considering the other generals Lincoln went through before Grant overcame his peacetime reputation) would that have helped the Union any?

 
At 8:50 PM, June 12, 2010, Anonymous markm said...

Offtopic, but since David raised it: The problem you raise is one I thought of long ago, pondering a different but parallel question: Could the Zionist movement have raised enough money to buy out all the private landowners in Palestine?

The problem is, the so-called Palestinians weren't the landowners. They were mostly sharecroppers for owners living in other parts of the Turkish Empire. I don't know if Israel ever deprived the absentee landlords of their property - but whatever arrangements the Zionists or the Israeli government made with the landlords, it still meant the prior tenants were ejected. (When there were prior tenants; many of the Zionist settlements were on land that had fallen out of use.)

OTOH, the Zionists also created more jobs than they could fill. The former sharecroppers were often more prosperous than before, and the Arab Muslim population of Palestine grew rapidly. It's hard to tell how much the pre-1948 Arab grievances (Arab terrorism started in the 1920's) were over actual disruptions in their way of life, and how much was pure envy over the Jews getting better crops from wasteland than the Arabs had been raising in the best land, and becoming richer faster than the Arabs.

 
At 2:41 PM, June 13, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "My analogy was between two side-effects of the war: the ending of slavery and the increase in size of the US Navy. The fact that one was a divisive political issue and the other wasn't seems irrelevant to me."

Yes, which perfectly illustrates the double standard I mentioned. Slavery and its expansion were the reason for secession (and therefore a critical cause of war) and were demonstrably a cause for which significant numbers, even before the outbreak of war, were willing to fight and die. The size of the navy was not. But, to you, both are "side-effects."

Even though stopping slave expansion was a declared objective of the Republican party. (from their platform in 1860: "the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom . . . . we deny the authority of congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.")


[Jonathan] "It seems clear that the USA was motivated to fight against secession, whatever the reason for secession might have been."

And there's the double standard again. Although the CSA was demonstrably willing to fight and die to preserve and extend slavery, they would have given it up. But although the USA's armed conflict against the CSA came after years of escalating violence over slavery and its expansion, nothing can be read into this, they clearly were only fighting to crush the right of secession.

My tentative theory for why this differential treatment is attractive to some libertarians is that the later actions of the USA are read back into the 1860-61 crisis and assumed to be inevitable, while the CSA (having not had the opportunity to take any postwar actions libertarians can disapprove of) is given blank-slate treatment. But this is only a tentative theory.

 
At 2:49 PM, June 13, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[markbahner] "I wrote, "Of 1.6 million Southern families, only 384,000 (24 percent) owned slaves."
How many families do you think were in the secession states, and how many of them (what percentage) do you think owned slaves?"

My opinions on the subject derive from the data in the 1860 census (not a perfect source by any means, but the best available).

Since census takers generally assumed one slaveholder per free household, the number of recorded slaveholders may be taken as a proxy for the number of slaveholding families (there are some wrinkles, such as the way a slaveholder holding slaves in multiple counties might be double-counted, but I am not aware of any detailed demographic studies addressing them).

The initially-seceding Deep South states had around 181,500 slaveholders, out of 494,800 free families, for a slaveholding percentage of 37%.

The later-seceding Upper South areas (not including those Virginia counties which joined West Virginia) had around 131,500 slaveholders out of 470,400 free families, for a slaveholding percentage of 28%.

And the slaveholding areas which did not secede (MO, KY, WV, MD, and DE) contained 80,900 slaveholders out of 550,400 free families, for a slaveholding percentage of 15%.

All CSA-joining areas collectively had 313,000 slaveholders out of 965,200 free families, thus giving a slaveholding percentage of 32%.

So the numbers given in your previous post significantly understate support for slavery within the likely boundaries of an independent CSA.

 
At 3:35 PM, June 13, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: The ending of slavery was not what the USA went to war for. That seems absolutely clear from the words and actions of many in the North, including the president and the Congress. Therefore the actual ending of slavery (incomplete until after the end of the war) was a side-effect. Though it was, of course, a side-effect welcomed by the substantial minority of abolitionists in the North.

I think the violent incidents before the war were between relatively few individuals, not between armies.

"Although the CSA was demonstrably willing to fight and die to preserve and extend slavery": I haven't seen that demonstrated.

Confederates were willing to fight and die to defend their homeland from invasion, as so many others have done in other countries throughout history.

As I've said before, if anyone really gave his life for the institution of slavery, he must have been insane.

A large number of Confederates were willing to secede to retain slavery; but that's a long way short of dying for it.

 
At 10:27 PM, June 13, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

It's a fact of life that history is written by the winners. Thus, the Confederacy has got a bad press on the whole, and anyone merely trying to be fair to it may appear biased in its favour, compared with the many people who are biased against it.

Slavery is of course a large blot against the Confederacy, although it was not unique to the Confederacy, being practised in some non-Confederate states of the USA as well as in other countries. It's worth remembering that those in the North and in Europe who were strongly against slavery were ahead of their time.

Apart from that, Confederates seem to me to have been somewhat arrogant and belligerent on average; they could with advantage have reacted to events with more calm maturity than they actually displayed.

However, they seceded in a democratic manner (by the standards of the times) and were attacked and invaded for it; naturally they fought to defend themselves. That is not to their discredit.

 
At 11:44 PM, June 13, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

To be fair to both sides: those in the Confederacy who believed they had a right to secede were way ahead of their time. It's a fundamental right that I support, but even today it's not accepted by most governments in the world. That Lincoln's government refused to accept it is in principle disappointing but in practice unsurprising.

 
At 7:59 PM, June 14, 2010, Blogger Will McLean said...

Jonathan said:

"To be fair to both sides: those in the Confederacy who believed they had a right to secede were way ahead of their time. It's a fundamental right that I support, but even today it's not accepted by most governments in the world."

For good reason. Accepting a fundamental right to secede in its strongest form leads to absurd results. If the inhabitants of any portion of a sovereign state can secede at any time for any reason by simple majority vote and take the underlying real estate with them, then South Carolina had no right to use force against Fort Sumter.

If South Carolina could opt out of the United States, then Fort Sumter could opt out of South Carolina.

 
At 9:58 PM, June 14, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks, Will: an interesting comment. It has always rather puzzled me that the Confederates didn't garrison Fort Sumter themselves before the Yankees got there. I suppose their army was small and new and they hadn't got around to it.

The exact legal details of a right to secede are hypothetical, because no such right has yet been established. However, I suppose Major Anderson and his merry men could at least have argued some claim to Fort Sumter on that basis.

In any case, I think the best Confederate strategy would have been not to fire on the fort. They had no need to: the troops there could have been starved out in a fairly short time.

 
At 1:52 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

If we ever get effective international law on secession, I expect it will say that people entitled to vote on secession should be either natives or long-term residents of the area.

 
At 6:07 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

However, in the 1860s I doubt that there was any concept of a generalized right to secede.

The Confederates thought they had a right to secede because, as I understand it, they thought of themselves as living in sovereign states which had agreed to join an alliance called the USA. Such alliances can be made one year and cancelled another year. Members of the European Union have the same attitude today.

 
At 8:37 AM, June 15, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "It's a fact of life that history is written by the winners."

Actually, it's not a "fact", merely a general rule with many exceptions. And the history of the CSA is one of the exceptions.

For several generations (from roughly the 1880s to the 1930s) a version of Civil War history quote favorable to the Confederates was the most common one in the US: the war was a needless blunder caused by hot-headed abolitionists, the southerners were just about to get rid of slavery anyway, etc.

I think I've repeated the distinction between stopping slave expansion (a declared goal of the Republican party from which it never retreated) and ending slavery itself. Why containing Communism is seen a worthy goal but containing slavery must remain a puzzle.

 
At 8:58 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: Communism is a perfectly acceptable political system for volunteers. I suppose slavery would also be acceptable if anyone genuinely volunteered for it.

Without the voluntary aspect, containing slavery is an even more worthy goal than containing communism, and I sympathize with the abolitionists of the 1860s. They were ahead of their time, and they deserve credit for it. But they were a minority who didn't determine government policy; not even with a Republican government.

 
At 9:15 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Will McLean said...

The theory of the states all being sovereign entities that could secede at will fails badly when you remember that Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida were all created by the U.S. Federal government on real estate it had acquired by purchase.

 
At 9:55 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Will, thanks for bringing this up, but I don't recognize any government's claim to land ownership. No government created the land, no government has any right to ownership of it.

The US government that paid for the land was wasting the money of its own taxpayers. The money was paid to people who never had any right to ownership. At best, it can be regarded as a kind of Danegeld: a bribe paid in the hope of avoiding trouble.

 
At 10:35 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Will McLean said...

Jonathan said:

"Will, thanks for bringing this up, but I don't recognize any government's claim to land ownership. No government created the land, no government has any right to ownership of it."

Interesting. Do you have a similar objection to the ownership of land by individuals, partnerships or corporations?

 
At 10:50 AM, June 15, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "containing slavery is an even more worthy goal than containing communism, and I sympathize with the abolitionists of the 1860s."

Well and good. But what about the free-soilers? They also were willing to fight to stop the expansion of slavery, a "worthy goal" as you have just stated.

"But they [abolitionists] were a minority who didn't determine government policy; not even with a Republican government."

Free-soilers, though, had a much larger role in determining government policy, and were not confined to the Republican party. Do they "deserve credit" for being "ahead of their time?" If not, why not?

 
At 10:56 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:57 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Will, I don't think anyone has a strong moral claim to ownership of land, but I recognize that it's economically advantageous for someone to have a legal claim to it, so that someone has an interest in taking care of it.

The people with the greatest interest in taking care of land tend to be the people who have been living on it for all or most of their lives, so I'd be inclined to give preference to their claim; while recognizing that all such claims are rather weak.

 
At 11:12 AM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Former3L: Yes, good for the free-soilers, although they were evidently less committed than the abolitionists. Furthermore, I get the impression that they were active mainly in the elections of 1848 and 1852. By 1861, I think US attention was focused more on the seceding southern states than on the extension-of-slavery controversy.

 
At 6:06 PM, June 15, 2010, Blogger markbahner said...

"The initially-seceding Deep South states had around 181,500 slaveholders, out of 494,800 free families, for a slaveholding percentage of 37%."

OK, so even using your numbers for slave ownership of the initially-seceding Deep South states, 63% of the families in those states did not own any slaves.

It's highly unfortunate--and does not reflect well on Lincoln as a president--that he did not use those numbers to his advantage.

 
At 7:27 PM, June 16, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[Jonathan] "Yes, good for the free-soilers, although they were evidently less committed than the abolitionists. Furthermore, I get the impression that they were active mainly in the elections of 1848 and 1852."

Plenty of free-soilers were among the dead in the violence in Kansas, so I'm not sure they were any less committed than abolitionists. You are incorrect about their years of influence. The free-soil party became moribund after 1850, but many of its former members (and other free-soilers) joined the Republican party after its foundation, and as the Dred Scott decision and Bleeding Kansas raised the importance of the free-soil issue they became an important part of the Republican coalition, able to get their principal policy demand in the party platform (as previously quoted).

[Jonathan] "By 1861, I think US attention was focused more on the seceding southern states than on the extension-of-slavery controversy."

So? The free-soilers were still there and still willing to fight to keep slavery out of the territories. This was a task whose importance was raised by the formation of the CSA, which declared in its constitution that "The Confederate States may acquire new territory . . . . In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government" (article 4 section 3)

Defeating the CSA was not separate from the free-soil project; it was an integral part of it.

 
At 7:34 PM, June 16, 2010, Anonymous Former3L said...

[markbahner] "even using your numbers for slave ownership of the initially-seceding Deep South states, 63% of the families in those states did not own any slaves.
It's highly unfortunate--and does not reflect well on Lincoln as a president--that he did not use those numbers to his advantage."

It's worth bearing in mind that the Deep South states seceded before Lincoln's inauguration. I think it would be fair to criticize Lincoln for not breaking with previous traditions of circumspection by Presidents-elect, but I have yet to hear any concrete proposals of what he could have done that would have stopped the Deep South's secession.

The richest and most powerful third of a population will not find it hard to get the other two thirds in line if it is willing (as the slaveowners were) to use armed intimidation as well as political, economic, and social power.

The slaveholders were much better organized, armed, and financed than nonslaveholders, even leaving out the fact that many nonslaveholders in the Deep South states wanted to own slaves someday. So a simple numerical comparison will not give the extent of their power.

The slaveholders also controlled the press to a considerable degree; journals critical of the Peculiar Institution were not allowed in the mails in the Deep South and could not be published there without being destroyed by mob violence.

 
At 6:28 PM, June 17, 2010, Blogger markbahner said...

"It's worth bearing in mind that the Deep South states seceded before Lincoln's inauguration. I think it would be fair to criticize Lincoln for not breaking with previous traditions of circumspection by Presidents-elect, but I have yet to hear any concrete proposals of what he could have done that would have stopped the Deep South's secession."

You haven't heard any such proposals from me because I don't think Lincoln should have "stopped the Deep South's secession" even if he could have. There is nothing in the Constitution that says states cannot secede.

"The richest and most powerful third of a population will not find it hard to get the other two thirds in line if it is willing (as the slaveowners were) to use armed intimidation as well as political, economic, and social power."

1) You neglect the count the slaves in the population of 11 secession states.

2) You neglect possibility of sowing disunity among slave owners in the secession states. For example, Congress issued bonds payable 10 years after any secession state rejoined the Union, offering:

a) 2 times the market rate for anyone owning 1 slave (as of the 1860 census),

b) 1.5 times the market rate for anyone owning 2 slaves,

c) 1.33 times the market rate for anyone owning 3 slaves,

c) 1.25 times the market rate for anyone owning 4 slaves,

d) 1.2 times the market rate for anyone owning 5 slaves,

e) the market rate for anyone owning 6-10 slaves,

f) 0.5 times the market rate for anyone owning 10-100 slaves,

g) 0.25 times the market rate for anyone owning 100 or more slaves.

By my calculations, more than half of the slave owners in the 11 initially seceding states owned fewer than 5 slaves. So that means than 82% of the free population in those 11 secession states owned fewer than 5 slaves. That means that the remaining 18% who owned more than 5 slaves would probably have to overcome the wishes of the 82% to avoid accepting the deal.

Further, Lincoln could have asked Congress to make the offer valid for the next 5 years, and not valid to any member of a state legislature who voted against rejoining the Union. Finally, the offer could have been rendered void to any Confederate soldier captured or killed on a battlefield in any non-secession state.

This sort of offer would have sowed dissension among various slave owners. The owners of few slaves (e.g. less than 5 slaves) would have a tremendous incentive to rejoin the Union. Further, all slave owners (even owners of large numbers of slaves) would have a strong disincentive to ever enter Union soil to fight, because if they were captured or killed there, their families would get no money for any slaves owned by them. So even the armies raised to fight for the South would have had a strong disincentive to do anything but defensive fighting on their own soil.

3) You ignore another tactic that could have been employed, which was to sow dissension even among the secession states (not just among the slave owners). For example, Lincoln could have asked for Congress to cut all the values listed in Item 2 in half for states that were not militarily important to the Union. For example, Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi might get the full values listed above, because they were militarily important to the Union, and therefore it would be good to get them to re-join, but South Carolina and Alabama might only be offered half as much, because they were not militarily important to the Union. The rationale for this tactic is that it would cut down on the total payments, and would cause bitter feelings among the various secession states.

4) Finally, an even better offer—e.g., double the values listed in Item 2 above—could have been made for any states containing slaves that stayed in the Union (i.e., Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky). If those four states all accepted the offer (which they almost certainly would) then any fighting would immediately be between a non-slaveholding country and a slave-holding country.

 
At 12:49 PM, June 18, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were a Union man with foreknowlege of the Civil War, the first thing I would do is to assasinate Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and make sure Union General Burnside, the stupidest commander in US history, was demoted to cook.

 
At 3:24 PM, June 18, 2010, Blogger xoites said...

This assumes too much. Leaders often lead because they believe what their followers believe. As soon as they start believing something else other leaders emerge to take their place.

I don't think knowing the future is possible on any level. Had these men had any evidence of the outcome they would more likely attempt to use the information they had to their advantage rather than try to avert catastrophe.

 
At 3:42 AM, June 19, 2010, Blogger neil craig said...

Thats a good point xoites. The unacknowledged assumption in this scenario is that none of the movers & shakers here would go fully public with the evidence & the unacknowledged assumption behind that is that the movers & shakers are better equipped than a well inforned populace to make the right decisions.

The admitedly limited number of politicians I have met have mostly not impressed me as having a wisdom denied to crowds.

 
At 2:33 PM, June 19, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purely for fun, the best alternate history of the Civil War was Ward Moore's Bring The Jubilee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_the_Jubilee).

Thank you.

 
At 12:32 PM, June 20, 2010, Blogger Rich Rostrom said...

ISTM that the most probable result of the Book Out Of Time would be a massive flinch by the Cotton South. The secessionist 'fire-eaters' asserted that the Yankees wouldn't fight, or if they did could be easily defeated. The Book shows otherwise.

There were many important Southerners who were reluctant secessionists or opposed.

The Book would support them. The fire-eaters would have to argue that the Book would scare the Yankees, but the Book shows that the reality of the War didn't scare them. And the Book forecasts defeat disaster for the South.

On the other side, the Book would show that a cabal of slaveholders was plotting secession, something outrageous to nearly all Northerners. There would be more anger than fear, I think. Recall that when Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to put down rebellion, his old adversary Sen. Douglas said he should call for 200,000.

Northerners would demand action to prevent secession and rebellion; and few Southerners - certainly not a majority - would oppose them.

 
At 8:14 AM, June 22, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who argue that the Civil War was not really about slavery should ask themselves the following question:

"If the Republians had not nominated Salmon P. Chase and he had been elected, would Jefferson Davis and the others not tried to leave the Union?"

No "he is a Henry Clay Whig who is really interested in taxes on imports and corporate welfare" with "the slaves lawyer" Chase.

Yet is anyone going to claim that Jefferson Davis and the other Confederate leaders would not have tried to leave the Union anyway?

The idea that the war was not "really" about slavery was pushed by Davis and others (after they lost) and taken up (and given a different spin) by academics like later President Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson was a racist to his core - so a war for the rights of blacks was not his cup of tea. But a war to create a Federal government on a vast new scale (i.e. what he was trying to create in the 20th century, NOT that actually existed in the 19th century) - that did appeal to him, so that is what he put in his works.

And, knowingly or not, Rothbardians are following the ideas of Wilson (they just hold that what he held to be good, to be bad).

It is not history - it is putting the conflict of the 20th and 21st century (pro and against big government) back into the 1860s where it does NOT belong.

In no way was Jefferson Davis a smaller government man than Salmon P. Chase - or even than Lincoln.

Indeed Jefferson Davis and co enforced HIGHER taxes, MORE fiat money inflation, EVEN LESS of a rule of law, and MORE regulations (including on overseas trade) than Lincoln even considered.

 
At 9:08 AM, June 22, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Anonymous, I'm afraid you're completely missing the point.

The fear of slavery being abolished was what motivated the initial seven states to secede; that seems clear.

But they just seceded and formed the Confederacy, in February 1861. They didn't go to war with anyone.

Lincoln raised an army and used it to invade the Confederacy, not to end slavery, but to end secession. He said so himself, very clearly and repeatedly; and the rest of the US government clearly agreed with him.

Slavery was the reason for secession, but the war was fought over the issue of secession; and the same war would have been fought whatever the reason for secession had been.

 
At 1:49 PM, June 22, 2010, Blogger Will McLean said...

Shelling for Sumter certainly looked like going to war to me.

 
At 2:10 PM, June 22, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Will, Fort Sumter was on Confederate territory. Firing on it to clear it of unauthorized foreign soldiers could better be called an act of internal security than an act of war.

 
At 10:03 AM, June 24, 2010, Blogger staghounds said...

Considering their actions, a fair argument could be made that General Scott certainly, President Lincoln probably, and General MacLellan maybe, got their packets.

 

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