American faux history: could we have avoided the Civil War?

Summary:  The campaign of Ron Paul reminds us of two of the three great lies that comprise such a large fraction of American history: slavery, stealing land from the Indians, and the role of government in US economic development.  These not only exacerbate divisions in our society but provide a weak foundation for us — preventing us from clearly understanding our past and charting a course for the future.  Here we take a brief look at slavery, part one.  Tomorrow see Why did the South leave the Union?

Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, {Lincoln} should not have gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the Republic. It was that iron fist … Slavery has phased out in every other country of the world. The way I’m advising it should have been done is like the British Empire did, buy the slaves and release them. How much would that have cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean the hatred and all that existed.
— Ron Paul on MSNBC’s Meet the Press, 23 December 2007 (transcript here; Paul forgets that slavery was not phased out in Haiti}

The American civil war is one of the most intensily studied events in US history, so that a layperson can only touch a small part of it.  But some aspects of its history are so clear we need not read the whole to find the answer.  Such as a reliable guess as to whether we could have avoided the Civil War.

The easy answer is yes.  With perfect foresight anything becomes possible.  Would Russians have supported Lenin in 1918 if they knew what the future held for them?  Would foreknowledge of 1945 have changed the way Germans voted in 1932, when they gave the NAZIs a plurality?  Much of American revisionist history — mythology to support politics — assumes that people can in effect know the future.  With such perfect knowledge we could have avoided the civil war and won in Vietnam.  They believe counter-factuals should guide our actions, not actual history.

Unfortunately history operates differently, so the opeational answer is no.  The civil war had deep historical roots, so only massive tinkering with time could have prevented it.  Here we examine some of those factors.

Contents

  1. Two reasons why the Civil War was the only path for America
  2. Paying to buy the slaves
  3. Would slavery have died out soon without the war?
  4. What about the British colonies in the Caribbean?
  5. For More Information

(1)  One reason why the Civil War was the only path for America

To see two reasons why the civil war as unavoidable, see “The Economics of Emancipation” by Claudia Dale Goldin (Prof Economics, Harvard), published in The Journal of Economic History, March 1973.  She looks at US the economics of slavery and emancipation in the US and other western hemisphere nations.  It’s a comprehensive rebuttal to the faux history so eagerly believed by American conservatives, such as Ron Paul.

Here we look at two aspects of Goldin’s paper, slaves as a capital asset and the determination of southern whites to avoid a multi-racial society.  This is only an excerpt from her well-researched article.

This paper illuminates one particular aspect of the theme of this session, property rights in man. It will deal with various emancipation plans: those actually enacted in various slave societies; those discussed by legislators who debated slave and antislave proposals; and those which, being purely fictional, have become part of counterfactual history.

The emancipation schemes outlined above were all effected prior to the American Civil War and all represented possible avenues of solution to the slave problem in the American South. Of Western hemisphere countries only Cuba and Brazil freed their slaves after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. In both, gradual emancipation was institute and was followed about 20 years later by complete abolition {Cuba 1878 – 1886; Brazil 1871 – 1888}.

… Many of the options discussed below may not have been politically feasible in the years preceding the Civil War.

… These issues are difficult to resolve. Nevertheless, a measurement of the effects of various abolition plans and a comparison of them with the realized costs of the Civil War can still provide useful information. In particular, such an exercise might add credence to the hypothesis that the costs of the war were not correctly anticipated and for this reason emancipation was rejected by both sides in favor of what appeared to be a better alternative. This research might also serve to reject or substantiate a completely different thesis, that the North was rational in fighting the Civil War because its net benefits from winning were positive.

The first option which will be considered is that of immediate emancipation with full compensation. Full compensation is required for this and the other schemes because it reflects the view of property rights held by the majority of the populace in 1860. Other than certain radical Republicans, few members of the 37th Congress believed in the expropriation of slave property; most were in agreement that slaveowners must be fully compensated for their losses. Lincoln, for one, felt quite strongly about the issue of compensation, and doubted the constitutionality of the Emancipation Proclamation because it did not provide compensation.

Under this hypothetical emancipation scheme, the Federal government would issue to the States, and then the states to the slaveowners, bonds whose principal was equal to the value of the slaves. Therefore the initial cost of such a program would be the capital value of the slaves in the US in 1860. I have estimated the capital value of all slaves in 1860 to have been 2.7 billion 1860 dollars. This number was calculated from southern probate records and slave bills of sale.

The financing of so great a venture as the purchase of $2.7 billion worth of capital, when the gross national product was only $4.2 billion, would have required borrowing. In the emancipation schemes which were actually outlined by Congress during the years 1861 – 1863, 30-year bonds, yielding from 5 – 6% were to be offered states fulfilling various criteria. … {assuming} that all persons except ex-slaves pay taxes to finance these bonds {over 30 years} implies a per capita tax of $7.25 in 1860. This represents about 5% of per capita income for that year …

One problem with the hypothetical compensated emancipation schemes developed above is that many northerners and southerners believed that the colonization of ex-slaves was a necessary part of abolition plans. Lincoln in particular “doubted that whites and free negroes could live together in peace, and this led him to advocate colonization.

Colonization never became an issue in the Latin American and Caribbean emancipation debates because pre-abolition race relations in these areas made freedom more acceptable than in the US. One writer has stated that in Cuba, for example, “there was no fear of emancipation .. for the Cubans had long since accepted both racial miscegenation and an open-class system of social stratification. If compensated emancipation in the US were followed by complete colonization of the ex-slaves, the costs of re-settlement would have to be added to the amount of debt created for compensation purposes.

… Southerners, too, viewed colonization as a necessary adjunct to emancipation. The colonization issue arose during debates in the Virginia Legislature from 1831 to 1832. In summarizing the consensus, Thomas R. Dew stated that “all seemed to be perfectly agreed in the necessity of removal in case of emancipation.” … Certainly the speedy removal of these four million ex-slaves would have been virtually impossible.

(2)  Paying to buy the slaves

Wealth was highly concentrated in the South, which had a Gini score of aprox .73 for the Cotton South, vs. .5 – .6 for the rest of the US (and today’s of .45), per The Political Economy of the Cotton South by Gavin Wright (1978).  Also, many believed slavery was evil, tainting the wealth wrung from the oppression of blacks.  Therefore the immense cost of buying the slaves in 1860 would have required northern whites to pay a substantial fraction of their income to reward rich southern slaveholders for their evil bondage of slaves.  Not an easy sell, even before calculating the cost of resettling blacks somewhere (Whites in Mississippi and South Carolina were the minority; they did not consider simple emancipation an option).

While most of us today would consider that path preferable to the horrors of the Civil War, that’s not a relevant factor.  History is made by what we know, not by what we cannot know.

(3)  Would slavery have died out soon without the war?

Without a war America might have followed the course of Brazil, who ended slavery in 1888.  Perhaps we would have done so earlier.  Or later.  Would another generation or two of slavery been an acceptable cost to avoid the civil war?  Perhaps it is fortunate our ancestors were not asked that question.

Advocates of this view often assumes that slavery was economically non-viable in America, without evidence.  Here’s one cold-blooded analysis:  “The Economics of American Negro Slavery” by Robert Evans, Jr. (Prof Economics, Brandeis U), National Bureau of Economic Research, 1962. Excerpt:

The viability {of slavery} can be estimated by ascertaining whether it exhibited characteristics of a declining industry. Some of these are:

  • A declining demand for the unique capital employed (slaves)
  • A declining rate of production fo the unique capital (slave birth rate), and
  • A declining demand for the specialized capital (female slaves) used to produce the unique capital (slaves) used in the industry

Conclusion of his analysis:

Thus it would appear that the slave industry did not exhibit characteristics of a nonviable industry about to wither and die under the impact of adverse economic forces, but rather fave every indication in its latter years of being a strong and growing industry.

(4)  What about the British colonies in the Caribbean?

Let’s look at what is in many ways a relevant comparison, the emancipation of slaves in the British colonies of Jamaica and Barbados.  They show what might have been if American slavery had been limited to only one State (instead of being the second largest capital asset of the nation) — and if slaves were collateral for massive loans made by New York bankers.  And had a massive slave rebellion in 1831-32 (the Baptist War in Jamaica).

From The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica & Barbados by Kathleen Mary Butler, then assistant professor of history at Rollins College, NC  (1995):

Until the middle of the 18th century the sugar islands of the Caribbean ranked foremost among British colonies. Euphorically described as the brightest “jewels” in the British Crown, they provided the economic springboard for a new aristocracy of planters and merchants. For over a century, owners of West India plantations reaped handsome returns from their slave-grown sugar and coffee.

… Yet from the very beginning the sugar colonies carried the seeds of their own destruction. The entire economic structure operated on credit: credit to meet expenses at home and abroad, credit to buy land and plantation supplies, and credit to replenish the slave labor force. Until the early 18th century, planters who faced unexpected operating expenses simply borrowed from friends and family, but as credit patterns changed in the 1740s, planters became heavily dependent on British credit and services. When sugar prices began their long-term decline in the 1790s, they found it increasingly difficult to meet the liabilities secured against their once-profitable plantations. By 1820 few West India planters owned unencumbered estates. The majority struggled in a complicated web of debts and multiple mortgages as they attempted to continue production.

As British merchants became more deeply involved in the colonial credit structure, their economic power and prestige replaced the social power and prestige of the planters. With less possibility of recouping their original investments, British merchants began withdrawing from the West India trade and turning to more lucrative investments elsewhere. Few planters were prepared to admit that poor management and overproduction might have contributed to their downfall. The reopening of the slavery question in 1823 gave them the scapegoat they needed. Both planters and merchants quickly blamed the abolition movement for their economic problems and made it abundantly clear that they expected to be “adequately” compensated for the inevitable loss of their human property.

After prolonged negotiations the British government officially eliminated slavery in 1834 and agreed to compensate all owners of West Indian slaves. It awarded the slave owners £20 million and apprenticed the ex-slaves to their former masters for at least another four years. Such generous compensation was unprecedented.

… The expectation of compensation offered British creditors a unique opportunity to recoup at least a small part of their capital outlay. The influential merchants, and many private individuals, who had invested heavily in sugar and coffee plantations demanded that their deeply indebted clients use their awards to reduce their long-standing debts. For their part, planters hoped that repaying at least part of their outstanding debts would encourage continued investment and make new working capital available. The extent to which these expectations were met had a direct bearing on the future development of the region.

(5)  For more information

Other valuable sources about slavery and the South:

  • The overthrow of colonial slavery, 1776-1848 By Robin Blackburn (1988)
  • The Culture of Defeat – On Natinoal Trauma, Mournnig, and Recovery by Wolfgang Schivelbusch (2001)
  • Compensation – part II“, Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, 24 January 2012

Other posts about slavery:

  1. More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010 — Leftists erasing slavery from the record (green fables trump suffering of browns)
  2. It’s Confederate History Month in Virginia!, 8 April 2010
  3. Justice for slavers (esp sex traffickers):  hang them high!, 20 August 2010 — True today just as it was true in 1860
  4. Pain and misery builds discipline!, 12 October 2010 — General Lee explains how slavery helps the slaves

Other posts about America losing touch with its past

  1. The introduction:  Losing touch with our past weakens us, 12 December 2008
  2. We have trouble coping with our present because we’ve lost our past, 23 October 2010
  3. For other posts about this see the History Reference Page

43 thoughts on “American faux history: could we have avoided the Civil War?

  1. To be more accurate, by 1860 the Civil War was unavoidable. Prior to that, the colonies had several hundred years to phase out slavery.

    1. I dislike counterfacturals (curse you, Nial Ferguson!), however entertaining I find them to read. But since we’re in the swamp — I believe that the war was unavoidable because the further back in time, the greater the theoretical ability to avoid the war. But also the motivation to do so diminishes. The Founders didn’t see the two great sins of America — our treatment of the Indians and slavery — no matter how obvious they were to us when we look at 1783.

      But such “judgements” are just perspectives. I see you’re point, and it’s of course accurate. The relevant question is, IMO, how we apply these views of history to the present. Ron Paul speaks about the Civil War as a paradigm for today. As should we.

  2. It seems pretty obvious that if you are going to steal what someone else considers to be their property, then you will be in for a fight. To do it on that scale would obviously be a big fight, war, many deaths, and they had the opportunity to choose. They made a choice as to whether they preferred to risk their lives or their money, and the Northerners chose giving up their lives to save money just as many similar people do today. We do know what to do today (some of us), but the problem is always comprehending reason, and listening.

    It is the same today, had we listened to Paul long ago, we would not have the debt we have, gas prices would not have tripled, and our global downturn would not be on the scale that it is. There are always people like Paul, or Noah, who can see the obvious through reasonable eyes, but it is up to our society at the time to notice these things. You do not need hindsight for all this, but I guess it does help some to look back and see exactly how correct Paul has been on his many predictions over and over again.

    1. Actually, it helps to look back and see exactly how INcorrect he’s been on many of his predictions, over and over again. Where’s the hyperinflation? How would his policies have avoided the tripling of gas prices? Although I generally support his anti-war stances, his isolationist policy implies no having the U.S. navy patrolling the oceans. Sure, it’s imperialistic, but do you think that without the Navy all other countries would be in peace with each other and that trade would flourish? I don’t, and the resulting conflict would mean much, much higher oil prices. THAT would really impact inflation.

    2. Actually, this economic event obviously isn’t over, and the hyperinflation is still more likely than not. It is already showing up when you measure in a more stable currency like gold. Suggesting that for an error isn’t a great argument. Lately, these wars we are so worried about are mostly caused by us and our efforts, and our past efforts – well the quest to build / maintain Israel a bit more than us really when you get down to it.

      That war in Iraq would have done nothing important to our gas prices, what we did caused those prices to rise dramatically.

    3. Re: hyperinflation and gold

      Definition of idée fixe: a preoccupation of mind held so firmly as to resist any attempt to modify it, a fixation or obsession. Subjects are imune to contrary data or logica, ruled by confirmation bias.

      Discussion of the wonders of gold and the certainty of hyperinflation are off-topic here and will be deleted. Go to these posts for information or to post commments.

  3. Also consider,

    • Only 1% of people were plantation owners.
    • Former slave owners maintained the land and made up their profits through share cropping over the next fifty years.
  4. From “A New Economic View of American History” by Jeremy Atack and Peter Passell.

    Goldin and Lewis’s final aggregate estimate of the cost of the war, $6.6 billion, amounts to $206 for every American in 1861 — almost twice the average annual per capita consumption before the war. This same amount invested in productive resources at a safe 6 percent annual return could have provided each of the thirty-two million then-living Americans with an annual bonus of about 10 percent of 1860 consumption expenditures forever.

    The amount of $6.6 billion would have been enough to buy the freedom of all the slaves (at 1860 market value), to give each slave family a forty-acre farm and a mule, and still have left $3.5 billion for reparations payments to the ex-slaves in lieu of one hundred years of back wages. The South’s losses alone ($3.3 billion) would have been sufficient to cover compensated emancipation, land and even the mules. Unfortunately no one was sufficiently prescient in 1860 to understand how expensive the war would really be.

    1. “Unfortunately no one was sufficiently prescient in 1860 to understand how expensive the war would really be.”

      Quite right. But this could be said for every long war. The Peloponesian War. The Thirty Years War. WWI. Vietnam War. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Perhaps someday we’ll learn skepticism about war monger’s claims the boys will be home by Christmas.

    2. “Unfortunately no one was sufficiently prescient in 1860 to understand how expensive the war would really be.”

      Also unfortunately, even if the length and severity of the war had been understood, we still would have needed the war even if the North had been willing to buy the slaves because the differences in governing and the economic outcomes were so different as to cause ever increasing disruptions between the slave and non-slave states.

      The 13 original colonies had developed along two major different economic patterns. The founding fathers ignored this difference in the hope that all would be well in the long run. Instead the difference got more profound and positions hardened. War was inevitable by 1860 simply because it had been averted so many times before and the cost of kicking the can down the road one more time was more than either side could bear.

      But even if cooler heads had prevailed in 1861 the war drums would have beat again, even louder, in another few years and the war would have used repeating rifles and machine guns and would have been even more devastating.

      A large part of the problem was that the North was growing so rapidly and the South was not. The North was adopting every technological innovation of the Industrial Revolution and the South could not survive such changes so the South sought to legislatively slow down or stop the North from adopting these tools, which did NOT make them popular in the North.

      I sometimes wonder if the current feud between the Republicans (heavily based in the South) and the Democrats (supported in the Northeast and on the West coast) will not end in a similar way if similarly divisive economic issue comes up.

  5. “Perhaps someday we’ll learn skepticism about war monger’s claims the boys will be home by Christmas.”

    That would require a complete disconnect from history, as well as the thought that man has the ability to reason beyond his needs and wants. Good luck with that.

    Good article, but obviously limited in its scope of cause and effect. This is not a judgement call on the article, rather pointing out, to take a moment in history and deduct the moral and or societal/monetary reasoning behind the conclusion is fun but has no objective end. To deduct a more realistic and just end to the supposition, would require a far more extensive query into the subject.

    Great article as usual.

    1. (1) “That would require a complete disconnect from history”

      I believe that could just as easily be said in 1800 about slavery or rights of women. In fact history shows that fundamental social change is possible.

      (2) “Good article, but obviously limited in its scope of cause and effect. … To deduct a more realistic and just end to the supposition, would require a far more extensive query into the subject.”

      Again, that’s historically false. Powerful social change does not result from long analytical tomes, but short powerful articles read by the general public. No doubt critics said that the articles of Thomas Paine and Sam Adams lacked analytical depth. That “more extensive query into the subject” of American freedom was required. But they got the job done.

  6. “Good article, but obviously limited in its scope of cause and effect. … To deduct a more realistic and just end to the supposition, would require a far more extensive query into the subject.”

    Maybe you misunderstood but, several paragraphs in an article posted on the internet, the printed press or the nearest tree does not give just cause and effect.Thomas Paine and Sam Adams? Agreed, The results of Thomas and Sam are recorded in history, and for the purpose of this article are not being questioned . The article is offering up several subjective reasons for the cause and effect of slavery and its influence on the civil war, I would hope that the authors you site do not hold the same historical relevance of Thomas and Sam.

    My point is that a cursory study of the who,.what, where, and whys of the civil war, might require a bit more study.

    1. (1) I have no idea what you are attempting to say in your first paragraph.

      (2) “My point is that a cursory study of the who, what, where, and whys of the civil war, might require a bit more study.”

      You have misunderstood the purpose of this aticle, which was stated in the summary at the top of the page. The limitations of this brief note were stated in the opening paragraph.

      By the way, this is a critique that can applied to a work of almost any length. An article. A book. Perhaps only a multi-volume work like Gibbons is immune. It’s IMO a pointless thing to say.

  7. This article is everything I wish I could communicate to people that are ignorant of American history or willfully distort it i.e. crypto secessionists like Rick Perry, Ron Paul, and large swathes of “states rights” supporters.

    I’m more excited for the post to come that has a rational evaluation of US gov’t intervention in the economy, leading to massive public funding for R&D, infrastructure, education, coherent Industrial Policy, at least between 1830-1945

    1. Great points!

      There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of good works describing the contribution of US public works to America. One of my favorites is “The Myth of Rugged American Individualism“, Charles A. Beard, Harper’s, December 1931. See We have trouble coping with our present because we’ve lost our past.

      Many Americans do not want to know, so they close their eyes and minds to the evidence. I have no idea how we’ll work ourselves out of this hole.

    2. I’ve tried communicating this sort historical point dozens of times to other Americans.

      The usual result is the discovery that the other person views their history the same way they view their religion and are nearly immune to the facts. But I keep trying because my successes are very gratifying.

    3. It has always been difficult for human beings to look at things in an objective and reality-based light, we much prefer to be able to construct the world around us in a way that fits in with our values and objectives.

      For me it has been difficult to navigate the depths of history to separate revisionism from what was actually the case, especially in regards to things like limited government. I naturally tilt towards the libertarian side of things and when I first dove into the literature and the ideas of leaders such as Ron Paul, it was easy to make everything fit. That is of course the first sign that you are being taken in by an ideology and you need to take a step back and see what the reality is. I know see liberty like anything else, as a value and ideal to be aspired to, not a concrete set of rules for how reality actually operates. This is the problem, mistaking your personal affinities for what should be or for what is.

      All ideologies are what Eric Voegelin called “second realities” where everything that does not support the ideology is ignored or suppressed, sometimes violently depending on the fervor of the ideologue. Unfortunately Paul’s libertarianism fits into this pattern, thus leading to a good defense of civil liberties and a distaste for foreign wars yet an inability to provide real solutions to many of the countries problems and the sort of revisionism the article refers to. Unfortunately this is something we see in both parties and in the US at large, with everyone holding firm to their second realities and ignoring the one that is right in front of them.

  8. Great presentation and discussion. Hope you don’t mind if I share this work on Facebook as I have presented others concerning Emancipation Economics, slavery as spoils of war, class slavery, “…slavery… as a punishment for crime…”, the Slavocracy Network, etc. Thank you.

  9. The founders had a very clear understanding of slavery and its evils. The constitutional preparations for its eventual dissolution were confounded by the invention of the railroads which made slavery not merely viable again but extremely profitable. With the portability of slaves, the entire country was open to the scourge.

    The Free Soil party was created in part as a response to the fear of slaves moving into the great plains and the northwest. The railroads made the Civil War unavoidable. The murder of President Lincoln led to the revival of slavery in all but name after 1876. If Lincoln had lived he would have paid off the slaveowners with long-term bonds and we would have avoided the creation of debt bondage, where the former slaves worked the land for their masters and were enserfed. Like the peasantry of Pakistan where the landowners extract huge rents from their sharecroppers despite Islam forbidding the charge of interest.

    Despite the grumbling, Lincoln would have managed the passage of the bond issues. It was not a perfect solution but it would have been the most humane and the only course that might have spared us the disgrace we created and the huge black underclass that sits in every northern city, perplexing everyone. As the head into bankruptcy the last legacy of Lincoln’s murder awaits its reemergence as the premier social problem of the nation.

    1. Good point about the Founders, who believed that slavery would fade away on its own. Technology — transportation and powered processing (cotten gin, mills) — gave it a new lease on life.

      I agree that the assassination of Lincoln was a disaster for both the South and the Union as a whole. It’s one of the most interesting counterfactual speculations in US history. It’s a complex story, as Lincoln did not believe Blacks were equal to Whites — and did not want freed Black slaves in America. We can only guess at how he would have resolved this problem. But his fantastic accomplishments suggest he would have brought us through the war to a good peaceful reconciliation. North with South. White with Black.

      But it’s a lost dream. But it’s our job to make it happen, to carry on his legacy. Which we began again, after dropping it for a century.

  10. Perhaps the Civil War could not have been avoided. However, had it been deferred 5-10 years, then the industrial capacity of the North would have grown so that it quickly could have defeated the South – much as Prussia quickly defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 ( a.k.a, the Seven Weeks War ).

    Alternatively, has the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 expelled England from India, then the South would have won. The reason: the South’s basic strategy was to have England – because of cotton shortages – to intervene on the South’s behalf. However England was able to obtain alternative cotton resources primarily from India ( with some cotton from Egypt as well ). Had England been expelled from India, however, it would have been compelled to intervene on behalf of the South.

    1. Yes, the counterfactuals quickly multiply. This is my objection to their use. Such discussions shed heat but little light.

      The point of this post was to refute quite obvious fabrications by American conservatives, which they use to advance their political goals. Please let’s focus on that. This debate — and the larger project of propaganda of which it is a small part — have great importance for our future. Let’s not get distracted by historical trivia.

    2. If you let the conservatives set your agenda, you have already ceded most of their argument.

      Basically, and for too long, the Civil War has been treated as the crucible of American history. By resolving some asserted point about it, one thereby makes some larger point about American society as a whole. The time has come to move beyond that.

      And part of that process is putting the Civil War in its place. Eg., by characterizing it as part of the broader squashing of agrarian powers by industrial powers in world history that really took off after 1865 or as an aftershock of the Sepoy Revolt or as part of some other framework.

  11. One point was not mentioned. The influence of the Rothschild’s and Central Banking. They caused the Civil War in order to divide and conquer. They have funded and been behind every major western war since Napoleon. It’s what they do. Bank roll both sides to lure them into debt slavery. They installed Hitler as well as Lenin and Stalin. They now control all but three Central Banks in the World. Libya’s was the latest to fall, and Iraq’s State Bank before that one. Iran? Their Central Bank already belongs to the Rothschild’s. As does China’s. Wars are Profit Machines. They own controlling interests in Big Oil as well as the Military Industrial Complex. There is a whole history being missed here.

    Yes the Civil War was avoidable. Many tried and died because of it. But the influence of money is strong. Could the Iraq and Libyan wars be avoided? Yes. Iran? Of course. Are we beginning to see who is really behind wars yet? It’s not us. It’s not even the government. It’s the Bankers behind the government. Always has been.

    Admin, True Democracy Party

    1. Can you state a cogent rebuttal? After all, mainstream thinking about the war for 150 years has seen slavery as the primary cause and economic factors (money) as a secondary cause. As tomorrow’s post shows, slavery was the primary reason given in speeches and letters during the war (slavery is both an economic and moral issue).

      Even most revisionist thinking differs by giving economic causes (money) primacy over slavery (as secondary). So you must have quite an exotic theory.

    2. FM, don’t forget that the economic factors led to very different styles of government.

      For example, the original Republican party platform in 1856 emphasized government assistance in spreading railroads and canals. This was not popular in the South because it would be expensive and was not seen as providing the agriculture-based Southern leaders with the same level of material benefits that it would give the industry-based Northern leaders.

      Come to think about it a little further, we’re in the same loop today that we were in then. Only the Republican party has become the mouthpiece of the conservative Southern leadership. The more things change…

    3. Just to remind everybody, this post discusses a narrow question amidst the vast field of civil war literature: could we have avoided the civil war by ending slavery? Without slavery the war would almost certainly not have occured, no matter how strong the economic dissonence between the three regions.

  12. I would like to offer a clarification to a premise of this post which is not stated outright but which is clearly implied. Popular opinion to the contrary, in reality the North did NOT fight the Civil War to end slavery. The truth is, that the South fought the Civil War out of fear of federal laws that would be unfavorable to slavery, and the North fought the Civil War to preserve the Union. Immediate emancipation was a pragmatic move not decided on until 2 years into the war.

    Northern whites did not like or respect black people and did not want to live with them. They despised the Southern way of life and recognized the Southern economic system as a threat to the free labor system the North depended on. They saw the Southern states as traitors and thieves for leaving the Union and abscondning with large quantities of Federal property. Many people also saw slavery in general as a grievous moral wrong, which fed into the overall hatred of the Southern way of life. But nobody liked black people, and nobody save a few fringe radicals were prepared to die solely for their freedom.

    1. That’s an important clarification, on several levels!

      The war was fought because the South left the Union. Why the South left is the subject of tomorrow’s post. The North fought to preserve the Union, with a variety of logical and emotional factors driving them. As usual, once it began the war took on a life of its own — and the reasons both sides fought evolved.

  13. Fabius,

    I think that you are on to a larger issue- our general lack of understanding history as Americans. Please see some links below to others who feel the same.

    Review of Tim Tyson’s Blood Done Signed My Name“, Mike Few (Major, US Army), Line of Departure, 20 November 2011

    Forthcoming: “Review Essay: Wars for the American South: The First and Second Reconstructions Considered as Insurgencies“, Mark Grimsley (Visiting Professor, US Army War College), Civil War History, March 2012

    Mark Grimsley: Why the Civil Rights Movement was an Insurgency, and why it matters:
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCxW9Th1dso
    .

    Andrew Bacevich speaks about The Revisionist Imperative — The History News Network recorded this video of Andrew J. Bacevich speaking at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, IL, on 7 January 2012. Topic: George C. Marshall Lecture on Military History.
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DRR8QXyeOI

  14. Modern slavery may not just be about sex trafficing . Think about workforces , debtors , mortgagees , tenants who can , in a way , be bought and sold . Think about the refugee camps of Africa and other countries , if charitable funds run out and the rains dont come . Think of prisoners in cages , or on community sevice ; of the imprisoned ‘enemy combatants ‘- how soon will someone say “they are sitting about eating their heads off couldn’t they do something useful.” It perhaps makes the Confederate viewpoint more understandable .

  15. Sooner or later there comes the sad realizations that sometimes there are situations which offer no exit; if a part of the aggrieved parties cannot escape or emigrate, they are left with no recourse but the ultima ratio… which is no argument at all, but despair of frustration.

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