Birth of a Nation


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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17 Responses

  1. James Hanley says:

    Yeah, if the North had just not hated and criticized slavery so much, things would have been just fine.Report

  2. MFarmer says:

    yes, the north didn’t need slaves, so they put then in enclaves.

    • Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

      Could the South have industrialized its economy, thereby not remaining basically a developing economy into the 1970s, not to mention allowing us to avert the Civil War, had they risen above slavery of their own volition in response to international criticism in the 19th century as the North did? We’ll never know.Report

      • Michael Drew, interesting question. I think perhaps that the analogy could be made that the North was like the developed world today and the South was more akin to Mexico, India or China. The strength of the South lay in its willingness to use cheap slave labor to maintain a competitive stance with the industrialized North in much the same way that cheap labor is growing the countries mentioned above at a fast rate.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

        This touches on one of two (that come to mind, anyway), ill-conceived and flippant thoughts about the Civil War.

        No, it wouldn’t have been okay for the South if the South had left. Even leaving aside where it would have actually left blacks in the region. The South would likely not have gotten rid of slavery on its own in relatively short order (it’s sad how many people believe it would). The South would have been a third-world country with enormous wealth disparities, an agrarian economy, and increasing social unrest as they tried to keep their slaves from all leaving. To me, this isn’t even a question. I do think the South would have gotten rid of slavery eventually, but it would have just left it that much further behind. The South benefited enormously from the influx of business-oriented northerners helping redirect the southern economy. This all happened late enough as it is.

        The other piece of idiocy (a particularly flippant idiocy, in my view) comes from the other (anti-South) side. “Oh, we should have just let the South go” usually with some comment about how backwards southerners are and those maps showing that southern states are net beneficiaries. Had the South been allowed to leave, Kentucky might well have gone with them, which would have put the country at a strategic disadvantage with Ohio being the only connection between the east and western USA and subject to all sorts of mischief by the CSA. And also because it wouldn’t have stopped with the South. They would not just have lost those icky southern states, but also likely the western ones. What is now the USA would likely be a hodgepodge of countries, one region at a time joining the US and then seceding once their economy reached a certain point.

        The United States is made stronger by its unity and the fact that it stretches from coast to coast. For all of the talk in Texas and California about how they have the xth largest economy in the world, they have it in part because they are members of the United States of America. Even minor trade barriers would have had a pretty negative impact on their financial growth.Report

        • Trumwill, I will agree with you 100% that Kentucky probably would have left, especially if slavery was the deciding factor. It was a huge part of our economy in 1861 and quite honestly the state has never been the same since.

          There’s a great series of alternative history fiction by historian Harry Turtledove that cover the exact topic of ‘what if’?

          He speculates that there would have been a series of additional wars between the North and South as they fought for additional US territory (referencing your point above). If his fiction represents his academic opinion he also believes that slaves would have been freed at some point after they became increasingly agitated towards revolt. They enter into some kind of apartheid situation for much of the 20th century.Report

    • Scott in reply to MFarmer says:

      “Enclave” must be the PBS’ polite word for ghetto.Report

  3. D. C. Sessions says:

    I will recall everyone to Walter H. Page’s seminal essays on “The Forgotten Man” and his comments regarding the South, education, authoritarianism, etc. Google Books has “The life and letters of Walter H. Page” (The really good stuff is in Volume 2.)

    Read it. Look around today, and weep.Report

  4. Will – thanks for pointing out a great article. As a reference to your post title I will give a nod to the grave of D.W. Griffith tomorrow morning as I drive through Centerfield, KY on my way to the farm. He is buried just a few minutes from my house.Report

  5. greginak says:

    Apparently today is the 151st anniversary of the hanging of John Brown. Its a shame he was correct about so much and so far ahead of his time.Report

  6. Mike Schilling says:

    It is hard, today, to comprehend how thoroughly sectional divisions defined antebellum politics.

    After having been told yet again by Sarah Palin that where I live isn’t “real America”, not that hard, really.Report