Would the USA have survived the Confederate victory? Would the CSA?


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Republika Srpska
So, pre-Civil War USA had a much more developed state rather than national patriotism. Many people, most famous ones being Lee and Jefferson Davis, considered loyalty to their individual states more important than the loyalty to the USA as a whole. The whole concept of states' rights was not limited to the South, we have example of it from New England in the war of 1812 where there was even a secessionist sentiment. I am asking: had the South won, would the rest of the Union hold? The Southern victory would be a huge blow to the Union and would probably delegitimize it, especially if the CSA victory and the acceptance of secession were achieved peacefully (the only truly possible way for the South to win). I think that would really shock the Union, most likely severely weakening the Republicans and the central government as a whole. Would there be other secessionist movements in other states? Would the successful Southern secession create a dangerous precedent?

And another thing: would the Confederacy survive either? The Southern states were all staunch supporters of states' rights (when it suited them, of course), but the Confederacy also started heavy centralization during the war, enforcing conscription which was extremely unpopular as it was seen as an unfair expansion of government power by many, ordinary soldiers and influential people alike, most prominent of them being Joseph E. Brown, the governor of Georgia (though the measure did have support in CSA states affected by the war) and also the matter of martial law was highly divisive with people as high-ranking as Vice President Stephens opposing Davis. With this much uncertainty about how powerful should the central Richmond government even be, would the Confederacy survive? Would we see another secession of Southern states, this time from the CSA?
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Forum Staff
Aug 2016
I suspect states' rights was already more of a talking point in the 1850s than a reality. Just like today, politicians opposed to federal policy always talked up states' rights, but those same politicians supported federal supremacy over the states if they agreed with the federal policy. The slave power liked the federal government so long as that federal government was friendly to slave owners. The slave power only came to favor states' rights when it appeared the federal government was turning against them.

There has been some speculation that if the South had successfully broken away from the North then the west might have also broken away from the North. The lack of railroad and telegraph communications with the east was causing the west to feel disconnected from the east. The far west was learning to get along without the rest of the country. This was one reason why after the war it was so important to build the transcontinental railroads - bind up the country before the west became too independent.

Much has been made of the inherent contradiction of the Confederacy. It was founded on the basis of states' rights but could only survive with a strong national government. The Confederacy was weakened by eleven states each pulling in different directions - most notably because all Confederate states were fearful of invasion and kept troops at home, denying them to the main armies. I suspect you're right about Southern states eventually seceeding from the Confederacy. People who could secede once have no reason not to secede again.
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Apr 2017
Harry Turtledove wrote a series of books in which the south wins the civil war. They later end slavery and ally with England and France in WWI, while the North allies with Germany.