Saturday, December 20, 2014


December 20, 1860 -- South Carolina became the first of 11 states to secede from the United States so that it might preserve slavery. This led to the creation of the Confederate States of America and the American Civil War.

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A friend of mine today said, "I think we would have been better off allowing those states to secede..." We played a "what if...?" game about it, and this was my scenario.

Lincoln doesn't fight the Civil War. The South is not devastated by war. Lincoln is easily re-elected in the North, and Jefferson Davis in the South. But: Radical Republicans are in control of the Congress. They want to prosecute the war, or at least punish the Confederacy economically. This doesn't really play out, though. Northern textile mills are beholden to Southern cotton, which creates political problems for Radical Republicans who want to boycott Southern cotton. The North bans slavery legislatively, but without the impetus of war it does not ban slavery constitutionally. Radical Republicans are able to win passage of a "Fugitive Slave Law" granting freedom to any slave who makes it into the North. This infuriates the South, which effectively seals its border. But the Radical Republicans can't win much else, due to the problems with textiles in New England.

Maritime trade picks up the slack, and fleets of ships begin to move along the eastern American seaboard. The Radical Republicans still want to free slaves, however, and the United States assists with slave rebellions in Haiti, Jamaica, and elsewhere in the Caribbean, further angering the South and creating problems with European nations. Naval skirmishes occur. The South quickly improvises an ironclad, the CSS Virginia, which wreaks havoc in the calm seas of the Caribbean. The North responds slowly, but by 1870 has developed its own ironclads. The naval skirmishes now prove draws, and slowly the undeclared "Caribbean Sea War" comes to an end.

Maryland, placed under martial law since March 1861, remains under martial law for three decades. Marylanders are very pro-slavery, but the U.S. government dares not relocate the capital and capitulate to the South. Federal troops invest the state, and increasingly turn Maryland into a federalized state (like the District of Columbia). A "Department of Maryland" (like the Department of the Treasury or the Deparment of War) is created to administer the state. The Confederacy attempts to foment rebellion by arming Marylanders in 1861, but the federal government sends gunboats to patrol the Potomac River, and the Maryland-Virginia border is sealed. U.S. warships and gunboats also sail the Chesapeake Bay -- sinking any vessel they find. The city of Baltimore declines rapidly, as does Alexandria, Virginia. Martial law is also imposed in the the eastern part of Kentucky, where there is strong support for slavery. It is also imposed in Missouri, where about a quarter of the population supports slavery. But the imposition of martial law in these two states is far less intrusive than in Maryland.

West Virginia, which broke from Virginia early during the Secession Crisis, has its freedom guaranteed by U.S. troops, which rush to the new state to prevent its recapture by the Virginia Militia under the command of Robert E. Lee. West Virginis, who are deeply opposed to slavery, welcome fleeing slaves. Virginia's military seals the border with West Virginia, creating an extensive road network along the border that allows rapid movement of troops and patrols to suppress the "Flight to Freedom" (as it is later called).

The South attempts to rapidly expand slavery westward, but has trouble doing so without imposing military rule. Texas proves too vast, absorbing white immigrants and slaves before they can move to New Mexico or Arizona. Texas also finds itself embroiled in military skirmishes with Mexico (without CSA help) over the southern portions of New Mexico. The United States, meanwhile, pushes hard for a transcontinental railroad to settle the West before the Confederacy can. The railroad is completed in 1865 -- four years ahead of schedule. Western expansion of the United States occurs much more swiftly than Confederate expansion. Although some Confederate citizens attempt to settle in American territory (some to spread slavery, but some merely to find new and prosperous lives outside the Confederacy), the U.S. military ejects them under orders from the Radical Republicans. There are a few more instances of "Bleeding Kansas" -- where American and Confederate settlers engage in bloody guerrilla warfare against one another. But these are uncommon, and usually settled by the U.S. Army.

By the 1870s, Northerners are tired of large numbers of homeless, uneducated slaves fleeing into the troubled states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland. West Virginia (renamed Kanawha) welcomes slaves, putting them to work as sharecroppers or low-paid miners. But Northern states eventually react to the refugee problem by enacting Jim Crow laws. Large nonprofit organizations arise to educate, house, and clothe African Americans (who still lack citizenship rights in the United States). Northern states establish literacy tests to vote, and a somewhat hefty poll tax. Jim Crow is especially strong in Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Many nonprofits try to educate blacks so they can pass the literacy tests, and help them learn vocational skills so they can pay the poll tax. Their goal is to get enough blacks to vote to begin changing Jim Crow. But the effort largely fails.

The Confederacy establishes new states in Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico (the latter two lacking the territory of the Gadsden purchase). But the North wins control of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah and all states north of them due to the Transcontinental Railroad. In the early 1870s, Indian wars break out between Native Americans and the U.S. and the Native Americans in Oklahoma and the Confederacy. The Confederacy commits genocide against tribes in Oklahoma. The North is outraged, but its wars with the Plains tribes continues -- complicated by the North's desire to protect white settlers (an important factor in denying the West to the Confederacy) while at the same time allying with Native Americans who want to engage in retribution against the South.

Mexico raids Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona repeatedly in the 1890s, continuing until World War I. Texas again has to deal with the problem on its own, without help from the CSA. Arizona and New Mexico, too poor to defend themselves, lie prostrate before the raids.

The North rapidly industrializes throughout the last three decades of the 1800s (just as it did in the "real world"). Steel, coal, railroads, Pacific trade, and a swiftly growing financial sector create a diversified economy. Ex-slaves are put in to work in the Kentucky and Pennsylvania coal mines, creating "faux masters" (whites who supervise these slaves) and "faux plantations" (whites who own the mines) and causing an uproar in the North. But the use of blacks in mining does not stop. Blacks become the manual underclass of the North, and European immigration slows as there are no jobs for them.

The South, however, remains agrarian and dedicated to cotton and tobacco. Tobacco planting devastates coastal Virginia: It exhausts the soil and the cost of slaves and extensive smoking and drying barns are rarely accounted for. The state actively pushes to build a fishing industry. After several decades during which food must be imported extensively, Virginia's attempts to build agricultural areas in the south, southwest, and west begin paying off. Cotton planting, with use of large numbers of slaves, remains the backbone of the Southern economy. The South only slowly industrializes, mostly in small ship-building along the Gulf coast, coal mining in Tennessee, and hard-rock mining in Arizona and New Mexico. These latter two states develop refining capacity and metal manufacturing factories, becoming the most industrialized (and least slave-owning) part of the Confederacy. Heavy population growth occurs there, with excessive poverty due to the lack of water. Arizona tries to dam and divert the Colorado River, leading to military clashes with the United States in both Nevada and Utah. A treaty system is signed that provides all three states with water and stops the fighting of the "Colorado Water War". Los Angeles, never able to tap the Colorado River's water due to the new treaty, stays a small-to-medium size city mostly engaged in orange growing. San Francisco, and to a much lesser extent San Diego, become the dominant cities of California.

Martial law in Missouri and eastern Kentucky ends in 1870, and on Janury 1, 1880, in Maryland. Its government and people completely beholden to the United States, Maryland becomes known as "the District's back yard" -- because it is so dominated by the District of Columbia. For the next 60 years, Maryland remains an economic backwater, undeveloped and depopulated.

The Southern economy declines further in the 1900s as cotton from India, Egypt, and Asia floods the world market. Southern hardwood forests, once providing the raw material for the ship-building industry in Alabama, prove useless once iron and steel ships become the norm. Poor Southern whites call for a much stronger Confederate central government to coordinate the Southern economy, with a focus on self-sufficiency in food and metals. A mass movement erupts to begin shipping slaves back to Africa, with poor whites to assume their jobs. The cost is too high, but some Confederate states begin dumping slaves in Belize, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

The "Slave Dumping Crisis" becomes a major one. The North supported the Cuban Revolution of 1898 with guns, warships, and money, and the Cuban government banned slavery as one of its first official acts. But tens of thousands of black slaves are being pushed out to sea in leaky boats, and thousands drown when their watercraft sink. Others, starving and ill with disease, barely make it to Cuba, where the Cuban government is ill-prepared to deal with them. Naval warfare breaks out. The South has long considered the Caribbean its "kitchen sink", but the Cubans (with Northern help) now challenge them. The "Bay of Tampa Invasion" occurs when Cuban troops bypass Key West and invade Tampa Bay. The invasion fails, but the dumping of slaves mostly stops. Cuba, never a protectorate of the U.S., establishes a more healthy economic relationship with the United States. Much of western Florida becomes a haven for Cuban pirates, preying on Confederate shipping. (The Puerto Rican government, autonomous but still controlled by Spain, is more able to accommodate the ex-slaves. The Philippines wins its independence from Spain after a bloody civil war lasting into the 1920s. Guam remains a Spanish protectorate. Hawaii becomes a U.S. territory "on schedule", after the coup there proceeds as it did in the real world.)

"Black unemployment" becomes a new phrase in the CSA in the 1910s. The invention of the mechanical cotton picker is a sensation. The machines are expensive, affordable only by the wealthiest plantation owners. But these men also own the largest numbers of slaves, so many plantation owners abandon their slaves in favor of these new machines. The "extra-legals" -- blacks whose owner refuses to care for them, but who have no legal right to seek work, own property, obtain an education, or anything else -- become a massive problem. Outraged "Christians" of the South demand that extra-legals become wards of the state, like any abandoned property. Soon, every state in the Confederacy has enacted legislation allowing to to "receive abandoned slave property" at no cost. The state then provides bare minimums of housing, food, and clothing while trying to sell the "property". Often, slaves are given away (on the brink of starvation) to poor white farmers. Some states use extra-legals to make public improvements to roads, bridges, ports, railroads, and parks. In some states, like Tennessee and Virginia, extra-legals are granted limited freedom to seek work and rent property (e.g., homes). This outrages some white racists. "Education committees", consisting of whites who seek to ensure that blacks do not learn to read and write, burn black schools and kill any black person believed to have received an education. The capitol of the CSA moves to Jackson, Mississippi.

A large ex-slave community grows up around Tucson, a small city in Mexico just over the border from Arizona. Poverty-stricken but not lacking water (Mexico has the Rio Grande), large-scale irrigation and agricultural production begins in the area. Mexico establishes a new state, named Sierra Vista, in what might have been the Gadsden Purchase. Arizona and later New Mexico relax rules on blacks crossing the border and working in their mines and factories. These two states become much more progressive, racially, than the rest of the CSA.

The CSA joins the Allies during World War I. Initially neutral, the disclosure of the "Zimmerman telegram" -- in which Imperial Germany tells its ambassador in Mexico City (Zimmerman) that it supports an invasion of the CSA during the war so that Mexico can take back Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas -- pushes the South to join the Allies. The Southern economy emerges from its decades-long depression as the South supplies tobacco, grain, and cotton to the war effort. But the South's economy collapses, badly, after the war ends in 1920.

Race riots in the CSA break out in the 1910s and 1920s as blacks seek greater freedoms. But these almost always end with hundreds of blacks dead, entire black communities burned to the ground, and the KKK lynching hundreds of black men and boys. Confederate race riots lead to extensive slave emigration to the North. One in five Africans in the Confederacy commits suicide by the age of 25, and the black birth rate poummets. Jim Crow laws in the North, however, are gradually relaxing. In the Midwest, especially, free blacks seek to help slaves who escape to the North. Places like Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Colorado now have large black populations, most of them working in agriculture, cattle ranching, or hard-rock mining.

In 1930, Arizona becomes the first Confederate state to free its black population. The state enacts strict Jim Crow laws reminiscent of the North in the 1870s, does not grant citizenship to its former slaves, and denies them the right to vote and associate. But its black are now free. Large numbers of blacks emigrate to southern California and Nevada.

Arizona's action causes a split in the Confederacy. States like Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico consider freeing their slaves as well. But "True South" member states like Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina declare that preserving the right to own a slave is the "duty" of the Confederacy. The political crisis lasts throughout the 1930s. World War II puts the South on the side of the Allies again, but the CSA contributes little except men and raw material. The return of Southern whites after the war is a game-changer: Many have seen blacks serving alongside whites in other armies and even in the North. Their brutal racial attitudes have been challenged.

In 1946, Arizona and New Mexico secede from the Confederate States of America and join the United States. The CSA, almost powerless and still devastated by a post-war recession, does nothing to prevent it. Virginia defeats a secession resolution in 1948; it remains a members of the Confederacy, but severs most ties with the Confederate government. Tennessee also considers secession, but the referendum is easily defeated.

The CSA permits widespread black emigration in the 1950s. There is no freedom, but blacks may leave if they have the funds. Northern nonprofits and United Nations aid agencies offer to pay the travel costs of any willing black who seeks refuge in the United States. (The UN also helps blacks move to Mexico, Cuba, and other nearby nations.) The U.S. constitution is amended, at last, to give blacks full citizenship and to ban slavery after President Truman pushes for both amendments. Two-thirds of African Americans leave the CSA. Only Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina have populations of African Americans left. Most blacks flee to the United States, or over the border into Sierra Vista -- "black Mexico". Poor Southern whites take black jobs. Furious hard-core racists terrorize the remaining black populace.

The "Rump Confederacy" amends the Confederate constitution to require each Confederate state to guarantee the right to hold a slave. The remaining states, except for Virginia, do so. Virginia enacts legislation to protect the right to own a slave, but never enforces it. Rather than lose Virginia, the CSA ignores Virginia's actions. Slave-owning drops to almost nothing in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and the non-coal mining portions of Tennessee. Virginia declines to enforce any laws supporting slave-owners, essentially freeing its black population. Blacks there have more freedom than in any other Confederate state. "Scientific" slave-holding rises in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, where living conditions (food, clothing, healthcare, etc.) for black slaves rise. Slavery has to be self-sufficient, and what few slaves and extra-legals remain are given extensive freedom as the development of "in loco erus" ("in lieu of the owner") is given to slaves. Although most slaves still work in only the more dangerous manual labor jobs, some begin to rise high in Southern society -- especially in the financial industry and in foreign trade. As in Greece and Rome of old, some slaves are slaves in name only, with extensive and unchallenged power over whites, extensive property holdings, and huge financial fortunes. Only in South Carolina, where a religious fervor about slave-owning has arisen, do the old views of slavery persist. Many slave-owners who adopt the "science of slavery" talk about a "New South" in which blacks are eventually freed but kept in line with Jim Crow laws.

A visitor to the Confederacy in 1960 discovers that the region has few roads. While two-lane, no-shoulder highways connect the major cities and towns, most roads throughout the South are gravel or dirt. Rail travel is still very common, as fewer than 30 percent of whites own an automobile. Only a few cities (mostly state capitals) in the South have airports. Virginia and Texas are the most modern states in the Confederacy. Richmond has grown from a town of 220,000 to a large city of 800,000 -- driven largely by the financial sector. The discovery of oil in Texas led to a transformation of that state. (Old-timers in Texas still talk about how "it would have been different" had Texas had the right to drive cattle to Montana or the Dakotas in the 1880s. But cattle culture never really arose in Texas to that extent.) Florida remains a marshy backwater; its largest cities are Tampa Bay and St. Augustine. In the 1920s, a tiny town known as Miami attempted to lure Northerners down there with property scehemes, but the high trade barriers between North and South meant this collapsed. Miami has about 30,000 people living in it as of 1960.

There's little industry in the South. Most of it is concentrated in the wasteland of Tennessee, where extensive coal mining caused the state to import vast amounts of iron ore. Tennessee's environmental problems are vast, and the people there suffer from innumerable diseases. The United States has a treaty with Tennessee to help remediate some of these problems, as they are affecting the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. America's favorite lunch-time snack is Nutella and jelly. The University of Georgia tried to interest Northerners in "peanut butter" in the 1890s, but it never caught on due to its association with slavery. (A rumor exists that "peanut butter" was the invention of a slave named Washington Carver, but the University of Georgia utterly denies this.)

Poverty and illiteracy are widespread in the Confederacy. Religious fervor is everywhere, but God is enlisted in the cause of slavery. Poor whites are almost worse off than poor blacks, as they have no owner to take care of them. Poor whites routinely attack blacks, as they accuse them of "taking white jobs". A court case is winding its way through the Louisiana court, where a black slave has argued that it is his owner's duty to provide housing, food, and healthcare to his "animals" (slaves). A lower court has already agreed, saying this is akin to animal cruelty. Some Southerners think this could be the death-knell of slavery in 20 years, if other courts adopt the ruling.

The top 15 percent of Southern society is fabulously wealthy. It is common for entertainers, captains of industry, and politicians to fly to the South on "fact-finding missions" -- but really only to enjoy the luxurious, superlative induglence of Southern elites. The best of Southern society can be found in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta. If you want "genteel poverty", you head to Savannah -- where they aren't wealthy, but have an old-school style. (And where it's still common to see black person hanging from a light-post once a week.)

In Virginia, Richmond has become a mega-city like Boston or Chicago. The northern counties of Fairfax and Arlington are at last growing, losing (at last) a little of their agricultural personality. The Robert E. Lee House, a Virginia state museum, is open to the public. The United States and Virginia just inaugurated a new North-South Brotherhood Bridge between West Potomac Park and the Robert E. Lee House. The bridge, low and neoclassical, will (it is hoped) spur development in Arlington County. There's talk in Virginia that, after almost 75 years of going-it-alone, Virginia might leave the Confederacy (which it has done in all but name) and rejoin the United States. The mossbacks in the southern counties, however, strongly oppose this, though.

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