What would have happened if the Confederate States of America had won the American Civil War?
There's a movie about that. It's called "The Confederate States of America." Check it out. It's probably on Netflix.
Awesome question! The fact is, there are a lot of misconceptions about the Civil War, and the Confederacy itself. Had the Confederates managed to hold out long enough for the war to be untenable for the North, we would have seen some major changes - and surprisingly, a lot of things would be the same.
First of all, you can't address this scenario without facing the elephant in the room, so let's get it out in the open: Slavery. True, it was positioned as a major factor in the war, but it really had little to do with what caused the conflict. Regardless of who won, pressure was being put on the South by abolitionists on both sides, as well as their only true ally in the conflict, the British. Within a decade, the slaves would have been freed.
As for the Confederacy as a nation, there would be a dramatic increase in revenue, as the northern states were still dependent upon them for agricultural crops such as cotton, tobacco, soy, and others. The main difference would be that the Confederated States would be able to sell those products without the price ceiling, tax manipulation, and quality determination previously imposed on them. The Southern states would also be able to sell their goods to foreign markets - an option blockaded by merchants in the north.
It is anyone's guess how the expansion in the West would have been effected, but I suspect the machinations for that expansion were already well into play, and it would have continued on regardless.
It is a certainty that the outcome of World War One would have been effected, but it is arguable as to what extent, since the United States entered into the war at a fairly late date. It could even be argued that, without the United States the division of Europe would have been so greatly altered as to make World War Two non-existent.
In the end, what we would see at the end of a hundred and fifty odd years would be a world that would be far less technologically advanced, but perhaps a bit more peaceful.
Another related question is what would have happened if the Union had just let the Southern state secede. I speculated about that question when I wrote this hub a while back, although much of this applies to your question as well:
Pretty hard to say--history can only give us grounds for speculation, not any degree of certainty.
But it's a good bet that the "Great Migration" of blacks to Northern cities wouldn't have happened, or would have happened later. Without that, American culture as a whole would have taken on a completely different character.
Actually, historian-turned-novelist Harry Turtledove wrote a whole series based on the idea of the South winning the war. The consequences cascade throughout the entire world.
The scenario you propose is hard to imagine, and not just because its morally unthinkable. But wasn't the northern forces (and society in general) more technologically advanced than the southern? I think so.
Also, don't underestimate the motivation of northern free white labor. Remember, the war was about slavery, and more importantly the expansion of slavery. The west wasn't fully settled yet. Some of the country's reactionary political leadership wanted to spread the slaveocracy west and south (into Mexico).
When Lincoln said 'A house divided against itself cannot stand,' he was saying that the country was reaching critical mass. The United States, in that form, with two clashing ways of life, was not sustainable. If the south had won millions of free northern white families would have been almost surely rendered impoverished.
If the south had won, they would have set the terms of peace. The slaveocracy would have spread west, grabbing up most of that territory; free white labor would have been confined to the northeast and northern midwest. Labor would have been a captive force to the advantage of employers -- due to the unique historical geography of the United States (around 1820-1970 the period of labor shortage) workers were in a unique position here relative to their counterparts in Europe.
Without the ability to move out west, and get a homestead grant and become a farmer, they wouldn't have been in a position to demand higher wages from their employers back east -- which was what labor was able to do for about one hundred fifty years (1820-1970). No, if the south had won, that would not have been the end of it, not by a long way!
What if the south had won the war? Well, the CSA was a militaristic nation, dominated by generals and the cotton interests. By the end, even the cotton interests were pushed aside by the Confederate military and the oppressive Confederate government. The army started freeing slaves to serve in the military in order to oppose the north's endless supply of Irish and German immigrant troops. Even the Confederate president was a professional soldier; while the union president was a railroad lawyer. If the CSA had won, the war would have shifted to a fight to control the territories--namely New Mexico and Arizona. After that, I suspect the CSA would have prepared for a conquest of Cuba, Mexico, and parts of Latin America. If the war ended early, the slaves would have never been freed. If the war ended later, the CSA probably would have never de-militarized.
Watch the "Confederate States of America." Trust me, the racist commercials make it worth it (They're hilarious.)
Eventually the two toughest kids on the block would still have tangled, perhaps at a later date when weaponry and killing ability would be multiplied greatly. It may have been a blessing in disguise, that the United States was temporarily divided. The great loss of lives and property was very troubling in our history, yet, freedom of those who were previously in servitude, laid a stronger foundation that would prove to make us a great nation and leader in the world. We could truly claim that we were the land of the free and the home of the brave. Immigrants came from all over the world to stake a claim in our rich territories and would later help mold us into a united nation and invincible in stature. God had His plan for us then, and still does!
Martin Luther King, Jr., and I, would have been born on a Southern cotton plantation and go on to live out our days as over-worked field hands.
If World War I had not forced us to reunite into one country, WWII certainly would have done it. Slavery was horrible, not to mention the segregation that plagued the South for another hundred years, but economics more than anything else dictated where it thrived and where it was abolished. I think as the South became more industrialized over time, the differences between the two regions would have been reduced to the point that the two nations would have merged back into one.
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