What if the South Won?

By: Daniel Nardini

It continues to amaze me how many people feel that the Confederate States of America should have won. Even now I am hearing about a proposal by the Kentucky branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that the flag of the Confederacy should be displayed on Kentucky license plates for those who want them. I find that ironic since Kentucky—though a slave state—did not join the Confederacy. Then there is Confederate Awareness Month in South Carolina (the state that originally seceded from the Union in 1861), and it never ceases to amaze me how in many places in the southern states (and even some families in the northern states) fly the Confederate flag.

Personally, it does not matter to me who flies the Confederate flag and who does not. I hear some people say how wonderful the Confederacy would be if the southern states had won their independence. Personally, I do not think it would have been so wonderful. If the Confederate States of America had won its independence, there would be two countries—the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. Yes, from what I can see they would have had a similar government structure—the president, the congress and the judiciary. We both would used the same language—English. And both the United States and the Confederate States would have probably had immigrants come from Europe and elsewhere. Many immigrants fought on both sides.

The problem here is because the two countries were in close proximity to each other they would be perpetually in conflict. This conflict would extend into the western part of the continent. Both would try to claim as many states as possible, and both would try to become as large as possible.The British and the French, although at the time friendly to the United States, were nonetheless competitors as well. They would have used the Confederate States to increase their influence in North America. France especially so since it already occupied Mexico. Through Mexico the French could have aided the Confederate States to prevent the United States from ever uniting North America. Even though the Confederacy was largely agricultural at the time—exporting tobacco and cotton—the British and French I am sure would have helped the Confederacy industrialize.

But it would have come at a price. The Confederacy would probably have been used by either colonial power as a springboard for conquest of the Americas and there would have been nothing the United States could do about it. In order to keep the United States from taking control of the Confederacy we might have seen British and/or French troops permanently stationed on North American soil to keep the peace. Under the circumstances the Confederacy’s independence would be questionable. But the worst part of it all is that with half a continent divided into two weaker countries, both the United States and the Confederate States would be unable to provide the resources and infrastructure to build a high standard of living for its ordinary citizens.

This was especially true for people in the Confederacy right from the beginning. And the unequal division of resources would guarantee that there would be war between the two on-again and off-again. I believe that slavery would have been abolished in the Confederacy. There were signs this was happening in the final years of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). But there would still have been widespread segregation in the Confederacy as there was in the United States, and the two countries would never have resolved this issue on their own.

Because the United States of America prevailed and the Confederacy was defeated, this land we call home has become a powerful, rich and stable nation. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln prevented a disaster that would have split not only this nation in two but created a vicious cycle of hate and war for generations to come. So it is a good thing that asking the question, “what if the South won?” is only an academic exercise.

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