How far can polite diplomacy and coolheadeness get the CSA?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Skallagrim, May 12, 2018.

  1. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    There are scenarios where a move somewhat like this would be possible, but you face (at least) three major problems:

    -- First one is the fact that negotiations must occur in good faith. Party of that is that they are based on the status quo ante and work towards finding a new status quo. Attempting to impose your will on the other party might be tried, but trying to make your will part of the preconditions is most definitely bad faith. Essentially, Lincoln can't issue that proclamation and negotiate.

    -- Second one is more general, and more crucial: he literally can't do it if he's negotiating, because it was done on the basis of war powers. If still negotiating, he just doesn't have that authority, and there is no way Congress backs that kind of move that early on. There was a lot of criticism even in OTL, and that was late in the war, in a scenario where the Upper South had seceded.

    -- Third one ties into the second: if negotiations are the way Lincoln goes, the secession wave of the Upper South is prevented. He's got a considerable segment of slave states in the Union. He can't make it about slavery without causing trouble he definitely doesn't want.


    Of course, having Britain magically by your side would be great. But it's not happening. At best, very best, Britain eventually decides it's in its interests to trade with the CSA, recognises it, and tells the USA to stop being a bother. (A policy that will then be backed up by naval power if the USA tries to hinder British ships.)

    I don't see that happening until and unless the South can do so well that Lincoln gets defeated in '64.


    Let me be clear: I think a hypothetical war to invade the CSA and forcibly end slavery would be just fine and dandy. And for the exact same reason I support secession in basically all cases: because self-determination is sacred to me.

    Anyway, that's still not the point here. ;)

    The bit about the Fugitive Slave Act could potentially be used to reveal Southern hypocrisy, although that would depend on whether they'd actually be stupid enough to claim extradition based on the Act. I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think they ever did so in OTL. If they did, they were considerably more idiotic than I thought.

    Agreed that you can probably get some capital flight to take place-- though note that most Southern capital is tied into its plantation economy. That's not going anywhere. I also agree that Lincoln is never going to agree to recognise the CSA just to get them to pay up any outstanding private debts etc. -- they goal would be to make it in the interest of other parties (banks, lenders, investers, businessmen, members of the public who are owed money from Southern sources) to just recognise the CSA and in so doing get their money back.
  2. cmakk1012 Well-Known Member

    Apr 30, 2012
    1) Sure—if Lincoln was accepting that the status quo ante was permanently gone. If he only pretends to do so, or even just refuses to accept their independence (rather like Serbia with Kosovo) while negotiating on other things, he can claim to still pass things like the EP to apply to them.

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a dirty move, just that he could finagle it anyway.

    2) What if it’s a bill that passes through the House and Senate and not a proclamation? Or an executive order, or some other political trick? Anyway, it doesn’t have to be the same Proclamation as OTL.

    3) The majority of people EDIT: with the ability to vote in places like Virginia wanted to secede. This would be a major sticking point in negotiations, and even without Fort Sumter I don’t see them staying with the Union.
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  3. Roger II Well-Known Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    I just put the thing about limited secession to see off a very ugly argument, which is to claim that it was "just about self-determination" while ignoring the right of slaves and freedmen to not have to live in a police state dedicated to their suppression and to exercise their own right. By the logic of absolute self-determination, it would be the right of the CSA to secede...and of slaves to revolt and to seek overseas assistance

    (Cue peaceful secession on that basis...and some years later an irredentist president and the UK co-operating to invade the south to protect the rights of brave freedom-seekers who are revolting against evil slavers.)

    As for your responses, point taken, although of course refusing to recognize risks essentially forcing them to write off slaves ...ok this is too gross to go through the discussion of.

    As for your second point, ideally we'd still have the risk of it being safer to just want to rejoin and get the money back. After all, in or out of the union, debts are still owed. Or clever tax plans could try to make it cheaper to service/get paid in than out but dunno if that works. I have mulled a sort of scenario where the cotton market crashes somewhere in the 1850 range or in all this, but that requires outside intervention.
  4. mrmandias Regent

    Nov 29, 2006
    The Great Empty
    A much better Southern strategy, though pretty unlikely.

    Unfortunately, I think its unlikely to work well for the same reason I think its unlikely to happen in the first place. The South had a lot of firebrands and not a lot of control and organization. Freelance hotheads means that the South doesn't have to officially aggress in order to end up being seen as the aggressor, or at minimum for Lincoln to be seen as NOT the aggressor.

    Also you underrate the difficulties of doing something about the Unionist areas in Virginia and Tennessee. States Rights means the Confederacy can't tell those states to have a plebiscite, and within the highly legalistic culture of the times, the state legal mechanisms you need to use to make your plebiscite are going to be easy to obstruct by radicals.
  5. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    The Chaos TL
    Some decades before the ACW, compromising politicians actually managed to make some states free states. They had fewer slaves, though.

    What about a law like Brazil made it, of the "free womb"? Slaves stay slaves, but their kids become free, so slavery will die a natural death?
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  6. drewmc2001 sic semper tyrannosaurus rex

    Oct 20, 2005
    To the OP, I have wondered what would have happened had the cooperationists managed to hold the fire-breathers and South Carolina in check until they could have organized a convention of Southern states, which was their aim.

    I've thought that basing a Alt history story around a scenario of a convention of states would be interesting. An environment in which the fire-breathers are shuttled to the back and more moderate politicians were in the forefront in the early days of the secession crisis would make for an different set of actions that potentially could butterfly away Fort Sumter.
  7. Anarch King of Dipsodes Overlord of All Thirst

    Jan 17, 2015
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair.
    In other words, you are an anarchist. You do not believe in authority representing the collective will of a community - because you believe that any subgroup of the community (down to single individuals, there is no logical way to avoid this) can reject such authority at will.

    90% of Northern voters supported either Lincoln or Douglas (who during his campaign declared himself "for hanging any man who takes up arms against [the Constitution]"). Most of the exceptions were in Pennsylvania, where Buchanan men controlled the Democratic apparatus, and made Breckinridge the "official" Democratic candidate. There were Northerners who questioned whether it was possible or desirable to maintain the Union by force, but essentially none who accepted legal secession.

    As to Unionists in the South - the "Confederate" government faced armed resistance to secession in its claimed territory from the very beginning. Every "Confederate" state except South Carolina raised at least one Union regiment (excluding black troops).
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  8. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    I don't think the power to get one's way should be overstated. That's somewhat hypocrytical of me, considering that jy whole premise is "the southern hot-heads somehow get in line obediently", but then, I frankly admit that the premise isn't very plausible. It exists only for the sake of exploring the strategy.

    What Lincoln et al. would do faced with that strategy is another matter, and an interesting one at that. Given the existing constraints of his position, he would have to go with option two that you suggest here-- a bill that passes through the House and Senate and not a proclamation. The power of the president to just rule by decree is actually quite limited. If Lincoln starts trying to rule via executive order (and especially if he does it to implement something bound to be extremely controversial), I don't see Congress staying loyal to him.

    Attempting to pass something akin to the Emancipation Proclamation democratically is an option, but it will take time. Even in OTL, Lincoln had severe doubts about it for a very long time. Congress had even more doubts, although the reality of war allowed him to use his power to act unilaterally. In this scenario (one of negotiation), an attempt to pass this sort of thing will be seen as what it is: a blatant attempt to purposely blow up negotiations and cause war. If he does it via executive order, I'm fairly sure he's just proved (in the eyes of the public) that the South was apparently right to call him a tyrant. (Never mind that it's done to free slaves: most people in 1861 care a whole lot less about the ethics of that than we do now.)

    So it'll have to be democratic, as you say. That's going to take a while, because Congress is unlikely to want to blow up negotiations. Whih by definition means that Lincoln can't use this to manipulate those negotiations. Only if they fail (for another reason) can he move to declare war, and then - with war powers - begin to act more unilaterally.

    That still means he has to start the war, which he doesn't want. I say again: he's in a bind.

    Your third point does offer considerable perspective. In the context of this situation, the CSA may not accept Upper South states if they somehow secede violently. That would create an absurd situation with the USA, the CSA and a band of other seceded states in between. Recipe for chaos! Worth exploring all in itself, I think. In this case, your argument that Virginia would certainly secede does clash with earlier comments that Lincoln would move to replace as many state officials as he could with men opposed to unilateral secession. I think you might instead see the reverse trend of Unionists moving North, and get Confederates from the Upper South migrating into the CSA.


    I have described something like this, once, as my ideal scenario regarding the matter. Except no 'years of waiting'. Lincoln just uses his overwhelming majority in Congress to quickly to end slavery in the USA, noting all representatives of the seceded states as 'absent'. He grants all slaves citizenship. Only then does he recognise the CSA, as per the day after the aforementioned act passes. He then tells the CSA they have millions of US citizens in custody, which is grounds for war. Release every slave, of face invasion. Britain joins this declaration of intent.

    A month later, an Anglo-American force smashes the CSA completely. It being me envisioning this, the result would not be to force all of the CSA back into the Union, but to carve out a number of states for the African-American citizens in question, no doubt connected to the rest of the Union via the area that was called Nickajack in OTL.

    The remainder of the CSA, now devoid of its antebellum slave population and also of its antebellum slavocrat population (all of them having been convicented to long prison sentences for their crimes against US citizens, obviously) would then be free to call truly democratic conventions to write new constitutions. Thereafter, they can all vote whether they want to remain part of a renewed (non-slaving) CSA, or re-join the USA, or just be a bunch of totally independent states.

    That's what I'd do if I were in Lincoln's shoes, and had absolute free reign to act as I saw fit. It's evidently just as unrealistic as the South magically going along with a cool-headed strategy, but consider it the other side of the coin.

    A scenario worth exploring as well. Deserves its own thread, really. The implications of king cotton being killed off before the OTL secession crisis is a very captivating thought. It's bound to change Southern priorities in a big way.


    It's absolutely unlikely.

    To be fair (about Unionist areas), the likeliest course of events (as I see it thus far) would entail the Upper South never even joining the CSA in the first place. If it did come to states' rights, do keep in mind that the CSA stopped giving a damn about that as soon as they were independent. By the end of the war, the CSA was a centrally run command economy. Not to mention that their damn constitution (hypocrisy of hypocrisies!) outlawed secession.


    It could certainly have prevented the war. A very possible outcome, though, would be fervour dying down, negotiations starting up, and the more reasonable leaders slowly coming to terms with the notion that something like Corwin Amendment was going to be the best thry could get. In OTL, Lincoln stated he saw no objection to adopting it if Congress wished it. But seven states had already seceded, and did not vote. in the context of negotiations and the cooperationists running things, I suspect you'd see such an amendment adopted.

    This has the unfortunate implication that slavery is now forever enshrined in the constitution, and cannot be removed by any existing power-- the very idea was to make it so that no future amendment could change this... ever. That's pretty nightmarish to me. (It also goes, of course, against the stated premise that CSA independence is the goal of the strategy being duscussed in this thread.)


    Sorry, but I'm going to cut our line of conversation off right here. You're insistently focusing on something I pretty explicitly said wasn't actually relevant to the intended discussion. No hard feelings, but in an exchange of some complexity, your response is to pick out two of the least relevant points, respond to those with pretty bold claims (among which a claim to be able to know a damn lot about me and my actual beliefs without ever having met me), while you ignore the other lines of argumentation.

    That's fine, you are under no obligation to respond to all points still under discussion-- but I don't really see this particular line of conversation leading towards a good place, so I think it's better to halt it now, okay?
  9. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

    Apr 21, 2016
    This is something of a side point, but there were no direct federal taxes in 1861. The first attempt to introduce a federal income tax was made during the Civil War, to pay for the war. The federal government got pretty much all its revenue from customs revenue, which is why you had all those tariff controversies in the nineteenth century. Without federal income taxes, the federal government could not attempt to collect taxes on individuals.

    In fact the income tax was brought in and made permanent largely due to the shift by the USA towards free trade, when the tariffs went the federal government needed some other methods to raise money.
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  10. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    I assumed it was about tarrifs/customs duties owed by private parties (merchants). The general approach would be that the CSA is an illegal entity, so any duties paid to it are meaningless. All duties should still be paid to the USA after the fact, no matter how much you have or haven't paid to the CSA. (Though I reiterate that this will mostly be an empty threat, and a mostly motivation to never re-join the USA besides.)

    The point about free trade is interesting when one considers that for all of the Antebellum period, the south was advocating free trade, and the North was for protectionism. After the war, what becomes ever more the way of things? Free trade!
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  11. Escape Zeppelin Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2013
    Last Tuesday
    I don't think Lincoln would take that route because it would mean legitimizing secession even if the Confederacy failed to secede this time. It would be a fascinating timeline though.
  12. FillyofDelphi Well-Known Member

    Mar 7, 2017
    That's because it happened to (I'd argue because of) coincide with the development of national centralization andbureaucracy nessicery to allow for other types of taxation. These were insisted as war measures as you had larger scale, more drawn out wars with industrial level demands on shells, steel, uniforms, ect. and the need for rapid army expansions for said wars to avoid bankrupting the state in peacetime , which required harnessing the newly emerging might of private industry, which required raising capital rather than kind and the issuing of paper money as opposed to confiscation (which requires internal taxes to keep the worst effects of inflation down). Without the Civil War and wars like it (Crimea, for example), Free Trade has little appeal unless you're the manufacturing and commercial/shipping hegemon
  13. VictorLaszlo Well-Known Member

    Jan 26, 2011
    Another smart move for the seceeding states would be to bring their case before the US Supreme Court, then headed by Chief Justice Roger Taney and largely pro-slavery as the decision in the Dred Scott case had shown. While Lincoln did ignore Supreme Court rulings during the Civil War IOTL, he might not be able to do so if the Supreme Court would have decided in favor of the seceeding states ITTL, with peace being maintained. A Supreme Court appeal would of course have been a gamble for the seceeding states since Chief Justice Taney was an opponent of secession IOTL.
  14. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    I understand the actual causes, although do note that direct taxation was hardly impossible until the advent of industry; property taxes have existed since time immemorial. Also, free trade obviously can have appeal even if you're not a manufacturing and commercial/shipping hegemon. It was attracive to the agrarian South, exactly because manufacturing powers wanted to buy their raw product. (This would have messed them up when agriculture gradually became less and less important, of course, but wouldn't have diminished their love for free trade in an earlier era.)

    The fact remains that the South spent so long jumping up and down in rage over tarrifs, and then after the South gets totally defeated in the Civil War, the foreign trade policy that they wanted all along ultimately gets adopted at the behest of the North. I can't help but think that this is...



    A strategy that Jefferson Davis wanted to try after the war, actually. He intended to use his treason trial to argue that secession hadn't been illegal, so he then hadn't been a traitor. It was ultimately decided not to proceed with the trial, and I'm fairly sure the fact that he had a pretty coherent argument had a little something to do with that. (Then again, it's unlikely he'd have won. But he might have gotten some dissenting opinion(s) in has favour, which would have been good fodder for the Lost Cause.)

    Do note that, while winning such a case would have been more likely before (or rather: instead of) the Civil War, it was still far from a certainty. There is also the fact that Davis wouldn't do it for the same reason Lincoln wouldn't negotiate with a diplomatic party claiming to represent the CSA (instead of delegations representing the relevant state governments). Just as the latter would have implied that Lincoln recognised the CSA, putting the matter of secession before the Supreme Court would have implied that secession is only legal if the Supreme Court allows it. The whole basis of the Southern argument was that secession needs no such permission.
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  15. PuffyClouds Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2014
    You know, I had things to do today - why do you do this to me
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  16. Anarch King of Dipsodes Overlord of All Thirst

    Jan 17, 2015
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair.
    But it is relevant, because you argue that many non-Southerners viewed secession as "legal", while you seem to have a unique definition of "legal".

    This is important, because the entire basis for the Southern claim to legal secession was "state sovereignty": the absolute legal authority of a state over its territory and everyone in it, part of which had been voluntarily delegated to the Federal government by the establishment of the Constitution, which delegation a state could rescind at will. Only a state could so act, and only as a unit. You have suggested that the CSA could, in negotiating for secession, offer partition of various states - which utterly violates state sovereignty. Such a proposal would make sense only in the context of your doctrine that any group of people subject to a higher authority may throw it off at will. That was not the view of any Southerners, or of any Northerners, except a few proto-libertarian cranks like Lysander Spooner. (Northerners also denied state sovereignty.)

    In short, it does not appear to me that you understand the thinking of the people of the time, which is essential to any discussion of what alternate political strategies might have been tried and how such strategies would play out.
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  17. Anarch King of Dipsodes Overlord of All Thirst

    Jan 17, 2015
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair.
    He did not speak out for secession OTL. Neither did he condemn it.


    In 1856, Taney wrote to his son-in-law about what he thought was the likely outcome of the Presidential election that year. He thought that either Fillmore or Fremont would win - both of them anti-slavery Northerners (true for Fremont, dubious for Fillmore). In such a circumstance, he thought the South would attempt secession - but fail due to the presence in the South of Unionist stooges (by which he meant Whigs and former Whigs turned Know-Nothings).
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  18. Skallagrim Not the one from YouTube. Different other fellow.

    Feb 5, 2014
    I think I phrased everything quite politely in my last response. I really wish you'd left it there, as this isn't going to get either of us anywhere. Yes, I have given my own thought on matters of secession and legality, but only because you explicitly brought up that matter-- to which I initially made clear that it was not what I wanted to discuss. The fact that you now focus exclusively on the one thing that really isn't relevant bothers me a bit. A discussion on the topic is fine, but it will have to be a separate discussion.

    Personally, I'm quite capable of separating my own thoughts from any given scenario (although I'll be the first to admit that everyone, including me, will always have a somewhat subjective world-view, which simply can't be helped). You blindly assume (and without even allowing for the possibility that yourb interpretation is wrong) that my suggestions regarding possible plebiscites derive purely from my own views on secession. That isn't actually the case, and I have pointed out (in the very same comment where I responded to you, in fact) that the CSA in OTL stopped giving a rat's ass about states' rights the instant it became independent. Throughout the course of the war, you'll find that the central government of the CSA was far more overbearing and micro-managing that the USA's federal government. So no, my notion that the CSA would be capable of following that kind of strategy isn't just coming from nowhere.

    Then there's the whole thing about state sovereignty as a doctrine, which you represent as meaning purely "absolute legal authority of a state over its territory and everyone in it (...)" -- thereby totally ignoring the fact that the legal claim to that reality derived primarily from the subsidiarity enforced by the Tenth Amendment. Which does not just say "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively", but goes on to add "or to the people". So even if you assume a complete and honest faithfulness to doctrine, then any countersecession rooted in a plebiscite (in, say, West Virginia) can only be ruled out if the state first moves to make such a thing explicitly illegal-- which was not, in OTL, the case.

    All this still ignores the fact there is but a very slim chance that the most strongly Unionist areas in the OTL CSA are even going to be part of the CSA in the first place, under the circumstances I have suggested. So you are ultimately putting all your energy into arguing about something unlikely to even be significant.

    Finally, you claim that countersecession on a sub-state level "would make sense only in the context of your doctrine that any group of people subject to a higher authority may throw it off at will. That was not the view of any Southerners, or of any Northerners, except a few proto-libertarian cranks like Lysander Spooner." You ignore, inexplicably, that West Virginia only exists on the basis of such countersecession, and that the North had no fundamental problems recognising its legitimacy. So much for your argument there. (The fact that you go out of your way to describe people you disagree with as "cranks", by the way, does not paint you as very well-intentioned.)

    So. As you might be able to tell, I have some issues with the way you're set on pursuing this line of discussion. It's both pointless and unpleasant, and you're proving exactly nothing. I tried to cut it off at the pass for those exact reasons, but you appear bent on continuing to focus on the one line of discussion that is not relevant that I do not wish to continue. I've made that clear three times now. I do hope you'll get the message.

    Just to make it clear how dramatically you are focusing your attentions on a complete side-track, below I have quoted all the other lines of discussion, which were relevent to the OP, where I responded to you points... and all of which you then just dropped to focus on the irrelevant side-track.

    So... if you want to continue the relevant discussion regarding the quoted material, be my guest. But if not, please stop deliberately derailing by focusing on something I didn't actually want to discuss, which wasn't part the OP, and which you brought up in the first place. Again, I do not say this to be a dick, and I have nothing against you. I want to be clear about that. I do think that asking you (for the second time) to either get back on topic or to just drop this whole thread is a more than reasonable request.
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  19. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    Not really, that was a post-war explanation to divert attention from the slavery issue. IRL the CSA had the biggest government intervention in US history. It forced the railroads to operate at a loss, it controlled the salt and alcohol markets, it dictated food prices, it instituted internal passports, it basically stole from poor farmers , in short it was ran practically as a single party dictatorship under Jeff Davis.
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