Jefferson Davis Dies in 1863

In the summer of 1863 Jefferson Davis contracts yellow fever. A few weeks later Davis dies in Richmond.

Vice President Alexander Stevens is immediately sworn in as the new President of the Confederacy.

What affects policy wise (and possibly the outcome of the war) does Davis's death have?
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Hmm. . . very difficult question to answer. Alexander Stephens was an incredibly intelligent person (one of the few genuine intellectuals in the Confederacy) but has never struck me as having the stomach for decisive executive leadership. He'd be a good law professor, but a chief executive of a newly formed, deeply divided country that was fighting for its life? I'm not so sure.

On the other hand, there was a large and powerful political faction in the Confederacy that despised Jefferson Davis and tried their hardest to undermine him. Stephens was basically one of their people, so his ascension might temporarily bring a level of unity back to the Confederate war effort. Another factor to consider would be that Stephens had no military experience, knew it, and hence would not try to micromanage the war effort the way Davis sometimes did. He would not be burdened with the personal biases that caused Davis to support generals like Pemberton, Bragg and Polk while disdaining generals like Joseph Johnston and Beauregard.

There would also be a diplomatic impact. The British press would carp on the "Cornerstone Speech" that Stephens made during the formation of the Confederacy, which centered on his contention that the Confederacy was founded upon the "great truth" that "the Negro is not equal to the white man". Since much of the de facto British support of the Confederacy came about because many Brits thought the Confederacy would soon abolish slavery, this would be pretty bad for the South. Not only would it hurt the chances of British recognition, but would also harm efforts to sell Confederate government bonds in London, which would hit Confederate finances and increase inflation (which is what really killed the Confederacy IOTL).
 
There would also be a diplomatic impact. The British press would carp on the "Cornerstone Speech" that Stephens made during the formation of the Confederacy, which centered on his contention that the Confederacy was founded upon the "great truth" that "the Negro is not equal to the white man". Since much of the de facto British support of the Confederacy came about because many Brits thought the Confederacy would soon abolish slavery, this would be pretty bad for the South. Not only would it hurt the chances of British recognition, but would also harm efforts to sell Confederate government bonds in London, which would hit Confederate finances and increase inflation (which is what really killed the Confederacy IOTL).
Since even Lincoln believed that, why would that kill British support? Apartheid and racism are bad, certainly, but they aren't the same thing as slavery.
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Since even Lincoln believed that, why would that kill British support? Apartheid and racism are bad, certainly, but they aren't the same thing as slavery.
Stephens' Cornerstone Speech was a direct and explicit statement that the Confederacy existed specifically to defend slavery. And while Lincoln had racist attitudes as would be interpreted by any modern person, he did not believe that the United States was based on racism and slavery and certainly believed that slavery was wrong.

The British would look at the Emancipation Proclamation, then look at Stephens' Cornerstone Speech, and draw their own conclusions.
 
Stephens' Cornerstone Speech was a direct and explicit statement that the Confederacy existed specifically to defend slavery. And while Lincoln had racist attitudes as would be interpreted by any modern person, he did not believe that the United States was based on racism and slavery and certainly believed that slavery was wrong.

The British would look at the Emancipation Proclamation, then look at Stephens' Cornerstone Speech, and draw their own conclusions.
OK. I assumed you had provided some of the strongest language used. If it explicitly called SLAVERY a cornerstone, the Brits would find it impossible to support them. As you say.
 
OK. I assumed you had provided some of the strongest language used. If it explicitly called SLAVERY a cornerstone, the Brits would find it impossible to support them. As you say.
The part people refer to is this

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
Only 3 weeks after the inaguration of President Lincoln.
 
OK. I assumed you had provided some of the strongest language used. If it explicitly called SLAVERY a cornerstone, the Brits would find it impossible to support them. As you say.
The Cornerstone speech very clearly lays out slavery as the "cornerstone" in question, and that's how it would be understood by a contemporary audience.

Personally I doubt this would at all move the British position, the views of the Confederate government are well known.

My question, for those more knowledgeable of individual Confederates: Would Stephens be more likely to negotiate a quasi-surrender with Lincoln than Davis had been?
 
My question, for those more knowledgeable of individual Confederates: Would Stephens be more likely to negotiate a quasi-surrender with Lincoln than Davis had been?
It's hard to find a Confederate politician who wouldn't have been more willing to negotiate a surrender than Davis was.
 

Dirk_Pitt

Banned
1863? Kill him off long before the Civil War even began. Besides by 1863 the war had turned more or less in favor of the North; Vicksburg and Gettysburg pretty much set things in motion for a Confederate defeat. With Stephans the war would definately last longer. Lee would have been able to fight a bit more effective defensive campaign. But the Confederacy's fate was sealed in mid-1863. You've got to define the date better, at least down to a month.
 

Wolfpaw

Banned
TMy question, for those more knowledgeable of individual Confederates: Would Stephens be more likely to negotiate a quasi-surrender with Lincoln than Davis had been?
It's hard to find a Confederate politician who wouldn't have been more willing to negotiate a surrender than Davis was.
Let's not forget that Stephens led the Confederate delegation to the Hampton Roads which rejected the idea of a negotiated surrender.
 
In the summer of 1863 Jefferson Davis contracts yellow fever. A few weeks later Davis dies in Richmond.
Yellow fever is not the best choice for this. It comes in epidemic waves or not at all, AIUI. There were no yellow fever epidemics in Richmond during the War.

Typhoid from contaminated food (or complications of food poisoning), basically what killed Zachary Taylor, is a more likely fate.

Also, summer is from June to September. Shall we say mid-summer, i.e. late July? It's important because it's after Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Vice President Alexander Stevens is immediately sworn in as the new President of the Confederacy.

What affects policy wise (and possibly the outcome of the war) does Davis's death have?
First off, it's Stephens, not Stevens.

As noted by others - Stephens, unlike Davis, was not a former soldier. As a West Point graduate and combat veteran (and hero), Davis reasonably considered himself suited to supervising his generals. He wasn't, which was a problem for the CSA. Stephens would have no such belief.

Stephens might name a proper commander-in-chief for the CS Army, perhaps Joe Johnston, and let him deal with the generals.

One important factor is that Davis and Johnston got into a feud in 1861 and never got out of it. Neither felt he could trust the other, and they could not discuss strategy frankly. Davis was also at odds with Beauregard.

Stephens was free of these issues.

What else? Stephens was a former Whig. Stephens was personally acquainted with Lincoln; they had been Whig Representatives together in the Congress of 1847-1848. In the crisis of 1850, when Davis opposed the Compromise, Stephens was a Unionist. He became a sort of Democrat after the Whigs collapsed, but remained opposed to the secessionist "Fire-eaters". He was a Douglas elector in the election of 1860; at the Georgia secession convention he argued and voted against secession.

His election as CSA Vice President was a sop to Georgia and to the ex-Whigs of the South.

So - what would he do as President? It seems distinctly possible that he would look at the result of 1863 and conclude that the war (which he had opposed) was lost. However, I don't think that is probable - and even if he thought so, I think most Confederate leaders would disagree. (There's a bizarre possibility - the Chief Executive is ready to give up, but the generals, governors, and Congress want to fight on. Is Stephens forced from office?) Stephens will not make any peace moves then, regardless of what he thinks privately.

Stephens was opposed to conscription and suspension of habeas corpus, both of which were applied in the CSA earlier and far more extensively than in the Union. If he terminated those policies as President, it would substantially weaken the CSA.

OTL, by March 1864, he openly called for the CSA to try to negotiate peace. I don't think he could possibly have believed that the CSA could negotiate for its independence. That means he was proposing negotiated surrender, at least by implication.

I think that as President, he would have tried to negotiate with Lincoln soon after taking office. Unlike Davis, he would not have insisted that Lincoln treat with him as an equal. However, I can't imagine what he would offer Lincoln or ask for from him.

The only deal I can imagine being made would be for the CSA to surrender, with an amnesty for all rebels and preservation of slavery. This would mean de facto revocation of the Emancipation Proclamation, and I don't think Lincoln would do that. He'd offered that same deal when the EP was first announced; the South turned it down.

A key question (which I can't answer) is whether Stephens would approve the transfer of Longstreet's corps from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to Bragg's Army of Tennessee. Longstreet's forces were very important to the Confederate victory at Chickamauga.

Without them, I think the battle (which was pretty close) is a Union victory, and then Bragg is fired.

This continues the career of Rosecrans, who was fired after losing at Chickamauga, and slows down the rise of Thomas, who replaced Rosecrans, and of Grant, who was brought in to clear up the mess, and won the decisive victories at Chattanooga. Also of Sherman, who was Grant's protegé.

Getting back to Stephens: after the fall of Chattanooga, he'll be ready to propose negotiations in the Confederacy. This will be explosive, but there will be enough defeatism to let him try.

He will want to maintain slavery. Lincoln will refuse, citing the EP. ISTM that both men are under powerful but irreconcilable pressures.

Stephens wants to end the war ASAP - but if he offers to give up slavery, he would face open rebellion.

Lincoln wants to end the war ASAP - but he won't revoke the EP. However, if it's made clear that revoking the EP ends the war, there will be a lot of pressure on him not to fight a war for the slaves.

I don't know how it would work out.
 
Any chance that Stephens could persuade General Lee to support a negotiated reunion? That would swing a lot of Southern opinion, esp, and crucially, in the Army.

Regarding slavery, the 13A wasn't passed until Jan 1865, so the EP hasn't been written into the Constitution. A peace deal might fudge the issue by saying that the status of Southern slaves under the EP must be decided by the US Supreme Court. I don't know how the Supremes would go, but one possibility is that they would treat the EP as a purely wartime measure, so that slaves already freed under its provisions would remain free, but that those still held as slaves at war's end were unaffected by it, or at least could not be emancipated without compensation.
 
Any chance that Stephens could persuade General Lee to support a negotiated reunion? That would swing a lot of Southern opinion, esp, and crucially, in the Army.
Idunno. Lee loathed the idea of surrender. He advocated arming blacks, rather than accept defeat. At Appomattox, he said he would rather die a thousand deaths. But he might accept it as coming from above; and he might agree that war was lost.

Regarding slavery, the 13A wasn't passed until Jan 1865, so the EP hasn't been written into the Constitution. A peace deal might fudge the issue by saying that the status of Southern slaves under the EP must be decided by the US Supreme Court. I don't know how the Supremes would go, but one possibility is that they would treat the EP as a purely wartime measure, so that slaves already freed under its provisions would remain free, but that those still held as slaves at war's end were unaffected by it, or at least could not be emancipated without compensation.
The EP declared that all slaves in areas under rebellion were de jure free, as far as the U.S. government was concerned. De facto, they remained slaves until said areas were returned to Union control.

Now large areas with millions of slaves are coming under Union control. De jure, those slaves are free. For the Union not to make them free de facto is a step back, which is going to cost Lincoln a lot.

Here's a thought: compensation for the slaves thus liberated? Perhaps including slaves liberated between 1/1/63 (when the EP took effect) and Confederate surrender? In effect, payment for confiscated property; perhaps with the payments spread over 20 years, or in bonds that can't be cashed all at once. Abolitionists would hate the idea, but it if ends the war at once...
 
Here's a thought: compensation for the slaves thus liberated? Perhaps including slaves liberated between 1/1/63 (when the EP took effect) and Confederate surrender? In effect, payment for confiscated property; perhaps with the payments spread over 20 years, or in bonds that can't be cashed all at once. Abolitionists would hate the idea, but it if ends the war at once...
From my knowledge Lincoln proposed this himself in 1865, and claimed to Confederate negotiators that he knew backers who would be willing to shell out the money in exchange for a quicker end to the war. Lincoln was not prepared to go back on the EP, however. Payment for the slaves and delayed passage of the 13th amendment was the best offer the Confederates were going to get.

Naturally any such deal would involve pardons for the Confederates and the states being let back into the Union without military occupation. So no Reconstruction, with all that entails. However this happening would be dependent on if Stephens was more willing to accept a negotiated surrender than Davis at a point where it wasn't yet evident that all was lost for the Confederates.
 
Idunno. Lee loathed the idea of surrender. He advocated arming blacks, rather than accept defeat.
This I think is the most interesting question here. Was Stephens even aware of Patrick Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves in exchange for their freedom in 1864? When Davis became aware of it he thought it was a bad idea and ordered it suppressed, and while many generals who were there were opposed, there were some in agreement like Joseph E. Johnson.

If Cleburne's proposal happens again and makes its way to President Stephens, what will he do? If he doesn't suppress it, and it becomes a matter of important discussion a year early, things could change radically for the Confederacy.
 
The EP declared that all slaves in areas under rebellion were de jure free, as far as the U.S. government was concerned. De facto, they remained slaves until said areas were returned to Union control.

Now large areas with millions of slaves are coming under Union control. De jure, those slaves are free. For the Union not to make them free de facto is a step back, which is going to cost Lincoln a lot.
But as I noted, the EP had not yet been written into the Constitiution. What I wondered was if the SCOTUS might declare that it had ended with the war, and the return of the seceded states to their lawful place in the Union, so that Lincoln could no longer use his war powers.
 
But as I noted, the EP had not yet been written into the Constitiution.
It doesn't matter. It's "statutory" rather than constitutional, but it's still substantive law.
What I wondered was if the SCOTUS might declare that it had ended with the war, and the return of the seceded states to their lawful place in the Union, so that Lincoln could no longer use his war powers.
Lincoln has already used his war powers. The slaves were declared "thenceforward and forever free" as of 1 January 1863. The SCotUS cannot retroactively undo that act; they can declare that it was invalid (highly unlikely after Lincoln's several appointments to the Court), but they cannot say that the end of the war undoes the action.
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Was Stephens even aware of Patrick Cleburne's proposal to arm slaves in exchange for their freedom in 1864? When Davis became aware of it he thought it was a bad idea and ordered it suppressed, and while many generals who were there were opposed, there were some in agreement like Joseph E. Johnson.
I know of no evidence that Stephens was aware of it. However, it stands to reason that Johnston would have told Senator Louis Wigfall (one of his best friends) about it and it is possible that Wigfall would have told Stephens about it. No way of knowing for sure.

If Cleburne's proposal happens again and makes its way to President Stephens, what will he do? If he doesn't suppress it, and it becomes a matter of important discussion a year early, things could change radically for the Confederacy.
I frankly doubt it. Cleburne's proposal was greeted with ferocious opposition from his fellow officers in the Army of Tennessee, especially Walker, Bate and Anderson. Its failure had nothing to do with opposition from Davis.
 
I frankly doubt it. Cleburne's proposal was greeted with ferocious opposition from his fellow officers in the Army of Tennessee, especially Walker, Bate and Anderson. Its failure had nothing to do with opposition from Davis.
And I think you're trying to subtly redraw what happened by using words like "ferocious opposition."

That "ferocious opposition" is difficult to pinpoint. While Walker, Bate, and Anderson were in opposition, General Johnston, and Hardee agreed with the idea, which leaves four unknowns, not counting Cleburne himself. Walker I would say was "ferociously" in opposition, but he's just one guy and I don't know of the others who disagreed, how exactly "ferociously" they did so.

Now the failure of it had everything to do with suppression from Davis, because the only people who knew the proposal even existed were some staff members, Cleburne, Cleburne's Division Brigadiers, the other Officer's who signed the proposal, Davis, and the nine people at the meeting (I think a few other people might have been told, but I don't know who they are).

Of these I know the sentiments of Cleburne, the five previously mentioned, the Staff Officer which Cleburne talked to before (who supported it I believe, though cautioned Cleburne that to bring it up would be career suicide, which it was), and the Division Brigadiers, who were all in favour. And of course Davis and the other signatories are obvious.

Given that something that was basically exactly like Cleburne's proposal was brought up again and passed a year later, it's clear that it was not a matter of "all the generals didn't like it," but that nobody knew of its existence and the debate about whether to do it or not did not have a good opportunity to show up.

Anyway, after thinking about it more, there's reason to believe Stephen's could bring it to attention to the Army, namely if he considered it a military matter he would have the sense enough to ask the military. But there's also reason to think he could suppress it like Davis did, namely he wrote the cornerstone speech and was one of the "We're all about Slavery" guys.
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
That "ferocious opposition" is difficult to pinpoint. While Walker, Bate, and Anderson were in opposition, General Johnston, and Hardee agreed with the idea, which leaves four unknowns, not counting Cleburne himself. Walker I would say was "ferociously" in opposition, but he's just one guy and I don't know of the others who disagreed, how exactly "ferociously" they did so.
Johnston was not in favor. The only people who might have favored it were Hardee and Hindman. In fact, in Johnston's letter to the Secretary of War of February 2, 1864, the AoT commander states simply, "None of the officers to whom the memorial was read favored the scheme."

Of these I know the sentiments of Cleburne, the five previously mentioned, the Staff Officer which Cleburne talked to before (who supported it I believe, though cautioned Cleburne that to bring it up would be career suicide, which it was), and the Division Brigadiers, who were all in favour. And of course Davis and the other signatories are obvious.
The staff officer to whom you are referring is, I believe, Major Calhoun Benham. he did not support the idea but very much opposed it. Indeed, he went with Cleburne to the meeting and read an opposition brief. In fact, it was because he had a copy of the proposal in his own papers that historians ever learned that the Cleburne proposal had been made. Happily, his disagreement with Cleburne on this issue in no way affected his intense loyalty to Cleburne.
 
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