Lincoln's presidency without a secession

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by RousseauX, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. RousseauX Well-Known Member

    Oct 25, 2011
    Secession was not really inevitable upon Lincoln's election, it seems like secession was a political ploy which caught on a few years before Lincoln's election.

    Let's say the situation is less radicalized, how does Lincoln's presidency go without a southern secession.
  2. David S Poepoe Banned

    Jan 1, 2004
    El Segundo, California
    From what I've read Lincoln considered himself to be of the same cloth, if not successor, to Henry Clay. Most likely there would have been a push to extend Federal powers, especially the questionable establishment of a new national bank.
  3. Blackfox5 Well-Known Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    Prevent the expansion of slavery in new territories. This was a minimal goal for Republicans.
    Possibly end slavery in DC and try to push a compensation policy to emanicpate slaves in the border states.
    Implement a national economic policy like the Whigs pursue including those Lincoln did pursue IOTL - a transcontinental railroad, homestead act, etc.

    The economic policies can probably be passed without too much problem. Some of the antislavery acts may be prevented by Lincoln not wanting to push things too far, but he needs to accomplish something to keep his own party happy. Preventing slavery in all new territories and abolishing it in DC is perhaps the limits of his administration.

    The major legacy Lincoln will leave is by building a Republican Party - even if it is only a small one - in the South by patronage if nothing else. People will still want jobs as postmasters, customs officials, etc. We'll likely see a thriving Republican Party in Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Most likely North Carolina too. These are areas where the Republicans might build a party that could win statewide elections in the next decade or two. Texas, Northern Alabama and New Orleans will also be areas where the Republicans might do well, but they'll be a minority party but perhaps working with a third party that is locally dominant and competitive with the Democrats. This would present a firewall for future Republican presidents if they push harder on the slavery question. A viable southern Republican Party ensures the border states are never in any danger of seceding, and can probably prevent the Upper South from seceding. This would limit any secession attempts to the Deep South, which would be obviously prone to failure and therefore prevent secession entirely.
  4. Rich Rostrom Well-Known Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair
    One doesn't need to change the whole climate. Immediate secession went through in part because of an incident which could have not happened.

    In late 1860, after the election but before the South Carolina convention met, there was a ceremony for the completion of a railroad linking South Carolina and Georgia. It was attended by many notables of both states. At the ceremony, many of the Georgians assured the South Carolinians that if South Carolina declared secession, Georgia would follow.

    This had a major effect at the convention. There were two faction there - those who wanted to declare secession at once, unilaterally; and those who wanted to assure joint action with other southern states before doing anything dangerous. The latter group were called Cooperationists. Their plan was to summon a general convention of the slave-holding states, and get all of them to agree to declare secession together.

    This would insure that South Carolina wouldn't end up leading the charge by itself. There were enough doubts among the delegates that the Cooperationist plan might have been adopted.

    But the Fire-Eaters brushed aside these doubts. They cited the pledges made by Georgians at that ceremony as evidence that other states would follow.

    Now, suppose that ceremony hadn't taken place, or been disrupted by bad weather or something. The convention decides against immediate secession, and calls for a southern convention. The other Deep South states follow suit, and are joined by upper south states as well. (I'm not sure if Missouri, Kentucky, or Maryland would send delegates; I'm sure Delaware would not.) The convention is held in New Orleans in March 1861, after Lincoln's inauguration.

    The delegates are a mix of outright secessionists, conditional Unionists, and even a few hard Unionists, there to do what they can to obstruct the secessionists.

    The convention issues a manifesto, demanding adherence to the whole pro-slavery agenda: slavery to be allowed in all territories, strict enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, a Constitutional amendment explicitly protecting slavery, admission of Kansas as a slave state under the Lecompton constitution, suppression of abolitionist agitation.

    This is too much for almost any northerner, except some Doughface Democrats. Lincoln does not even reply directly, leaving that up to newspapers and other political figures. The rejection is vehement, which both empowers and weakens the Fire-Eaters. OT1H, they argue that all the North is hostile, rejecting these just demands. OTOH, moderates argue that the Fire-Eaters are making enemies of all the North with these extreme demands.

    There is a period of debate lasting some months. But as the debate continues, passions cool and the sense of emergency fades. There are no mass uprisings by slaves, and no apparent effort by Lincoln to insinuate abolitionist agents into the South.

    Lincoln fills a lot of Federal appointments in the South with respectable old Whigs. While OT1H, No True Southerner wants to be associated with the Black Republicans, OTOH somebody has to handle the mail and collect the customs - and secession hasn't actually been declared yet. This cools the secession fever further.

    Lincoln appoints a Republican governor for Kansas Territory, and a military commander who is not a pro-southern partisan. Kansas settlers vote on statehood again, and endorse the free-soil Topeka constitution by over 80%. U.S. troops block attempted interference by Border Ruffians from Missouri.

    When Congress meets in December 1861, the situation is down to a simmer. The first issues taken up are the Homestead Act and the admission of Kansas. Both pass fairly easily.

    A somewhat knottier issue is the two vacancies on the Supreme Court, left by the deaths of Justices McLean and Daniel. McLean is replaced by fellow Ohioan Noah Swayne, whom he had recommended. But Daniel was a Virginian, and there was a rule that Justices be drawn from each Federal judicial circuit. Virginia was in the Fourth Circuit, with Maryland and Delaware. Lincoln sweated over this, and ...

    I draw a blank. I can't think of anyone who would be a plausible SCotUS nominee from the Fourth Circuit by Lincoln.

    Maybe Reverdy Johnson of Maryland.

    Another Republican goal was an increased tariff. This was contentious, and after a long dispute only a very modest increase was enacted.

    Lincoln proposed the construction of a railroad to California, starting at the Iowa border. This too was disputed, but with the support of northern Democrats a railroad bill passed in the final session, in January 1863.

    In foreign policy Lincoln faced only one serious challenge: the French incursion into Mexico...

    I'm flailing here. The fugitive slave issue would be red-hot, and I can't even guess what would happen.

    But I'm pretty sure that if secession didn't happen immediately in 1860-61, it would never happen at all. Once that is accepted, the Fire-Eaters would steadily lose ground. They might be replaced by a "Die-Hard" movement determined to preserve slavery in the South as long as possible, but not by picking fights with Northerners or trying to expand it.

    A big question is what happens to the ex-Whigs of the Border States and Upper South. I don't see how they can explicitly join the Republican Party; but there is no reason for a Unionist label to serve as a bridge.
  5. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

    Mar 13, 2010
    Peterborough, UK.
    Actually there'd be only one vacancy. Buchanan appointed Jeremiah S Black to the SCOTUS in Feb 1861, but the Senate rejected him by one vote. Had all the Southern Senators still been in their seats, Black would have been confirmed easily.
  6. Blackfox5 Well-Known Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    I think your analysis is very spot on. I don't think all Whigs from the Border States will join the Republicans, but some will after a time. We'll likely see two developments.

    The first is a local or Southerner only party similar to the "Opposition Party" or "Constitutional Union Party". Most likely the 1860 Constitutional Unionists will stick around. This will serve for the majority of former Whigs to begin with. They will be able to contest statewide elections.

    There will also be an embryonic Republican Party created and sustained by patronage who may be able to contest local elections in certain geographic areas. For example, in Kentucky maybe initially Republican patronage only happens in areas where people are already voting Republican in some numbers, but other areas they aren't. But there are Border State people who did vote for Lincoln so even in 1860 Lincoln will have patronage candidates who can run for county dogcatcher, city councilman, or eventually for a Congressional seat.

    Given enough time, as fears of the "Black Republicans" fade, sentiment will shift so that the smaller Republican Party grows and the Constituitional Unionists slowly defect - individually or by the state party merging with the Republicans enmasse. This process will probably take one to two decades.

    The Upper South will take longer time, but again a Constitutional Union Party will probably take up the ex Whigs. We probably won't see any Upper South Republicans until the Border States start going Republican. It'll take time for the Upper South to accept someone being Republican - but eventually it'll happen in Western Virginia/North Carolinia, Eastern Tennessee, and Northern Arkansas. They won't be Radicals or abolitionists, but can probably support policies that seek to limit the dominance of the large slaveholding plantation elites.

    The question is whether the Republicans can start appealing to poor southern Whites as being exploited by the large slaveholding plantations and the Democratic Party they control. If fears about racial equality or miscengenation can be kept down, an indigenous Republican Party could slowly begin - possible increase in economic status by patronage jobs can be a big incentive. Granted, this will take time, but a long enough streak of Republican Presidential wins could do this.

    So that is the scenario I see - A Constitutional Union Party as an acceptable vehicle for former Whigs which will slowly act as an incubator for the Republican Party. I expect they'll be treated as a coalition partner in Congress, and Lincoln will appoint prominent members to certain patronage positions when it wouldn't be actual smart to try and find actual Republicans in the South. But eventually it'll fade away.
  7. Rich Rostrom Well-Known Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    The heights of glory, the depths of despair
    "Poor white" Southerners were nearly all Democrats; many of the big planters were Whigs, as were bankers and other businessmen. So this is not the natural path for Republicans in the South.

    Bear in mind that while the mountain folk were Unionists, who turned Republican during and after the war, they were Democrats earlier. Andrew Johnson was an exemplar of this type.

    The Republicans of 1860 openly rejected civil equality of the races and miscegenation. (The word "miscegenation" was coined in 1864 by Democrats for use in a false-flag pamphlet advocating racial intermarriage.)