Home > Alternate history, Society, What-ifs > What if the Confederacy had survived? Part 1

What if the Confederacy had survived? Part 1

This is what the confederate flag really looked like. The jack that modern-day southerners bandy about was never used during the Civil War.Imagine now that we wound the clock back 150 or so years and through some confluence of events, the Confederate States of America actually survived the American Civil War. You now have three distinct anglophone nations (Candada, CSA, USA) living side-by-side on the North American continent coming into the 20th century, one of them a slave-state. How differently would the history of the 20th century have gone? The answer here is amazingly different to how it did in real life, regardless of how you think it might’ve played out.

Now let’s be clear here – the CSA had about as much chance of winning the American Civil War as I do of winning a game of basketball against Michael Jordan. Yes, with a few months’ worth of training on my part and some sort of leg injury on his part I might have just enough skill to win, but that still depends on his being hobbled. Basically, had the CSA captured Washington within the first few months of the war (or had some similar amazing victory) and had the northern commanders been asleep at the wheel, they might’ve been able to sue for peace and we’d have three separate anglophone nations in North America (well, four, if you count Belize, which no one ever does).

The rest of this article is poorly-researched and baseless speculation, but bear with me here – I think connecting the pieces is interesting and thinking about how things could have gone differently can tell us a lot about how things went and what is possible. Here is my timeline for how things could have gone:

1860s – 1910:

A state of cold war and mutual distrust emerges between the USA and the CSA, much like the relationship between India and Pakistan. There may have even been a Kashmir-style dispute over border regions like Kentucky. As before, their conflict stems from the moral question of slavery and of difference in ideology. Thanks to these differences, politics in the two countries diverge sharply, the US adopting a much more egalitarian ethos than the conspicuously stratified CSA.

What this could mean for foreign relations is unclear. Britain would most likely ally itself with or look favourably upon the USA over the CSA simply because of public distaste for slavery back home, so you’d see Canada and the USA emerge as a bloc. Mexico, with its long-standing ban on slavery and history of conflict over the issue in Texas, might position itself on the US side of the cold war as well. It would be island nations in the Carribean that participate in the slave trade that would fall into the CSA’s sphere of influence.

During this time, the USA has become a thoroughly modern nation, prosperous and industrialised, though nowhere as rich nor as powerful as it was in real history.  Thanks to the ever-present threat of states seceding from the Union, Federal governmental power is weak and the various states behaved as though they were independent nations, each with their own armies and navies.  The result is something akin to the European Union, albeit one that can bring a united army together in the event of a war.

Whether or not Manifest Destiny, that drive to conquest that led to the US west and colonise a great chunk of the North American continent, (to say nothing of the displacement and driving out of the Indian tribes that lived there) would have happened at the same pace is anybody’s guess.  What is clear is that neither the CSA nor the USA would allow the Western states to remain as undeveloped no-man’s lands for any period of time. Perhaps this could have led to the engagement of Indian nations as vassal armies or allies, especially in the border territories out West, given that colonisation alone would not give the USA or the CSA a well-defended frontier and the risk of the Indian tribes joining forces with the other side instead would be too great otherwise.

What would happen to some these regions is that they would become majority Indian states, their inhabitants made US or confederate citizens.  This wouldn’t stop the displacement of Native American tribes in more northerly regions, but it would mean that both the US and the Confederacy would then have a place to resettle troublesome Indian tribes.  The result is American Indian buffer states between the CSA and the USA – a long stretch of tribes living under American-style colonialism.

Due to resources being turned toward defending themselves from possible attack from the south, the USA never went through with the Alaska purchase from the Russian Empire.  Thus, Alaska was never incorporated into the US at all.  Because of a lack of interest from both the USA and the CSA, the Russian Empire would be forced to slash the asking price for the territory, whereupon it could have been snapped up by the British, who simply incorporated it into what would go on to become Canada in 1867.

Around the turn of the century, industrialisation and the cheaper cultivation of cotton in places like Egypt would begin to change the form slavery took in the CSA. Cotton estates would instead begin growing a mixture of food crops and cash crops including tobacco while CSA factories would be manned almost exlusively by slaves.  The latter development would breed a lot of resentment among poorer confederate whites seeking work, especially since their neighbours over the border would be enjoying the fruits of rapid industrialisation.  Voting rights would be expanded in the CSA from just landowning whites to whites in general as a response to a threatened revolution, though this would change little as the ruling classes would put up all kinds of impediments for poorer whites to vote.  For the time being, the CSA would remain a mostly agricultural society ruled over by a de-facto oligarchy.

The US would enter its gilded age at the end of the 19th century, though the power and influence of the Rockerfellers and Carnegies of this alternate timeline would be limited somewhat by their inability to exploit resources south of the border.  This would mean railroads going west would connect the northern states much more tightly and places like Oklahoma would have larger urban populations as a result.

Latin American countries would be subject to the same sorts of shenanigans that US-based infrastructure and agri-corporations perpetrated in real history, but thanks to Confederate interference, their influence is somewhat curtailed.  Panama, for instance, would remain a part of Colombia and the US would never occupy Nicaragua.  The other side of this coin is the likely forced absorption of a swathe of Caribbean island nations into both the USA and the CSA, either as full-fledged states , allies or protectorates and the alignment of Central American nations as either pro-USA or pro-CSA.  This would happen as a result of efforts by the CSA to keep the slave trade going in the Americas, by hook or by crook.

1914 – 1920

Neither the USA or the CSA would enter into World War 1, being more concerned with their own cold feud. US help is not forthcoming for Britain and as a result, WW1 takes longer.  Just as before, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia makes communism a force to be reckoned with and Russia exits the war.

Germany and its allies would still surrender due to overstretched resources, but it becomes more obvious in the end to the German people that Germany and her allies lost the war. This is crucial as the myth of “the stab in the back” that would later help propel Hitler to power was partly based on the idea that Germany was never militarily defeated and that Germany’s leaders capitulated thanks to cowardice on their part as well as seditious influences back home by communists and the Jews.  Without such a powerful myth to latch onto, Germany might never have produced fascism in the specific form it took.

1920 – 1930

After WW1, thanks to a lack of US involvement and the fact that Woodrow Wilson, the US president at the time wasn’t around to help make it happen (if he was born at all, he would have been a native of Virginia and the CSA and therefore ineligible for the US presidency) the League of Nations is then never established.  No League of Nations means that no United Nations ever gets chartered later on.  Politics remains on the nation-to-nation treaty level with all the consequences that come with it.  However, without Wilson’s voice to try to moderate things, the terms of surrender placed on Germany are more staggering than those of the treaty of Versailles. This, like in our own history, will go on to lead directly to another war.  As a result, fascism still emerges in interwar Germany, Italy and Spain just as it did in our history, but it is slightly different.

German fascism might have retained its racial component simply because of certain ways of thinking popular at the time that equated nations with shared ancestry.  As with our own history, German fascism would have centred on the idea of national rebirth and militancy, though the movement may have lacked the genocidal bent that Nazism did.  With the CSA as an example of a “master race” ruling over a class of “sub-humans”, German fascism might still have looked with covetous eyes to the lands in the East, but dreamed not of conquest and extermination, but rather of conquest and the perpetual subjugation of the local populace.

The Great Depression would hit the world hard, regardless of how the Great War turned out.  Thanks to a collapse in the price of cash crops, Confederate society would be turned inside out.  The oligarchy would shrink, but those left with riches would become much more powerful as a result.  As minor aristocrats lost their fortunes, they would form a politically active underclass that would begin a push for greater reforms, leftist revolution, abolition, secession and even joining the Union again.  The end of the 1930s would see instability within the CSA as it reacted to these events by abandoning its model of government in favour of something that looks a lot like fascism, a change that most likely happens by way of military coup.

Well, this post has been much longer than I originally planned for.  Stay tuned for next week as I continue this line of thought through World War 2 and into the modern age.

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