For a moment, let's imagine the South had won the Civil War; that Pickett's Charge had been successful in breaking the Union Lines at Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg; that Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had crushed and crippled Union forces. He would have then be freed to sweep down through Philadelphia, Baltimore, to capture the Capitol in Washington, DC. Once defeated, the North would have reluctantly been forced to recognize the Confederate States of America (CSA) as a legitimate and sovereign state. In all likelihood, Lincoln would have been captured and released to serve out his term mending a defeated nation. Basically, his political career would have been over. After a short occupation, Lee would have probably ordered all troops home, both North and South, and the two countries would have had to learn to live together in peace, just like we do with our neighbors to the north, Canada.
Such a scenario presents some intriguing prospects regarding history, not only in North America, but globally as well. Over time, both the USA and CSA would have recovered economically, and both would continue to operate with the same laws and customs as before the war. I doubt another conflict would erupt as both sides were exhausted by the debacle and finally learned the perils of embarking on another such venture. Following the war, slavery would still be accepted in the South, but abolished in the North. The civil rights movement of the 1960's may have occurred in the north, but certainly not in the South. Whether a black person today would still be a slave in the south is doubtful as slavery is generally frowned upon by the world community. Keep in mind though, it was the Union's victory that greatly influenced world opinion regarding slavery. Had the Union lost however, segregation would most likely still be with us and countries like South Africa would still be practicing apartheid.
As two separate countries it is unlikely we would have had as much influence in world affairs as we have experienced. Both countries would be strong, but the division would keep us from becoming a super power to challenge countries like the Soviet Union. Both countries would have likely served on the same side during the two world wars, but would have been much weaker than a unified nation. In all likelihood, Great Britain would remain the dominant super power of the free world as the Americas would be divided, and the rest of Europe in shambles following WW2. Without the United States as a super-power, Communism would have likely flourished and spread to more countries and the Russians would have undoubtedly won the space race.
The energy resources of the middle East would have inevitably fallen under Soviet rule which would threaten the free world and cause the two Americas to increase production. The only benefit to having the Soviets controlling the Middle East, particularly under Stalin, would be the suppression of Muslim radicals and peace would reign. As the dominance of the Soviet Union grew, the two Americas would likely have withdrawn and become more isolationist in nature.
So where does this leave us; what would North America be like today? More importantly, what would we be like as a people? What are the cultural implications assuming the two countries survived to this day? First, as part of the its terms for peace, the CSA would have insisted that runaway slaves would have to be returned to the South. This means there probably wouldn't be a massive migration of blacks to the North, that they would have been stuck in the South. An uprising for freedom may arise over time, but this
would be harshly suppressed much to the dismay of the people in the North. The point is, the demographics of the populace would be significantly different than what we know today.
Regardless of the movement of the masses, I cannot help but believe the north would become a bastion of liberalism as it would primarily be driven by New Englanders. The South would consider itself more conservative than its counterpart in the North and would be less likely to bend traditions and change social rules. Both sides would suffer during the Great Depression of the 20th century. Inevitably, Franklin Roosevelt would emerge in the North and be more likely to pass sweeping social legislation. Without a conservative coalition to challenge him, it is likely he would have implemented changes to the Constitution, such as his court-packing plan to add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to obtain favorable rulings to his liking. In other words, a greater social agenda would likely emerge in the North, much greater than his "New Deal" legislation. The South would not be so willing to implement such changes. Nonetheless, the two countries would wallow in depression until entering World War II which would finally ignite industry in both countries.
Following WW2, Roosevelt's social agenda would be carried forward in the north resulting in a massive and intrusive government. In contrast, the South would be less likely to follow the policies of their neighbors to the north. Government would be smaller and less invasive in the lives of its citizens and businesses. Whereas the North would likely mock their "country bumpkins" in the South as being backwards, the CSA would industrialize and develop their natural resources. So much so, it would eventually supersede the output of the North.
Whereas a lot of the freedoms as specified in the Constitution would be challenged in the North, the South, with its own separate Constitution, will be more inclined to defend it. Consequently, patriotism, citizenship, and religion would more likely flourish in the South as opposed to the North.
The biggest difference between the two countries would inevitably be ideology; Liberals gravitating to the North, and Conservatives to the South. The two countries would both be strong in their own way, but nowhere near as powerful as a unified nation. Then again, knowing the politics of today, maybe this would have been a better scenario than what we all experiencing today where the government is gridlocked over ideological differences.
It is not clear to me what our standard of living would be like. I'm sure both countries would have prospered following victory in WW2, but maybe not to the degree we experienced in the 1950's and 1960's. If the South successfully industrialized, which seems clear they would, they may very well have had a higher standard of living than the North. The division between the two countries would have impacted technological developments. Keep in mind, we experienced a tremendous technological revolution as a result of the space race, but if the Soviet Union had won the race, they would probably be in the driver's seat as opposed to North America.
If Pickett had broken the Union's lines at Cemetery Ridge, life would be substantially different than we know it today. Between our differences in culture, technology, and ideology, our standard of living and position in the world community would be noticeably different.
One thing is for certain: had Lee taken the field in Gettysburg, Lincoln and Kennedy would likely have not been assassinated, and there probably wouldn't be a Panama Canal.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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