If the South had been victorious…

The Parting: General A.P. Hill and His Wife, Winter of 1862-63

I have not chosen to emphasize in this blog, but neither have I sought to conceal, my lifelong sympathy for the Confederate side in the War Between the States (1861-1865). The usual term, “Civil War,” is not factually accurate, since a civil war by definition is a conflict between two sides over who will control the central government, and that is not what was at issue in that war. Rather, the Southern (or to use the old term, Southron) Confederacy wished simply to be left alone to pursue its own destiny, while the North, under the Lincoln administration, sought to impose its will upon the breakaway States.

As a child, my appreciation for the Confederate States was based on my instinctive sympathy for the “underdog,” and my admiration for such towering figures of military prowess, personal honour, and gentlemanly conduct as Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and many more. As an adult, I have come to realize that the War Between the States was indeed what many Southrons have called it, a “Second American War for Independence,” wherein the South was defending the ideals and principles of our Founders and the Constitutional Republic they had given us.

While slavery was indeed a fact of life in the Confederacy (as it had been in most Northern States until the first half of the 19th century, and continued to be in several Union States until the 13th Amendment), and was a factor in the decision of some Southron States to seceded, the emphasis on that institution promoted by mainstream media, academia, and politicians is a smokescreen intended, first, to divert us from attention to how far from our Founders’ ideals we as a nation have in fact strayed, and second, to instill guilt upon Southrons and their sympathizers, and so stifle dissent.

It is absurd and irrational to believe that, lacking the horrors of the War Between the States, slavery in the South would simply have continued on indefinitely, or that alone of all nations which have banned slavery – a historical reality in most, indeed practically all, cultures – the Confederate States alone required a vicious war to force them to abandon it. This is nothing other than a justification, rationalization, and excuse for a wholly unnecessary war that killed, by current estimates, well over a million Americans, both North and South, and devastated the Southern States both economically and culturally.

So, what might things look like if it had turned out differently? What if the Confederacy had, in fact, won the War, and thus its independence? The following reflection on that topic came across my newsfeed this morning. Although originally written in 2004, it is just as true, if not more so, today, as the centralization of Federal power continues apace. Will the Trump administration reign this in somewhat? It’s tempting to think – or at least hope — so, but I shall not hold my breath. Freedoms lost are not easily regained.

Yet it can be salutary to consider alternatives to the present situation. Although we cannot “rewind” history, that does not mean that we need to accept our current predicament as unalterable, either, and consideration of alternatives may help to guide us into a better future. That, at least, is my hope and prayer!


As the federal government grows bigger, stronger, and more corrupt with each passing year, maybe it’s time to dream about how life would be today if the South had won the War Between the States. Am I the only one who dares to speculate about how life would be today if the South had actually won the WBTS? I know… I know…“How dare he bring this up! Arrest this raving racist at once! Send for the Thought Police!” It has to be the ultimate violation of political correctness to even broach this subject!

As conservatives, can we be happy that a segment of the country that fought valiantly for limited government, states’ rights, and the rule of law under a strong constitution was defeated? Indeed, one of the most malicious consequences of the war was the beginning of the vast shift of political power to the central government in Washington, with the resultant monopoly of power that the federal government extends over us today. It was also accompanied by a gradual corrupting of the Executive branch…This is hardly what I would call a favorable result. As a matter of fact, I’d term it an absolute disaster – the Founding Fathers’ worse nightmare! Isn’t this the reason they fought the Revolution in the first place?

But, you say, had the South won, America would never have become the great nation that it became in the 20th century. Well, my response is that monopolies of power are never good – especially in government, as the totalitarian governments of the 20th century have shown us. . If the South had gained its freedom, there would have been two separate governments competing with each other to be efficient and honorable. Explain to me why this is bad. If either government fell short of these ideals, people would have had the option to “vote with their feet” – an option that doesn’t exist today. Competition is always good.

And, no, maybe we wouldn’t have become the “world power” that we became in this the latter half of the 20th century. Why do we assume that this would have been necessarily bad? Consider this: it’s highly unlikely that the two separate nations would have experienced anything besides limited involvement in World War I, especially since one of them – the South – would have been adhering to the wise admonition of George Washington to avoid foreign entanglements… WWI was an unmitigated disaster for Western civilization. Instead of making the world safe for democracy, we helped make it safe for Bolshevism, Fascism, Socialism, and Nazism.

But, you say, slavery was a monumental evil that had to end! Yes, I agree that slavery was terrible – but I simply disagree with the way it ended. Wouldn’t a period of gradual emancipation – which many Southern leaders were favoring by the 1860’s, although with terms not to be dictated by the North – have been immensely better for all involved, most especially the black slaves themselves? Gradual emancipation over a period of about sixty years was exactly how the North itself ended its association with slavery. Why couldn’t the South be allowed the same solution?

The problem with the WBTS as the solution to slavery was that it destroyed the fabric of Southern society, leading to immense poverty and destitution for the entire South. Would anybody deny that the worse part of this societal destruction was experienced by the freed slaves themselves? And the North wanted no part of the social problems created by freeing the slaves, as the many racist laws restricting the settlement of freedmen in the North indicate. What was the value of receiving freedom without justice?

Before the war, most slaves had a better quality of life than the poor white farmer. The war put an end to that. This massive poverty and total decimation of Southern society also served as the germination for the horrendous, nation dividing post-bellum racial tensions and animosities – the ramifications of which we have with us even today. The conditions of emancipated slaves was so bad that seventy-five years after emancipation, in a 1930’s government study called the Slave Narratives, over 70% of surviving former slaves stated that their standards of living were better before the war. We can all agree that slavery was a monumental evil, but surely gradual emancipation would have been better than this!

As a conservative who longs for limited government and the ideals of the Constitution, I am not ashamed to speculate that quite possibly we would have a better world today had the South won the WBTS. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think limited government, personal freedom, and higher degrees of racial harmony are what we’d be experiencing. In addition, we would have a clear choice between two governments competing for our approbation. Or maybe you’re content with the rapacious, out-or-control, ever-expanding, corrupt federal government that is overwhelming us today!

Written by: Gary L. Livacari, September 26, 2004, Free Republic

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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