How long would slavery have lasted if there were no US Civil War

Say the US civil war had somehow been averted. Maybe the South peacefully seceded, or maybe some accommodation was reached. Is it conceivable that slavery would have lasted into the 20th century? Into the 21st?

Thirty years at most.

No. Legal slavery ended peacefully everywhere else (except Haiti) in the Western hemisphere in the 19th century, usually by compensated emancipation. This could have happened in the United States as well, if there had been a national leader for whom ending slavery was a first priority.

Just FYI, this has been several times. Just do a search and you’ll see lots of good discussion.

Oops, my bad.

It was just FYI. I figured that maybe you were just too “lazy” to do a search. :slight_smile:

Hey, that seems totally uncalled fo----

Oh. Never mind.

Too long, the blood price had to be paid.

It would have lasted a long time in a nation that was founded for the sole purpose of defending slavery. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had continued on a relatively small scale (sex slaves and other still economically viable forms of slavery) until the present day. After all, if they admit slavery was wrong then they would be admitting that their nation was founded for the purpose of defending evil.

And I’m sure that the South would have happily given up segregation and Jim Crow really quickly after slavery. Oh wait…

I can easily see the US South having held onto it longer than Brazil had there been no war, so it probably would have lasted until it became economically unfeasible. It would have strangled a bit probably due to increasingly constrictive legislation, but the Deep South would have kept it around almost certainly. My guess is it would have lasted in pockets until the early 20th century when gas powered tractors and other mechanical devices made humans less necessary and more expensive and after a century of cotton growing the soil was about as rich as sawdust. It’s a lot cheaper to buy gas for a tractor than to feed 20 people.
What would be interesting to speculate upon is how the freedom would have gone down: would they have made the freed slaves leave the states or gone into Jim Crow/sharecropping as they did IRL or moved for deportation or what exactly. I’m guessing there’d have been an enormous “send them back to Africa” movement.

Regardless, I think if the Civil War hadn’t happened in 1861 it would have happened in 1863 or 1868 or 1872 or whenever- war was absolutely inevitable.

I agree on the inevitability of the ACW.

When you combine a strong political philosophy that is tightly bound up in a mostly geographically unified region, and that philosophy is essentially anathema to the larger state some sort of conflict is truly inevitable.

Throughout much of the South it was truly the belief that the states had the final say on things–including the ability to leave the union entirely. Since the constitution has no real way to resolve that argument in a manner that would have any real impact on society, it essentially meant that it eventually had to be settled via open warfare.

The South and its people were willing to fight and die over it, and as the North showed, enough of them were willing to do the same and were willing to pay the price required to actually conquer the South. A big part of the willingness of the South to make war with the rest of the country was I think the lessons of the American Revolution. In the American Revolution we showed that people fighting for their liberty against a power that isn’t nearly as emotionally invested in it can win in spite of overwhelming odds. Even without the help of France (and the Dutch who gave us massive loans), the problem the British had with subjugating the rebellious colonies is they could only win the fight where they were, and could only hold the ground where they were. As an economic investment, it just didn’t make sense for the British to totally annihilate the colonies, at that point what would you be fighting for? It also just wasn’t palatable to the British public because to have truly broken the back of the American colonies the British would have had to send and lose far more men than they ultimately did.

The South sort of thought their conflict with the North would mirror the conflict of the late 18th century. The South instead found that the North was willing to suffer immense casualties, and that they had the grim determination to systematically ruin everything in their path. If the South hadn’t surrendered when they did, the North would not have stopped, the whole of the Confederacy would have been ground into oblivion with Shermanesque tactics.

However, imagining a world in which there was no American Civil War, you would still see the population of the non-slave holding United States continue to dramatically outpace that of the slave holding United States. There’s even some good chance that the 90% of white southerns who didn’t own slaves and thus were directly harmed by slavery would have eventually been brought to a level of education such that they would have turned on the gentry class which had essentially been reaping the overwhelming rewards of the plantation economy. Eventually the disparity between the portion of America that was willing to defend slavery and that which was not would have made it politically unfeasible. I’m not sure when that would happen, probably some time between 1885-1915.

A more interesting question might be what would have happened if the Confederacy had simply seceded and not been contested in its right to do so, how long would an independent South hold on to slavery?

Due to the historical importance it would have for an independent confederacy, I would imagine it would probably last up until it was simply economic nonsense (the age of tractors and such.)

Early tractors mainly displaced horses and mules. Human farm labor took its big hit with later generations of specialist machines, combined with the dubious “revolutions” in fertilizers and pesticides.

Africa, or the Caribbean. There was such a movement, and many abolitionists subscribed to it, as did Lincoln. Lincoln called the “colonization” movement “the ultimate redemption of the African race”–to have the benefit of being repatriated after enslavement by the superior white man and absorption thereby of “the rich fruits of religion, civilization, law and liberty”!

“Compensated” would have been a sticking point. The South held $2.8 billion worth of slaves. The federal budget in 1860 was only $78 million.

Yeah, but the value of the slaves would have decreased rapidly as the market for them more or less died with the mechanization of agriculture. Further, compensated emancipation doesn’t necessarily mean anything close to “fair market value of the slave compensation.”

In other words, compensated emancipation would have been perhaps one-sixth the cost of fighting the war. Plus we wouldn’t have had to kill each other.

I agree with Der Trihs. Of all the phrases I never imagined typing . . .

It is more complicated than making the argument that slavery died out elsewhere. An independent South would be a nation founded on a bedrock of slavery. The right to own slaves as property cannot wilt on an economic basis alone. Perhaps fewer people would own fewer slaves, but slavery would still exist. The market for free labor, absent legal strictures, is inexhaustible.

It is a moot point as war between the North and South would have eventually happened absent the Civil War. Northerners would have conspired to invade the Confederacy and encourage the defection of slaves. Operating as two independent states those actions would be provocation enough for war. I don’t think it would have lasted to the present day, but my best guess might be that it would have lasted through 1945 or so.

All that can be said for Americans of the time is, it didn’t seem like that at the time – that the war would be so expensive, in blood or in treasure. From what I’ve read, at the start, both sides in the Civil War expected it to be over in weeks. Because each side vastly and tragically underestimated the other’s will to win.

I think the most likely scenario in which the South would have kept slavery would have been if they had voluntarily come back into the Union before or even during July 1863. Even at the Hampton Roads Conference in February 1865 when even a blind monkey could have seen the South wasn’t on its last leg so much as its last elbow Lincoln intimated (didn’t say outright) that if the South returned to the Union then there was a chance the 13th Amendment could be stopped, and two years or even a year before that he’d surely have allowed them to go on practicing slavery (which he had repeatedly said he didn’t intend to abolish, not until the war).

I’d say that the anathema went both ways. Merely by existing the North offended the South by demonstrating that any claims that slavery was necessary were falsehoods. By prospering more than the South, the North offended it even more by demonstrating that slavery wasn’t even superior from a selfish perspective. And for any Southerner who held that slavery was morally superior, the North offended that too.