Thursday, April 8, 2010

Santa Claus, is there REALLY a Virginia?

I have wanted to resume blogging, but as time passed by, asked myself: what topic really deserves being the one to break silence for?  But Gail Collins tells us, as kings of stupid begin to line up south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Explanation: Virginia's governor says it's now Treason and Secession History Month!  Yes, indeed -- economic crisis be damned, the new south hangs on to its old garbage.  Onward into the swamp, my friends.

The alternative histories are fascinating. If you agree that it would be legal for a state to secede (Lincoln's view is that secession was illegal, thus impossible) a CSA [Confederate States of America] would have been created, of states who believed they could secede as needed. So it would have been a more fragile organism to start with. Add to that the short fuse and honor obsession of the Celt (historians Grady McWhinney and David Hackett Fischer separately suggest that the south was basically a Celtic culture), and without any prodding, the CSA would be even more likely to implode or explode.

Western provinces would not have automatically assumed they would join the Union -- but on the other hand, if the CSA was combustible, or relatively poor, or did not believe in unity, why join it? Would Texas have stayed in the CSA once oil was discovered? Why? I think it more likely that Texas and Louisiana would have held their noses and allied with each other, because of oil and the Mississippi River. They would be better off doing business on their own with the CSA than joining it. The north central territories would NEVER have joined with the CSA, port or no port, but would do business through a foreign New Orleans.

But again, the northern route through the Great Lakes would have united the Union and the north central territories firmly with British Canada. I can't imagine the Union and the north joining Canada, but I can imagine the southern tier of populated Canada being ever more firmly allied with the USA. Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal were already population centers by this time -- a far better substrate to build an enduring alliance than one along the Mississippi. The Chicago River might still run north!

Once you no longer have northern sheriffs being forced to observe the Fugitive Slave Act, the CSA's northern boundary would always leak. Imagine a Berlin wall stretching from the Atlantic to the Mississippi! Would the CSA have the leadership or the money to make it happen? If you were a southern soldier with a small-holding and a slave or two, or none, once the dust had settled and your so-called honor was no longer threatened by the Yanks, would you feel like paying taxes to Richmond or sending your son to protect that boundary? It didn't work for the British between 1763 and 1776, it didn't work for eastern businessmen in 1792, and it didn't work for East Germany in 1989.  In fact, it didn't really work for East Germany between 1961 and 1989 either!

I haven't read this anywhere and I'm not spouting another author's ideas -- I've just been tossing this around in my head in the few minutes since reading Gail Collins's blog. If I can come up with such serious reasons for the CSA not to stay together in just a few minutes, I don't think it really could have survived.

The north has been subsidizing the south since the writing of the Constitution: the three-fifths compromise and the siting of the capital on the Potomac. The south has been holding the north for ransom -- almost literally, since we've been putting our military bases there -- ever since. After the late 1860s unpleasantness, it received northern industry because carpetbaggers saw a fresh wilderness to exploit. Before globalization, it received northern industry because southerners were willing to sacrifice their dignity, working without unions. The south would have been better off listening to Robert E. Lee's better angels than sending him off to fight.

(Incidentally, Lee himself did not always listen to his better angels.  You can read here about how he treated his own and inherited slaves.)

1 comment:

Paul Oakley said...

Fascinating stuff, Diggitt! I'll be back to read this post again.

[BTW... great to see you blogging again!]