Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Question on Mac’s Lee in 1862 Piece

Great presentation (scroll down if you missed it). The South is about lose quickly and be allowed back in the Union with its peculiar institution intact. Then, almost by chance, the heretofore unimpressive Lee is given command, turns things around, and with a little more luck and skill might have won the war quickly in MD. 1862 is striking especially for missed opportunities on both sides for decisive victory. Question for discussion: Would either the Confederacy’s quick win or the quick defeat have been better than what actually happened?--a protracted and incredibly bloody and destructive conflict. The long war was actually a pretty unlikely and seemingly very unfortunate outcome--but it was the only way that it could have ended slavery and brought Lincoln to the prominence he enjoys in our political tradition. The brilliant and admirable but still quite flawed leadership of Lee, Mac suggests, was THE cause of the war dragging on and on.

Discussions - 2 Comments

I've been out of town and so haven't been able to comment on this thought provoking and dangerous what if question posed by Peter. I am old enough to feel safe in taking the bait. First off, my old grad student colleague Mac did write a terrific article. My spontaneous thought is that it would have indeed been better if the war had ended quickly, one way or the other. Either way, no 14th Amendment. Probably a slower and less politically destructive end to slavery, and either way, pace Harry Jaffa, probably an American alliance against German fascism and communist materialist tyranny in the 20th Century. True, a victorious South might not have been as interesting as a defeated one, but I think it likely the best defenders of the South are right that slavery would have in the end been transformed into something else. It would have been interesting to see what the brand of liberalism or post liberalism the South might have developed. Well, if anyone reads this I welcome rebukes. Thanks, Peter and Mac.

Great site and debate.

Re:the South winning the War for Southern Independence in 1862, it is really, really difficult to defeat an enemy that out numbers you 2 to 1, or more, unless you wish to fight in the mountains for a long, long time. There are only so many Chancellorsvilles and Fredricksburgs to celebrate before attrition sets in.
Alternate history is fun! Should the South been victorious we could have immigrated, say in the 1960's; I have a feeling "liberalism" wouldn't have been a problem. I should think the continent could handle another republic, it's too bad Father Abraham didn't.

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