August 21, 2012

Great Moments in SWPL Alternative History

Headlines in the New York Herald, April 15, 1861:

Civil War Averted!
South Abolishes Slavery
Institutes “Permanent Agricultural Internships” Instead


Stirner said...


Great Moments in SWPL History is the gimmick that keeps on giving.

"How Foodies destroyed America"
"Camping: getting back to non-vibrant nature"
"Gaming the public school system for fun and NAM exclusion"
"Pay cable: HBO? SHOW? AMC? or all they just the SWPL network?"
"Internships: workfare for SWPL graduates?"

Jason Sylvester said...

Sidebar banners:

"Commentary, A5: Tom Friedman explains how South Carolina has made the world flat. Again."

"Analysis: 'It just looks like horizontal servitude. It's really vertical freedom.'- Matt Yglesias."

"Washington City: 'Taney off the hook,' Federal City insiders say."

"Mission, Mississippi: 'Davis train to Richmond interrupted; disappointment, questions, follow aborted attempt at *self-rule*.' - Soledad O'Brien reports on treason, hate, and the challenge ahead from the field."

"Late-breaking: Industrial interests in the North assert 'Permanent Agricultural Internships' will lead to 'jobs Negroes won't do'; look to Emperor Maximilian I for relief.

Also: Cotton now said to be rotting in the fields(See A12)."

All of it could practically write itself, interchangeably.

Anonymous said...

Agricultural internships is funny, but fundamentally, there is no SWPL alternative history because SWPL rely on interpreting history for their identity.

Jason said...

A historian made a good point about the Civil War. If the South had seceded 10 years earlier, they probably would have been successful. By 1861, the North had too much industrial advantage (along with a ruthlessness to burn cities to the ground). So, the compromise of 1850 may have been a big mistake for the South - they should have just left at that point, if they were going to try to escape.

The lesson: strike while the iron is hot. Sometimes, the hotheads are right.

heartiste said...

SWPL headline: Science shows your hypocrisy is not as morally suspect as you think

Anonymous said...

If the South had seceded 10 years earlier, they probably would have been successful.

I really wonder how that would have worked out.

Seriously. I do not believe slavery could have been morally defended indefinitely -- the same arguments that prevailed in England and the rest of the Western world would have become more and more weighty and difficult to ignore. At the same time, the potential for violence would have always remained. Given the demographics, this could have ranged from mere unrest, all the way up to a successful Haitian style uprising, or a genocidal massacre of blacks, or perhaps some geographically complicated mix of both. Would an independent North dominated by Puritans have stood aside and let it work itself out? The situation looks like an absolute mess to me, and I'm pretty sure that many of the possible alternative histories would have been even worse than what actually happened.

DYork said...

I was just thinking of this "Internships are White Slavery" issue.

And I saw this - Howard Stern pranks his general manager.

Interns prank tom p1

Interns prank tom p2

Interns prank tom p3

Anonymous said...

Reminds me . . . the late, great British comedian Spike Milligan, claimed by one source as the originator of the world's funniest joke had a spoof headline I heard once.

"Archduke Ferdinand found alive, World One a mistake!"

sideways said...

I do not think that the Confederacy ending slavery would have prevented the Civil War. The South, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in speculation regarding the result of slavery being allowed to operate for those states that chose to?

Wouldn't white males vote with their feet by moving to states where they didn't have to compete with slaves?

I raise this question because eventually slave owners would have slaves doing anywork that was profitable; including white collar" stuff.

TGGP said...

I'm going to obtusely ignore the humor and point out that Lincoln was explicit that the struggle was over national unity rather than slavery. But the more the common interpretation becomes dominant, the more hope there is for non-slave territories to secede in the modern day.

Anonymous said...

Actually one of the things that pissed off people back then was blacks getting permanent internships as factory and other high tech jobs.

Anonymous said...

Slavery could have evolved into a complex institution with checks and balances, such as guaranteed medical care and old age pensions. At least it did in the Star Trek Roman World episode.

Whiskey said...

Virginia in the 1830's came within about 20 votes of outlawing slavery. So the idea that it would have been outlawed is not out of the question. Particularly if you look at who fought, and how hard, for each side.

Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia fought the hardest, by casualty lists. This even though only 8% of Confederate Soldiers and officers owned slaves. Much of the fighting was on the general principal of freed slaves = White Massacre.

By contrast, West Virginia seceded ... from Virginia, to stay in the Union, and Eastern Tennessee with almost no Blacks fought for ... the Union. Meanwhile Plantation dominated Kentucky was pro-South, as Maryland, and NYC where the Irish HATE HATE HATED freed Blacks and resented the draft. Unlike Spielberg's fairy tale, the Irish hanged any Black they could find during the Draft Riots.

Then there were the Alabamans, Mississippians, and Missourians. According to Sherman and Grant both, who ought to know, those from Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri, tended mostly to fight one battle, take casualties, and go home. Figuring honor was satisfied. That was Twain's experience as a Confederate soldier. Desertion among the Southern Army in Tennessee, and later Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi, was high.

If you were a White man in the South, and there were plenty of freed slaves potentially around to wreak any vengeance upon YOU or your family, you generally fought, long and hard. If you were White and an immigrant (particularly Irish) you were not much interested in fighting for freeing slaves. If you were a White man from the South where there were few potential freedmen to lynch you or your family, you probably would not fight at all, and certainly not for long for the South.

Looking for morality is a fools game in examining how the public reacts. Self interest, economics, status mongering, yes. Morality no.

Anonymous said...

How the Irish became White:
Dateline: Washington DC - August 1859

The Census department announced it will no longer count the Irish under category of "Free Colored" but will instead create a new category "Free White persons who eat potatoes and are mostly drunk" to account for them. Irish leaders were unable to comment since they had all left for the nearest bar.

Anonymous said...

Of course if Jeff Davis and his gang had been even half-way smart they would've done something similar. Gradual emancipation combined with segregation and peonage laws would've gotten everything the Slaveholders wanted - and without the stain of slavery.

Sadly, Southerners are not very bright.

Anthony said...

Anonymous at 8:40: That headline has a history. In the early 1920s, an Austrian newspaper held a contest, asking its readers to come up with the most exciting possible headline, and the most boring. The winners were "Franz Ferdinand Alive, World War Fought By Mistake", and "Small Earthquake In Chile, Not Many Dead".

In the 1980s, The New Republic re-ran the second half of the contest. While the contest was running, the New York Times ran an article under the headline "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative", at which point TNR awarded the prize to the NYT, as it was clear that a more boring headline could not be devised.

Anonymous said...

I thought white Georgians (from the state just to the east of Alabama) had the highest death rates in WWII for Americans.

Does someone have numbers through all our wars for all states?


Anonymous said...

I think too many white people are projecting their present day fears of black people onto slaves of the past.

Plantations were NOT "concentration camps". And White Masters were not intentionally evil...

It was basically a business arrangement, and Im sure the slaves figured it out and came to an "understanding with their owners. Its bad for business when your employees are pissed off at you; slavery was no exception.

Why abuse your slaves to the point they try to poison you? or burn down the plantation?

When you can come to an agreement with them and they will police themselves?

Don't forget, being a free BROKE white person was a big liability at that time.

Being owned by a wealthy white person had a certain level of protection at that time. Beating up some white mans slave is like beating up his horse.

You might not wanna do that.

Anonymous said...

Would the Northern Slaves states ahve done the same?

Gringo said...

A historian made a good point about the Civil War. If the South had seceded 10 years earlier, they probably would have been successful. By 1861, the North had too much industrial advantage.

I once looked into agricultural production from 1850-1860. The Midwest increased grain production about 50% from 1850-1860, due to railroads, increased settlement, and mechanized harvesting.

The North wasn't advancing only in industrial production.