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Tags alternate history , Civil War history , slavery

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Old 11th August 2017, 11:15 AM   #1
Bob001
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Suppose the U.S. had never had slavery?

HBO is working on a series based on the premise that the Confederacy won the Civil War.

Approached from the other direction, assume that the U.S. had never instituted slavery. Suppose that the farm and other work performed by slaves was done by voluntary immigrants paid fair wages, who were free to return to their home countries if they wished, but who could never become citizens, nor could their descendants born here. What would have been the effect on the economy and the society?

Discuss.

Last edited by Bob001; 11th August 2017 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 11th August 2017, 11:26 AM   #2
Giz
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
HBO is working on a series based on the premise that the Confederacy won the Civil War.

Approached from the other direction, assume that the U.S. had never instituted slavery. Suppose that the farm and other work performed by slaves was done by voluntary immigrants paid fair wages, who were free to return to their home countries if they wished, but who could never become citizens, nor could their descendants born here. What would have been the effect on the economy and the society?

Discuss.
They would have agitated and there would have been civil rights movements until they and their descendants became citizens.
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Old 11th August 2017, 11:30 AM   #3
Bob001
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Originally Posted by Giz View Post
They would have agitated and there would have been civil rights movements until they and their descendants became citizens.
Well, slavery lasted 250 years, and legal discrimination went on for another 100, so an eventual civil rights movement wouldn't have had much impact on economic and social development in the 18th- and 19th centuries, when almost everybody in the world was accustomed to living under kings and emperors and ordinary people had few rights anywhere. An actual revolution would have been more likely, and fear of one would have had tremendous influence on the ruling/propertied class. Keep in mind, too, that "agitators" could have been promptly, unceremoniously deported.

Last edited by Bob001; 11th August 2017 at 11:35 AM.
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Old 11th August 2017, 01:03 PM   #4
seayakin
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
HBO is working on a series based on the premise that the Confederacy won the Civil War.

Approached from the other direction, assume that the U.S. had never instituted slavery. Suppose that the farm and other work performed by slaves was done by voluntary immigrants paid fair wages, who were free to return to their home countries if they wished, but who could never become citizens, nor could their descendants born here. What would have been the effect on the economy and the society?

Discuss.
From the alternative history perspective, I could more easily imagine that a system of indentured servitude continuing without chattel slavery.

However, it might be more interesting to consider what condition or conditions would have been required to make racially based chattel slavery untenable in the English American colonies followed by the United States. First, chattel slavery was entrenched in the south by the time of the American Revolution even though it had its beginnings in a system of indentured servitude imported from England. I consider indentured servitude and chattel slavery both forms of slavery but with with a vastly different properties and impact on the slaves.

The main reason for the development of chattel slavery in the US was economic. It was an effective means to control costs in a labor intensive business and by segregating it to a single race, it made it simple to identify and control individuals who would be slaves. It also fit well into European racism. Also, the tribes on the west coast of Africa did not have the military or organization to defend themselves from slavers.

If West Africa had a strong single nation state controlling a lot of west Africa that was organized enough to control its borders and shore line. Europeans would not have had a ready population to enslave and my bet is that indentured servitude might have followed a similar path that occurred in English history.
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Old 11th August 2017, 01:11 PM   #5
Jungle Jim
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
HBO is working on a series based on the premise that the Confederacy won the Civil War.

Approached from the other direction, assume that the U.S. had never instituted slavery. Suppose that the farm and other work performed by slaves was done by voluntary immigrants paid fair wages, who were free to return to their home countries if they wished, but who could never become citizens, nor could their descendants born here. What would have been the effect on the economy and the society?

Discuss.
Your premise doesn't make much sense. Why would immigrants work under these conditions? There was significant immigration in the early 1800s. In the Midwest land was sold for $1.25 an acre which Scandanavians took advantage of. Irish, German and English immigrants were flowing into the cities. All of these people (or their descendents) became citizens.
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Old 11th August 2017, 01:45 PM   #6
Bob001
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Originally Posted by Jungle Jim View Post
Your premise doesn't make much sense. Why would immigrants work under these conditions? There was significant immigration in the early 1800s. In the Midwest land was sold for $1.25 an acre which Scandanavians took advantage of. Irish, German and English immigrants were flowing into the cities. All of these people (or their descendents) became citizens.
It's an open-ended question. But the first slaves were brought to the U.S. in 1619, long before the waves of immigration began. Suppose instead of slavery, the original principle had been that immigrants could come from anywhere to earn money and go home if they wanted, but only Northern European stock could become citizens? How would that have shaped the society? People might still have been willing to come to the U.S. for better lives than they had in Africa, Latin America etc. They might even have come with the intention of returning home with some money after a time. Or maybe immigration would have been expanded earlier, and all the plantation labor would have been done by paid workers from Northern Europe.

The question is, if not slavery, then what? Labor would have been done by somebody, and immigrants would have arrived from somewhere on some terms. i don't think citizenship, as we understand it today (as opposed to nationality, religion, etc. meant much in the 1700s. Even today, in many countries citizenship is based on family heritage, not place of birth.

England, Canada and most of Europe developed without slaves. I wonder what the alternative history might have been here.

ETA: And keep in mind the many millions of people who come to the U.S. today illegally, which means that they can't expect to become citizens, but they're still better off than they were.

Last edited by Bob001; 11th August 2017 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 11th August 2017, 01:58 PM   #7
Giordano
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
It's an open-ended question. But the first slaves were brought to the U.S. in 1619, long before the waves of immigration began. Suppose instead of slavery, the original principle had been that immigrants could come from anywhere to earn money and go home if they wanted, but only Northern European stock could become citizens? How would that have shaped the society? People might still have been willing to come to the U.S. for better lives than they had in Africa, Latin America etc. They might even have come with the intention of returning home with some money after a time. Or maybe immigration would have been expanded earlier, and all the plantation labor would have been done by paid workers from Northern Europe.

The question is, if not slavery, then what? Labor would have been done by somebody, and immigrants would have arrived from somewhere on some terms. i don't think citizenship, as we understand it today (as opposed to nationality, religion, etc. meant much in the 1700s. Even today, in many countries citizenship is based on family heritage, not place of birth.

England, Canada and most of Europe developed without slaves. I wonder what the alternative history might have been here.
My understanding is that under those circumstances cotton would not have been an economically viable crop- it may have become an expensive textile only employed in high end clothing. Would the South have turned more to tobacco? Or perhaps no large scale monoculture would have developed before mechanization of agriculture? Perhaps the South would have become divided into small, family owned farms similar to other locations in the country.
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Old 11th August 2017, 02:05 PM   #8
ahhell
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Originally Posted by seayakin View Post
From the alternative history perspective, I could more easily imagine that a system of indentured servitude continuing without chattel slavery.

However, it might be more interesting to consider what condition or conditions would have been required to make racially based chattel slavery untenable in the English American colonies followed by the United States. First, chattel slavery was entrenched in the south by the time of the American Revolution even though it had its beginnings in a system of indentured servitude imported from England. I consider indentured servitude and chattel slavery both forms of slavery but with with a vastly different properties and impact on the slaves.

The main reason for the development of chattel slavery in the US was economic. It was an effective means to control costs in a labor intensive business and by segregating it to a single race, it made it simple to identify and control individuals who would be slaves. It also fit well into European racism.
Also, the tribes on the west coast of Africa did not have the military or organization to defend themselves from slavers.

If West Africa had a strong single nation state controlling a lot of west Africa that was organized enough to control its borders and shore line. Europeans would not have had a ready population to enslave and my bet is that indentured servitude might have followed a similar path that occurred in English history.
This is unlikely, as it was many tribes on the west coast of Africa contributed to the slave trade by selling slaves to European traders. There's no reason to think a large powerful nation in west Africa wouldn't have done the same. In a similar situation Arabs built armies of turkic slave soldiers sold to them by other Turks who funded there expansion and kept their neighbors weak through slaving raids.

To respond to the OP. No civil war, practically no African Americans and our Race relations would more closely resemble Europe's.

Last edited by ahhell; 11th August 2017 at 02:06 PM.
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