AHC: Have the Slavery Debate Resolved Peacefully

Is it possible for the Slavery Debate to be resolved peacefully?

  • Yes

    Votes: 56 62.9%
  • No

    Votes: 33 37.1%

  • Total voters
    89
For my very first post, I have decided to explore whether it is possible for the slavery debate to have ever ended peacefully - or if the American Civil War was truly inevitable.

Your challenge is, with a PoD no earlier than 1830, have the Slavery Debate peacefully resolved one way or the other.

Requirements:
1. The South must not secede (or must peacefully return to the Union with no bloodshed)
2. The North must not secede (or must peacefully return to the Union with no bloodshed)
3. The United States must still fulfill Manifest Destiny and expand all the way to California, whether the borders are exactly the same is up to you but either way, no avoiding the issue that way.
4. If slavery is kept, it can still be abolished some ways down the road, as it probably will have to be eventually, but will have to be peacefully resolved when that time comes

Notes:
1. Slavery does not necessarily have to be abolished. Though it’s obviously preferable from a humanitarian point of view, that’s not the challenge.
2. Bonus points if Abraham Lincoln is still elected President in 1860

(Apologies if this is a topic that has been explored countless times before, but please, let me know your thoughts!)
 
This should be a good start.
168.jpg


EDIT:For those that don't know, this is a boll weevil, it devastated the cotton industry in the US after Civil War. If it devastated the Southern economy immediately before civil war, then the chance of the slavery issue getting resolved would be upped.
 
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What's that for?
Boll Weevil--the bug that ravages cotton buds. In OTL it devastated the cotton plantation industry after civil war. If the cotton plantations are ravaged before civil war, then chances of slavery getting abolished peacefully are upped.
 
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Boll Weevil--the bug that ravages cotton buds. In OTL it devastated the cotton plantation industry after civil war. If the cotton plantations are ravaged before civil war, then changes of slavery getting abolished peacefully are upped.
You should have mentioned that instead of just showing a picture of a bug. I honestly thought you were trolling a new member. Which would have rubbed really the wrong way.
 
I'm sorry too. I was so shocked I reported it. With a pic like that with no context, I honestly thought you were just being weird. Now, I have to go tell the mods to ignore my report. Super sorry to all for this overreaction on my part.:biggrin:
 
I think the place where things could have changed decisively was in Virginia in the 1820's. After the Nat Turner Rebellion, there was a very serious debate in Virginia about abolishing slavery. It came very, very close to happening. In fact, it was only that Virginia had the 3/5 rule at the state level and slave-holding counties got more votes than non-slave-holding counties that prevented it from happening. If Virginia abolishes slavery, it wouldn't be long before Delaware and Maryland followed suit. Then Kentucky goes and possibly Missouri and even North Carolina all become free states. At that point, the Deep South is so completely outnumbered, secession no longer becomes a serious option because they would be overwhelmed so quickly. Eventually you would have full emancipation. There would still be a huge sticking point about what to do with the freed slaves, but open warfare becomes far less likely.
 
There may be a much earlier PoD that could work: delay the invention of the cotton gin. Before it revolutionized the cotton industry, slavery on cotton plantations was declining in popularity (IIRC; I could be wrong). Therefore, starting with that could lead to a situation where manumission becomes far more palatable to slaveowners.
 
Give a Constitutional ammendment protecting slavery, make it so the Federal Government cannot abolish slavery and leave it to state-level. My only worry is if this ensures a Northern secession.
 
You could just have the founding fathers write "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" into the US Constitution.

Oh, right.
 
You could just have the founding fathers write "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" into the US Constitution.

Oh, right.
ITTL, they thought of adding an article to the Declaration of Independence stating that one of the reasons they seceded was because the British allowed Slavery to exist in America, but they removed it because they thought it would alienate slave owners.
 

Marc

Donor
Keep in mind that slavery wasn't just about economics. The culture of mastery had embedded itself deeply by the early 1700's.
 
Abolition on a timeline with compensation would be the only way I can see it happening. It'd have to be set up along the same lines as the abolition of the slave trade, which mostly succeeded. Being pre-cotton gin, and before ideas regarding mission to civilize became common.

Keep in mind that Virginia came quite close to abolition around the same time as nullification was an issue.
 
If you get a couple key slave states to abolish slavery on their own, the calculus for civil war changes dramatically. The seccesionists certainly took into consideration how many states they thought might join them, even in the first round.
 
Abolition has older roots in Virginia than just the 1820s mind you - it was being talked about even during the first couple decades of the country. Washington and Jefferson both spoke against Virginia slave laws, the big one being the one forbidding masters from freeing all of their slaves until their death (ie, the only reason Washington never freed his slaves). James Monroe, in his first term as Governor of Virginia was an advocate of gradual manumission - and is said to have wept when Gabrial Prosser's Rebellion killed support for such. He even wrote to President Jefferson at the time something to the effect of "the only difference between these men's revolution and ours is that ours succeeded and thiers did not".

So, lets alter a few things - Washington doesn't die of pneumonia, and in a rare moment of endorsing public policy after leaving the White House, calls for the General Assembly to both amend Virginia's slave laws, and pass a plan of gradual manumission. This starts some chatter, but critically, one Gabriel Prosser hears of this, and chooses to wait and see if Virginia will make good on such a promise. As such, Governor James Monroe is able to achieve the passage of a gradual manumission plan for Virginia, and strikes down some of Virginia's more restrictive slave laws. Washington, true to his word and joined by many other Virginia slave owners, immediately frees all of his slaves. Those who do not will begin freeing them in stages, but by 1830, no man in Virginia will be a slave.

Delaware and Maryland are quick to follow suit, and surprisingly, Kentucky, Tennessee and even North Carolina all pass similar gradual manumission bills, the latter by a narrow margin. the states of the deep South drag their feet, but the upper south by 1830 has abolished slavery.

Things aren't perfect mind you - life for poor blacks in these states isn't great, with a slightly less institutional version of sharecropping popping up in most cases, but there are also some positives... the big one being that with an educated class of black freemen, and other freemen striking West, American racial views are less entrenched - much like in the founder's own time, a man's education, status and wealth is a much more important measure of a man than his skin color.
 
Abolition has older roots in Virginia than just the 1820s mind you - it was being talked about even during the first couple decades of the country. Washington and Jefferson both spoke against Virginia slave laws, the big one being the one forbidding masters from freeing all of their slaves until their death (ie, the only reason Washington never freed his slaves). James Monroe, in his first term as Governor of Virginia was an advocate of gradual manumission - and is said to have wept when Gabrial Prosser's Rebellion killed support for such. He even wrote to President Jefferson at the time something to the effect of "the only difference between these men's revolution and ours is that ours succeeded and thiers did not".

So, lets alter a few things - Washington doesn't die of pneumonia, and in a rare moment of endorsing public policy after leaving the White House, calls for the General Assembly to both amend Virginia's slave laws, and pass a plan of gradual manumission. This starts some chatter, but critically, one Gabriel Prosser hears of this, and chooses to wait and see if Virginia will make good on such a promise. As such, Governor James Monroe is able to achieve the passage of a gradual manumission plan for Virginia, and strikes down some of Virginia's more restrictive slave laws. Washington, true to his word and joined by many other Virginia slave owners, immediately frees all of his slaves. Those who do not will begin freeing them in stages, but by 1830, no man in Virginia will be a slave.

Delaware and Maryland are quick to follow suit, and surprisingly, Kentucky, Tennessee and even North Carolina all pass similar gradual manumission bills, the latter by a narrow margin. the states of the deep South drag their feet, but the upper south by 1830 has abolished slavery.

Things aren't perfect mind you - life for poor blacks in these states isn't great, with a slightly less institutional version of sharecropping popping up in most cases, but there are also some positives... the big one being that with an educated class of black freemen, and other freemen striking West, American racial views are less entrenched - much like in the founder's own time, a man's education, status and wealth is a much more important measure of a man than his skin color.

I don't think that Kentucky is "surprising" in this period. IIRC, it had relatively little slaves in the relevant timeframe, and discussion existed for it to enter the Union as a free state right away.
Tennessee is more complicated, but at this point butterflies operate heavily. There is no guarantee, for instance, of Indian Removal in the Old Southwest ITTL, maybe West Florida joins as a separate state while most of the rest of OTL's Alabama and Mississippi do that later in different circumstances.
 
Abolition has older roots in Virginia than just the 1820s mind you - it was being talked about even during the first couple decades of the country. Washington and Jefferson both spoke against Virginia slave laws, the big one being the one forbidding masters from freeing all of their slaves until their death (ie, the only reason Washington never freed his slaves). James Monroe, in his first term as Governor of Virginia was an advocate of gradual manumission - and is said to have wept when Gabrial Prosser's Rebellion killed support for such. He even wrote to President Jefferson at the time something to the effect of "the only difference between these men's revolution and ours is that ours succeeded and thiers did not".

So, lets alter a few things - Washington doesn't die of pneumonia, and in a rare moment of endorsing public policy after leaving the White House, calls for the General Assembly to both amend Virginia's slave laws, and pass a plan of gradual manumission. This starts some chatter, but critically, one Gabriel Prosser hears of this, and chooses to wait and see if Virginia will make good on such a promise. As such, Governor James Monroe is able to achieve the passage of a gradual manumission plan for Virginia, and strikes down some of Virginia's more restrictive slave laws. Washington, true to his word and joined by many other Virginia slave owners, immediately frees all of his slaves. Those who do not will begin freeing them in stages, but by 1830, no man in Virginia will be a slave.

Delaware and Maryland are quick to follow suit, and surprisingly, Kentucky, Tennessee and even North Carolina all pass similar gradual manumission bills, the latter by a narrow margin. the states of the deep South drag their feet, but the upper south by 1830 has abolished slavery.

Things aren't perfect mind you - life for poor blacks in these states isn't great, with a slightly less institutional version of sharecropping popping up in most cases, but there are also some positives... the big one being that with an educated class of black freemen, and other freemen striking West, American racial views are less entrenched - much like in the founder's own time, a man's education, status and wealth is a much more important measure of a man than his skin color.

The OP was looking for a POD after 1830, so this would be trickier, but in and of itself, is an interesting approach. All that said, even if we stick with 1830, we could still butterfly the Nat Turner rebellion, and have Virginia pass an emancipation bill of their own. And doing just a little bit of digging, on Jan 25, 1832, Virginia's Assembly had a bunch of procedural votes that went against emancipation, but not by overwhelming numbers (and this is after and in response to Nat Turner):
https://www.natturnerproject.org/votes-in-debate-jan-25-1832
The link includes a few procedural votes (if you don't like reading parliamentary procedure, you might not like that link), but ultimately, when it came down to voting on pursuing emancipation, the votes on that topic were 58 for emancipation and 73 against, and then a later similar vote of 58 for emancipation and 65 against (technically, the first vote was on language pursuing emancipation and the second vote was on language explicitly not pursuing emancipation, so it was 65-58, but I wanted to frame both votes in the same way). Now, that is just a starting point, rather than a scenario of "if we flip 8 (or 4 in the second closer vote) Virginia legislators, we have emancipation in the Old Dominion." But, as I said, it is a starting point, and perhaps some changes around Nat Turner's rebellion could, in fact, shift factors just enough to get emancipation to wiggle by.

I think that Virginia alone, through its political, cultural, demographic, and economic clout, could be enough to doom secession even if no other state followed it. Granted, secession (particularly secession based on slavery) was doomed anyway, but losing Virginia would make that obvious to even the most ardent resident of that great insane asylum known as South Carolina. That said, I really do want to read a timeline where South Carolina secedes and then realizes that almost nobody else is willing to join them. It would be darkly amusing.
 
I don't think that Kentucky is "surprising" in this period. IIRC, it had relatively little slaves in the relevant timeframe, and discussion existed for it to enter the Union as a free state right away.

Probelm is, as Mikestone 8 already told you in https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...-ordinance-bans-slavery.446015/#post-17187484,
in our timeline, Illinois came close to legalizing slavery after gaining statehood. Kentucky is further south so it seems likely that slavery would be legalized there.
 
Boll Weevil--the bug that ravages cotton buds. In OTL it devastated the cotton plantation industry after civil war. If the cotton plantations are ravaged before civil war, then chances of slavery getting abolished peacefully are upped.

Massive changes, although slavery is certainly not going away here as speculated upon.

David T has pointed it out before that as late as 1800 only about 11 percent of all slaves lived on cotton plantations while concurrent to this about as many Africans were brought into the United States (from 1780 to 1810) as during the previous 160 years. This is explained by the fact that alternatives to cotton existed, such as tobacco still being profitable in Virginia and Maryland, while rice was likewise in the South Carolina lowlands. The aforementioned tobacco was also growing in importance, as cultivation had spread into new regions such as South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Slaves were also used in the production of sugar and grains; the latter in particular is major, as the South produced more corn than the North as late as 1860 and the value of that exceeded the value of the cotton crop:

jKFbJYSN_o.png


As for other alternatives, Industrial Slavery in the Old South by Robert S. Starobin showed that slavery was more extensively used in industrial or proto-industrial processes than commonly known, and was at least just as efficient as free labor sources available in the South while also being cheaper. He also found that industrial work involving slaves contained a high rate of return, sometimes rivaling cotton, so I'd imagine in this ATL that many planters would take to getting into the manufacturing business as the Industrial Revolution gets underway. Birmingham in Alabama, among many other cities, will definitely get developed sooner as @Jared has pointed out nearly occurred anyway before.

Finally, and ironically enough, this may actually serve to make Slavery more powerful in the United States politically. To once again cite David T:

Oddly enough, a delayed invention of the cotton gin might actually have led to more slave states, as I once noted in soc.history.what-if:

***

Robert McColley in *Slavery and Jeffersonian Virginia* (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press 1964) argued that the cotton gin, far from giving slavery "a
new lease on life" (as is so often claimed) may have sealed its doom by
making it so profitable in the Southwest that there was less pressure to
introduce it into the Northwest.

Yes, such pressure could exist despite the Northwest Ordinance. Even in
OTL there was considerable evasion of the Ordinance, and petitions by some
people in the Illinois and Indiana Territories for at least a partial
repeal of its antislavery provisions (one of them was supported
by Indiana Territorial Governor William H. Harrison, a future President
of the United States). And presumably the Ordinance could not prevent
states from adopting slavery *after* they were admitted to the Union [1]
as Illinois seriously considered doing in OTL in the 1820's. With more
southerners moving to the Northwest (because of the lack of an early
cotton boom in the Southwest) the already considerable pro-slavery feeling
in early Illinois and Indiana could be a lot stronger.
 
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