THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA by Roger Ransom

THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA

What Might Have Been

KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing exercise in counterfactual history, operating under the assumption that the Confederate States of America did not, in fact, win the last election.

Imagine, Ransom (History and Economics/Univ. of California, Riverside) asks, that Robert E. Lee had not thrown George Pickett’s division into the line of battle at Gettysburg but had instead left the field. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would not have been broken, and—Stonewall Jackson not having died either—it would have been on hand to contain Union intrusions into the South, and even to lob shells into Washington, D.C. The resultant military stalemate would have led to a profound change in government: “On November 8, 1864, Americans went to the polls and elected Horatio Seymour to be the seventeenth president of the United States.” All but unknown to actual history, the New York governor would have gone on to negotiate peace with the CSA, which in turn would have forged a powerful alliance with Great Britain. The two partners would then have carved up most of the Spanish empire in the Americas, including Cuba, while the imperial ambitions of the US would have been confined to the Pacific. Had the Confederacy endured, Ransom suggests, so would have slavery, at least for another decade or so, when persistently declining cotton prices would have forced a retooling of plantation economy. But civil rights are another matter; the North would not have welcomed freed slaves, “even if the Confederate landlords had been willing to part with their servile labor force,” and blacks might well have existed as serfs without the rights of citizens. And had there been two nations occupying the space of the former U.S., then there would have been a different tenor to the coming conflicts in Europe, the South allied with England, the North with Germany.

As Ransom acknowledges, counterfactual history is made up of “2 parts historical plausibility, 1 part common sense, 1 part imagination.” A pleasing application of the recipe.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-393-05967-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2005




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