What would have happened if slavery wasn't abolished?

I'm going to make the assumption that you mean the Confederate States seceded, the Union let them go, there was no US civil war, and they went on as two countries.

While the south may have been rich in the short term, public opinion would eventually have led to the Confederate States of America being shunned from the international community. Trade would have all but ceased with most countries and, if the situation continued, the CSA would have either abolished slavery itself (in which case it would have suffered heavily from sanctions by that point and become like many developing countries today, albeit with a huge amount of racial animosity and civil unrest) or been invaded by someone else at some point.

Another possible scenario is that the CSA would have sided with Germany in both world wars, even if only to spite the Union and its allies. With the north's attention focused on the south, the Nazis may have eventually been victorious in Britain and the Japanese in the Pacific. This could have led to a Nazi power bloc facing the Soviet Union with Japan slowly taking the Eastern Hemisphere.

America would likely have entered an apartheid system of some kind. This question presupposes, at least in my mind, that the south doesn't secede after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Once the south seceded and it became apparent that the war would be long and arduous it was clear to all involved, at least in the union, that ending slavery needed to be part one of the chief aims of the war department as this was the quickest way to cripple the southern economy.

Had there been no civil war, Lincoln would have let southerners keep their slaves. Lincoln was not an abolitionist - at least not at the start of the war. Lincoln was anti-slavery, meaning he was against the spread of slavery into territories were it didn't already exist.

It's tough to say what would have happened if there was no civil war because the civil war was the defining moment in American life during the nineteenth century. America lost 25% of its citizens. Our political future after the war was guided by civil war veterans. At the same time, it's almost impossible to imagine a peaceable settler to the issue given the stakes and attitudes of the time.

All of this leads me to believe that a strange political agreement of some kind would have been reached and we would continue on with makeshift solutions until something terrible happened that forced the south's hand. The problem was that lots of terrible things happened in the south especially after the civil war with organizations like the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing the countryside and mob violence killing hundreds of freedmen in cities like Memphis and New Orleans.

There was no simple solution to the question of slavery in America which is one of the many reasons that the answer wound up being such a bloody and devastating one for the country as a whole.


Cotton was king. It was by far the most profitable crop in the US states, both North and South.

In 1858 Senator James Henry Hammond boasted:

"Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us, we could bring the whole world to our feet... What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years?... England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her save the South. No, you dare not to make war on cotton. No power on the earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king."

To grow cotton, one needed cheap labor. Slavery was that labor.

But the South wasn't able to ship cotton for 4 years. What was wrong with Senator Hammond's boast.

Landcaster was the leading textile manufacturing city in England. 200,000 child laborers helped power this industry. Sensing a possible disruption of Southern cotton, India and Egypt were encourage to group extra cotton, which alleviated Landcaster's supply problem when the Civil War began.

Slavery was at its height, but with the election of Lincoln, the South knew its slave days were numbered. Lincoln was elected on an abolishtionist vote. This platform supported ending slavery in the territories and all future new states. This would result in a further imbalance of Free / Slave states.

Just as anti gun rights people seek to keep chipping away at the 2nd Amendment, abolistionists would keep mounting attacks on slavery, aided each year by a greater and greater population growth in Free States, hence more power.

The Fugitive Slave Act was of great concern to the South. It was no longer being enforced, and more abolistionists were actively aiding and abetting, even encouraging, for more slaves to run away from their masters.

The growing sediment against slavery was ever so greatly influenced by books and plays. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin had been the greatest American best seller to it's day.

Constance and growing pressure on the South would force them to close ranks or consider limiting slavery.

One has to consider how the blacks were treated as share croppers, along with poor whites, long after the Civil War to understand that Southerners were is no rush to abandon slavery. Lynchings and treating blacks as second class citizens continued into the late 1960's. Even with modern machinery, some slave owners would insist upon keeping their slaves. It would only be until the more noble North rose up in indignation that slavery would end. Slavery could have existed till the 1920's.

The European nations were more interested in expanding they colonial empires, and exploiting these people at near slave wages, to care much about American slavery. Like what is written above, Lancaster's employing 200,000 child laborer didn't upset the British, and these people are their own flesh and blood.


We would not have the different more sophisicated modern forms of slavery applied to people in general outside of the elites, such as confiscatory taxation, alimony, etc.

The development of carbon (especially in the form of motor fuel) and mechanization was destined to make traditional old school slavery obsolete.


Slavery was rapidly becoming uneconomic. The net value of labor from a slave over twenty years was less than the cost of a slave. The slave owners were in an untenable economic position whether they liked it or not.

The only ones who could hope to make a profit were seeking as many slave births as possible. But this required more markets for those slaves, hence the Civil War from their point of view.

The economic viability of the slave plantations was "gone with the wind" before the war.


It would have ended peacefully as it was everywhere else. Without a war that cost billions in 1860's dollars. Over 650,000 war dead, probably another million wounded, thousands dying after the war in reprisals and from war related injuries.

Also. No race relations problems that have lasted over 150 years that have cost the country trillions more dollars and tens of thousands more lives.

Thanks "Honest Abe".


If you mean the United States, slavery was dying in 1861. By 1889, like Brazil, slavery would have died out. The progress of technology in the US was such that slavery was not sustainable.

Slavery has NOT been abolished completely. Slavery is still accepted as morally acceptable in Muslim countries. It is the Western nations that pushed to abolish slavery.


Slavery and involuntary servitude has not been abolished in the USA by the 13th Amendment. It is still applied to those who are convicted and incarcerated. Also, human trafficking for sex and labor is still alive and well worldwide.


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