Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Civil War Did Not End In 1865

While the Civil War officially ended in 1865, the fact is that it really did not end for another 100 or more years.  Yes, the slaves were freed; but suffered decades of mistreatment, discrimination and even murder.  One can only wonder if things had been handled differently, would there have been a better less painful outcome.  In reading a new book on Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, it is fascinating to see that Lincoln ponder options related to freed slaves.  For a long time, Lincoln believed that slaves should be sent back to Africa and or maybe Haiti, which had become a free country run by former slaves.  By the end of the Civil War there was about 4 million Blacks living in the United States both slave and free.  

Sending 4 million people back to Africa though theoretically feasible would have taken years so it was discounted as a real option.  And, it is highly doubtful that these people would have been better off in the long run since Africa has been plagued by poverty to this day.  The better option could have been what occurred in Washington DC where the slaves were freed before the end of the Civil War.  Slave owners were paid $300 per slave to free them.  While this recognized that slaves were property, which is degrading, at least slave owners received compensation to free their slaves, which made it more palatable.  

This did not happen when the slaves were freed in the South.  So slave owners that had more money invested in slaves than in land lost a substantial amount of money.  And some my say, so what!  Slavery was a terrible injustice.   True, but the end result was the Jim Crow laws and decades of misery for freed slaves until many of them finally left the South and went North for jobs only to face discrimination in those states.  If Slave owners in the South had been paid that same $300 per slave and then slaves were each given $100 or some amount of money to start a new life out West, just maybe the United States would not have experienced 100 years of turmoil.  And, just maybe freed slaves would have become an owner class of people with many more owning land and businesses.   

Looking back on history to ask the what if's doesn't change the history.  But it does at least help everyone understand why we are where we are.  Abraham Lincoln is seen as a saint who saved the union and freed the slaves.  Others argue that the election of Lincoln by a minority of the population caused the Civil War, which is true.  Perhaps if Lincoln had not been assassinated he would have been able to convince the radical Republicans in his party that punishing slave owners did more harm to slaves than to slave owners.  It is what is it.  As a former history teacher, I think there could have been better outcomes if different decisions had occurred.  Sadly, that ship sailed long ago and we are all the worse for it.  

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