The Causes of Peace, Part V: The American Civil War, Section I

Let us now apply the Multi-Dimensional War Model to the American Civil War.

Political Level

On the domestic political level, the South faced a dilemma, a contradiction. In the name of defending Southern rights, the Confederate government had to infringe of those very rights: on individual freedom by conscription when it ran short of manpower, on property rights by impressing slaves (property owned by Southerners) into service, and on civil rights by the suspension of habeas corpus. This contradiction proved to be very painful for Southerners to swallow.

Second, in Abraham Lincoln, the North had the better leader and commander in chief. It also had a stable two-party political system while the South did not. The Confederates looked down on political parties. This meant that Jefferson Davis lacked a secure political base, and the South never really had the benefit of an opposition to propose alternatives.

Third, on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Not all Northerners supported this; however, it still gave the North a sense of unity and a greater sense of purpose. It also helped to prevent Great Britain and France from endorsing the South.

On the international Level, the South was never able to get international recognition and the support it needed, especially from Great Britain and France.

Social-Demographic Level

The superior population base in the North allowed it to field more men without the strain on the society and the economy which took place in the South. The North had a population of about 22 million against the nine million of the South, which including 3.5 million.

In January, 1862, Lincoln clearly recognized the North’s advantage in this dimension and realized that it must take advantage of this in its strategy.

I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces . . . ; that we must fail, unless we find some way of making our advantage an over-match for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened . . . .” (Peter J. Parish, The American Civil War, p. 158)

Economic Level

First, the South made the misassumption that its cotton would give it decisive influence. This proved false.

Second, the North clearly had economic superiority in many areas. It had more resources to draw from and used them more effectively. For example, the North’s iron and coal production was vastly greater than the South’s.

Third, the North’s railway net was much more extensive than the South’s. Because of this, the North was able to maintain a steady flow of supplies to its armies fighting in the south. By the end of the war, it was operating over 2,000 miles of track, with over 400 locomotives and 6,000 cars.

Fourth, the North’s financial system was much sounder that the South’s. The South failed to secure foreign loans and by the end of the war its inflation totaled 9,000%. By contrast, the North imposed taxes early and often to finance the war. Its inflation during the war was 80%.

Lastly, the North’s naval blockade was implemented early and over the long term had a great effect, especially after the seizure of Vicksburg in July 1863.

Having considered the political, social, and economic levels of the war, we shall take up in the next post the final two dimensions: the military level and political will. (Please see Part VI.)

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