What-if and what for

Enough good things have been happening the last few years such that you sometimes forget how preposterously bad the field of Civil War history is and remains.

Here are some interview nuggets from Roger L. Ransom, a California professor who has written a mass market what-if called The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been.

If the war had gone better in the West, and if (Gen. Robert E.) Lee had avoided defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederates could have fought to a stalemate until the elections of 1864, when dissatisfied Northern voters would have elected a new president who would have been willing to negotiate an end to the war.
Who still believes McClellan would have negotiated an end to the war? Why would they believe that? And if McClellan failed to make the cut and his running mate took office as president and there had been no Union victories in the west in 1864, we would have such a load of contingencies as to surpass even the loosest standards of what-if history.

[After peace] The Confederate States of America would have drawn up a constitution patterned on the U.S. Constitution with one obvious difference: The Confederate constitution would have explicitly defined slaves as property
Oddly enough, a CSA constitution was drawn up some years prior to 1864 - not that a researcher or teacher would know this - and section IX Article 4 states "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." Ten points to our farseeing author.

One of the ironies of the war is that the Confederacy probably would have emancipated their slaves by the end of the century.
Not really: in order to be ironic it would have had to happen. A contingency is ironic only in a literary sense.

Because the North was growing much faster than the South, the Confederacy would have sought long-term alliances with Britain and France, two countries that championed the War of Southern Independence.
They did not, in any sense, at any time champion a "War of Southern Independence." I've never heard of a diplomatic study that held such a position.

But then, I would not have expected a rump Union to join the Central Powers in WWI, either, as Ransom does. Good grief.

Perhaps it's all in fun. Fun and profit. Neither of those is a stranger to Civil War publishing.

p.s. (8/18/05) Historian Mark Grimsley points out that I am reacting to an interview, not the book. He is reading this work and offers a more favorable impression. Note also that my inference here, that Ransom is not aware of the CSA wartime constitution, is contradicted by Ransom's own reference to same in Confederate States of America. See also this newer post.

Read a book before venting? It's on my to-do list.