That was the question Penny mentioned when I raised the issue of Abolition and where each of us would stand if we had lived in the Mid-19th Century. Well, I recently listened to a Fresh Air interview with Aaron Goodheart, a professor at Washington College, who provided an answer, and I thought this was a good thread given that this is the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War. Basically, Goodheart said allowing the South to seccede would actually end democracy as a form of government–not just for the U.S. but for all governments around the world (or at least deal a terrible blow). Here’s why.
Democracy can only function if people accept the principal that the majority rules–i.e., the minority will submit to the will of the majority (protection of individual rights notwithstanding). According to Goodheart, “secession is a form of anarchy or even terrorism to democracy.” If a society doesn’t accept and submit to the principal of majority rules, then groups and faction could simply withdrawl (seccede) whenever they disagreed from the majority. Goodheart says that Lincoln understood this, and I think it’s a compelling argument.
Now if democracy failed in the U.S. this would strongly indicate that democracy could not work in other countries. Therefore, secession of the South would not only end the U.S. of America as we know it, but probably the idea of democracy as a legitimate form of government for a long time in the world.