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South couldn't.  The economic argument is easiest to make.  So ...

Slave prices doubled from $900 in 1820 to $1,800 1861. To translate that, in 1850 the average slave cost $40,000 in today's money.  There were (1861 census) 3,950,528 slaves in the south equaling $7,110,950,400 or $158 billion in today's money.  US GDP in 1860 is estimated to have been $88,713,000,000 so the capital value of slaves represented ~8% of the US GDP.  Roughly 65% of Southern capital was directly tied-up with slavery and something like 95% was directly and indirectly tied-up in slavery; where indirect includes such as fulling mills, cotton ginning, railroads, etc.

For all intents and purposes cotton production from chattel slavery was the Southern economy although they were still involved in tobacco production, rice production in South Carolina, and sugar production in Louisiana.  But all these latter paled in comparison to King Cotton whose value was ~$1.3 billion in 1860 dollars.

The South's economic capital was tied-up in slavery.  The South's income was derived from slavery.  

The South could have adjusted to "free" (sic) labor Crop Sharing -- which is what they did after 1865.  But the return on investment to the Ruling Elite would have been much lower and they would have lost the money in their capital investment in slaves, meaning they would have had to start a cycle of capital formation and appreciation from nothing -- which is also what happened after 1865 and why the South was an economic basket case until the 1950s and economically backward even today.  

My own opinion is the South could have gotten British intervention in 1861 or 1862 by abandoning slavery but what would be the use of getting British intervening in the Civil War if the Planter Class had to wreck their slave-based economy when the "point" of fighting the Civil War was to maintain slavery?  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 20th, 2014 at 06:19:22 PM EST
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