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. . . and six hundred thousand men were dead

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  • Herschel I. Grossman

Abstract

The dispute that resulted in the secession of eleven Southern states from the Union and the ensuing Civil War proximately concerned the geographical expansion of slavery, but ultimately bore on the existence of the institution of slavery itself. This paper asks why in 1861 after seventy years of artful compromises over slavery civil conflict became unavoidable. The paper seeks an answer that goes beyond a description of the breakdown of compromises based on existing constitutional arrangements and that explains why attempts to negotiate a new constitutional compromise failed. Combining theoretical and historical analysis the paper concludes that in the years leading up to 1861 the outcome of the dispute over slavery had become too important to both Northern and Southern interests, relative to the expected costs of civil conflict, to be settled peacefully.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9793.

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Date of creation: Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9793

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  1. Grossman, Herschel I, 1999. "Kleptocracy and Revolutions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 267-83, April.
  2. Bordignon, Massimo & Brusco, Sandro, 2001. "Optimal secession rules," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1811-1834, December.
  3. Herschel I. Grossman, 2002. "Constitution or Conflict?," NBER Working Papers 8733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
  5. Alesina, Alberto, 1988. "Credibility and Policy Convergence in a Two-Party System with Rational Voters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 796-805, September.
  6. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 6355.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
  8. Dimitriy Gershenson & Herschel I. Grossman, 1999. "Civil Conflict: Ended Or Never Ending?," Working Papers 99-31, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  9. Avinash Dixit & Gene M. Grossman & Faruk Gul, 2000. "The Dynamics of Political Compromise," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 531-568, June.
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