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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Herschel I. Grossman, 2003. ". . . and six hundred thousand men were dead," NBER Working Papers 9793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9793
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
    2. Dimitriy Gershenson & Herschel I. Grossman, 1999. "Civil Conflict: Ended Or Never Ending?," Working Papers 99-31, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2001. "A Theory of Political Transitions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 938-963, September.
    4. Grossman, Herschel I, 1999. "Kleptocracy and Revolutions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 267-283, April.
    5. Bordignon, Massimo & Brusco, Sandro, 2001. "Optimal secession rules," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1811-1834, December.
    6. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 6355.
    7. 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.
    8. Herschel Grossman, 2002. "Constitution or Conflict?," Working Papers 2002-01, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    9. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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