Slavery, Secession, Rational Choice

Sean Wilson whoooo26505 at
Tue Feb 13 12:27:51 PST 2007

I have a question.
Given that Dred Scott had already declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and that Lincoln only had 40% of the vote coming to power, why would the South have been so insane as to secede? I mean, what could Lincoln have done? The Republicans could not have passed constitutional laws that confined slavery to the South, correct? The only way to really hurt the south would have been either a constitutional amendment (unlikely), or court appointments that would have eventually overturned Dred Scott and allowed for the Western containment of slavery. But both of these options seem so contingent upon other things happening that I now cannot understand why secession was chosen. Why didn't the southerners just weather the storm of Lincoln's election and wait for the political cycle to turn against the Republicans?  Had they done this, it seems to me that slavery in the south would have continued (probably until World War II -- just a guess) and that no civil war would have
 been fought. [Please note: I do not mean to suggest the war was not needed -- perhaps slavery would not have ever ended, or the road to civil rights would have been even further delayed.]
What put these ideas in my head was rational choice. Does it not seem that secession was completely irrational from the standpoint of maximization of utility, which explains why reconstruction ended after the fallout from the strategic blunder settled? Am I wrong about any of this? Has anyone analyze this? Help please.    
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq. 
Penn State University
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