That slavery would have disappeared soon after 1861 anyway is a common assertion among libertarians and Southern patriots, but I don’t see any reason to believe it. For one thing, slaves reached their highest value in the same year as Lincoln was elected, 1860, which is a good barometer of the market’s view of the institution’s future. For another, Eugene Genovese showed in The Political Economy of Slavery that when Lincoln was inaugurated, only half of the farmland in Georgia — Georgia! — was being farmed. Besides that, the events of 1861-65 showed that the South’s ruling elite was devoted to slavery’s future; antislavery sentiments such as those of Jefferson and Madison had not been in common circulation among prominent southerners for decades by then.