Present day America probably would have looked more like Europe, and conflict between these new nations would have been inevitable. Indeed, many politicains in the Confederacy dreamed of a new Caribbean and South American empire with new plantations and a new, reinvigorated slave trade. This would have invited the North to colonize the same areas before the South could. Even in New York City, draft riots erupted in 1863 and Lincoln had to send in Federal units to quell the violence. California was geographically distant from the rest of the Union and separated by thousands of miles of unsettled territory; they may have decided to form their own nation as Texas had done early in its history. Texas itself may have later seceeded from the Confederacy in a quest to colonize the Midwest. Internal strife would have left North America vulnerable to attack from other world powers as well, most notably France and England. Thus, Lincoln's main focus was to preserve the Union so that the United States would not "perish from the Earth," as stated in the Gettysburg Address.
One must also remember that the South had enormous agricultural productivity, namely in cotton and tobacco, and exported their goods to the industrialized nations of Europe. Thus, the loss of the South would have meant a great loss of tax revenue to the Union.
Slavery, while the catalyst for the war, was not the real issue. The real issue was the supremacy of which idea: states' rights or the power of the Federal government? The war answered that question with the latter, and the Union has thus prevailed to this day.
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