- Category: History 117 Week 5
- Published on Saturday, 29 December 2012 00:13
- Written by Dr. Eric Mayer
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Secessionists who parted company with their sister states left for a number of avowed reasons, mostly relating in some way to slavery.
They were alarmed by the inexorable tipping of the political balance against them--"the despotic majority of numbers."
The "crime" of the North, observed James Russell Lowell, was the census returns.
Southerners were also dismayed by the triumph of the new sectional Republican party, which seemed to threaten their rights as a slaveholding minority.
They were weary of free-soil criticism, abolitionist nagging, and northern interference, ranging from the Underground Railroad to John Brown's raid.
"All we ask is to be let alone," declared Confederate president Jefferson Davis in an early message to his congress.
Many southerners supported secession because they felt sure that their departure would be unopposed, despite "Yankee yawp" to the contrary.
They were confident that the clodhopping and codfishing Yankee would not or could not fight.
They believed that northern manufacturers and bankers, so heavily dependent on southern cotton and markets, would not dare to cut their own economic throats with their own swords.
But should war come, the immense debt owed to northern creditors by the South-- happy thought--could be promptly repudiated, as it later was.
Southern leaders regarded secession as a golden opportunity to cast aside their generations of "vassalage" to the North.
An independent Dixieland could develop its own banking and shipping, and trade directly with Europe.
The low Tariff of 1857, passed largely by southern votes, was not in itself menacing.
But who could tell when the "greedy" Republicans would win control of Congress and drive through their own oppressive protective tariff?
For decades this fundamental friction had pitted the North, with its manufacturing plants, against the South, with its agrarian economy.
Worldwide impulses of nationalism--then stirring in Italy, Germany, Poland, and elsewhere--were fermenting in the South.
This huge area, with its distinctive culture, was not so much a section as a subnation.
It could not view with complacency the possibility of being lorded over, then or later, by what it regarded as a hostile nation of northerners.
The principles of self-determination--of the Declaration of Independence--seemed to many southerners to apply perfectly to them.
Few, if any, of the seceders felt that they were doing anything wrong or immoral.
The thirteen original states had voluntarily entered the Union, and now seven--ultimately eleven--southern states were voluntarily withdrawing from it.
Historical parallels ran even deeper.
In 1776, thirteen American colonies, led by the rebel George Washington, had seceded from the British Empire by throwing off the yoke of King George III.
In 1860-1861, eleven American states, led by the rebel Jefferson Davis, were seceding from the Union by throwing off the yoke of "King" Abraham Lincoln.
With that burden gone, the South was confident that it could work out its own peculiar destiny more quietly, happily, and prosperously."
Farewell to Union
Abraham Lincoln solemnly took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, after having slipped into Washington at night, partially disguised to thwart assassins.
He thus became president, not of the United States of America, but of the disunited states of America. Seven had departed; eight more were teetering on the edge.
The girders of the unfinished Capitol dome loomed nakedly in the background, as if to symbolize the imperfect state of the Union.
Lincoln's inaugural address was firm yet conciliatory: there would be no conflict unless the South provoked it.
Secession, the president declared, was wholly impracticable, because "Physically speaking, we cannot separate."
Here Lincoln put his finger on a profound geographical truth.
The North and South were Siamese twins, bound inseparably together.
If they had been divided by the Pyrenees Mountains or the Danube River, a sectional divorce would have been more feasible.
But the Appalachian Mountains and the mighty Mississippi River both ran the wrong way.
Uncontested secession would create new controversies.
What share of the national debt should the South be forced to take with it?
What portion of the jointly held federal territories, if any, should the Confederate states be allotted--areas so largely purchased with Southern blood?
How would the fugitive-slave issue be dealt with?
The Underground Railroad would certainly redouble its activity, and it would have to transport its passengers only across the Ohio River, not all the way to Canada.
Was it conceivable that all such problems could have been solved without ugly armed clashes?
A united United States had hitherto been the paramount republic in the Western Hemisphere.
If this powerful democracy should break into two hostile parts, the European nations would be delighted.
They could gleefully transplant to America their hoary concept of the balance of power.
Playing the no less hoary game of divide and conquer, they could incite one snarling fragment of the dis-United States against the other.
The colonies of the European powers in the New World, notably those of Britain, would thus be made safer against the rapacious Yankees.
And European imperialists, with no unified republic to stand across their path, could more easily defy the Monroe Doctrine and seize territory in the Americas."
President of the Disunited States of America
The issue of the divided Union came to a head over the matter of federal forts in the South. As the seceding states left, they had seized the United States arsenals, mints, and other public property within their borders.
When Lincoln took office, only two significant forts in the South still flew the Stars and Stripes.
The more important of the pair was square-walled Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, with fewer than a hundred men.
Ominously, the choices presented to Lincoln by Fort Sumter were all bad.
This stronghold had provisions that would last only a few weeks--until the middle of April 1861.
If no supplies were forthcoming, its commander would have to surrender without firing a shot.
Lincoln, quite understandably, did not feel that such a weak-kneed course squared with his obligation to protect federal property.
But if he sent reinforcements, the South Carolinians would undoubtedly fight back; they could not tolerate a federal fort blocking the mouth of their most important Atlantic seaport.
After agonizing indecision, Lincoln adopted a middle-of-the-road solution.
He notified the South Carolinians that an expedition would be sent to provision the garrison, though not to reinforce it. But to Southern eyes "provision" spelled "reinforcement."
A Union naval force was next started on its way to Fort Sumter--a move that the South regarded as an act of aggression.
On April 12, 1861, the cannons of the Carolinians opened fire on the fort, while crowds in Charleston applauded and waved handkerchiefs.
After a thirty-four-hour bombardment, which took no lives, the dazed garrison surrendered.
The firing on the fort electrified the North, which at once responded with cries of "Remember Fort Sumter" and "Save the Union."
Hitherto countless Northerners had been saying that if the Southern states wanted to go, they should not be pinned to the rest of the nation with bayonets.
"Wayward sisters, depart in peace" was a common sentiment, expressed even by the commander of the army, war hero General Winfield Scott, now so feeble at seventy-five that he had to be boosted onto his horse.
But the assault on Fort Sumter provoked the North to a fighting pitch: the fort was lost, but the Union was saved. Lincoln had contrived to win a great strategic victory.
Southerners had wantonly fired upon the glorious Stars and Stripes, and honor demanded an armed response.
Lincoln promptly (April 15) issued a call to the states for seventy-five thousand militiamen; and volunteers sprang to the colors in such enthusiastic numbers that many were turned away--a mistake that was not often repeated.
On April 19 and 27, the president proclaimed a leaky blockade of Southern seaports.
The call for troops, in turn, aroused the South much as the attack on Fort Sumter had aroused the North. Lincoln was now waging war--from the Southern view an aggressive war--on the Confederacy.
Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee, all of which had earlier voted down secession, reluctantly joined their embattled sister states, as did North Carolina.
Thus the seven states became eleven as the "submissionists" and "Union shriekers" were overcome.
Richmond, Virginia, replaced Montgomery, Alabama, as the Confederate capital--too near Washington for strategic comfort on either side."
South Carolina Assails Fort Sumter
Of all the Confederacy's potential assets, none counted more weightily than the prospect of foreign intervention on behalf of the South.
Europe's ruling classes were openly sympathetic to the Confederate cause.
They had long abhorred the incendiary example of the American democratic experiment, and they cherished a kind of fellow-feeling for the South's semifeudal, aristocratic social order.
In contrast, the masses of workingpeople in England, and to some extent in France, were pulling and praying for the North.
Many of them had read Uncle Tom's Cabin, and they sensed that the war--though at the outset officially fought only over the question of union--might extinguish slavery if the North emerged victorious.
The common folk of Britain could not yet cast the ballot, but they could cast the brick.
Their certain hostility to any official intervention on behalf of the South evidently had a sobering effect on the British government.
Thus the dead hands of Uncle Tom helped Uncle Sam by restraining the British and French ironclads from breaking the Union blockade.
Yet the fact remained that British textile mills depended on the American South for 75 percent of their cotton supplies.
Humanitarian sympathies aside, Southerners counted on hard economic need to bring Britain to their aid. Why did King Cotton fail them?
He failed in part because he had been so lavishly productive in the immediate prewar years of 1857-1860.
Enormous exports of cotton in those years had piled up surpluses in British warehouses.
When the shooting started in 1861, English manufacturers had on hand a heavy oversupply of fiber.
The real pinch did not come until about a year and a half later, when thousands of hungry operatives were thrown out of work.
But by this time Lincoln had announced his slave-emancipation policy, and the "wage slaves" of England were not going to demand a war to defend the slaveowners of the South.
The direst effects of the "cotton famine" in England were relieved in several ways.
Hunger among unemployed workers was partially eased when certain kindhearted Americans sent over several cargoes of foodstuffs.
As Union armies penetrated the South, they captured or bought considerable supplies of cotton and shipped them to England; and the Confederates also ran a limited quantity through the blockade.
In addition, the cotton growers of Egypt and India, responding to high prices, increased their output.
Finally, booming war industries in England, which supplied both the North and the South, relieved unemployment.
King Wheat and King Corn--of the Northern agricultural royalty--proved to be more potent potentates than King Cotton.
During these war years, the North, blessed with ideal weather, produced bountiful crops of grain and harvested them with McCormick's mechanical reaper.
In the same period, the British suffered a series of bad harvests.
They were forced to import huge quantities of grain from America, which happened to have the cheapest and most abundant supply.
If the British had broken the blockade to get cotton, they would have provoked the North to war and would have cut off this precious granary.
Unemployment for some seemed better than hunger for all. Hence, one Yankee journal could exult,
Wave the stars and stripes high o'er us,
Let every freeman sing ...
Dethroning King Cotton
The Confederate government, like King Cotton, betrayed fatal weaknesses.
Its constitution, borrowing liberally from that of the Union, had one deadly defect. Created by secession, it could not logically deny future secession to its states.
Jefferson Davis, while making his bow to states' rights, had in view a well-knit central government.
But determined states' rights supporters fought him bitterly to the end.
The Richmond regime encountered difficulty even in persuading certain state troops to serve outside their own borders.
Governor Brown of Georgia, a belligerent states' righter, at times seemed ready to secede from the secession and fight both sides.
States' rights were no less damaging to the Confederacy than Yankee sabers.
Sharp-featured President Davis--tense, humorless, legalistic, and stubborn--was repeatedly in hot water.
Although an eloquent orator and an able administrator, he at no time enjoyed real personal popularity and was often at loggerheads with his congress.
At times there was serious talk of impeachment. Unlike Lincoln, Davis was somewhat imperious and inclined to defy rather than lead public opinion.
Suffering acutely from neuralgia and other nervous disorders (including a tic), he overworked himself with the details of both civil government and military operations.
No one could doubt his courage, sincerity, integrity, and devotion to the South, but the task proved beyond his powers.
It was probably beyond the powers of any mere mortal.
Lincoln also had his troubles, but on the whole they were less prostrating.
The North enjoyed the prestige of a long-established government, financially stable and fully recognized both at home and abroad.
Lincoln, the inexperienced prairie politician, proved superior to the more experienced but less flexible Davis.
Able to relax with droll stories at critical times, "Old Abe" grew as the war dragged on.
Tactful, quiet, patient, yet firm, he developed a genius for interpreting and leading a fickle public opinion.
Holding aloft the banner of Union with inspiring utterances, he revealed charitableness toward the South and forbearance toward backbiting colleagues.
"Did [Secretary] Stanton say I was a damned fool?" he reportedly replied to a talebearer. "Then I dare say I must be one, for Stanton is generally right and he always says what he means.""
President Davis Versus President Lincoln
Honest Abe" Lincoln, when inaugurated, laid his hand on the Bible and swore a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution.
Then, driven by sheer necessity, he proceeded to tear a few holes in that hallowed document.
He sagely concluded that if he did not do so, and patch the parchment later, there might not be a Constitution of a united United States to mend.
The "rail-splitter" was no hairsplitter.
But such infractions were not, in general, sweeping.
Congress, as is often true in times of crisis, generally accepted or confirmed the president's questionable acts.
Lincoln, though accused of being a "Simple Susan Tyrant," did not believe that his ironhanded authority would continue, once the Union was preserved.
As he pointedly remarked in 1863, a man suffering from "temporary illness" would not persist in feeding on bitter medicines for "the remainder of his healthful life."
Congress was not in session when war erupted, so Lincoln gathered the reins into his own hands.
Brushing aside legal objections, he boldly proclaimed a blockade. (His action was later upheld by the Supreme Court.)
He arbitrarily increased the size of the federal army--something that only Congress can do under the Constitution (see Art. I, Sec. VIII, para. 12). (Congress later approved.)
He directed the secretary of the treasury to advance $2 million without appropriation or security to three private citizens for military purposes--a grave irregularity contrary to the Constitution (see Art. I, Sec. IX, para. 7).
He suspended the precious privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, so that anti-Unionists might be summarily arrested.
In taking this step, he defied a dubious ruling by the chief justice that the safeguards of habeas corpus could be set aside only by authorization of Congress (see Art. I, Sec. IX, para. 2).
Lincoln's regime was guilty of many other high-handed acts.
For example, it arranged for "supervised" voting in the Border States.
There the intimidated citizen, holding a colored ballot indicating his party preference, had to march between two lines of armed troops.
The federal officials also ordered the suspension of certain newspapers and the arrest of their editors on grounds of obstructing the war.
Jefferson Davis was less able than Lincoln to exercise arbitrary power, mainly because of confirmed states' righters who revealed an intense spirit of localism.
To the very end of the conflict, the owners of horse-drawn vans in Petersburg, Virginia, prevented the joining of the incoming and outgoing tracks of a militarily vital railroad.
The South seemed willing to lose the war before it would surrender local rights--and it did."
Limitations on Wartime Liberties
Blessed with a lion's share of the wealth, the North rode through the financial breakers much more smoothly than the South. Excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol were substantially increased by Congress.
An income tax was levied for the first time in the nation's experience; and although the rates were painlessly low by later standards, they netted millions of dollars.
Customs receipts likewise proved to be important revenue-raisers.
Early in 1861, after enough antiprotection Southern members had seceded, Congress passed the Morrill Tariff Act, superseding the low Tariff of 1857.
It increased the existing duties some 5 to 10 percent, boosting them to about the moderate level of the Walker Tariff of 1846.
But these modest rates were soon pushed sharply upward by the necessities of war.
The increases were designed partly to raise additional revenue and partly to provide more protection for the prosperous manufacturers who were being plucked by the new internal taxes.
A protective tariff thus became identified with the Republican party, as American industrialists, mostly Republicans, waxed fat on these welcome benefits.
The Washington Treasury also issued greenbacked paper money, totaling nearly $450 million, at face value.
This printing-press currency was inadequately supported by gold, and hence its value was determined by the nation's credit.
Greenbacks thus fluctuated with the fortunes of Union arms and at one low point were worth only 39 cents on the gold dollar.
The holders of the notes, victims of creeping inflation, were indirectly taxed as the value of the currency slowly withered in their hands.
Yet borrowing far outstripped both greenbacks and taxes as a money-raiser.
The federal Treasury netted $2,621,916,786 through the sale of bonds, which bore interest and which were payable at a later date.
The modern technique of selling these issues to the people directly through "drives" and payroll deductions had not yet been devised.
Accordingly, the Treasury was forced to market its bonds through the private banking house of Jay Cooke and Company, which received a commission of three-eighths of 1 percent on all sales.
With both profits and patriotism at stake, the bankers succeeded in making effective appeals to citizen purchasers.
A financial landmark of the war was the National Banking System, authorized by Congress in 1863.
Launched partly as a stimulant to the sale of government bonds, it was also designed to establish a standard bank-note currency.
(The country was then flooded with depreciated "rag money" issued by unreliable bankers.)
Banks that joined the National Banking System could buy government bonds and issue sound paper money backed by them.
The war-born National Banking Act thus turned out to be the first significant step taken toward a unified banking network since 1836, when the "monster" Bank of the United States was killed by Andrew Jackson.
Spawned by the war, this new system continued to function for fifty years.
An impoverished South was beset by different financial problems.
Customs duties were choked off as the coils of the Union blockade tightened.
Large issues of Confederate bonds were sold at home and abroad, amounting to nearly $400 million.
The Richmond regime also increased taxes sharply and imposed a 10 percent levy on farm produce.
But in general the states' rights Southerners were vigorously opposed to heavy direct taxation by the central authority: only about 1 percent of the total income was raised in this way.
As revenue began to dry up, the Confederate government was forced to print blue-backed paper money with complete abandon.
"Runaway inflation" occurred as Southern presses continued to grind out the poorly backed treasury notes, totaling in all more than $1 billion.
One breakfast for three in Richmond in 1864 cost $141.
The Confederate paper dollar finally sank to the point where it was worth only 1.6 cents when Lee surrendered.
Overall, the war inflicted a 9,000 percent inflation rate on the Confederacy, contrasted with 80 percent for the Union."
The Economic Stresses of War
Dismally different was the plight of the South, which fought to exhaustion.
The suffocation caused by the blockade, together with the destruction by invaders, took a terrible toll.
Possessing 30 percent of the national wealth in 1860, the South claimed only 12 percent in 1870.
Before the war the average per capita income of southerners (including slaves) was about two-thirds that of northerners.
The Civil War pushed the average southern income to two-fifths of the northern level, where it remained for the rest of the century.
The South's bid for independence exacted a cruel and devastating cost.
The South was even driven to the economic cannibalism of pulling up rails from the less-used lines to repair the main ones.
Window weights were melted down into bullets; gourds replaced dishes; pins became so scarce that they were loaned with reluctance.
To the brutal end, the South revealed remarkable resourcefulness and spirit.
Women buoyed up their menfolk, many of whom had seen enough of war at first hand to be heartily sick of it.
A proposal was made by a number of women that they cut off their long hair and sell it abroad.
But the project was not adopted, partly because of the blockade.
The self-sacrificing women took pride in denying themselves the silks and satins of their Northern sisters.
The chorus of a song, "The Southern girl," touched a cheerful note:
So hurrah! hurrah! For Southern Rights, hurrah!
Hurrah! for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear.
At war's end the Northern Captains of Industry had conquered the Southern Lords of the Manor.
A crippled South left the capitalistic North free to work its own way, with high tariffs and other benefits.
The industrial giants of the North, ushering in the full-fledged industrial revolution, were destined for increased dominance over American economic and political life.
Hitherto the agrarian "slavocracy" of the South, by using sectional alliances, had partially checked the rising plutocracy of the North.
Now cotton capitalism had lost out to industrial capitalism. The South of 1865 was to be rich in little but amputees, war heroes, ruins, and memories."
A Crushed Cotton Kingdom
When President Lincoln, on April 15, 1861, issued his call to the states for seventy-five thousand militiamen, he envisioned them serving for only ninety days.
He reaffirmed that he had "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the States where it exists."
He hoped, with a swift flourish of federal force, to show the folly of secession and rapidly return the rebellious states to the Union.
Northern newspapers, also eager for a quick resolution of the crisis, raised the cry "On to Richmond!"
In this expectant atmosphere, a Union army of some thirty thousand men drilled near Washington in the summer of 1861.
It was ill prepared for battle, but the press and the public clamored for action.
Lincoln eventually concluded that an attack on a smaller Confederate force at Bull Run (Manassas Junction), some thirty miles (forty-eight kilometers) southwest of Washington, might be worth a try.
If successful, it would demonstrate the superiority of Union arms.
It might even lead to the capture of the Confederate capital at Richmond, one hundred miles to the south.
If Richmond fell, secession would be thoroughly discredited and the Union could be restored without damage to the economic and social system of the South.
Raw Yankee recruits marched or straggled out of Washington toward Bull Run on July 21, 1861, as if they were headed for a sporting event.
Congressmen and spectators trailed along with their lunch baskets to witness the fun. At first the battle went well for the Yankees.
But "Stonewall" Jackson's gray-clad warriors stood like a stone wall (here he won his nickname), and Confederate reinforcements arrived unexpectedly.
Panic seized the green Union troops, many of whom fled in shameful confusion.
The Confederates, themselves too exhausted or disorganized to pursue, feasted on captured lunches.
The "military picnic" at Bull Run, though not decisive militarily, had significant psychological and political consequences.
Victory was worse than defeat for the South, because it inflated an already dangerous overconfidence.
Many of the Southern soldiers promptly deserted, some boastfully to display their trophies, others feeling that the war was now surely over.
Southern enlistments fell off sharply, and preparations for a protracted conflict slackened.
Defeat was better than victory for the Union, because it dispelled all illusions of a one-punch war and caused the Northerners to buckle down to the staggering task at hand.
It also set the stage for a war that would be waged not merely for the cause of Union but also, eventually, for the abolitionist ideal of emancipation."
Bull Run Ends the "Ninety-Day War"
On the night of April 14, 1865 (Good Friday), only five days after Lee's surrender, Ford's Theater in Washington witnessed its most sensational drama.
A half-crazed, fanatically pro-Southern actor, John Wilkes Booth, slipped behind Lincoln as he sat in his box and shot him in the head.
After lying unconscious all night, the Great Emancipator died the following morning.
"Now he belongs to the ages," remarked the once critical Secretary Stanton--probably the finest thing he ever said.
Lincoln expired in the arms of victory, at the very pinnacle of his fame.
From the standpoint of his reputation, his death could not have been better timed if he had hired the assassin.
A large number of his countrymen had not suspected his greatness, and many others had even doubted his ability.
But his dramatic death helped to erase the memory of his shortcomings and caused his nobler qualities to stand out in clearer relief.
The full impact of Lincoln's death was not at once apparent to the South.
Hundreds of bedraggled ex-Confederate soldiers cheered, as did some Southern civilians and Northern Copperheads, when they learned of the assassination.
This reaction was only natural, because Lincoln had kept the war grinding on to the bitter end. If he had only been willing to stop the shooting, the South would have won.
As time wore on, increasing numbers of Southerners perceived that Lincoln's death was a calamity for them.
Belatedly they recognized that his kindliness and moderation would have been the most effective shields between them and vindictive treatment by the victors.
The assassination unfortunately increased the bitterness in the North, partly because of the fantastic rumor that Jefferson Davis had plotted it.
A few historians have argued that Andrew Johnson, now president-by-bullet, was crucified in Lincoln's stead.
The implication is that if the "rail-splitter" had lived, he would have suffered Johnson's fate of being impeached by the embittered members of his own party who demanded harsh treatment of the South.
The crucifixion thesis does not stand up under scrutiny.
Lincoln no doubt would have clashed with Congress; in fact, he had already found himself in some hot water.
The legislative branch normally struggles to win back the power that has been wrested from it by the executive in time of crisis.
But the surefooted and experienced Lincoln could hardly have blundered into the same quicksands that engulfed Johnson.
Lincoln was a victorious president, and there is no arguing with victory.
Enjoying battle-tested powers of leadership, Lincoln possessed in full measure tact, sweet reasonableness, and an uncommon amount of common sense.
Andrew Johnson, hot-tempered and impetuous, lacked all of these priceless qualities.
Ford's Theater, with its tragic murder of Lincoln, set the stage for the terrible ordeal of Reconstruction."
The Martyrdom of Lincoln
The Civil War took a grisly toll in gore, about as much as all of America's subsequent wars combined.
Over six hundred thousand men died in action or of disease, and in all over a million were killed or seriously wounded.
To its lasting hurt, the nation lost the cream of its young manhood and potential leadership.
In addition, tens of thousands of babies went unborn because potential fathers were at the front.
Direct monetary costs of the conflict totaled about $15 billion.
But this colossal figure does not include continuing expenses, such as pensions and interest on the national debt.
The intangible costs--dislocations, disunities, wasted energies, lowered ethics, blasted lives, bitter memories, and burning hates--cannot be calculated.
The greatest constitutional decision of the century, in a sense, was written in blood and handed down at Appomattox Court House, near which Lee surrendered.
The extreme states' righters were crushed.
The national government, tested in the fiery furnace of war, emerged unbroken.
Nullification and secession, those twin nightmares of previous decades, were laid to rest.
Beyond doubt the Civil War--the nightmare of the Republic--was the supreme test of American democracy.
It finally answered the question, in the words of Lincoln at Gettysburg, whether a nation dedicated to such principles "can long endure."
The preservation of democratic ideals, though not an officially announced war aim, was subconsciously one of the major objectives of the North.
Victory for Union arms also provided inspiration to the champions of democracy and liberalism the world over.
The great English Reform Bill of 1867, under which Britain became a true political democracy, was passed two years after the Civil War ended.
American democracy had proved itself, and its success was an additional argument used by the disfranchised British masses in securing similar blessings for themselves.
The "Lost Cause" of the South was lost, but few Americans today would argue that the result was not for the best.
The shameful cancer of slavery was sliced away by the sword, and African-Americans were at last in a position to claim their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The nation was again united politically, though for many generations still divided spiritually by the passions of the war.
Grave dangers were averted by a Union victory, including the indefinite prolongation of the "peculiar institution
," the unleashing of the slave power on weak Caribbean neighbors, and the transformation of the area from Panama to Hudson Bay into an armed camp,
with several heavily armed and hostile states constantly snarling and sniping at one another.
America still had a long way to go to make the promises of freedom a reality for all its citizens, black and white.
But emancipation laid the necessary groundwork, and a united and democratic United States was free to fulfill its destiny as the dominant republic of the hemisphere--and eventually of the world."