Impact of the American Civil War (1861-1865)

Impact of the American Civil War:

The American Civil War was the greatest historical experience of the American people, comparable to the revolution of 1789 in France. It settled certain differences, and it settled them permanently. It destroyed slavery and assured the ascendancy of industrial capitalism. Furthermore, it preserved the Union and stabilized the modern American nation. ‘The United States now became the new nation, the guide and law-giver of all nations’. Deeply touched by the impact of the war, Walt Whitman wrote emotionally “Today, ahead, though dimly yet, we see in vistas, a copious, sane, gigantic offspring”.

The war left behind a hatred between North and South that lasted for decades. Most Southerners were willing to accept the supremacy of the Federal Government and the abolition of slavery. In the North was a strong sentiment in favour of treating the South as conquered territory.

The immediate task after the war was the problem of reconstruction which raised two basic problems, the future of the Negro and the future of the Union. Before the war ended the Congress in March 1865 formalized the fact of Negro freedom by proposing the thirteen constitutional amendment which abolished slavery and was ratified in December 1865.

Finally, Congress passed in the spring of 1866 the Fourteenth Amendment which effected a constitutional revolution by placing civil rights under national protection. It prohibited the States from making any law which ‘abridged the privileges and immunities of the United States or deprived any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law or denied to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws’. But all the Southern States, with the exception of Tennessee, refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. In July 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified and the next year, the Fifteenth Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified in 1870 by State legislatures. The Fifteenth Amendment enacted that the right to vote could not be abridged ‘on account of race, colour or previous condition of servitude’. Negroes took their places as State legislators, as executive officers and even as Congressmen. By June 1868 seven States became eligible for readmission and by June 1870 all the former rebel States were restored to the Union.


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