The Civil War And Reconstruction

"The irrepressible conflict is about to be visited upon us through the

Black Republican nominee and his fanatical, diabolical Republican

party," ran an appeal to the voters of South Carolina during the

campaign of 1860. If that calamity comes to pass, responded the governor

of the state, the answer should be a declaration of independence. In a

few days the suspense was over. The news of Lincoln's election came

along the wires. Prepared for the event, the editor of the

Charleston Mercury unfurled the flag of his state amid wild cheers

from an excited throng in the streets. Then he seized his pen and wrote:

"The tea has been thrown overboard; the revolution of 1860 has been

initiated." The issue was submitted to the voters in the choice of

delegates to a state convention called to cast off the yoke of the




As arranged, the convention of South Carolina assembled in

December and without a dissenting voice passed the ordinance of

secession withdrawing from the union. Bells were rung exultantly, the

roar of cannon carried the news to outlying counties, fireworks lighted

up the heavens, and champagne flowed. The crisis so long expected had

come at last; even the conservatives who had prayed that they might

escape the dreadful crash greeted it with a sigh of relief.

South Carolina now sent forth an appeal to her sister states--states

that had in Jackson's day repudiated nullification as leading to "the

dissolution of the union." The answer that came this time was in a

different vein. A month had hardly elapsed before five other

states--Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana--had

withdrawn from the union. In February, Texas followed. Virginia,

hesitating until the bombardment of Fort Sumter forced a conclusion,

seceded in April; but fifty-five of the one hundred and forty-three

delegates dissented, foreshadowing the creation of the new state of West

Virginia which Congress admitted to the union in 1863. In May, North

Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee announced their independence.

Secession and the Theories of the Union

In severing their relations

with the union, the seceding states denied every point in the Northern

theory of the Constitution. That theory, as every one knows, was

carefully formulated by Webster and elaborated by Lincoln. According to

it, the union was older than the states; it was created before the

Declaration of Independence for the purpose of common defense. The

Articles of Confederation did but strengthen this national bond and the

Constitution sealed it forever. The federal government was not a

creature of state governments. It was erected by the people and derived

its powers directly from them. "It is," said Webster, "the people's

Constitution, the people's government; made for the people; made by the

people; and answerable to the people. The people of the United States

have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law." When a

state questions the lawfulness of any act of the federal government, it

cannot nullify that act or withdraw from the union; it must abide by the

decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. The union of these

states is perpetual, ran Lincoln's simple argument in the first

inaugural; the federal Constitution has no provision for its own

termination; it can be destroyed only by some action not provided for in

the instrument itself; even if it is a compact among all the states the

consent of all must be necessary to its dissolution; therefore no state

can lawfully get out of the union and acts of violence against the

United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary. This was the system

which he believed himself bound to defend by his oath of office

"registered in heaven."

All this reasoning Southern statesmen utterly rejected. In their opinion

the thirteen original states won their independence as separate and

sovereign powers. The treaty of peace with Great Britain named them all

and acknowledged them "to be free, sovereign, and independent states."

The Articles of Confederation very explicitly declared that "each state

retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence." The Constitution

was a "league of nations" formed by an alliance of thirteen separate

powers, each one of which ratified the instrument before it was put into

effect. They voluntarily entered the union under the Constitution and

voluntarily they could leave it. Such was the constitutional doctrine of

Hayne, Calhoun, and Jefferson Davis. In seceding, the Southern states

had only to follow legal methods, and the transaction would be correct

in every particular. So conventions were summoned, elections were held,

and "sovereign assemblies of the people" set aside the Constitution in

the same manner as it had been ratified nearly four score years before.

Thus, said the Southern people, the moral judgment was fulfilled and the

letter of the law carried into effect.

The Formation of the Confederacy

Acting on the call of Mississippi,

a congress of delegates from the seceded states met at Montgomery,

Alabama, and on February 8, 1861, adopted a temporary plan of union. It

selected, as provisional president, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a

man well fitted by experience and moderation for leadership, a graduate

of West Point, who had rendered distinguished service on the field of

battle in the Mexican War, in public office, and as a member of


In March, a permanent constitution of the Confederate states was

drafted. It was quickly ratified by the states; elections were held in

November; and the government under it went into effect the next year.

This new constitution, in form, was very much like the famous instrument

drafted at Philadelphia in 1787. It provided for a President, a Senate,

and a House of Representatives along almost identical lines. In the

powers conferred upon them, however, there were striking differences.

The right to appropriate money for internal improvements was expressly

withheld; bounties were not to be granted from the treasury nor import

duties so laid as to promote or foster any branch of industry. The

dignity of the state, if any might be bold enough to question it, was

safeguarded in the opening line by the declaration that each acted "in

its sovereign and independent character" in forming the Southern union.

Financing the Confederacy

No government ever set out upon its career

with more perplexing tasks in front of it. The North had a monetary

system; the South had to create one. The North had a scheme of taxation

that produced large revenues from numerous sources; the South had to

formulate and carry out a financial plan. Like the North, the

Confederacy expected to secure a large revenue from customs duties,

easily collected and little felt among the masses. To this expectation

the blockade of Southern ports inaugurated by Lincoln in April, 1861,

soon put an end. Following the precedent set by Congress under the

Articles of Confederation, the Southern Congress resorted to a direct

property tax apportioned among the states, only to meet the failure that

might have been foretold.

The Confederacy also sold bonds, the first issue bringing into the

treasury nearly all the specie available in the Southern banks. This

specie by unhappy management was early sent abroad to pay for supplies,

sapping the foundations of a sound currency system. Large amounts of

bonds were sold overseas, commanding at first better terms than those

of the North in the markets of London, Paris, and Amsterdam, many an

English lord and statesman buying with enthusiasm and confidence to

lament within a few years the proofs of his folly. The difficulties of

bringing through the blockade any supplies purchased by foreign bond

issues, however, nullified the effect of foreign credit and forced the

Confederacy back upon the device of paper money. In all approximately

one billion dollars streamed from the printing presses, to fall in value

at an alarming rate, reaching in January, 1863, the astounding figure of

fifty dollars in paper money for one in gold. Every known device was

used to prevent its depreciation, without result. To the issues of the

Confederate Congress were added untold millions poured out by the states

and by private banks.

Human and Material Resources

When we measure strength for strength

in those signs of power--men, money, and supplies--it is difficult to

see how the South was able to embark on secession and war with such

confidence in the outcome. In the Confederacy at the final reckoning

there were eleven states in all, to be pitted against twenty-two; a

population of nine millions, nearly one-half servile, to be pitted

against twenty-two millions; a land without great industries to produce

war supplies and without vast capital to furnish war finances, joined in

battle with a nation already industrial and fortified by property worth

eleven billion dollars. Even after the Confederate Congress authorized

conscription in 1862, Southern man power, measured in numbers, was

wholly inadequate to uphold the independence which had been declared.

How, therefore, could the Confederacy hope to sustain itself against

such a combination of men, money, and materials as the North could


Southern Expectations

The answer to this question is to be found in

the ideas that prevailed among Southern leaders. First of all, they

hoped, in vain, to carry the Confederacy up to the Ohio River; and, with

the aid of Missouri, to gain possession of the Mississippi Valley, the

granary of the nation. In the second place, they reckoned upon a large

and continuous trade with Great Britain--the exchange of cotton for war

materials. They likewise expected to receive recognition and open aid

from European powers that looked with satisfaction upon the breakup of

the great American republic. In the third place, they believed that

their control over several staples so essential to Northern industry

would enable them to bring on an industrial crisis in the manufacturing

states. "I firmly believe," wrote Senator Hammond, of South Carolina, in

1860, "that the slave-holding South is now the controlling power of the

world; that no other power would face us in hostility. Cotton, rice,

tobacco, and naval stores command the world; and we have the sense to

know it and are sufficiently Teutonic to carry it out successfully. The

North without us would be a motherless calf, bleating about, and die of

mange and starvation."

There were other grounds for confidence. Having seized all of the

federal military and naval supplies in the South, and having left the

national government weak in armed power during their possession of the

presidency, Southern leaders looked to a swift war, if it came at all,

to put the finishing stroke to independence. "The greasy mechanics of

the North," it was repeatedly said, "will not fight." As to disparity in

numbers they drew historic parallels. "Our fathers, a mere handful,

overcame the enormous power of Great Britain," a saying of ex-President

Tyler, ran current to reassure the doubtful. Finally, and this point

cannot be too strongly emphasized, the South expected to see a weakened

and divided North. It knew that the abolitionists and the Southern

sympathizers were ready to let the Confederate states go in peace; that

Lincoln represented only a little more than one-third the voters of the

country; and that the vote for Douglas, Bell, and Breckinridge meant a

decided opposition to the Republicans and their policies.

Efforts at Compromise

Republican leaders, on reviewing the same

facts, were themselves uncertain as to the outcome of a civil war and

made many efforts to avoid a crisis. Thurlow Weed, an Albany journalist

and politician who had done much to carry New York for Lincoln, proposed

a plan for extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.

Jefferson Davis, warning his followers that a war if it came would be

terrible, was prepared to accept the offer; but Lincoln, remembering his

campaign pledges, stood firm as a rock against it. His followers in

Congress took the same position with regard to a similar settlement

suggested by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky.

Though unwilling to surrender his solemn promises respecting slavery in

the territories, Lincoln was prepared to give to Southern leaders a

strong guarantee that his administration would not interfere directly or

indirectly with slavery in the states. Anxious to reassure the South on

this point, the Republicans in Congress proposed to write into the

Constitution a declaration that no amendment should ever be made

authorizing the abolition of or interference with slavery in any state.

The resolution, duly passed, was sent forth on March 4, 1861, with the

approval of Lincoln; it was actually ratified by three states before the

storm of war destroyed it. By the irony of fate the thirteenth amendment

was to abolish, not guarantee, slavery.


Raising the Armies

The crisis at Fort Sumter, on April 12-14, 1861,

forced the President and Congress to turn from negotiations to problems

of warfare. Little did they realize the magnitude of the task before

them. Lincoln's first call for volunteers, issued on April 15, 1861,

limited the number to 75,000, put their term of service at three months,

and prescribed their duty as the enforcement of the law against

combinations too powerful to be overcome by ordinary judicial process.

Disillusionment swiftly followed. The terrible defeat of the Federals at

Bull Run on July 21 revealed the serious character of the task before

them; and by a series of measures Congress put the entire man power of

the country at the President's command. Under these acts, he issued new

calls for volunteers. Early in August, 1862, he ordered a draft of

militiamen numbering 300,000 for nine months' service. The results were

disappointing--ominous--for only about 87,000 soldiers were added to the

army. Something more drastic was clearly necessary.

In March, 1863, Lincoln signed the inevitable draft law; it enrolled in

the national forces liable to military duty all able-bodied male

citizens and persons of foreign birth who had declared their intention

to become citizens, between the ages of twenty and forty-five

years--with exemptions on grounds of physical weakness and dependency.

From the men enrolled were drawn by lot those destined to active

service. Unhappily the measure struck a mortal blow at the principle of

universal liability by excusing any person who found a substitute for

himself or paid into the war office a sum, not exceeding three hundred

dollars, to be fixed by general order. This provision, so crass and so

obviously favoring the well-to-do, sowed seeds of bitterness which

sprang up a hundredfold in the North.

The beginning of the drawings under the draft act in New York City, on

Monday, July 13, 1863, was the signal for four days of rioting. In the

course of this uprising, draft headquarters were destroyed; the office

of the Tribune was gutted; negroes were seized, hanged, and shot; the

homes of obnoxious Unionists were burned down; the residence of the

mayor of the city was attacked; and regular battles were fought in the

streets between the rioters and the police. Business stopped and a large

part of the city passed absolutely into the control of the mob. Not

until late the following Wednesday did enough troops arrive to restore

order and enable the residents of the city to resume their daily

activities. At least a thousand people had been killed or wounded and

more than a million dollars' worth of damage done to property. The draft

temporarily interrupted by this outbreak was then resumed and carried

out without further trouble.

The results of the draft were in the end distinctly disappointing to the

government. The exemptions were numerous and the number who preferred

and were able to pay $300 rather than serve exceeded all expectations.

Volunteering, it is true, was stimulated, but even that resource could

hardly keep the thinning ranks of the army filled. With reluctance

Congress struck out the $300 exemption clause, but still favored the

well-to-do by allowing them to hire substitutes if they could find them.

With all this power in its hands the administration was able by January,

1865, to construct a union army that outnumbered the Confederates two to


War Finance

In the financial sphere the North faced immense

difficulties. The surplus in the treasury had been dissipated by 1861

and the tariff of 1857 had failed to produce an income sufficient to

meet the ordinary expenses of the government. Confronted by military and

naval expenditures of appalling magnitude, rising from $35,000,000 in

the first year of the war to $1,153,000,000 in the last year, the

administration had to tap every available source of income. The duties

on imports were increased, not once but many times, producing huge

revenues and also meeting the most extravagant demands of the

manufacturers for protection. Direct taxes were imposed on the states

according to their respective populations, but the returns were

meager--all out of proportion to the irritation involved. Stamp taxes

and taxes on luxuries, occupations, and the earnings of corporations

were laid with a weight that, in ordinary times, would have drawn forth

opposition of ominous strength. The whole gamut of taxation was run.

Even a tax on incomes and gains by the year, the first in the history of

the federal government, was included in the long list.

Revenues were supplemented by bond issues, mounting in size and interest

rate, until in October, at the end of the war, the debt stood at

$2,208,000,000. The total cost of the war was many times the money value

of all the slaves in the Southern states. To the debt must be added

nearly half a billion dollars in "greenbacks"--paper money issued by

Congress in desperation as bond sales and revenues from taxes failed to

meet the rising expenditures. This currency issued at par on

questionable warrant from the Constitution, like all such paper, quickly

began to decline until in the worst fortunes of 1864 one dollar in gold

was worth nearly three in greenbacks.

The Blockade of Southern Ports

Four days after his call for

volunteers, April 19, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation

blockading the ports of the Southern Confederacy. Later the blockade was

extended to Virginia and North Carolina, as they withdrew from the

union. Vessels attempting to enter or leave these ports, if they

disregarded the warnings of a blockading ship, were to be captured and

brought as prizes to the nearest convenient port. To make the order

effective, immediate steps were taken to increase the naval forces,

depleted by neglect, until the entire coast line was patrolled with such

a number of ships that it was a rare captain who ventured to run the

gantlet. The collision between the Merrimac and the Monitor in

March, 1862, sealed the fate of the Confederacy. The exploits of the

union navy are recorded in the falling export of cotton: $202,000,000 in

1860; $42,000,000 in 1861; and $4,000,000 in 1862.

The deadly effect of this paralysis of trade upon Southern war power may

be readily imagined. Foreign loans, payable in cotton, could be

negotiated but not paid off. Supplies could be purchased on credit but

not brought through the drag net. With extreme difficulty could the

Confederate government secure even paper for the issue of money and

bonds. Publishers, in despair at the loss of supplies, were finally

driven to the use of brown wrapping paper and wall paper. As the

railways and rolling stock wore out, it became impossible to renew them

from England or France. Unable to export their cotton, planters on the

seaboard burned it in what were called "fires of patriotism." In their

lurid light the fatal weakness of Southern economy stood revealed.


The war had not advanced far before the federal government

became involved in many perplexing problems of diplomacy in Europe. The

Confederacy early turned to England and France for financial aid and for

recognition as an independent power. Davis believed that the industrial

crisis created by the cotton blockade would in time literally compel

Europe to intervene in order to get this essential staple. The crisis

came as he expected but not the result. Thousands of English textile

workers were thrown out of employment; and yet, while on the point of

starvation, they adopted resolutions favoring the North instead of

petitioning their government to aid the South by breaking the blockade.

With the ruling classes it was far otherwise. Napoleon III, the Emperor

of the French, was eager to help in disrupting the American republic; if

he could have won England's support, he would have carried out his

designs. As it turned out he found plenty of sympathy across the Channel

but not open and official cooeperation. According to the eminent

historian, Rhodes, "four-fifths of the British House of Lords and most

members of the House of Commons were favorable to the Confederacy and

anxious for its triumph." Late in 1862 the British ministers, thus

sustained, were on the point of recognizing the independence of the

Confederacy. Had it not been for their extreme caution, for the constant

and harassing criticism by English friends of the United States--like

John Bright--and for the victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, both

England and France would have doubtless declared the Confederacy to be

one of the independent powers of the earth.

While stopping short of recognizing its independence, England and France

took several steps that were in favor of the South. In proclaiming

neutrality, they early accepted the Confederates as "belligerents" and

accorded them the rights of people at war--a measure which aroused anger

in the North at first but was later admitted to be sound. Otherwise

Confederates taken in battle would have been regarded as "rebels" or

"traitors" to be hanged or shot. Napoleon III proposed to Russia in 1861

a coalition of powers against the North, only to meet a firm refusal.

The next year he suggested intervention to Great Britain, encountering

this time a conditional rejection of his plans. In 1863, not daunted by

rebuffs, he offered his services to Lincoln as a mediator, receiving in

reply a polite letter declining his proposal and a sharp resolution from

Congress suggesting that he attend to his own affairs.

In both England and France the governments pursued a policy of

friendliness to the Confederate agents. The British ministry, with

indifference if not connivance, permitted rams and ships to be built in

British docks and allowed them to escape to play havoc under the

Confederate flag with American commerce. One of them, the Alabama,

built in Liverpool by a British firm and paid for by bonds sold in

England, ran an extraordinary career and threatened to break the

blockade. The course followed by the British government, against the

protests of the American minister in London, was later regretted. By an

award of a tribunal of arbitration at Geneva in 1872, Great Britain was

required to pay the huge sum of $15,500,000 to cover the damages wrought

by Confederate cruisers fitted out in England.

In all fairness it should be said that the conduct of the North

contributed to the irritation between the two countries. Seward, the

Secretary of State, was vindictive in dealing with Great Britain; had it

not been for the moderation of Lincoln, he would have pursued a course

verging in the direction of open war. The New York and Boston papers

were severe in their attacks on England. Words were, on one occasion at

least, accompanied by an act savoring of open hostility. In November,

1861, Captain Wilkes, commanding a union vessel, overhauled the British

steamer Trent, and carried off by force two Confederate agents, Mason

and Slidell, sent by President Davis to represent the Confederacy at

London and Paris respectively. This was a clear violation of the right

of merchant vessels to be immune from search and impressment; and, in

answer to the demand of Great Britain for the release of the two men,

the United States conceded that it was in the wrong. It surrendered the

two Confederate agents to a British vessel for safe conduct abroad, and

made appropriate apologies.


Among the extreme war measures adopted by the Northern

government must be counted the emancipation of the slaves in the states

in arms against the union. This step was early and repeatedly suggested

to Lincoln by the abolitionists; but was steadily put aside. He knew

that the abolitionists were a mere handful, that emancipation might

drive the border states into secession, and that the Northern soldiers

had enlisted to save the union. Moreover, he had before him a solemn

resolution passed by Congress on July 22, 1861, declaring the sole

purpose of the war to be the salvation of the union and disavowing any

intention of interfering with slavery.

The federal government, though pledged to the preservation of slavery,

soon found itself beaten back upon its course and out upon a new tack.

Before a year had elapsed, namely on April 10, 1862, Congress resolved

that financial aid should be given to any state that might adopt gradual

emancipation. Six days later it abolished slavery in the District of

Columbia. Two short months elapsed. On June 19, 1862, it swept slavery

forever from the territories of the United States. Chief Justice Taney

still lived, the Dred Scott decision stood as written in the book, but

the Constitution had been re-read in the light of the Civil War. The

drift of public sentiment in the North was being revealed.

While these measures were pending in Congress, Lincoln was slowly making

up his mind. By July of that year he had come to his great decision.

Near the end of that month he read to his cabinet the draft of a

proclamation of emancipation; but he laid it aside until a military

achievement would make it something more than an idle gesture. In

September, the severe check administered to Lee at Antietam seemed to

offer the golden opportunity. On the 22d, the immortal document was

given to the world announcing that, unless the states in arms returned

to the union by January 1, 1863, the fatal blow at their "peculiar

institution" would be delivered. Southern leaders treated it with slight

regard, and so on the date set the promise was fulfilled. The

proclamation was issued as a war measure, adopted by the President as

commander-in-chief of the armed forces, on grounds of military

necessity. It did not abolish slavery. It simply emancipated slaves in

places then in arms against federal authority. Everywhere else slavery,

as far as the Proclamation was concerned, remained lawful.

To seal forever the proclamation of emancipation, and to extend freedom

to the whole country, Congress, in January, 1865, on the urgent

recommendation of Lincoln, transmitted to the states the thirteenth

amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the United States. By the end

of 1865 the amendment was ratified. The house was not divided against

itself; it did not fall; it was all free.

The Restraint of Civil Liberty

As in all great wars, particularly

those in the nature of a civil strife, it was found necessary to use

strong measures to sustain opinion favorable to the administration's

military policies and to frustrate the designs of those who sought to

hamper its action. Within two weeks of his first call for volunteers,

Lincoln empowered General Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus

along the line of march between Philadelphia and Washington and thus to

arrest and hold without interference from civil courts any one whom he

deemed a menace to the union. At a later date the area thus ruled by

military officers was extended by executive proclamation. By an act of

March 3, 1863, Congress, desiring to lay all doubts about the

President's power, authorized him to suspend the writ throughout the

United States or in any part thereof. It also freed military officers

from the necessity of surrendering to civil courts persons arrested

under their orders, or even making answers to writs issued from such

courts. In the autumn of that year the President, acting under the terms

of this law, declared this ancient and honorable instrument for the

protection of civil liberties, the habeas corpus, suspended throughout

the length and breadth of the land. The power of the government was also

strengthened by an act defining and punishing certain conspiracies,

passed on July 31, 1861--a measure which imposed heavy penalties on

those who by force, intimidation, or threat interfered with the

execution of the law.

Thus doubly armed, the military authorities spared no one suspected of

active sympathy with the Southern cause. Editors were arrested and

imprisoned, their papers suspended, and their newsboys locked up. Those

who organized "peace meetings" soon found themselves in the toils of the

law. Members of the Maryland legislature, the mayor of Baltimore, and

local editors suspected of entertaining secessionist opinions, were

imprisoned on military orders although charged with no offense, and were

denied the privilege of examination before a civil magistrate. A Vermont

farmer, too outspoken in his criticism of the government, found himself

behind the bars until the government, in its good pleasure, saw fit to

release him. These measures were not confined to the theater of war nor

to the border states where the spirit of secession was strong enough to

endanger the cause of union. They were applied all through the Northern

states up to the very boundaries of Canada. Zeal for the national cause,

too often supplemented by a zeal for persecution, spread terror among

those who wavered in the singleness of their devotion to the union.

These drastic operations on the part of military authorities, so foreign

to the normal course of civilized life, naturally aroused intense and

bitter hostility. Meetings of protest were held throughout the country.

Thirty-six members of the House of Representatives sought to put on

record their condemnation of the suspension of the habeas corpus act,

only to meet a firm denial by the supporters of the act. Chief Justice

Taney, before whom the case of a man arrested under the President's

military authority was brought, emphatically declared, in a long and

learned opinion bristling with historical examples, that the President

had no power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. In Congress and

out, Democrats, abolitionists, and champions of civil liberty denounced

Lincoln and his Cabinet in unsparing terms. Vallandigham, a Democratic

leader of Ohio, afterward banished to the South for his opposition to

the war, constantly applied to Lincoln the epithet of "Caesar." Wendell

Phillips saw in him "a more unlimited despot than the world knows this

side of China."

Sensitive to such stinging thrusts and no friend of wanton persecution,

Lincoln attempted to mitigate the rigors of the law by paroling many

political prisoners. The general policy, however, he defended in homely

language, very different in tone and meaning from the involved reasoning

of the lawyers. "Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts,

while I must not touch a hair of the wily agitator who induces him to

desert?" he asked in a quiet way of some spokesmen for those who

protested against arresting people for "talking against the war." This

summed up his philosophy. He was engaged in a war to save the union, and

all measures necessary and proper to accomplish that purpose were

warranted by the Constitution which he had sworn to uphold.

Military Strategy--North and South

The broad outlines of military

strategy followed by the commanders of the opposing forces are clear

even to the layman who cannot be expected to master the details of a

campaign or, for that matter, the maneuvers of a single great battle.

The problem for the South was one of defense mainly, though even for

defense swift and paralyzing strokes at the North were later deemed

imperative measures. The problem of the North was, to put it baldly, one

of invasion and conquest. Southern territory had to be invaded and

Southern armies beaten on their own ground or worn down to exhaustion


In the execution of this undertaking, geography, as usual, played a

significant part in the disposition of forces. The Appalachian ranges,

stretching through the Confederacy to Northern Alabama, divided the

campaigns into Eastern and Western enterprises. Both were of signal

importance. Victory in the East promised the capture of the Confederate

capital of Richmond, a stroke of moral worth, hardly to be

overestimated. Victory in the West meant severing the Confederacy and

opening the Mississippi Valley down to the Gulf.

As it turned out, the Western forces accomplished their task first,

vindicating the military powers of union soldiers and shaking the

confidence of opposing commanders. In February, 1862, Grant captured

Fort Donelson on the Tennessee River, rallied wavering unionists in

Kentucky, forced the evacuation of Nashville, and opened the way for two

hundred miles into the Confederacy. At Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg,

Chickamauga, Chattanooga, desperate fighting followed and, in spite of

varying fortunes, it resulted in the discomfiture and retirement of

Confederate forces to the Southeast into Georgia. By the middle of 1863,

the Mississippi Valley was open to the Gulf, the initiative taken out of

the hands of Southern commanders in the West, and the way prepared for

Sherman's final stroke--the march from Atlanta to the sea--a maneuver

executed with needless severity in the autumn of 1864.

For the almost unbroken succession of achievements in the West by

Generals Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and Hooker against Albert Sidney

Johnston, Bragg, Pemberton, and Hood, the union forces in the East

offered at first an almost equally unbroken series of misfortunes and

disasters. Far from capturing Richmond, they had been thrown on the

defensive. General after general--McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and

Meade--was tried and found wanting. None of them could administer a

crushing defeat to the Confederate troops and more than once the union

soldiers were beaten in a fair battle. They did succeed, however, in

delivering a severe check to advancing Confederates under General Robert

E. Lee, first at Antietam in September, 1862, and then at Gettysburg in

July, 1863--checks reckoned as victories though in each instance the

Confederates escaped without demoralization. Not until the beginning of

the next year, when General Grant, supplied with almost unlimited men

and munitions, began his irresistible hammering at Lee's army, did the

final phase of the war commence. The pitiless drive told at last.

General Lee, on April 9, 1865, seeing the futility of further conflict,

surrendered an army still capable of hard fighting, at Appomattox, not

far from the capital of the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln

The services of Lincoln to the cause of union defy

description. A judicial scrutiny of the war reveals his thought and

planning in every part of the varied activity that finally crowned

Northern arms with victory. Is it in the field of diplomacy? Does

Seward, the Secretary of State, propose harsh and caustic measures

likely to draw England's sword into the scale? Lincoln counsels

moderation. He takes the irritating message and with his own hand

strikes out, erases, tones down, and interlines, exchanging for words

that sting and burn the language of prudence and caution. Is it a matter

of compromise with the South, so often proposed by men on both sides

sick of carnage? Lincoln is always ready to listen and turns away only

when he is invited to surrender principles essential to the safety of

the union. Is it high strategy of war, a question of the general best

fitted to win Gettysburg--Hooker, Sedgwick, or Meade? Lincoln goes in

person to the War Department in the dead of night to take counsel with

his Secretary and to make the fateful choice.

Is it a complaint from a citizen, deprived, as he believes, of his civil

liberties unjustly or in violation of the Constitution? Lincoln is ready

to hear it and anxious to afford relief, if warrant can be found for it.

Is a mother begging for the life of a son sentenced to be shot as a

deserter? Lincoln hears her petition, and grants it even against the

protests made by his generals in the name of military discipline. Do

politicians sow dissensions in the army and among civilians? Lincoln

grandly waves aside their petty personalities and invites them to think

of the greater cause. Is it a question of securing votes to ratify the

thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery? Lincoln thinks it not beneath

his dignity to traffic and huckster with politicians over the trifling

jobs asked in return by the members who hold out against him. Does a New

York newspaper call him an ignorant Western boor? Lincoln's reply is a

letter to a mother who has given her all--her sons on the field of

battle--and an address at Gettysburg, both of which will live as long as

the tongue in which they were written. These are tributes not only to

his mastery of the English language but also to his mastery of all those

sentiments of sweetness and strength which are the finest flowers of


Throughout the entire span of service, however, Lincoln was beset by

merciless critics. The fiery apostles of abolition accused him of

cowardice when he delayed the bold stroke at slavery. Anti-war Democrats

lashed out at every step he took. Even in his own party he found no

peace. Charles Sumner complained: "Our President is now dictator,

imperator--whichever you like; but how vain to have the power of a

god and not to use it godlike." Leaders among the Republicans sought to

put him aside in 1864 and place Chase in his chair. "I hope we may never

have a worse man," was Lincoln's quiet answer.

Wide were the dissensions in the North during that year and the

Republicans, while selecting Lincoln as their candidate again, cast off

their old name and chose the simple title of the "Union party."

Moreover, they selected a Southern man, Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, to

be associated with him as candidate for Vice President. This combination

the Northern Democrats boldly confronted with a platform declaring that

"after four years of failure to restore the union by the experiment of

war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity or war power

higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been

disregarded in every part and public liberty and private right alike

trodden down ... justice, humanity, liberty, and public welfare demand

that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, to the

end that peace may be restored on the basis of the federal union of the

states." It is true that the Democratic candidate, General McClellan,

sought to break the yoke imposed upon him by the platform, saying that

he could not look his old comrades in the face and pronounce their

efforts vain; but the party call to the nation to repudiate Lincoln and

his works had gone forth. The response came, giving Lincoln 2,200,000

votes against 1,800,000 for his opponent. The bitter things said about

him during the campaign, he forgot and forgave. When in April, 1865, he

was struck down by the assassin's hand, he above all others in

Washington was planning measures of moderation and healing.


There is a strong and natural tendency on the part of writers to stress

the dramatic and heroic aspects of war; but the long judgment of history

requires us to include all other significant phases as well. Like every

great armed conflict, the Civil War outran the purposes of those who

took part in it. Waged over the nature of the union, it made a

revolution in the union, changing public policies and constitutional

principles and giving a new direction to agriculture and industry.

The Supremacy of the Union

First and foremost, the war settled for

all time the long dispute as to the nature of the federal system. The

doctrine of state sovereignty was laid to rest. Men might still speak of

the rights of states and think of their commonwealths with affection,

but nullification and secession were destroyed. The nation was supreme.

The Destruction of the Slave Power

Next to the vindication of

national supremacy was the destruction of the planting aristocracy of

the South--that great power which had furnished leadership of undoubted

ability and had so long contested with the industrial and commercial

interests of the North. The first paralyzing blow at the planters was

struck by the abolition of slavery. The second and third came with the

fourteenth (1868) and fifteenth (1870) amendments, giving the ballot to

freedmen and excluding from public office the Confederate

leaders--driving from the work of reconstruction the finest talents of

the South. As if to add bitterness to gall and wormwood, the fourteenth

amendment forbade the United States or any state to pay any debts

incurred in aid of the Confederacy or in the emancipation of the

slaves--plunging into utter bankruptcy the Southern financiers who had

stripped their section of capital to support their cause. So the

Southern planters found themselves excluded from public office and ruled

over by their former bondmen under the tutelage of Republican leaders.

Their labor system was wrecked and their money and bonds were as

worthless as waste paper. The South was subject to the North. That which

neither the Federalists nor the Whigs had been able to accomplish in the

realm of statecraft was accomplished on the field of battle.

The Triumph of Industry

The wreck of the planting system was

accompanied by a mighty upswing of Northern industry which made the old

Whigs of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania stare in wonderment. The demands

of the federal government for manufactured goods at unrestricted prices

gave a stimulus to business which more than replaced the lost markets of

the South. Between 1860 and 1870 the number of manufacturing

establishments increased 79.6 per cent as against 14.2 for the previous

decade; while the number of persons employed almost doubled. There was

no doubt about the future of American industry.

The Victory for the Protective Tariff

Moreover, it was henceforth to

be well protected. For many years before the war the friends of

protection had been on the defensive. The tariff act of 1857 imposed

duties so low as to presage a tariff for revenue only. The war changed

all that. The extraordinary military expenditures, requiring heavy taxes

on all sources, justified tariffs so high that a follower of Clay or

Webster might well have gasped with astonishment. After the war was over

the debt remained and both interest and principal had to be paid.

Protective arguments based on economic reasoning were supported by a

plain necessity for revenue which admitted no dispute.

A Liberal Immigration Policy

Linked with industry was the labor

supply. The problem of manning industries became a pressing matter, and

Republican leaders grappled with it. In the platform of the Union party

adopted in 1864 it was declared "that foreign immigration, which in the

past has added so much to the wealth, the development of resources, and

the increase of power to this nation--the asylum of the oppressed of all

nations--should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just

policy." In that very year Congress, recognizing the importance of the

problem, passed a measure of high significance, creating a bureau of

immigration, and authorizing a modified form of indentured labor, by

making it legal for immigrants to pledge their wages in advance to pay

their passage over. Though the bill was soon repealed, the practice

authorized by it was long continued. The cheapness of the passage

shortened the term of service; but the principle was older than the

days of William Penn.

The Homestead Act of 1862

In the immigration measure guaranteeing a

continuous and adequate labor supply, the manufacturers saw an offset to

the Homestead Act of 1862 granting free lands to settlers. The Homestead

law they had resisted in a long and bitter congressional battle.

Naturally, they had not taken kindly to a scheme which lured men away

from the factories or enabled them to make unlimited demands for higher

wages as the price of remaining. Southern planters likewise had feared

free homesteads for the very good reason that they only promised to add

to the overbalancing power of the North.

In spite of the opposition, supporters of a liberal land policy made

steady gains. Free-soil Democrats,--Jacksonian farmers and

mechanics,--labor reformers, and political leaders, like Stephen A.

Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, kept up the

agitation in season and out. More than once were they able to force a

homestead bill through the House of Representatives only to have it

blocked in the Senate where Southern interests were intrenched. Then,

after the Senate was won over, a Democratic President, James Buchanan,

vetoed the bill. Still the issue lived. The Republicans, strong among

the farmers of the Northwest, favored it from the beginning and pressed

it upon the attention of the country. Finally the manufacturers yielded;

they received their compensation in the contract labor law. In 1862

Congress provided for the free distribution of land in 160-acre lots

among men and women of strong arms and willing hearts ready to build

their serried lines of homesteads to the Rockies and beyond.

Internal Improvements

If farmers and manufacturers were early

divided on the matter of free homesteads, the same could hardly be said

of internal improvements. The Western tiller of the soil was as eager

for some easy way of sending his produce to market as the manufacturer

was for the same means to transport his goods to the consumer on the

farm. While the Confederate leaders were writing into their

constitution a clause forbidding all appropriations for internal

improvements, the Republican leaders at Washington were planning such

expenditures from the treasury in the form of public land grants to

railways as would have dazed the authors of the national road bill half

a century earlier.

Sound Finance--National Banking

From Hamilton's day to Lincoln's,

business men in the East had contended for a sound system of national

currency. The experience of the states with paper money, painfully

impressive in the years before the framing of the Constitution, had been

convincing to those who understood the economy of business. The

Constitution, as we have seen, bore the signs of this experience. States

were forbidden to emit bills of credit: paper money, in short. This

provision stood clear in the document; but judicial ingenuity had

circumvented it in the age of Jacksonian Democracy. The states had

enacted and the Supreme Court, after the death of John Marshall, had

sustained laws chartering banking companies and authorizing them to

issue paper money. So the country was beset by the old curse, the banks

of Western and Southern states issuing reams of paper notes to help

borrowers pay their debts.

In dealing with war finances, the Republicans attacked this ancient

evil. By act of Congress in 1864, they authorized a series of national

banks founded on the credit of government bonds and empowered to issue

notes. The next year they stopped all bank paper sent forth under the

authority of the states by means of a prohibitive tax. In this way, by

two measures Congress restored federal control over the monetary system

although it did not reestablish the United States Bank so hated by

Jacksonian Democracy.

Destruction of States' Rights by Fourteenth Amendment

These acts and

others not cited here were measures of centralization and consolidation

at the expense of the powers and dignity of the states. They were all of

high import, but the crowning act of nationalism was the fourteenth

amendment which, among other things, forbade states to "deprive any

person of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The

immediate occasion, though not the actual cause of this provision, was

the need for protecting the rights of freedmen against hostile

legislatures in the South. The result of the amendment, as was

prophesied in protests loud and long from every quarter of the

Democratic party, was the subjection of every act of state, municipal,

and county authorities to possible annulment by the Supreme Court at

Washington. The expected happened.

Few negroes ever brought cases under the fourteenth amendment to the

attention of the courts; but thousands of state laws, municipal

ordinances, and acts of local authorities were set aside as null and

void under it. Laws of states regulating railway rates, fixing hours of

labor in bakeshops, and taxing corporations were in due time to be

annulled as conflicting with an amendment erroneously supposed to be

designed solely for the protection of negroes. As centralized power over

tariffs, railways, public lands, and other national concerns went to

Congress, so centralized power over the acts of state and local

authorities involving an infringement of personal and property rights

was conferred on the federal judiciary, the apex of which was the

Supreme Court at Washington. Thus the old federation of "independent

states," all equal in rights and dignity, each wearing the "jewel of

sovereignty" so celebrated in Southern oratory, had gone the way of all

flesh under the withering blasts of Civil War.


Theories about the Position of the Seceded States

On the morning of

April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered his army to General Grant,

eleven states stood in a peculiar relation to the union now declared

perpetual. Lawyers and political philosophers were much perturbed and

had been for some time as to what should be done with the members of the

former Confederacy. Radical Republicans held that they were "conquered

provinces" at the mercy of Congress, to be governed under such laws as

it saw fit to enact and until in its wisdom it decided to readmit any or

all of them to the union. Men of more conservative views held that, as

the war had been waged by the North on the theory that no state could

secede from the union, the Confederate states had merely attempted to

withdraw and had failed. The corollary of this latter line of argument

was simple: "The Southern states are still in the union and it is the

duty of the President, as commander-in-chief, to remove the federal

troops as soon as order is restored and the state governments ready to

function once more as usual."

Lincoln's Proposal

Some such simple and conservative form of

reconstruction had been suggested by Lincoln in a proclamation of

December 8, 1863. He proposed pardon and a restoration of property,

except in slaves, to nearly all who had "directly or by implication

participated in the existing rebellion," on condition that they take an

oath of loyalty to the union. He then announced that when, in any of the

states named, a body of voters, qualified under the law as it stood

before secession and equal in number to one-tenth the votes cast in

1860, took the oath of allegiance, they should be permitted to

reestablish a state government. Such a government, he added, should be

recognized as a lawful authority and entitled to protection under the

federal Constitution. With reference to the status of the former slaves

Lincoln made it clear that, while their freedom must be recognized, he

would not object to any legislation "which may yet be consistent as a

temporary arrangement with their present condition as a laboring,

landless, and homeless class."

Andrew Johnson's Plan--His Impeachment

Lincoln's successor, Andrew

Johnson, the Vice President, soon after taking office, proposed to

pursue a somewhat similar course. In a number of states he appointed

military governors, instructing them at the earliest possible moment to

assemble conventions, chosen "by that portion of the people of the said

states who are loyal to the United States," and proceed to the

organization of regular civil government. Johnson, a Southern man and a

Democrat, was immediately charged by the Republicans with being too

ready to restore the Southern states. As the months went by, the

opposition to his measures and policies in Congress grew in size and

bitterness. The contest resulted in the impeachment of Johnson by the

House of Representatives in March, 1868, and his acquittal by the Senate

merely because his opponents lacked one vote of the two-thirds required

for conviction.

Congress Enacts "Reconstruction Laws."--In fact, Congress was in a

strategic position. It was the law-making body, and it could, moreover,

determine the conditions under which Senators and Representatives from

the South were to be readmitted. It therefore proceeded to pass a series

of reconstruction acts--carrying all of them over Johnson's veto. These

measures, the first of which became a law on March 2, 1867, betrayed an

animus not found anywhere in Lincoln's plans or Johnson's proclamations.

They laid off the ten states--the whole Confederacy with the exception

of Tennessee--still outside the pale, into five military districts, each

commanded by a military officer appointed by the President. They ordered

the commanding general to prepare a register of voters for the election

of delegates to conventions chosen for the purpose of drafting new

constitutions. Such voters, however, were not to be, as Lincoln had

suggested, loyal persons duly qualified under the law existing before

secession but "the male citizens of said state, twenty-one years old and

upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, ... except such

as may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion or for felony

at common law." This was the death knell to the idea that the leaders of

the Confederacy and their white supporters might be permitted to share

in the establishment of the new order. Power was thus arbitrarily thrust

into the hands of the newly emancipated male negroes and the handful of

whites who could show a record of loyalty. That was not all. Each state

was, under the reconstruction acts, compelled to ratify the fourteenth

amendment to the federal Constitution as a price of restoration to the


The composition of the conventions thus authorized may be imagined.

Bondmen without the asking and without preparation found themselves the

governing power. An army of adventurers from the North, "carpet baggers"

as they were called, poured in upon the scene to aid in

"reconstruction." Undoubtedly many men of honor and fine intentions gave

unstinted service, but the results of their deliberations only

aggravated the open wound left by the war. Any number of political

doctors offered their prescriptions; but no effective remedy could be

found. Under measures admittedly open to grave objections, the Southern

states were one after another restored to the union by the grace of

Congress, the last one in 1870. Even this grudging concession of the

formalities of statehood did not mean a full restoration of honors and

privileges. The last soldier was not withdrawn from the last Southern

capital until 1877, and federal control over elections long remained as

a sign of congressional supremacy.

The Status of the Freedmen

Even more intricate than the issues

involved in restoring the seceded states to the union was the question

of what to do with the newly emancipated slaves. That problem, often put

to abolitionists before the war, had become at last a real concern. The

thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery had not touched it at all. It

declared bondmen free, but did nothing to provide them with work or

homes and did not mention the subject of political rights. All these

matters were left to the states, and the legislatures of some of them,

by their famous "black codes," restored a form of servitude under the

guise of vagrancy and apprentice laws. Such methods were in fact partly

responsible for the reaction that led Congress to abandon Lincoln's

policies and undertake its own program of reconstruction.

Still no extensive effort was made to solve by law the economic problems

of the bondmen. Radical abolitionists had advocated that the slaves when

emancipated should be given outright the fields of their former

masters; but Congress steadily rejected the very idea of confiscation.

The necessity of immediate assistance it recognized by creating in 1865

the Freedmen's Bureau to take care of refugees. It authorized the issue

of food and clothing to the destitute and the renting of abandoned and

certain other lands under federal control to former slaves at reasonable

rates. But the larger problem of the relation of the freedmen to the

land, it left to the slow working of time.

Against sharp protests from conservative men, particularly among the

Democrats, Congress did insist, however, on conferring upon the freedmen

certain rights by national law. These rights fell into broad divisions,

civil and political. By an act passed in 1866, Congress gave to former

slaves the rights of white citizens in the matter of making contracts,

giving testimony in courts, and purchasing, selling, and leasing

property. As it was doubtful whether Congress had the power to enact

this law, there was passed and submitted to the states the fourteenth

amendment which gave citizenship to the freedmen, assured them of the

privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and declared

that no state should deprive any person of his life, liberty, or

property without due process of law. Not yet satisfied, Congress

attempted to give social equality to negroes by the second civil rights

bill of 1875 which promised to them, among other things, the full and

equal enjoyment of inns, theaters, public conveyances, and places of

amusement--a law later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The matter of political rights was even more hotly contested; but the

radical Republicans, like Charles Sumner, asserted that civil rights

were not secure unless supported by the suffrage. In this same

fourteenth amendment they attempted to guarantee the ballot to all negro

men, leaving the women to take care of themselves. The amendment

declared in effect that when any state deprived adult male citizens of

the right to vote, its representation in Congress should be reduced in

the proportion such persons bore to the voting population.

This provision having failed to accomplish its purpose, the fifteenth

amendment was passed and ratified, expressly declaring that no citizen

should be deprived of the right to vote "on account of race, color, or

previous condition of servitude." To make assurance doubly secure,

Congress enacted in 1870, 1872, and 1873 three drastic laws, sometimes

known as "force bills," providing for the use of federal authorities,

civil and military, in supervising elections in all parts of the Union.

So the federal government, having destroyed chattel slavery, sought by

legal decree to sweep away all its signs and badges, civil, social, and

political. Never, save perhaps in some of the civil conflicts of Greece

or Rome, had there occurred in the affairs of a nation a social

revolution so complete, so drastic, and far-reaching in its results.


Just as the United States, under the impetus of Western enterprise,

rounded out the continental domain, its very existence as a nation was

challenged by a fratricidal conflict between two sections. This storm

had been long gathering upon the horizon. From the very beginning in

colonial times there had been a marked difference between the South and

the North. The former by climate and soil was dedicated to a planting

system--the cultivation of tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar cane--and in

the course of time slave labor became the foundation of the system. The

North, on the other hand, supplemented agriculture by commerce, trade,

and manufacturing. Slavery, though lawful, did not flourish there. An

abundant supply of free labor kept the Northern wheels turning.

This difference between the two sections, early noted by close

observers, was increased with the advent of the steam engine and the

factory system. Between 1815 and 1860 an industrial revolution took

place in the North. Its signs were gigantic factories, huge aggregations

of industrial workers, immense cities, a flourishing commerce, and

prosperous banks. Finding an unfavorable reception in the South, the new

industrial system was confined mainly to the North. By canals and

railways New York, Boston, and Philadelphia were linked with the

wheatfields of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. A steel net wove North and

Northwest together. A commercial net supplemented it. Western trade was

diverted from New Orleans to the East and Eastern credit sustained

Western enterprise.

In time, the industrial North and the planting South evolved different

ideas of political policy. The former looked with favor on protective

tariffs, ship subsidies, a sound national banking system, and internal

improvements. The farmers of the West demanded that the public domain be

divided up into free homesteads for farmers. The South steadily swung

around to the opposite view. Its spokesmen came to regard most of these

policies as injurious to the planting interests.

The economic questions were all involved in a moral issue. The Northern

states, in which slavery was of slight consequence, had early abolished

the institution. In the course of a few years there appeared

uncompromising advocates of universal emancipation. Far and wide the

agitation spread. The South was thoroughly frightened. It demanded

protection against the agitators, the enforcement of its rights in the

case of runaway slaves, and equal privileges for slavery in the new


With the passing years the conflict between the two sections increased

in bitterness. It flamed up in 1820 and was allayed by the Missouri

compromise. It took on the form of a tariff controversy and

nullification in 1832. It appeared again after the Mexican war when the

question of slavery in the new territories was raised. Again

compromise--the great settlement of 1850--seemed to restore peace, only

to prove an illusion. A series of startling events swept the country

into war: the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, the rise of the

Republican party pledged to the prohibition of slavery in the

territories, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Lincoln-Douglas

debates, John Brown's raid, the election of Lincoln, and secession.

The Civil War, lasting for four years, tested the strength of both North

and South, in leadership, in finance, in diplomatic skill, in material

resources, in industry, and in armed forces. By the blockade of Southern

ports, by an overwhelming weight of men and materials, and by relentless

hammering on the field of battle, the North was victorious.

The results of the war were revolutionary in character. Slavery was

abolished and the freedmen given the ballot. The Southern planters who

had been the leaders of their section were ruined financially and almost

to a man excluded from taking part in political affairs. The union was

declared to be perpetual and the right of a state to secede settled by

the judgment of battle. Federal control over the affairs of states,

counties, and cities was established by the fourteenth amendment. The

power and prestige of the federal government were enhanced beyond

imagination. The North was now free to pursue its economic policies: a

protective tariff, a national banking system, land grants for railways,

free lands for farmers. Planting had dominated the country for nearly a

generation. Business enterprise was to take its place.