Introduction xi
the American Founders had mistakenly built their
Constitution on the doctrine that all men were
created equal. By contrast, the Confederacy would
fi rmly rest on the idea that whites were superior to
blacks. And so, as Lincoln would say with a resig-
nation that bordered on fatalism, “the war came.”
Both sides entered the war with diff erent per-
spectives. To the North, the war was a civil (mean-
ing domestic rather than well-mannered) war,
or a rebellion. Southern statesmen and generals,
particularly those who had previously pledged
to uphold the Constitution of the United States,
were traitors, and the people they led were dupes.
To the South, the war was a replay of the Ameri-
can Revolution. One people had become two, and
each was now a nation-state. Th e war was accord-
ingly a war between the states, or even a war of
Northern aggression against cherished Southern
institutions, most notably slavery.
Although Lincoln later interpreted the resulting
loss of life and property as divine judgment that
wiped out the benefi ts that prior slave labor had
brought to the nation, neither side anticipated the
high cost that the war would bring or the length
of time that it would endure. Th e war also seemed
to test whether it was possible to preserve Repub-
lican government amid such a fi erce confl ict. Lin-
coln issued successive calls for mobilization, and
faced with opposition to such measures he soon
suspended the writ of habeas corpus to cope with
actions by Northerners who were partial to the
Southern cause. Initially, however, Lincoln contin-
ued to view the war as an attempt to save the Union.
As casualties mounted, he eventually recognized
that he could mobilize the population if he added
the goal of once and for all, ending the system of
chattel slavery that had led to the house divided.
Like some prominent American Founders, Lin-
coln had long toyed with the idea of resettling for-
mer slaves in Africa or South America. In April
1862, he left this as a possibility for the slaves whose
freedom was purchased in the District of Colum-
bia. Finally, after an earlier preliminary declara-
tion, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln used his power
as commander in chief to issue the Emancipation
Proclamation, which sounded the ultimate death
knell for slavery and promised “a new birth of free-
dom.” Initially applicable only behind enemy lines,
once the slavery genie emerged from its bottle, it
would not return, and the crowning achievement
of the Civil War was an amendment (the Th ir-
teenth) that once and for all ended chattel slavery
throughout the United States.
Other Developments
One of the fascinating aspects of compiling a book
like this is to see that no matter how much eff ort
was devoted to the war eff ort, other aspects of gov-
ernment continued. Th ere was mail to be delivered,
and there were roads to be built. Th e West was still
being settled. During much of the war, building
continued on the Capitol Dome, which would
symbolically link both houses of Congress even
as Lincoln was attempting to reiterate the bands
that united North and South. In 1862, the nation
appropriated lands to link East and West through
railways and pledged lands for state construction
of colleges and universities that would promote
agricultural and mechanic arts, and in 1872 it would
set aside lands for the Yellowstone National Park.
In 1864, the nation adopted a new immigration law
encouraging Europeans to replace American East-
erners who continued to migrate westward. By 1875
it was expressing fears of immigrants from Japan
and China that would blossom into restrictive
quotas in the next century and that would leave
a legacy that arguably continued with the intern-
ment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Lincoln’s Reelection and Assassination
In addition to such matters, there was the mat-
ter of elections, including the 1864 contest for the
presidency. One of the most remarkable aspects
of the Civil War is that, amid all the charges that
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