Outcomes of the Civil War

by The History Guru on November 5, 2008

Before we move too far beyond the Civil War it’s probably worth taking a moment think about the outcomes. This bloody conflict that left our nation in tatters was, ultimately, a bit of a mixed bag in terms of what it did for us as a people and as a nation.

To think about the outcomes of the civil war, however, we need to think about it in the context of the various factions involved. Some groups, such as Moderate Republicans, fared pretty well by 1865. Other groups, such as Southern Democrats, didn’t do so well. African Americans and Radical Republicans saw some of their goals a complex to wild others would take many years to be implemented .

Let’s look first at these successes experienced by the Moderate Republicans as a result of the Civil War. The Moderate Republicans set out to end slavery. This they accomplished, as evidenced by the passing of the thirteenth amendment. Moderate Republicans also sought political rights for African-Americans. In this way they experienced a limited amount of success, but it would take many years before things like Jim Crow laws and Black Codes would be wiped from the landscape, allowing African-Americans to vote freely, and without threat of reprisals. In fact, the 14th and 15th amendments were attempts to deal with the Black Codes, and to help guarantee African-American political rights. Moderate Republicans also saw the restoration of the union as a goal of the war. In this regard, they were slowed by Radical Republicans, in that Reconstruction was a much more intense, prolonged, and arduous process than what the Moderate Republicans , for the most part, would have hoped for . Finally, Moderate Republicans sought the triumph of Free labor. Their success here was limited by failures that would occur in the sharecropping system and in the Freedmen’s Bureau.

The radical wing of the Republican Party, shared some goals with the Moderate Republicans. They sought the end of slavery; they sought political rights for African-Americans; they sought Free Labor. However, the Radical Republicans also sought full political and social rights for African-Americans. It would take Republicans almost an entire century to pass a Civil Rights Act implementing these ideas.

there can be no question, that the end of slavery was of immense benefit to African-Americans. This radical change in the Southern way of life put African-Americans on an entirely different footing, legally if not socially or economically. Still, African-Americans would have to fight every step of the way to see their political rights implemented. To some degree, there is still a fight to provide equal social rights for African Americans almost 150 years later. Racism, which was perhaps inherent in the slavery system, became rouge, and at times more dangerous and more violent than it had been when it was institutionalized.

This leaves us with the Democrats. The handful of northern Democrats left would have liked, by 1865, to see a quick restoration of the Union. Obviously, this wasn’t going to happen. The Southern Democrats lost the most. They sought to maintain the Southern culture and to secure States’ Rights. These efforts failed, as evidenced by the military occupation of the South during reconstruction, as well as a much stronger Federal government.

So, was it worth it? I suppose it depends on who you ask. For my part, I believe that slavery had to end; it was a festering wound, a dark mark on the soul of every American, Northern and Southern. I’m not certain that the Civil War was the best way, or the only way, to end it, however. I believe that the Civil War did not (and could not) end racism, guarantee equal social or economic rights, or force a Free Labor system on the South. I would have liked to have had restoration, rather than Reconstruction. I would rather have resolved the issues without throwing away so much State and Local power to the Federal government.

If Civil War was the only way to end slavery, if it could have secured equal social rights for African-Americans, and if it could have happened without the usurpation of power by the Federal government or the systematized destruction of the South, I’d say it was worth it, hands down. As it stands, I think that Civil War was the worst possible way for us to go about things, and is as dark a mark on our souls as slavery itself.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

mark March 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm

You need to do a lot more reading on the consequences of the Civil War. Prior to that war, the word United States was a plural noun. In other words, the United States was simply a collection of states not unlike the current EU is a collection of states. After that war we were one nation. This alone is a breathtaking change.

Secondly, prior to the Civil War, our constitution was accepted as a tool that enshrined the rights of white male property owners. Much of the Constitution did not apply to common Americans, unless you owned property. This is one of the most significant reasons the Gettysburg Address is now considered such a phenomenal document. That speech accelerated the notion that the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution did not just apply to the propertied, but to ALL of us. A second breathtaking achievement of that war, though maybe it’s more an achievement of Lincolns.

3rd, the eradication of racism in America was accelerating during the 1860s-70s but collapsed with the end of Reconstruction. Then with the election of Woodrow Wilson, racism came back with a vengeance. Although it is certainly true that you cannot end racism by fiat, fiat can begin the process. I was against Obama in the last election because I felt no way would a Black man win in this country. But when he won the WHITE MALE vote in the South Carolina primary, I stopped sending money to Hillary and started sending it to Obama. There is no doubt in my mind that the “fiats” passed to end racism in the 1960s led directly to the change in hearts that resulted in Obama becoming President. There is no doubt in my mind therefore, that had Reconstruction lasted another 15 years, and had Wilson never been elected President, (or had his heart been different) the election of a black man President could have happened 50 years earlier than it did.

Your quote:
“It would take Republicans almost an entire century to pass a Civil Rights Act implementing these ideas.”
LBJ got that passed, over the objections of Republicans and racist southern Democrats. Indeed, most of those Racist Southern Democrats eventually changed parties to become Republican. Nixon became president using the now famous “Southern Strategy” to use racism as a tool to elect even more Republicans. (A strategy in no small part attributable to Roger Ailes, the current head of Faux News. Ailes was at the time — as he is today — one of the major players in using “dirty tricks” to get Republicans elected.)

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