" 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'
I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free,"
Springfield, Illinois, June 17, 1858
In the middle of the nineteenth century, no country in the world was so interesting to other nations as the United States and few attracted so many visitors. The book, Democracy in America, by the French political writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, won a cordial reception on the European continent, and the verdict on the new country became more and more favorable. Travelers arrived to find the bay and city of Boston beautiful; to marvel over the way in which "one flourishing town after another, such as Utica, Syracuse, and Auburn," had risen from the wilderness; to find, as they traversed the northern states, "everywhere the most unequivocal proofs of prosperity and rapid progress in agriculture, commerce, and great public works." Indeed, they saw a nation in full enjoyment of prolonged prosperity. Whether the foreign visitors landed at New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, they were struck by the bustle, enterprise, and cheerfulness of the people. A bright, sparkling look distinguished New York With its high buildings and glittering shop windows; Philadelphia was marked by handsome squares, broad shady streets, and neat red-brick houses with scoured white stone doorsteps.
The national territory now stretched continent-wide over forest, plain, and mountain. Within these far-flung limits dwelt twenty-three million people in a -union comprising thirty-one states. The land of promise had never before seemed so demonstrably the land of performance. In the east, every branch of industry boomed. In the mid-west and the south, agriculture was profitable. The railways knitted the settled parts of the country ever more tightly together, and the mines of California poured a golden stream into all the channels of trade.
Yet all visitors quickly found that two Americas really existed: that of the north and that of the south. And the speed of progress itself held latent dangers for the maintenance of sectional harmony. New England and the middle Atlantic states were the principal centers of manufacturing, commerce, and finance. Principal products of the area were flour and meal, boots and shoes, cotton textiles, lumber products, clothing, machinery, leather, and woolen goods. At the same time, shipping bad reached the high noon of its prosperity, and vessels flying the American flag plied the seven seas, distributing wares of all nations.
In the south, agriculture flourished. The chief source of wealth was the cotton crop, although there was rice culture along the coast, sugar growing in Louisiana, tobacco raising and general farming in the border states, and scattered manufacturing. With the fuller development of the rich black lands of the Gulf plains, cotton production nearly doubled during the fifties, and wagon, steamer, and railroad carried the bulky bales to markets in both the north and south. Cotton furnished directly more than half the nation's foreign exports and, at the same time, furnished raw material for northern textile-mill owners and merchants.
The midwest with its boundless prairies and swiftly growing population shared fully in the good times. Both Europe and the older settled parts of America demanded its wheat and meat products. At the same time, the rapid introduction of labor-saving implements made possible an unexampled increase of production. Of the new devices, the most important were the McCormick reapers, 500 of which were used in the harvest of 1848 and over 100,000 in 1860. The wheat crops of the nation meanwhile swelled from 100,000,000 bushels in 1850 to 173,000,000 in 1860, more than half being grown in the midwest. An important stimulus to western prosperity was the great improvement in transportation facilities, for from 1850 to 1857 the Appalachian Mountain barrier was pierced by five railway trunk lines. These iron bonds uniting the north and the west gave rise to mutually profitable trade. In addition, by emphasizing the economic interdependence of the two regions, they tended to create a harmony of political outlook as well. In the expansion of the railway network, the south had much less part, and it was not until late in the fifties that a continuous line through the mountains connected the lower Mississippi River with the southern Atlantic seaboard.
As the years passed, the conflicting interests of the north and south became increasingly manifest. Resenting the large profits amassed by northern businessmen from marketing the cotton crop, southerners explained away the backwardness of their own section in terms of northern aggrandizement. Northerners, on the other hand, declared that slavery - the "peculiar institution" declared by the south to be essential to its economic system - was wholly responsible for the region's comparative backwardness.
As far back as 1830, sectional lines were steadily hardening on the slavery question. Abolitionist feeling grew ever more powerful in the northern states. At the same time, there developed a free-soil movement - a movement vigorously opposed to the extension of slavery into the regions not yet organized as states. To southerners of 1850, slavery was a heritage for which they were no more responsible than for their other immemorial heritages - their English speech, their representative institutions, their ideas and customs. In some seaboard areas, slavery by 1850 was well over two hundred years old, an integral part, indeed, of the very civilization of the region. Some Negroes, having back of them a lineage of five or six generations on American soil, had acquired not only the speech but the skills, preconceptions, and religious and social ideas of the white folk. In fifteen southern and border states, the Negro population was approximately half as great as the white, while in the north it was but an insignificant fraction.
From the middle 1840s, the question of slavery was the overshadowing problem in American politics, The south, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and beyond, was a relatively compact political unit agreeing on all fundamental policies affecting cotton culture and slavery. Indeed the majority of southern planters came to regard slavery as a basic factor in their economy. Cotton culture was singularly adapted to the employment of slaves. The work was done with the use of primitive implements only. It gave employment nine months of the year and permitted the use of women and children as well as "prime field hands."
Political leaders of the south, the professional classes, and most of the clergy, as they fought the weight of northern opinion, now no longer apologized for the institution of slavery but became its ardent champions. It was held to shower benefits upon the Negro, and southern publicists insisted that the relations of capital and labor were more humane under the slavery system than under the wage system of the north. Prior to 1830, the old patriarchal system of plantation government, with its easygoing methods of management and personal supervision of the slaves by their master, was still characteristic. After 1830, however, a decided change began to be apparent. With the introduction of large-scale methods of cotton production in the lower south, the master often ceased to have close personal supervision over his slaves and employed professional overseers whose reputations depended upon their ability to exact from slaves a maximum amount of work.
While many planters continued to treat their Negroes with indulgence, there were instances of heartless cruelty, and the system inevitably involved the frequent breaking of family ties. The most trenchant criticism of slavery, however, was not the inhumanity of overseers, but the violation of the basic right of every man to be free and the potentialities for brutality and repression inherent in any system of human bondage. Furthermore, according to F. L. Olmsted, a keen contemporary northern student of southern conditions, slavery "withholds all encouragement from the laborer to improve his faculties and his skill, destroys his self-respect, misdirects and debases his ambition, and withholds all the natural motives which lead men to endeavor to increase their capacity of usefulness to their country and the world."
With the passage of years, cotton culture and its labor system came to represent a vast investment of capital. From a crop of negligible importance, cotton production leaped in 1800 to about 35,000,000 pounds, rose to 160,000,000 pounds in 1820 and, by 1840, reached a total of more than 670,000,000 pounds. By 1850, seven-eighths of the world's supply of cotton was grown in the American south. Slavery increased concomitantly. The major purpose of southerners in national politics came to be the protection and enlargement of the interests represented by the cotton-slavery system. Thus one of their main objectives was to extend the cotton-growing area beyond its existing confines. Such expansion was a necessity because the wasteful system of cultivating a single crop, cotton, rapidly exhausted the land, and new fertile areas were needed. Further, in the interest of political power, the south needed new territory out of which additional slave states might be created to offset the admission of new free states. Antislavery northerners quickly became aware of this purpose in national affairs and began to conceive of it as a malevolent conspiracy for proslavery aggrandizement.
Antislavery agitation in the north became militant in the 1830's. An earlier antislavery movement, an offshoot of the American Revolution, won its last victory in 1808 when Congress abolished the African slave trade. After that, opposition was largely limited to the Quakers, who kept up a mild and ineffectual protest, all while the cotton gin was creating an increased demand for slaves. In the 1820's came the beginning of a new phase of agitation, which owed much to the dynamic democratic idealism of the times and to the fierce new interest in social justice for all classes.
The abolition movement in America in the more extreme phases was combative and uncompromising, defying all the constitutional and legal guarantees protecting the slavery system and insisting upon its immediate end. The extremist movement found an inspired leader in William Lloyd Garrison, a young man of Massachusetts, who combined the fanatical heroism of a martyr with the crusading ability of a successful demagogue. On January 1, 1831, the first number of his newspaper, The Liberator, appeared bearing the announcement: "I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. . . . On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. . . . I am in earnest -I will not equivocate -I will not excuse -I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard." Garrison's sensational methods awakened many northerners to the evil character of an institution which they had long since come to regard as established and unchangeable. His policy was to hold up the most repulsive and exceptional incidents of Negro slavery to the public gaze and to castigate the slaveholders and all who defended them as torturers and traffickers in human life. He would recognize no rights of the masters, acknowledge no compromise, tolerate no delay. Less violently inclined northerners, however, were unwilling to subscribe to his law-defying tactics. They held that reform should be accomplished by legal and peaceful means.
One phase of the antislavery movement involved helping, under cover of night, to spirit away escaping slaves to safe refuges in the north or over the border into Canada. Known as the "Underground Railroad," an elaborate network of secret routes for the fugitives was firmly established in the thirties in all parts of the north. The most successful operations were in the old Northwest territory. In Ohio alone, it is estimated that no fewer than 40,000 fugitive slaves were assisted to freedom during the years from 1830 to 1860. The number of local antislavery societies increased at such a rate that in 1840 there were about 2,000 of them with a membership of perhaps 200,000.
Despite the single objective of the active abolitionists to make slavery a question of conscience with every man and woman, the people of the north as a whole held aloof from participation in the antislavery movement. Busy with their own concerns, they thought of slavery as a problem for the southerners to solve through state action. The unbridled agitation of the antislavery zealots seemed to them to threaten the integrity of the 'Union, a matter more important to them than the destruction of slavery. However, in 1845, the acquisition of Texas -and, soon after, the territorial gains in the southwest resulting from the Mexican War -converted the moral question of slavery into a burning political issue. Up to this time, it had seemed likely that slavery would be limited to areas where it already existed. It had been given limits by the Missouri Compromise in 1820 and had had no opportunity to overstep them. Now with new territories supposedly suitable for a slave economy annexed to the Union, renewed expansion of the "peculiar institution" became a real likelihood.
Many northerners believed that, if kept within close bounds, the institution would ultimately decay and die. For justification of their opposition to adding new slave states, they pointed to the statements of Washington and Jefferson and to the Ordinance of 1787 which forbade the extension of slavery into the Northwest, as binding precedents. As Texas already had slavery, she- naturally entered the Union as a slave state. But California, New Mexico, and Utah did not have slavery. When the United States prepared to take over those areas in 1846, conflicting suggestions about what to do with them were made by four main groups. The extreme southerners urged that all the lands acquired from Mexico be thrown open to slave-holders. Strong antislavery northerners demanded that all the new regions be closed to slavery. One group of moderate men suggested that the Missouri Compromise line be extended to the Pacific with free states north of it and slave states to the south. Another moderate group proposed that the question be left to "popular sovereignty" -that is, the government should permit settlers to flock into the new country with or without slaves as they pleased and, when the time came to organize the region into states, the people themselves should determine the question. More and more, the weight of southern opinion leaned toward the view that slavery had a right to exist in all the territories. More and more, the opinion of the north inclined to the view that it had a right in none. In 1848, nearly 300,000 men voted for the candidates of a Free Soil Party which declared that the best policy was "to limit, localize, and disourage slavery."
The discovery of gold in California, in January 1848, precipitated a headlong rush from all parts of the world of gold-seekers who totaled more than 80,000 immigrants for the single year 1849. California became a crucial question, for clearly Congress had to determine the status of this new region before an organized government could be established. The hopes of the nation rested on Senator Henry Clay, who twice before in times of crisis had come forward with compromise arrangements. Now once again he halted a dangerous sectional quarrel with a well-wrought plan. His compromise (as subsequently modified in Congress) proposed, among other things, that California be admitted as a state with a free-soil (i.e. slavery-prohibited) constitution while the remainder of the new annexation be divided into the two territories of New Mexico and Utah and organized without mention of slavery; that the claims of Texas to a portion of New Mexico be satisfied by a payment of ten million dollars; that a more effective machinery be established for catching runaway slaves and returning them to their masters; and that the slave trade (but not slavery) be abolished in the District of Columbia. These measures - famous in American history as the "Compromise of 1850"-were passed, and the country breathed a sigh of heartfelt relief.
For three short years, the compromise seemed to settle nearly all differences. Yet, beneath the surface, the tension remained and grew. The new Fugitive Slave Law deeply offended many northerners. They refused to have any part in catching slaves; instead, they helped fugitives to escape. The "Underground Railroad" became more efficient and unabashed in helping numbers to safety.
At this moment, literary inspiration suddenly lighted up the division in the American household and arraigned with burning emotion and humanity the institution which was threatening the Union. Those who thought that the slavery question would comfortably solve itself reckoned only with politicians and editors. They could not foresee that a single novel would exert a far weightier influence than legislators or the daily press. The poets Whittier, Lowell, Bryant, Emerson, and Longfellow had already expressed their hatred of slavery with powerful effect. However few people in 1851 thought that a popular work of fiction could be written on the subject. That year, however, a sketch describing the death of a slave named Uncle Tom appeared in National Era, a popular periodical. It aroused so much attention that Harriet Beecher Stowe set herself to furnish in weekly installments the story of Uncle Tom's Cabin which led up to and embodied this scene.
From several points of view the book was almost miraculous. That "Hattie" Beecher, daughter of the famous preacher ' Lyman Beecher, possessed literary talent was known only to her husband, and when she sat down to pen Uncle Tom's Cabin, she was almost wholly untrained as a writer. Of moral preparation for her task she had more, and the passage of the fugitive slave bill awakened her to self-expression. The story of the book is one of the more astonishing episodes in the history of letters. When she began writing, she thought of it as a minor sketch, but long before it was finished, it had caused a sensation. It was published in 1852, sold more than 300,000 copies before the end of the year, and eight power presses ran night and day to keep pace with the demand,
Uncle Tom's Cabin did full justice to the many humane and generous slaveholders; the one brutal slave driver, Simon Legree, was of northern origin. But Mrs. Stowe showed how inseparable cruelty was from slavery and how fundamentally irreconcilable were free and slave societies. The rising generation of voters in the north was deeply stirred by it. The book accomplished its purpose not only in America, but in Britain, France, and other lands for it was translated into half the major languages of the world. Everywhere it inspired a mighty enthusiasm for the antislavery cause, appealing as it did to the basic human emotions - indignation and pity for the helpless individual exposed to ruthless cruelty.
From this time on, the slavery question was, in fact, irrepressible. The thin crust which the Compromise of 1850 had laid over the erupting lava was continually cracking. And in 1854, the old issue of slavery in the territories-in this case the vast expanse of Nebraska-was torn open again and the quarrel became more bitter. The radical southerners were determined to scrap the Missouri Compromise which had closed the whole upper Missouri Valley to slavery, but when steps were taken to achieve this, the north roused itself. The region which now comprises the fertile states of Kansas and Nebraska was already attracting settlers, and with a stable government instituted, it promised rapid development. Northerners believed that if the region were organized, settlers would flock in and a railroad could be built through
it from Chicago to the Pacific. Under the Missouri Compromise, all this region was closed to slavery. However, dominant slaveholding elements in Missouri objected to letting Kansas, which adjoined her on the west, become a free territory. For Missouri would then have three free neighbors and, yielding to an already strong movement, would probably soon be forced to become a free state herself. For a time, Missourians in Congress, backed by southerners, blocked all efforts to organize the region.
Then Stephen A. Douglas, senior Senator from Illinois, cut through the opposition in 1854 by proposing a bill that enraged all free-soil men. Douglas argued that since the Compromise of 1850 left Utah and New Mexico free to decide on slavery for themselves, the Missouri Cornpromise had been long since superseded. His plan projected the organization of two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and permitted settlers to carry slaves into them. The inhabitants themselves were to determine whether they should enter the Union as free or slave states. Northerners accused Douglas of currying favor with the south in order to gain the presidency in 18S6. Indeed, his political ambitions were unuestionably strong. But if he believed that northern sentiment would tamely accept his plan, he was quickly undeceived. To open these rich western prairies to slavery struck millions of men as unforgivable. Angry debates marked the progress of the bill. The free-soil press violently denounced it. Northern clergymen assailed it from thousands of pulpits. Businessmen who had hitherto befriended the south turned suddenly about-face. Yet, on a May morning, the bill passed the Senate amid the boom of cannon fired by southern enthusiasts. At the time, Salmon P. Chase, an antislavery leader, prophesied: "They celebrate a present victory, but the echoes they awaken shall never rest until slavery itself shall die." When Douglas subsequently visited Chicago to speak in his own defense, the ships in the harbor lowered their flags to half-mast, the church bells tolled for an hour, and a crowd of ten thousand hooted so that he could not make himself heard.
The immediate results of Douglas' ill-starred measure were momentous. The Whig party, which had straddled the question of slavery expansion, sank to its death, and in its stead arose a powerful new organization, the Republican Party. Its primary demand was that slavery be excluded from all the territories. In 1856, it nominated for the presidency the dashing John Frémont, whose five exploring expeditions into the far west had won him deserved renown. Although it lost the election, the new party swept a great part of the north. Such free-soil leaders as Chase and William Seward rose to greater influence than ever. Along with them appeared a tall, gaunt Illinois attorney, Abraham Lincoln, who showed marvelous logic in discussing the new issues. The flow of southern slaveholders and northern antislavery men into Kansas produced grim antagonism. Before long, as a result of sharp armed conflicts, the territory was called "bleeding Kansas."
"Every nation that carries in its bosom great and unredressed injustice," Mrs. Stowe had written, "faces the possibility of an awful convulsion." As the years passed, events brought the nation, closer to the inevitable upheaval. In 1857, the Supreme Court's famous decision concerning Dred Scott was announced. Scott was a Missouri slave who some twenty years before had been taken by his master to reside in Illinois and Wisconsin territory where slavery was forbidden. Returning to Missouri and becoming discontented with .his lot, Scott began suit for liberation on the ground of his residence on free soil. The southern-dominated court decided that by voluntarily returning to a slave state, Scott had lost whatever title he possessed to liberty and ruled, furthermore, that any attempt of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories was invalid,
This decision created fierce excitement throughout the north. Never before had the judiciary come in for such bitter condemnation. For the southern Democrats, on the other hand, the decision was a great victory, since it gave judicial sanction to their theory of slavery in the territories. Abraham Lincoln until this time had been almost undistinguished from hundreds of other Midwestern lawyer-politicians. He had long regarded slavery as an evil, and in a speech at Peoria, Illinois, in 1854 be asserted that all national legislation should be framed on the principle adopted by the fathers of the republic that slavery was an institution to be restricted and ultimately abolished. He contended also that the popular sovereignty principle was false, for slavery in the western territories was the concern not Merely of local inhabitants but of the whole United States. This speech made him known throughout the growing west. Now four years later he became a rival candidate to Stephen Douglas for election to the Senate from Illinois. In the first paragraph of his opening campaign speech, delivered on June 17, 1858, Lincoln struck the keynote of American history for the seven years to come:
"..'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved - I do not expect the house to fall -but I do expect it will cease to be divided."
Lincoln and Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates through the summer and autumn of 1858. In the parched little Illinois towns set in fields of rustling corn, the shirt-sleeved farmers and their families waited in wagons and buggies and on foot. Senator Douglas, escorted by the local Democratic club, would drive tip in an open carriage and mount the platform. A sturdy five-footer, full of bounce and swagger, he was known as the "little giant" and he had an enviable reputation as an orator. Every feature bespoke confidence and mastery; every gesture of his body, vigor and combativeness. Abe Lincoln was more likely to approach on foot, his furrowed face and long neck conspicuous above the crowd. His expression, as he turned to the audience, was melancholy. Upon him rested the burden of attack. He was not only challenging Douglas' right to continue in the Senate, but he was also spokesman for a new party. No arguments in the English language bad more shrewdness, luminosity, or force than those which the two men presented. And though Douglas was once again elected Senator, Lincoln achieved status as a national figure.
Before long, sectional strife again became acute. John Brown, an antislavery fanatic who had struck a bloody blow against slavery in Kansas three years before, continued to brood over its evils. Aided by a few abolitionist extremists in New England, he now planned a more desperate stroke. Gathering a band of eighteen followers, five of them Negroes, he seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, on the night of October 16, 1859. When dawn came, citizens of the town, armed with a medley of weapons, poured into the village and, with the help of some militia companies, began a counterattack. Brown and his surviving men were taken prisoner. Alarm ran through the nation. For many southerners, Brown's attempt confirmed their worst fears. Antislavery zealots, on the other hand, hailed Brown as a noble martyr to a great cause. Most northerners, however, repudiated the exploit, for they saw in it an assault not against the south but upon all organized society and upon democratic methods of securing progress. Brown was tried for conspiracy, treason, and murder, and on December 2, 1859, he was hanged, to the end believing himself an instrument in the hands of God.
This incident merely served to intensify the differences existing between north and south from the country's earliest days and now firmly fixed in the pattern of the developing nation. The south was almost wholly rural. Much of the north had become urbanized. The north believed in tariffs on manufactured products to protect the growth of industry; the agricultural south detested them. The north was interested in a quicker distribution of the public lands to small holders. A mighty demand for free homesteads to all settlers was arising. "Vote yourself a farm!" became a popular cry. The south wished to see the national domain held and sold only for good prices. The north wanted an efficient national banking system; the south was hostile to a centralized bank. Socially the north, where a sturdy middle class had developed, was more democratic than the south, where the slaveholding oligarchy held most of the wealth and power.
With the presidential election of 1860 came the political manifestation of these differences between north and south. The Republican Party entered the campaign with perfect unity. In an enthusiastic convention in Chicago, they nominated Abraham Lincoln, the party's most popular midwestern figure. Party spirit climbed to high pitch, and a stern determination animated the millions of voters who proclaimed that they would allow slavery to spread no further. The party also promised a tariff for the protection of industry and appealed to land-hungry northerners with a pledge that it would enact a law granting free homesteads to settlers. The opposition, on the other hand, was disunited and, on Election Day, Lincoln and the Republicans were borne to triumph.
It was a foregone conclusion that South Carolina would secede from the Union if Lincoln were elected, for the state had long been awaiting an occasion that would unite the south in a new confederacy. As soon as the election results were certain, a specially summoned South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of 'The United States of America' is hereby dissolved." The lower southern states immediately followed, and on February 8, 1861, they formed the Confederate States of America.
Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated into the presidency of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void." His speech closed with an eloquent and touching plea for a restoration of the ancient bonds of affection. But the south did not hear his plea, and on April 12, guns opened fire on Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. All hesitation was now swept from the minds of the northerners. Drums beat in every town and village, and everywhere young men rushed to arms. Meanwhile, with equal fervor, the people of the seven seceded states responded to the appeal of their president, Jefferson Davis. Few foresaw the horror and magnitude of the struggle ahead. Yet before the war was over, approximately 800,000 individuals fought on the southern side, and from two to three times as many on the northern. Of the latter number, over 50,000 white men and more than 100,000 Negroes were recruited from within the seceded states
Both sections anxiously awaited the action of those slave states which had thus far continued loyal. Virginia took the fateful step on April 17, and Arkansas and North Carolina followed quickly. No state left the Union with greater reluctance than did Virginia. Her statesmen had not only been indispensable to the winning of independence and the framing of the Constitution, but she had also furnished the nation with five Presidents. With Virginia went Colonel Robert E. Lee who declined the command of the Union army out of loyalty to his state. Between the enlarged Confederacy and the free-soil north lay the border states which, proving unexpectedly nationalist in sentiment, kept their bonds with the Union.
The people of each section entered the war with high hopes for an early victory. In material resources, however, the north enjoyed a decided advantage. Twenty-three states with a population of 22,000,000 were arrayed against eleven, inhabited by 9,000,000. The industrial superiority of the north even exceeded its preponderance in manpower. Unlike the rural south, the northern states had abundant facilities for the manufacture of arms and ammunition, clothing, and other supplies. Similarly the rapid spread of rail mileage in the north contributed to federal military success. The Confederacy, on the other hand, was a compact, well watered territory. Since the fighting was on its own soil, it could protect its military front with a minimum of exertion and upon a smaller war budget than the north.
In the war, there were three main theaters of action - the sea, the Mississippi Valley, and the eastern seaboard states. At the beginning of the conflict, practically the whole navy was in Union hands, but it was scattered and weak. An able Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, quickly reorganized and strengthened it, Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the southern coast. Although its effect was at first negligible, by 1863 it was almost completely preventing shipments of cotton to Europe and the importation of munitions, clothing, and the medical supplies the south sorely needed. Meanwhile, a brilliant naval commander, David Farragut, had emerged and conducted two remarkable operations. In one, he took a Union fleet into the mouth of the Mississippi and forced the surrender of the largest southern city, New Orleans. In another engagement, he made his way past the fortified entrance of Mobile Bay, cap-, tured a Confederate ironclad vessel, and sealed up the port. Altogether the navy served the Union well in defeating the south.
In the Mississippi Valley, the Union forces won an almost uninterrupted series of victories, They began by breaking a long Confederate line in Tennessee, thus making it possible to occupy almost all the western part of the state. When the important port of Memphis on the Mississippi was taken, Union troops could advance some two hundred miles into the heart of the Confederacy. Ulysses S. Grant, a dogged, tenacious general, with a clear grasp of the main principles of strategy, was in command. Suddenly attacked at Shiloh, on the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River, he stubbornly held his position until the arrival of reinforcements enabled him to drive the enemy back. Then his forces advanced slowly but steadily southward, with the great object of gaining complete control of the Mississippi, the lower reaches of which had been cleared of Confederates by Farragut's capture of New Orleans, For a time, Grant was blocked at Vicksburg where the Confederates had strongly fortified themselves on bluffs too high for naval attack. But by a brilliant campaign in 1863, be moved below and around Vicksburg, subjecting the position to a six weeks' siege. On July 4, he captured the town together with the strongest Confederate army in the west. The river was now entirely in Union hands. The Confederacy was broken in two and it became almost impossible to bring supplies from the rich Texas and Arkansas country east across the water.
In Virginia, on the other hand, the Union troops had, in the meantime, met one defeat after another. There was a long succession of bloody campaigns in which the Union armies, trying to capture Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, and destroy the Confederate forces, were again and again thrown back. The distance between Washington and Richmond is only a hundred miles, but the country is intersected by numerous streams which furnished strong defensive positions. Moreover, the Confederates had two generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, who both far surpassed the early Union commanders in brilliant leadership. The Union general, McClellan, made a desperate attempt to seize Richmond. At one time his troops could hear the clocks striking in the steeples of the Confederate capital. But in the Seven Days' Battles of June 25 to July 1, 1862, the Union troops were driven steadily backward, both sides suffering terrible losses.
The 1863 campaign began badly for the north. But a significant event occurred on January I of that year. On that day President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves and invited them to join the armed forces of the nation. Up to this point, the ostensible reason for the war had been to keep the nation unified. To this was now added the permanent banishment of slavery from its borders. The overland advance on Richmond was still thwarted. At Chancellorsville, a bloody battle resulted in a severe repulse for the north. This Confederate victory was gained at a high price, however, for it cost the life of Stonewall Jackson, who next to Lee was the ablest of southern commanders.
Not one of these Confederate victories, however, was decisive. The Union government simply mustered new armies and tried again, and in July 1863, came the turning-point of the war. Believing that the crushing defeat at Chancellorsville gave him his chance, Lee struck northward and invaded Pennsylvania. His army almost reached the state capital, and the large northern cities were thrown into great alarm. But a strong Union force intercepted his march at Gettysburg. Here, in a three-day battle, the Confederates made a valiant effort to break the Union lines. But they failed and as Lee's veterans, after losses which permanently crippled them, fell back to the Potomac, it was clear that the "high tide at Gettysburg" had been the high tide of all Confederate hopes. Grant's army was then taking possession of Vicksburg on the Mississippi. The blockade of southern coasts had become an iron cordon which few vessels pierced. The Confederacy was nearing the end of its resources. The northern states, on the other hand, seemed more prosperous than ever; their mills and factories were running full blast; their farms were exporting bumper crops to Europe; their manpower was being restored by immigration.
Grant's slow but inexorable advance on Richmond in 1864 foreshadowed the end. From all sides northern troops closed in, and on February 1, 1865, General Sherman's western army began a march northward from Georgia. Everywhere a desperate enemy tried to obstruct his progress. On February 17, the Confederates abandoned Columbia, the South Carolina capital. Charleston fell into the hands of the Union fleet without a battle when her railroad connections with the interior were cut. Meantime the Confederate positions in Petersburg and Richmond proved untenable, and on April 2, Lee abandoned them. A week later he found himself at Appornatox, in Virginia, hemmed in by the enemy and with no alternative but surrender.
The terms of surrender were magnanimous, and on his return from the conference, Grant quieted the noisy demonstrations of his soldiers by reminding them, "The rebels are our countrymen again." The war for southern independence had become the "Lost Cause."
The hero of that "Lost Cause" was indisputably Robert E. Lee. By virtue of his power of organization, his conscientious attention to details, his tender care for his men, his daring, and his fine presence, he inspired confidence and won the devotion of his troops. The brilliance of his leadership, his humanity throughout the conflict, and his grandeur in defeat aroused admiration. Like George Washington, he was great in peace as in war. In the five years he survived the conflict, he devoted himself to the restoration of the south in economic, cultural, and political fields, and urged the people to become the loyal partners of their late enemies.
To the north, the war produced a still greater hero in Abraham Lincoln. In its early months, few perceived the true stature of this awkward western lawyer. Little by little, however, the nation came to comprehend his deep sagacity, founded upon careful study and hard thinking; his intense love of truth; his inexhaustible patience; and his boundless generosity of spirit. If he seemed at moments to hesitate and vacillate, time always proved that he had known how to wait for the national advantage, how to combine strength with tact. He was anxious, above all, to weld the country together as a union, not of force and repression, but of warmth and generosity of feeling. His foreign policy showed dignity, integrity, and firmness, and though he had to use unprecedented powers, he believed fervently in democratic self-government and commanded the complete faith of the people, who elected him for a second term in 1864.
Lincoln's second inaugural address closed with these words:".. With malice toward none; with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Three weeks later, two days after Lee's surrender, Lincoln delivered his last public address in which he unfolded his reconstruction policy - the most generous terms toward a helpless opponent ever offered by a victor. For Lincoln did not consider himself a conqueror. He was and had been, since 1861, President of the United States. The rebellion must be forgotten and every Southern state readmitted to her full privilege in the Union. On Thursday night, April 13,Washington was illuminated to celebrate Lee's surrender, and joyous crowds paraded the streets. On the 14th, the President held his last cabinet meeting. It was decided to lift the blockade. He urged his secretaries to turn their thoughts to peace - to turn away from bloodshed, from persecution. That night he was assassinated by a crazed fanatic as he sat in his box in the theater.
As James Russell Lowell, the poet, wrote: "Never before that startled April morning did such multitudes of men shed tears for the death of one they had never seen, as if with him a friendly presence had been taken from their lives, leaving them colder and darker. Never was funeral panegyric so eloquent as the silent look of sympathy which strangers exchanged when they met that day. Their common manhood had lost a kinsman."
Under a new, untried, and unevenly equipped leader, Andrew Johnson, the nation had to face the trying problems of readjustment and reconstruction. For the war had left the country a mixed heritage of good and evil results. It had saved the Union and given it an indestructible character, but surely the country had not escaped from the cauldron unscathed.
The most important political problem confronting the victorious north was the question of determining the status of the seceded states. There was confusion as to whether this question fell within the realm of Congress or the President. Lincoln had held to the view that the southern states had never legally seceded, but that their people had been misled by some disloyal citizens into a defiance of federal authority. According to Lincoln, the war was the act of individuals, and the federal government would have to treat with those individuals and not with the states. Lincoln believed that the President, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy and possessor of the power to pardon, had complete control of the situation. Acting upon this theory, he declared by proclamation in 1863 that if, in any state, ten per cent of the voters of 1860 would form t government that was loyal to the Constitution and acknowledge obedience to he laws of Congress and the proclamation of the President, he would recognize the government so created as the legal government of the state. Congress rejected his plan and challenged Lincoln's right to deal with the question without consulting hem, alleging that it was an unwarranted usurpation of legislative power. On the other hand, Lincoln refused to sign a much more stringent bill which Congress passed in 1864.
Indeed, before the war was actually over, Lincoln had set up governments in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Some members of Congress, however, disapproved of this action and wished to impose severe punishment on all the Confederate states. One of these Congressmen, Thaddeus Stevens, leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, believed, in fact, that southern planters should be kept under military rule for a period of probation. Others were determined to give the Negro the right to vote immediately. Actually, the chief concern of Congress at this time - rather than the readmission to the Union of the southern states - was the condition of the emancipated Negro, and in March 1865, it established the Freedman's Bureau, which was to assume a position of guardianship over the Negro and direct his first efforts at self-support. In 'addition, Congress also formalized the fact of Negro freedom by proposing the thirteenth constitutional amendment which abolished slavery and was ratified in December 1865.
Lincoln had early sensed the coming struggle between the executive and the legislature over the policy of reconstruction. But solving the problems fell to the lot of his successor, Andrew Johnson. Long experienced in public life, he had intellectual courage and inflexible purpose, but unfortunately, the situation before him called also for tact and patience, and these qualities were utterly foreign to his makeup.
Throughout the summer of 1865, without consulting Congress, for that body was not in session, Johnson proceeded to carry out, except for minor differences, Lincoln's plan of reconstruction. By presidential proclamation, he appointed a governor for each of the various southern states and freely restored political rights to large numbers of Confederates through the use of his pardoning power. Conventions were held in the southern states which repealed the ordinances of secession, repudiated the war debt, and drafted new constitutions. In time, the people of each state elected a governor and a state legislature, and when the legislature of a state approved the Thirteenth Amendment, Johnson recognized the re-establishment of civil government and considered the state back in the Union, With few exceptions this process had been completed when Congress convened in December 1865. But the southern states were not yet fully restored to their rightful places within the Union, because Congress had not yet seated their Senators and Representatives who now came to Washington, once again to take part in the enactment of laws for the United States.
Both Lincoln and Johnson recognized that Congress would have the right to deny the southern Representatives a seat in Congress tinder that clause of the Constitution which says that "Each house shall be the judge of the . . . qualifications of its own members." Under the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, those who sought to punish the south refused to seat the southern delegates, and in the next few months they proceeded to work out a plan of Congressional reconstruction quite different from that which Lincoln had started and Johnson completed.
A mixture of motives caused Congress to reject the Johnson plan. During a war, the power and prestige of the President is, because of the very nature of things, likely to be enhanced, but after the war Congress seeks to reassert its authority. In 1865, there was a feeling that the time had come for Congress to curb the executive's exercise of powers which, under the necessities of war, it had tolerated. Furthermore, there was some feeling in the north that the south should be punished with severity. This feeling was encouraged by the radicals in Congress. They first took advantage of the fact that many southerners who now sought office had ten months before taken an active part in the war to destroy the Union. The vice-president of the Confederacy, for instance, presented himself now as Senator from Georgia. From the southern point of view, the election of their leaders to office was natural, but it was a particularly bitter pill for northerners to swallow.
In addition, it was claimed that the Negro needed protection. As time passed, the idea gained currency that the Negro be given the right to vote and hold office and that he be given complete social and political equality with white citizens. Others, including Lincoln, favored a more gradual enfranchisement with full citizenship rights being first extended to educated Negroes and those who had served in the Union army. But the southern legislatures, created under the Johnson plan, enacted a variety of laws designed to regulate the privileges and rights of the freedmen. To the southerner, confronted with the problem of 3,500,000 Negroes but recently emancipated from slavery, it seemed necessary that the states regulate their activities closely, and they enacted "black codes" of a restrictive nature. To many in the north, this seemed as if the gains of the war were being undone, and northern radicals seized upon the most obnoxious features of these codes to prove that the south was bent on re-establishing slavery.
Gradually, many in the north came to feel that the President had been too lenient, and there developed a wide popular sympathy for the radicals in Congress. That body proceeded to enact over Johnson's veto a Civil Rights Bill in April 1866, and a new Freedmen's Bureau Bill in July 1866, both of which virtually prevented southern legislation from authorizing discrimination. Finally Congress proposed the Fourteenth Amendment which stated that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." The immediate intention of its framers, of course, was to insure the conferring of citizenship upon the Negroes.
All of the southern state legislatures, with the exception of Tennessee, refused to ratify the amendment. Some of them voted against it unanimously. Such action seemed proof enough to certain factions that severe punishment was necessary and that the north must intervene to protect the rights of the freedmen. The radicals in Congress proceeded to force their plan upon the south and in March of 1867 passed a Reconstruction Act, ignoring the civil governments which had been established in the south. The act divided the south into five districts and placed them under military rule. It provided an escape from permanent military government by declaring that if the people of Confederate states would take an oath of allegiance, ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, and adopt Negro suffrage, they might establish civil governments and be restored to the Union. In July 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified and the next year, to fasten Negro suffrage upon the south beyond the power of repeal by a future Congress, the Fifteenth Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified in 1870 by state legislatures. It provided that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The fact that the Reconstruction Act meant the defeat and humiliation of President Johnson was no small reason for the indefatigable energy with which Congress pushed it. Congressional antipathy to Johnson was so great, in fact, that for the only time in American history, proceedings were instituted to remove the Chief Executive from office. His sole offense was his opposition to Congressional policies and his violent language in criticizing them. The most serious charge his enemies could level against him was that despite a Tenure of Office Act, he had removed from his Cabinet a staunch Congressional supporter. Yet when the impeachment trial was held by the Senate, it was proven that be was technically within his rights in removing the Secretary of War, and even more important, it was impressively pointed out how dangerous would be the precedent if Congress were able to remove a President because he disagreed with an overwhelming majority of Congress. The attempt to remove him from office was unsuccessful and Johnson continued as President until his term expired.
Under the Reconstruction Act, Congress, by the summer of 1868, readmitted to the Union over the President's opposition the states of Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. How representative the new governments of these seven reconstructed states were can be judged from the fact that the majority of the governors, Representatives, and Senators elected were northern men who had come south after the war to make their political fortunes. The Negroes gained complete control of the Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi legislatures. In several other states, though they were a minority in the legislatures, they were a strong voting power. The sprinkling of white southern legislators was unable to hold in check the combination of northerners and newly enfranchised Negroes who, although they undertook valuable work in building roads and bridges and initiating good laws concerning education and charities, were, on the whole, incompetent and wasteful of funds.
In despair, the southern whites who believed their old civilization threatened and could find no legal remedy to stop the new regimes, resorted to extralegal means. The use of violence became more frequent as time passed, and the multiplying excesses and disorders led, in 1870, to the passage of an Enforcement Act which drastically punished those who attempted in any way to deprive the Negro of his civil rights.
The increasing severity of such laws and the steady encroachment of Congress upon the police powers of the individual states impeded the process of spiritual reconciliation with the north so necessary for the restoration of a common love of country. It also arrayed the mass of whites in the south against the Republican Party as the party of the Negro and only increased the solidarity of the Democratic Party in that area. As time passed, it was obvious that the problem of the south was not being solved by harsh laws and continued rancor against former Confederates, And in May 1872, Congress passed a general Amnesty Act restoring full political privileges to all but about five hundred Confederates who had been excluded from the right to hold office and from the franchise, Little by little, state after state elected members of the Democratic Party to office. By 1876, the Republicans remained in power in only three southern states. The election that year, one of the closest in American history and one of the most disorderly, made it plain that the south would know no peace until the troops were withdrawn. The next year, therefore, President Rutherford B. Hayes removed them, admitting the failure of the "radical" reconstruction policy, which had been adopted chiefly because the idealistic wing of the party wished to protect the Negro and because the materialistic wing hoped to hold the south for votes, offices, and power.
Northern rule was over in the south. But the south was now a region handicapped by the devastations of war, burdened by debts created by misgovernment, and demoralized by a decade of racial warfare. After twelve years-the years of "false" reconstruction from 1865 to 1877 -real efforts to rebuild the south began. To repair the havoc of war and the chaotic events that followed was to prove a task of heartbreaking difficulty. For the Civil War and the bitterness it engendered was one of the great tragedies of American history It is only through an understanding of the war, its causes and aftermath, that real insight can be gained into some of the continuing problems of a major American region, the southern United States.