July 2, 2011
YOU HAVE TO WONDER WHETHER AMERICANS ARE AS DIVIDED TODAY AS THEY WERE ON THE EVE OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
David Goldfield, America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2011) ("The men and women who celebrated the war believed they were worthy of it. This second generation of Americans and their offspring carried the legacy of the American Revolution. Northerners say the opportunity to extend and protect the Revolutionary legacy, to transform an experiment into a permanent, indivisible country. An Ohio recruit resolved, 'Our Fathers made this country, we, their children are to save it.' Southerners sought to duplicate the work of the rebels of '76 and found a new nation. Ivy Duggan, a Georgia recruit, read the Revolution as teaching 'us . . . to resist oppression, to declare and maintain independence, to govern ourselves as we think best'." Id. at 206 (citation omitted). From the book jacket: "In this spellbinding new history of the Civil War, David Goldfield crafts the first major reinterpretation of the conflict--its causes and costs--since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Whereas past scholars have limned the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. AAs the Second Great Awakening surged through the nation, political questions became matters of good and evil--differences serious enugh to kill or die for.").
Brooks D. Simpson, Stephen W. Sears & Aaron Sheehan-Dean, eds., The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It (New York: Library of America, 2011).
Matthew Warshauer, Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice, and Survival (Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan U. Press, 2011) ("Along with the rest of the North, Connecticut staunchly opposed slavery and rallied to not only halt the westward spread of the 'peculiar institution,' but to defeat the Southern rebellion that had shaken the Union to its core. When considering Connecticut's connection to slavery and the Civil War, many immediately think of the Amistad case, the state heroine Prudence Crandall, the underground railroad, John Brown, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. There are certainly important and well-known events and people, who, by today's standards, reveal the best in enlightened, antislavery thought. We conclude, therefore, that Connecticut was always generously disposed toward abolition, with its yearning for black freedom and civic equality. The result of such forward-looking racial attitudes resulted in the state's massive commitment to crushing the Southern rebellion." "The reality, however, is far from the constructed memory that flowed forth in the many years and decades after the Civil War. The simple truth is that i the ;land of steady habits,; one of the steadiest was a virulent racism. While New England was generally viewed as the national center of abolitionist thought, Connecticut stood apart. . . . It was not that abolition failed to have a foothold in Connecticut. Rather, support for abolition was not nearly as widespread as many today believe. Moreover, whatever the number of abolitionists, there were many more in the state who actively opposed the end of slavery and black equality. There existed within Connecticut a serious and formidable antagonism toward abolition and blacks. These attitudes can be seen throughout the antebellum period and well into the Civil War." Id. at 1-2. "The racism of nineteenth-century America precluded the idea of justice. Or, perhaps more correctly, many in the North viewed emancipation as enough justice. Going any further could be equated with promoting black social and political equality, something that few white Northerners condoned. In this sense, there existed a distinct difference between emancipation and abolition similar to what had been articulated at the time of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. And though during the war, some Northerners may have developed a sort of amnesia regarding their prewar views of blacks, or even admitted the errors of these views, in the war's long aftermath, there existed no widespread desire to wrestle with such issues. The reality is that most white Northerners, including many residents of Connecticut, wanted to establish a firm separation between the races. We think of segregation as primarily a Southern phenomenon, one that developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century and was endorsed by the infamous 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which legally sanctioned the idea of 'separate but equal.' Yet devotion to racial separation was also characteristic of Northerners and had developed much earlier." "The disintegration of abolitionist sentiment, the feeling that blacks had already received justice, the distaste for black political and social equality, and the desire for separation between the races -- all culminated in one momentous event that steered Connecticut's course into the postwar years. In the spring of 1865, the General Assembly passed an amendment to the state constitution removing the word 'white' in determining who could vote, and scheduled an October referendum on the subject. The change was overwhelmingly rejected by Connecticut voters. And it was Republican votes that secured the amendment's defeat. The state's residents may have ultimately supported emancipation, but they were not advocates of black civic equality -- they were not abolitionists. The vote was a resolute shift from thoughts of justice and equality to those of healing and reconciliation [with white Southerners]." Id. at 175.176.).