Poster Jefferson Moon would like to have more discussion about the American Civil War. Fair enough … but I’d say that heritage debates, even if one sees them as a rearguard action, are one (just one, and not a big one) of the reasons to ask whether the American Civil War is in truth over. After all, it was Reconstruction, not simply Appomattox, that defined much of what the war achieved and did not achieve. That process defined the price of reunion as the sacrifice of meaningful equality for many African Americans and left emancipation an unfinished revolution.
In light of today’s political debates, one can ask what the war really settled. Yes, it stopped a move for southern independence, and it did destroy slavery, neither of which is to be minimized. But what else did it settle and what else did it achieve? It might well have set the United States firmly on the road to industrial development, although economic historians disagree about that; the absence of southerners from Congress certainly facilitated the process of establishing the nation-state’s support for that evolution. But issues of federal power, federalism, and justice for all Americans remain high on today’s political agenda as sources of debate.
What say you?