The Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, IL is just about 3 hours from here. So we decided to go give it a visit today.
Most of this is going to be pictures. But first a commentary. Conventional wisdom is that the result of the US Civil War was an unalloyed good. It preserved the Union, led to the end of chattel slavery in the US and began the road that led to full civil rights for various minority groups. And I would agree that those are good things. One can imagine the disaster had the US and Confederacy remained separate and each of those two nations taken different sides in the World Wars.
However, there is another side. When the US was founded, we were 13 sovereign states, with a central government both to be our “public face” to the rest of the world and to smooth interaction between the several States. But, within their own borders, each State being sovereign. “13 laboratories of Freedom” (34 by the time South Carolina became the first of the Southern States to secede).
The Civil War changed that. While the process was not instant, the Civil War reduced the States from states–“a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government”–to little more than provinces–“a principal administrative division of certain countries or empires”–in all but name. Instead of “These United States” it was “The United States.” With this began an inexorable increase in the size and scope of the Federal government, in its interference in the daily lives of the common citizen, and the increasing restrictions on individual liberty.
One could argue that there was no other way to preserve the union, particularly in hindsight. As I mention above, a United States and a Confederate States each taking a different side in one of the World Wars could well have been a disaster. However, I don’t think it was quite so cut and dried. For one thing, it took a very specific set of circumstances, circumstances that could not last, to make the “slave economy” viable. It could not last. And while the Confederate Constitution enshrined slavery, once establishing secession as a viable option for States there would be nothing stopping a Confederate State, once the changing economy renders it impossible to even pretend that slavery is economically viable, from seceding in turn from the Confederacy and rejoining the Union. I doubt the Confederacy would have lasted long as a separate nation.
But it didn’t happen that way so we’ll never know.
There’s a whole lot more that could be discussed but that’s enough for now. On to the pictures.