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THE CIVIL WAR:
THE NATIONAL VIEW
FRANCIS NEWTON THORPE, Ph. D.
FELLOW, AND PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY IN
THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 1885–1898;
ASSOCIATION, ETC., ETC.
Author of: The Constitutional History of the United States; A (State)
Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850; A (social and political) History of the American People; A School History of the United States; The Government of the People of the United States; A Course in Civil Government; Benjamin Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; The Government of the State of Pennsylvania; The Life of William Pepper, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania; The Spoils of Empire; The Divining Rod, etc.,
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY BY
GEORGE BARRIE & SONS, PHILADELPHIA
In the plan of this HISTORY OF NORTH AMERICA, two volumes are devoted to the Civil War: one written from the Southern, the other, from the Northern standpoint. The war was a conflict between two civilizations, two incompatible ideas, two conceptions of republican government, the one embodied in the word NATION, the other, in the word CONFEDERACY.
From the inception of free government in America these ideas were in conflict, each strengthening itself with the accessories of industrial and political life, and both, not wholly unconsciously, tending toward irrepressible conflict. The history of that conflict from its inception is a history of the intellectual and moral development of the people of the United States. For many years the public mind had only obscure notions of the meaning of nationality: the idea was vast and necessarily corrective of moral and industrial defects. Primarily, the idea was of a free State, but half the American Republic was of slaveholding States. The idea was of industrial efficiency, but half the United States was economically inefficient. The idea was of a moral order, irrespective of race, but in half of the United States the African race was believed to be doomed, by the will of God, to permanent, absolute slavery. Entangled with this misconception of republican institutions was the inevitable confusion of administrative functions and theories of government,slavery drawing to itself, necessarily, an interpretation favorable to its perpetuity. Therefore taxation, representation, and the actual direction of the government, State and National, became elements of a continuous dispute, the adherents of slavocracy insisting on concentrating all the powers of the Nation in support of slavery, and notably in expanding it over new regions.
For many years the American people moved, apparently without expostulation from any part of the Union, toward the realization of a vast, slaveholding Confederacy, which promised, ultimately to extend indefinitely southward. But the purposes of men must reckon sooner or later with the laws of nature, and these laws, ever operating regardless of the selfishness of men, had, by the middle of the nineteenth century, quite obliterated slavery from the northern half of the Union. But Congress and States persisted in legislating against the laws of nature and the North awoke to a sense of virtue to which it was hardly entitled by its voluntary acts, for in every State, North as well as South, slavery, either African or Indian, had at some time existed. Had the northern boundary of the United States run along Mason and Dixon's line instead of the Great Lakes, the reaction against slavery must have been long delayed, and secession must have broken out from, rather than for, a Slaveholding Confederacy.
The history of the Civil War is essentially the history of a state of mind which once prevailed, which was shaken, which at last gave way. The war was the most gigantic rebellion in history, and came at a time when the New World was loud in its confession of belief in its own intelligence and morality. It broke out in the foremost Christian nation," as Americans sometimes modestly described themselves, or, as their English cousins described them, perhaps with less violence to the imagination, “a nation of traders and farmers.” It is rather a sad commentary on human nature that the fiercest wars have raged among the most highly civilized people. Perhaps Francis Parkman, the most eminent of American historians, whose classic work is the history of ceaseless warfare in America for