How the Civil War Changed United States

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The American civil war was fought between the Union (The United States) and the South(Confederacy), which comprised of states that seceded. The attack on April 1861 on Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor is traditionally considered the start of the Civil War in America (United States Senate, 2019). At the heart of the tensions between the states involved were slavery, economics, States versus federal rights and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Like any war, the civil war had insurmountable negative political, social and economic impacts. This implication changed the countries involved for better or worse as they shaped major aspects of the nations.

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Emancipation Proclamation

Although slavery was considered a heinous act towards humanity by Abraham Lincoln, the act was constitutionally protected. The civil war initiated constitutional changes during the reconstruction period, which extended the rights of formerly enslaved people and prohibited discrimination. Upon the winning of the Presidential election by Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, there was a tremendous cultural crush between the South and the North Americans. At that time, seven Southern States seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. As a result, Lincoln did not ban slavery swiftly as he focused on preserving the Union between 1861 and 1862(Kelly, 2018). After the battle of Antietam, Lincoln changed the nature of war and declared the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. Lincoln declared the release of all enslaved people in the rebel states by 1863.

The Proclamation and abolishment of slavery gave the Union a moral cause for continuing the war. Following a series of wars, the Union won the civil war on June tenth 1965, a day that commemorated as the end of slavery in the United States. This led to the 13th Amendment of the Nation’s constitution formally abolishing slavery. More than four million enslaved Americans were enslaved. Although abolishing slavery did not mean equality or the end of discrimination, it formed the basis on which African- Americans fought for their rights to equality and the end of racial discrimination post-reconstruction (Towner, 2011). A fight that continues to –date.

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Industrialization of the United States of America

The American civil war is credited with creating industrialization in the United States through the modern economy. Government-issued currency boosted industry and infrastructure, subsidized settlement of the West, and characterized the modern economy. Creating a critical mass of government power ensured Western territories and The United States developed into world economic power. Although America began as an Agricultural nation in the 1780s, by 1850, there were economic divisions between the North and  South (Rust, 2022). The North had experienced more industrialization in urban areas compared to the South, which remained more agrarian.

The South almost entirely relied on slavery to provide unpaid labour for agriculture and did not have the political will to industrialize. On the other hand, the North industrialized due to the steady immigration from Europe. Mass immigration from Germany and other European countries was influenced by factors such as famine. The immigrants provided the cheap labour that stimulated industrial growth (McPherson, 2017). The immigrants also led to rapid population growth, creating local markets for manufactured goods.

The Civil war also changed the US currency with a long-term effect. Before the civil war, trade was characterized by little use of deficit spending, lack of income tax, and the use of gold dollars instead of paper currency (Rust, 2022). Following the high costs of war, the North and the South sold bonds to finance war due to deficit spending, imposed taxes and adopted the use of paper currency. There was the introduction of ‘greenbacks’ in 1861 by the Union; the government began printing the United States notes in the subsequent years, declaring them legal tender. By 1933 gold coinage had stopped being a legal tender currency, and the government fully backed the dollar.

The Civil War led to the Reconstruction era

The end of the civil war was marked by debates on the fate of the confederate states and how they would rejoin the Union. Abraham Lincoln proposed several reconstruction acts, and following his assassination, his successor, President Andrew Johnson, attempted to follow the same principles in reuniting the Union. Historians have always viewed The Reconstruction Era as an Experiment in interracial democracy (Lloyd Sealy Library, 2019). Various changes in American political history marked the period. Constitutional amendments were made at the National level altering the structural and federal system of governance as well as redefining American citizenship.

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Under President Andrew Johnson, there was the development of a clear outline of how new state governments would be formed. These governments were given a free hand in managing their affairs on the condition that they abandon slavery, abrogate Confederate debts and repudiate secession. In return, these governments enacted the Black codes, which required African Americans to sign yearly contracts which attempted to limit their freedom. This was faced with much opposition, and the fight for equal rights caused a permanent rapture between President Johnson and faced by Congress. This led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act over the President’s veto, the first legislation of its kind (Library of Congress, 2019). Later, the Fourteenth Amendment was approved, which put into law the principle of birth citizenship. This was and is still considered one of the most important additions to the constitution besides the Bill of Rights. This Amendment guaranteed the once-delineated rights of all Americans. Although the reconstruction did not mark the end of racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans, it formed a basis on which they fought for their freedom and equality before the law of the land. The constitutional amendments remained in the constitution as sleeping giants to be awakened by generations later in the 1960s in an attempt to implement the political and social agenda of reconstruction fully.

The Civil was marked by numerous negative impacts, including the highest loss of lives and properties, just like any other war. The war, however, had positive economic, social and political effects that still redefined America. The emergence of the United States as an economic power, the emancipation proclamation, which sought to abolish slavery and the development of the United States as an industrialized Nation the constitutional amendments are some of the impacts of the Civil war that have since changed The United States.

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  1. Kelly, M. (2018). The Causes of the American Civil War. Thought Co. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-causes-of-the-civil-war-104532
  2. Library of Congress. (2019). Reconstruction and Its Aftermath – The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship | Exhibitions (Library of Congress). Loc.gov. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african-american-odyssey/reconstruction.html
  3. Lloyd Sealy Library. (2019). LibGuides: American History: The Civil War and Reconstruction: Aftermath of the Civil War. Cuny.edu. https://guides.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/c.php?g=288398&p=4496620
  4. McPherson, J. (2017, December 15). Out of War, a New Nation. National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/newnation.html
  5. Rust, O. (2022, July 18). The Economic Impact of the American Civil War. The Collector. https://www.thecollector.com/economic-impact-of-the-american-civil-war/
  6. Towner, B. (2011). 8 Ways the Civil War Affects Us Today. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/history/info-04-2011/8-ways-civil-war-changed-lives.html
  7. United States Senate. (2019, January 24). U.S. Senate: Civil War Begins. Senate.gov. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Civil_War_Begins.htm
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