Question of the Week-16 February 2015

This edition of Question of the Week comes from our own Dan Welch: Was there a defining or pivotal political moment in 1865 or was the end of slavery and the restoration of the Union inevitable by then?

6 Responses to Question of the Week-16 February 2015

  1. I think after seeing the movie, that the defining political (as opposed to military) moment of 1865 has to be passage of the 13th Amendment. Although it is difficult to imagine any scenario where slavery continued for very long, that was the moment when the practice officially ended and that is what it was all about. Secession was a political movement, but it was decided militarily.

  2. The end of slavery was going to be inevitable, but the 13th Amendment had to be passed for it to be official. The Emancipation Proclamation laid ground-work, but was pretty much un-enforceable except in the areas of the South that were Union occupied. The 13th A. made emancipation real and brought in the power of the Constitution as the law of the land. Just my thoughts…

  3. I am pretty sure that the end of the war was inevitable by spring of 1865, but the death of President Lincoln was not. Lincoln’s firm hand on Congress and equally firm grasp of the issues faces by the sudden appearance of thousands of freed men and women nation-wide was completely disrupted by his assassination. This was certainly the defining political moment, as no matter what happened afterward, Johnson simply did not have the power to guide the nation through the aftermath of the war.

    Remember, two more Constitutional amendments were passed directly affecting former slaves, but the post-Reconstruction South effectively nullified them by making it impossible for black people to get an education, learn a skilled trade, or earn a decent wage. Did I mention the lynchings, burnings, physical and sexual assault–or the KKK?

    And I am no longer in agreement concerning the eventual dying out of slavery–with the South seeking to expand both westward and southward, I think slavery would have gone on for a very long time. Congress spent almost fifty years trying to solve the slave/free issue, and it was worse than ever.

    Any small study of Reconstruction (read anything by Foner, or Ortiz) and one begins to wonder if the actual war was even worth it.

  4. I am not sure that there is *one* moment but rather two.

    First, the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

    Secondly, the elevation of Andrew Johnson to President in the aftermath of the murder of Lincoln. Johnson’s leadership catapulted the South into a racial war that should cause all of us to wonder who would have been a better choice for Lincoln in the 1864 presidential run.

    1. A “president named Johnson” catapulting the south into a racial war”? Are we talking about the nineteenth or the twentieth century?

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