Civil War Paper
December 16, 2012
America was a country divided before the Civil War, and compromise could no longer alleviate the tensions. The Civil War defined America, and was summarized best by historian Shelby Foote in a 1994 interview with PBS
Before the war, it was said “the United States are.” Grammatically, it was spoken
that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war,
it was always “the United States is,” as we say today without being self-
conscious at all. And that sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an
“is.” (PBS, 2005).
Shelby Foote also said “Any understanding of this nation has to be based…on an understanding of the Civil War…the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things…” (Burns & Burns, 1990).
Before the Civil War many Americans viewed themselves as citizens of their particular state first, and an American citizen second. The Civil War began as a conflict regarding states’ rights. The South argued that the Federal Government’s powers were limited by the Constitution. Southerners also believed the Federal Government abused its powers. According to the South, slavery was a state issue, not an issue to be decided by the Federal Government. The Northern view of America before the Civil War was one of progress. The preservation of the Union was the immediate objective of the North, and most Northerners were anti-slavery; the South wanted to preserve plantation economics and slavery.
I think Shelby Foote meant that in order to understand the current culture of America, you have to understand how that culture was shaped. If the Civil War were never fought, or if there were a different outcome, America as we know it would be completely different. We need to understand why the Civil War was fought, that many Americans fought for their convictions, and sacrificed their lives to preserve the...