45 pages • 1 hour readJames M. Mcpherson
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In January 1867, after the closure of the Civil War in 1865, Congressman George W. Julian spoke against a bill that would remove military rule in the South and allow the return of civil government. This belief ran against currents in US political philosophy, which consistently worked toward the decentralization of power, creating for example the three branches of government as a precaution to preserve individual liberties. The maintenance of military rule in the South was a departure from this political tradition.
This shows how the Civil War and its following reconstruction “transformed the relationship between liberty and power” (133) in the United States. This rebalancing of the ideas of liberty and power extended to more than the use of the military. Before the war, the institution of slavery was in no way counter to the concept of American liberty, which focused on the right to property and government. But by the end of the war, slavery was the foremost offence to liberty in the nation. More so than any other one person, Lincoln was responsible for this ideological shift.
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Lincoln, the first Republican president, understood the hypocrisy of a nation of liberty founded on slavery, and he was vocal about this belief.
By James M. Mcpherson