Americans, slave and free, black and white. Between 1860 and 1877, America had gone through civil war
and reconstruction, from destructive to constructive. Hence, there had been many factors that attributed to
constitutional and social developments in America history, but the main reasons for the change could attribute
to the economic rivalry between the industrial North and the agricultural South and the pivotal gap concerning
slavery and the political reconstruction.
The United States experienced a great period of constitutional developments from 1860 to 1877 due to
the civil war, Emancipation Proclamation, three civil rights bills, and the reconstruction. However, slavery
became the dominant issue in splitting the North and the South. The presidential election began in 1860. It
was apparent that most Northerners refused to accept leadership by a Southerner; and it was also clear that most
Southerners would not accept a leadership from the antislavery Republicans in the North.(History Textbook P.
369) Southerners even threatened to secede if a Northerner was elected. On Election Day, Lincoln received
39 percent of the popular vote and 180 electoral votes and won the election. (History Textbook P. 370) As a
result, the country quickly moved toward disunion. South Carolina seceded from the Union shortly after
Lincoln’s election. On December 24, 1860, the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession stated: “By
the United States Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several states, and the exercise of certain
of their powers were restrained, which necessarily imperiled their continued existence as sovereign states.”,
which stated in Document A. Over the following weeks six additional southern states left the
Union —Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. On February 4, 1861, these southern
states created a new nation—the Confederate States of America.
Despite Lincoln told the South in his inaugural address that he hoped war was not inevitable,
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.(Lincoln First
Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861, American Treasures of the Library of Congress) his words were ignored.
On the contrary, in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address, he said,”We have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility
and obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled…..”(History Textbook P.381) However, the
southerners felt their rights of holding slaves were being threatened. Then, in April 1861, the first shots fired
on Fort Sumter signaled the start of the nation’s Civil War.
During the Civil War, the need for a stronger central government was urgent.(History Textbook P.391)
As Senator Sherman stated that to nationalize the country was essential to the United States. “If we are
dependent on the United States for a currency and a medium of exchange, we shall have a broader and more
generous nationality.” (Document B, L2) Because in 1862, Congress passed an act that created a national
currency which was declared by Congress to be acceptable for legal payment of all public and private debts ,
Americans no longer relied on state banks.(History Textbook, P393) However, limited state power and rights
as in banking system was essential way to prevent government from being overthrown. “It has been that
principle of states rights, that bad sentiment that has elevated state authority above national authority, that has
been the main instrument by which our government is sought to be overthrown.(Document B, L4-6)
While the Union’s battlefield casualties mounted, Lincoln was pressured to make the abolition of