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The United States of America: A History
Book 4: Chapter XIV - Reunited America


LONG ago thoughtful men had foreseen that a permanent union between slave communities and free communities was impossible. Wise Americans knew that their country could not continue "half slave and half free." Slavery was a fountain out of which strife flowed perpetual. There was an incessant conflict of interests. There was a still more formidable conflict of feeling. The North was humiliated by the censure which she had to share with her erring sisters. The South was imbittered by the knowledge that the Christian world abhorred her most cherished institution. The Southern character became ever more fierce, domineering, unreasoning. Some vast change was known to be near. Slavery must cease in the South, or extend itself into the North. There was no resting-place for the country between that universal liberty which was established in the North, and the favourite doctrine of the South that the capitalist should own the labourer.

The South appealed to the sword, and the decision was against her. She frankly and wisely accepted it. She acknowledged that the labouring-man was now finally proved to he no article of merchandise, but a free and responsible citizen. That acknowledgment closed the era of strife between North and South. There was no longer anything to strive about. There was no longer North or South, in the old hostile sense, but a united nation, with interests and sympathies rapidly becoming identical. It has been foretold that America will yet break ill) into several nations. What developments may await America in future ages we do not know. But we do know that the only circumstance which threatened disruption among the sisterhood of States has been removed, and that the national existence of America rests upon foundations at least as assured as those which support any nation in the world.

The fall of slavery relieved America from the chief hindrance to her progress, and the country resumed her career of peaceful industry. The ten years which followed Mr. Lincoln's first election witnessed great changes. The population of thirty-one millions had grown to forty millions, and was increasing at the rate of a million annually. From all European countries the enterprising and the needy flocked into the Eastern States. Asia was sending her thousands to the West—the first drops of an ample shower—beneficial alike to her that gives and her that takes. Every year three hundred and fifty thousand emigrants sought a home in the Great Republic. The annual earnings of the people were estimated at two thousand millions sterling. There were forty-eight thousand miles of railroad in operation, and twenty thousand miles in course of formation. The iron highway stretched across the continent, and men travelled now in five or six days from New York to San Francisco. Notwithstanding the enormous waste of the war, the wealth of the people had nearly doubled. And yet the great mass of the rich lands which America possessed lay unused. Of nearly two thousand millions of acres only five hundred millions had been even surveyed. In the vast residue—yet useless to man—the Great Father had made inexhaustible provision for the wants of his children.

Although slavery had fallen, many evils remained to vex the American people. The debt incurred in putting down the rebellion was large, and taxation was oppressive. The paper money in which commerce was conducted was of fluctuating and uncertain value. Worst of all, there were selfish and unwise laws enacted with the view of raising the prices of articles which were largely used by the people, in order that the men who made these articles might become rich. Under these laws American trade languished and the people suffered. Everything became unnaturally dear. America could no longer build ships; she could no longer compete in foreign markets with countries whose policy was more enlightened than hers.

America has still something to learn from the riper experience and more patient thinking of England. But it has been her privilege to teach to England and the world one of the grandest of lessons. She has asserted the political rights of the masses. She has proved to us that it is safe and wise to trust the people. She has taught that the government of the people should be for the people and by the people.

Let our last word here be a thankful acknowledgment of the inestimable service which she has thus rendered to markind.


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