American Civil War of 1861-1865, which is often spoken of as a war between the States, is believed to have ruined one America and created another one. The most prominent fact about this event is that it could have been easily avoided since both the parties were against it. President Abraham Lincoln in his Three Sentences of Second Inaugural Address noted: “Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other one would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came” (Ronald C White 60). The Civil War entailed serious changes in the economical, political and social spheres and once and for all altered the lives of American citizens. Strange as it may seem but speaking about the events remarkable for the history of the United States most people forget about the American Revolution treating it as not so an important event as the Civil War. This is wrong because this revolution is a part of American history, a part of each American’s life: “It was the act that gave birth to the nation, provided a common purpose to a disparate collection of peoples, and offered an evergreen promise of hope for the world’s oppressed” (Bruce Lancaster, John Harold Plumb, Richard M. Ketchum 2). Its significance for the history of the United States lies in the fact that it marked the beginning of people’s fight for their freedoms, the successful fight which started with signing the Declaration of Independence the main aim of which was to free people from tyranny and to change the government system: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be dissolved” (Francis Newton Thorpe, United States 2628). Some people state that Civil War brought about more changes than the American Revolution whereas others keep to an opposite point of view. There is a need to analyze changes each of these events introduced to the political sphere of the United States to find out which of them altered the lives of American people more tangibly.
What should be mentioned above all, is that both the events influenced the political situation in the country. It should be admitted that the changes in the political sphere were the most drastic ones and included many acts that were signed for different reasons. Taking into consideration the American Revolution, it can be stated that what marked its beginning was the Declaration of Independence but what ended the revolution is a very controversial issue. It is believed that The Treaty of Paris (or Paris Peace Treaty) ended it, at least it was formally considered that it did, though it took some time afterward for the system of government to be formed in America. The treaty consisted of ten articles which suggested leaving in the past all the misunderstandings between the United States and Great Britain and establishing peace: “His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof” (the United States 81). Another significant change brought about by the American Revolution was compiling of the Constitution of the United States which was drawn up in Philadelphia in 1778. According to Abraham Lincoln, the laws stated in the US Constitution are the prior concern of the American citizens and that if they were made to swear never to violate them, they would keep their word. The trust in his citizens can be observed in his Address before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield: “Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his prosperity, swear by the blood of the revolution never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country, and never to tolerate their violation by others” (Abraham Lincoln 30).
As far as political changes brought about by the Civil War are concerned, they were also numerous. The war aimed to end up with slavery once and for all but it took a lot of time and human lives before the desirable were achieved: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure” (from Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln, Don Edward Fehrenbacher 536). In the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War, some amendments were introduced to the Constitution of the United States to make black people equal in rights with white people. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ratified in 1865 abolished slavery in the country once and for all: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (from section 1 of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, Herbert Arthur Smith 272). The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution accounts for the most significant changes in the United States after the Civil War and in the period of Reconstruction since it declared all people equal in their rights and liberties: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (from section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, Herbert Arthur Smith 272). This amendment defines citizenship and states that none of the citizens of the United States can be a slave or can be limited in rights and freedoms. And, finally, the Fifteenth Amendment gave the right to vote to all people, irrespective of their skin color or nationality: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (from section 1 of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, Herbert Arthur Smith 273). In 1870 the amendment was ratified and officially became part of the constitution of the United States. This amendment was especially significant for African American population since now they officially were recognized as true citizens of their country.
Therefore, it can be stated that the changes introduced into the political sphere of the United States after The American Revolution and the Civil War of 1861-1865 were indeed very significant. At this, the period of the American Revolution was marked by the Treaty of Paris which established peace between Great Britain and the United States, the Declaration of Independence which announced thirteen British colonies independence, and the Constitution of the United States compiled in 1778 and adopted in 1779 which established rights and liberties of the American citizens, whereas the Civil War, including the Reconstruction period after it, brought about serious amendments to the Constitution of the United States, namely the Thirteenth Amendment which once and for all abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment which made black people equal in rights with white people, and the Fifteenth Amendment which gave African Americans right to vote and to take part in political activities. Both, The American Revolution and the Civil War, exerted a profound influence on the political life of the US, though the Civil War changes seem to be more drastic and numerous.
Bruce Lancaster, John Harold Plumb, Richard M. Ketchum. The American Revolution. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.
Francis Newton Thorpe, United States. The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the State, Territories, and Colonies Now Or Heretofore Forming the United States of America: Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now Or Heretofore Forming the United… Govt. Print. Off., 1909
Ronald C White. Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Abraham Lincoln. Speeches and Letters of Abraham Lincoln. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.
Herbert Arthur Smith. Federalism In North America: A Comparative Study Of Institutions In The United States And Canada. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2005.