History Of Civil War In The United States

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Writing about the Civil War leads almost unconsciously to think of slavery, an incomprehensible institution in our society, condemnable, detestable and uncomfortable. The slave was neither more nor less than a human being owned by another, had no legal or political representation, had no rights and only one duty: to obey. At the beginning of the civil war about four million black slaves lived in the slave states of the United States. His main work was agrarian work; men, women and children were engaged in the cultivation of cotton that ‘the South’ exported, and this constituted the central base of its economy. Meanwhile, to the north, free blacks were a minority that did not enjoy the freedoms that one might suppose. As Acton indicates, during the war, the black communities were harassed and even attacked and persecuted by some groups of the population (especially Irish) who considered them the main reason – and therefore responsible – for the war. During the war hundreds of thousands of former black slaves served in the armies of the Union, while, faced with the gradual defeat of the Confederation, it was asked whether to arm the slaves or not. In the end the South surrendered before this happened since it would have been to betray the very foundations of slavery, that black is not equal in nature to white, so it could not be a better soldier. During the war hundreds of thousands of former black slaves served in the armies of the Union, while, faced with the gradual defeat of the Confederation, it was asked whether to arm the slaves or not. In the end the South surrendered before this happened since it would have been to betray the very foundations of slavery, that black is not equal in nature to white, so it could not be a better soldier. During the war hundreds of thousands of former black slaves served in the armies of the Union, while, faced with the gradual defeat of the Confederation, it was asked whether to arm the slaves or not. In the end the South surrendered before this happened since it would have been to betray the very foundations of slavery, that black is not equal in nature to white, so it could not be a better soldier.

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Finally, Acton, from the position of foreign observer, reflected on a possible solution for the war in which the United States could survive without breaking all its political work: ‘a confederation that embraces the old Union, without a popular despotism in Washington or slavery in Richmond. ‘ That is, consensus as a possible end to war, a consensus that never came.

In the review of The Second War of Independence in America, Acton makes a synthesis of the whole work. Hudson estimated the southern population at around 12,250,000 people and 19,141,000 in the North. This would seem to express a clear northern numerical superiority, however, while in the South slaves (men, women and children) are responsible for agricultural work and men capable of carrying a weapon were assigned to the army; in the Union, a part of the men had to stay in the field and the other part went to the front. In addition, precisely because of the demand for food products and the lack of agricultural workers, salaries increased so that each time men showed greater reluctance when going to war. On the other hand, only the arms industry was capable of absorbing labor, which is why many workers employed in other types of industries were dismissed; from this contingent the northern army was formed. Hudson cites the degraded situation of free blacks in the north – as Acton does – and mentions the paradox of slavery: ‘slavery has done […] to harm a civilization and hinder progress as well as to promote it in others’. We repeat, the slavery is something disturbing for us but the certain thing is that, to our regret, the western civilization was born in the bosom of a broadly slave society: Greece and Rome.

In the Civil War in America: its place in History, Acton takes stock of what American society was before the war. For him, he represented everything that Europe could not have been, which had been submerged for hundreds of years – and what remained in the twentieth century and what remains to be lived – in the most absolute violence caused by ‘oppression’. from one class for another, one race for another and one religion for another ‘. The rapid demographic growth caused by the millions of European immigrants who saw a promising future in America, the immense territory to be exploited, the opportunities for business and work and low taxes contributed to forge the American dream. To understand ourselves, we could compare it with the welfare state, in which ‘a student was allowed to progress from the first rudiments of knowledge until the completion of university studies and prepare for the liberal professions without paying a single shilling.’

At the conference, Acton writes that the founding fathers themselves did not believe in a long-term future for the Union: ‘it is striking that the wiser and illustrious founders of the Constitution barely trusted her’, ‘John Adams said that ‘no I saw the possibility of continuing the Union of States, its dissolution necessarily had to come. ” In addition, when the existence of slavery was questioned for the first time, Thomas Jefferson wrote: ‘I consider it the death knell of the Union.’ In effect, the premises of the founding fathers were obscure and augured an uncertain future. That they would have preferred a dissolution of the Union before a civil war was clear, which their successors did not share. On the one hand the South felt attacked by an enemy invader who wanted to dominate him,

Acton wrote that ‘slavery was not the cause of secession, but the reason for its failure’, our historian considered that just as in many other countries slavery had been abolished with a plan and a higher objective, trying not to overly alter the structure of the society, in North America was a battle cry, a symbol, the abolition became a madness, ‘one part defended it perversely and another perversely eliminated it’. The conference concluded with the reasons why Acton followed the Confederate cause, reasons that have already been cited and summarized in ‘The South applied the principle of a conditional federation to cure the evils and correct the errors of a false interpretation of the democracy ‘while the North continued to increase its power and its government was becoming authoritarian.

The reviews of History of four years of Civil War in the United States of America and the internecine struggle of the North American Union reflect an Acton critical of the historians of his time since he believed that the historian should not be carried away by contemporary prejudices. ; In fact, he was accused on one occasion for his ‘isolation’. They also reflect their concern about the sources. Acton used all he could to gather information, visited the archives of all Europe and used publications of other historians until he left an impressive library of 60,000 copies. However, above all these sources, he conceived the criterion and conscience of the historian as the main source.

As the university professor Paloma de la Nuez indicates in Essays on freedom and power: ‘They are not easy texts. […], Acton’s writings, full of deep, complex, original and sometimes contradictory ideas, are written in a style that does not always facilitate understanding. However, nobody would dare to deny that it is worthwhile to enter into his reading. ‘

It is always difficult to face a source contemporary with the facts. However, it is an exercise to which the historian must submit. Reading Acton is not easy. Not in vain was he considered one of the most cultured people of his time. The Writings can not be understood without an understanding of the international political situation and the functioning and structure of the government of the United States in its context. Nor is it possible to understand the dynamics of war or the Acton text without geographical knowledge, precisely because of the references it makes to rivers, mountain ranges and towns.

Although it was rescued by the liberals of the last third of the twentieth century, many authors regret that Acton is no longer read and even lament that anchorage to liberalism. Everything that has been said in these lines will be superficial without doubt. We suppose even superficial anything that can be said of him. In addition, we must bear in mind that these texts, as Lastra points out, ‘are writings of youth. Acton was only 35 years old when the last one was published, ‘he was halfway through life as Dante would say, but at that moment he was not lost; yes it would be later, as his personal writings show. In them I would express how a bitter loneliness and incomprehension were invading him. He could not write his History of freedom He never even published a book, and he ended his days with the idea that he had wasted his life.  

29 April 2022

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