Manual The Politics of Faith during the Civil War

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Perhaps, too, there was a logical correspondence between one of the most influential religious movements of the war, the insistence that baptism should be confined to consenting adults, and the principle of political consent that the war party mobilised first against royalist and then against parliamentarian authoritarianism. However, mental linkages counted for little without favourable facts of political life.

Admittedly Charles I tried repeatedly to divide religious unorthodoxy from the parliamentarian cause by offering his own version of liberty of conscience, but it was not one the sects could trust. People normally wary of liberty of conscience were persuaded that the sects had earned it through their actions.

Yet he cleverly commended liberty of conscience on political grounds, as the reward merited by soldiers in the service of the state and of political freedom. They decided that he had exploited them in pursuit of his own ends and abandoned the principles he had professed to share. Yet there was another dimension to the parting of the ways: the disintegration of the political-religious alliance.

The Levellers came from the sectarian world, but during the s their vision expanded to include — and was perhaps overtaken by — secular ambitions. You shall scarce speak to Cromwell about any thing, but he will lay his hand on his breast, elevate his eyes, and call God to record, he will weep, howl and repent, even while he doth smite you under the first rib. With his fellow Levellers he sought principles that would protect subjects from all forms of government, regal or parliamentarian. He was outraged when the generals crushed Leveller influence in the ranks and then installed what Lilburne judged a puppet republic.

He died in after converting to the newly emerging Quaker movement. Before the wars he adopted the daring stance of separatism, joining those who denounced the Church of England as anti-Christian and worshipped outside it.

People and Ideas: Civil War and Reconstruction

In the war the two men were courageous comrades in arms. Though the relationship soon became difficult, it was only with the regicide, the product not of consent but of a coup, that he broke decisively with Cromwell. Not that it took much for Lilburne to fall out with someone.

He was an impossible friend and husband. He was the scourge of power and of its every representative, royalist or parliamentarian. Four times he was accused of treason, and three times he was on trial for his life. In the republic sent him into exile, only for him to risk death by returning. His stream of pamphlets is strong on indignation and self-dramatisation but lacks the reflective insights of two of his fellow Leveller leaders, Richard Overton and William Walwyn, and the polemical incisiveness of the third, John Wildman.

Yet his passionate concern for liberty, combined with a theatrical flair for victimhood and martyrdom, brought his tracts a wide readership and made their author the hero of protesting crowds. He reacted touchily when his minor gentry status was impugned. Our continued use of the term, though another piece of indispensable shorthand, risks distorting not only his views but his career.

Pennsylvania Civil War 150

They celebrated instead his assertions of legal rights, seeing him as a Roundhead antecedent of John Wilkes. Conducting his own defence, he defied all odds and secured acquittal on both occasions, to huge popular acclamation and the great embarrassment of the government. Leveller attacks on trading monopolies, which modern English readers have interpreted as protests against elitist privilege, have been seen by Americans as pleas for a free market.

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This paean omits the anger, the division, the epidemic of vituperation. The Civil War created the modern national state in America. Whether the war retarded or encouraged economic growth in the short run remains a point of debate among historians. But the economic policies of the Union forged a long-lasting alliance between the Republican Party, the national state, and the emerging class of industrial capitalists. Slavery lay at the root of the political crisis that produced the Civil War, and the war became, although it did not begin as, a struggle for emancipation. Union victory eradicated slavery from American life.

Yet the war left it to future generations to confront the numerous legacies of slavery and to embark on the unfinished quest for racial justice. The destruction of slavery—by presidential proclamation, legislation, and constitutional amendment—was a key act in the nation-building process. A war begun to preserve the old Union without threatening slavery produced one of the greatest social revolutions of the nineteenth century.

The Politics of Faith during the Civil War

The old image of Lincoln single-handedly abolishing slavery with the stroke of his pen has long been abandoned, for too many other Americans—politicians, reformers, soldiers, and slaves themselves—contributed to the coming of emancipation. In , with military success elusive, Radical Republicans in Congress and abolitionists clamoring for action against slavery, and slaves by the thousands fleeing the plantations wherever the Union Army appeared, Lincoln concluded that his initial policy of fighting a war solely to preserve the Union had to change.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, , profoundly altered the nature of the war and the future course of American history. It was the Proclamation, moreover, more than any other single wartime event, that transformed a war of armies into a conflict of societies. Although it freed few slaves on the day it was issued, as it applied almost exclusively to areas under Confederate control, the Emancipation Proclamation ensured that Union victory would produce a social revolution within the South and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American life.

There could now be no going back to the prewar Union. A new system of labor, politics, and race relations would have to replace the shattered institution of slavery.


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Before the Civil War, the definition of those entitled to enjoy the "blessings of liberty" protected by the Constitution was increasingly defined by race. Taney declared that no black person could be a citizen of the United States.

God and the Civil War

The enlistment of , black men in the Union armed forces during the second half of the war placed black citizenship on the postwar agenda. From the war emerged the principle of a national citizenship whose members enjoyed the equal protection of the laws. That principle, which we know today as "civil rights," originated in the Civil War and the turbulent era of Reconstruction that followed. With Union victory, the status of the former slaves in the reunited nation became the focal point of the politics of postwar Reconstruction.

As soon as the Civil War ended, and in some parts of the South even earlier, blacks who had been free before the war came together with emancipated slaves in conventions, parades, and petition drives to demand suffrage and, on occasion, to organize their own "freedom ballots. However, Andrew Johnson, who succeeded the martyred Lincoln as president in April , inaugurated a program of Reconstruction that placed full power in the hands of white southerners. The new governments established during the summer and fall of enacted laws—the notorious Black Codes—that severely limited the rights of former slaves in an effort to force them to return to work as dependent plantation laborers.

In response, the Republican majority in Congress in enacted its own plan of Reconstruction. In the Civil Rights Act of and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, they permanently altered the federal system and the nature of American citizenship.

America’s Next Civil War

The Fourteenth Amendment enshrined in the Constitution the ideas of birthright citizenship and equal rights for all Americans. The Amendment prohibited states from abridging the "privileges and immunities of citizens" or denying them the "equal protection of the law. Later, the Fifteenth Amendment barred the states from making race a qualification for voting. Strictly speaking, suffrage remained a privilege rather than a right, subject to numerous regulations by the states.

But by the time Reconstruction legislation had run its course, the federal government had taken upon itself the responsibility for ensuring that states respected the equal civil and political rights of all American citizens. Reconstruction radicalism, however, had its limits. Nonetheless, Reconstruction witnessed a remarkable political revolution in the South. In , African American men in the defeated Confederacy were given the right to vote and hold office—a radical departure from pre-Civil War days, when blacks could vote only in a handful of northern states.

A politically mobilized black community joined with white allies to bring the Republican Party to power throughout the South, and with it a redefinition of the purposes and responsibilities of government. Follow Topics Covering Climate Now. David Mislin , Temple University. President Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast. The liberty head design by James B.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on Feb. AP Photo. Nearly one of every four people in the US is religiously unaffiliated. Prazis Images via www.

Scott Applewhite.