War And The Centralization Of Power

2631 words - 11 pages

The real underlying cause of the Civil War is one that has remained unresolved since the Revolution, nearly one hundred years earlier, namely the question of sovereignty and the right of each individual state to govern itself as the people saw best fit. Before the Revolution, each of the original thirteen states had been a colony administered by locally elected council and a royal government (Bridenbaugh 131). They were all different in climate, outlook, character, and even religion. One thing united them all, a growing resentment for rule from London (Bridenbaugh 66). In 1774, each colony sent delegates to a Continental Congress in Philadelphia to discuss their response to the British "Intolerable Acts." A bitter struggle followed that resulted in the colonies gaining independence from British rule. The problem of how to govern these states ensued. At first, the Articles of Confederation recognized the independence of each state and created a very weak central government to deal with almost nothing more than foreign policy. There was no executive branch to enforce any acts passed by Congress, nor a national court system. Also, amendments to the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote. This soon in practice proved to be a failure, and a new Constitution was adopted which created a stronger federal government with considerable powers to handle domestic issues (Bridenbaugh 155). In the creation of the United States, the states held a majority of the power with the authority to tax and possess militia. Here is the problem, the national government was given the powers to conduct war, but war will inevitably seize power from the states in order for the federal government to properly wage it.
As the Southern states succeeded from the United States, a right they believed they possessed in the same manner that the colonies did before, a war broke out (Faust 33). The Union slowly turned the war into the issue of slavery, but this was undoubtedly a war over where power resides, with the states or the federal government. In the end, the national government proved that the authority of the nation was superior to the state. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. The amount of dead made an impact on the nation, “the United States would develop a new relationship with death in a national sense, because of the pension system, the reburial system, the bureaucracy of death that would transform the nature of the federal government. So it would become a different nation a stronger, more centralized nation with more responsibilities partly because of taking on these obligations that would grow out of Civil War death” (Faust 241). This idea that the national government is responsible for the lives of its citizens expanded into the government taking numerous responsibilities, such as taxes and militia, into their own hands and out of the states. The War Department organized the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the civil war which...

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