Was the Civil War a Refounding?

Was the Civil War a Refounding?
AP Photo/Sherwood Lithograph Co. via the Library of Congress

When President-elect Abraham Lincoln visited Independence Hall on his journey to Washington, he asserted straightforwardly: “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” This would have come as little surprise to anyone who had followed Lincoln's public opposition to the policies of Stephen Douglas and the Democrats throughout the mid-to-late 1850s, when he repeatedly invoked “our chart of liberty” and asserted his belief that blacks and whites possessed equality in natural rights. Although he wrote in a draft of his First Inaugural Address that he doubted “that the present Constitution can be improved,” the war ultimately allowed the nation, as he famously proclaimed at Gettysburg, to undergo “a new birth of freedom.” The Reconstruction amendments seemingly signaled as much.

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