|Influence of Civil War 150 Years Later
April 9, 2015 Ralph Mann
150 years ago today, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, essentially ending the American Civil War and with it slavery.
Although the war ended, the impact of actions taken by the federal government during the war still influence America today, says Ralph Mann, CU-Boulder history professor emeritus.
CUT 1 “ A couple of other things were tied to the fighting of the war. The first income tax was passed during the war and established a precedent that became more and more taken for granted. The role of government expanded in lots of ways.” (:19)
Mann says the Civil War created a big government with expanded powers – powers that extended deep into America’s socio-economic fabric still with us today. For example, take the Homestead Act of 1862 that gave 160 acres of free land to U.S. citizens to farm.
CUT 2 “The Homestead Act – basically that is free farming as the way for America’s future in an immediate way. (:08) But more importantly, the federal government is having a larger role in the economic development. They built a railroad to the Pacific, which served those farmers.” (:18)
To further the farm-based economy, the federal government established a college system to support it, says Mann.
CUT 3 “They passed legislation for the Morrill Land Grant College Act – Colorado State, Iowa State, Kansas State – which taught scientific agriculture. If you put all those things together then the future of America, as I would see it then, is in an educated, commercially oriented, agriculturally based society. (:20) And that we’ve lived with pretty much down to the present, although agriculture no longer dominates the economy the way it was in the 19th Century. That package is what really shaped America for a long time.” (:30)
He says the war also accelerated the industrial revolution in America and jump stated the modernization of medicine, hospitals, ambulances and something you probably would never guess - the standardization for sizing clothes.
CUT 5 “The idea of sizing for clothing comes out of the Civil War as a kind of a spin-off. They mass-produced uniforms - Union Army uniforms were the first clothing that were truly mass-produced - and in doing that they noticed that you
couldn’t fit them to anybody but they kind of figured out after a while that if a guys arm was this long his height was probably going to be this long.” (:25)
Before the war the United States of America was a nation of regions unified by a concept. After the war, Mann says, the country was unified in an economic – technological sense, as well as political.