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20130728 America Aflame


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This is somewhat unusual book about history of America’s war in the middle of XIX century. Typically any book about this period is pretty much about American Civil War. This is about much more. It is a well documented and analyzed account of period from early 1850s through American centennial in1876 and 3 wars that occurred on American soil during this period.

Based on participants and conduct of these wars it is very difficult to treat any of them as civil war. By definition the civil war is a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country. The three wars of this period hardly fit this definition despite the fact that the first, the biggest, and only one well known is named American Civil War.

I think it is misnaming of the conflict because the war was not between citizens of one country, but rather between citizens of two different countries that while being joined by common ancestry, religion, and relatively loose Federal Union nevertheless where divided by economic structure of society, culture, philosophy, and type of citizenship. The Union was created at the beginning of American Republic and was more of an alliance against external enemy – Great Britain. After winning independence American republic continued exist as a federal union of two completely different countries – republic of independent farmers with significant, growing, but not overwhelmingly powerful plutocracy at the North and republic of slaveholders with some limited representation of farmers at the South. People in the United States of America at the time considered themselves first and foremost citizens of the states where they reside. The typical example would be Robert Lee who resigned his commission in United States Army to accept commission in Confederate States Army because he was a Virginian and Virginia joined confederacy. That was attitude of majority of population so majorities of northerners and southerners fought on the side of their states regardless of their attitude to slavery or any other issues related to the war.

This war or more precisely conflict over dominance between these two countries started in 1854 after Kansas-Nebraska act that ended Missouri compromise and opened new territories for competition between Slaveholding and Plutocratic republics. This war ended in 1865 with Northern victory and destruction of Slaveholding republic, its economy, and main features of its culture.

The second war much less researched and understood was the racial war between blacks, mainly liberated slaves, and southern whites started immediately after the end of the first war and ended in 1876 after election. This war was a lot less regular and a lot less bloody with number of victims counted in hundreds, maybe even thousands, but nowhere close to the hundreds of thousands loses in war between states. This war was won by southern whites after 10 years struggle against black liberation movement for equality which was initially supported by northern whites even if half-heartedly, but eventually lost this support and with it any chance for the victory. Even so while restoring white supremacy southern whites failed to restore their slaveholding republic and ended with regime of segregation that stifled southern economy for next 100 years until it was blown away by civil rights movement this time with unqualified support of majority of whites in the second half of XX century.

The third and final war – war against Indians also could not be considered a civil war. It was rather a typical war of territorial conquest when Americans pushed out Indians from their ancient territory. Typically such wars in history ended with original population being enslaved, exterminated, or completely pushed out, but American culture, being even in these cruel times more humane then it was typical, limited consequences of defeat to transfer of Indians into reservations, depriving them off dignity and self-sufficiency making them dependent on handouts from government.

We still have remnants of these wars impacting American culture, but this impact will go away as soon as economic market opportunities for everybody would become more significant then opportunities from getting handouts from the government by inflating racial and ethnic grievances. Successful people do not need this staff and will probably keep different parts of they highly mixed ethnic identities only as subject for curiosity and entertainment, but not much more then that.

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