General History/US History


Men and women at the time, on both sides of the conflict, did understand it as a war against slavery, even before it began. This is clear from what they said and wrote. An important distinction must be drawn here: a war against slavery did not necessarily mean a war for abolition, at least not in 1861, or not for everybody. It did mean, though, that many white Northerners and even some white Southerners were ready to say Enough. Enough compromise
of principles; enough betrayal of people and ideals; enough cruelty; enough gradual surrender of what had been won in 1776. The war represented the overdue effort to sort out the double legacy of America’s founders: the uneasy marriage of the Declaration’s inspired ideals with the Constitution’s ingenious expedients.

.... What does the author mean by "double legacy"?

I think on one hand they wanted to create a government based on freedom & liberty like stated in the declaration of independence but when creating the government, the constitution had rights  that reserved for members of a specific class.  I'm very confused as to what the double legacy of the founding fathers could be. I thought their sole legacy was creating our government nothing else.

Hi Whitney,

I think the "double legacy" discussed in the above paragraph refers to the legacy of ideas.  Those expressed in the Declaration of Independence were incompatible with slavery: "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights."  At the time the legacy of the Constitution clearly recognized slavery, in which men could be born as slave without the equality given to men born free and without respect of their inalienable rights.

I would also take issue with the initial part of the paragraph.  Most northerners were still willing to compromise.  Lincoln had been elected in 1860 because he was seen as not being a hard core abolitionist, but one who was hostile to the expansion of slavery and some of the recent changes in favor of slave expansion granted by the Supreme Court.  Lincoln made speech after speech before the election, during the period after he was elected but before he took office, and even in the initial weeks in office that he would be willing to work out compromise with the south, and protect the institution of slavery where it already existed if the southern States would not try to leave the Union.  

Even after war began, northerners overwhelmingly did not see the war as a war of abolition but simply as one to compel the southern States to remain in the Union.  Clearly secession was based on Southern fears over how the Lincoln Administration would make policy related to slavery.  But Lincoln remained clear that he was not seeking abolition and would compromise with Southerners to avoid war.  It was only over the course of the war that abolition became an objective of the war.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

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Michael Troy


My specialties are 17th through 19th Century history, especially in the Americas and Europe. I also have a fair knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman History, and some knowledge of Medieval European history. My expertise is focuses on Military and political history, but I`ll take a crack at anything.


I have been a guest lecturer at George Washington University. Mostly, I have just read hundreds of books about world history.


J.D. Univ. of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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