The period around the 1864 marked the most critical point the history of America in relation to equality and freedom, Americans strived to establish a national identity by setting common values beliefs to which all could subscribe regardless of their disparate origins. Even though equality and freedom was achieved in the end, slavery is still a challenge (Fonder 65).
Thus, the most influential early interpreters described an American character formed mainly by the values of liberty, equality and democracy. Liberty meant Americans had the ability to do what they wanted without artificial barriers set by the government or hierarchical authority. Discussions of the American character often presumed the existence of a fundamental belief in nationalism, a commitment to the honor and prestige of the nation-state created in 1776. For Abraham Lincoln, all considerations of the meaning of freedom took place in the context of his ultimate belief in the ideal of American nation.
By the 1840s, the meaning of American nationalism began to acquire distinctly sectional aspects. For many northerners, negative impressions of the south’s character shaped the definition of American nationalism. As the north became politically and economically stronger, a “northern” nationalism emerged based on the belief that region’s greater commitment to equality made it inherently different from, and morally superior to, the south, and its slave power.
Most Americans embrace the same values and acknowledge the diversity of belief within the society. Abraham Lincoln observed this in 1864: “we all declare for liberty but in using the same word we do not mean the same thing.” Some people believe that liberty means to do what one wills without anyone questioning his/her actions. Others believe it is to do what they perceive to be right at the option of the others (Foner 332).
During the civil war, Americans’ understanding of their nationalism was strengthened and made more specific. Nationalism meant that the United States was a nation strong enough to survive the ordeal of the civil war and establish a permanent republic. The wartime experience merged with the antebellum northern nationalism to constitute an intensely anti-southern sense of national honor. More than ever before, the United States was a nation upholding commitment to liberty, equality and democracy. By leading the Union to victory in the war and defining the meaning of its outcome, Abraham Lincoln shaped what American nationalism would be long after 1865.
The civil war in America ended in 1865, and on June, slavery in the United States effectively ends when 250,000 salves in Texas finally receive the news that the civil war had ended two months earlier (Binder and David 323). However, slavery, which Lincoln fought hard against, is still alive today only that it has changed its form. For instance, forced sex, minimal wages still show that slavery is still alive. Thus, the abolition of slave trade failed to propel the United States to exist as its founding documents suggested, but has in turn given birth to an invisible slave trade, or the so-called free slaves. Whether this will one day end, remains a question, yet to be answered.
Binder, Frederick M, and David M. Reimers. The Way We Lived: Volume 1. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2011. Print.
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