Wage labor employers won the war for Union, and they had won it with the assistance of intelligence offices managed by private entrepreneurs and state institutions such as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Union soldiers, northern women, businessmen, army officers, and politicians should get credit for being among abolition’s agents. They believed wholeheartedly in free labor, because the trajectory that ideology mapped for northerners showed that the only way to more independence in a market in which all were dependent was through the accumulation of capital and the opportunity to exploit others’ labor. They fought the war for Union against the slaveholders’ aristocracy to bolster their own authority. The movement of workers created by soldier recruitment, emancipation, and what Abraham Lincoln called the “friction and abrasion” of war gave them opportunities to do so. Intelligence offices served this war for Union by marshaling workers whose “capital in self” the state and employers could access for their benefit. These institutions could also take the blame for the inequalities and disappointments of wage labor capitalism in ways that obscured the fact that the war’s labor movements had unmade the promise of free labor for working people.
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