The Paradox of Civilization
The epilogue uses speeches and writings in 1880s from Frederick Douglass, Albion Tourgée, and Ulysses S. Grant to explore the contested meanings, outcomes, and implications of the American Civil War Era. Each correspondent explained that the era’s noble verdicts—Union, emancipation, and civil rights—were at once mutually reinforcing and antagonistic. To uphold the foundational ideals of Union required emancipation and the Reconstruction amendments. But biracial equality itself required enforcement from a large, mobilized, federal and military state that allegedly undermined the United States’ claim as a decentralized, antimilitaristic republic. The era was thus a referendum on the attributes of nineteenth-century American exceptionalism, just as those very attributes conflicted with the idealistic purposes of the era.
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