1860-1877 Revolution

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2002

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According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a revolution is "A sudden or momentous change in a situation". This could not any better summarize the change in America between 1860 and 1877. The United States went from bitter fortress of agriculture to a progressive nest ready to nurture the coming of industry. Radical changes in the treatment of non-whites, as well as a move to the city marked the beginning of a new era.

The immense cultural and constitutional changes caused by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were to say the least, unprecedented. Blacks, for the first time ever, at least on paper, were given equal standing with whites. This radical constitutional change, at least in principal, marked the beginning of the transformation into a tolerant, compassionate society. Prior to the war, many people felt blacks were inferior, or stupid. That they were suited to manual labor, and shouldn't be schooled, as it would just be a waste of time.

After the war, there was still prejudice, but the opportunity was growing. When considering all that blacks have accomplished since, one must realize that prior to the revolution of 1860-1877 this would have been impossible to say the least.

The average American had access to far more knowledge in 1877 than he had in 1860. During this time, Mark Twain got started, as well as did Charles Dudley Warner in their joint writing of The Gilded Age. The one problem facing US literacy, however, was the need to educate the newly freed blacks. This was slowly accomplished through organizations made up mostly of women, and after time schools. Although the schools would not be equal for many years, it was a giant step up from the minimal education of before. According to the US historical data browser, the number of people going to school nearly doubled between 1860 and 1880. America was entering a new age of knowledge and understanding that would help to make it the most powerful nation in the world before too long.

The 1870s saw unprecedented growth of cities, and with it liberal, inner city movements. In 1860, America's cities had become massive trading centers, but there was not a single "megalopolis", a city having over one million people. The country was mostly agrarian based, with a large percentage of the population living in rural areas. By the end of the 1870s, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia all boasted populations of over 1,000,000. There were many immigrants to the US during this time, mostly "old immigrants" from Western Europe. With this radical growth of cities, a cry for reform started. It however, would not be realized until close to the turn of the century. The book The Jungle exemplifies this call for reform, using the surfacing of the socialist party as an example. There were many other movements, such as the Knights of Labor. The growth of cities put the United States in the perfect position to start the industrial revolution.

It is obvious that the United States changed dramatically between 1860 and 1877. Is it fair to call these changes a revolution? Yes. Radical changes in every aspect of American life brought about the perfect nest for the industrial revolution, and a far more tolerant and accepting society.