Union (American Civil War) | public opinion

Public opinion

The attack on Fort Sumter rallied the North to the defense of American nationalism. Historian, Allan Nevins, says:

The thunderclap of Sumter produced a startling crystallization of Northern sentiment ... Anger swept the land. From every side came news of mass meetings, speeches, resolutions, tenders of business support, the muster of companies and regiments, the determined action of governors and legislatures.[5]

McClintock states:

At the time, Northerners were right to wonder at the near unanimity that so quickly followed long months of bitterness and discord. It would not last throughout the protracted war to come – or even through the year – but in that moment of unity was laid bare the common Northern nationalism usually hidden by the fierce battles more typical of the political arena."[6]

Historian Michael Smith, argues that, as the war ground on year after year, the spirit of American republicanism grew stronger and generated fears of corruption in high places. Voters became afraid of power being centralized in Washington, extravagant spending, and war profiteering. Democratic candidates emphasized these fears. The candidates added that rapid modernization was putting too much political power in the hands of Eastern financiers and industrialists. They warned that the abolition of slavery would bring a flood of freed blacks into the labor market of the North.

Republicans responded with claims of defeatism. They indicted Copperheads for criminal conspiracies to free Confederate prisoners of war, and played on the spirit of nationalism and the growing hatred of the slaveowners, as the guilty party in the war.[7]

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