Throughout Goldfield’s book, one sees the present peeping through the past. In his allergy to the infusion of religion into politics, and his regret over the failure of government to achieve compromise, he sometimes seems to be writing as much about our own time as about time past. Yet even looking through his eyes, one finds it hard to imagine that the post-Civil War constitutional amendments by which black citizenship rights were advanced could ever have been ratified if the slave states had remained in the Union. The “secession war,” as Walt Whitman called it, would seem to have been a necessary prelude to the process of securing black equality — a process still unfinished today.
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