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Department 1

Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



Americans love revolutions. Our national identity began with a revolution, and a revolutionary war that lasted for eight years; and we cheer on other people’s revolutions, as though we find satisfaction in multiplying our own. “I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing & as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. “No country should be long without one.” An excited James Garfield, in his maiden speech in the House of Representatives in 1864, asked whether his colleagues “forget that the Union had its origin in revolution.” Ralph Waldo Emerson thought of revolution as the authentic instinct of humanity. “Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution,” he said in his Harvard Divinity School address of 1838. “The old is for slaves.” [excerpt]

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