How did the Civil War Affect Government in the US?

The American Civil War that raged from 1861 to 1865 was the worst catastrophe in the history of the United States. It tore the nation apart and led it to massive destruction of life and property (Chambers, 1999). Nevertheless, the war had several important consequences for the government of the United States. The war, therefore, helped shape the governance of the United States. The thesis of this paper, therefore, states that the Civil War impacted positively on the government of the United States.

First, the Civil War made it possible for the government of the United States to reunite the nation. Prior to the war, the north and the southern parts of the nation were in constant disputes with each other and all efforts to reconcile them were doomed to fail. However, after the Civil War, the government was in a position to rein in the south and put it under military control. This effectively reunited the nation after long years of conflict. After the Civil War, the south was no longer able to secede (Olsen, 2002), and, therefore, had to surrender to the central government for administration.

Secondly, the Civil War enabled the government of the United States to abolish slavery, to which the south had been holding for centuries (Chambers, 1999). The impact of the Civil War was so devastating that in its wake, it was no longer easy to hold on to slaves. The end of the war brought unexpected freedom to the slaves, long before their freedom was formalized by the passage of legislation in the 13th amendment. It had been a long and bloody struggle: ending the cruel slavery had been no easy task for the government. This is because the plantation owners, most occupying the southern states, were in no position to lose a cheap labor. The Civil War, with its massive loss of lives and destruction of property, effectively weakened their resolve, leading to the abolition of slavery.

Most importantly, the Civil War brought victory to the federal government, which unarguably was the greatest beneficiary of the war. This was because the war weakened the states, and, thus, at the end of it all, the federal government emerged supreme. The war required new administrative skills and structures which were naturally limited at the state level. Consequently, the central government was able to take a commanding role and eventually thrashed state rights. The under-developed infrastructure in the southern states worked to the advantage of the federal government. Another related consequence of the supremacy of the federal government was the dramatic increase in both size and expenditure of the government in Washington. However, they relied on market mechanisms to acquire their supplies and meet their needs without having to coerce anybody.

The American Civil War had devastating impact on the nation as a whole, as it led to the massive destruction of life and property. However, it had positive impact on the government of the United States. This is because it enabled the government to accomplish historical feats. These feats included the abolition of slave trade, reuniting the north and the southern states, and the supremacy of the federal government. Therefore, the great American Civil War of 1861-1865 had important consequences to the government of the United States, although it brought about the worst catastrophe which the nation had ever encountered.


The American Civil War (1861-1865) was one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the US. However, the legacy which it left behind is rather complex and ambiguous. Nevertheless, the war had affected the US government in various ways. To begin with, the government was able to reunite the north and the southern states, as the latter were placed under military rule and were not longer able to secede. Secondly, the war effectively brought an end to slavery. Most importantly, the federal government was able to assert its supremacy over the states, as the war put an end to state rights.


Chambers, J.W. (1999). The Oxford companion to American military history. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Olsen, C. J. (2002). Political culture and secession in Mississippi: Masculinity, honor, and the antiparty tradition, 1830-1860. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.