A new nation has appeared within the United States since the Civil War, but it has been only accidentally connected with that catastrophe. The Constitution emerged from the confusion of strife and reconstruction substantially unchanged, but the economic development of the United States in the sixties and seventies gave birth to a society that was, by 1885, already national in its activities and necessities. In many ways the history of the United States since the Civil War has to do with the struggle between this national fact and the old legal system that was based upon state autonomy and federalism; and the future depends upon the discovery of a means to readjust the mechanics of government, as well as its content, to the needs of life. This book attempts to narrate the facts of the last half-century and to show them in their relations to the larger truths of national development.
its value on the hope that it would some day be redeemed.
The needs of the Treasury, in the crisis of suspension, induced Congress to authorize the emission of $150,000,000 of legal-tender paper money. These notes, soon known as the "greenbacks," became the measure of the difference between standard money and coin. Issued at par, they sank in value and fluctuated until in the darkest days of 1864 a dollar in gold could be exchanged for $2.85 in greenbacks. Yet they were called dollars, and the creditor was forced to accept them in payment of his debts. They were themselves a forced loan, borrowed by compulsion from the people, and constituting $433,000,000 in the total debts of the United States in 1865.
The greenback element in the national debt threatened the integrity of the whole. Should redemption take place at par, and at once, the credit of the United States could not fail to be strengthened. But should the greenbacks be allowed to remain below par, should more of them be issued, or shou