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National Park Service


The relevancy of history - and of the Civil War sites of the National Park Service - is to help us better understand the issues, trials, sacrifices, and struggles that past generations endured to bring us where we are today.

The war's most immediate legacy was growth: the federal government, the population, and the country itself all got bigger. The size and role of the federal government began a dramatic expansion, starting a trend that has never reversed. In 1860, the last full year before the fighting began, the federal budget was $78 million. By 1867, the first year in which the war could be eliminated as a major economic factor, the federal budget had grown almost fivefold, to $376.8 million. Federal spending never again dipped below $300 million a year.

The Republican commitment to aggressive federal action to spur economic development was apparent from the war's outset. In 1862 alone, Congress passed the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land Grant Colleges Act, and the Pacific Railway Act, all of which helped pave the way for postwar industrialization, urbanization, and westward expansion. In the war's aftermath, a succession of Republican administrations-only Grover Cleveland [twice] broke the party of Lincoln's hold on the White House before Woodrow Wilson's 1912 victory over a fractured Republican Party-continued the high tariffs and other economic policies friendly to business that signaled an unwavering commitment to capitalism. Legal scholars posit that this political victory of the Republicans was paralleled by a judicial revolution, a veritable "Second American Republic," with a strong nation-state governing a populace of national--not state--citizens, whose rights would be guaranteed by the federal authorities.

Year Population Growth over past decade % Growth over past decade % urban population
1860 31,443,321 19.8
1870 38,558,371 7,115,050 22 25.7
1880 50,189,209 11,630,838 30 28.2
1890 62,979,766 12,790,557 25 35.1
1900 76,212,168 13,232,402 21 39.6
Year Immigration totals over past decade Immigration as % of growth over past decade
1870 2,134,824 32.5
1880 2,812,191 24
1890 5,246,613 41
1900 3,687,564 28
Year Range Growth over range % Growth over range Immigration totals over range Immigration as % of growth over range
1860-1900 44,768,847 142 14,061,192 31

Table 2,3 and 4 U. S. Population Growth and Immigration, 1860 through 1900

As the table above illustrates, the nation's population growth kept pace with that of the central government. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the elimination of the threat of the extension of slavery, and the surge of immigration in the four decades after the war all spurred expansion to the Pacific coast. In the thirty years after the war's end, ten new states were admitted into the union. The country's population grew 142 percent between 1860 and 1900; 31 percent of that growth was due to immigration. The percentage of the population that was classified as city dwellers doubled, from 19.8 percent in 1860 to 39.6 percent in 1900, marking the emergence of an industrial, urban, increasingly diverse and economically dynamic nation.

The National Park Service commemorates a defining event in our nation's history and its legacy in the fight for civil rights. Join us.

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