In 1865 the issue of American Slavery, an issue dodged in 1783, an issue compromised in 1850, and an issue that tore us apart as a people was settled once and for all, by force of arms. By War. Secession was settled, too – settled most emphatically.
War settled whether the Mediterranean Sea would be a Carthaginian Lake or a Roman one. War settled whether Jerusalem would be Christian or Muslim. War determined whether a surrender document would be signed aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay or on the Yamato just off Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. War determined whether France would be living through four years, or a millennia of darkness under Nazi supermen, and a weird, ghostly war determined whether or not there would be Englishmen and Scots and Americans living and dying in gulags in Siberia.
And four years of unimaginably brutal war determined whether or not the United States of America would in fact be a land where all men are created equal. War determined whether the fatal, poisonous stain of slavery would split the nation into two irreconcilable camps, or whether the blood and sacrifice of men at Little Round Top and The Angle and Cold Harbor would, in part, wash away that stain and put right that which was unable to be put right at the birth of this awesome experiment in self-rule.
This, of course, is only part of the essay. Read the whole thing.