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Two of the most important long-term effects of the Civil War were a boom in industrialization and the eventual creation of a more democratic and just America.
The Civil War, of course, ended slavery in the United States. It did not immediately bring equality to African Americans. However, by ending slavery, it made eventual racial equality (to the extent that we now have it) possible. It also broke up the old aristocratic system in the South and made that region more democratic in the long term.
The Civil War helped the country experience an economic boom. With the Southern states out of Congress, laws were passed during the Civil War that allowed for the building of the transcontinental railroad, for the homesteading of the Great Plains, and for the creation of land grant colleges. All of these things helped to boost the economy of the United States, helping to make it into the world-class industrial power that it was within 50 years of the beginning of the war.
One other long-term effect of the Civil War is the tension between the states' rights and the Federal government. I have never done a statistical analysis, but I am willing to bet money that a substantial majority of the cases that come before the Supreme Court involving states' rights as against Federal authority are brought by Southern states. The failure of the Southern states to secede is a failure that is being litigated over and over again, over abortion, over education, over marriage, and so on. The Civil War was about slavery, to be sure, but it was more largely about the autonomy of the Southern states to act as they pleased, no matter what the federal government deemed. Certainly, the Constitution is meant to balance these rights, but it is clear that when it takes hundreds of thousands of lives to defend it or to try to break free of it, that tension is not broken by a declaration of peace. It survives to this day, manifested in Confederate flags, the culture wars, and the speeches of politicians.
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