Name: Charlotte Wall
School: Foothill High School
The Veins That Nourished a Nation
Among the several nicknames of Nevada, “The Battle Born State” has the historically strongest and noblest claim. But for the Civil War, Nevada would have waited far longer for statehood, and when it came, the event would have been far less important.
Let us examine the political situation on Oct. 31, 1864, the date of Nevada’s admission to the Union. The President, Abraham Lincoln was not so universally revered in life as he became after his martyrdomin fact, his reelection that coming November was in doubt. Moreover, the leading opposition candidate was George McClellan, who was expected to end the bloody war where it stood, far short of total victory. Almost certainly, the price of peace would have been allowing the former United States to continue permanently as two countries, one of them dedicated to continuing human slavery and po ssibly even expanding it into other countries. Nevada was rushed into statehood partly so its citizens, who mostly favored restoring the union could vote for the candidate who would do it- Mr. Lincoln.
As it turned out, Lincoln beat McClellan in most states, so the Nevada votes didn’t decide his reelection. But Lincoln had a second, more altruistic reason for the rush: He desired passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing forever slavery in the United States. To do that, it looked like he would need all the votes he could get in Congress, and admitting Nevada to the Union would give his side two more in the Senate and another in the House. And once seated, Nevada’s delegates would indeed support the amendment.
Thus, the entry of Nevada into the Union came about with sympathetic help from Congressional members who saw continuing the war as the only means of restoring the union, and also from members who want to end slavery. Many favored one goal and not necessarily both, but Lincoln’s election was seen as necessary to either, and Nevada’s support important to either.
The principal argument against Nevada’s statehood was that Nevada’s number of citizens stood well below the initial population of any other state admitted into the union by that time.
But arguments for admission are overwhelmingly more important.
Slavery had already spawned tremendous strife over the course of American history. For a country “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” slavery tarnished the reputation of a truly just and free republic- further, many thought it encumbered growth. Abraham Lincoln saw this fault in his country and eventually dared to correct it. Nevada’s joining his side helped accomplish that, and attach the title of “The Great Emancipator” forever to his name, like a medal a proud general never removes from his chest.
Without Nevada’s vote, it is possible slavery could still be an issue in America. Had the amendment failed at that time, it is certain slavery would have continued longer in the part of the United States not affected by the earlier Emancipation Proclamation, as well as any Confederate States the United States might not have conquered.
And what would that mean in reality? Famine, destitution, and indignity! And alongside slavery, the people would hoist an unjust aura of superlative humanity, one race over another. Were hands even shaken from one race to another, the gesture would be empty of genuine love; instead there would be the love for oneself and his or her power. The word “freedom” implies the possession of all privileges outlined in the Constitution and especially its Bill of Rights, but those rights would have continued limited to those of the same race as the men who wrote these ingenious documents.
Indeed, without freedom and equality, how would Americans fully apprehend the meaning of love? The granted privileges Americans possess today protect the principles of freedom and respect, two prime components that give one the ability to discern what love is. With independence comes dependency on oneself; a positive feedback loop of individuality and security enables one to actually pursue happiness, a deemed “inalienable right.” Should not this supreme right in each individual’s life, already expressed in the Declaration of Independence, be embedded in the Constitution, as law of the land?
Had I worn the size 14 shoes of Abraham Lincoln, the push for the inclusion of Nevada as a state would have been very high on my list of priorities.
Or had I been in a position even to help choose, as a member of Congress, I would have passionately urged admission. Without the entry of Nevada into the union, the abolition of slavery might not have occurred.
What kind of person would I have been had I decided, even so indirectly, to continue the enslavement of my fellow humans? I would not be anyone I would want to be.
Looking into the brilliant reflections of the twirling current in the Truckee River, I see not only the patience and tranquility of a timeless river, but an undercurrent of resolute determination characterizing generations in the land it waters, for 150 years. Though born during such a precarious and uncertain time, the state has continued to shine like the gold that proved, and still continuously does, its economic ability for success.
The zeal our Northern supporters had for freedom, equality, and individuality for ali, foretold the values Nevada would come to regard as preeminent. As our veins of silver and gold pumped wealth into the north to preserve the Union and abolish slavery, so do the veins of our hearts today pump strength into the liberty and equality of every individual American. lt would have been my absolute honor to have participated in the decision to admit this stout-hearted state into the Union, and to have supported the Great Emancipator in the noblest deed of the Nineteenth Century.