500 Strong: Wabash College in the Civil War  

Professor Crofts began his presentation paying tribute to his Wabash mentors Professors Jack Charles H’52 ('He made me realize it could be fun to study history') and Professor and Dean Steve Kurtz ('He made it plain to me that the study of history demanded moral and ethical sensibilities, and he put me on the direction I've been pursuing ever since then.')

Professor Crofts' specialty is the American history in the years immediately prior to the Civil War. After sharing six insights from those studies (the sixth being that without the Civil War, there would be no promise of equality or the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment to the Constitution), he turned to the focus of his new book, 'the would-be 13th amendment' that was passed by Lincoln and Republicans in 1861 before his inauguration and which would have prohibited Congress from abolishing or interfering with state-allowed slavery. The contrast between that amendment and the 13th Amendment Lincoln worked so hard to pass in 1864-65 shows not only the power the Civil War had re-shaping politics, but also the folly of the seceding states, called by one historian 'the strongest example of bad judgment in American history.' Extremists in the South led secession, extremists in the North supported war, and those extremes pushed circumstances out of control and into conflict, yet the outcome led to perhaps the most important amendments to the Constitution.  'And If there had been no war,' Crofts said, 'there would have been no end to slavery.'

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