Historian Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money mocks DeMint's crackpot tale:
What Loomis points out here is one of my main takeaways from James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The short period (1860-65) when the U.S. government perforce operated without a bunch of conservative southern states obstructing progress was one of tremendous change and accomplishment well beyond the successful war to save the democratic republic.
- A Homestead Act enabled settlers moving west to stake claims to more than 3 million acres.
- The Morrill (Land-Grant) Act provided public land to states to found colleges and universities.
- The Paciic Railroad Act and other legislation gave railroads right of ways for their tracks and much additional land, thereby opening the west to modern commerce.
But the bill passed and the financing system proved stable thanks to the strength of the northern economy and Union victories -- and thanks to that other innovation of this Congress: an Internal Revenue Act which created a personal income tax as well as a Bureau of Internal Revenue. The former was a war measure; the later never afterwards withered away.
The new tax was relatively progressive; it exempted the food of the poor and the wages of manual laborers, hitting only persons of some property or other wealth.
Maybe that example is what DeMint truly resents -- along of course with freeing all those uppity black people.
McPherson summarizes the accomplishments of the Civil War Congress:
Much as I celebrate the accomplishments of my ancestors in preserving a republic that could gradually expand the freedom of all its people, I probably should feel a little cautious knowing that the progressive surge was made possible by war. The current, spurious post-9/11 wars have enabled far less desirable measures.
E.G. Spaulding, pictured here, was a western New York banker, a state assemblyman, mayor of Buffalo, a Congressman, "father of the greenback bill," and my great-great-great grandfather. Until reading "Battle Cry," I never had much sense of what he accomplished besides temporarily enriching himself.