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The Inarguably Awful 37th?

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Allow me to share Mark Greenbaum’s outrage over Chadwick Matlin’s poorly thought out and virtually unexplained list of the worst Congresses in U.S. history, ending with the “inarguably-awful 37th,” which from 1861-63, oversaw “the eruption of a catastrophic civil war.”

As Greenbaum points out, the 37th Congress did more than virtually any Congress in history, creating mechanisms that both helped the Union win the war and preparing the way for the explosion in American capitalism after the war. Even if some of these measures led to the excesses of the Gilded Age, to call this Congress the worst in American history makes absolutely no sense. It passed the first graduated income tax, passed the National Banking Act that created the first national currency, the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act that vastly expanded American higher education, the Homestead Act which vastly facilitated American growth, abolishes slavery in Washington, D.C., and many other smaller but also important pieces of legislation.

Also, what was that Congress supposed to do about secession? By the time it was seated in 1861, several states had already seceded. Was it supposed to allow the South to make the United States a true slave nation, with slavery protected throughout not only the territories but the northern states as well? Would that have made Matlin feel better about the 37th Congress?

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