Something profoundly important about America was altered in the years following the Civil War, something far more significant than even slavery, secession or state's rights.

For reasons that remain inexplicable to this day -- if only because they are rarely, if ever, discussed -- Congress was transformed from an assembly of private citizens devoting a few years to serving their fellow citizens to a host of career politicians critics see as mostly serving themselves.

This change has been graphically documented as never before in an innovative way today by Luke Rosiak of the Washington Examiner's watchdog investigative reporting team.

Throw the bums out?

Rosiak plotted the time served by senators and representatives for every Congress going back to the nation's founding.

What he found is the abrupt and amazing change in how Americans viewed their congressmen during and after the Civil War.

In 1820, only one member of Congress had ever served 30 or more years in office. Only eight members had been in Congress for 20 or more years.

Then in 1870, only five years after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, nobody in Congress had been there 20 or more years.

What happened?

But then in 1882, the trend line of congressional incumbency began a steady march upward to the present. In that year, 12 members had been in office for at least 20 years, while two had served 30 or more years.

By 1900, 26 members were veterans of 20 or more years in Congress, while another seven had been in office for 30 or more years.

In the 1946 elections, the first following FDR's death in 1945 and the first peacetime balloting since before Pearl Harbor, 69 members were 20+ year-veterans and 21 had served for 30 or more years.

The Watergate decade

Since the Civil War, there has been only one decade in which each congressional election saw a decline in the number of members with 20 or more years in office.

In 1972, the year President Richard Nixon was swept back into office for a second term, 124 members had been in Congress 20 or more years, while 40 had three decades or more in office.

A decade later, those numbers declined to 72 and 22, respectively. It's been uphill -- or downhill, depending upon your perspective -- ever since.

On today's

Editorial: Obama's slow-motion recovery creates a retrograde economy.

EXography/Luke Rosiak: Americans revile Congress but keep re-electing incumbents over and over.

Columnists/Jed Babbin: Even a Russian invasion of Ukraine won't disturb Obama's vacation.

Columnists/Cal Thomas: The comedy and tragedy of Robin Williams.

Columnists/Michael Barone: Fidelity to principle can make needed flexibility impossible.

Columnists/David Freddoso: Many Muslim leaders have denounced the Islamic State.

Beltway Confidential/Philip Klein: Can conservatives co-op Obamacare?

Beltway Confidential/T. Becket Adams: Rush Limbaugh responds to furor over Robin Williams remarks.

Legal Newsline/David Yates: Bulk of Alabama Dem AG candidate's funding from ex-con's PAC.

Video/Morning Examiner: Morning Examiner with Steve Doty for Aug. 14.

In other news

The Washington Post: Pentagon says Yazidis rescue mission unneeded.

NBC News: Gaza truce holds despite rocky start.

USA Today: Obama, Clinton break bread at private party.

Righty Playbook

The National Interest: Beware the siren song of disengagement.

The American Conservative: A canon for the officers' corps.

Hot Air: Lobbyists return to the White House in droves.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: The "Libertarian moment" can't just be a moment.

Lefty Playbook

Talking Points Memo: An important read on Ferguson.

Grist: U.S. Bikeshares has killed a shocking number of people -- None.

The Daily Beast: Trapped in an ISIS prison.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: The latest court case didn't end the NCAA as we know it, but the next one might.