On last night’s Daily Show, after a spirited discussion about The Civil War, Jon Stewart pitted Judge Andrew Napolitano against Honest Abe Lincoln in a game of The Weakest Lincoln, judged by a panel of three historians.
Click here to watch an extended version.
Judge Andrew Napolitano’s previous statements criticized on the Daily Show were in fact correct. Isn’t it ironic though Abe Lincoln, a slave owner himself, is being portrayed by a black female..? We’ve also need to realize history is subjective with a multitude of theories explaining the present. So a panel of historians doesn’t grant validity as opinions differ throughout the field.
Judge Napolitano made a historical claim here. A claim about events. Such a claim is not an opinion or a theory. It’s either true or false.
Guess what? It’s true.
As Economist & Historian Thomas DiLorenzo pointed out:
The Judge also pointed out that Lincoln sent federal marshals to apprehend runaway slaves and return them to their owners in the South. The panel of liars chanted in unison, “It’s not true.” Well, yes it is true. The latest scholarship on the issue of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which Lincoln very strongly supported in his first inaugural address, is Stanley Campbell, The Slave Catchers(University of North Carolina Press, 2011). Campbell writes that “The Fugitive Slave Law remained in force and was executed by federal marshals” all during the Lincoln regime, just as Judge Napolitano said.
Campbell also writes this: “In May, 1862, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ruled that the Fugitive Slave Law was applicable to the District of Columbia as it was to any of the states. The docket of the court for 1862 listed the claims of twenty-eight different slave owners for 101 runaway slaves. In the two months following the court’s decision, 26 fugitive slaves were returned to their owners from the fugitive slave tribunal in the nation’s capital.”
Again, to quote from Campbell:
"As late as June 1863, six months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, fugitive slaves were still being returned to their masters in the loyal states…" and he goes on to give specific examples, contained in the first link provided above.
And why was Lincoln, a vicious racist, being portrayed by Jessica Williams? Because she’s the only black correspondent at The Daily Show and Jon was trying to imply that to be critical of Lincoln is racism, as well as to show that he has black friends. (Just a guess on my part)
This whole thing was completely disgusting and I really cannot understand anymore the mindset that regular viewers of this show must have.
If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.
— Abraham Lincoln, letter to Horace Greely - August 22, 1862
“Jon Stewart is very, very afraid of of us, apparently. Several emailers have written to inform me that Stewart did a small hit/smear job on Judge Andrew Napolitano on The Daily Show last night. The ‘hit’ was about how the Judge [said] that the U.S. probably could have ended slavery the same way that New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and all the other Northern states did, as well as the British empire, Spanish empire, the French, Danes, Dutch, Swedes, and others during the nineteenth century, namely, peacefully. (See Jim Powell, Greatest Emancipations: How the West Ended Slavery; and Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780-1860). No, no, said Stewart and pals, 750,000 dead Americans , more than double that number maimed for life, and the total destruction of the voluntary union of the founders was the only way to go. Southerners, six percent of whom owned slaves, ‘were willing to die to preserve slavery’ announced the renowned historian Jon Stewart. The Great Oz (er, I mean, The Great Abe) did what was necessary said the great historical sage and his cast of clowns.”
Thomas J. DiLorenzo (via eltigrechico)
LTMC: Notwithstanding the merits of this argument, Napolitano did a pretty poor job making his case. Many of the things he said were demonstrably false. He claimed that Lincoln never tried compensated emancipation. That’s wrong. He also claimed that the civil war was not necessarily about slavery. This is a line of thinking that has long been discredited by the historical record. The vice president of the Confederacy expressly mentioned slavery as a justification for the new Government in his 1861 Cornerstone Speech. The cessation declarations of numerous southern states mentioned it. The Constitution of the Confederate States of America expressly mentions it. Most people who were alive at the time also understood this to be the case. As Charles Sumner stated in a speech on the floor of the U.S. senate in 1860:
[T]here are two apparent rudiments to this war. One is Slavery and the other is State Rights. But the latter is only a cover for the former. If Slavery were out of the way there would be no trouble from State Rights.
Historians are basically on the same page here. As Princeton Historian James McPherson notes:
Scholars today are mostly of one mind about why South Carolina seceded and what caused the war. But Americans, even a century and a half later, still deeply disagree with each other and historians, many of them embracing a Civil War story about self-government and “states’ rights” that reveals more about America in 2010 than what actually occurred in the 1860s.
There are other reasons to hate Abraham Lincoln—like the suppression of freedom of the press and the suspension of Habeas Corpus. I would definitely agree that he gets more credit than he deserves. But Napolitano completely butchered the facts on this one. I’m sure there’s a more resilient case to be made that the civil war was unnecessary. But Napolitano failed to make it.
1. Re: compensated emancipation:
DiLorenzo has noted: “Lincoln did pay lip service to various compensated emancipation plans, and he even proposed a compensated emancipation bill (combined with colonization) in 1862. But the man whom historians would later describe as one of the master politicians of all time failed to use his legendary political skills and rhetorical gifts to accomplish what every other country in the world where slavery had once existed had done; end it peacefully, without resort to warfare.”
Furthermore, slavery was in decline not just throughout the world but even in the states: “Slavery was already in sharp decline in the border states and the upper South generally, mostly for economic reasons … there is evidence that there was growing political support within the border states for gradual, peaceful emancipation that would have ended slavery there.”
2. Re: civil war was necessarily about slavery:
You point to Alexander Stephens’ speech as evidence that the civil war was necessarily about slavery, but (1) his speech was about secession not war, and (2) slavery was one of a number of elements of that speech. You also point to the Confederate constitution, but again it was only one element among many others (just as in the U.S. constitution - which included important recognitions of freedom alongside an approval of slavery). There is no doubt that it was a contributing factor in the call to secession, perhaps a key factor - and no one denies its deplorable nature. But it was not the reason for war.
"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
His only concern was to “save the union.”
In his first inaugural address, Lincoln’s very first order of business was to firmly reiterate his defense of the “right” of southerners to own slaves:
Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.
I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration”
He even went so far as to claim no objection to the Corwin Amendment - a proposed amendment that would have made the question of slavery a state issue of which the federal government could not interfere with - being made “express and irrevocable law”:
I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service….holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
Yet, he was already discussing war with regards to keeping the union together - arguing to let differences in this question of slavery slide so as to not divide it:
One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.
Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.
And while many southerners believed in the superiority of the white race, so did many northerners - including Lincoln himself who said in his debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858:
“I as much as any man want the superior position to belong to the white race.”
So “state’s rights” was not a cover for preserving slavery per the popular narrative that Sumner suggested, it was ending slavery that was a cover for fighting a war.
3. Re: a more resilient case to be made that the civil war was unnecessary:
The case, to me, is obvious. Take the above Lincoln letter to Greely and replace “Union” with “marriage” - substituting one form of voluntary human association with another. Is a man justified in beating his wife to keep her from leaving him if her reasons are deplorable? Are marriages expected to exist “in perpetuity”?
Further, how would a voluntary association among one group of people be seen as legitimate in forcing subsequent generations into irrevocable association? Lysander Spooner, the great slavery abolitionist, made the case both against the war and in favor of consent in 1867:
On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union.
The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.
No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle —- but only in degree —- between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man’s ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and [*iv] asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure.
Previous to the war, there were some grounds for saying that —- in theory, at least, if not in practice —- our government was a free one; that it rested on consent. But nothing of that kind can be said now, if the principle on which the war was carried on by the North, is irrevocably established. …
The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest, that —- however bloody —- can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed, so long as man refuses to be a slave. …
The number who actually consented to the Constitution of the United States, at the first, was very small. Considered as the act of the whole people, the adoption of the Constitution was the merest farce and imposture, binding upon nobody.
The women, children, and blacks, of course, were not asked to give their consent. In addition to this, there were, in nearly or quite all the States, property qualifications that excluded probable one half, two thirds, or perhaps even three fourths, of the white male adults from the right of suffrage. And of those who were allowed that right, we know not how many exercised it.
Furthermore, those who originally agreed to the Constitution, could thereby bind nobody that should come after them. They could contract for nobody but themselves. They had no more [*5] natural right or power to make political contracts, binding upon succeeding generations, than they had to make marriage or business contracts binding upon them.
Still further. Even those who actually voted for the adoption of the Constitution, did not pledge their faith for any specific time; since no specific time was named, in the Constitution, during which the association should continue. It was, therefore, merely an association during pleasure; even as between the original parties to it. Still less, if possible, has it been any thing more than a merely voluntary association, during pleasure, between the succeeding generations, who have never gone through, as their fathers did, with so much even as any outward formality of adopting it, or of pledging their faith to support it. Such portions of them as pleased, and as the States permitted to vote, have only done enough, by voting and paying taxes, (and unlawfully and tyrannically extorting taxes from others,) to keep the government in operation for the time being. And this, in the view of the Constitution, they have done voluntarily, and because it was for their interest, or pleasure, and not because they were under any pledge or obligation to do it. Any one man, or any number of men, have had a perfect right, at any time, to refuse his or their further support; and nobody could rightfully object to his or their withdrawal.
In any case, even if ending slavery was the object, preserving the union as it existed prior to southern secession was, at best, unnecessary - even if allowing the natural death of slavery was considered not immediate enough.
Naturally, force - even lethal force - is justified against a violent aggressor. There are few greater aggressions than that of slavery. Ergo, slaves were justified in using lethal force to end the aggression from those who considered themselves their masters. Furthermore, the principle is well established that others may come to aid a victim of aggression from his or her aggressor. In short, it would be completely justified for a slave, or a non-slave in the aid of a slave, to kill a slave owner.
So even accepting that armed force targeted against slave owners is justified, it does not follow that (1) full scale war (with, in addition to the expected destruction and waste, the ugliness that comes with war such as civilian deaths, collateral damage, razing towns, and raping women, etc. - perpetuated by the ostensible emancipators) was necessary since such action was unnecessary everywhere else in the world, including places with far greater and long-standing histories of employing slave labor. It also does not follow that (2) the re-establishment of the union was a necessary next step. Even if war broke out as a consequence of northerners assisting in the escape and emancipation of slaves, it still did not necessitate hundreds of thousands dead and the conquest and re-absorption of southern states.
It is unfortunate that this must be stated, but considering the usual replies: None of this should be interpreted as support of slavery whatsoever, nor support for the Confederacy. I have no sympathy for slave-owners or states of any kind. I am anti-slavery for the same reasons I am anti-war and anti-state. Every human being is sovereign in his or her own peaceful affairs, and ultimately it is consent that is the foundation of a civilized society. As such, what I support is the fundamental freedom of association: the ability of one to interact with another using his or her person or property in any peaceful, consensual manner the interacting parties choose. Not only is this just, it is also the most effective means for disparate individuals with subjective preferences - different desires, wants, histories, cultures, families, talents, disabilities, worries, concerns, allergies, principles, fears, goals, tastes, vices, etc. - to achieve our varied ends. Secession, thus, is a natural extension of this right.
Watching Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Hey, I’m already suspending disbelief that he was a good guy so killer of vampires is but a small step from there…
Same answer for both: a power-hungry, war-mongering tyrant who deceived the public into supporting immense growth of federal government hegemony through slick public speaking.
Abraham Lincoln made the strongest defense of Southern slavery that was ever made in his first inaugural address, even pledging to support its explicit enshrinement in the Constitution, while threatening war over tax collection in the same speech. Since he had no intention of freeing any slaves, and waging war over tax collection would have made him an international war criminal, he needed to invent an excuse for invading his own country (the very definition of treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, by the way). So he fabricated the notion of a “perpetual union.” The founding fathers, Lincoln implied, would have agreed with him that if any group of people ever attempted to leave the “voluntary” union that the founders created, the central government would have the “right” to invade those states, murder their citizens by the hundreds of thousands, bomb their cities, burn some of them to the ground, and plunder their wealth. This of course is what Lincoln’s army did, all in the name preserving a seventy-year old political bargain. As for Fort Sumter, it is revealing that Lincoln wrote his naval commander, Gustavus Fox, after the incident (in which no one was injured, let alone killed) thanking him for his assistance in goading the South Carolinians into firing the first shot and instigating a war.
Said Lincoln in 1848: “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”
At that point in American history some of the most significant rumblings about secession since the Revolution had been in the North—with the loudest voices often coming from abolitionists who wanted to sever their political union with the slave-holding states. …
Liberals do not want to be confronted with these uncomfortable philosophical contradictions concerning centralization vs. decentralization—the debate that raged in 1776, 1861 and still rages today—because any such intellectual exploration toward this end threatens the very heart of the Left’s collectivist historical narrative. For progressives, the ever-increasing power of the federal government represents human liberation and political liberalization—period. This has been the Left’s clarion call from FDR to Barack Obama, and any talk of devolving centralized power—even in the name of what would typically be considered liberal causes—is heresy.
In this light, for liberals, not only was the Civil War just about slavery—it must be just about slavery. And that Lincoln simply freed the slaves is not just the end of the story—it is the only story—lest Americans begin down the dangerous path of looking at their history and government with honest and open eyes.
Yes, the ‘Civil War’ was an atrocity. And perhaps there is a contingent of deluded and misguided folk that somehow cherish a noble notion of a Confederacy, sans any allusion to the evil of slavery.
Are you really casting the Confederacy as a just cause — the reason for secession was entirely predicated on the defense of the diabolical practice of institutionalized slavery. To claim otherwise is to be ignorant of history, or worse, submit to racist historical revisionism.
Speaking of “deluded and misguided”… that’s a pretty spectacular reframing of an argument. Though I must commend you on your ability to skip through a mindfield of truth and come out the other end unscathed, I cannot be surprised with the use of non-sequiturs.
Not once - not a single time - did I mention the word ‘Confederacy’ nor highlight it as a unified ‘cause’ (much less meritoriously or longingly so). The closest mention was of Southerners as separate individuals: “while slavery may have been a sticking point for many Southerners, it wasn’t the only reason for secession - nor was it the reason the North attacked the South.” Which mostly encapsulated what my piece focused on: that participation and association cannot be forced because that supposes the same dominion over another as slavery and that the North’s aggression was undue.
As quoted in the original, “for whatever reasons the Southern States had to secede from the “Union,” they had an inalienable right to secede.” That Confederates primarily or even wholly claimed slavery as their motivation for secession is irrelevant to the argument.
Just as a man may leave his wife for any immoral or ignoble reason, the South’s reasons were not what I was addressing - only (1) their right to freely associate and confederate in any manner they voluntarily wished and (2) the evils perpetrated by Lincoln under the guise of unity and ending slavery. If a man were to leave his wife, and his reasons were determined by his wife and the entirety of society as unjust, must he then be beaten and forced to remain with his wife irrespective of his volition?
And it’s not about “states’ rights,” another phrase you constructed out of words that, in my piece, were never neighbors. States don’t have rights, people do. And people, individuals, have an absolute right to voluntary association. The idea of secession must not be seen as a tool of oppressors, but as an exercise in liberty.
Since your reply is nothing more than continued non-sequiturs, there is no need to respond further aside from referring back to my original statements.
In Georgia 47% of Republicans are content with the Union victory, while 31% wish the South had won. Democrats (58/17) and independents (54/19) are both strongly supportive of the North, making the overall numbers 53/23.
In North Carolina GOP voters are almost evenly divided on the outcome of the war with 35% glad for the North’s victory, 33% ruing the South’s loss, and 32% taking neither side. Democrats (55/15) and independents (57/14) have similar numbers to Georgia but due to the greater ambivalence of Republicans about the northern victory, overall less than half of Tar Heel voters (48%) are glad the Union won to 21% who wish the Confederacy had.
In Mississippi no group of the electorate seems all that enthused about the North having won. Republicans, by a 38/21 margin, outright wish the South had won. Democrats (39/22) and independents (49/15) side with the North but compared to those voter groups in North Carolina and Georgia they’re pretty ambivalent. Overall just 34% of voters in the state are glad the Union prevailed to 27% who wish the rebels had been victorious.
These are simply crazy numbers, and I’d be shocked if the pro-Confederate respondents have thought through the implications of their views. That is, if these questions were rephrased, “Are you happy with the Union victory and the end of slavery?”, I would be floored if significant numbers voiced unhappiness with that outcome. In any case, this is a nice illustration of the Confederate sympathy that seems to be entrenched among a significant portion of Southern Republicans.
Being unhappy about the so-called Civil War or its outcome does not immediately imply a desire to categorize an entire race of humanity as property to be owned and abused by others. Conflating the two is simply a straw man meant to vilify political opponents by branding their arguments invalid for allegedly holding a despicable opinion.
The ‘Civil War’ was an atrocity that killed hundreds of thousands simply to involuntarily force a portion of the states into association with the whole. As I quoted recently:
For whatever reasons the Southern States had to secede from the “Union,” they had an inalienable right to secede. All people have a God-given right to associate or not associate with others, voluntarily. If the people of a particular territory want to separate from a federal union of states, they have every right to separate, just as the Founding Fathers had a right to separate from British rule. No institution or authority has the right to compel any individual or group into association or contract involuntarily. To believe that the federal government had any moral right to force the people of the seceding states to return to federal association involuntarily is to believe that some people with armed power have a right to claim ownership and control of other people, pure and simple.
We are all sovereign individuals. When anyone else, be he a king, a thug or a majority, demands anything of us (other than that we respect the libertarian axioms of property and non aggression), they are imposing upon us; they are invading us, and violating our rights. Secession is a necessary concomitant of liberty.
Further, while slavery may have been a sticking point for many Southerners, it wasn’t the only reason for secession - nor was it the reason the North attacked the South. In fact, Lincoln himself favored slavery and believed in the superiority of the white man.
Everything about this politically-correct fantasy [that the war was fought to simply free the slaves] is patently false, regardless of how many times it is repeated in the New York Times and Washington Post. Some Southern politicians did indeed defend slavery, but not as strongly as Abraham Lincoln did in his first inaugural address, where he supported the enshrinement of Southern slavery explicitly in the U.S. Constitution (the “Corwin Amendment”) for the first time ever. Coming from the president of the United States, this was the strongest defense of slavery ever made by an American politician.
Some Southern politicians did say that their society was based on white supremacy, but so did Abraham Lincoln and most other Northern politicians. “I as much as any man want the superior position to belong to the white race,” Lincoln said in a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858. When Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery into the new territories (but not Southern slavery), he gave the standard Northern white supremacist reason: We want the territories to be reserved “for free white labor,” he said. The Lincoln cultists can quote Alexander Stephens’ “cornerstone” speech all they want, but the truth is that Abraham Lincoln, and most of the leaders of the Republican Party, were in total agreement with Stephens. White supremacy was as much (if not more of) a “cornerstone” of Northern society as it was of Southern society in the 1860s.
Lincoln did not fight a war to free slaves, in fact he would have been happy to keep slavery if it meant keeping the southern states from declaring independence.
[W]hen it came time to decide whether he’d rather preserve the Union or abolish slavery, the Union stamped on that scale like an elephant next to a feather. In an 1862 letter to the New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it […].”
And a war was not needed elsewhere in the world to end slavery where it had been practiced for much, much longer - why is the assumption that without this war slavery would have continued in perpetuity?
Lincoln fought a war to centralize and grant himself the most dictatorial powers any president has ever wielded. This had long been his goal, as he spent “his 25-year off-and-on political career prior to 1857 championing the Whig project of centralized government that would engage in a kind of economic central planning, … [including] federal railroad subsidies, a tripling of the average tariff rate that would remain that high or higher long after the war ended, and centralized banking with the National Currency and Legal Tender Acts." He imprisoned and deported a Congressman. He wiped out swaths of Indian populations. As a response to the South killing a horse, he engineered a "culture of death" unlike anything any American president has even overseen:
Lincoln’s war ended up costing 620,000 battlefield deaths along with the death of some 50,000 Southern civilians, including thousands of slaves who perished in the federal army’s bombardment of Southern cities and because of its devastation of the Southern economy. By 1865 the Lincoln government had killed one out of every four Southern white males between the ages of 20 and 40.
To put these numbers in perspective, standardizing for today’s population of 280 million, that would be roughly the equivalent of 5 million deaths — about 100 times the number of Americans who died in the ten-year Vietnam War.
Lincoln famously micromanaged the war effort. Historian James McPherson writes of how he spent more time in the War Department’s telegraph office than anywhere else, and spent 41 days in the field with the Army of the Potomac. He was fully in charge as the commander in chief, and orchestrated the mass killing for four years. His favorite general, Ulysses S. Grant, was made top commander of the army because of his willingness to send tens of thousands of men into a slaughter pen, as he did in the Battle of the Wilderness and elsewhere.
From the very beginning, Lincoln’s war strategy involved waging war on Southern civilians despite the fact that such tactics were denounced by the Geneva Convention of 1863 and even by Lincoln’s own military code (the “Lieber Code,” named after its author, Columbia University law professor Francis Lieber). Federal soldiers plundered and pillaged their way through the South for four years. In 1861 federal commanders began taking civilians hostage and sometimes shooting them in retaliation for Confederate guerrilla attacks. As Colonel John Beatty warned the residents of Paint Rock, Alabama: “Every time the telegraph wire is cut we would burn a house; every time a train was fired upon we would hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport.” The town of Paint Rock was burned to the ground.
And believing so hardly makes me - a hispanic, son of exiles, resident of the West coast - some backwards hillbilly longing for the days of black slavery. In fact, libertarianism itself - the dual tenets of self-ownership and non-aggression - is emphatically and diametrically opposed to any force or coercion, especially such as atrocious as the forced enslavement of other human beings.
And with good reason.
The great stumbling-block issue for the Guardian [newspaper] and many other liberals was the right to self-determination. The paper believed that the south had the right to secede and to establish an independent state. It suspected that it would succeed. It thought, as Gladstone did, that this might hasten the end of slavery – and it may have been right, since no slave society, including Cuba and Brazil, survived into the 20th century. Above all, though, the paper wanted to be consistent. It had supported independence for the Slavs, the Hungarians, the Italians and the Egyptians – so why not for the Confederates, too?
More than anyone, Lincoln stood for the preservation of the union at all costs. As a result the Guardian was ferociously against him, to a degree that now seems not just perverse but even shaming. Lincoln was undoubtedly sincere, the paper said in October 1862, but “it is impossible not to feel that it was an evil day both for America and the world, when he was chosen president of the United States”.
The Guardian’s anti-Lincoln obsession reached its heights in the April 1865 editorial on, of all things, the president’s assassination. “Of his rule we can never speak except as a series of acts abhorrent to every true notion of constitutional right and human liberty,” the paper wrote…
Happy birthday last week, Abraham Lincoln! It seems like only 150 years ago that your decisions led to the bloodiest war in American history, the complete shredding of our beloved Constitution and the utter destruction of what was meant to be the most beautiful republic to have ever existed.