English: Picture of the Abraham Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial. Italiano: La statua di Lincoln al Lincoln Memorial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is always risky busy to attack an American god, and Abraham Lincoln is, de facto, an American god with his own temple in Washington, D.C. No doubt, slavery was wrong and played a major role in leading to the War Between the States. It was not the only or major factor–quotations can be taken out of context from Southerners during and before the war, but reading them in context reveals that the right to succession was the more important issue, as it was to Lincoln himself–his task, he believed during most of his presidency, was to “save the Union.”
H. L. Mencken was among those who recognized Mr. Lincoln’s true legacy–that of dictatorially forcing states back into the United States using brutal military force. Mr. Lincoln refused to honor any peace initiative other than a complete surrender of the Confederate States to the authority of the federal government. If people complain about a mammoth state today, they should look to Mr. Lincoln’s legacy.
Abraham Lincoln may have lived in the 19th century, but in many respects he remained a man of the eighteenth century French Enlightenment. He was a revolutionary in the sense of the French, not the American, revolution. He accepted the deism of the Enlightenment, though he used religious language for his own political purposes. He believed in the “proposition that all men are created equal,” abstract language which should remind people of Rousseau’s “general will.” Such Rousseauian language has been used by tyrants from his time to the current time. Recent evidence also suggest that Mr. Lincoln was influenced by German Marxists who had immigrated to the United States.
Beginning in 1862, Mr. Lincoln decided on a policy of “total war,” modern warfare in the sense that he supported attacks on civilians. While Robert E. Lee ordered his soldiers not to mistreat civilians, Mr. Lincoln’s generals, such as William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan, brutalized the Southern population, much to the delight of liberals today. Later, Mr. Sherman and Mr. Sheridan would use the same brutal tactics in their genocide of the Native American population in the American West.
Mr. Lincoln also suspended Habeus Corpus, violating a Supreme Court ruling in doing so, and thousands of people were imprisoned–newspaper editors who criticized the conduct of the war, ministers who opposed the war, anyone who even hinted of opposing the massive power of Mr. Lincoln in any way.
Regarding slavery, Mr. Lincoln was willing to allow it 1863, when he figured that if he emancipated slaves in the South, he could foment rebellion. His Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate States; slaves in the Union states remained slaves until the passage of the 13th Amendment in December 1865. Even General U. S. Grant owned slaves. Mr. Lincoln hoped to send African slaves in their descendants to South America (mainly) and also to Africa.
600,000 men died in the War between the States–around 250,000 from battle deaths and the rest from disease. The brutal military government of the captured Southern States caused misery after the War–Lincoln’s own postwar generous policy toward the South was as much a political move looking forward to the 1868 election as it was due to any genuine conviction. The same can be said for his successor, Andrew Johnson, who was brutal as a military governor of Tennessee, but then backed down after he supported Lincoln’s postwar policies.
The modern centralized state that was Lincoln’s legacy survived because of several Supreme Court rulings in the 1870s that limited the federal government’s power, but which reared its head with World War I, the witch hunts of the post World War I period, the welfare state, and the dictatorial presidency of FDR in World War II. Presidents today appropriate to themselves, often with the help of a complacent Congress, more power, so that soon the president of the U.S. will have as much legal power in peacetime as Lincoln had in wartime.
“What about the freeing of the slaves,” a liberal bird chirps. Yes, it is good that slavery ended–owning another human being is a violation of human dignity and is morally wrong. The North enjoyed enslaving its factory workers in their own way after the War between the States–so there is hypocrisy present. With the advent of the machine economy, slaves would have no longer been necessary for the kind of agricultural production used in the antebellum South. It is likely that slaves would have been emancipated by the 1870s, though an apartheid system most likely would have been set up. Since that is what happened anyway, what was really gained under than the destruction of 600,000 lives, mass poverty and starvation in the South, and states that no longer were able to affirm their rights without federal pressure and/or federal troops being sent to the states. Evil practices are best contained in small units–if a state does something immoral, that can be stopped through public activism and grass roots movements. But if the all-powerful federal government does something immoral, there is no recourse, thanks to Mr. Lincoln. He won. He’s god in the history books and in the American educational system. The Abbeville Institute is trying to present a more balanced scholarly approach to the period of the War between the States, but that effort is ignored or viciously attacked by other “academics,” even though some members of the Institute protested in favor of civil rights in the 1960s. The winners really do write the history books.