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Lincoln: Tyrant, Hypocrite or Consumate Statesman? (Dinesh defends our 2d Greatest Prez)
thehistorynet. ^ | Feb 12, 05 | D'Souza

Posted on 02/18/2005 11:27:18 PM PST by churchillbuff

The key to understanding Lincoln's philosophy of statesmanship is that he always sought the meeting point between what was right in theory and what could be achieved in practice. By Dinesh D'Souza

Most Americans -- including most historians -- regard Abraham Lincoln as the nation's greatest president. But in recent years powerful movements have gathered, both on the political right and the left, to condemn Lincoln as a flawed and even wicked man.

For both camps, the debunking of Lincoln usually begins with an exposé of the "Lincoln myth," which is well described in William Lee Miller's 2002 book Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography. How odd it is, Miller writes, that an "unschooled" politician "from the raw frontier villages of Illinois and Indiana" could become such a great president. "He was the myth made real," Miller writes, "rising from an actual Kentucky cabin made of actual Kentucky logs all the way to the actual White House."

Lincoln's critics have done us all a service by showing that the actual author of the myth is Abraham Lincoln himself. It was Lincoln who, over the years, carefully crafted the public image of himself as Log Cabin Lincoln, Honest Abe and the rest of it. Asked to describe his early life, Lincoln answered, "the short and simple annals of the poor," referring to Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." Lincoln disclaimed great aspirations for himself, noting that if people did not vote for him, he would return to obscurity, for he was, after all, used to disappointments.

These pieties, however, are inconsistent with what Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, said about him: "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest." Admittedly in the ancient world ambition was often viewed as a great vice. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus submits his reason for joining the conspiracy against Caesar: his fear that Caesar had grown too ambitious. But as founding father and future president James Madison noted in The Federalist, the American system was consciously designed to attract ambitious men. Such ambition was presumed natural to a politician and favorable to democracy as long as it sought personal distinction by promoting the public good through constitutional means.

What unites the right-wing and left-wing attacks on Lincoln, of course, is that they deny that Lincoln respected the law and that he was concerned with the welfare of all. The right-wing school -- made up largely of Southerners and some libertarians -- holds that Lincoln was a self-serving tyrant who rode roughshod over civil liberties, such as the right to habeas corpus. Lincoln is also accused of greatly expanding the size of the federal government. Some libertarians even charge -- and this is not intended as a compliment -- that Lincoln was the true founder of the welfare state. His right-wing critics say that despite his show of humility, Lincoln was a megalomaniacal man who was willing to destroy half the country to serve his Caesarian ambitions. In an influential essay, the late Melvin E. Bradford, an outspoken conservative, excoriated Lincoln as a moral fanatic who, determined to enforce his Manichaean vision -- one that sees a cosmic struggle between good and evil -- on the country as a whole, ended up corrupting American politics and thus left a "lasting and terrible impact on the nation's destiny."

Although Bradford viewed Lincoln as a kind of manic abolitionist, many in the right-wing camp deny that the slavery issue was central to the Civil War. Rather, they insist, the war was driven primarily by economic motives. Essentially, the industrial North wanted to destroy the economic base of the South. Historian Charles Adams, in When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, published in 2000, contends that the causes leading up to the Civil War had virtually nothing to do with slavery.

This approach to rewriting history has been going on for more than a century. Alexander Stephens, former vice president of the Confederacy, published a two-volume history of the Civil War between 1868 and 1870 in which he hardly mentioned slavery, insisting that the war was an attempt to preserve constitutional government from the tyranny of the majority. But this is not what Stephens said in the great debates leading up to the war. In his "Cornerstone" speech, delivered in Savannah, Ga., on March 21, 1861, at the same time that the South was in the process of seceding, Stephens said that the American Revolution had been based on a premise that was "fundamentally wrong." That premise was, as Stephens defined it, "the assumption of equality of the races." Stephens insisted that instead: "Our new [Confederate] government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man. Slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great and moral truth."

This speech is conspicuously absent from the right's revisionist history. And so are the countless affirmations of black inferiority and the "positive good" of slavery -- from John C. Calhoun's attacks on the Declaration of Independence to South Carolina Senator James H. Hammond's insistence that "the rock of Gibraltar does not stand so firm on its basis as our slave system." It is true, of course, that many whites who fought on the Southern side in the Civil War did not own slaves. But, as Calhoun himself pointed out in one speech, they too derived an important benefit from slavery: "With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals." Calhoun's point is that the South had conferred on all whites a kind of aristocracy of birth, so that even the most wretched and degenerate white man was determined in advance to be better and more socially elevated than the most intelligent and capable black man. That's why the poor whites fought -- to protect that privilege.

Contrary to Bradford's high-pitched accusations, Lincoln approached the issue of slavery with prudence and moderation. This is not to say that he waffled on the morality of slavery. "You think slavery is right, and ought to be extended," Lincoln wrote Stephens on the eve of the war, "while we think it is wrong, and ought to be restricted." As Lincoln clearly asserts, it was not his intention to get rid of slavery in the Southern states. Lincoln conceded that the American founders had agreed to tolerate slavery in the Southern states, and he confessed that he had no wish and no power to interfere with it there. The only issue -- and it was an issue on which Lincoln would not bend -- was whether the federal government could restrict slavery in the new territories. This was the issue of the presidential campaign of 1860; this was the issue that determined secession and war.

Lincoln argued that the South had no right to secede -- that the Southern states had entered the Union as the result of a permanent compact with the Northern states. That Union was based on the principle of majority rule, with constitutional rights carefully delineated for the minority. Lincoln insisted that since he had been legitimately elected, and since the power to regulate slavery in the territories was nowhere proscribed in the Constitution, Southern secession amounted to nothing more than one group's decision to leave the country because it did not like the results of a presidential election, and no constitutional democracy could function under such an absurd rule. Of course the Southerners objected that they should not be forced to live under a regime that they considered tyrannical, but Lincoln countered that any decision to dissolve the original compact could only occur with the consent of all the parties involved. Once again, it makes no sense to have such agreements when any group can unilaterally withdraw from them and go its own way.

The rest of the libertarian and right-wing case against Lincoln is equally without merit. Yes, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and arrested Southern sympathizers, but let us not forget that the nation was in a desperate war in which its very survival was at stake. Discussing habeas corpus, Lincoln insisted that it made no sense for him to protect this one constitutional right and allow the very Union established by the Constitution, the very framework for the protection of all rights, to be obliterated. Of course the federal government expanded during the Civil War, as it expanded during the Revolutionary War, and during World War II. Governments need to be strong to fight wars. The evidence for the right-wing insistence that Lincoln was the founder of the modern welfare state stems from the establishment, begun during his administration, of a pension program for Union veterans and support for their widows and orphans. Those were, however, programs aimed at a specific, albeit large, part of the population. The welfare state came to America in the 20th century. Franklin Roosevelt should be credited, or blamed, for that. He institutionalized it, and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon expanded it.

The left-wing group of Lincoln critics, composed of liberal scholars and social activists, is harshly critical of Lincoln on the grounds that he was a racist who did not really care about ending slavery. Their indictment of Lincoln is that he did not oppose slavery outright, only the extension of it, that he opposed laws permitting intermarriage and even opposed social and political equality between the races. If the right-wingers disdain Lincoln for being too aggressively antislavery, the left-wingers scorn him for not being antislavery enough. Both groups, however, agree that Lincoln was a self-promoting hypocrite who said one thing while doing another.

Some of Lincoln's defenders have sought to vindicate him from these attacks by contending that he was a "man of his time." This will not do, because there were several persons of that time, notably the social-reformer Grimké sisters, Angelina and Sarah, and Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who forthrightly and unambiguously attacked slavery and called for immediate and complete abolition. In one of his speeches, Sumner said that while there are many issues on which political men can and should compromise, slavery is not such an issue: "This will not admit of compromise. To be wrong on this is to be wholly wrong. It is our duty to defend freedom, unreservedly, and careless of the consequences."

Lincoln's modern liberal critics are, whether they know it or not, the philosophical descendants of Sumner. One cannot understand Lincoln without understanding why he agreed with Sumner's goals while consistently opposing the strategy of the abolitionists. The abolitionists, Lincoln thought, approached the restricting or ending of slavery with self-righteous moral display. They wanted to be in the right and -- as Sumner himself says -- damn the consequences. In Lincoln's view, abolition was a noble sentiment, but abolitionist tactics, such as burning the Constitution and advocating violence, were not the way to reach their goal.

We can answer the liberal critics by showing them why Lincoln's understanding of slavery, and his strategy for defeating it, was superior to that of Sumner and his modern-day followers. Lincoln knew that the statesman, unlike the moralist, cannot be content with making the case against slavery. He must find a way to implement his principles to the degree that circumstances permit. The key to understanding Lincoln is that he always sought the meeting point between what was right in theory and what could be achieved in practice. He always sought the common denominator between what was good to do and what the people would go along with. In a democratic society this is the only legitimate way to advance a moral agenda.

Consider the consummate skill with which Lincoln deflected the prejudices of his supporters without yielding to them. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates during the race for the Illinois Senate, Stephen Douglas repeatedly accused Lincoln of believing that blacks and whites were intellectually equal, of endorsing full political rights for blacks, and of supporting "amalgamation" or intermarriage between the races. If these charges could be sustained, or if large numbers of people believed them to be true, then Lincoln's career was over. Even in the free state of Illinois -- as throughout the North -- there was widespread opposition to full political and social equality for blacks.

Lincoln handled this difficult situation by using a series of artfully conditional responses. "Certainly the Negro is not our equal in color -- perhaps not in many other respects; still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man. In pointing out that more has been given to you, you cannot be justified in taking away the little which has been given to him. If God gave him but little, that little let him enjoy." Notice that Lincoln only barely recognizes the prevailing prejudice. He never acknowledges black inferiority; he merely concedes the possibility. And the thrust of his argument is that even if blacks were inferior, that is not a warrant for taking away their rights.

Facing the charge of racial amalgamation, Lincoln said, "I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife." Lincoln is not saying that he wants, or does not want, a black woman for his wife. He is neither supporting nor opposing racial intermarriage. He is simply saying that from his antislavery position it does not follow that he endorses racial amalgamation. Elsewhere Lincoln turned antiblack prejudices against Douglas by saying that slavery was the institution that had produced the greatest racial intermixing and the largest number of mulattoes.

Lincoln was exercising the same prudent statesmanship when he wrote to New York newspaper publisher Horace Greeley asserting: "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 do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." The letter was written on August 22, 1862, almost a year and a half after the Civil War broke out, when the South was gaining momentum and the outcome was far from certain. From the time of secession, Lincoln was desperately eager to prevent border states such as Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri from seceding. These states had slavery, and Lincoln knew that if the issue of the war was cast openly as the issue of slavery, his chances of keeping the border states in the Union were slim. And if all the border states seceded, Lincoln was convinced, and rightly so, that the cause of the Union was gravely imperiled.

Moreover, Lincoln was acutely aware that many people in the North were vehemently antiblack and saw themselves as fighting to save their country rather than to free slaves. Lincoln framed the case against the Confederacy in terms of saving the Union in order to maintain his coalition -- a coalition whose victory was essential to the antislavery cause. And ultimately it was because of Lincoln that slavery came to an end. That is why the right wing can never forgive him.

In my view, Lincoln was the true "philosophical statesman," one who was truly good and truly wise. Standing in front of his critics, Lincoln is a colossus, and all of the Lilliputian arrows hurled at him bounce harmlessly to the ground. It is hard to put any other president -- not even George Washington -- in the same category as Abraham Lincoln. He is simply the greatest practitioner of democratic statesmanship that America and the world have yet produced.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
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1 posted on 02/18/2005 11:27:19 PM PST by churchillbuff
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To: churchillbuff

Excellent.


2 posted on 02/18/2005 11:45:01 PM PST by My2Cents (Fringe poster since 1998.)
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To: churchillbuff

bttt


3 posted on 02/18/2005 11:45:43 PM PST by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: churchillbuff

So grateful to see an unabashedly pro-Lincoln article show up on Free Republic. This greatest of Republicans deserves all honor we can give him, particularly here.


4 posted on 02/18/2005 11:46:06 PM PST by Rembrandt_fan
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To: Rembrandt_fan

I have to admit, I have always been very critical of Lincon...that is until I read D'Sousa's critique/explaination in "What's So Great About America." The worst part about ignorance is not knowing you are,


5 posted on 02/18/2005 11:56:27 PM PST by papertyger (If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.)
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To: churchillbuff
What unites the right-wing and left-wing attacks on Lincoln, of course, is that they deny that Lincoln respected the law and that he was concerned with the welfare of all. The right-wing school -- made up largely of Southerners and some libertarians -- holds that Lincoln was a self-serving tyrant who rode roughshod over civil liberties, such as the right to habeas corpus. Lincoln is also accused of greatly expanding the size of the federal government. Some libertarians even charge -- and this is not intended as a compliment -- that Lincoln was the true founder of the welfare state. His right-wing critics say that despite his show of humility, Lincoln was a megalomaniacal man who was willing to destroy half the country to serve his Caesarian ambitions.

Well, I agree that he ran roughshod over civil liberties, expanded the government, bent the Constitution, encroached on areas that were not the purview of the Federal government. He was a revolutionary. But I cannot ascribe to him the meanness of purpose that most of his critics attempt to paste on him today. In this, I believe that his character can withstand the assaults, at least to those of reasonable mind. The Southern-partisan criticism of Lincoln started as a device to point out the ridiculousness of the modern Northern purist tactic of judging Confederate leaders by modern politically correct standards by applying those standards to Lincoln. A bit of a joke and turning the tables to point out that the tactic itself was nonsense. Unfortunately, the less wise amongst pro-Southern folks starting believing their own joke. So now we have pro-Southerners ignorantly judging Lincoln by modern politically correct standards and Northern purists (and potstirrers) judging Confederates by modern politically correct standards....and all thinking they are brilliant. Both sides now have so much invested in the tactic that they no longer care to think about it rationally. In fact, these historical figures should be judged within the context of their own times and the moral frameworks within which they were formed and operated. There is much to admire about Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, there is much to admire about Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. All of them are merit criticism of varying sorts. But this business of judging them as politically incorrect monsters depending on your affiliation is not rational.
6 posted on 02/18/2005 11:59:16 PM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: churchillbuff
"And ultimately it was because of Lincoln that slavery came to an end. That is why the right wing can never forgive him. "

Pure Hogwash!

7 posted on 02/19/2005 12:01:09 AM PST by Rabble (Fonda & Kerry -- Hanoi's Stooges and America's Traitors.......)
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To: churchillbuff

Great piece. Some would have us believe that Lincoln trampled on the law of the land. Such a proposition would lead to the conclusion that this country for the past 140 years or so has been on the wrong track. I don't buy that for a second; for whatever reasons, Lincoln was helping this country live up to its ideals. Christians, in particular, who rail against the current foolish secular hatred of all things Christian, should appreciate Lincoln's ending slavery, a sin, and value that great move over the squawking about the correctness of ending slavery.


8 posted on 02/19/2005 12:02:40 AM PST by Darkwolf377 ("Drowning someone...I wouldn't have a part in that."--Teddy K)
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To: Rabble
Pure Hogwash!

Indeed. For years I have been around Southern partisans. I have been around people who advocate secession today, I have been around Nathan Bedford Forrest fanatics, I have been around Confederate reenactors of every stripe. I've been around them around campfires when no one else is around, in SCV meetings, and in political conversation. Never have I met any of them who have ever advocated, favored, or thought wistfully about slavery, or for that matter segregation. I am sure they exist, as they do in everyday life, but I have not stumbled upon them in my time.
9 posted on 02/19/2005 12:07:47 AM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: Arkinsaw

I agree to a point, but it's not quite as evenly split as you seem to be saying. (If I'm wrong there I apologize for misinterpreting your excellent post.) It's not as if everyone in Lincoln's time thought slavery was just fine and that one had to be a radical to hold the view similar to the current one. Slavery was not an acceptable establishment to many, or even most--including many southerners. So it's not as if by saying slavery was an evil that should be abolished in the nineteenth century one is being a revisionist, when in fact many believed that at the time. It's those who say the war was not about slavery who are doing the revizin'.


10 posted on 02/19/2005 12:14:45 AM PST by Darkwolf377 ("Drowning someone...I wouldn't have a part in that."--Teddy K)
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To: churchillbuff
A while back I came across a compendium of Lincoln's writings. All through the war Lincoln talked about and worked toward deporting every last black in the United States. Deport them where? Haiti was one candidate, and Honduras another, but Africa seemed too difficult logistically to him..
11 posted on 02/19/2005 12:39:16 AM PST by Iris7 (.....to protect the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Same bunch, anyway.)
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To: churchillbuff
Excellent article..

I would propose, however, that Lincoln was indeed, "a man of his times".. as are all people who deal with great issues and events within their own lifetime..
It takes more than a couple of examples showing an anti-slavery position to claim that Lincoln could have made the great leap of abolition without the support of the people..

With the South defeated, however, and the Union victorious, the Emancipation Proclamation takes on even greater meaning..
Lincoln's successful execution of the war gave him the political power to do something even more useful and meaningful.. The elimination of slavery..

The article points out quite clearly, that Lincoln was indifferent, or at least ambiguous on the subject prior, and even during the war..
Yet, once the matter of secession was decided, he acted in a manner completely opposite of his previously stated inclinations.

I think he knew exactly what he was doing and saying the whole time.. His intent was abolition from the beginning, but he knew better than to express that aim publicly, especially when it could have cost him the presidency..
He was a politician, and told the people what they wanted to hear.. Then, when the conditions and the political climate were right, completed his intended mission..

You can fool all of the people some of the time...
Lincoln fooled them just long enough to save America and it's basic principles of Equality and Freedom..

12 posted on 02/19/2005 12:49:27 AM PST by Drammach (Freedom; not just a job, it's an adventure..)
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To: churchillbuff

Based on my experiences, Slavery (and its effect) is to America as Feudalism (and its effect) is to Europe. Within both regions there existed a perceived higher echelon and lower echelon with few people in the middle. Both Slavery and Feudalism existed (and still exists) throughout the world when Lincoln was alive. America the beautiful has been the world leader in ending both as other countries have followed our lead. At some point we have to give credit to American leaders who have lead the way. To say the very least, I think Lincoln deserves partial credit.


13 posted on 02/19/2005 12:49:46 AM PST by kipita (Rebel the proletariat response to Aristocracy and Exploitation.)
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To: churchillbuff
It is so interesting that it often takes an immigrant like D'Souza to appreciate American democracy; which the native born often take for granted.
14 posted on 02/19/2005 12:57:19 AM PST by iowamark
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To: churchillbuff

Fascinating article. Thanx for posting it.


15 posted on 02/19/2005 1:13:48 AM PST by Once-Ler (Beating a dead horse for NeoCon America)
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To: churchillbuff
Calhoun's point is that the South had conferred on all whites a kind of aristocracy of birth, so that even the most wretched and degenerate white man was determined in advance to be better and more socially elevated than the most intelligent and capable black man. That's why the poor whites fought -- to protect that privilege.

One of the most sordid aspects of human nature is the tendency of people to gladly accept an oppressor as long as there is someone lower in the heiarchy fixed in the "order of things" to be more appresed still.

16 posted on 02/19/2005 1:25:13 AM PST by Wilhelm Tell
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To: Arkinsaw

Lincoln's crime was in not recognizing the union as a voluntary association of states, and in preserving it by force.


17 posted on 02/19/2005 1:29:22 AM PST by Tax Government (Boycott and defeat the Legacy Media. Become a monthly contributor to FR.)
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To: Darkwolf377
I agree to a point, but it's not quite as evenly split as you seem to be saying. (If I'm wrong there I apologize for misinterpreting your excellent post.) It's not as if everyone in Lincoln's time thought slavery was just fine and that one had to be a radical to hold the view similar to the current one. Slavery was not an acceptable establishment to many, or even most--including many southerners. So it's not as if by saying slavery was an evil that should be abolished in the nineteenth century one is being a revisionist, when in fact many believed that at the time. It's those who say the war was not about slavery who are doing the revizin'.

I've heard Southern partisans say many times that the Civil War was not about slavery. Thats not rational of course. The institution of slavery was the focal point and the trigger. But at the same time, I hear Northern partisans state give slavery as the sole cause of the conflict. Thats just simly two competing sound bites, neither of which add anything at all to understanding. Both pure propaganda.

The fact is that the Civil War is the most complex political event/eruption in US history. It's causation cannot be boiled down to one simple statement and maintain intellectual honesty. Slavery cannot be tossed out and still maintain intellectual honesty.

In reality, the reasons for conflict change for both sides as the war progresses. In fact, in many aspects, in the north the war becomes more about slavery as time passes and in the south the war becomes less about slavery as time passes. Partisans of both sides seize whatever fits their beliefs from this continuum and hold it up as a picture of the whole. Its like someone asking what a NASCAR race is like and having one person show them a photo of a crash and another show them a photo of the Winner's Circle.

Secession was more about slavery in the deep South states, whereas it was less about slavery as you move geographically farther from the deep South areas. For instance the concept of honor, local and regional loyalties, and opposition to what was viewed as military "coercion" of fellow states played a large role in the secession of states farther from the center. Whereas in the center, slavery was a clearly stated impetus in secession documents. You can not make the statement "The Southern states seceded over slavery" and give a clear picture of the whole.

We see these threads constantly and they are always the same. One side or the other trots out pieces of evidence to support their sound-bite one-liner capsule history and flings it at the other side. Then vice-versa.

The facts that are trotted out for one side or the other are generally correct, just as the photos of a NASCAR race are factual. Many times both sets of facts are contradictory, yet both true. Thats because they are part of a complex whole and not individual proofs.

So many in these threads start with a belief, and then mine the complexity for things that support that belief rather than studying the eruption holistically and establishing a belief based on that study.

I agree with your statement in regard to the common views of slavery at the time, even in the South. Lets put it this way, if you judge certain Lincoln comments by modern standards he is an out-and-out racist. But it is ridiculous to make such a judgment because its fairly clear that his views of the matter were somewhat advanced for the time. In addition, he was a politician who had to operate in a political environment where a large portion of the electorate, even in the north, were less advanced (to put it kindly). Lincoln said things from time to time to appeal to, or assuage, the feelings of that portion of the body politic. It is ridiculous to take such statements out of their political and temporal context and yank them into the modern day to call Lincoln a "racist" in the modern sense.

Similarly, we all know that there were fire-eaters. We also know that Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were quite different from them. We know that a person like Patrick Cleburne didn't have an interest in the maintenance of slavery at all. We know that Alexander Stephens actually had more of a constitutionalist view of the situation than he did a social (slavery) view of it. Yet we trot out a Stephens political speech, presented to fire-eaters for political reasons, as a generic reflection of the Confederate leadership's primary motivations. That is as lame as calling Lincoln a racist based on similar constructions.

Such as trotting out Lincoln's statement that he would maintain slavery to preserve the Union (which he certainly would have) as evidence of inherent racism or lack of real concern over the fate of slaves. Thats fairly ridiculous (and was originally meant to be a facetious turn of the tables) and ignores that his views early in the war and later in the war were altered by events. We trot out comments of his in regard to the rights of blacks and whites in a politically charged environment as reflective of his inner views. Quite a reach.

Similarly, regardless of his views at the start of the war (which were fairly moderate actually), by the end of it Jefferson Davis was so wrapped up in independence for the sake of independence that I do not believe that slavery played any part at all in his thinking.

I've read hundreds of books and articles on the war from all sorts of points of view. My fundamental conception of the war is vastly different than it was when I first started studying it. I still find new facts that alter my views of the event from time to time. But the rate of change in my views has declined steadily as time has gone by.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Civil War and plenty of abuses on both sides. Those who continually try to place blame on one side or the other in these threads will simply fail. It is sad to see facts ignored because they don't fit the propaganda of one side or the other. Those who engage in it are doing a disservice to the memory of both Lincoln and Lee who, despite any other flaws, desired an honorable reconciliation and reunion with malice toward none.

When you see the words "The war was not about slavery" you have someone trying to sell you a simplistic sound-bite for modern political or psychological reasons and not historical ones. When you see the words "The cause of the Civil War was slavery period" you have someone trying to sell you a politically correct sound-bite history and dismissing the complexity of event for personal reasons.

Its not a black and white answer. Very few things are.
18 posted on 02/19/2005 1:55:07 AM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: Tax Government
Lincoln's crime was in not recognizing the union as a voluntary association of states, and in preserving it by force.

He recognized that at one time, and I think he did later as well. But presented with the reality of the thing, his abstract beliefs succumbed to political and practical motivations. Practically, one does not want to be the President of the United States responsible in history for half the country dissolving. It also seems clear that he did, in fact, have a real and profound affection for the union as a whole.

While I disagree with his choice in the matter, I can understand it. If/when the day comes that Aztlan votes to break off and rejoin Mexico I think many will be burdened with a similar decision between a belief in self-determination and the ballot box and a patriotic demand that our nation remain whole.

I think a lot of bad things came out of Lincoln's choices and fundamentally altered the state of our union by force of arms. I think that his stated justifications are a bit of a reach to say the least given the character of the union. At the same time, I appreciate the benefits of the continental union that he maintained and grateful that it was in place and whole during the 20th century. If it had not, we would be in a bit of a nightmare world. So I cannot blame him overmuch and have to attribute the actual outcome to the will of a power above our own.
19 posted on 02/19/2005 2:09:40 AM PST by Arkinsaw
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To: churchillbuff
It's a good article but only touches on the socioeconomic issues that helped to cause the divide in the Union. One major factor was the Transcontinental Railroad. The South wanted to start in the South because they believed they would have the most use for it in transporting goods to the western territories. The North didn't want the Railroad in the south so that it was better used for commercial travel from the North for passenger transport and manufactured goods. A large portion of the Congress predominately from the North, felt, also, that by putting something as great as the Trans-cont. R.R. in the South it would be seen as promoting slavery and would stain further the integrity of the United States.
Also, Republicans in Washington were trying to destroy slavery indirectly, without all out abolition, by taxing goods produced by slave labor. These and other issues were the cause of the Civil War. Lincoln supported the Republicans in Washington during his campaign, yet at the same time was the uniting statesman that he had to be in order to try to keep the Union in tact. It was his need to be uniting as President that kept Confederate soldiers from being treated as deserter or traitors after the war was over.
In the end, Lincoln was opposed to slavery, however didn't want to end it at the cost of the Union (same as the framers, just under different circumstances). After the Union was inevitably divided he officially emancipated the slaves. But, unlike the South, Lincoln never saw himself as the President of the North, but President of the United States.
20 posted on 02/19/2005 2:12:52 AM PST by raynearhood ("America is too great for small dreams." - Ronald Reagan, speech to Congress. January 1, 1984.)
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To: Rembrandt_fan; Lando Lincoln; wtc911; cyborg; SunkenCiv; papertyger; Drammach; raynearhood; ...

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/037540158X/qid=1108808385/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-1985571-5913620?v=glance&s=books


21 posted on 02/19/2005 2:20:36 AM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham ("There is some sugar...It's harder in the case of fires. The tariffs are too high!")
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To: churchillbuff
"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled or hanged." ~~ President Abraham Lincoln
22 posted on 02/19/2005 2:39:52 AM PST by Petes Sandy Girl
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To: churchillbuff
Well, the same God who allowed the statistical improbability of Jefferson and Adams, the only two Prezs who signed the Declaration (and the two who made it all work) die miraculously on the same day; not only the same day; but the fourth of July, the day the Declaration was celebrated, but the same day on the fourth of July on the Jubilee Year anniversary (fiftieth) of the signing of the Declaration.

This seeming supernatural fact was noted by Lincoln in extemporaneous remarks made by him from the White House on July 9th, 1863 -- whereas he was trying to see God's hand in the recent "victories" at Gettysburg on the 3rd of July and Vicksburg on the 4th - trying to see if the good Lord was still on the side of those who sought to free the slaves and against those who sought to eat the bread of another man's toil.

So, how ironic, or more statistically prudent, to note that Lincoln himself was shot on Good Friday after Lee's surrender the Palm Sunday previous, and mourned on Easter Sunday. God honors those who honor Him. No amount of quacking or sniping at his good name will take away his greatness. As Stanton said of him: 'There lies the greatest leader the world has ever known". I daresay, he was the greatest -- and the immediate peace between North and South after his death proved that the country was united in the death of a good man who did not deserve to be murdered.

I hear that Doris Goodwin's new book (and Spielberg's new movie) on Lincoln makes the point that Lincoln was the architect of his own legacy -- fully aware of how good leaders are made great in posterity if they manipulate things their way. (Sounds more like a mea culpa for Clinton). Now, this is a neat historical and intellectual trick to play on Lincoln. It reminds me of some anti Christian seventies book called "The Passover Plot" that tried to say that Jesus was the architect of his own Messiahness, because Jesus knew all the prophecies related to the coming messiah and simply fulfilled them. (The Passover Plot of course, has to ignore prophecies like how Judas would be paid thirty pieces of silver and hang himself in Potter's field -- because they were entirely outside Christ's purview.) In the same manner Goodwin asserts Lincoln simply created his own image and legacy for the sake of his legacy. Again, part of Lincoln's iconic position was the fact of the date of his murder -- Good Friday. Goodwin's insane argument has to loop around itself and somehow account for this miraculous fact.

Anyway, Tolstoy called Lincoln "A Christ in miniature" and his assessment was spot on. Speilberg is on the wrong side of history on this one.

23 posted on 02/19/2005 2:56:29 AM PST by Californiajones ("The apprehension of beauty is the cure for apathy" - Thomas Aquinas)
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To: churchillbuff
Fascinating to me to see the same arguments being bantered today...150+ years later. Truly important 10th Amendment issues that still rouse sentiments! Wow! I love being an American!
24 posted on 02/19/2005 3:19:50 AM PST by Gum Shoe (I'm not a professional military officer, I just play one on TV.)
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To: Gum Shoe

Lincoln was the type of man, the founding fathers warned us about. He was a great centralizer of power not a great president.


25 posted on 02/19/2005 3:31:00 AM PST by libertarianben (Looking for sanity and his hard to find cousin common sense)
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To: libertarianben
"Lincoln was the type of man, the founding fathers warned us about. He was a great centralizer of power not a great president."

I'm no Lincoln fan. I believe he was a "centralizer" as you say. Centralizing federal power to that degree is arguably not something many contemporary Republicans would like to see. Despite relegating the 10th Amendment to toilet paper, he was a great orator and astute politician however.
26 posted on 02/19/2005 3:38:11 AM PST by Gum Shoe (I'm not a professional military officer, I just play one on TV.)
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To: My2Cents

Bump


27 posted on 02/19/2005 3:52:05 AM PST by stevem
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To: churchillbuff

The left is trying to rationalize why the northern democrats wanted to let the South secede and continue slavery. (Which would have ultimately been disaster for the south as well as the north). The south would have turned into a disasterous South Africa sort of country.


28 posted on 02/19/2005 3:52:31 AM PST by tkathy (Tyranny breeds terrorism. Freedom breeds peace.)
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To: Californiajones

Had not 620,000 American citizens died as a result of his terror attacks in the South, he would not be remembered today.


29 posted on 02/19/2005 4:28:03 AM PST by PeaRidge ("Walt got the boot? I didn't know. When/why did it happen?" Ditto 7-22-04 And now they got #3fan.)
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To: Rembrandt_fan
Taught self to read, true frontiersman, taught himself law...Became fantastic lawyer and then president of the U.S.

I don't know who was the greater, Washingtom (coming from wealth) or Lincoln (coming from essential poverty)

Look up his farewell address (magnificent)...Read his Gettysburg address (unparalleled and self composed).

America was so fortunate to have him.

30 posted on 02/19/2005 4:31:00 AM PST by squirt-gun
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To: churchillbuff
Relative to the Democrats attacking both the military and our presence in Iraq:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

31 posted on 02/19/2005 4:37:54 AM PST by squirt-gun
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To: Arkinsaw
Nobody will ever convince me the poor, young white boys of the South fought, and were willing to die, for the Confederacy to continue slavery.

There was a huge cultural difference between North and South and I think most southerners simply resented Yankees dictating the fate of southerners.

32 posted on 02/19/2005 5:17:38 AM PST by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: NoControllingLegalAuthority

You are right. And they are STILL resented at times.


34 posted on 02/19/2005 5:25:34 AM PST by TexConfederate1861 (Sic Semper Tyrannis!)
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To: squirt-gun

The South doesn't agree......


35 posted on 02/19/2005 5:26:21 AM PST by TexConfederate1861 (Sic Semper Tyrannis!)
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To: Arkinsaw

Good post. It aided my understanding of the conflict.


36 posted on 02/19/2005 5:31:25 AM PST by marktwain
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To: TexConfederate1861

You got it, Tex. Sic Semper Tyrannis.


37 posted on 02/19/2005 5:36:23 AM PST by Silver Sumo
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To: NoControllingLegalAuthority

I highly recommend any Civil War novice to read a book called Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins who was a Confederate veteran. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0743255410/qid=1108821676/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-9020701-1271258?v=glance&s=books
Awesome insight into ordeal of a front line soldier- you feel his pain when every friend or foe is killed.


38 posted on 02/19/2005 6:06:38 AM PST by MagnumPi
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To: NoControllingLegalAuthority
Nobody will ever convince me the poor, young white boys of the South fought, and were willing to die, for the Confederacy to continue slavery. There was a huge cultural difference between North and South and I think most southerners simply resented Yankees dictating the fate of southerners.

Slavery was the only significant cultural difference between the North and South in 1860. The county where my dad's folks came from in Tennessee voted over 6 to 1 to remain in the Union. Of course there were very few slaves in that mountainous region of Tennessee. And that pattern generally held in all the relatively slaveless areas in the South. No slavery, no desire to secede. The farmer from Tennessee had much more in common with the farmer from Indiana than he did with the slaveowner from the deep South.

39 posted on 02/19/2005 6:44:56 AM PST by Colonel Kangaroo
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To: churchillbuff

This isn't to say Lincoln wasn't a great or even an intellectual president but let's face it, he's got the name recognition because of the situation he found himself in. If Millard Fillmore had been president during the Civil War with it ending as it did we'd always be talking about him and he'd be on the penny.


40 posted on 02/19/2005 7:06:01 AM PST by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: Arkinsaw
Bravo! Well said!
41 posted on 02/19/2005 7:23:14 AM PST by Bigun (IRSsucks@getridof it.com)
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To: Colonel Kangaroo
Lincoln provides the key to understanding his presidency. "I had to operate the machine the way I found it."All piecemeal citations of this giant are nothing but renewed assassination attempts by pygmies against the mythic one.
42 posted on 02/19/2005 7:32:53 AM PST by basque (Basque by birth. American by act of God)
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To: Colonel Kangaroo
Slavery was the only significant cultural difference between the North and South in 1860.

That statement is so astoundingly misguided it defies description. There were innumerable cultural differences between the north and south at that time! Literally innumerable!

43 posted on 02/19/2005 7:36:11 AM PST by Bigun (IRSsucks@getridof it.com)
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To: churchillbuff
That's why the poor whites fought -- to protect that privilege.

I don't believe this is true. Poor whites fought to keep the Yankees out of their hamlets, homes, and states. And as any good soldier, they fought for each other.

44 posted on 02/19/2005 7:51:36 AM PST by Missouri
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To: Arkinsaw

Thank you. That was well written.


45 posted on 02/19/2005 7:53:26 AM PST by pawdoggie
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To: TexConfederate1861
Re # 35....The South doesn't agree...... That covers every native born southerner?..... I don't think so!!

Many educated southerners who are fair minded and can deal with historical facts (such as those appearing in the current issues of National Geographic or U.S.News and World Report to name a few) would agree with the magnificent contributions Lincoln made to build this nation.

Of course, there are those with hillbilly mentalities ( north and south) who will always act and decide from emotion rather than reason...I guess its more fun that way.

46 posted on 02/19/2005 8:05:17 AM PST by squirt-gun
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To: TexConfederate1861
Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant that ended up in exactly the way he should have. Only it was 5 years too late.

I refer you to Mr. D'Souza's comments about the Lilliputian critics of Mr. Lincoln. That, sir, is you. Your remark is despicable, as Robert E. Lee (were he here) would readily agree. You're attitude is a disgrace to the parents who raised you.

47 posted on 02/19/2005 8:19:49 AM PST by pawdoggie
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To: Reaganwuzthebest
This isn't to say Lincoln wasn't a great or even an intellectual president but let's face it, he's got the name recognition because of the situation he found himself in. If Millard Fillmore had been president during the Civil War with it ending as it did we'd always be talking about him and he'd be on the penny. If Millard Fillmore had been President during the Civil War, there's no way the North could have won. Black people would still be held in slavery, and we'd all be speaking with a drawl.
48 posted on 02/19/2005 8:36:24 AM PST by pawdoggie
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To: pawdoggie
If Millard Fillmore had been President during the Civil War, there's no way the North could have won.

You may or not be right but the main reason the North won was because they had more in the way of soldiers and resources. Grant especially took advantage of that and in fact Lincoln was not really all that involved in the military planning or decisions per se but preferred instead to leave that up to his incompetent generals.

It's very possible Fillmore would have handled the situation differently causing the North to lose but most likely he or any other president of that era would have played the same attrition game.

49 posted on 02/19/2005 9:14:38 AM PST by Reaganwuzthebest
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To: churchillbuff

Here is a copy of the Mississippi Declaration of Secession. Please note the second paragraph in the declaration regarding slavery. Slavery was a very important issue:

http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp


*****

--A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union--


In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.

The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.

The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.

It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact, which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.

It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.

It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.

It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better.

It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.

It has broken every compact into which it has entered for our security.

It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.

It knows no relenting or hesitation in its purposes; it stops not in its march of aggression, and leaves us no room to hope for cessation or for pause.

It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.

Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

Our decision is made. We follow their footsteps. We embrace the alternative of separation; and for the reasons here stated, we resolve to maintain our rights with the full consciousness of the justice of our course, and the undoubting belief of our ability to maintain it.


50 posted on 02/19/2005 9:17:47 AM PST by kiriath_jearim
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