Skip to comments.Lincoln the Tyrant: The Libertarians' Favorite Bogeyman
Posted on 12/07/2010 11:31:03 AM PST by presidio9
On a recent pilgrimage to Gettysburg I ventured into the Evergreen cemetery, the scene of chaotic and bloody fighting throughout the engagement. Like Abraham Lincoln on a cold November day in 1863, I pondered the meaning of it all. With the post-Tea Party wave of libertarianism sweeping the nation, Lincolns reputation has received a serious pillorying. He has even been labeled a tyrant, who used the issue of slavery as a mendacious faux excuse to pummel the South into submitting to the will of the growing federal power in Washington D.C. In fact, some insist, the labeling of slavery as the casus belli of the Civil War is simply a great lie perpetrated by our educational system.
First of all, was Lincoln in fact a tyrant? For me the root of such a characterization centers on the mans motivations. A man of international vision that belied his homespun image, Lincoln saw the growing power of an industrialized Europe and realized that a divided America would be a vulnerable one. The central idea of secession, he argued, is anarchy. Hence, maintaining the Union was his prime motivation, not the amassing of self-serving power.
It is true that Lincoln unilaterally suspended the writ of habeas corpus. From a Constitutional standpoint, the power of the federal government to suspend habeas corpus in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety is clearly spelled out in Article 1, Section IX. And an insurrection of eleven states would certainly qualify as such. Whether or not Lincoln had the authority (Article I pertains to Congress) most significant to me is that the Constitution does allow for the suspension of habeas corpus in times of severe crisis. So, doesnt the question distill down to a more wonkish matter of legal procedure, rather than the sublime notion of denying the rights of man?
Constitutional minutia aside, the question remains whether or not Lincolns actions made him a tyrant. Consider the country in 1861-1862, the years in which the writ was suspended, re-instituted and then suspended again until wars end. The war was not going well for the North, and Southern sympathies were strong in the border states and the lower Midwestern counties. The federal city was surrounded by an openly hostile Virginia on one side and a strongly secessionist Maryland on the other. Copperhead politicians actively sought office and could only sow further seeds of discord if elected. Considering these factors, one wonders what other course of action Lincoln could have taken to stabilize the situation in order to successfully prosecute the war. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, he asked, while I may not touch a hair on the head of the wily agitator who induces him to desert?
It seems that ones appreciation for Lincolns place in history is largely an off-shoot of ones position on the rebellion itself.
If the South was within its rights to secede, then Lincoln was a cruel oppressor. If not, then he had no choice but to put down a major insurrection.
What most glib pro-Southern observers of the wars issues forget is that there were three million Americans enslaved in that same South, who would have been dragged into a newly formed Confederate States of America. How is it, asked Samuel Johnson as early as 1775, that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes? Can any true libertarian argue that using the power of the federal government to end a states perpetuation of human bondage is an act of tyranny, regardless of the reason? And whether or not either side was willing to admit it, slavery was indeed the core issue of the war.
For those who believe otherwise then I ask you: In 1861, if the entire country was either all free or all slave states, would war have still come? If secession was about securing the Souths dearest rights, I must ask a follow-up: the right to do what exactly? We know the answer of course.
Was the North without sin? Certainly not, as anyone who understands the economic symbiosis of the two regions can attest. But in the end it was a Northern president using Northern troops who freed the slaves, and erased from the American experience what Lincoln himself referred to as the base alloy of hypocrisy.
A common blasé position among the Lew Rockwells of the world (a man who never felt the lash himself of course) is that slavery would have eventually died out as modernization overtook the antebellum Southern way of life. Yes it can be argued that it was economically inefficient but its Marx not Mises who argues that systems of production necessarily dictate political forms. Consider that the de facto servitude of Blacks in the post-reconstruction South lasted well into the 1960s, and South Africas apartheid into the 1980s both of which were ended by external pressures rather than internal catharsis .
Given the cost in dead and treasure, would it have been best to let the South go and hope for the best in slaverys natural demise? As Patrick Henry, a southerner, once asked: Is life so sweet or peace so dear as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Certainly Lincolns steadfast prosecution of the war revealed his feelings on this fundamental question.
So when I look at Lincoln I see a man who, for myriad reasons ranging from realpolitik to moral imperative, released three million people from the shackles of slavery. I see a man who may have over-reached his legal authority by making the suspension of habeas corpus an executive rather than legislative initiative, but did not act outside the spirit of the Constitution regarding its position on whether such a right was untouchable.
I can only conclude that to think Lincoln a tyrant is to support the Confederacys right to secede in the first place
and take its enslaved Americans with them. Given what a weakened state a split country would have placed us in as we moved into the industrial age, given the force for good that a united and powerful America has been in the world since Appomattox, and considering even his most brazen suspensions of Constitutional rights were temporary, and resulted in no one swinging from the gallows for their opposition to the war, I must support the actions of this great President who was ultimately motivated by love of country, not lust for power. As Shakespeare might have said: Despotism should be made of sterner stuff.
Contrary to what is actually happening now, with Yankee invasion of the South continuing from the last century.
Imagine that. Someone had to bring you out of the 18th Century.
That's a difficult question, just because you're basically getting into the Latin-via-French part of English vs the Germanic-via-Saxon part. There are some subtle differences based on ancient root words, but for the most part they're synonyms.
But I'm not sure where you're going with that question. My point was to show that there are obvious places where legal rights (e.g. owning slaves) conflict with obvious natural rights (freedom/liberty).
I'm sure if Jeff Davis had sent a letter to Karl they could have worked this little misunderstanding out and become best buds forever.
Oh, wait, you were talking about Lincoln. So sorry, the term “Goon” you threw around confused me.
Went back, read that second paragraph. Sorry, it doesn't say what you think. He was referring to the slaveowners choosing war. Which is, of course, the truth of the matter.
By the way, unlike Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln never had a slave whipped. Which I think disposes of the term “Goon”.
Yep, went back and read that second paragraph again just now. Definitely talking about the slaveowners.
LOL, best line of the thread.
Your point about Obama in those shoes is well taken.
Born and raised in Illinois. But regardless, California was part of the U.S. in 1861 and remained loyal to the Union. So either way Reagan was a Yankee.
And the losers get to write the myths.
I guess those folks in Lawrence, Kansas don't count huh?
IMHO, you are taking this thread way too srsly.
If you want to go with that analogy you have it all wrong. The South didn't ask for a divorce. They walked out. After helping to run up the credit cards, they walked away from their share of the responsibility. They walked out on family obligations. They took every bit of community property they could get their hands on. And they fired some shots at their spouse on their way out the door. Considering all that it was the North that was the aggrieved spouse and not the South.
We'll never know what might have been.
We can be pretty sure that the South would have fought as hard for their slaves in 1870 or 1880 or maybe even 1890 as they did in 1861.
It only took 700k dead and hundreds of thousands wounded to "prove" that political unions at the point of the sword might eventually work out OK after the better part of a century,...
It was their war, maybe the South should have fought harder for their chattel? Then we would be in different countries and not having this delightful conversation.
You might want to check your dates. The shooting started at Lexington over a year before the Declaration was issued.
That is debatable, but regardless the South walked away from their share of the national debt and from obligations the country had entered into while they were a part.
The South didn't assert it owned part of federal properties in the North.
No they stole every bit that they could get their hands on on the South.
Or perhaps if Northern industrialism, instead of being used to wage war, had instead been used for productive industry, the revolution which followed the civil war would have been accelerated by many times, making slavery less profitable of a venture.
That still would have required a desire by the South to give up their slaves and their plantation agriculture. There wasn't any such interest that I'm aware of.
More importantly, instead of banning what was the key to an entire economic system, the North could have used the industrial revolution to ease the transition - a revolution that largely bypassed the South due to it's economic shambles for decades.
This would have benefitted both sides. As despicable as slavery was for those 2 million in the Sout...
Closer to 4 million.
...how much better off were they in return for the awful carnage?
They were free. They weren't someone's property. How much value do you put on that?
The North ignored the Klan and Jim Crow for most of the next century, leaving the former slaves who couldn't or wouldn't leave closer to slavery than to freedom for generations.
Absolute nonsense. The federal government was passing laws against the Klam in the 1870's. As for Jim Crow, it was the South's invention and the South's choice. What would you have the government do about it?
With the money the North spent on the war and reconstruction, they could have bought a good portion of the slaves outright and transplanted them out of the South without a shot fired or a life lost.
Compensated emancipation? That would have required an interest on the part of the slave owners to sell, wouldn't it? That interest was non-existent. If they sold their chattel and allowed the North to take them away then who would have worked their fields?
Can you point out exactly where the federal government’s power to use force to stop secession is enumerated in the constitution? I have not been able to find it myself. Thanks.
Lincoln tried to push a compensated emancipation plan for the Union slaves states. Delaware and Maryland rejected it.
No, it doesn't exist there either.
Look in Article 1; Section 8:
“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”
A state voting to leave the union is not an insurrection. The South was not trying to topple and replace the federal government, they just wanted to leave the Union. If state legislatures have the authority to vote for joining the Union I think it defies logic to argue that they do not have the authority to vote for leaving it. I am glad that when member states left the Soviet Union in 1990 the communists were less vicious than the Yankees in 1860 or there would have been a lot of havoc in eastern Europe. I assume you would have supported the USSR’s right to murder the citizens of the member states who left that Union?
You assume wrong.
Texas wasn't the only one. Even several original states, like New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, entered the union with reservations or explicit indication that they could back out.
James Madison, "Father of the Constitution":
"The assent and ratification of the people, not as individuals composing an entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they belong, are the sources of the Constitution. is, therefore, not a national but a federal compactOne other problem...Lincoln ignored Federalism, too.
Britian had outlawed slavery long before the Civil War. The abolitionist movement had been in place in this country as well as Europe since officially 1688, and probably for centuries before.
In any case, I'm glad you took the bait as well. The point is that slavery was an atrocity that denied black people their humanity. A response to earlier comments about Union Generals.
I just bet you have a list of slavery's finer points. In any case this is where it ended forever in this country, and that was worth whatever it took .
Um, my question was by no means rhetorical. Either you got that 70% figure from somewhere, or it came, as I suspect, from somewhere in your butt. We're not big fans on this website of people who make up their own facts to bolster their lame arguments.
Any arguments against the period resulting from reconstruction would fall at the feet of another DUmocrat, Andrew Johnson who allowed the slaveocracy to regroup, rebuild, and continue terrorizing long after the last shots had been fired against them by the free states.
Those that blame Lincoln do so while turning a blind eye to the real tyrants like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson while giving a pass to Jimmy Peanut, BJ Clinton and King Hussien for growing government and stifling freedom.
On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a national, but a federal act.
Sure. Article I, Section 8: "Congress shall have the power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions..."
It is if done illegally.
If state legislatures have the authority to vote for joining the Union I think it defies logic to argue that they do not have the authority to vote for leaving it.
Read the Constitution, Article IV. It says nothing in there about state legislatures voting to join the Union. But along those same lines then wouldn't you agree that if Congress has the authority to vote to admit states to the Union then doesn't it defy logic to argue that they don't have the authority to vote for states leaving the Union as well?
I am glad that when member states left the Soviet Union in 1990 the communists were less vicious than the Yankees in 1860 or there would have been a lot of havoc in eastern Europe.
One possible difference may be that the Soviet Union broke up with the approval of all the impacted parties and under conditions that were allowed under their own constitution? While the Southern states did not?
I assume you would have supported the USSRs right to murder the citizens of the member states who left that Union?
I assume that you would have supported human slavery if the Soviet laws permitted it?
State your sources. When and where did ANY state agree to create an "explicitely perpetual" union?
When and where has ANY state "surrendered its right to unilaterally secede?"
The Articles of Confederation
Agreed to by Congress November 15, 1777; ratified and in force, March 1, 1781.
Article XIII. Every State shall abide by the determination of the united States in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
As we were going about that upgrade, we decided to drop the language about a perpetual union. Doesn't that tell you anything?
If you had asked the average person in the USSR they would have probably said just living under the brutal Soviet regime was a form of slavery.
"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without warseeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."
-- The Goon's Second Coronation speech as Caesar
You can't have it both ways, those "evil" maniacal agents were trying to avert war by negotiation. Therefore the Illinois Butcher wasn't trying to avert the war. Simple rhetorical logic.
The constitution is a document that limits the power of the central government. If it does not mention secession of states, than it should be legal for the states to do so. The colonies and later the territorial legislatures all voted to join the union. I think they should be able to vote to leave the union if they so wish. The Constitution should not be a suicide pact. I am pretty sure the central comittee of the USSR had a big problem with thier member states leaving. They just did not get as bloodthirsty as our government in pushing the point. I did not approve of any aspect the USSR. It just seems to me that when faced with the similar circumstances of member states leaving thier union, they handled it correctly.
Compare with the negotiations carried out by the Empire of Japan with the U.S. in November-December 1941. And with as much good faith.
Strange, isn't it, how the enemies of the United States all seem to go insane, and in similar ways. It's almost as if God wills it. Well perhaps it's just hubris on their part.
And by the way, I regard your over-the-top invective against Lincoln as merely showing your conscious (or subconscious) knowledge of the weakness of your position.
Gee I didn't realize that Japan was negotiating their secession from the USA, wow thanks!
If you are saying that the CSA is similar to the EoJ then both must be INDEPENDENT sovereign nations, I've been told by the Lincoln Coven that He never acknowledged CSA's sovereignty. So NO similarities to WWII, except if the the Goon had had a nuke, he'd of used it.
One, I didn't post those plans, and two, even though illegal under US law since 1807, slave imports continued in the Deep South up to and even during the Civil War.
So you admit your ancestors rode with the Klan, and you are proud of that? If so, your 'sainted ancestors' were f'n terrorists.
Now what the hell 'serious problem' are you going to give me?
There was more going on in the South than what you seem to know about and the reason the KKK was originally founded, long before it became a racist organization, was to protect Southerners from Northern Carpetbaggers who literally stole everything they could get their hands on.
And that is a pile of steaming bull shit. The Klan was founded for one and only one reason -- to bring the Democrat party back into power.
So you neve heard of Quantrell’s raiders or Blood Bill Anderson?
LOL! Some people just cant let it go!
Or not. I'll go with not. Because you know as well as I that the point I was making was about the bad faith by the enemies of the United States in each set of negotiations.
Then why did the Confederates invade Kentucky which had rejected secession?
What share of responsibility did the South walk away from - they were paying a good part (some would argue more than their share) of the taxes.
Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that is a bunch of bunk. The South was not even close to paying their 'fair share' of Federal expenses.
Again, look at another item, and one, be assured, in which we have a great and vital interest; it is that of revenue, or means of supporting Government. From official documents, we learn that a fraction over threefourths of the revenue collected for the support of Government has uniformly been raised from the North.
Pause now while you can, gentlemen, and contemplate carefully and candidly these importaut items. Look at another branch of Government, and learn from stern statistical facts how matters stand in that department. I mean the mail and Post-Office privileges that we now enjoy under the General Government as it has been for years past. The expense for the traasportation of the mail in the Free States was, by the report of the Postmaster-General for the year 1880, a little over $13,000,000, while the income was $19,000,000. But In the Slave States the transportation of the mail was $14,716,000, while the revenue from the same was $6,001,0-26, leaving a deficit of $6,704,974, to be supplied bv the North for our accommodation, and without it we must have been entirely cutoff from this most essential branch of Government.
Alexander H. Stephens at the Georgia secession convention, Jan, 1861
No, I never said anything of the sort. You are the one making ad hominem attacks, spouting off the accepted, PC version of events and in general providing evidence that everything we Southerners have always held against you Yankees was rooted in truth.
You’re the one equating every Southerner as a racist Klan member, yet you don’t even know the history of the Klan or that is was originally founded as a social club with NO political claims and was actually disbanded by it’s original founder because it was becoming violent, so check your history before you start calling people terrorists.
And just for the record, I said you and I would have a serious problem. I never implied violence of any kind, you’re the one who jumps to the conclusion that I’m implying violence. Next time, how about you actually try listening to someone else besides your own overgrown ego.
Now, I can show evidence for the ideas that I have posted, can you do the same or are you just going to post more ad hominem personal attacks and go off half-cocked again?
The Articles of Confederation weren’t seen as a bad thing - but they were recognized as being inadequate. With the crafting of the US Constitution we “completed the thought”.
The process of crafting the US Constitution wasn’t regarded as scrapping the Articles of Confederation, but more as augmenting and appending.
The Founders certainly never “dropped” the principle of a perpetual union.
Proof please. You don’t get to claim a thing without proof. We can easily prove that the import of slaves continued through the north after 1807, but can you prove the same about the South, especially after the CW began?