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.
You mistake conciliation (”malice towards none”) for concession:
“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 inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissole [sic] 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.
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”
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.”
- Abe Lincoln
Hmmm, it must be a War on Drugs thread.
You can tell those threads because they call Republicans tyrants ...
“Never post anything that lacks the potential for a 60-car pileup.”
lol. Nice way of putting it!
"Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states...”
"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.”
US flagged slave ships were registered to mostly Yankee concerns, and outlawed by 1807(could have the year wrong). Again, nothing to do with the subject.
If you keep comparing me and my ancestors to Japs and nazi's of the wwii era, we're gonna have a problem. A person implying that are the scum of the earth, anyone that does that deserves my utmost scorn and invective.
Although the Articles of Confederation were never formally dissolved, to argue that they are still in force is preposterous. To hold them as binding is equally so. There is no language in the admission of any State of which I am aware that holds it as such. They were only concluded among 13 States anyway.
See post %84.
“Lincoln: father of Big Federal Governmen”
Lunacy - for 50 years after Lincoln, the Federal Govt was about 3% of our GDP and had almost none of the powers in the Big Govt that was created by Democrats Wilson, FDR, and LBJ.
“the midwife for 100 years of segregation”
So the Klan, southern segregationists, and the racist powers in the old confederacy couldn’t bring about 100 years of segregation on their own? They needed help? Never mind that this was done 10-30 years after Lincoln died, and after reconstruction ended, BY the southerners.
Apparently Lincoln is the author of all bad things in the USA since 1865 because well ... he SAVED the union dammit and he’s to blame!
“It didnt take long for many of the freed slaves to realize that they were far from free and that this newfound freedom had signifiantly diminished their economic lot in life.”
Really. How many willingly went back to slavery? Would YOU sign up to be a slave.
” A freedom won through reason and the voluntary decision of the Southern populace would have given these poor folks a chance for real integration into society. “
Too bad the South chose war instead of that path then, isn’t it? Funny how those who oppress others don’t seem to notice or mind the oppression that much.
Correction, the Articles of Confederation did specifically state the term “perpetual union”.
See post %84.
See Post #86.
It depends on if you think the Constitution is still law. Article 6 of the Constitution states: All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
The question then is, is the Constitution law or not?
None of the admissions of the States after the "Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution" apply.
It is until a state(s) legislature and duly elected governor say otherwise, and the people of that state(s) vote in the affirmation. Then it's AMF to FedGov.
It's very foggy out. I hear the crunch of metal now....92 and growing.
None of the admissions of the States after the "Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution" apply to agreements concluded thereafter.
The South shot first.
Hmm, looks like I’m late to the party. We’ll see how this works out.
“Others saw Section 3 as a way to punish the confederate leadership in one stroke while avoiding endless trials and perhaps a renewal of conflict as a result of those trials. For most then, there was no strong desire for endless revenge. They wanted it all behind them.”
Yup. A million men lost their lives in the bloodiest conflict in American history. Don’t underestimate the strong desire to put something that traumatic behind you.
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