Abraham Lincoln: Another Look
Lincoln in 1860
Table of Contents
The U. S. Constitution........................................................................................... 7
Lincoln’s “Whiggery” Background........................................................... 14
The Republican Party........................................................................................ 16
Lincoln’s “peculiar misfortune”............................................................... 23
Lincoln: Master of Rhetoric........................................................................ 27
Lincoln: The Great Emancipator................................................................ 37
Lincoln: The Great Inflationist.................................................................. 43
Lincoln: The Great War Criminal................................................................ 45
So What Were the Causes of the War?.................................................. 51
Lincoln’s Legacy................................................................................................... 57
In Conclusion.......................................................................................................... 65
History is not history unless it is the truth.
How did America in the twenty-first century end up with a government that is so highly centralized that the president alone can order the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars without the consent of Congress, let alone the public? How did we end up with a government that creates severe economic hardship for average citizens while showering big, politically-connected businesses with literally trillions of dollars in "bailout" money? Is this the real purpose of the Fed, as opposed to all of its happy talk about its supposed duty to "stabilize" the economy? And why is it that the Constitution is completely ignored, if not ridiculed, by the same Washington politicians who all that take an oath to defend the Constitution?
How did the federal judiciary become mere accomplices in our government-for-the-privileged-only "democracy" that routinely tells citizens to get lost whenever they inquire about how their tax dollars are being spent? And is it really desirable to have over half of the entire adult population "on the government dole" in one form or another so that they never oppose an expansion of the state for fear of losing their own subsidies? How and when was this system created?
The answer to all of these questions is that ideas do matter, and that the vast majority of Americans long ago abandoned the Jeffersonian ideas that "that government is best which governs least"; that if we are to have a central government, it must be "bound by the chains of the Constitution"; that the only possible way of controlling the federal Leviathan state is by empowering the citizens through political communities organized at the state and local level ("states’ rights"); that citizens, if left to their own devices, will prosper by pursuing their own self-interests under a rule of law; and that the only legitimate purpose of government is the protection of our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Americans are fond of quoting Jefferson, George Will once wrote, but "we live in Hamilton’s country." George Will was right. The great debate between Jefferson and Hamilton over the nature of government in America was decisively won by the Hamiltonian nationalists by the end of the nineteenth century (Grover Cleveland was the last president who had genuine Jeffersonian sympathies). Hamiltonian nationalism has festered ever since and has become the reigning American political philosophy, leaving us with the current economic debacle. Hamilton himself condemned Jefferson’s political philosophy shortly after President Jefferson delivered his first inaugural address by calling it "the symptom of a pygmy mind."
What is Hamiltonian nationalism? Hamilton himself argued at the constitutional convention for a "permanent president" who would appoint all the governors of the states, who would in turn have veto power over all state legislation. States’ rights would have been destroyed, and America would have essentially become a monarchy. That’s where America stands today, for all practical purposes. Especially since the advent of the federal income tax in 1913, the states are mere appendages of the central state who can be easily bribed into doing whatever the federal executive wants them to do. All it takes is a threat to withdraw a few million dollars in highway grants. Consequently, Americans have long been servants rather than masters of their own central government as their presidents wield dictatorial powers.
American presidents have far more dictatorial powers than any European monarchs of Hamilton’s time had. Today an American president can, on his own, order the bombing of any country in the world without offering an explanation to anyone; eavesdrop on any phone conversation or email; and imprison citizens without due process by calling them "enemy combatants." The "imperial presidency" was a part of Hamilton’s grand plan, and that is exactly what we have today.
Hamilton was a foreign policy imperialist who wanted to go to war with France (for starters) in order to pursue "imperial glory" (and "glory" for himself as well). Jefferson, on the other hand, understood that war was always and everywhere the great destroyer of wealth and liberty. Hamilton was the original neo-con when it comes to foreign policy.
Hamilton was the founding father of central banking, according to a Fed publication entitled A History of Central Banking in America. He wanted a bank run by politicians out of the nation’s capital and partly capitalized with tax dollars as a vehicle for financing his other main objective: corporate welfare. As the founder of America’s first central bank, the Bank of the United States, he wanted to use the bank to subsidize his (and his political party’s) political power base, which was primarily Northern merchants and bankers, such as his political mentor Robert Morris.
It was Morris who urged President George Washington to appoint Hamilton as the first treasury secretary despite the fact that he had little knowledge and no experience in finance (apart from being a clerk for slave-owning molasses exporters in the Caribbean as a teenager) when the Revolutionary War ended. The Fed’s trillion-dollar bailout of irresponsible bankers is Hamilton nationalism par excellence.
Hamilton was also the founding father of "crony capitalism" in America with all of his schemes for subsidizing businesses and his advocacy of protectionism, as outlined in his famous Report on Manufactures. 
From the aftermath of the War of 1812 to the early 1860s, the big topics of political debate in the United States were the propriety of protectionist tariffs, “internal improvement subsidies,” and a national bank. Henry Clay, leader of the Whig Party and the political inspiration of Lincoln, would adopt Hamilton’s agenda as his own under the rubric of “The American System,” a slogan that Hamilton himself coined. This was basically an Americanized version of British mercantilism (corporate welfare, protectionism, and central banking).
America’s national debt now stands at about $10 trillion; $70 trillion and counting if one includes the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare, government pensions, and who knows whatever other promises will be made during the current crisis. This too is pure Hamiltonianism, for it was Hamilton who called the public debt "a public blessing." It was a blessing, he said, because it would help to grow the state by attaching the wealthier people of the country to the state. As government bondholders they would always be relied upon to support higher taxes and a bigger government, reasoned America’s Machiavelli, a man whom his nemesis Jefferson once called "a political colossus." "We need a government of more energy," Hamilton once complained to George Washington.
Hamilton succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in this regard. It is not only the bondholders but also the investment bankers who market the bonds for the government who have long been a powerful political force for bigger government. That’s why the Treasury Secretary is almost always the CEO of Goldman Sachs or some other Wall Street financial institution such as the New York Fed. Ever since the New Deal, politicians have realized, in fine Hamiltonian tradition, that the poor as well as the rich can be bribed into becoming reliable lobbyists for statism, all at the expense of the middle class taxpayers.
Hamilton did caution against "excessive debt," but then he spent the rest of his life recklessly advancing the cause of excessive and unconstitutional government, excessive debt and all. It was Hamilton who first invented the notion of "implied powers" of the Constitution, and taught generations of lawyers how to subvert the General Welfare and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution to render its restrictions on federal power meaningless. As constitutional historian Clinton Rossiter wrote in Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution, ever since the 1930s "the principles of nationalism and broad construction [of the Constitution] expounded by Hamilton and his disciples" monopolized "discussion of constitutional law." The "formula" for unlimited government, Rossiter approvingly proclaimed, was invented by Hamilton and refined by his political disciples: "the commerce power + the war powers + the power to tax and spend for the general welfare x the loosest possible reading of the words ‘necessary and proper.’"
Just as the ideas of Karl Marx provided the ideological rationale for socialism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Hamilton’s mercantilist/nationalist/monarchist ideas comprise the essential ideological underpinnings of the American empire. In his book, Hamilton’s Republic, Michael Lind assembled essays and excerpts from essays and speeches from a pantheon of Hamiltonian-minded politicians, pundits, and intellectuals throughout history. Among Hamilton’s ideological disciples who contributed to America becoming "Hamilton’s country," writes Lind, are: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Croly (founding editor of The New Republic), historian Samuel Beer, James Wilson, John Jay, George Washington, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Francis Lieber, Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Huntington, Henry Cabot Lodge, Walter Lippmann, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Quincy Adams, Friedrich List, Henry Carey, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson.
Lind is correct when he writes that "however powerful Jeffersonian rhetoric remains in American public discourse, it is the Hamiltonians who have won the major struggles to determine what kind of country the United States would be." The above-mentioned men may have relied mostly on persuasion and propaganda, but force, coercion, and the waging of total war on American civilians as well as combatants was also necessary. "Lincoln and Grant settled the question of whether the United States was a nation-state [the Hamiltonian view] or a loose alliance among sovereign states [the Jeffersonian view]," writes Lind. “In the eyes of Hamiltonian nationalists the legitimacy of the powers of the central government always comes down to this argument—that might makes right.” Lincoln made a similar reference in his Cooper Institute speech when he said, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
At Trenton, New Jersey, Lincoln, in replying to the hope expressed by the mayor that Lincoln would have strength for the task ahead of him, used these words:
The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am, none who would do more to preserve it, but it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly. For the ability to perform it, I must trust in that Supreme Being who has never yet forsaken this favored land.
Later, in August, 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln wrote James C. Conkling, and ended as follows:
Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result…the vials of wrath will be poured out.
According to Edgar Lee Masters, in his biography, Lincoln: The Man, noted, “It was this belief that God was in the war, and watching its battles, and more than this, it was Lincoln’s belief that God was on the side of the North, and that, after sufficiently chastising the North as well as the South for the sin of slavery, God would give the victory to the righteous North, that made Lincoln of such perdurable strength and patience through bloody defeat … Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, is at the core of this sort of thinking; and it interpenetrated all of Lincoln’s.”
Once the position is taken that one is on the right side, every step becomes lawful and good. But what is sacred about the maintenance of any government, or any Union, which justifies the most revolting cruelties and killings?
I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be no inclination, in the people of the free States to enter into the slave States, and interfere with the question of slavery at all.
The U.S. Constitution, written in 1787, made slavery officially legal in the newly-created United States. This was upheld by seven out of nine Justices on the Supreme Court in 1857. 19 of the original 55 Framers were slaveholders. General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a signer for South Carolina, in speaking before the South Carolina House of Representatives, on January 17, 1788, pointed out forcefully that the scheme of government in process of ratification strengthened the institution of chattel slavery; for it made it legally impossible for the national government ever to emancipate slaves and gave the slave states the right to hunt down fugitive blacks who had escaped to non-slave states. Under the Articles of Confederation, a fugitive slave who made it to a non-slave state was legally free. There was, in brief, even at the time of the Civil War, according to competent historians, no clear secular trend in the United States toward abolition, north or south. The fact is, the Constitution was a pro-slavery document. *
Even before the Articles of Confederation went into effect in 1781, numerous figures in politics and the military were agitating for a further strengthening of the federal center. These people took the name “Federalist.” Their efforts ultimately resulted in adoption of the federal constitution of 1788.
There was also a cohort in the Convention of members insistent on proposing a reinforcement of the central government while maintaining the primary place of the States in the American polity—a truly federal, rather than national, government.
Whereas advocates of ratification took the name “Federalist,” their opponents—particularly in Virginia—called their selves “Republicans.”
The chief issue in dispute in the ratification campaign was whether the proposed constitution would be consistent with the state–centered constitutionalism that the Patriots had fought for during the Revolution. Federalist insisted it would, while Republicans feared it would not.
The Federalists always insisted during the ratification debates—knowing they had to in order to win approval of the Constitution—that the States were individual parties to a federal compact. Spelling out the logic of the compact, three states—Virginia, Maryland, and Rhode Island—explicitly reserved (in the act of ratifying the Constitution) their right to secede from the Union. And one can easily deduce a right to secession from the language of the Tenth Amendment: because the Constitution does not prohibit secession; that power, like all the other “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to by it to the States,” is “reserved to the states.”
If a state, or section of the country, no longer felt itself represented in, or fairly treated by, the Federal Government, then it had the right to dissolve its association with that government. It could secede from the Union. The use of force to stop a state from seceding was unconstitutional since the Union itself was a creature of the states. It had been wholly created by them.
In 1783, King George III admitted defeat to the “sovereign and independent states.” As Article I of the Treaty of Paris put it, “His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be free, sovereign, and independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof.” Note that King George was required by the terms of the treaty not to admit that “America” was independent or that “the United States” was independent, but that the thirteen named states were independent. Lincoln’s later response was that the Preamble of the Constitution stated that the Union derived its power from “the whole people”, and that they alone could dissolve it.
Modern-day proponents of nationalism and executive power still make this argument, however, by pointing to the preamble of the Constitution, which reads, “We the people of the United States…do ordain and establish this Constitution…” However, James Madison, in his Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention, the only written record of the constitutional convention’s proceedings, was meticulous in explaining exactly how the ratification of the Constitution was to take place, for it would determine where sovereignty resided. In his Notes he clearly wrote that the Constitution would be ratified by “the people composing those political societies [of the states], in their highest sovereign capacity.” It was not state governments that possessed this power, moreover, but the citizens of the states. The people delegated certain powers to their elected representatives, but retained ultimate sovereignty to themselves, as members of separate political communities called states.
Thus the national government was created by the process whereby state ratifying conventions chose to delegate certain powers, previously delegated to the states, to the central government. Lincoln’s assertion in the Gettysburg Address that “a new nation” was created in 1776 (four score and seven years prior to 1863) was wrong on all counts. The founders never created “a nation” but a confederacy of states. And the Declaration of Independence never had the legal authority of either the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution. More important, the very words of the Declaration contradict Lincoln’s theory of the absence of state sovereignty. The Declaration was, first and foremost, a Declaration of Secession from the British Empire. America was founded by a War of Secession.
When the citizens of the states created a federal constitution in the form of the Articles of Confederation, they made a point of clearly spelling out their independent and sovereign status. As defined in Article I, Section II: “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” Sovereignty always rested in the hands of the citizens of the states, never with “the whole people.”
In Federalist # 39, James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” made very clear that the Constitution was to be ratified by the people “not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong.” He also stated the new government created by the Constitution got all of its authority from the free and independent states, and that each state involved in ratifying the Constitution was “considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only bound by its own voluntary act.” The “whole people,” in other words, had nothing whatsoever to do with the formation of the government.
It is well known that Southerners championed states’ rights, but less well known is that the states’ rights tradition was a powerful force in Northern politics as well until 1865. As Dean Sprague wrote in Freedom Under Lincoln, “States’ rights, which prior to 1860 had been as important a part of northern beliefs as southern, were overturned” by Lincoln’s war.
One example is how New Englanders responded to Thomas Jefferson’s 1807 trade embargo, which was extremely harmful to the New England shipping industry. The New England states formally ‘nullified” the embargo law, citing Jefferson’s famous Kentucky Resolve of 1798 which enunciated the principle of nullification, or nonenforcement, of a federal law by the citizens of a state. The embargo, the War of 1812, and the 1803 Louisiana Purchase—three events viewed as politically and economically harmful to their region—so aggravated New Englanders that they plotted to secede for most of the first decade of the nineteenth century. In 1814 the New England secessionists held a convention in Hartford, Connecticut, where they decided against secession. They did not question the right of secession, or the fact that the states were sovereign, only the practical economic and political wisdom of such a move.
In fact, the rights of nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and secession were the two most essential elements of the states’ rights doctrine prior to 1861. These rights served as popular checks on the powers of the central state. In 1824 Henry Clay sponsored a tariff bill that succeeded in doubling the average tariff rate in the United States. In 1825 the South Carolina legislature issued a declaration denouncing the entire Hamilton/Clay “American System.” The legislature characterized Clay’s tariff as “a system of robbery and plunder” that “made one section tributary to another.” Nevertheless, Clay was emboldened by his success in 1824, and he convinced Congress to increase tariffs even further in 1828, to an average of about 50 percent. Southern politicians immediately condemned the new tariff as the “Tariff of Abominations.” It nearly created a secession crisis some three decades before the War for Southern Independence. Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama joined South Carolina in condemning the 1828 tariff, while legislatures in Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana, and New York issued resolutions supporting it. The economic and political battle lines were clearly drawn.
South Carolina went so far as to adopt an Ordinance of Nullification in 1832. President Andrew Jackson, himself a Southerner, threatened to send troops to force South Carolina to allow the collection of the Federal tariff if that state persisted in its assertion that it could “nullify” any Federal law it did not agree with. Jackson’s message to the people of the offending state read, “Those who told you that you might peaceably prevent the execution of the laws deceived you. The object is disunion. Disunion by armed force is treason.” Jackson issued a Nullification Proclamation denying the constitutionality of both nullification and secession. Jackson argued that the United States had been created by one American people, not by separate states. Senator Henry Clay stepped in to arrange a compromise. A secession crisis was averted when Congress revised the Tariff of Abominations in February 1833. Tariffs were reduced—slowly. Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina would not be hanged for treason (for supporting his state). Jackson would not repent. The South Carolina Convention met again, repealed the nullification ordinance, nullified the statute empowering Jackson to put down nullification by force, and declared victory.
Henry Clay and the Whig Party, armed with their Hamiltonian mercantilist agenda, inflamed political passions and caused sectional strife for decades leading up to the War Between the States. For the most part, the protectionists tariffs they proposed benefited manufacturers, and there was relatively little manufacturing in the southern states, even by the 1860s. So tariffs overwhelmingly favored northern states. To southerners, tariffs were all cost and no benefit: they paid higher prices for most of the manufactured goods they bought, from shoes to woolen blankets to farm tools, but were largely unable to pass on their higher cost of living to their customers since American protectionist tariffs cut off a large amount of foreign trade.
Despite all the Hamiltonians’ efforts, the Jeffersonians more or less prevailed for decades. The government remained relatively small and decentralized. By the mid-1850s tariff rates were as low as they would be for the entire nineteenth century, and federal subsidies for “internal improvements” were all but nonexistent. The Bank of the United States was dismantled in the 1830s. The American banking system was dominated by state-chartered banks that issued currency backed by gold and silver on demand and that therefore did not inflate their currency beyond what their specie reserves justified. It was nota perfect system, of course, but two highly reputable economic historians, Jeffery Hummel and Richard Timberlake, have made compelling cases that it was the most stable banking system the United States has ever had.
In short, the Hamiltonian economic agenda had been resoundingly defeated time and again. The Hamiltonians had failed to persuade many of their fellow citizens of the alleged virtues of big, centralized government that would primarily benefit the wealthy and politically connected.
This all changed in the first years of the War Between the States. The Republican Party, which now controlled the government, had inherited the Hamiltonian agenda from the Whigs. No one was more committed to the Hamiltonian cause than Abraham Lincoln, whom the historian John Lamberton Harper rightly calls “the greatest of [Hamilton’s] disciples.” Even as a war was being fought and Lincoln was warning of nothing less than the death of the nation (and indeed of democracy in the world) if the Confederate army prevailed, the Republicans made it a priority to install Hamiltonian mercantilism, complete with massive taxpayer subsidies to railroad corporations, protectionist tariffs in the range of 50 percent, and a nationalized banking system. And now that southern Democrats had left the Congress, there was little opposition to their schemes.
As Masters pointed out:
Between December 14 and December 20, 1839, Lincoln and Douglas debated the sub-treasury question in the courthouse at Springfield, Lincoln standing for the Whigs as against Jackson’s plan for the sub-treasury, while Douglas supported the cause of Jackson. Lincoln’s Hamiltonian principles were thus all along avowed. He was at that time an apostle of the so-called implied powers of the Constitution, which were so casuistically expounded by Hamilton so fairly refuted by Jackson, and which were afterward elaborated judicially by Chief Justice Marshall in holding the charter of the United States Bank to be constitutional, and in arrogating to the Supreme Court the power to decide upon the constitutionality of laws, a power that the Court at the start disclaimed to possess. All of these usurpations Jefferson characterized as the “twistifications” of John Marshall. Always from the beginning of the government the statesmen and moral leaders who were calling loudest for the observance of the laws were themselves rending it out of shape and violating it, as if their moral purposes were a law above the law, even indeed as Seward said that there “is a higher law than the Constitution.” And regretfully we shall see more and more that Lincoln was of this political association and faith, and that the War gave him the chance to express his will as being above the law, because allied with the purpose of God in measures which trampled the Constitution and law.
Lincoln, in his First Inaugural address, stated, “I hold that in the contemplation of universal law, the union of these states is perpetual.” What “universal law” was, or had to do with the question of secession, he did not stop to explain.
Today, America has been “reinvented,” Columbia University law professor George P. Fletcher approvingly states, thanks to Supreme Court judicial activism. “Truth and justice must prevail over legalistic formalities” like the Constitution, he says. Moreover, he claims that those who “fight in the name of a higher law are allowed “to sidestep the rules.” This of course depends on who gets to define what “higher law” means. In reality, this argument is another version of Hamilton’s “common good” philosophy.
Fletcher says this “higher law” informed the Republican Party in the post-1865 era—the era of Hamiltonian hegemony—and he is right: the Republicans held a virtual monopoly on power for some fifty years after the war and could define “the common good” or “the higher law” any way that they wanted. The purpose of all this, writes Fletcher, was to “strengthen the powers of government” and to achieve “the consolidation of the United States as a nation.”
To Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution transferred sovereignty from the King of England to the American people. The people were to express that sovereignty as members of distinct political communities organized at the state and local levels. Today, the people are not sovereign over their federal government; their federal government is sovereign over them. Much—perhaps most—of the people’s sovereignty has been assumed by nine unelected government lawyers with lifetime tenure.
Today’s statists do not need to get involved with messy democratic politics if they can rely on like-minded government lawyers instead. That’s why the political battles over Supreme Court appointees have become so vicious. And it’s what Jefferson meant when he said:
The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated republic. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.
The omnipotence of today’s Supreme Court would surprise and horrify the founders—even the Federalists. Today’s Supreme Court rulings are raw exercises of power whether judges purport to be bound by the original understanding or not. Justice Anthony Kennedy recently said, “We must never lose sight of the fact that the law has a moral foundation, and we must never fail to ask ourselves not only what the law is, but what the law should be.”
In the Selective Draft Law Cases (1918), Chief Justice Edward D. White argued that because foreign governments conscripted soldiers, this power was obviously one of the attributes of a national government; in other words, the Supreme Court’s 1918 decision that federal conscription is constitutional was explicitly based on foreign law and contemporary practice in the German Empire, Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, Turkish Empire, British Empire, Japanese Empire—you see the theme.
When Lincoln enacted a military draft in 1863 it had led to riots, and Chief Justice Taney drafted an opinion denying that such legislation was constitutional. Taney reasoned that the Constitution did not give Congress the authority to draft men into service. Instead, it said it could raise and regulate armies, and it gave the federal government authority over the states’ militias in certain circumstances. As the Continental and Confederation Congresses had raised armies by requisitions on the states and through economic inductions, Taney reasoned, that was the extent of Congress’s power to raise armies.
The defendants in 1918 made arguments similar to Taney’s. They also made reference to the Thirteenth Amendment, which had been ratified since Taney’s death and which said that only convicts could be subjected to in voluntary servitude. The Court would have nothing of this.
Far from being the protector of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has been a relentless agent of an evermore powerful and unrestrained federal government … using the Constitution as a blank check to allow them to write into American law their own ideas of “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” as Chief Justice Earl Warren put it in Trop vs. Dulles (1958). Note the allusion to Darwin’s theory of evolution here: if the judges’ conceptions of decency differ from all their predecessors, then today’s judges must be superior to their predecessors, because they have evolved within their maturing society. And of course, if the judges’ ideas differ from those of the majority of the electorate, that only shows how much further the judges have evolved and how superior they really are.
The American colonists fought to rid themselves of an intrusive government they couldn’t control. Today we have nine unelected oracles with limitless powers—an imperial judiciary. What constitutional law is supposed to be is the application of the Constitution’s plain meaning to bind judges, presidents, and congresses—all wielders of federal power. If we want the Constitution enforced in the way it was explained to the people at the time of its ratification, then we have to overcome the received wisdom about what constitutional law is.
When the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 adjourned from writing the Constitution, a woman was waiting at the door. She asked delegate Benjamin Franklin what they had wrought, and he said a constitution for “a republic, if you can keep it.” To the extent that we have not kept the Constitution that Franklin helped to write, it is time we took it back.
* From about 1619 until 1865, people of African descent were legally enslaved within the boundaries of the present United States by whites, American Indians and free blacks. The economy of the country was enhanced by the labor afforded by slavery. The US Constitution, written in 1787, made slavery officially legal in the newly-created United States. This was upheld by seven out of nine Justices on the Supreme Court in 1857. At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, the United States had no official, national flag. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution. Thus the “Stars and Stripes” became the official American flag.
During the crises of secession and prior to the outbreak of the War Between the States, the majority of bills passed by Congress had protected slavery. However, the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the several states by the Thirty-eighth United States Congress on January 31, 1865. The amendment was declared, in a proclamation of Secretary of State William Henry Seward, dated December 18, 1865, to have been ratified by the legislatures of twenty-seven of the then thirty-six states; the necessary three-quarters. Thus the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution officially abolished slavery almost 90 years after the United States official adoption of the “Stars and Stripes”.
The Confederate States of America was the government formed by eleven southern states between 1861 and 1865. The first official flag of the Confederacy, called the “Stars and Bars,” was adopted on March 5, 1861. The more commonly recognized Confederate Battle Flag was used in battle beginning in December 1861 until the fall of the Confederacy in April 1865. The “Stars And Bars” flew over slavery a total of 50 months.
In the course of his reply, Senator Douglas remarked, in substance, that he had always considered this government was made for the white people and not for the Negroes. Why, in point of mere fact, I think so too.
Abraham Lincoln's Whig party loyalty is not part of the popular legend of this supposedly great president. That legend took shape in the years after the War and was fostered by the Republican Party, whose interest it served. Republican spokesmen were concerned to define their cause as the party of the victorious Union, not merely as the successor to the Whigs. The Grand Old Party had no reason to want to share the mantle of the Great Emancipator with the defunct Whigs. Later, during the twentieth century, those attracted to the Lincoln legend were often D/democrats—with both a capital and lowercase D—, to whom Lincoln's Whig identity seemed an anomaly, even an embarrassment, something to be minimized or explained away. If only he had been a Jacksonian, one feels, such admirers could have understood him so much better. But in stubborn historical reality, Lincoln was a Whig for more years than he was a Republican, and a loyal Whig too. He joined the party as a young man, as soon as it was formed, and became one of a faithful band of Whig members in the Illinois state legislature from 1834 to 1841. He campaigned hard for Harrison in 1840, headed the Illinois campaigns of Henry Clay in 1844 and Zachary Taylor in 1848, and would have been a presidential elector in 1852 had Winfield Scott carried Illinois. In the light of Lincoln's later career, it is particularly noteworthy that in 1848, faced with the challenge of the Free Soil party, Lincoln went on a campaign tour of Massachusetts, working hard to keep New England's antislavery Whigs from defecting to the ticket of Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis Adams. How does one explain the attraction that the Whig party had for Lincoln? Edgar Lee Masters probably said it best:
Why did not Lincoln attach his fortunes to Jackson, who led one of the great popular movements which have distinguished American politics? Considering that Lincoln was surrounded everywhere in his youth by Jeffersonian adherents, and in Indiana by Jackson followers, and that the Hankses were all Democrats, one wonders what it was in all that that made Lincoln at an early age turn from his political nurture and become a worshipper of Henry Clay. It was natural for the East, with its commerce and its banks, its financial power, its cities of life established in wealth and luxury, to oppose Jackson. But why would a carpenter’s son in Indiana, living in direst poverty, line up with the forces of privilege? Why, indeed, except to advance his own fortunes in life?
The Whigs came to unite around economic policy, celebrating Clay's vision of the "American System" which favored government support for a more modern, industrial economy in which education and commerce would equal physical labor or land ownership as a means of productive wealth. Whigs sought to promote manufacturing through protective tariffs (as had Alexander Hamilton 40 years prior), a growth-oriented monetary policy with a new Bank of the United States, and a vigorous program of "internal improvements"—especially to roads, canal systems, and railroads—funded by the proceeds of public land sales. The Whigs also promoted public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions.
The Whigs wanted to deepen the socio-economic system by adding more and more layers of complexity, such as banks, factories, and railroads. In general, the Democrats were more successful at enacting their policies on the national level, while the Whigs were more successful in passing modernization projects, such as canals and railroads, at the state level, but not the federal (which had to wait until Abraham Lincoln's presidency to be fully realized). As a member of the Illinois legislature in the 1830’s, Lincoln led his local delegation in a successful Whig Party effort to appropriate some twelve million dollars in taxpayer dollars for subsidies to road-, canal-, and railroad-building corporations.
Unfortunately, this “improvement” led to a huge financial debacle, with literally no projects being completed and all of the money being either wasted or stolen. The whole mess was a disaster for the state government and the taxpayers, but it was a boon to Lincoln’s political and legal careers, catapulting him into position as one of the top railroad industry lobbyists.
Opponents of the party ridiculed it as a reconstitution of the old Federalist Party. While the party did have strong support in areas historically known as Federalist strongholds, it was mainly formed by disillusioned Jeffersonian Republicans (Clay, a 10 year Republican leader in Congress, joined the party), and southerners who disliked Jackson's power grabs and stance during nullification crisis. In its early form, the Whig Party was united only by opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson, especially his opposition to the Bank of the United States.
The Whigs, also known as the "Whiggery," appealed more to the professional and business classes: doctors, lawyers, merchants, ministers, bankers, storekeepers, factory owners, commercially-oriented farmers and large-scale planters. Lind points out that Lincoln was, in fact, a “wealthy railroad lawyer” whose “clients included giant corporations, millionaires, real estate speculators, and corporate executives,” not a poor backwoods rail-splitter. In general, commercial and manufacturing towns and cities voted Whig save for strongly Democratic precincts in Irish Catholic and German immigrant communities; the Democrats often sharpened their appeal to the poor by ridiculing the Whigs' aristocratic pretensions. Protestant religious revivals also injected a moralistic element into the Whig ranks. Many called for public schools to teach moral values; others proposed prohibition to end the liquor “problem”.
1852 was the beginning of the end for the Whigs. The deaths of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster that year severely weakened the party. The Compromise of 1850 fractured the Whigs along pro- and anti-slavery lines. With the Whig Party dead, Lincoln joined the new Republican Party.
I have all the while maintained that inasmuch as there is a physical inequality between the white and black, that the blacks must remain inferior…
The Republican Party was created in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. They were opposed to the expansion of slavery into new territories for fear of tipping the balance of power in favor of the Democrats. This is not the same as “opposed to slavery.”
The Republican Party is and always has been the party of state capitalism. That, along with the powers and perks it provides its leaders, is the whole reason for its creation and continued existence. By state capitalism I mean a regime of highly concentrated private ownership, subsidized and protected by government; in a word—Fascist. The Republican Party has never, ever opposed any government interference in the free market or any government expenditure except those that might favor labor unions or threaten Big Business. Consider that in its origination, it was the party of high tariffs – when high tariffs benefited Northern big capital and oppressed the South and most of the population.
There is nothing particularly surprising that there should be a party of state capitalism in the United States; and certainly nothing surprising in the necessity for such a party to present itself as something else. Put in terms the Founding Fathers would have understood, the interests Republicans serve are merely the court party – what Jefferson referred to as the tinsel aristocracy and John Taylor as the paper aristocracy. The American Revolution was a revolt of the country against the court. Jeffersonians understood that every political system divides between the great mass of unorganized folks who mind their own business – that, is, the country party – and the minority who hang around the court to manipulate the government finances and engineer government favors. It is much easier and quicker to get rich by finding a way into the treasury than by hard work. That is mostly what politics is about. Of course, schemes to plunder society through the government must never be seen as such. They must be powdered and perfumed to look like a public good.
Contrary to what we might hope, there was nothing in the New World to inhibit the formation of a court party. In fact, the immense riches of an undeveloped continent merely increased incentives for courtiers. The number of projects that could be imagined as worthy of government support was infinite. In America there were not even any firmly established institutions of credit and currency, control of which was always the quickest route to big riches. Neither was there anything in a democratic system to inhibit state capitalism. The great mass of the citizens could usually be circumvented by people whose fulltime job was lining their pockets by swindling the voters. Lincoln's triumph is most realistically seen as the permanent victory of the court party, a victory that had been sought ever since Alexander Hamilton. The Lincoln regime eliminated all barriers to making the federal government into a machine to transfer money to those interests the party represented (and as many others as needed to be paid off to support the operation).
From the prospective of the Republican Party, Lincoln was elected for four reasons: first, to preserve the territories for the white race and to ensure that white laborers would not have to compete for jobs with either slaves or free blacks; second, to sign into law high protectionist tariffs that would benefit Northern manufacturers while harming all consumers, and especially those in the South; third, to give away free land under a Homestead Act, the biggest political patronage program ever; and fourth, to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize railroad corporations, the important financial backbone of the Republican Party. They decided that Abraham Lincoln—the wealthy, skilled trial lawyer/politician/lobbyist from the railroad industry—was the man for the job.
As of 1861, no federal government program of any significance had subsidized corporations for road, canal, or railroad building. There had been many experiments at the state level, and every one of them was a financial disaster. In the typical scenario, Whig politicians would promise a commercial empire if only the state legislature would earmark millions to build roads, canals, and railroads. When legislatures followed through, little or nothing would be built; millions would be stolen; and the states’ taxpayers would be left with a public debt that would take decades to pay off. State government experiments with Hamiltonian corporate welfare during the first half of the nineteenth century were so disastrous that by 1875 only one state—Massachusetts— had not amended its constitution to prohibit such expenditures of public funds.
But the War Between the States once again enabled the Republicans to adopt part of the Hamiltonian scheme that Henry Clay and others had been unable to achieve. There was no economic necessity for government subsidies to build a transcontinental railroad, as the railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill would prove by building and profitably running the Great Northern without a penny of subsidy, not even land grants.
The lack of economic necessity did not affect the plans of the Republicans, however. The leader of their party, Abraham Lincoln, was a longtime railroad industry lawyer and insider, and the northern railroads, manufacturers, and banks were their main political constituency, just as merchants and bankers were Hamilton’s constituency. The railroads had done as much as anyone to elect a Republican president, and they expected to be “rewarded.”
So in June 1861, just two months after Fort Sumner and with the country at war, Lincoln called a special session of Congress to begin work on the Pacific Railroad Act. The legislation was signed into law in 1862. At this point the president had the right to choose the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad. He chose Council Bluffs, Iowa—where he had invested in land in 1857.
Once the subsidies started pouring in, the seemingly insatiable railroad corporations lobbied for more and more. They “mushroomed into one of the most powerful and ruthless lobbies that the republic had ever known,” wrote the historian Leonard Curry. The two railroad corporations established by the Pacific Railroad Act—the Union Pacific and Central Pacific—were paid subsidies by the mile. This gave them an incentive to build quickly and often inefficiently. All the risks of the enterprise were socialized—paid for by the taxpayers—whereas all the profits went to private individuals as owners of stock in the companies.
Hamilton had justified the government enriching his friends at no risk to themselves because "a public debt is a public blessing." The Whigs sometimes argued that the paper issued by their banks was "the people's money" and therefore morally superior as a currency to "government money." Lincoln presented himself as a candidate for the presidency with the slogan "Vote Yourself a Farm!" Once the obstructionism of those troublesome Southerners was broken, ordinary folks could get themselves a farm for free out of the public lands. Some ordinary folks did get land – but most of the free land, millions of acres, went to government-connected corporations. Saving the Union, freeing the slaves but keeping them out of the North, and giving opportunity to the common people, when filtered through Lincoln's masterful rhetoric, gave the party of Big Business a lock on the righteous vote for a long time to come.
The very name of the Republican Party is a lie. The name was chosen when the party formed in the 1850s to suggest a likeness to the Jeffersonian Republicans of earlier history. This had a very slender plausibility. One of the main goals of the new party was the plank of "free soil"— preventing slavery and Blacks from existence in any territories, that is, future states.
At Jackson, Michigan, on June 6, 1854, a great concourse of people, called together by a petition of ten thousand signatures, met in a grove of trees and organized a new political party called the Republican Party…None of these deserved to call themselves Republicans, any more than the centralist party of Hamilton could honestly call itself the Federal Party.
It is quite true that in the 1780s Jefferson, and indeed most Southerners, had voted to exclude slavery from the Northwest Territory – what became the Midwest, a region to which Virginia had by far the strongest claim by both charter and conquest. However, the sentiments and reasoning that supported that restriction were very different from those of the Republican Free-Soilers of the 1850s.
To detect the lie, all you have to do is look at the stance of Jefferson himself and most of his followers, Northern and Southern, in the Missouri controversy of 1819–1820. The effort to eliminate slavery from Missouri and all the territories, the first version of Lincoln's free-soil policy, was denounced by Jefferson as a threat to the future of the Union and a transparent Northern power grab. It was "the fire-bell in the night." In the 1780s the foreign slave trade was still open. In 1819 no more slaves were being imported and the black population was decreasing naturally in North America. At that point, Jefferson said, the best course for the eventual elimination of slavery was not to restrict it but to disperse it as thinly as possible.
The Southern Republicans who had criticized and sought to restrict slavery in the 1780s had in mind the long-term welfare of all Americans. The Northern Republicans of the 1850s who raised a truly hysterical and exaggerated campaign against what they called "the spread of slavery" were entirely different people with entirely different motives. Not even to mention, of course, that the Northern Republicans were totally committed to a mercantilist agenda, every plank of which Jeffersonians had defined themselves by being against. The Republicans of the 1850s exactly represented those parts of the country and those interests that had been the most rabid opponents of Jefferson and his Republicans.
Historians have long noted the influence of German refugees from the European revolutions of 1848 in the founding of the Republican Party and in Lincoln’s election. These men were German immigrants who participated in an 1848 European political revolt that advocated highly centralized government, despised state’s rights, and believed that citizens needed to subordinate their personal interests to the state. Professor Clyde Wilson observed: “The Germans brought into the American conflict and into Republican rhetoric a diagnosis of class conflict (crusade to overthrow the ‘slave drivers’) and a revolutionary élan.” The Forty-Eighters came to America with the goal of implementing the socialism that had failed at that time in Europe. When the War Between the States started, they almost universally joined the Union armies, and those who did not fight rallied behind the Union cause in many other ways, some of them literary and some of them political.
As documented in John A. Emison’s Lincoln Über Alles, a great many German immigrants settled in the Midwest and were instrumental in Lincoln’s nomination and election. Abe recognized this, and purchased several German-language newspapers in order to bolster his German immigrant support. Emison makes a very persuasive case that it was German immigrants who “put him over the top” in six key states (Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin) in the 1860 election. This perhaps explains why so many prominent Germans, some of whom barely spoke English, were commissioned as colonels, majors, or generals in Lincoln’s army.
John Dwyer, another observer of the influence of the radical European socialists, correctly stated: “What became the single overarching Revolution of 1848 failed in all eighteen places where it broke out. But the ideas it spawned would survive to define the century that followed. Around the globe, the 20th century became the century when the ideas of the revolutions of 1848 triumphed. Just as European theology, fashions, and culture influenced 19th century America, particularly in the North, so did European political theory. The tens of thousands of Europeans who participated in the 1848 revolutions and then migrated to America (again, especially to the North) accelerated this influence.”
Dwyer noted the radicals’ adherence to Marx’s 1848 tome, the Communist Manifesto. Although Marx and his manifesto did not play a major part in the European revolution, it does appear that he did have a large following in the United States during Lincoln’s War. As Dwyer noted, “Most of these men believed the War was a continuation, in a different venue, of the Central European revolutions of 1848 that had sought to usher in a new world order by reconstructing the existing social order.”
Also noted in Dwyer’s book, the goals of the Communist Manifesto were in many cases achieved during the Lincoln administration and during Reconstruction after his death. These goals included, as Engels pointed out, the establishment of an indivisible government capable of acting in whatever manner needed to create a socialist utopia. In fact, two of the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto were—a heavy progressive or graduated income tax and—centralization of credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. Sound familiar?
In most cases, it is rather difficult to tell the difference between what Marx and Engels wrote and what the Lincoln administration created. For example, the Communist Manifesto called for: “A heavy, progressive, graduated income tax.” Not to be outdone by their Marxist compatriots, the Lincoln administration gave America the Internal Revenue Service and soon began taxing everything from soup to nuts. Theodore Burton in his book John Sherman informed us: “The first comprehensive Internal Revenue Act became a law July 1, 1862.”
Marx’s program, as outlined in his manifesto, also called for: “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.” The goals of the Radical Reconstruction faction neatly dovetailed with those of Marx. Dwyer has observed that the goals of the radicals included: “Mandatory property taxes, determined by and payable to the government, else the taxpaying ‘owner’s’ property is confiscated.” The iniquitous property tax is with us yet today, and it operates exactly as Dwyer described it. You may well have a deed that says you are the owner of your property, but neglect to pay your property taxes for a couple of years, and you will find out who really owns the property. The concept of the property tax is ultimately the idea that the state really owns all property and that you have the use of it only as long as you continue to pay your yearly fee for its use.
The one necessary linchpin that would consolidate all of Marx’s ambitions, not only for his generation but for ensuing generations, was the tenth point in his manifesto: “Free education for all children in public schools.” Dwyer has observed that the Lincoln administration gave us the Morrill Land Grant Act that authorized Federal aid to “established government-controlled (public) colleges. With the aid came increased government accountability and regulations.” John Chodes provided some interesting information on the Morrill Act in his article, “Education for a Conquered Nation,” which appeared in Chronicles magazine in March of 1989. Chodes duly noted: “Washington jumped squarely into education in 1862. The War was raging. The Union Army had been suffering major losses. In such an atmosphere the Morrill Act passed Congress. This was the closest that Washington had ever come to direct aid to education. Its stated objective was to fund colleges that teach agriculture and mechanic arts via money raised through federal land-grant sales. The true objective was to bring the Northern perspective to the re-conquered areas of the South, to teach the rebel’s children ‘respect for national authority’—to break their rebellious spirit forever. The three R’s had absolutely nothing to do with this landmark bill.” As if to confirm this, Senator Justin Smith Morrill, the author of the act, very plainly stated, “The role of the national government is to mold the character of the American people.” Chodes noted: “With civil war and the expulsion of the Southern Democrats, the act became law easily. Seemingly innocuous, in reality it was a war measure—education fused with military and political strategy. The land-grants had hidden strings; Washington controlled curriculum. To ensure a uniformly nationalized, anti-Southern slant, land and money could be taken from one state and given to another.” R. J. Rushdoony, in his book The Nature of the American System, noted that, “the conversion of America’s education into an instrument of statism was the most important step into socialism that a society can take.”
Joel Spring, in his Public Schooling in America, supports this position:
If the only motive were to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies. After all, when proponents of government activism wanted to use the state to subsidize the purchase of food, they did not propose that government build a system of state grocery stores. They instead created food stamps. So the question is: Why are there public schools rather than ‘school stamps’?
We may break down the reasons into two broad categories, the macro and the micro. The aim of the public schools at the macro, or social, level was the creation of a homogeneous, national, Protestant culture: the Americanization and Protestantization of the disparate groups that made up the United States. At the micro, or individual, level the aim was the creation of the Good Citizen, someone who trusted and deferred to government in all areas it claimed as its own. Obviously, the two levels are linked, because a certain culture cannot be brought about without remaking the individuals who comprise it.
Throughout history, rulers and court intellectuals have aspired to use the educational system to shape their nations. The model was set out by Plato in “The Republic” and was constructed most faithfully in Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany. But one need not look only to extreme cases to find such uses of the educational system. One can see how irresistible a vehicle the schools would be to any social engineer. They represent a unique opportunity to mold future citizens early in life, to instill in them the proper reverence for the ruling culture, and to prepare them to be obedient and obeisant taxpayers and soldiers. Unsurprisingly, rulers and intellectuals jumped at the chance to make the schools a mill for the creation of Good Citizens. That motivation has been part of every effort to establish government schools.
The indispensable key to using the educational system for that purpose is compulsory attendance. Were children free to attend non-state schools or to avoid formal schooling altogether, the state's effort would be thwarted. The state's apparently benevolent goal of universal education has actually been an insidious effort to capture all children in its net.
Regardless of how much the Republicans boasted of being concerned with people having the freedom to live their own lives, it was all so much window dressing. Their agenda was always to gain more power for themselves and their friends and less individual liberty for those who dared to resist them or disagree with them.
Lysander Spooner, in his famous essay, “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” echoes this sentiment:
The pretense that the “abolition of slavery” was either a motive or justification for the war is a fraud of the same character with that of “maintaining the national honor.” Who but such usurpers, robbers, and murderers as they, ever established slavery? Or what government, except one resting upon the sword, like the one we have now, was ever capable of maintaining slavery? And why did these men abolish slavery? Not from any love of liberty in general—not as an act of justice to the black man himself, but as a “war measure,” and because they wanted his assistance, and that of his friends, in carrying on the war they had undertaken for maintaining and intensifying that political, commercial, and industrial slavery, to which they have subjected the great body of the people, both black and white. And yet these imposters now cry out that they have abolished the chattel slavery the black man—although that was not the motive of the war—as if they thought they could thereby conceal, atone for, or justify that other slavery which they were fighting to perpetuate, and to render more rigorous and inexorable than it was ever before. There was no difference of principle—but only of degree—between the slavery they boast they have abolished, and the slavery they were fighting to preserve; for all restraints upon men’s natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in degree.
If their object had really been to abolish slavery, or maintain liberty or justice generally, they had only to say: All, whether white or black, who want the protection of this government, shall have it; and all who do not want it, will be left in peace, so long as they leave us in peace. Had they said this, slavery would necessarily have been abolished at once; the war would have been saved; and a thousand times nobler union than we have ever had would have been the result. It would have been a voluntary union of free men; such a union as will one day exist among all men, the world over, if the several nations, so called, shall ever get rid of the usurpers, robbers, and murderers, called government, that now plunder, enslave, and destroy them.
Thus the Federalists became the Whigs in the 1830s, and then the Republicans in the 1850s (and thereafter). It is telling that during the War to Prevent Southern Independence, European commentators on the war, including such luminaries as Charles Dickens and John Stuart Mill, quite naturally referred to the Northern Army in their writings as the army of "the Federalists."
I always was superstitious….
Henry Clay Whitney was a lawyer and a friend of Lincoln, and one of his great admirers. He published in 1892 a book entitled Life on the Circuit with Lincoln; in 1908 a Life of Lincoln. In one place he wrote as follows:
I repeat that his was one of the most uneven, eccentric and heterogeneous characters. One of the most obvious of Mr. Lincoln’s peculiarities was his dissimilitude of qualities, or inequality of conduct, his dignity of deportment and action, interspersed with freaks of frivolity and inanity; his high aspirations and achievement, and his descent into the most primitive vales of listlessness, and the most ridiculous buffoonery.
Herndon wrote that Lincoln could be vindictive to the point of cruelty, and he related a circumstance of 1840. A man named Thomas had made some humorous references to Lincoln when speaking at the court house in Springfield. As soon as Lincoln heard about this he hurried to the room, and just as Thomas stepped from the platform Lincoln mounted it, and proceed to mimic Thomas in gesture, in voice, in talk, and to take off all his peculiarities. The rude crowd roared with laughter, while Thomas caught and unable to leave the audience, writhed with embarrassment, and finally broke into tears. No sooner had Lincoln inflicted this unusual punishment on a harmless man who had only made a humorous reference to him, than he was stricken with remorse. He had been vindictive, but he was also magnanimous, and soon sought out Thomas and apologized to him.
According to Joshua Shenk, in Lincoln’s Melancholy, “In three key criteria—the factors that produce depression, the symptoms of what psychiatrists call major depression, and the typical age of onset—the case of Abraham Lincoln is perfect. It could be used in a psychiatry book to illustrate a typical depression.”
Lincoln was not depressed in his late teens and early twenties—at least not so far as anyone could see. It wasn’t until 1835 that serious concern emerged about Lincoln’s mental health. That summer, remembered the school teacher Mentor Graham, Lincoln “somewhat injured his health and Constitution.” “He became emaciated,” said Henry McHenry, a farmer in the area, “and his best friends were afraid that he would craze himself—make himself derange.”
The anxiety in the community was widespread, both for Lincoln’s immediate safety, and for his long-term mental health. Lincoln “told me that he felt like committing suicide often,” remembered Mentor Graham, and his neighbors mobilized to keep him safe. Another villager said, “Lincoln was locked up by his friends…to prevent derangement or suicide.” People wondered if Lincoln had fallen of the deep end. “That was the time the community said he was crazy,” remembered Elizabeth Abell.
Lincoln’s second breakdown, in the winter of 1840-1841, bore a striking similarity to the first. It came after a long period of intense work, when Lincoln pushed himself hard. January 1 was the deadline on which the State of Illinois owed $175,000 in debt interest. If the state didn’t make its payments, it would go into receivership. Given how Lincoln’s political fate had become tied to the debt debacle, and given the practical necessity of securing the funds to pay the debt, Lincoln was under considerable pressure.
Then, under profound personal stress—and in a stretch of bleak weather—he collapsed. Once again, he spoke openly about his misery, hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide. He was unable to work. Again, his friends feared that he might kill himself. Lincoln himself despaired that he would never recover.
This is confirmed by Masters:
After this time Lincoln’s course was marked by listlessness, by eclectic choices, by a lack of choices, which evinced a slackened will. His fits of melancholy deepened and became more frequent, his bursts of humor more violent and more grotesque.
According to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, this second breakdown qualifies Lincoln for the diagnosis of “major depressive disorder, recurrent.” Strictly speaking, the illness is characterized by two or more major depressive episodes, separated by at least a month. More broadly, it suggests an underlying problem that can be expected to surface in various ways through out a person’s life.
Lincoln submitted himself to the care of a medical doctor. He was diagnosed as suffering with hypochondriasis, a form of melancholia. Treatment included the ingestion of arsenic, laudanum (opium and alcohol), strychnine, and mercury. Since mercury binds to the central nervous system, it produces quick effect on mood: depression, anxiety, irritability, and “hostility to the point of sudden rages and even violence.”
At a time when newspapers were stuffed with ads for substances to cure all manner of ailments, it wasn’t unusual for Lincoln to seek help at the pharmacy. And in fact, Lincoln had a charge account at the Corneau and Diller drugstore, at 122 South Sixth Street in Springfield. There he bought a number of substances, including opiates, camphor, sarsaparilla and cocaine. Opium in particular was considered indispensable for chronic mental conditions. Also popular at the time was a pill known as the “blue mass,” a ubiquitous treatment prescribed for everything from tuberculosis to hypochondriasis. These small round pills, about the size of a peppercorn, were made of pure ground mercury with a bit of rosewater and honey added for flavor.
To whatever extent Lincoln used medicines; his essential view of depression discounted the possibility of transformation by an external agent. He believed that his suffering proceeded inexorably from his constitution, that it was his lot to bear. The main therapies Lincoln employed reflected this understanding. After his depression emerged in his mid-twenties, and took a deeper hold in his thirties, Lincoln turned to humor for help. The idea of humor as a therapy has deep roots. The mid-nineteenth-century Manual of Psychological Medicine refers to the case to the case of a French actor who, despairing and melancholy, seeks help from a physician. The doctor recommends that his patient see a comic play for relief.
Lincoln’s jokes often played on racial and ethnic stereotypes. Lincoln exhibited racist speech using the pejorative for "Negro" up until the last days of his life. He consistently frequented "black face" comedy shows that denigrated blacks in stereotypical ways.
Even before Lincoln went to Washington, he was renowned for stories like the one he told at a Chicago banquet about “the nigger who, when a bear had put its head into the hole and shut out the daylight, cried out, what was darkening da hole?” “Ah,” cried the other nigger, who was on to the tail of the animal, “if da tail breaks you’ll find out.”
This story, shocking as it may sound to Lincoln admirers, was in character. The N-word went to Washington with Lincoln. According to eyewitness Henry Villard, once the presidential campaign of 1860 was over, the president-elect was regaling old acquaintances with tall tales about his early days as a politician. One of the visitors interrupted this monologue and remarked that it was a shame that “the vexatious slavery matter” would be the first question of public policy the new president would have to deal with in Washington. The president-elect’s eyes twinkled and he said he was reminded of a story. “Lincoln told the story of the Kentucky Justice of the Peace whose first case was a criminal prosecution for the abuse of slaves. Unable to find any precedent, he exclaimed angrily: ‘I will be damned if I don’t feel almost sorry for being elected when the niggers is the first thing I have to attend to.’”
Lord Charnwood said congressmen and other officials “were puzzled and pained by the free and easy way in which in grave conversations he would allude to the ‘nigger question.’” “Our colored brother was…a conspicuous butt of ridicule,” Henry Whitney, in Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, said, adding that Lincoln was as adept as anyone in poking fun at “the ludicrous element in the Ethiopian mind…” Colleagues told Lincoln that this was cruel, racist, and sadistic, but he ignored them and even managed to imply that there was something wrong with men who didn’t like a good “darky” joke. When Ohio Congressman Joshua Reed Giddings wondered out loud “that anybody could be so cruel” as to poke fun at Blacks, then Congressman Lincoln and his colleagues told, in effect, even crueler stories “and many a rig did they run on Uncle Joshua,” Whitney said, “by reason of this sympathetic proclivity.”
By this time, as Charnwood says perceptively, Lincoln was “almost a professional humorist.” Basler, like Charnwood, pointed out that the passion for well-turned jokes was central to Lincoln’s identity. There was “a deep-seated comic urge” in Lincoln, Basler said, and an “eternal craving to entertain people.”
In the face of both annoyance and sadness, nothing comforted Lincoln more than his jokes and stories. He spent much of his leisure time reading humor, with favorite volumes at the ready on his desk or in his coat pocket. His favorites included Charles Farrar Brown (who wrote as “Artemus Ward”), David Locke (“Petroleum V. Nasby”), and Robert H. Newell (“Orpheus C. Kerr”). Lincoln not only enjoyed these stories for himself, but often read them aloud to visitors. David Locke noted, “He offended many of the great men of the Republican Party this way.”  Imagine a distinguished visitor encountering a chief executive today, in the aftermath of a disaster or in the midst of a crisis, cracking up at the antics of “Little Black Sambo.”
Stephenson says that “Lincoln’s choice of fables was often a deadly offense.” Randall noted, in passing, that his humor often “miscarried” or “backfired.” Shortly after the national disaster of the first Bull Run, when the president interrupted state business to tell the latest jokes, Congressman James M. Ashley interrupted Lincoln saying, “Mr. President, I did not come here this morning to hear stories; it is too serious a time.” Lincoln told Ashley and other critics that comedy lightened his burdens and that “were it not for this occasional vent, I should die.”
Whether humor was a vent or a diversion, or as seems most likely, a life-defining way of dealing with the world, Lincoln joked his way through his term. There’s no secret about any of this. Randall, Sandberg, Stephenson, Thomas—everybody who has studied Lincoln has read the dialect stories and “darky” jokes, and almost everybody who has studied him has suppressed them or explained them away by blaming Lincoln’s melancholia—“He was so sad he had to tell jokes or die”—or his crushing war duties or the nagging of his wife. None of this explains why Lincoln’s anguish sought release in anti-Negro jokes or why he was telling “darky” stories before he became commander-in-chief and even before he met Mary Todd Lincoln.
In 1931, Dr. A. A. Brill, the editor and translator of The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud and the top psychoanalyst in America, told the American Psychiatric Association that Lincoln had a “schizoid manic personality, now and then harassed by schizoid manic moods.” In substance, the paper he presented was a recitation of familiar Lincoln stories. But the clinical language he used provoked a storm of protest. A Brooklyn physician accused Brill of “blaspheming the memory of the immortal dead.” Thereafter, writers would be forced to take a stand: Was Lincoln “normal” or “ill”?
I am now the most miserable man living. I must die or be better. I awfully forebode I shall not. If what I felt were distributed to the entire human family, there would not be one happy face on the earth.
…he only excelled in talent in the use of words.
—Biographer Edgar Lee Masters
The following is an examination of Lincoln’s mastery of rhetoric, the 25-century-old art of influencing both the hearts and minds of listeners with the figures of speech. If you have any doubt about the importance of the figures to Lincoln, consider this:
In a famous 1858 speech, Lincoln paraphrased Jesus, saying “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and he extended the house metaphor throughout the speech. His law partner, William Herndon, later wrote that Lincoln had told him he wanted to use “some universally known figure [of speech] expressed in simple language … that may strike home to the minds of men in order to raise them up to the peril of the times.”
First, we will look briefly at how Lincoln taught himself the figures. Later, we will look at his use of three figures in particular: irony, metaphor, and extended metaphor. The best textbook on the figures of speech in the English language, other than the King James Bible, is the complete works of Shakespeare.
The Bard and his audience knew and used over two hundred figures of speech. The figures—the catalog of the different, effective ways that we talk—turn out to “constitute basic schemes by which people conceptualize their experience and the external world,” as one psychologist put it.
Elizabethans like William Shakespeare learned the figures the hard way. Shakespeare likely attended the town grammar school from age seven to at least age thirteen. Grammar schools got their name because they taught grammar–Latin grammar. The schooling was intensive: ten hours a day, six days a week, thirty-six weeks a year.
The amount of repetition was staggering: Every single hour of instruction required, according to one sixteenth-century schoolmaster, six or more hours of exercises to apply the lesson to both speaking and writing. Much of the curriculum was rhetoric since the Elizabethans saw eloquence as the greatest skill to be acquired and rhetoric as the key to the Bible and literature. The teaching strategy was systematic: “First learn the figures, secondly identify them in whatever you read, thirdly use them yourself.” Hour after hour after hour—identifying every figure in Ovid or Cicero, and then creating your own versions.
How did students respond to such rigorous teaching? C. S. Lewis says we must imagine the following mindset of would-be Elizabethan poets: “Your father, your grown-up brother, your admired elder school fellow all loved rhetoric. Therefore you loved it, too. You adored sweet Tully [Marcus Tullius Cicero] and were as concerned about asyndeton and chiasmus [figures of speech] as a modern schoolboy is about county cricketers or types of aeroplanes.”
Nineteenth-century America lacked the rigorous teaching of the rhetoric of Shakespeare’s day, but orators were widely admired, entertaining large audiences–and larger readerships–with speeches that lasted over two hours and that might be printed in a local newspaper, the text often filling the entire front page. This was the golden age of American oratory, the age of Daniel Webster, of Henry Clay, of Stephen Douglas, and of Abraham Lincoln.
In modern times, with multiple media to entertain ourselves with—television, movies, radio, the Internet, video games, iPods—we can hardly imagine what it was like to live at a time when public speeches and debates were a primary form of entertainment. One 1858 audience, after sitting through three hours of Lincoln and Douglas debating, actually went out to hear another speech. Lincoln himself, after his first debate with Douglas that year, headed off to hear another speech.
Lincoln, a master orator, debater, and rhetorician, was the most consciously rhetorical of all U.S. presidents. He once incisively attacked an opponent for employing a particular metaphor–using a metaphor of his own: “I wish gentlemen on the other side to understand that the use of degrading figures [of speech] is a game at which they may not find themselves able to take all the winnings.”
In Lincoln’s day, aspiring preachers, lawyers, and politicians were taught some rhetoric in college, though they would have learned much just from their study of the Bible. Lincoln worked hard to teach himself elocution and grammar.
Lincoln studied the great speechmakers of his time, like Daniel Webster, as well the great Elizabethan speechmaker. At an early age, he appears to have studied William Scott’s Lessons in Elocution, which ends with forty-nine speeches from life and art, nineteen from Shakespeare, including a number that he memorized, such as the soliloquy by King Claudius on the guilt he feels for having murdered Hamlet’s father. At the age of twenty-three, Lincoln walked six miles to get a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar, which ends with a several-page discussion of the figures of speech.
The one figure of speech discussed in both Kirkham’s book (briefly) and Scott’s book (with three full pages of examples) is antithesis—placing words or ideas in contrast or opposition, such as Lord Chesterfield’s quip, “The manner of speaking is as important as the matter,” or Shakespeare’s
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.”
This became one of Lincoln’s favorite figures, in unforgettable lines such as “the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here” and “with malice toward none; with charity for all.”
Irony, derives from the Greek eironeia (”dissimulation”), the term given to the action and speech of the eiron, or “dissembler,” a stock character in Greek comedy. The first recorded use is the Republic by Plato where “Socrates himself takes on the role of the eiron” and feigns ignorance as he asks “seemingly innocuous and naive questions which gradually undermine his interlocutor’s case,” trapping him “into seeing the truth.” Many Greeks did not see the truth the way Socrates did-they put him to death-so eiron also carries the sense “sly deceiver” or “hypocritical rascal.”
(For a more complete explanation, see “Socratic irony”–whereby an eloquent, sophisticated speaker pretends to be a blunt everyman.)
Eirons are a stock character in popular culture; most commonly found on police dramas—think Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony takes on the role of the eiron when he pretends to praise those who killed Caesar even as he whips up the Roman crowd against them. Antony says “I am no orator, as Brutus is, But–as you know me all–a plain blunt man.” It is a mark of eirons and wily orators that they accuse their opponents of being rhetoricians.
Lincoln opened his masterful February 1859 Cooper Union speech echoing Shakespeare’s Antony: “The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them.” (In Antony’s own words, “I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know.”)
A second type of irony is best called “verbal irony.” For the Roman rhetoricians, such as Cicero, ironia denoted a rhetorical figure of speech “in which, for the most part, the meaning was contrary to the words.” To borrow a chiasmus from A Dictionary of Literary Terms, “at its simplest, verbal irony involves not meaning what one says, but saying what one means.”
The first mention in English is in 1502: ‘yronye … by the whiche a man sayth one & gyveth to understande the contrarye.” Verbal irony is a trope, from the Greek for turn, since it is a figure of speech that turns or changes the meaning of a word away from its literal meaning (like metaphor).
Verbal irony is an essential element of certain kinds of speeches, especially those that occur in a debate or are similarly aimed at disputing a point or rebuking an opponent. Using verbal irony is a powerful means of turning your opponent’s argument against him or her, by revealing a deeper truth that utterly undercuts that argument. Verbal irony is the way to call your opponent a liar without calling your opponent a “liar.”
Two speeches capture the essence—and importance—of irony better than any other. The first is by Shakespeare, the second by Lincoln. Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech in the Roman Forum is a model of rhetorical brilliance — and was a model for Lincoln.
Brutus, in his Forum speech, had just convinced the crowd the assassination of Caesar was justified. He convinced them so well that some citizens were persuaded, ironically, that he should be the new Caesar. In making his case, Brutus used the word “honor” four times. Since Brutus was widely respected for his honor, since he directly links the citizens’ belief in him to that very honor, Antony needs to attack that quality in him, but do so indirectly, since Brutus has won the crowd completely over.
Cleverly, Antony himself uses the word “honorable” ten times in this one speech. He repeatedly says Brutus is an honorable man and that all of the conspirators are honorable. His irony is increasingly blatant:
When that the poor have cried, Cæsar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
With this drumbeat, Antony convinces the crowd that there was no justification for killing Caesar, which in turns means the murder was a dishonorable act. For a final knockout punch, Antony reveals the existence of Caesar’s will to the citizens, showing them the parchment he describes as the final testament of Caesar’s love for them. The citizens beg him to read the will. Antony slyly says
I have o’ershot myself to tell you of it.
I fear I wrong the honorable men
Whose daggers have stabb’d Caesar; I do fear it.
The crowd is now his. One citizen shouts, “They were traitors,” and then spits out, “Honorable men!” This speech is a treatise on verbal irony.
Irony is about having the actual meaning of the words turn out to be the opposite of their literal meaning. Antony uses irony to negate the meaning of “honor” and “honorable” as it applies to Caesar’s murderers, using verbal daggers to repeatedly stab Brutus’s reputation. His speech is aimed at stirring the Roman citizens to revenge and murder. It works.
In his crowd-pleasing and career-making Cooper Union speech, Abraham Lincoln used the same rhetorical strategy as Antony—ironic repetition. Much as Antony was not directly debating Brutus, but giving a speech right after him, Lincoln was not directly debating Stephen Douglas, but giving a speech a few months after him. He was offering a very different answer on the crucial “question,” as Douglas called it: Is the federal government forbidden from controlling “slavery in our Federal Territories”? Lincoln starts by quoting Douglas for his New York audience:
In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in The New York Times, Senator Douglas said:
“Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now.”
I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse.
“What is the frame of government under which we live?” Lincoln asks rhetorically, as if to clarify Douglas. He immediately helps the audience, “The answer must be: The Constitution of the United States.” He does this so that he can define the ‘our fathers’ in Douglas’s speech as the thirty-nine men who signed the Constitution: “I take these ‘thirty-nine,’ for the present,” Lincoln says, “as being our fathers who framed the Government under which we live.”
Then Lincoln begins his brilliant analysis to show that Douglas’s words were, in fact, ironic. Douglas had said plainly that the framers of the U.S. government not only understood the slavery issue better than the people in the mid-1800s, but also that they agreed with Douglas. Lincoln grants that the framers understood the slavery issue better but proves that they agreed with him. He examines the voting record of the thirty-nine framers of the Constitution to show that “… twenty-one-a clear majority of the whole-certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories; while all the rest probably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question better than we.”
Just as Antony threw Brutus’s words back in his face, so, too, does Lincoln with Douglas’s words. In a masterpiece of ironical repetition comparable to Antony’s more famous speech, Lincoln repeats the word “fathers” thirty times, repeats the number “thirty-nine” twenty times, and repeats the entire phrase “Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live” and the phrase “better than we,” a remarkable twenty-two times, presumably with a more ironic tone of voice each time (just as a great actor playing Antony would with the word “honorable”), drawing considerable laughter and applause. This is the speech of a man who read Shakespeare often—and aloud.
With a single electrifying speech, masterfully using Socratic irony and verbal irony, as well as a number of other figures, Lincoln jump-started a campaign that would win him the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency.
Metaphors are the Rolls Royce of figures. Or, to put it more aptly, metaphors are the Toyota Prius of figures because a metaphor is a hybrid, connecting two dissimilar things to achieve a unique turn of phrase.
Metaphor, like verbal irony discussed above, is a trope, because it alters or enhances a word’s literal meaning. The headline quote is from Aristotle, who writes in Poetics, “To be a master of metaphor is a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”
A 2005 study on “Presidential Leadership and Charisma: the Effects of Metaphor” examined the use of metaphors in the first-term inaugural addresses of three dozen presidents who had been independently rated for charisma. The remarkable conclusion:
Charismatic presidents used nearly twice as many metaphors (adjusted for speech length) than non-charismatic presidents.
Additionally, when students were asked to read a random group of inaugural addresses and highlight the passages they viewed as most inspiring, “even those presidents who did not appear to be charismatic were still perceived to be more inspiring when they used metaphors.”
Given their power, metaphors have naturally become a weapon wielded by all great political speechmakers. Lincoln, a devout student of the two great rhetoric texts, the Bible and Shakespeare, understood that power more than any other president.
In 1848, when he was a Whig in Congress, he responded to the claim that his party had “taken shelter under General Taylor’s military coat-tail,” referring to Zachary Taylor, the Whig Party Presidential nominee. He turned the metaphor against his opponents, saying they themselves had run under the coat-tail of General Jackson for five elections. Then, instructing them in rhetoric, Lincoln added “military coat-tails, or tails of any sort, are not figures of speech such as I would be the first to introduce into discussions here.”
Lincoln launched a metaphor of his own, wishing the “gentlemen on the other side to understand that the use of degrading figures is a game at which they may not find themselves able to take all the winnings.” At this point, some in the opposition cried, “We give it up!” But Lincoln was just warming up. His reply was a rhetorical cruise missile:
“Aye, you give it up, and well you may; but for a very different reason from that which you would have us understand. The point–the power to hurt–of all figures consists in the truthfulness of their application; and, understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons which hit you, but miss us.”
Lincoln offered his most poignant metaphor in a June 1858 speech to the Illinois Republican state convention after they had chosen him as their candidate to run against Democrat Stephen Douglas in the U.S. senate race: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure; permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
We learn from Lincoln’s partner in law, William Herndon that Lincoln wanted to use “some universally known figure [of speech] expressed in simple language…that may strike home to the minds of men in order to raise them up to the peril of the times.
The power of the metaphor of ‘the Union as a house’ is not merely its visual simplicity, but in the link to the gospels. Lincoln is quoting Jesus, implying that God is on the side of those who think like he does, that the Union must be maintained.
Extended metaphor is, quite possibly, the most important rhetorical device. This figure is at the heart of some of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Persistent metaphors pump life blood into the Bible, into Jesus’ parables and Psalms, such as the Twenty-third, with its famous extended shepherd metaphor:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Politicians who understand extended metaphors have a long political life.
The Elizabethan era book The Garden of Eloquence by Henry Peacham explains the potency of this figure: It “serves most aptly to ingrain the lively images of things, and to present them under deep shadows to the contemplation of the mind, wherein wit and judgement take pleasure, and the remembrance receives a longer lasting impression.”
Using an extended metaphor himself, Peacham explains that while a simple metaphor “may be compared to a star in respect of beauty, brightness and direction,” an extended metaphor may be “fully likened to a figure compounded of many stars … which we may call a constellation.” No wonder this figure is so widely used. Who wouldn’t want to have their words achieve the impact and longevity of heavenly images like the Big Dipper or Orion?
In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln gives us a subtle but powerful example. The speech is only 270 words long—almost precisely the same length as the ‘To be or not to be speech.’ Lincoln makes it unforgettable using an extended metaphor of birth, death, and resurrection to increase the coherence and impact of his brief remarks.
Lincoln delivers a variety of references to birth from the very beginning:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He says the civil war is testing whether “any nation so conceived … can long endure.” Lincoln then moves on to images and words of death, as befits the horrific battlefield in front of him, with phrases such as “a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives” and “the brave men, living and dead” and “these honored dead” and “these dead.” He finally returns to the original metaphor of birth, but with a twist: We must resolve that “this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Birth, death, rebirth and immortality (”shall not perish”)—in a place that we will make sacred (”hallow” and “consecrate” and the key repeated word, “dedicate”)—is a stunning extended metaphor that turns into an biblical allusion of hope for transcendence even during the worst suffering, with the Battle of Gettysburg becoming a symbolic national crucifixion. No wonder Winston Churchill termed Lincoln’s speech, “the ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.”
Extended metaphors are often far more overt, as in Lincoln’s ‘house divided’ speech at the start of his Illinois Senate race against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln describes how the combined effect of Supreme Court decisions and policies by Douglas and others was to extend slavery into new territories in spite of local opposition. Lincoln said “we can not absolutely know” that Douglas and the others were working together to achieve this effect, “But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places, and by different workmen … and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly matte the frame of a house” then it is “impossible not to believe” that everyone “worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.”
Stephen Douglas resented Lincoln’s implication in the ‘house divided’ speech that he was part of a conspiracy to extend slavery, a charge and a metaphor Lincoln never tired of repeating everywhere. In his famous debates with Lincoln, Douglas responded with a harsh figure of his own—sarcasm:
He [Lincoln] studied that out-prepared that one sentence with the greatest care, committed it to memory, and put it in his first Springfield speech, and now he carries that speech around and reads that sentence to show how pretty it is. His vanity is wounded because I will not go into that beautiful figure of his about the building of a house. All I have to say is, that I am not green enough to let him make a charge which he acknowledges he does not know to be true, and then take up my time in answering it, when I know it to be false and nobody else knows it to be true.
But Lincoln had thought through the implications of his figure of speech. He would not give it up, as Lincoln scholar Roy Basler has explained: “Under the implications of Lincoln’s figure, constantly pressed, Douglas was constrained to make a statement of opinion that, although it immediately clear his way in the senatorial contest, eventually cost him the presidency.”
Why was Lincoln so fond of extended metaphors? They are certainly common figures in the Bible and Shakespeare, which he studied closely. We know Lincoln knew of the figure, since “allegory,” which “may be regarded as a metaphor continued,” is one of the fourteen figures of speech discussed in Kirkham’s English Grammar, the book Lincoln studied from age twenty-three.
I suspect that the reason he liked the figure is the same reason that modern politicians do: It is a masterful means of framing a political debate, exactly as he crafted the ‘framed timbers of the house’ extended metaphor to frame Douglas for the crime of extending slavery. Politicians with language intelligence, like Lincoln, repeat and extend their metaphors.
Even still, Lincoln was no intellectual, as noted by Masters:
Lincoln read Milton’s poetry in these years; but not Milton’s great prose. The essay on Government and Liberty, and what Milton wrote of Cromwell would have been good for Lincoln. He would there have found words of apt application to the imposters and the robbers who got hold of the government under Lincoln and afterward engineered the abhorrent era known as Reconstruction. He might have read the essays of Mill, and particularly Adam Smith, where he would have seen that negro slavery is only one form of labor service, only one phase of the labor problem, and that masters are everywhere and always in a conspiracy against the workers and to use them and to rob them by taxes, by banks, by privileges, and by superstitions like the balance of trade. He might have read Montesquieu, and there seen the idea which the framers of the Constitution used in dividing the sovereign powers granted the general government by the states into legislative, executive, and judicial functions; and how by a subtle device the general government became a nation in powers while remaining a confederation in system. He did not read Montesquieu. There was Hallam’s Constitutional History of England. Lincoln did not read it. There was Grote’s History of Greece with its historical deductions as to the institutions of Athens as an ideal state, all published between 1846 and 1856. Lincoln never looked into it. There was De Tocqueville’s Democratie en Amerique, translated into English between 1835 and 1840 more than once. He did not read it. Hildreth’s History of the United States appeared between 1849 and 1856; Lincoln never turned a page of it that anyone knows of. The first volume of Bancroft’s History of the United States was published in 1834. It passed Lincoln by. He did not learn the story of England as reported by Hume. He read no Bacon, no Butler’s Analogy, no Aristotle, no Plato, no Berkeley, no Descartes, no Spinoza, no Locke… Lincoln has done as much as any prominent figure in America to instruct the youth of limited advantages and outlook to loaf and to trust God. The intellectual eagerness of Emerson, the passion for culture which was Jefferson’s, the industry which was Franklin’s, were not in his nature. He was a lazy mind.
The entire Straussian enterprise of Lincoln idolatry is based almost exclusively on interpreting and re-interpreting Lincoln’s political rhetoric while largely ignoring actual historical facts and events, especially when the facts are in sharp contrast with Lincoln’s rhetoric.
Judge Douglas has said to you that he has not been able to get from me an answer to the question whether I am in favor of Negro citizenship. So far as I know, the Judge never asked me the question before. He shall have no occasion to ever ask it again, for I tell him very frankly that I am not in favor of Negro citizenship.
In 1860 the Republicans promoted their candidate as the "rail-splitter," the poor boy who had made good, an example and representative of the "common people." This image, of course, had nothing to do with the Lincoln of 1860, with his agenda, or with the important issues of the time. This was not new. It was mimicry of the Whig campaign of 1840. (The "log cabin" gambit has been used and re-used as when the Wall Street lawyer Wendell Wilkie was promoted as a simple Hoosier country lad, and a rich New England candidate were marketed as "a good ole boy" from Texas.)
According to J. McCan Davis, in Origin of the Lincoln Rail as Related by Governor Oglesby:
Richard Oglesby, the young politician who managed the 1860 Republican state convention in Chicago, knew Lincoln’s position and wanted to improve it. An ambitious and energetic man—he would become a major general in the Union army and, soon afterward, governor of Illinois—Oglesby wanted to deliver the state’s delegates for Lincoln.
Oglesby had decided that Lincoln needed something to distinguish himself—a catch phrase like “Log Cabin and Hard Cider,” which had helped elect William Henry Harrison in 1840. So before the convention, Oglesby had gone to see a white-whiskered old farmer named John Hanks. Hanks was Lincoln’s mother’s cousin and had lived with the Lincoln family when they first came to Illinois in 1830. Oglesby asked what kind of work Lincoln had done in those days. “Not much of any kind except dreaming,” Hanks replied. Then he told the story of how he and Lincoln had once cleared fifteen or twenty acres of black walnut and honey locust trees, built a cabin, and mauled rails for fences.
“John,” Oglesby asked, “did you split rails down there with old Abe?”
“Yes, every day,” Hanks replied.
“Do you suppose you could find any of them now?”
Hanks said he had seen that old fence about ten years before, and he took Oglesby there the next day. While Oglesby waited in his buggy, Hanks chipped away at the fence with his knife. When he came up with shavings that were black walnut and honey locust, he declared, “They are the identical rails we made.”
The rails were just what Oglesby wanted: symbols of free labor, solid character, triumph over the crude frontier, humble origins, and the strength to rise. He and Hanks took two of them, tied them to Oglesby’s buggy, and brought them to town. Then, on the first day of the state convention, Oglesby introduced Lincoln with a flourish. This was John Hanks cue. As Lincoln reached the stage, Hanks burst into the wigwam carrying the rails. A banner hanging from them explained that Lincoln had split them and announced, in large letters:
The Rail Candidate
FOR PRESIDENT IN 1860
The crowd went wild. Delegates and onlookers threw hats, books, and canes into the air. The wigwam shook so much that its canvas exterior became detached from the wood beams. “The roof was literally cheered off the building,” declared an early account of the maelstrom. The energy of the crowd foreshadowed Lincoln’s success. The state’s delegates soon resolved to back Lincoln unanimously. Buoyed by the “rail-splitter” image, Lincoln would vault into place as William Steward’s main rival for the Republican nomination.
Thus Lincoln was coming as an entrant to the convention; both as a rail splitter and a tariff man, and as the son of a carpenter. The rails were a symbol of honesty. Americans had by this time started a cultus of honesty. The honest man must bear tokens of his quality by which he might at once be received and dealt with as such. To quiet all fears and doubts, there is nothing better than common or shabby clothes, free and rustic manners, a preference for hard cider instead of champagne; being born in a log cabin was proof almost as strong as Holy Writ that the man was honest, for Jesus was born in a stable. Other proofs were espousals of the causes of the causes of the common people, where it could be done without trenching actually upon the rights of privilege.
The truth is, Lincoln was one of the highest-paid corporate trial lawyers in the nation before becoming President, and whose clients included every major railroad corporation in the Midwest. And even though he was married to the daughter of a wealthy slave-owning Kentucky family, he is still portrayed as a poor, backwoods “rail-splitter” and “man of the people.”
As Frederick Douglass pointed out, Lincoln's party was pre-eminently the party of rich, white men. In the free-soil debates before the war, Republican leaders dwelt not on the evil of slavery, but on their intention to keep the black scourge out of the new territories, which must be reserved for white men only.
Lincoln stated in his August 21, 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas, “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races…Now irrespective of the moral aspect of this question as to whether there is a right or wrong in enslaving a Negro, I am still in favor of our new Territories being in such a condition that white men may find a home…I am in favor of this not merely…for our own people who are born amongst us, but as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over…”
It was in Charleston, Illinois, on Saturday, September 18, 1858, when Lincoln announced:
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Between 1854 and 1860, Lincoln said publicly at least two times that America was made for the White people and “not for the Negroes.” At least eight times, he said publicly that he was in favor of White supremacy. At least twenty-one times, he said publicly that he was opposed to equal rights for Blacks.
If we examine Lincoln’s two-year prelude as a congressman from Illinois, we find the same record of racism. Lincoln opposed the immigration of black people into Illinois, supported the Illinois Black Codes, which deprived the small number of free blacks who resided in the state of any semblance of citizenship; and was a leader in the Illinois Colonization Society, which persuaded the state legislator to allocate funds to “colonize,” or deport free blacks.
Under the Illinois constitution, a Negro could not vote; he was therefore taxed without representation. He could not belong to the militia, and therefore he could not defend himself. He could not serve on a jury, nor intermarry with a white woman, nor have equal rights with whites to the service of inns, restaurants, stage coaches, nor did he have equal rights of admission to places of amusement. The men who framed that instrument and the abolitionists as well labored under the economic delusion that to work and receive wages was liberty; to work and be supported was slavery; and if a man could sell his labor freely, he was a free man even though he had not a single civil right. Lincoln expounded that absurdity in the Douglas debates…Lincoln never lifted his hand to change any of these regulations, except to demand that Negroes be permitted to earn their own bread, which differs little from earning bread as a slave, and eating it. In neither case are there civil rights.
As for the Emancipation Proclamation, it was not a real emancipation proclamation at all, and did not liberate African-American slaves. Lincoln’s Proclamation was a tactical move designed not to emancipate the slaves but to keep as many slaves as possible in slavery until Lincoln could mobilize support for his conservative plan to free Blacks gradually and to ship them out of the country. What Lincoln was trying to do was to contain the emancipation tide which had reached such a dangerous intensity that it threatened his ability to govern and to run the war machinery.
John F. Hume, the Missouri antislavery leader who heard Lincoln speak in Alton, said the Proclamation “did not…whatever it may have otherwise accomplished at the time it was issued, liberate a single slave.” Sources favorable to Lincoln were even more emphatic. Lincoln crony Henry Clay Whitney said the Proclamation was a mirage and that Lincoln knew it was a mirage. He “issued his Proclamation,” Whitney said, “with a shrewder purpose than the public was aware of—for as a lawyer, he knew it was of no inherent ultimate value.” Secretary of State William Henry Seward, the No. 2 man in the administration, said the Proclamation was an illusion in which “we show our sympathy with the slaves by emancipating the slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”
The same points have been made with abundant documentation by twentieth-century scholars like Richard Hofstadter, who said the Proclamation “did not in fact free any slaves.” Some of the biggest names in the Lincoln establishment have said the same thing. Roy P. Basler, the editor of the monumental Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, said the Proclamation was “itself only a promise of freedom…” J. G. Randall, who has been called “the greatest Lincoln scholar of all time,” said the Proclamation itself did not free a single slave. Horace White, the Chicago Tribune correspondent who covered Lincoln in Illinois and in Washington, said it is doubtful that the Proclamation “freed anybody anywhere.”
The best authority, Lincoln himself, told one of his top aides that he knew that the Proclamation in and of itself would not “make a single Negro free beyond our military reach,” thereby proving two critical and conclusive points. The first is that Lincoln himself knew that his most famous act would not of itself free a single Black. The second and most damaging point is that “the great emancipator” did not intend for it to free a single Black, for he carefully, deliberately, studiously excluded all Blacks within “our military reach.”
Must we say then that the Proclamation was nothing? By no means. This would be to make the same mistake as people who say it was everything. In fact, it was one link, and only one link, in the chain of emancipation. Lincoln was at best an incidental factor in that process, for he did everything he could to avoid the end that immortalized him. Even if it turns out that the Proclamation advanced the process, he didn’t plan it that way. What he planned, in fact, was the precise opposite of what happened. And if he had been told “when he entered on the Presidency,” Hume said, “that before his term of office would expire, he would be hailed as ‘The Great Emancipator,’ he would have treated the statement as equal to one of his own best jokes.”
But perhaps in the end, “The time came when Lincoln was balancing the question of his own place in history. Even if he lost the war, and yet had tried to emancipate the slaves, he could see himself lifted up for the gaze of the centuries.” And possibly, he might have even, “gradually grew to see that emancipation would be a historic monument to himself.” Indeed, after he had issued the Proclamation, he declared that it was the central act of his administration, and the great event of the Nineteenth Century.
Whatever the case, with the development of capitalism, slavery all over the world became uneconomical. The result was manumission—the willingness of slave owners to allow their slaves to purchase their freedom—and other forms of peaceful emancipation.
Dozens of countries, including the possessions of the British, French, and Spanish empires, ended slavery peacefully during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Only in the United States was warfare associated with emancipation. In virtually every other country in the world, slavery ended through either manumission or some form of compensated emancipation.
In the British Empire, emancipation was completed in just six years, and the British government compensated slaveholders an amount that was estimated at 40 percent of the value of their slaves.
Table 1: Peaceful Emancipation, 1813 – 1854
Year of Emancipation
French and Danish Colonies
Source: Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (New York: Norton, 1974) p. 33-34
Emancipation was also achieved during and after the War Between the States in the Dutch Colonies (1863), Brazil (1871-1878), Puerto Rico (1873), and Cuba (1886). The only violent slave uprising occurred in Haiti in 1794.
In the War Between the States, the explicit monetary cost alone was approximately $6.6 billion, about evenly divided between the two sides. The North’s share would have been more than enough to purchase the freedom of every slave in the South.
Lincoln did pay lip service to various compensated emancipation plans, and he even proposed compensated emancipation combined with colonization in 1862. But the man whom historians would later describe as one of the master politicians of all time failed to use his legendary political skills and his rhetorical gifts to do what every other county of the world where slavery once existed had done: end it peacefully, without resorting to warfare.
Said Professor Thomas DiLorenzo, “Given the enormous cost of the war, including 620,000 military deaths, thousands of civilian deaths in the Southern states, hundreds of thousands of men crippled for life, the destruction of nearly 40 percent of the nation’s economy, and the direct costs of the war itself, most Americans would likely have chosen compensated emancipation, which would have cost them a tiny, almost trivial, fraction of the cost of the alternative: total war. Lincoln never seriously offered the nation the opportunity.”
“Perhaps the answer to the question of why Lincoln did not take the path to emancipation taken during the nineteenth century by every other nation on earth where slavery once existed lies in his own words—namely, that he was not particularly supportive of emancipation. He viewed it only as a tool to be used in achieving his real objective: the consolidation of state power. ”
What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races.
When Lincoln first entered Illinois politics in 1832, he announced: “My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank, in favor of the internal improvements system, and a high protective tariff.” It is revealing that Lincoln, ever the careful wordsmith and trial lawyer, listed a national bank as his first priority.
A national bank was arguably the lifeblood of the Whig Party, and the main reason for its coming into existence in the early 1830s. (1832 was the year of the big political showdown over the rechartering of the Bank of the United States.) Few politicians of the era were more devoted to resurrecting the bank than Lincoln was. In The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party, University of Virginia historian Michael Holt wrote of how, during the 1840, 1844, and 1848 national elections Lincoln “crisscrossed the state [of Illinois] ardently and eloquently defending specific Whig programs like a national bank.” Not only did he defend the programs, writes Holt, but “few people in the party were so committed to its economic agenda as Lincoln.”
University of Georgia economist Richard Timberlake, author of a treatise on American monetary history entitled Monetary Policy of the United States, agreed with Professor Holt’s assessment of the importance of central banking to the Whigs. “To the Whigs…a national bank was their life—the vital principle—without which they could not live as a party—the power which was to give them power…To lose it, was to lose the fruits of the election, with the prospect of losing the party itself.”
In other words, The Whigs and Lincoln always intended to use a national bank, and its printing of paper money that was not redeemable in gold or silver, as the means of financing the colossal patronage schemes that they hoped would keep them in power indefinitely. On December 26, 1839, Lincoln gave a speech in opposition to the Independent Treasury System and in support of inflationary finance through the mechanism of what economists call “fiat money.” The long-winded speech was a fiery denunciation of the responsible policies of the system condemning it as guilty of generating economic instability, being administratively costly compared to other systems, and an insecure depository of money. None of these charges turned out to be true.
In his book, What Has Government Done to Our Money, economist Murray Rothbard clearly explained the significance of the phrase “suspension of specie payment” that was the source of all the conflict and controversy. This explanation clarifies just what it was that Lincoln and his fellow Whigs and Republicans were so doggedly determined to achieve for so many decades:
The bluntest way for government to foster…inflation is to grant banks the special privilege of refusing to pay their obligations, while yet continuing in their operation. While everyone else must pay their debts or go bankrupt, the banks are permitted to refuse redemption of their receipts, at the same time forcing their own debtors to pay when their loans fall due. The usual name for this is “a suspension of specie payments.” A more accurate name would be “license for theft,” for what else can we call a government permission to continue business without fulfilling one’s contract? 
When Lincoln became president, and the Southern Democrats had left Congress, the old Whig coalition was finally entrenched in power. It immediately raised tariff rates ten times, commenced the building of a government-subsidized transcontinental railroad, and replaced the Independent Treasury System with a nationalized money supply. On February 25, 1862, the Legal Tender Act empowered the Secretary of the Treasury to issue paper money (“greenbacks”) that was not immediately redeemable in gold or silver. The National Currency Acts of 1863 and 1864 created a system of nationally chartered that could issue bank notes supplied to them by the new comptroller of the currency, and placed a ten percent tax on state bank notes to drive them out of business and establish a federal monetary monopoly for the first time in American history.
This ended once and for all the separation of money and state in America. As economists Murray Rothbard wrote in his treatise, A History of Money and Banking in the United States, ‘In that way, the Republican Party, which inherited the Whig admiration for paper money and governmental control and sponsorship of inflationary banking, was able to implant the soft-money tradition permanently in the American system.”
As the government’s paper money flooded the banks, “greenback” dollars became so devalued that by July 11, 1864 they were worth only 35 cents in gold, even though they were not issued until mid-1863. The prices of goods purchased by northern-state consumers more than doubled between 1860 and 1865. Because of the inflation it had created, the government itself had to pay more for the war. In his classic book A History of the Greenbacks, the economist Wesley Clair Mitchell calculated that it cost northern taxpayers $528 million more. Real wages—that is, wages adjusted for the effects of higher consumer prices or inflation—plummeted as well, as Mitchell determined. And the northern economy as a whole suffered from the fact that businesses could not make rational economic calculations with the constant and unpredictable increases in the price of just about everything. Economic chaos in many industries was the result.
Despite all the neo-Hamiltonians’ “public interest” rhetoric about the nationalized banking system, their economic system was an abysmal failure. But even though it was a spectacular failure from the economic perspective of the general public, from the Republicans’ political perspective it was a smashing success. Nationalized banking consolidated political power in Washington. Hamiltonian political hegemony was finally achieved with a monopolized banking system.
All we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.
In response to opponents of his war measures, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus—the ancient English protection against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Article I of the Constitution empowers Congress to suspend access to the writ in times of emergency, but Lincoln acted as both legislator and executive (as he had when he called for volunteers for a war congress had not yet agreed to fund).
Lincoln used the arbitrary powers he had thus granted himself to muzzle opposition, whether in the form of critical newspapers, Democratic politicians, or potentially unfriendly legislators, in numerous ways. In Maryland, this took the form of imprisoning state legislators who disagreed with him. On the 17th of September, 1861, the legislature of Maryland was scheduled to assemble at Frederick. General Banks was instructed by Lincoln’s secretary of war, Cameron, to arrest all the members suspected of disloyalty. In the words of the Saturday Review of London, “It was a perfect act of despotism as can be conceived. It was a coup d’état in every essential feature.”
By the end of September, Fort Lafayette was crowded with prisoners made such by Lincoln’s mere word. Another prison had to be prepared for the hundreds gathered in for uttering so-called disloyal sentiments, for criticizing Lincoln, for displaying a Confederate flag, for anything that displeased an upstart military officer. And so the overplus was sent to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. Hundreds of men seized on these pretexts were crowded into the old Capital Prison in Washington, at Camp Chase in Oh io, at Cairo in Illinois, at St. Louis and at Alton. In some of these prisons men were packed almost to suffocation, some in irons and without beds, and without sufficient ventilation.
The most conspicuous of these arrests was that of Vallandigham in the so-called military of the Ohio. There were no military operations in Ohio, but there was great objection to Lincoln’s acts. Vallandigham became a leader of the vast thousands in Indians, Illinois, and Ohio, who believed the war unnecessary and despotic; and he was put forward as a candidate for governor. When Vallandigham, in as speech in Mount Vernon, Ohio, declared that the war was unnecessary, Burnside, under his own order, proceeded to arrest Vallandigham. He was taken before a military commission, though all the courts, state and Federal, were open, where he could have had a jury trial according to the fundamental law. There he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to confinement during the continuance of the war.
Of course, the most astonishing constitutional innovation Lincoln made was his Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. By that act, which he justified on the basis of his war powers as president, Lincoln abolished slavery—but only in those portions of the Confederacy not occupied by the Union.
Historian Lee Kenneth was right when he wrote, in Marching Through Georgia, that had the Confederates somehow won, they would have been justified in “stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command” as war criminals; for their launching an invasion without the consent of Congress, illegally suspending the writ of habeas corpus and imprisoning tens of thousands of Northern political opponents, shutting down some three hundred opposition newspapers, censoring all telegraph communications, imprisoning a large percentage of the duly elected legislators of Maryland as well as the mayor of Baltimore, illegally orchestrating the secession of West Virginia, systematically disarming the border states in violation of the Second Amendment, and especially for waging war on civilians.
In 1860 international law – and the US government’s own military code – prohibited the intentional targeting of civilians in war, although it was recognized that civilian casualties are always inevitable. "Foraging" to feed an army was acceptable, but compensation was also called for. The kind of wanton looting and destruction of private property that was practiced by the Union army for the entire duration of the war was forbidden, and perpetrators were to be imprisoned or hanged. International law, the US army’s own military code, and common rules of morality and decency that existed at the time were abandoned by the Union army from the very beginning. A special kind of soldier was used to pillage and plunder private property in the South during the war. In The Hard Hand of War, Mark Grimsley writes that the federal Army of the Potomac "possessed its full quotient of thieves, freelance foragers, and officers willing to look the other way," and that "as early as October 1861" General Louis Blenker’s division "was already burning houses and public buildings along its line of march" in Virginia. Prior to the Battle of First Manassas in the early summer of 1861 the Army of the Potomac was marked by "robbing hen roosts, killing hogs, slaughtering beef cattle, cows, the burning of a house or two and the plundering of others."
Unable to subdue their enemy combatants, many Union officers waged war on civilians instead, with Lincoln’s full knowledge and approval. Grimsley describes how Union Colonel John Beatty warned the residents of Paint Rock, Alabama, that "Every time the telegraph wire was cut we would burn a house; every time a train was fired upon we would hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport." Beatty ended up burning the entire town of Paint Rock to the ground.
The Union army did not merely gather food for itself; it pillaged, plundered, burned, and raped its way through the South for four years. Grimsley recounts a first hand account of the sacking of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December of 1862:
Great three-story houses furnished magnificently were broken into and their contents scattered over the floors and trampled on by the muddy feet of the soldiers. Splendid alabaster vases and pieces of statuary were thrown at 6 and 700 dollar mirrors. Closets of the very finest china were broken into and their contents smashed . . . rosewood pianos piled in the street and burned . . . Identical events occurred in dozens of other Southern cities and towns for four years.
Sherman was the plunder-in-chief, and he had three solid years of practice for his March to the Sea. In the autumn of 1862 Confederate snipers were firing at Union gunboats on the Mississippi River. Unable to apprehend the combatants, Sherman took revenge on the civilian population by burning the entire town of Randolph, Tennessee, to the ground. In a July 31, 1862 letter to his wife Sherman explained that his purpose in the war was "extermination, not of the soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people."
In the spring of 1863, after the Confederate Army had evacuated, Sherman ordered his army to destroy the town of Jackson, Mississippi. They did, and in a letter to General Ulysses S. Grant Sherman boasted that "The inhabitants [of Jackson] are subjugated. They cry aloud for mercy. The land is devastated for 30 miles around."
Meridian, Mississippi was also destroyed after the Confederate Army had evacuated, after which Sherman wrote to Grant: "For five days, ten thousand of our men worked hard and with a will, in that work of destruction, with axes, sledges, crowbars, clawbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work well done. Meridian . . . no longer exists."
On October 1, 1864, Sherman wrote to Grant that he wanted to leave Tennessee with his army, march to Atlanta and destroy it, cross Georgia and devastate it, wrecking the railroads along the way to Savannah and Charleston. The purpose was to “shake the hearts of the soldiers still fighting under Lee and Johnston, and to make them fly home to succor their wives and children.” On October 9, Sherman wrote again to Grant that he could “make Georgia howl.” On the 13th, Lincoln gave his consent to Sherman’s march from Atlanta to the sea.
The indiscriminate bombing of Southern cities, which was outlawed by international law at the time, killed hundreds, if not thousands of slaves. The slaves were targeted by Union Army plunderers as much as anyone. As Grimsley writes, "With the utter disregard for blacks that was the norm among Union troops; the soldiers ransacked the slave cabins, taking whatever they liked." A typical practice was to put a hangman’s noose around a slave’s neck and threaten to hang him unless he revealed where the household’s jewelry and silverware were hidden. Some slaves were beaten to death by Union soldiers.
General Phillip Sheridan engaged in the same kind of cowardly, criminal behavior in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the autumn of 1864, after the Confederates had finally evacuated the valley. General Grant ordered him to turn the valley into a "desert," and he and his army did. A sergeant in Sheridan’s army, William T. Patterson, described the pillaging, plundering, and burning of Harrisonburg, Bridgewater, and Dayton Virginia:
The work of destruction is commencing in the suburbs of the town . . . The whole country around is wrapped in flames, the heavens are aglow with the light thereof . . . such mourning, such lamentations, such crying and pleading for mercy I never saw nor never want to see again, some were wild, crazy, mad, some cry for help while others throw their arms around Yankee soldiers necks and implore mercy. 
It is important to recognize that at the time the Valley was populated only by women, children, and old men who were too feeble to be in the army. In letters home some of Sheridan’s soldiers described themselves as "barn burners" and "destroyers of homes." One soldier wrote that he had personally burned more than 60 private homes to the ground, as Grimsley recounts. After Sheridan’s work of destruction and theft was finished Lincoln grandly conveyed to him his personal thanks and "the thanks of a nation." *
And perhaps the ultimate irony, Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the War Between the States—on the same day and at the same time he was ordering troops to march against the Sioux in Minnesota and subsequently ordered 38 Santee Sioux hung on Christmas Eve for leaving the reservation in search of food—the promised supplies having never materialized.
Humanitarians do not wage war on innocent civilians. Soon Lincoln was to issue another proclamation of thanksgiving for victories in the field.
It has pleased Almighty God to vouchsafe signal victories to the land and naval forces engaged in suppressing an internal rebellion…It is therefore recommended to the people of the United States that at their next weekly assemblages in their accustomed places of public worship, which shall occur after notice of this proclamation shall have been received, they especially acknowledge and render thanks to our Heavenly Father for these inestimable blessings.
It is impossible that a civilization based upon such barbaric superstition as this can ever produce a culture worth anything to the spirit of man. On September 30, 1862, Lincoln set down privately his meditations on the Divine will.
I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet…He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.
This Calvinistic fatalism is the poisonous doctrine which justifies human cruelty. It does what it would and then throws the burden upon an anthropomorphic deity. Did Lincoln believe that the war was necessary, that it was inevitable under God? Masters opined that, “The very thing was in his blood for which he was willing to kill other people. He glozed it over by insistences, plain and intricate, that he was in the right, and the South was in the wrong; and by appeals to God, the sincerity of which is anything but clear…Taking him for what he really was, there is no irony in the role that Lincoln played in the revolution which Calhoun foresaw, but only foresaw along political lines. Calhoun did not prognosticate, as no man could, the paralysis that was to come to the spiritual life of America as the result of the combined efforts of imperialists and fanatics. It is only by considering Lincoln superficially, by mistakenly accepting him as the rail splitter and democrat, that any surprise can be felt that he played the part of the destroyer of the American system.”
* Three months after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox the very same army commenced a campaign of ethnic genocide against the Plains Indians. In July of 1865 Sherman was put in charge of the Military District of the Missouri (all land west of the Mississippi) and given the assignment to eradicate the Plains Indians in order to make way for the federally subsidized transcontinental railroad. Like Lincoln, Sherman was a friend of Grenville Dodge, the chief engineer of the project. He was also a railroad investor and he lobbied his brother, Senator John Sherman, to allocate federal funds for the transcontinental railroad. "We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians stop and check the progress of the railroad," he wrote to General Grant in 1867 (Fellman, p. 264). As Fellman writes:
[T]he great triumvirate of the Union Civil War effort [Grant, Sherman and Sheridan] formulated and enacted military Indian policy until reaching, by The 1880s, what Sherman sometimes referred to as "the final solution of the Indian problem," which he defined as killing hostile Indians and segregating their pauperized survivors in remote places . . . . These men applied their shared ruthlessness, born of their Civil War experiences, against a people all three despised, in the name of Civilization and Progress (emphasis added).
Another Sherman biographer, John F. Marszalek, points out in Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order, that "Sherman viewed Indians as he viewed recalcitrant Southerners during the war and newly freed people after the war: resisters to the legitimate forces of an orderly society," by which he meant the central government. Moreover, writes Marszalek, Sherman’s philosophy was that "since the inferior Indians refused to step aside so superior American culture could create success and progress; they had to be driven out of the way as the Confederates had been driven back into the Union."
"Most of the other generals who took a direct role in the Indian wars, writes Marszalek, "were, like Sherman, [Union] Civil War luminaries." This included "John Pope, O.O. Howard, Nelson A. Miles, Alfred H. Terry, E.O.C. Ord, C.C. Augeur, and R.S. Canby. General Winfield Scott Hancock should be added to this list of "luminaries." Among the colonels, "George Armstrong Custer and Benjamin Grierson were the most famous."
Sherman and General Phillip Sheridan were associated with the statement that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." The problem with the Indians, Sherman said, was that "they did not make allowance for the rapid growth of the white race" (Marszalek, p. 390). And, "both races cannot use this country in common" (Fellman, p. 263).
Sherman’s theory of white racial superiority is what led him to the policy of waging war against the Indians "till the Indians are all killed or taken to a country where they can be watched." As Fellman (p. 264) writes:
Sherman planted a racist tautology: Some Indians are thieving, killing rascals fit for death; all Indians look alike; therefore, to get some we must eliminate all . . . deduced from this racist tautology . . . the less destructive policy would be racial cleansing of the land . . .
Accordingly, Sherman wrote to Grant: "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children." Writing two days later to his brother John, General Sherman said: "I suppose the Sioux must be exterminated . . ." (Fellman, p. 264).
This was Sherman’s attitude toward Southerners during the War for Southern Independence as well. In a July 31, 1862 letter to his wife (from his Collected Works) he wrote that his purpose in the war was: "Extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the [Southern] people." His charming and nurturing wife Ellen wrote back that her fondest wish was for a war "of extermination and that all [Southerners] would be driven like the Swine into the sea."
With this attitude, Sherman issued the following order to his troops at the beginning of the Indian Wars: "During an assault, the soldiers cannot pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance is made, death must be meted out . . ." (Marszalek, p. 379).
Most of the raids on Indian camps were conducted in the winter, when families would be together and could therefore all be killed at once. Sherman gave Sheridan "authorization to slaughter as many women and children as well as men Sheridan or his subordinates felt was necessary when they attacked Indian villages" (Fellman, p. 271). All livestock was also killed so that any survivors would be more likely to starve to death.
Sherman was once brought before a congressional committee after federal Indian agents, who were supposed to be supervising the Indians who were on reservations, witnessed "the horror of women and children under military attack." Nothing came of the hearings, however. Sherman ordered his subordinates to kill the Indians without restraint to achieve what he called "the final solution of the Indian problem," and promised that if the newspapers found out about it he would "run interference against any complaints about atrocities back East" (Fellman, p. 271).
Eight years into his war of "extermination" Sherman was bursting with pride over his accomplishments. "I am charmed at the handsome conduct of our troops in the field," he wrote Sheridan in 1874. "They go in with the relish that used to make our hearts glad in 1864-5" (Fellman, p. 272).
Another part of Sherman’s "final solution" strategy against this "inferior race" was the massive slaughter of buffalo, a primary source of food for the Indians. If there were no longer any buffalo near where the railroad traveled, he reasoned, then the Indians would not go there either. By 1882 the American buffalo was essentially extinct.
By 1890 Sherman’s "final solution" had been achieved: The Plains Indians were all either killed or placed on reservations "where they can be watched." In a December 18, 1890 letter to the New York Times Sherman expressed his deep disappointment over the fact that, were it not for "civilian interference," his army would have "gotten rid of them all" and killed every last Indian in the U.S. (Marszalek, p. 400).
I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be no inclination, in the people of the free States to enter into the slave States, and interfere with the question of slavery at all.
Some say simplistically that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Unfortunately, there is no "simple" reason. The causes of the war were a complex series of events that began long before the first shot was fired. Competing nationalisms, political turmoil, the definition of freedom, the preservation of the Union, the fate of slavery and the structure of our society and economy could all be listed as significant contributing factors in America's bloodiest conflict.
In the words of John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA, in his book, "Reminiscences of the Civil War", (Chapter I)
Abolition of slavery was far from being the cause of the prolonged conflict. Neither its destruction on the one hand, nor its defense on the other, was the energizing force that held the contending armies to four years of bloody work. I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps 80 % of her armies were neither slaveholder, nor had the remotest interest in the institution. No other proof, however, is needed than the undeniable fact that at any period of the war from its beginning to near its close, the South could have saved slavery by simply laying down its arms and returning to the Union.
The South maintained with the depth of religious conviction that the Union formed under the Constitution was a Union of consent and not of force; that the original States were not the creatures but the creators of the Union; that these States had gained their independence, their freedom, and their sovereignty from the mother country, and had not surrendered these on entering the Union; that by the express terms of the Constitution all rights and powers not delegated were reserved to the States; and the South challenged the North to find one trace of authority in that Constitution for invading and coercing a sovereign State.
The North, on the other hand, maintained with the utmost confidence in the correctness of her position that the Union formed under the Constitution was intended to be perpetual; that sovereignty was a unit and could not be divided; that whether or not there was any express power granted in the Constitution for invading a State, the right of self-preservation was inherent in all governments; that the life of the Union was essential to the life of liberty; or, in the words of Webster, "liberty and union are one and inseparable."
To the charge of the North that secession was rebellion and treason, the South replied that the epithets of rebel and traitor did not deter her from the assertion of her independence, since these same epithets had been familiar to the ears of Washington and Hancock and Adams and Light Horse Harry Lee. In vindication of her right to secede, she appealed to the essential doctrine, "the right to govern rests on the consent of the governed," and to the right of independent action as among those reserved by the States. The South appealed to the acts and opinions of the Fathers and to the report of the Hartford Convention of New England States asserting the power of each State to decide as to the remedy for infraction of its rights; to the petitions presented and positions assumed by ex-President John Quincy Adams; to the contemporaneous declaration of the 8th of January assemblage in Ohio indicating that 200,000 Democrats in that State alone were ready to stand guard on the banks of the border river and resist invasion of Southern territory; and to the repeated declarations of Horace Greeley and the admission of President Lincoln himself that there was difficulty on the question of force, since ours ought to be a fraternal Government.
In answer to all these points, the North also cited the acts and opinions of the same Fathers, and urged that the purpose of those Fathers was to make a more perfect Union and a stronger government. The North offset the opinions of Greeley and others by the emphatic declaration of Stephen A. Douglas, the foremost of Western Democrats, and by the official opinion as to the power of the Government to collect revenues and enforce laws, given to President Buchanan by Jere Black, the able Democratic Attorney-General.
Thus the opposing arguments drawn from current opinions and from the actions and opinions of the Fathers were piled mountain high on both sides. Thus the mighty athletes of debate wrestled in the political arena, each profoundly convinced of the righteousness of his position; hurling at each other their ponderous arguments, which reverberated like angry thunderbolts through legislative halls, until the whole political atmosphere resounded with the tumult. Long before a single gun was fired public sentiment North and South had been lashed into a foaming sea of passion; and every timber in the framework of the Government was bending and ready to break from "the heaving ground-swell of the tremendous agitation." Gradually and naturally in this furnace of sectional debate, sectional ballots were crystallized into sectional bullets; and both sides came at last to the position formerly held by the great Troup of Georgia: "The argument is exhausted; we stand to our guns." 
Lysander Spooner was more to the point:
…these lenders of blood money had, for a long series of years previous to the war, been the willing accomplices of the slave-holders in perverting the government from the purposes of liberty and justice, to the greatest of crimes. They had been such accomplices for a purely pecuniary consideration, to wit, a control of the markets in the South; in other words, the privilege of holding the slave-holders themselves in industrial and commercial subjection to the manufacturers and merchants of the North (who afterwards furnished the money for the war). And these Northern merchants and manufacturers, these lenders of blood-money, were willing to continue to be the accomplices of the slave-holders in the future, for the same pecuniary considerations. But the slave-holders, either doubting the fidelity of their Northern allies, or feeling themselves strong enough to keep their slaves in subjection without Northern assistance, would no longer pay the price which these Northern men demanded. And it was to enforce this price in the future—that is, to monopolize the Southern markets, to maintain their industrial and commercial control over the South— that these Northern manufacturers and merchants lent some of the profits of their former monopolies for the war, in order to secure to themselves the same, or greater, monopolies in the future. These—and not any love of liberty or justice—were the motives on which the money for the war was lent by the North. In short, the North said to the slave-holders: If you will not pay us our price (give us control of your markets) for our assistance against your slaves, we will secure the same price
( keep control of your markets) by helping your slaves against you, and using them as our tools for maintaining dominion over you; for the control of your markets we will have, whether the tools we use for that purpose be black or white; and be the cost, in blood and money, what it may.
On this principle, and from this motive, and not for any love of liberty, or justice, the money was lent in enormous amounts, and at enormous rates of interest. And it was only by means of these loans that the objects of the war were accomplished.
And now these lenders of blood-money demand their pay; and the government, so called, becomes their tool, their servile, slavish, villainous tool, to extort it from the labor of the enslaved people both of the North and South. It is to be extorted by every form of direct, and indirect, and unequal taxation. Not only the nominal debt and interest—enormous as the latter was—are to be paid in full; but these holders of the debt are to be paid still further—and perhaps doubly, triply, or quadruply paid—by such tariffs on imports as will enable our home manufacturers to realize enormous prices for their commodities; also by such monopolies in banking as will enable them to keep control of, and thus enslave and plunder, the industry and trade of the great body of the Northern people themselves. In short, the industrial and commercial slavery of the great body of people, both North and South, black and white, is the price which these lenders of blood money demand., and insist upon, and are determined to secure, in return for the money lent for the war.
This program having been fully arranged and systematized, they put their sword into the hands of the chief murderer of the war, and charge him to carry their scheme into effect. And now he, speaking as their organ, says, “Let us have peace.”
The whole affair, on the part of those who furnished the money, has been, and now is, a deliberate scheme of robbery and murder; not merely to monopolize the markets of the South, but also to monopolize the currency, and thus control the industry and trade, and thus plunder and enslave the laborers, of both North and South. And Congress and the president are today the merest tools for these purposes.
The great conflict between the limited, decentralized government and free-trade Jeffersonians, and the Hamiltonian champions of a more active, centralized, protectionist state began manifesting itself in a North–South dispute over tariff policy in the early 1820s. In 1824 Henry Clay sponsored a tariff bill that was passed into law and that approximately doubled the average tariff rate. The agricultural South was immediately alarmed, for it was well understood that protectionist tariffs almost exclusively benefited Northern manufacturers while forcing Southerners to pay more for everything from farm tools to woolen blankets. To the South, it was all cost and no benefit. Protectionist tariffs always impose a disproportionate and unjust burden on export-dependent regions within a country, and in the nineteenth century the agrarian South exported as much as three-fourths of everything it produced, especially cotton, tobacco, and rice. The South would abide by a modest “revenue” tariff of 10-15 percent—just sufficient to pay most of the expenses of running the central government—but not a protectionist tariff designed to thwart international competition. Thus, the region’s political leaders saw Henry Clay’s Tariff of 1824 as an instrument of plunder and a break with the constitutional contract that called for taxes that were uniform and proportioned to the states according to population.
There were a few Southern protectionists and advocates of “internal improvement” spending by government, but in general, the South was adamantly opposed to the whole package of protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare, and central banking that would become the keystone of the Northern-dominated Whig Party for the next twenty-five years and, after that, of the Republican Party. In 1825, the South Carolina legislature adopted a set of resolutions condemning protectionist tariffs, government subsidies to corporations, and a national bank.
As industry in the North expanded it looked towards southern markets, rich with cash from the lucrative agricultural business, to buy the North's manufactured goods. However, it was often cheaper for the South to purchase the goods abroad. In order to "protect" the northern industries Jackson slapped a tariff on many of the imported goods that could be manufactured in the North. When South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification in November 1832, refusing to collect the tariff and threatening to withdraw from the Union, Jackson ordered federal troops to Charleston. A secession crisis was averted when Congress revised the Tariff of Abominations in February 1833.
The Panic of 1837 and the ensuing depression began to gnaw like a hungry animal on the flesh of the American system. The disparity between northern and southern economies was exacerbated. Before and after the depression the economy of the South prospered. Southern cotton sold abroad totaled 57% of all American exports before the war. The Panic of 1857 devastated the North and left the South virtually untouched. The clash of a wealthy, agricultural South and a poorer, industrial North was intensified by Radical Republicans and abolitionists who were not above using class struggle to further their cause.
As soon as the new Republican Party gained enough power, it succeeded in getting the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the highly protectionist Morrill Tariff during the 1859-1860 session of Congress. The Republican Party used the severe recession of 1857 as an excuse to propose protectionism as a “cure.”
Protectionism was so important to the Republican Party of 1860 (and beyond) that in his book, Yankee Leviathan, historian Richard Bensel labeled it the “keystone” of the Republican Party platform of 1860. According to a July 1944 article in the prestigious American Historical Review by Professor Reinhard H. Luthin entitled “Abraham Lincoln and the Tariff,” Lincoln had been an ardent protectionist for his entire political career. He claimed to have made more speeches on that subject than any other, and he stumped for the Whig’s Party protectionist presidential candidates in numerous elections.
Lincoln cleverly used his livelong reputation as a staunch protectionist to secure the Republican Party nomination and once elected, openly stumped for senatorial passage of the Morrill Tariff. In a February 19, 1861, speech in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, he told his audience that no other issue—none—was more important to their congressional representatives than raising tariffs.
In his first inaugural address, Lincoln shockingly threw down the gauntlet of war over the tariff issue, literally threatening the invasion of any state that failed to collect the newly doubled tariff. Fail to collect the tariff, as the South Carolinians did in 1828, and there will be a military invasion, Lincoln announced. He would not back off when it came to tax collection, as President Andrew Jackson had done some three decades earlier.
Since the seceded States clearly had no intention of sending tariff revenues to Washington, D.C., Lincoln announced a naval blockade of the Southern ports as one of his first acts of war. This is how America’s thirty-seven-year tariff war was turned into a shooting war.
Economists Robert A. McGuire and T. Norman Van Cott surely understated their case in the peer-reviewed economics journal Economic Inquiry in 2002, when they concluded after analyzing the role of tariffs in precipitating the War Between the States that “the tariff issue may in fact have been even more in the North-South tensions that led to the War than many economists and historians currently believe.”
In truth, slavery was only the occasion of the War Between the States; the cause was the conflict between the forces of a confederated republic on the one hand, and an imperial nation on the other, which began as soon as the Constitution was printed and broadcasted over the states. Many of the ablest men of the time thought that the Convention had departed from its authorized power, and that the Constitution was an economic instrument intended to give the moneyed classes, the owners of securities, trade, shipping, banking, and manufactures, the control of the resources of the land.
5 groups were not represented at the Constitutional Convention: Indians, Slaves, Indentured Servants, Women, and Men without Property, and so the Constitution does not reflect the interests of these groups. Delegates at the Constitutional Convention wanted a strong central government, primarily to weaken the local power of the common people and to promote commerce. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said, “The people who own the country ought to govern it.”
Charles A. Beard in his work, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, made the following analysis:
The movement for the Constitution was engineered by money, public securities, manufactures, trade and shipping. The initial steps in the forming of a new Constitution were taken by a small group of property interests. No popular vote was taken for the calling of the convention which drafted the Constitution. A very large class of persons without property had no representatives, and no voice in the convention. The delegates to the convention themselves had an economic interest in the formation of a new government. The Constitution drafted was an economic document.
But again, there is no "simple" reason.
Indeed the Missouri compromise was one of the causes of the War which Lincoln led. There were many causes remote and proximate, but this was one of them. The Bible was one cause, with its Jewish concepts of divine wrath, and its arsenal of prophetical denunciation. Such a war could not have happened under the rational culture of the Athenians, nor carried on under the lofty poetry of Ӕschylus. It needed for its inspiration the Jewish culture of Job and Isaiah, and the barbarism of the Pentateuch.
And if the right or wrong of slavery was in Lincoln’s opinion not sufficiently clear to warrant him in denouncing those who had slaves, as he said, the right or wrong of secession was certainly not clear enough to justify the killing of thousands of men for the purpose of demonstrating by arms its wrong.
As we will see, Lincoln did not know the Constitution and its history sufficiently well to have a well based opinion on this subject.
After the commencement of hostilities I struggled nearly a year and a half to get along without touching the “institution”…
In many ways, Lincoln's legacy hinges on the question of whether states did in fact possess a constitutional right of secession. If they did, then virtually everything Lincoln did as president was illegal at best, immoral at worst. If Lincoln had no legal power and no constitutional duty to maintain the Union against secessionist movements, then Lincoln might well deserve the title "war criminal", and should be viewed with contempt.
In fact, Lincoln falsely claimed that the Union preceded the states, and was therefore not subject to their sovereignty. Former syndicated columnist James J. Kilpatrick eloquently stated in his 1957 book, The Sovereign States: "The delusion that sovereignty is vested in the whole people of the United States is one of the strangest misconceptions of our public life." Lincoln espoused this fable in order to make the preposterous argument that no such thing as state sovereignty ever existed; the states were never at any time free and independent of the federal government; they did not in fact create the federal government by ratifying the Constitution; and that, therefore, no group of citizens could ever secede from the federal government.
Lincoln clearly stated the real cause and purpose of the war on numerous occasions, including in his famous August 22, 1862 letter to newspaper editor Horace Greeley. There he wrote: “My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery.” His objective was to destroy the secession movement by force of arms, period.
The U. S. Congress concurred, announcing to the world on August 22, 1861, that the purpose of the war was not “interference with the rights or established institutions of those states”—that is, slavery—“but to preserve the Union with the rights of the several states unimpaired.” Thus, according to both President Lincoln and Congress, the conflict over states’ rights was the sole cause of the war. The Confederate states believed the Union was voluntary, that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that they consequently had a right to secede. Lincoln disagreed, and was willing to wage total war to “prove” himself right.
Having failed to create a “national” government at the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton denounced the document as “a frail and worthless fabric” and devoted himself to “reinterpreting” the “real meaning” of the document so as to subvert it. His purpose was essentially to rewrite the Constitution through lawyerly manipulation of its words to satisfy his main purpose of building “the foundations of a new empire,” as Clinton Rossiter called it. For example, Hamilton set out to rewrite the history of the American founding by arguing that the citizens of the states had never been sovereign. On June 29, 1787, he said that the states were merely “artificial beings” hat had nothing to do with creating the union. In a speech before the New York State Assembly in that same year he argued that the “nation” —and not the states—had “full power of sovereignty” dating back even before the Articles of Confederation; he actually called that first constitution an “abridgement” of “the original sovereignty of the Union.” Lincoln made the exact same argument in his first inaugural address seventy-four years later.
Lincoln claimed that the federal government was really created by the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, despite the fact that the former document does not have the legal authority that the Constitution has. But the Declaration itself is an expression of state sovereignty, a fact which contradicts Lincoln’s whole thesis. The concluding paragraph declares to the world that the colonists were seceding from the British Empire as citizens of the free and independent American states, not as the people as a whole. "These colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown . . . and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do."
When the Revolution ended, the King of England entered into a peace treaty not with "the United States" or "the people as a whole" but with the individual states. Article 1 of the Treaty with Great Britain states:
His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, vis, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia to be free, sovereign and independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs and successors, Relinquishes all claims to the Government, proprietary and territorial rights of The same, and every part thereof.
All of the founding documents—the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty with Great Britain, the Constitution—refer to the states as “free and independent.” That is, the founders construed them as being free and independent of any other state, including the federal government which they—the states—had created as their agent. The states delegated certain narrowly defined and enumerated powers to the federal government, but preserved sovereignty for themselves.
It is a documented fact that, as of early 1861, the big majority of opinion makers in the North believed that the Union was a voluntary union and that using military force to coerce a state to remain in the Union was an act of tyranny that would destroy the Union as a voluntary association of states. Before Fort Sumter, dozens of Northern newspapers editorialized in favor of a constitutional or legal right of secession on behalf of the Southern states. These Northern newspapers believed that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that whenever a political community no longer consented then it had a right to secede from the contract.
Future President James Buchanan of Pennsylvania stated an obvious truth when he said the following:
Has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw . . . from the Confederacy [of states]? If answered in the affirmative, it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress to declare and to make war against a State. After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress or to any other department of the federal government.
Alexis de Tocqueville, whom everyone regards as a brilliant observer and chronicler of the American system of government, wrote in Democracy in America that "However strong a government may be, it cannot easily escape from the consequences of a principle which it once admitted as the foundation of its Constitution. The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right to do so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly, either by force or right."
Tocqueville could never have imagined that barely thirty years later an American president would commit the barbaric act of having his armies murder 300,000 fellow citizens (the equivalent of more than 5 million standardizing for today's population) and destroy their economy to deny them the right of secession.
Patrick Henry's great-grandson, Edward Fontaine, wrote the following in 1870:
While living in retirement with his family, as planter, and practicing lawyer, the pamphlet containing the Constitution and the additional 12 amendments adopted by the majority of States requisite to make them part of the instrument, was brought to him and examined by him most carefully in the presence of my father and Mr. Dandridge.
He seemed to have been suspicious of the character of some of the framers of the Constitution, and of the crafty politicians through whose hands it had passed since its adoption by Virginia, that he feared they had not only altered the amendments adopted by the Virginia convention, but had tampered with the body of the instrument itself.
After reading it carefully, satisfying himself that they had not changed the original paper, he read carefully the amendments to the tenth. When he read this he threw down the pamphlet upon the table, and remarked with great solemnity:
“I find that these shrewd Northern Statesmen have outwitted our Southern men again in the wording of these amendments. They determined when this Constitution was framed to make this a great consolidated National Government of all the people of the States. To secure this object they inserted in its preamble the words 'We, the People of the United States,' instead of We, the States.
Their object was to make it a government of a majority of the whole people, that is a Government of the Northern People; for they have this majority; and under such a government holding this power they can and will exercise it oppressively to the South for their own advantage. To prevent this, and to hinder this majority from doing whatever they may think proper for 'the general welfare,' which they will construe to mean their own sectional welfare, I wrote the first 20 amendments adopted, and recommended by the Convention of Virginia in these words: 'Each State in the Union shall respectively retain every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Federal Government.'
This was intended to secure the rights of the States, and to prevent the exercise of doubtful powers by the Federal Government, but they have omitted it, and substituted for it this equivocal thing to which they have tacked the objectionable and dangerous words of 'the people.' 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, 'or to the people.' Why did they add, 'or to the people?' They determined to make it a consolidated government. They added these words to neutralize the amendment of Virginia, and they have done it effectually. This government cannot last. It will not last a century. We can only get rid of its oppression by a most violent and bloody struggle.
Thus the War to Prevent Southern Independence was predicted by Patrick Henry in 1789 because of the Northern greed and lust for dominance he recognized in the US Constitution. Whatever one thinks about the Constitution, it ceased to exist as seven articles and twelve articles of amendments when eleven states announced in 1861 that they were no longer under its authority. The seven articles and their three branches of government remained in force in the Northern states, but the so-called Bill of Rights evaporated under Lincoln's dictatorial rule. Thousands of Northern protesters were arrested and denied Habeas Corpus. Hundreds of Northern newspapers were shut down and their editors and publishers thrown in prison to rot for years. 620,000 died from 1861 to 1865 and for what - so that all Americans could live under the protection of the US Constitution?
In the aftermath of the war, Southerners were forced back in the Union. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were rammed into the Constitution at gunpoint. The Southern States were under Federal military rule for twelve years. No Southern Congressman was allowed back in the Congress until his state ratified the 14th Amendment. The 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators. The US Constitution was in effect a contract between the states and the people. The people were represented in the federal government in the House of Representatives, the members of which were elected by popular vote. The states were represented in the Senate, and Senators were appointed by the State legislatures. When the 17th Amendment forced the popular vote for Senators, the Constitution, the contract, ceased to exist. It was rendered technically null and void. Lincoln had rendered it meaningless, but the 17th made it official.
Shortly before his death, General Lee – in a characteristically graceful reply to a kind note he'd received from Lord Acton – explained that "the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people [were] the safeguard to the continuance of a free government." By suppressing the option of secession, which is the ultimate peaceful check on the ambitions of a central government, the North had destroyed that safeguard.
In words that have the undeniable heft of fulfilled prophecy, Lee predicted that "the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it."
Today, it’s easy to see the "ruin" of which Lee wrote. Those ruling us have pledged something in excess of $8 trillion – more than half of this year's (2008) gross domestic product – to provide a financial cushion for the politically connected criminals who preside over our financial system. In that fact we can see the real nature of the "Union" created by Lincoln: It is a forced marriage between the ignorant or deceived host and eager, esurient parasites.
The logic of Lincoln's triumph, wrote biographer Charles C.L. Minor, is that "the right to govern is paramount over the right to live, that man is made for government, rather than government for man, and that for men to claim the right of self-government is to deserve and incur the death penalty." This is why the Power Elite exalts Lincoln's name above all others and celebrates him as the Holy State made Flesh.
Lincoln's political mentor was Senator Henry Clay, a Kentucky slave owner. Lincoln exhibited racist speech using the pejorative for "Negro" up until the last days of his life. He consistently frequented "black face" comedy shows that denigrated blacks in stereotypical ways. Lincoln always supported fugitive slave laws in Illinois and nationally. His lukewarm Emancipation Proclamation was only an attempt to stave off the radical abolitionists who were pressing for full freedom for all Black Americans. Lincoln's Proclamation promised to emancipate blacks in areas currently in rebellion (in which Lincoln had no jurisdiction), and did not emancipate slaves in the areas that had not seceded or were militarily re-occupied. It was a halfway measure designed to obfuscate Lincoln's true agenda, i.e., deportation for colonization of the native born African American population. Lincoln's speeches, including the Gettysburg Address, were high sounding but did not include African Americans in the great American ideal of freedom for all. "All men are created equal" did not include blacks until Lincoln had been assassinated and was not able to obstruct the final version of the thirteenth amendment. Lincoln pursued the War for two years with pro-slavery Democrat generals like McClellan, Halleck and Pope. Certainly Lincoln's incompetence was responsible for extending the War, causing loss of life for over 650,000 Americans North and South.
It's very clear from Lincoln’s own speeches and writings that he did not
believe in racial equality. On June 13, 1836, Lincoln wrote a letter to the
editor of the Sangamo Journal that gives some insight into his views on
race. In the letter he wrote, "I go for all sharing the privileges
of the government, who assist in bearing its burthens. Consequently I go for
admitting all whites to the right of suffrage, who pay taxes or bear arms, (by
no means excluding females.)"
To look further into Lincoln’s ideas about race, there is this quote, which was made on September 18, 1858 in a speech during the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates.
I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races–that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the Negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a Negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife.
Four years later, in an Aug. 22, 1862, letter to New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote:
If I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race I do because I believe it helps to save the union.
In a speech in Clinton, Illinois on September 2, 1858, Lincoln addresses the complaint of his opponent Stephen Douglas that a Lincoln/Republican victory will lead to mass race mixing. He points out that the charge is not true and that the slave States are the states that have the most amount of race mixing based on the number of mulattoes that are reported in the 1850 census to be in the slave States. Lincoln said, "In the slave States there were, in 1850, three hundred and forty-eight thousand mulattoes – all of home production; and in the Free States there were less than sixty thousand mulattoes – and a large number of them were imported from the South." Clearly he sees race mixing as wrong and the creation of mulattoes as something to be avoided.
Lincoln was an ambitious, indecisive, manipulative, misguided, and decidedly racist and desperately craved some kind of long lasting historical legacy. Lincoln was slow coming to grips with the true nature of the War. Lincoln maintained all along that this War was being fought for Union, failing to ever grasp the eventual importance of the slave issue except to use blacks as a political pawn piece to win the war. Lincoln comes across as Machiavellian and insensitive when he finally issues the Emancipation Proclamation only as a military strategy to keep England and France out of the War. Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers after he had successfully maneuvered the South into firing on Sumter. Before his call for the 75,000, Virginia and North Carolina had not seceded and were not predisposed to go out. By his actions, he forced these states out and then proceeded to ineptly preside over a botched, bloody, protracted war that could have been averted by more clear headed, adroit diplomacy before the initial Battle of Manassas. Manassas led to Shiloh and, by then, the need to justify somehow the already horrific loss of life. Certainly, once the eleven states seceded, it was the effective end of American slavery because then the slaves could escape across international borders. A slave in Mississippi, once into Indiana, would have been free from pursuit, thus signaling the ultimate demise of the slave system. Lincoln's myopia regarding this key point precipitated not only the war deaths of so many Americans, but also set in motion the raw emotions and scapegoating that marked the brutal "reconstruction" of the South.
The pursuit of the war and reconstruction only exacerbated racist feelings that whites felt toward blacks and necessitated the Civil Rights marches led by leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. almost a century after this sad period in American history. Americans today are still dealing with the issues that Lincoln did not deal with during his tenure as president. In the South over 90% of the fighting men never owned slaves and were fighting for their families, homes and farms. The Union invader was fighting only for Union, not emancipation. Abraham Lincoln was undoubtedly a deeply flawed, morally shallow politician, and you should sincerely wonder why Lincoln merits such an exalted position on the National Mall. You should realize that the mythologized Lincoln did not die Christ-like for his country's sins. He was not the Man of the Age, but a man who was given the highest position in the American Pantheon simply because he was capable of murdering and plundering his fellow citizens for no more, and no less, than Empire.
In school histories the youth of America are indoctrinated with the idea that the political chiefs of the South spurred the people there to form the Confederate States of America; while Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts are glossed over with the remark that what he did before Congress met on July 4, 1861, was validated by that Congress and made lawful for his great purpose of saving the Union. (On the 10th of July, a joint resolution was offered in the Senate, which after reciting what Lincoln had done in calling 75,000 of the militia into service, in ordering the blockade of the Southern ports, in suspending the habeas corpus, in calling for 42,034 volunteers, in adding 22,714 men to the navy, contained this language, “that all the extraordinary acts, proclamations, and orders, hereinbefore mentioned, be and the same are hereby approved and declared to be in all respects legal and valid, to the same intent, and with the same effect, as if they had been issued and done under the previous express authority and direction of the Congress of the United States.”)
At this same special session of Congress, Andrew Johnson, still a senator from Tennessee, offered a resolution declaring the purposes of the war. It read as follows:
Resolved, that the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the Dis-Unionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the Constitutional Government and in arms around the Capital; that in this National emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion and resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest, or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality and rights of the several states unimpaired; that as soon as these objects are acknowledged the war ought to cease.
This resolution was adopted. John C. Breckenridge, speaking on the Johnson resolution, denied vehemently the doctrine of necessity, by which a president can do what he wills. “I deny that the president of the United States may violate the Constitution upon the ground of necessity. The doctrine is utterly subversive of the Constitution; it is utterly subversive of all written limitations of Government.”
In contrast, the ordinances of secession passed by the seceding states were strictly regular and in perfect conformity to the American system which had come down from the days of the Revolution. No state legislature assumed to pass any of these ordinances, just because the principle which was observed held that sovereignty did not reside in a legislature for such a purpose but in a convention of the people, to which delegates were elected, as they had been in the states when the Constitution was ratified. What the seceding states did was to put themselves where they had been at the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and before they united under the Constitution of 1787.
The states did not give up any of their sovereignty when they ratified the Constitution; they merely delegated several distinct powers to the central government that was designed to act for their mutual benefit.
He ignored the greatest moral question of the time.
—Historian Ralph G. Newman
In the schoolbook account of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln rose to the Presidency and took the steps needed to end slavery. He led the country in a great Civil War against the slaveholding states that seceded, restored these states to the Union, and ended slavery. Accordingly, historians rate Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents.
The war did enable Lincoln to "save" the Union, but only in a geographic sense. The country ceased being a Union, as it was originally conceived, of separate and sovereign states. Instead, America became a "nation" with a powerful federal government. Although the war freed four million slaves into poverty, it did not bring about a new birth of freedom, as Lincoln and historians such as James McPherson and Henry Jaffa say. For the nation as a whole the war did just the opposite: It initiated a process of centralization of government that has substantially restricted liberty and freedom in America, as historians Charles Adams and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have argued Adams in his book, When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession (published in 2000); and Hummel in his book, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men (1996).
The term Civil War is a misnomer. The South did not instigate a rebellion. Thirteen southern states in 1860-61 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the northern and southern American states is the War for Southern Independence.
Abraham Lincoln caused the greatest slaughter of Americans in our history. In one of the greatest acts of political hypocrisy in human history, Lincoln decided to fight a long bloody civil war to brutally impose federal rule on the South.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America prohibited the importation of slaves (Article I, Section 9). With no fugitive slave laws in neighboring states that would return fugitive slaves to their owners, the value of slaves as property drops owing to increased costs incurred to guard against their escape. With slaves having a place to escape to in the North and with the supply of new slaves restricted by its Constitution, slavery in the Confederate states would have ended without war. A slave's decreasing property value, alone, would have soon made the institution unsustainable, irrespective of more moral and humanitarian considerations.
The rallying call in the North at the beginning of the war was "preserve the Union," not "free the slaves." Although certainly a contentious political issue and detested by most abolitionists, in 1861 slavery nevertheless was not a major public issue. Protestant Americans in the North were more concerned about the growing number of Catholic immigrants than they were about slavery. In his First Inaugural Address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.
Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the southern states go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union. The North needed a cause for continuing the war, as Lincoln put the matter in his Second Inaugural Address; that it was willed by God, where "the judgments of the Lord" determined the losses sustained and its outcome.
The Emancipation Proclamation was a "war measure," as Lincoln put it. Foreign correspondents covering the war recognized it as a brilliant propaganda coup. Emancipation would take place only in rebel states not under Union control, their state sovereignty in the matter of slavery arguably forfeited as a result of their having seceded from the Union. The president could not abolish slavery; if not done at the state level, abolition would require a constitutional amendment. Slaveholders and their slaves in Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee, and parts of Virginia and Louisiana occupied by Union troops were exempt from the edict. Slaves in the Confederacy would be "forever free" on January 1, 1863 one hundred days after the Proclamation was issued but only if a state remained in "rebellion" after that date. Rebel states that rejoined the Union and sent elected representatives to Congress before January 1, 1863 could keep their slaves. Such states would no longer be considered in rebellion and so their sovereignty regarding the peculiar institution would be restored. As the London Spectator put it, in its October 11, 1862 issue, "The principle [of the Proclamation] is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States."
Why were business and political leaders in the North so intent on keeping the southern states in the Union? It was, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, solely a fiscal matter. The principal source of tax revenue for the federal government before the Civil War was a tariff on imports. There was no income tax, except for one declared unconstitutional after its enactment during the Civil War. Tariffs imposed by the federal government not only accounted for most of the federal budget, they also raised the price of imported goods to a level where the less-efficient manufacturers of the northeast could be competitive.
Observers in Britain looked beyond the rhetoric of "preserve the Union" and saw what was really at stake. Charles Dickens views on the subject were typical:
Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this, as of many other evils. The quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel.
Karl Marx seconded this view:
The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The war is further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty.
The South fought the war for essentially the same reason that the American colonies fought the Revolutionary War. The central grievance of the American colonies in the 18th century was the taxes imposed on them by Britain. Colonists particularly objected to the Stamp Act, which required them to purchase an official British stamp and place it on all documents in order for them to be valid. The colonists also objected to the import tariff that Britain placed on sugar and other goods (the Sugar Act).
After the enactment of what was called the "Tariff of Abomination" in 1828, promoted by Henry Clay, the tax on imports ranged between 20-30%. It rose further in March 1861 when Lincoln, at the start of his presidency, signed the Morrill Tariff into law. This tax was far more onerous than the one forced on the American colonies by Britain in the 18th century.
Lincoln coerced the South to fire the first shots when, against the initial advice of most of his cabinet, he dispatched ships carrying troops and munitions to resupply Fort Sumter, site of the customs house at Charleston. Charleston militia took the bait and bombarded the fort on April 12, 1861. After those first shots were fired the pro-Union press branded Southern secession an "armed rebellion" and called for Lincoln to suppress it.
Congress was adjourned at the time and for the next three months, ignoring his constitutional duty to call this legislative branch of government back in session during a time of emergency, Lincoln assumed dictatorial powers and did things, like raise an army, that only Congress is supposed to do. He shut down newspapers that disagreed with his war policy, more than 300 of them. He ordered his military officers to lock up political opponents, thousands of them. Although the exact number is not known, Lincoln may well have arrested and imprisoned more than 20,000 political opponents, southern sympathizers, and people suspected of being disloyal to the Union, creating what one researcher has termed a 19th century "American gulag," a forerunner of the 20th century's political prison and labor camps in the former Soviet Union. Lincoln denied these nonviolent dissenters their right of free speech and suspended the privilege of Habeas Corpus, something only Congress in a time of war has the power to do. Lincoln's soldiers arrested civilians, often arbitrarily, without any charges being filed; and, if held at all, military commissions conducted trials. He permitted Union troops to arrest the Mayor of Baltimore (then the third largest city in the Union), its Chief of Police and a Maryland congressman, along with 31 state legislators. When Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote an opinion that said these actions were unlawful and violated the Constitution, Lincoln ignored the ruling.
Lincoln called up an army of 75,000 men to invade the seven southern states that had seceded and force them back into the Union. By unilaterally recruiting troops to invade these states, without first calling Congress into session to consider the matter and give its consent, Lincoln made an error in judgment that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. At the time, only seven states had seceded. But when Lincoln announced his intention to bring these states back into the Union by force, four additional states Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas seceded and joined the Confederacy. Slavery was not the issue. The issue was the very nature of the American union. If the President of the United States intended to hold the Union together by force, they wanted out. When these four states seceded and joined the Confederacy rather than send troops to support Lincoln's unconstitutional actions, the Confederacy became much more viable and the war much more horrible.
From the time Lincoln entered politics as a candidate for state legislature in 1832, he championed a political agenda known as the "American System." First advocated by his idol and mentor, Henry Clay, it was a three-part program of protective tariffs, internal improvements, and centralized banking. This program "tied economic development to strong centralized national authority," as Robert Johannsen puts it in Lincoln, the South, And Slavery. Lincoln believed that import tariffs were necessary, at the expense of consumers. He believed that American industries needed to be shielded from foreign competition and cheap imported goods. The "internal improvements" he advocated were simply subsidies for industry, i.e., corporate welfare. "My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance," he declared: "I am in favor of a national bank . . . the internal improvements system, and a high protective tariff." Abraham Lincoln was the first president to give us centralized banking, with paper money not backed by gold.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America forbid protectionist tariffs, outlawed government subsidies to private businesses, and made congressional appropriations subject to approval by a two-thirds majority vote. It enjoined Congress from initiating constitutional amendments, leaving that power to the constituent states; and limited its president to a single six-year term. When the South lost, instead of a Jeffersonian republic of free trade and limited constitutional government, the stage was set for the United States to become an American Empire ruled by a central authority. In starting his war against the Confederate States, Lincoln was not seeking the "preservation of the Union" in its traditional sense. He sought the preservation of the Northern economy by means of transforming the federal government into a centralized welfare-warfare-police state.
The Founding Fathers system of divided sovereignty, championed by James Madison, was destroyed in1865. As John Hopkins University political theorist Gottfried Dietze wrote in America’s Political Dilemmas: “Before the Civil War…the nature of American federalism was still a subject of debate. The outcome of the Civil War ended that. The Nationalists emerged as victors.”
In The Greatest Nation of the Earth historian Heather Cox Richardson quotes Senator John Sherman (R-Ohio) as saying that the Republican Party’s objective was “to nationalize as much as possible, even the currency, so as to make men love their country before their States. All private interests, all public interests, all banking interests, the interests of individuals, everything, should be subordinate now to the interest of the Government.” This statement could not be any further away from Jefferson’s “that government governs best which governs least” philosophy. The Republicans, including Lincoln, clearly saw the nationalization of “everything” as an essential weapon in their crusade to abolish Jeffersonianism, centralize power in Washington, and finally implement the Hamiltonian system of protectionism, national debt, nationalized banking, and corporate welfare.
Lincoln’s dictatorial methods, and his creation of a consolidated, militaristic state, have long been the model for the America Right. William F. Buckley, Jr. believed that America needed a “totalitarian bureaucracy” to fight the cold war, and that the Lincoln administration served as an ideal model. When the cold war was ended and there was no longer any need for a “totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores” the conservative movement, which now calls itself the “neoconservative” movement, declared that its new goal would be perpetual global warfare in the name of spreading democracy around the globe. Naturally, they constantly make use of the Lincoln legend in speeches and articles to attempt to “justify” this quintessentially un-American policy.
Right-wing totalitarians are not the only ones who invoke the Lincoln legend when justifying monopolistic or dictatorial government. There are many prominent academic neo-liberals who idolize Lincoln because they, too, favor “totalitarian bureaucracy,” as long as they, and not and not people like William F. Buckley, Jr. are running it.
It is remarkable how Lincoln cultists simply take everything Lincoln said as the Gospel Truth, never to be questioned, even if the idea seems absolutely outrageous. Lincoln is routinely described as “the greatest of all Americans” and “redeemer of the nation.” Such rhetoric, however, is rarely beneficial to anyone interested in learning true history. The deification of Lincoln has always been part of a not-so-hidden agenda to expand the size and scope of the American state. With the death of states’ rights in 1865 came the death of citizen sovereignty in America. The Lincoln cult desperately seeks to keep these dark thoughts out of the minds of the American public by creating falsehoods and deceptions about American history.
But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. For example, you might want to look into the Hampton Roads Peace Conference which occurred in February of 1865, “because it brings into question most of the mythology promoted today which states that Lincoln and the North fought the war for the purpose of abolishing slavery and the South fought for the purpose of protecting it, and therefore, it was a great and noble war.”
Hundreds of books have been written about Lincoln the humanitarian, a soft and gentle man. But from the very beginning of his administration he intentionally waged a cruel and unbelievably bloody war on civilians as well as soldiers. As early as 1861, Federal soldiers looted, pillaged, raped and plundered their way through Virginia and other Southern states, completely burning to the ground the towns of Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi, Randolph, Tennessee, and others. Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel estimates that some 50,000 Southern civilians were killed during the war, and this number, even if it is exaggerated by a multiple of two, most likely includes thousands of slaves. In his March to the Sea, General William Tecumseh Sherman boasted of having destroyed $100 million in private property and that his "soldiers" carried home another $20 million worth.
In his memoirs Sherman wrote that when he met with Lincoln after his March to the Sea was completed, Lincoln was eager to hear the stories of how thousands of Southern civilians, mostly women, children, and old men, were plundered, sometimes murdered, and rendered homeless. Lincoln, according to Sherman, laughed almost uncontrollably at the stories. Even Sherman biographer Lee Kennett, who writes very favorably of the general, concluded that had the Confederates won the war, they would have been "justified in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violation of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants."
As H.L. Mencken said of the Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln absurdly claimed that Northern soldiers were fighting for the cause of self determination ("that government of the people . . . should not perish . . .": "It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. The Confederates went into the battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision of the rest of the country."
The deification of Lincoln has always been part of a not-so-hidden agenda to expand the size and scope of the American state far beyond what the founding fathers—especially the Jeffersonians—envisioned. The war itself was a revolution against the Jeffersonian states’ rights ideal and the voluntary union. American citizens were to be sovereign over their own federal government as members of political communities organized at the state and local level. With the death of states’ rights in 1865 came the death of citizen sovereignty.
Washington and Jefferson created the republic; Lincoln destroyed it. Scholars are at last beginning to dig out the real Lincoln from the layers of deification that were created by cynical men who, while he lived, had habitually referred to him as a "baboon" or an "idiot." The real Lincoln is a much more interesting man than the saintly figure created for partisan purposes. He had his flaws as well as his virtues. He was a racist. He was an intensely ambitious man who would say and do anything to win public office. He was belligerently anti-Christian, though once elected he hid his true beliefs from the public. He freed no slaves. And there is some evidence, though circumstantial, that he was homosexual. He was also an inveterate vulgarian. Right after delivering the Gettysburg Address, he ordered the band to play bawdyhouse songs. Nor, according to his contemporaries, was he tenderhearted. He is described as indifferent to the enormous suffering his war was causing.
All of these facts were widely known during his lifetime, and most were included in the original memoir by his longtime law partner. Unfortunately, each subsequent edition was sanitized, so that today most Americans know nothing of the real man who was far more complex than his accepted image. He was not an intellectual, though one of his cabinet officers said he was "cunning to the point of genius."
Lincoln’s assassination and the aggressive dissemination of the “Massa Linkun myth” pushed the real Lincoln with his real limitations into the background, and African-Americans were soon pooling their pennies to erect a monument to the mythical emancipator. But in the final analysis, Lincoln must be seen as the embodiment, not the transcendence, of the American tradition of racism. In his inability to rise above that tradition, Lincoln, often called “the noblest of all Americans,” holds up a flawed mirror to the American soul. And one honors him today, not by gazing fixedly at a flawed image, not by hiding warts and excrescences, but by seeing oneself in the reflected ambivalences of a life which calls us to transcendence, not imitation.
The Lincoln myths form the ideological cornerstone of the bloated American state, which will never be restored to its proper role until these myths are challenged and overthrown. Lincoln is a key, perhaps the key, to the American personality, and what we invest in him, and what we hide in him, is who we are. For if Lincoln is not who 16,000 books, monographs, and TV programs say he was, then we’re not who we think we are, and American scholarship is not what we say it is.
From the first, Lincoln was a centralist, a privilegist an adherent of the non-principled, Whig Party, which laid the foundation of the Republican Party of 1854, has which has grown into the reckless, ignorant and unscrupulous imperial organization of the present time. It has followed the line of its inheritance. It started with no theory of the government, with no principles for its administration, save to tax and to use the people, to absorb the vitality of the states in order to have all powers in the hands of central groups, courts and bureaus; and it is triumphant now with its armies and its navies, with its amalgamation of wealth and government.
Lincoln’s fame rests upon what he did to restore the Union as it was before 1861. He did not do that. He only brought recalcitrant states back into the control of the Federal Government. When he did that, the Union of the Constitution was by the very nature of things extinguished; while the evil forces which the war loosed took possession of the land and men’s lives, and they are still in that possession. Whether there is a higher law which will bless the saving of the Union as it is called, at some far time, though its salvation by war has cursed the land to this day, remains for some future generation to see.
Today, America is haunted by Lincoln’s blood lust for a coercive, dominant, unitary, unaccountable, debt-laden central government whose principle function is the plunder of society and the redistribution of wealth to the politically privileged elite and their collection of political sycophants who help keep them in power. In this regard, the two major parties have become the party of Lincoln, each a metastatic twin of the other. Abraham Lincoln opened the door to the Leviathan central state that mandates, manipulates, and regulates virtually every aspect of life in America and seeks unilateral hegemony around the globe.
Separating facts from myths is always one of the greatest challenges when examining the past. In particular, narratives that benefit those in power are particularly resistant to rational examination, since they tend to be propagated among the impressionable and credible – particularly children, in the form of state “education.”
The history of the United States in particular has gone through an enormous amount of propagandistic revisionism, so that now the standard view of early American history tends to resemble more the slavishly pro-state Pravda palimpsests of the Stalinist era than a clear-eyed and rational assessment of past circumstances and events.
There remains at present a large constituency of Americans – often regarding themselves as libertarian – who look back with nostalgia to the founding of the Republic. In their mind’s eye, the late 18th Century was a noble era when the steely genius of the Founding Fathers forged in the fires of liberty precious documents designed to limit the power of the state over its citizens. These preternaturally wise philosopher-kings wafted above all human temptations for the exercise of power, remaining farseeing moral visionaries steeped in the humanism and rationality of the Enlightenment, keenly aware of the dangers of the state. These noble heroes led a people yearning for freedom to the revolution of 1776, overthrew an increasingly despotic foreign rule, and put in place a system designed to guarantee the liberty of individuals far into the future.
In this narrative, the founding of the American Republic was considered a watershed epoch in the history of humanity. Never before had a government been created according to rational and objective principles, with the express design of limiting its power, and forcing it to remain answerable to the citizens it served.
The slogans of the American Revolution have been carved into the lexicon of human fantasies about freedom – “all men are created equal,” “government by and for the people,” “conceived in liberty,” “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and so on. Early America was considered to be the highest achievement in the construction of a benevolent, wise, limited and regulated government.
Those who hold this view regard existing escalations of state power – particularly at the Federal level – to be fundamentally anti-American, and yearn for a return to an imaginary past where selfless heroes ran the government with the sole purpose of serving others.
On the other hand, certain historians – particularly neo-liberals – have attempted to overthrow most of the supposed virtues of this period, repeatedly pointing out that early America enslaved nearly one sixth of its population, that under the cover of its Manifest Destiny doctrine the American government forcibly uprooted and exiled dozens of native tribes, that public hangings were a common form of entertainment, and that political bribery and corruption were endemic. In many ways, according to this version of history, the expansion of the United States at the expense of Mexicans and Native Americans was very similar to modern claims that China imposes on Tibet.
I view these opposing perspectives as a false dichotomy. In the “patriotic nostalgic” version, the evils of slavery and the forced relocations of native tribes and Mexicans are acknowledged as unfortunate but necessary political compromises required to create an initial union of disparate states. It is recognized that one of the original drafts of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” was “life, liberty and property,” but that the word “property” had to be removed because of its implicit repudiation of the concept of slavery – if all men can own property, no man can be property. Jefferson’s own ambiguity with regards to slavery is usually referenced by quoting his words:
We have the wolf by the ears; and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
The inability of the Founding Fathers (and Abraham Lincoln) to realize their own idealized visions of perfect and universal human equality is usually chalked up to the political realities of the time, and the ideological prejudices of those around them.
These two versions of history can be roughly characterized in the following manner: in the “patriotic nostalgic” view, the genuine political ideals of the Founding Fathers proved unachievable in practice due to the influence of history, and the collective self-interest of basic economic and political realities – particularly in the South.
In the “cynical neo-liberal” view, the Founding Fathers crafted an idealized world out of their own lofty moral aspirations, while ignoring all those who were non-white, non-male, and often non-middle-class. In other words, Washington, Jefferson, Adams et al did in fact believe their goals of noble and political equality, but unconsciously limited its application to their own gender, class and race. The problem was that these men did not have any real conscious conception of “equality” for women, slaves, Native Americans, children and so on.
Thus while these men genuinely believed in “equality,” they were limited in their practical application of this ideal because they genuinely could not consider those unlike themselves as particularly human. The forced relocation of Native American tribes, for instance, was by any rational standard a far more egregious crime against humanity than the minor indignity of the Stamp Tax, but because the Native Americans were not considered to be particularly human – at least not in the way that your average middle-class white male was – they could not be emotionally or conceptually “fitted” on the same moral spectrum.
To me, arguing whether the Founding Fathers were genuine idealists who bowed to political pragmatism, or genuine idealists tragically limited by the ethical perspectives of their time, entirely misses the point by assuming that they were “genuine idealists” of any kind whatsoever.
When we judge a man’s ethical idealism, it can perhaps be said that it is unfair to compare his ideals across time to a more modern understanding of ethics. In the same way, we cannot fault a medieval physician for failing to prescribe antibiotics, because they simply did not exist when he practiced medicine.
I believe that it is also reasonable to “forgive” some of the inevitable pragmatic compromises that idealists must make with the world as they find it. Even virulently anti-tax modern libertarians can be “forgiven” for paying their taxes, given that the alternative is a life on the run or in jail.
However, the Founding Fathers meet neither of these criteria. We can only forgive an idealist for bowing to pragmatism if the corruption of his ideals is demanded by powerful elements beyond his control. We can only forgive an idealist for his limited knowledge if he does not in fact possess knowledge of the standards he fails to meet.
If, however, a supposed “idealist” voluntarily corrupts his own standards, bowing to no powerful external pressure whatsoever, then clearly he is no idealist. If I set up a charity, and then shamelessly rob those I am supposed to help, I cannot reasonably be called a starry-eyed idealist who had to bow to pragmatic reality, or who was limited by the moral standards of my time. I could only be accurately called a moral hypocrite who used ethical “standards” to corrupt and betray my victims.
The anarchist view of history can only regard the transfer of political power as directly analogous to the transfer of criminal power, as in the example of organized crime. Since in the anarchist approach all state power is considered criminal, any transfer of that power can be far more accurately understood by looking at criminal gangs, rather than repeating the quasi-ethical ramblings of self-interested state propagandists.
If this is the correct approach – as I believe it is – then all “ideals” put forward to justify state power – whether referring to a revolution, a despotic or democratic transfer of power, or even the daily continued existence of state power – are completely irrelevant, and foolish distractions to the actual process that is occurring.
Since the state is a criminal gang, referring to the ideals in the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights makes about as much sense as referring to a Mafia stooge’s claims that he only wants to “protect” a shopkeeper that he is in fact extorting, or a pimp’s protestations of virtuous benevolence with regards to his enslaved prostitutes.
Political leaders use virtuous abstractions to “sell” the imposition of violent power over citizens. As long as individuals continue to be distracted by the shiny emptiness of ethical bloviating, and ignore the gun that is steadily rising towards them, we will continue to remain as enslaved to words as we are to governments.
For example, let us take the following scenario.
Imagine a U.S. president who has never traveled east of Paris or fought in a war but who nonetheless claims to possess a deep understanding of how best to deal with military conflicts in the Middle East. During his presidency, he is faced with attacks upon Americans originating from state-supported mujahedeen. In order to assuage these attacks, the U.S. government has historically both sold and given arms to the very Middle Eastern government that has been attacking Americans. Naturally, this government then used its new American weaponry to increase the number and severity of its attacks upon Americans. Pundits and intellectuals claim that if war is not declared upon this Middle Eastern government, said government will actually attack America directly.
Despite achieving office partly due to his isolationist promises to avoid international military entanglements, this president secretly wants to wage war in the Middle East – however, he faces a daunting legal obstacle. The U.S. Constitution denies him the right to declare war; reserving that power to Congress alone. Since he is not certain that Congress will declare war on this Middle Eastern country, this noble President decides to sidestep the legislature and order a “police operation” that falls just short of all-out war. In this way, he can circumvent the powers of Congress and personally authorize military action in the Middle East.
Does this sound at all familiar?
May I introduce you, ladies and gentlemen, to Thomas Jefferson?
The issue that Jefferson faced was state-sponsored piracy originating from what was then called Barbary States. Over 100 American trade ships sailing through the Mediterranean and into the Middle East were on occasion attacked by state-backed pirates – the “terrorists” of the day. Goods were seized, sailors were held for ransom, and ships were converted to supplement the pirate fleet. Given that 20% of all U.S. exports took this route, it was no small problem.
All European powers faced the same dilemma, and all but the Americans decided to pay the “tribute” required for safe passage of their ships, forge the documents of “safe passage,” or hire the Spanish or Dutch gunboats that made themselves available as a military escort. By the late 18th Century, the U.S. Treasury was paying out as much as 20% of its annual revenue to the Barbary states – in gold and, perversely, in cannon, gunpowder and gunboats. Not for the last time would America end up going to war against a power it had well-armed prior to the conflict. (Of course, independence from England had robbed U.S. merchants of protection from the British Navy.)
In other words, one of the costs of doing business in the Middle East included the hiring of military protection, or the paying of “tribute” in order to secure a safe passage.
This, of course, was directly analogous to the ever-increasing tariffs and excise taxes that the U.S. government was imposing on its own citizens domestically. Subjecting the movement of goods to “taxes” is a universal phenomenon of governments throughout history, and around the world.
Even after paying the “protection money,” good profits could still be reaped from Middle Eastern trade, particularly in the exchange of cloth for spices. However, U.S. merchants were very keen to shift those costs to the general taxpayer, in order to vastly increase their own profits and to gain a significant competitive edge over foreign merchants. Thus, merchant leaders offered to donate enormous sums to fund the campaigns of political aspirants, in return for their promises to use state funds to pay for military expeditions against the Barbary pirates.
Governments, naturally, always benefit from rousing the general population into animosity against an external enemy. As the saying goes, “war is the health of the state.” It is very easy to restrict liberty, increase taxes, and promote “unity” when patriotic fervor can be commingled with fears of invasion and the natural – if cowardly – bloodlust that erupts at the exciting prospect of ogling a safe and distant foreign war.
In this way, the moral delusions of the population (“It’s us against them!”) serve both the commercial interests of the merchant class and the expansion of state power that is the primary interest of the political class.
It is both fascinating and highly instructive to see how one of the primary framers of the Constitution – and the author of the Declaration of Independence – so naturally gravitated towards violating the very principles that he claimed to be both pragmatically necessary and morally universal.
Some might argue that Jefferson had been corrupted by political power, and this was why he attempted to break the very moral rules that he had consistently espoused as the highest possible ideals. However, this thesis is empirically easy to disprove, and can be cast aside very quickly.
Jefferson claimed to be a great fan of limited government, and in particular railed against the potential tyranny of an individual despotic leader, which was why he so consistently championed the separation of powers. Naturally, since he was so against despotic leadership, and set up a system specifically designed to block the execution of war powers at the executive level, when he found that he was not just tempted by but actually initiated the process of executing these war powers on his own whim, he clearly had the intellectual ability to recognize that he had become an example of an evil that he originally aimed to conquer.
If Jefferson genuinely opposed the evil that he had become, then he would have resigned his position, and worked as hard as possible to find the flaws in the system he had helped design that had led to his own corruption. Surely, he would understand that if someone as moral, intelligent, understanding and well-meaning as himself could be utterly corrupted by political power, that the system he had worked so hard to create simply did not work.
However, there is no evidence that these pangs of conscience ever troubled Jefferson in the slightest–and he most certainly did not resign and devote himself to figuring out the flaws in his system. Instead, he sailed on attempting to foment a war between America and a variety of Muslim states, all the while attempting to bypass the powers that he had specifically reserved for Congress in order to avoid such a situation.
When a man consistently repudiates in action the moral ideals that he professes in theory, we can clearly understand that his moral ideals are only professed as a means of achieving the power to act in opposition to them. If a man claims to love and respect his wife, and then continually abuses her in private, we can understand that his claims of love and devotion are mere “covers” for his core desire, which is to continue to abuse his wife.
Thus, since Jefferson claimed that the power to declare war must be reserved for Congress alone, and then attempted to bypass that rule when he became president, it is clear that he had no interest in actually controlling the power of the executive branch of government. His “ideals” are thus revealed as a shallow form of hypocritical moral manipulation designed to hoodwink the average citizen into believing that Jeffersonian democracy is some sort of protection against the growth of tyranny.
If I convince others that my political system is designed to prevent tyranny, and then when I gain political power by implementing my system, I assiduously pursue tyrannical powers, it is surely clear to all but the most willfully self-blinded that I only spoke of my hostility to tyranny because I wished to be a tyrant. My words were designed to disarm others, to lull their natural skepticism – and thus secure my dominance over them.
It is in this way that we can begin to pierce the quasi-religious veil of self-serving hypocrisy and look to the values that were in fact practiced, rather than the fairy tales that were merely preached. A man is revealed by his actions, not his words.
If we look at the actions of George Washington, we can see exactly the same pattern. This is a man who used violence to oppose a British tax that was not agreed to by the colonists. After the powers of the Federal government had been expanded by the replacement of the Articles of Confederation by the United States Constitution in 1789, it took less than two years for Alexander Hamilton to convince Congress to approve taxes on distilled spirits and carriages.
In order to control the increasing rebellions against this tax, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton summoned a militia of almost 13,000 men – approximately the size of the entire revolutionary army – and invoked martial law against those resisting the tax. The subsequent assault upon the rebels marked the first time that the U.S. Federal Government had attacked its own citizens in order to extract taxes, and set the precedent that laws could only be challenged through “peaceful” means.
The staggering hypocrisy in this action scarcely needs any comment at all. There is no evidence whatsoever that either Hamilton or Washington were disturbed by their own decisions – which clearly means that they had no interest in their own professed moral ideals, but rather only in the exercise of power over others.
If Mafia Gang A attacks Mafia Gang B – while claiming eternal hatred for Mafia Gang B’s evil practice of extortion – and then, as soon as it overthrows Mafia Gang B, immediately sets up its own more predatory extortion rackets, we can clearly understand that Mafia Gang A was motivated by jealousy of Mafia Gang B, not out of any fundamental dislike of their practices.
If we continue to believe the pious lies of statist propaganda, we will forever be drawn to drown ourselves in the mirage of a mythical past where people were “free.” If we continue to believe that the “founding of the Republic” – really the overthrow of a relatively benign foreign gang by a vastly more rapacious domestic gang – was defined by the moral fairy tales designed to dull the skepticism of the average citizen, then we shall be forever drawn to repeat the mistakes of the past and waste our lives believing that a new criminal gang will somehow set us free.
If we believe that the Constitution was genuinely designed to limit the power of the state, then we will forever try to limit the power of the state by revising political documents or pursuing other kinds of political solutions. If we understand that political documents are in fact mere tools of hypocritical moral propaganda, we will be no more tempted to revise them than we would to fact-check back issues of Pravda.
Unfortunately, as a population, we remain bamboozled by the pious sentiments of the power-hungry. We live free in a world of words, but lie chained in a prison of reality.
We can only achieve real liberty by refusing to sanctify criminals, and understanding the basic reality that the phrase “moral government” is as oxymoronic as the phrase “moral genocide.”
The only path to a freer future is clarity about the tyrannies of the past.
 George F. Will, Restoration: Congress, Term Limits, and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy (New York: Free Press, 1992) p. 167
 William Graham Sumner, Alexander Hamilton (New York: University Society, 1905) p. 176
 Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, “A History of Central Banking in the United States,” online at www.minneapolisfed.org/centralbankhistory/bank.cfm.
 Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008) p. 42
 Ibid, p. 101
 Alexander Hamilton's Report On The Subject Of Manufactures: Made In His Capacity Of Secretary Of The Treasury: Alexander Hamilton, (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, April 10, 2007)
 Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008) p. 116-24
 Ibid, p. 38
 Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution: Clinton Rossiter, (Harcourt, January 1964)
 Hamiltons Republic: Readings in the American Democratic Nationalist Tradition: Michael Lind (Free Press, December 1, 1997)
 Ibid, p. 123
 Harold Holzer, Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004) p. 64-65
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 151
 Cracks in the Constitution Ferdinand Lundberg (Lyle Stuart, Book Sales; 1st edition April 1982)
 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D.
 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D.
 Dean Sprague, Freedom Under Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965) p. 300
 Henry Adams, Documents Relating to New England Federalism (Boston: Little, Brown, And Co., 1957) p. 376
 Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008) p. 120
 See McCulloch vs. Maryland
 Ibid, p. 118
 Jeffery Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men (Chicago: Open Court, 1996); Richard Timberlake, Monetary History of the United States: An Intellectual and Institution History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)
 John Lamberton Harper, American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1968) p. 116
 Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008) p. 125
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 82
 George P. Fletcher, Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy (New York Oxford University Press, 2001) p.6
 Ibid, p.5
 Ibid, pp. 8, 12
 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D. (Regnery Publishing) p.94
 Quoted in Richard C. Reuben. "Man in the Middle", California Lawyer, October 1992, p. 35.
 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution: Kevin R. C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D.
 For a perfect example, see James G. Randall, Lincoln the Liberal Statesman (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1947), 175–206.
 See Joel H. Silbey, " 'Always a Whig in Politics': The Partisan Life of Abraham Lincoln," Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association 8 (1986): 21–42.
 See Sheldon H. Harris, "Abraham Lincoln Stumps a Yankee Audience," New England Quarterly 38 (1965): 227–33.
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 26
 Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 198
 Carter Goodrich, Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890 (Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1960) p. 231
 Albro Martin, James J. Hill and the Opening of the Northwest (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Michael P. Malone, James J. Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996)
 John W. Starr Jr., Lincoln and the Railroads (Manchester, N. H.: Ayer Co., 1981) p. 152
 Leonard P. Curry, Blueprint for Modern America: Nonmilitary Legislation of the First Civil War Congress (Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University, 1968) p. 134
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 214
 The Republican Charade: Lincoln and His Party by Clyde Wilson
 Clyde Wilson, “The Gettysburg Speech: Clyde Wilson on the Gettysburg Fraud,” www.LewRockwell.com, November 2003.
 Red Republicans and Lincoln's Marxists: Marxism in the Civil War: Walther D. Kennedy, Al Benson (iUniverse, Inc., August 17, 2007) p. 178
 John A. Emison, Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America (Pelican Publishing Company, 2009) p. 000
 John J. Dwyer, The War Between the States—America’s Uncivil War (Bluebonnet Press, Denton, TX: 2005) p. 17
 Ibid, p. 15
 Marx, The Communist Manifesto (American Opinion Publications, Belmont, MA: 1974), p. 25
 Theodore Burton, John Sherman (Chelsea House, New York: 1983) p. 123
 John J. Dwyer, The War Between the States—America’s Uncivil War (Bluebonnet Press, Denton, TX: 2005) p. 609
 Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (American Opinion Publications, Belmont, MA: 1974), p. 22
 John J. Dwyer, The War Between the States—America’s Uncivil War (Bluebonnet Press, Denton, TX: 2005) p. 610
 John Chodes, “Education for a Conquered Nation,” Chronicles, March 1989, p. 20
 Justin Smith Morrill, as cited in, ibid, p. 21
 Chodes, “Education for a Conquered Nation,” Chronicles, March 1989, p. 22
 Rousa J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System (The Craig Press, Nutley, NJ: 1965), p. 17
 Joel Spring,
 Red Republicans and Lincoln's Marxists: Marxism in the Civil War: Walther D. Kennedy, Al Benson (iUniverse, Inc., August 17, 2007) p. 185
 Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (Kessinger Publishing, 2004) p. 31
 Slavery, Secession, and Civil War: Views from the UK and Europe, 1856-1865 : Charles Adams (The Scarecrow Press, Inc. December 28, 2006)
 Life of Lincoln: Henry Clay Whitney (BiblioLife , 2009) p.51
 Herndon, I, 188-9
 Lincoln’s Melancholy: by Josheu Shenk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt September 27, 2005), p. 11
 Ibid, p. 19
 For the political and economic mechanics behind the internal improvements scheme and the debt crisis that followed, see Paul Simon, Lincoln’s Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965), 48-54, 151-56, 173-78, 182-88, 225-27, 232-36.
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 228
 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV (Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1994,342.
 Norbert Hirschhorn, Robert G. Feldman, And Ian A. Greaves, “Abraham Lincoln’s Blue Pills: Did Our Sixteenth President Suffer From Mercury Poisoning?” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 44, no.3 (Summer 2001): 315-22.
 Ward Hill Lamon, interview with WHH, 1865-66, Herndon’s Informants, 466.
 Lincoln’s Melancholy: by Josheu Shenk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt September 27, 2005), p. 113
 John Charles Bucknill and Daniel H. Tuke, A Manual of Psychological Medicine (New York: Hafner, 1968; orig. 1858), 155.
 Lincoln’s Melancholy: by Josheu Shenk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt September 27, 2005), p. 117
 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Rutgers, 1955, vol. 2, p. 384
 Henry Villard, Lincoln on the Eve of ’61 (Edited by Harold G. and Oswald Garrison Villard. New York, 1941) p. 28
 Abraham Lincoln by Lord Charnwood (New York, 1917) p. 317
 Life on the Circuit With Lincoln by Henry C. Whitney (Boston, 1892) p. 195
 Abraham Lincoln by Lord Charnwood (New York, 1917) p. 70
 Roy Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings (ed. 1946, Cleveland) p. 12,16
 Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., New York: Harper & Brothers, 1971; orig. 1881) p. 447-48
 Nathaniel Stephenson, Lincoln (Indianapolis, 1922) p. 131
 J. G. Randall, Mr. Lincoln (Edited by Richard N. Current, New York, 1957) p. 223-6
 F. B. Carpenter, Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln (New York, 1866) p. 152, italics in original.
 Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett (Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., February 1, 2000), p. 110
 A. A. Brill, Abraham Lincoln as a Humorist, copy in the Tarbell Papers: Ida B. Tarbell, Allegheny College
 Herndon’s Informants: Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln.
 Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings by Roy Basler, (Da Capo Press, December 4, 2001) p. 97
 Ibid. p. 201
 Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings by Roy Basler, (Da Capo Press, December 4, 2001)
 Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings by Roy Basler, (Da Capo Press, December 4, 2001) p. 148
 Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings by Roy Basler, (Da Capo Press, December 4, 2001)
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 114-15
 Richard J. Oglesby, statement to J. McCan Davis, Lincoln among His Friends, p. 191-94 (originally published as “Origin of the Lincoln Rail as Related by Governor Oglesby,” Century Magazine, June 1900) p. 271-75
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 103
 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Rutgers, 1955, vol. 3, p. 145-6
 Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett (Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., February 1, 2000), p. 211
 Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), p.28
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 89
 Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett (Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., February 1, 2000), p. 10
 The Abolitionists by John F. Hume, (New York, 1905) p. 138
 Life on the Circuit With Lincoln by Henry C. Whitney (Boston, 1892) p. 155
 Memories of the Men Who Saved the Union by Donn Piatt (New York, 1887) p. 150
 Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition, (New York, 1974) p. 169
 Roy P. Basler, The Lincoln Legend, (Boston, 1935) p. 209-10
 J. G. Randall, Mr. Lincoln, (Edited by Richard N. Current, New York, 1957) p. 357
 Horace White, The Life of Lyman Trumbull, (New York, 1913) p. 222
 John A. Dahlgren, Memoir of John A. Dahlgren, (Boston, 1882) p. 382
 Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett (Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., February 1, 2000), p. 7
 John F. Hume, The Abolitionists (New York, 1905) p. 143
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 436
 Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Auburn AL; Mises Institite, 1998) p. 625
 The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War: Thomas J. DiLorenzo (Forum/Random House 2002) p. 49
 Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (New York: Norton, 1974) p. 34
 Ibid., p. 36
 The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War: Thomas J. DiLorenzo (Forum/Random House 2002) p. 52
 Ibid., p. 53
 Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p.228
 Richard Timberlake, Monetary History of the United States: An Intellectual and Institutional History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p.70
 Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), p.134
 Murray Rothbard, What Has Government Done to Our Money? Case for a 100 Percent Gold Dollar (Auburn AL: Mises Institute, 2005 reprint), p.78
 Murray Rothbard, A History of Money and Banking in the United States (Auburn AL: Mises Institute, 2002), p.122
 Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund Jr., Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War (Wilmingto, Del.: SR Books, 2004), p.68
 Wesley Clair Mitchell, A History of the Greenbacks, With Special Reference to the Economic Consequences of Their Issue, 1862-1865 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903)
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 423
 Lee Kenneth, Marching Through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians During Sherman’s Campaign (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 286
 The Hard Hand of War: Mark Grimsley, (Cambridge University Press, August 21, 2008)
 John Bennett Walters, Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, (Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. January 1, 1973) p. 137
 Roy Morris, Jr., Sheridan: The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan, (Vintage, July 27, 1993) p. 184.
 Lincoln’s Works, II, p. 143
 Ibid. p. 243
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 450
 "Reminiscences Of The Civil War", (Chapter I) By John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA
 Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (Kessinger Publishing, 2004) p. 34
 Roy Basler, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings (ed. 1946, Cleveland) p. 113
 Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), p.113-127
 Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the United States (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1913)
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 173
 James Jackson Kilpatrick, The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia (H. Regnery Co., 1957)
 Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862,” in Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, ed. Roy Basler (New York: DeCapo Press, 1946) p.652
 Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008) p.24
 Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York: 1961), 4:222
 Ibid., 4:77-79
 The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War: Thomas J. DiLorenzo (Forum/Random House 2002)
 Senate Journal, 36th Congress, 2nd Session, 4 December 1860, p. 15–16
 Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Signet Classics, September 5, 2001)
 Patrick Henry: Corrections of Biographical Mistakes and Popular Errors in Regard to is Character. Anecdotes and New Facts Illustrating His Religious and Political Opinions, and the Style and Power of His Eloquence. A Brief Account of His Last Illness and Death, Edward Fontaine, 1872, (Accession 22470. The University of Virginia)
 The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin R. C. Gutzman (Regnery Publishing, Inc. June 11, 2007)
 General Lee: A Biography of Robert E. Lee: Fitzhugh Lee (Published by Da Capo Press, 1994)
 Charles C. L. Minor:
 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Rutgers, 1955, vol. 1, p. 145
 All The Year Round: Charles Dickens (December 28, 1861)
 Red Republicans and Lincoln’s Marxists: Walter D Kennedy (iUniverse, Inc. August 17, 2007)
 Lincoln Reconsidered: David Donald (Vintage; 3 Sub edition, February 13, 2001)
 Constitutional Dictatorship: Clinton Rossiter (Greenwood Press, July 1979)
 A Tariff History of the United States: Frank Taussig (Johnson Reprint Corp; 8th edition, January 1973)
 Gottfried Dietze, America’s Political Dilemma: From Limited to Unlimited Democracy (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1968), p.67
 Heather Cox Richardson, The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War (Harvard University Press, 1997), p.148
 William F. Buckley, Jr., "A Young Republican View," The Commonweal, January 25, 1952
 Lincoln Unmasked by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2006), p.182
 Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman: William Tecumseh Sherman (Library of America, October 1, 1990)
 Sherman: A Soldier's Life: Lee B. Kennett (Harper Perennial, July 23, 2002)
 From "Five Men at Random," Prejudices: Third Series: H. L. Mencken. (First printed, in part, in the Smart Set, May, 1920, p. 141)
 Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln: The Man (The Foundation for American Education, 1997) p. 301