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Abraham Lincoln: The Truths and the Myths of Our 16th President

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It’s that time of year when praise is heaped on the man many Americans believe is the all-time best United States president. Sadly, they are wrong. It’s hard to be more wrong.

Abraham Lincoln actually may be the all-time worst U.S. president, judging from his beliefs, the damage he wrought and the course he set for the nation.

Nevertheless, Old Honest Abe is routinely exalted as the man who saved the union and freed the slaves. Actually, he did neither. Honest.

Lincoln was a white supremacist bigot who never believed blacks equal as human beings to white people. While he at times spoke against slavery, he was utterly committed to segregating people by race.

Don’t take yours truly’s word for it. Take Lincoln’s word for it . . .

“What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races,” said Lincoln, who firmly believed blacks and whites shouldn’t commingle. He worked until his dying day “to transfer the African to his native clime.” That is, to send them back to Africa.

Perhaps that explains why Lincoln didn’t free a single slave. Not one. His much-heralded “Emancipation Proclamation” was a masterpiece of political spin and war-time strategy. It purposely excluded slaves in northern states, where he had authority to free them. Instead, Lincoln’s proclamation legally targeted only slaves in southern states, where no one recognized his authority because they had seceded from the union and formed their own nation.

Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was a war tactic, not a humanitarian gesture. Falsely touted as the “Great Emancipator,” Lincoln intended his proclamation to motivate southern slaves to rise up against the Confederacy and create a second front in the war, says historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

All slaves eventually were emancipated, but only by Congress, after Lincoln’s death. He had nothing to do with it.

For those still unpersuaded of Lincoln’s fraudulent legacy, a review of his motives may help. As for his purpose in waging Civil War against other Americans, Lincoln explained his true motive was to unify the nation, not to end slavery.

He made that abundantly clear in an 1862 letter to newspaperman Horace Greeley, stating flatly: “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. … What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.”

Ending slavery was incidental, at best, to his purpose.

But even Lincoln’s reputation as a unifier is tarnished. The opportunist Lincoln was for secession before he was against it.

As a congressman from Illinois, Lincoln espoused: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.”

Like most politicians of his day, Lincoln understood all states held a right to secede. It even was a provision some states insisted on as a condition for entering the union in the first place. In fact, a number of northern states threatened secession in 1814 as did Middle Atlantic states in the 1850s.

“[E]veryone at the time understood that secession was perfectly legal and constitutional,” historian DiLorenzo writes. They drew on the Declaration of Independence’s first sentence that there is an unalienable right for, “people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” Article 7 of the Constitution provided for ratification by “free and independent states.”

Clearly secession was understood to be permitted prior to the Civil War because a spate of anti-secession laws was rushed for consideration in Congress on the eve of the war. The bills were necessary because, up to that point, secession was an unquestioned right.

But didn’t Lincoln at least save the union? Not exactly. What he did was fundamentally transform it. (Does that sound like someone else you know?)

Lincoln didn’t preserve the union as much as he elevated it to a theretofore un-claimed sovereignty over all states – directly contradicting the Founding Fathers’ intentions. It was because of Lincoln the “United States” became a singular noun whereas prior to his presidency the “United States” were referred to in the plural.

Within two decades of Lincoln’s death, his fundamental transformation of America was indisputable. “There was a time a few years ago when the United States was spoken of in the plural number,” read a 1887 article in The Washington Post. “Men said ‘the United States are’ . . . But the war changed all that.”

The Post traced the change back to Lincoln’s conquest over the south. “. . . the sabers of Sheridan, the muskets of Sherman, the artillery of Grant. … The surrender of Mr. Davis and Gen. Lee meant a transition from the plural to the singular.”

That demarked not merely a grammatical change, but a transformation of the nation’s essential nature. Until the Civil War, states’ sovereignty was deemed superior to the federal government’s authority, except for those few enumerated constitutional powers granted to the national government. Lincoln began substantially whittling away states’ rights and empowering the national government as supreme.

Lincoln was the first successful Big Government president, paving the way for progressives like Wilson, both Roosevelts, Johnson and Obama to expand even further the national government’s power over citizens and states. It was during Lincoln’s administration that the first national income tax was imposed, the Revenue Act of 1861, to pay for his war against the Confederacy.

Was Lincoln a fraud? Not exactly. Like all politicians he waffled and backtracked when it suited him, such as supporting secession before opposing it. There’s no proof Lincoln ever publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ, but that didn’t stop him from invoking God’s name in political speeches.

But was Lincoln a champion of freedom? Far from it. When an overwhelming majority of northern newspapers editorialized in favor secession, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, and arrested two New York publishers to silence them. As Lincoln historian John Avery Emison notes, Lincoln illegally declared war without a vote of Congress, blockaded Southern ports, impressed southerners into union army ranks, suppressed northern political opposition by arresting civilians, mayors and other officials and even threatened arrest of Chief Justice Roger Taney.

To take at face value the high praise heaped upon Lincoln requires purposely ignoring his horrific beliefs and deeds, and the equally horrific consequences he unleashed by paving the way for radical transformation of America a century and a half before another president would campaign to do more of the same.



 

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