Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Lincoln, Obama and the State of the Black Union

At Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union Conference this weekend in Virginia, Lerone Bennett (of Ebony magazine) denounced Barack Obama for announcing his presidential run in Springfield, IL--the home of that known racist, Abraham Lincoln. Smiley asked for clarification on that charge since Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and Bennett gave a pathetic but predictable response that was met with loud cheers and nodding approval by his host. You can hear Laura Ingraham discuss it here with appropriate excerpts from the actual conference. And here is some reaction from across the pond, where Obama is greeted with an equal disdain. This, of course, is all very sad and even disturbing. But it is interesting to note that the tone and substance of this argument against Lincoln--now advanced by a radical sub-section of black liberals--is eerily similiar to that of a certain sub-section of would-be "conservatives" who lately have found it amusing to entertain us in the comment section here. Politics and history certainly do make some strange bed-fellows. But when you agree that the real principle at work in politics is nothing more than will or power, it sometimes turns out that your enemies have more in common with you even than your friends.

Discussions - 68 Comments

"a certain subsection of would-be ’conservatives’"

I have been called many things in my life, but "would-be conservative" has never been one of them. Reactionary. Radical. Throw-back. Knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. Fringe. Etc. But never "would-be."

Them’s fighting words. So we are "would-be conservatives?" I thought our problem was that we are too conservative and recalcitrantly refuse to adopt modernist dogma and rhetoric.

So which is it? Too conservative or not conservative at all?

You are going to have to back that statement up.

I will happily put my conservative credentials up next to yours any day of the week.

Why don’t we start by listing all the Federal programs we would like to abolish.

I also assume you intend to support Ron Paul since you are SOOOO conservative.

I guess you will be joining me in my call to return to the Article of Confederation.

I guess you will also be joining me in my call to re-embrace the foreign policy of Washington and the Old Right instead of the modern foreign policy of the Cold War era.

Were you intentionally trying to provoke a response? Trying to increase page views?

I may not be your type of "conservative," but a "would be" conservative? That is just silly.

Not so fast. It seems to me that the language used by NLT people when discussing Confederates seems frightfully close to the language the left uses to talk about men like Washington and Jefferson. "They were slaveholders, hypocrities, etc. etc."

Julie - Welcome to Bedlam.

The dispute over secession and emancipation is a topic that only brings out the worst in certain of our Southern comrades. It’s better left alone. Both sides in this debate would do well to focus on the current threats to Western civilization and our national security. Here, where it matters most, we are on the same side. And, more interesting are any connections Obamessiah has to black radicals and reverse racists.

"The dispute over secession and emancipation is a topic that only brings out the worst in certain of our Southern comrades."

Could you be any more condescending? Perhaps secession is a topic that brings out the worst aspects of State worship from our Yankee apologist comrades. Comrades is a well chosen word.

5: Western Straussians (Claremonsters, Declaration of Independence conservatives) are NOT state worshipers. They are anything but. You’ve made an outrageous accusation with no basis to it. The same is true of your snide, knee-jerk use of the term "comrades," which means "communists." So any condescension you picked up is quite justified -- as applied to you.

Julie, your postings are eerily similar to a certain subsection of humanity known as the legally blonde. Between your bewildering, irritable rants and Garrity’s pedantic discourses on the metaphysics of sports, NLT just isn’t worth a daily look-see any longer. My bookmark is history.

I actually agree with Mr. Frisk that we should focus on the here-and-now (although I don’t appreciate the assumption that only Southerners have a "worst" side - gushing Lincoln-worship is pretty nasty, IMHO). As for Julie, she’s let her "church lady" side snipe through...again. ’sokay, for those of us who are used to being equated with rednecks and/or Nazis, being called a "would-be conservative" is almost inoffensive. Almost.

"Western Straussians (Claremonsters, Declaration of Independence conservatives) are NOT state worshipers. They are anything but. You’ve made an outrageous accusation with no basis to it."

Mr. Frisk, the folks you speak of are picture perfect Hobbesian, unified, indivisible, modern statists. They support a post-French Revolution conception of the nation state. That is why they so adamantly oppose secession. It is a true challenge to the unified sovereign that they accept by second nature. Many can not even think in any other terms. Some might pay lips service to State’s Rights, but truly divided sovereignty horrifies them.

I invite you to look back at some of the long debates that took place here, or 100 other places on the internet. Secession terrifies them and cries of "anarchy" are immediately heard.

Hence, state worship.

I’m sure you will be equally critical of Ms. Ponzi for her "outrageous accusation" that we are "would be conservatives" for wanting to return to the ancient order.

Julie, what I want to know is, if you describe dain as a "would-be ’conservative’" then does that mean you think he’s actually
to the left of real conservatives (such as, no doubt, yourself) and the true spirit of NLT?? "Yes" would strike me as a fairly ludicrous answer, but I’m still curious, anyway.

I, too, wish a return to the ancient order! Give up your modern Christianity, fools, or face the wrath of Zeus!

10: It is inaccurate to describe Southern nationalists or Lincoln foes as "would-be conservatives." While some may not be true conservatives, I think most are. There should, then, be differentiation in individual cases. It is also inaccurate to describe them as "bedfellows" of black nationalists.
Substantively, the two groups have different values and want different kinds of societies. However, it is defamatory to describe Western Straussians, all of whom love liberty, as "statists." There are legitimate differences among friends of liberty as to the "national versus federal" nature of the our republic. Publius called it "partly federal, partly national." Personally, I’m happy to live with this healthy compromise and healthy ambiguity. Western Straussians do not deny the federal aspects of our system; they simply insist, like almost everyone else, on its national aspects. To call them statists is to invite deserved ridicule and dismissal of your position. "Statism" is about the degree of governmental power over society, much more than the locus of power (national versus state).

7: David, I agree with you that the "pedantic discourses on the metaphysics of sports" contribute little to this site. While some people probably find them interesting, the same thing could be said for pizza recipes, or recommended microbrews, or advice about auto mechanics. The sports postings, or most of them, simply detract from NLT’s focus. It would be tempting for a casual visitor, seeing a long sports post every couple of days, to shrug off NLT as unfocused or amateur, when it’s neither.

"’Statism’ is about the degree of governmental power over society, much more than the locus of power (national versus state)."

Do you honestly think that the regime we are living under today, with its 3 trillion dollar annual budget, is not a Statist nightmare?

This degree of growth and over-reach was greatly facilitated by the change in the nature of the Republic that Lincoln brought about. That is really not seriously disputable. You can argue that it was not an inevitable consequence, but you can not seriously argue that it is not a consequence.

Where the "locus of power" (a good term) resides can not practically be separated from the "degree of power." Centralized unchecked power WILL grow. That does not mean that smaller powers can’t tyrannize. They can. But they can only do so on a smaller scale.

I don’t believe we’re yet at "nightmare" status in terms of statism, but clearly the more powerful and effective of the parties -- the Democratic party -- is radically statist and an enormous threat. In addition, the Republican party resists statism much less consistently and effectively than it should. And yes, overall there is too much government, not too little. But the fundamental problem there is that our political class AND the American people have an insufficient appreciation of the need for freedom. Lack of respect for the federal (state’s rights) elements in our Constitution is a significant part of the problem too, but I think it’s secondary to the general attitude toward government -- be it national, state or even local.

Yes, we would have less statism were it not for the Civil War and the quashing of any sense that secession was an option. We also might not have a country. Sometimes good things have partially bad consequences. It’s the way of the world.

Bennett’s slam at Lincoln is ridiculous historicism. If Lincoln were the fire-breathing abolitionist she demands, she wouldn’t even know his name, as he never would have been elected dog-catcher. Essentially she’s mad at Lincoln for not being Malcom X. We might as well savage TR for his weakness on CAFE standards. In other words, she can’t see Nathan Bedlam’s forest for the tree-huggers. heh.

Clearly, the Founders both North and South thought Union was so important that they both compromised to achieve it. That was the right call then and it’s the right call now.

I think we are in a state of "nightmare" in terms of statism, because there seems no way out of it. If the majority prefers the kindly tyranny of the government we have now, then freedom is smothered as by an inescapable warm blanket.

"Julie, what I want to know is, if you describe dain as a "would-be ’conservative’" then does that mean you think he’s actually to the left of real conservatives (such as, no doubt, yourself) and the true spirit of NLT?? "Yes" would strike me as a fairly ludicrous answer, but I’m still curious, anyway."

Thanks Craig. That is exactly my point.

I wish I could believe that Julie just made a mistake in haste, but I can’t believe that. I suspect something very specific was intended by the term "would-be" and especially by the scare quotes around the word conservative. Surely she did not intend to suggest that we are actually closetted liberals to her left. That would just be silly. What she likely intended is that we are disreputable conservatives. That we are not polite company conservatives. That we are not to be taken seriously. And we deserve this quotation mark status precisely because we are far to her right. Of course today’s right is yesterday’s far left, but that is not a concern to the neocons because they have no interest at all in returning to a historic right, despite their convenient high-jacking of the term conservative.

The neocons have been at this game for a long time. They are experts at it. Julie might protest that she is not a neocon, but I Googled her to see where she was coming from, and I see she was a former fellow at Claremont, so any such denial will be greeted with much skepticism.

Frum had the audacity to suggest at one point that paleoconservatives were the "newest form" of conservatism. Since Frum is obviously a brilliant fellow, he surely knows better. (It may be new as an organized entity, but the philosophy it espouses is ancient and Frum knows that. That is why he rejects it.) So Frum was engaged in intentional deceit.

Then Goldberg had the audacity to criticize "neo-medievalist" (paleos) and declare de Maistre the mortal enemy. That is funny for a "conservative" (my scare quotes are clearly intentional as well) since de Maistre was a Counter-Revolutionary representing the Right in the French Revolution. Hence the equation of neocons to Jacobin revolutionaries is entirely appropriate (especially regarding foreign policy).

At least Goldberg (one of the more tolerable of the neo Mafia) had the decency to admit he is a historical liberal when he was called on it by Gottfried. Frum still insists he is the authentic conservative since he still embraces the foreign policy of the "last 50 years." The irony of that is so rich it almost seems unfair to skewer it, so I will let that absurdity stand on its own.

Claremont bills itself as a center of "Political Philosophy." This is not complicated stuff. The Left/Right distinction, while open to a great deal of nuance, is not difficult to understand at the big picture level. This is political philosophy 101. You can not declare de Maistre the mortal enemy, and then claim to be on the right. That is patently absurd. You may well be to the right of the current "center," but you can not claim the historic right.

Believe it or not, I am less hostile to the neocons than are some of my paleo cohorts. Except on foreign policy where they are first order Jacobin revolutionaries, neos are conservative liberals. So we share a common enemy, liberal liberals. If Kirk is correct that conservatism is at least partially a state of mind or a sentiment, then they at least fancy themselves as conservatives which makes them potential converts and at least useful on some issues. Frum was good on Meirs for example. While Strauss/Jaffe/Bloom get much wrong, you can at least look at what they were attempting as a conservative defense, of sorts, of liberal democracy. Which is better than a liberal liberal abandonment of all absolutes. But they were still defending liberal democracy which is a large part of the problem.

We will never agree, unless you come around, on Lincoln, secession, the WBTS, decentralization, foreign policy, or many other things. Secession is an essential, threshold issues, but we can agree to disagree and work together on issues we agree on. Fine, if you want to defend conservative liberalism then go right ahead.

What I ask for is honesty and truth in labeling. Don’t call yourself a conservative. Call yourself a conservative liberal. Don’t label your blog No Left Turns. Label it Turning Slightly to the Right. This is not pedantic one-upmanship. Neos not only high-jacked a movement, they high-jacked the language. Words are supposed to mean something. The language is important. We should respect that.

And also I ask for historical honesty. Don’t look at the Founders who were obviously highly politically incorrect by today’s standards and find closeted egalitarian democrats lurking in the language. That is dishonest and panders to the PC left. And don’t praise a man who invaded my homeland, killed my forefathers, burned my home state, and vilify my ancestors and the society they produced (with deceitful myth-making history), and then tell me it was all for my own good, and I ought to be glad he did it. If I felt that way I would be a low-down, disloyal, SOB as well as a duped fool.

Words do mean something, but this neo, paleo conservative labeling does nothing to make meanings clear.

Why should Blak Amerika trust Obama...after all, he’s half white and know the drill. Sheesh. It’s so obvious...Oh, wait...tons and tons of Blak Amerikans are partly white...does that mean they can’t trust one another, either?

My thing is this: if he weren’t half-black, he’d be John Edwards, but with a smaller house and better what’s the big deal?

Sometimes I think the Republic will finally self-destruct out of terminal boredom at hearing the same-ol’ BS 24/7. ZZZZZZZZZ.

Dan Philips and his ilk ARE "would-be conservatives," because they insist on embracing Christianity, with its nauseating egalitarianism and its pacifism. Bah! The only genuine conservatives are those who accept the pagan gods of their forefathers, for, indeed, the ancient truths are superior to more recent innovations. I dare any paleocon to challenge me on this, because it is true by their own reasoning!

16: Kate, I would agree that our future, right now, looks to be a "nightmare" in terms of statism. I just don’t think we’re there yet.

18: Dan, isn’t it best to define people as liberals and conservatives based on their positions on the full range of issues? By that standard, I think Jaffa, Frum, and Julie would all qualify as conservatives.

"By that standard, I think...Julie would ...qualify as conservatives"

Well yes. But why this post, which is a bit dismissive of those who argue for serious flaws in Lincolns thought, actions, and certainly the government that is post civil war America? You can’t get a roe v wade without Lincoln. You can’t get a government sucking up so much GDP without a Lincoln.

I know the discussion has gotten ugly, NLT has certainly added to the fire by these Lincoln posts that are certainly star struck if not quite cultish. I know I have appreciated and learned allot more from the critics than I have from the Lincoln fan(actics). Certainly Julie did not have to flame bait as she has done here...

Christopher - I too learned from the critics you mention. They are interesting the way this is interesting!

Ha, Ha. So we are living fossils, I guess. I actually would be proud of fossil status if I could earn it.

24: Christopher, as I’ve said, the dispute over secession and emancipation is best left alone at NLT. I would amend that to say, best minimized. That would include not only participants, but original posters (Julie and the others). No one convinces anyone about Lincoln -- not in this format.

In what "format" then? Are you suggesting another war?

"Another war?" Don’t be ridiculous. It can be debated in an academic chat room, or one dedicated to the Founding. In what is largely a political, current-events blog, it is irrelevant clutter and invites predictable, half-baked responses on both sides.

David, perhaps you haven’t noticed, but this is a VERY academic board. There’s as much political philosophy as "current events." One of the reasons I like doesn’t view ’W’ and people like Hilliary as the planet and stars of the political universe.

This is all I have to say about this for now: Brutus is utterly and completely wrong in his charge in comment #1. No one here, or any serious person I know, would ever dismiss the views of the Confederates as simply hypocritical because they were slaveholders (not many were, actually) etc. In fact I have a great deal of sympathy for the massive dilemma they faced as a people (as, in fact, did Lincoln--but let’s leave that alone for now). Jefferson was exactly right about them having the wolf by the ears. And time only made the problem worse. On the other hand, your characterization of the opinions expressed here by Lincoln defenders is very simplistic and dismissive. The real Confederates were serious people and they advanced serious arguments. Ultimately, I think they were wrong on the big points (most especially about the equality of men in their natural rights and the justice of slavery) --but there are things about their speech, their habits, and their deeds that I can and do admire. I do take them very seriously. In my work, I try mightily to understand them as they understood themselves. I would not dismiss them as you seem to dismiss Lincoln. In fact, I don’t really care if you dismiss me. But don’t accuse the many (better) Lincoln scholars here of the kind of small-minded stuff you claimed above. It’s not worthy of you or your ancestors.

And yet, Julie, you don’t take seriously the defenders of the right of secession (which is all we are one here is defending chattel slavery). Reread your starting post -- you MEANT to antagonize a certain group of people. This passive-aggression ill becomes you.

Moreover, I’ve noticed a clear pattern. When Lincolnophiles begin to lose debates on the right of secession, they automatically switch to the moral repugnancy of slavery as a legitimate casus belli. Even Lincoln did this mid-war. Fair enough, but let’s not hear anything about "saving the Union" or "government by the people," etc. Let’s be clear...if it was a war to end slavery, then it was a war of aggression against a slave-power. "Honest" Abe can then be the legitimate patron saint of black folks, and also the principal perpetrator of overly-centralized government, the architect of the American Empire, and all-around warmonger. Both sides will be happy!

dain is right on this point: the right of secession was the nub on March 4, 1861. Lincoln devoted much of his speech to that question. It proved intractable. It has proved intractable here.

At the same time, the war that resulted is hard to account for in terms of constitutional theory, as it is hard to account for in terms of differences over tariff policy! It was ultimately about the correct interpretation of natural right; any correct interpretation of federalism had to, and has to, follow from that.

The heat that we have seen on this thread comes from different assessments of Lincoln, especially whether he acted to defend the founding, or to send the Union off in a "statist" and tyrannical direction; indeed, whether he was, as he insisted he was, a conservative at all.

A minor theme has been whether defenders of Lincoln are mere "fan(atic)s" as Christopher expressed it. In defending Lincoln some of us have resorted to a more philosophical view of his words and decisions, while recognizing that he was a consummate politician and a resolute commander in chief. That does not amount to worship.

Julie refers to her respect for southern honor. Of course. If those who deprecate Lincoln would read speeches like the First Inaugural Address and Cooper Union, they would find that Lincoln himself had that same respect for the South: he consistently held the whole republic to account.

Well Julie, I invite you to read the other thread and tell me who the "serious people" are.

And I do not "dismiss" Lincoln. His greatness is indisputable. But I put him in a class of men like Caesar, Cromwell, Bismark and Lenin. Not exactly my model for executive leadership.

Lincoln was right about slavery but his views regarding how to get rid of the problem only exacerbated the crisis. And his views regarding the nature of the union are untenable to anyone familiar with the founding.

And in post 35 I do not mean to say that those on one side are serious and the others are not. Both sides have "serious" advocates.

Why did the South want to secede from the Union Dain? Can you make a serious argument that has nothing to do with slavery? The Civil War was not an abstract disputation over the theory of secession. The reasons that compelled Confederates to their wish for separation were all wrapped up in slavery. Secession is an abomination in that it violates the principle of consent--i.e., the consent of the whole people of the Union. Their unilateral withdrawal from an agreement to which they had previously given their consent, put the whole nation at risk on many levels. The taking of federal forts and arms was a kind of theft. The only conceivable case that they could have made is an appeal to the "right to revolution." But then they would have had to (as Alexander Stephens tried to do) make a case to the world justifying the their Revolution on the impartial grounds of justice and right. Stephens claimed that they wanted to distinguish themselves with the notable principle that "all men are not created equal." If you want to maintain that this was sound reasoning then you can claim that they were correct in calling for their rebellion. But if this is not a principle to which you ascribe then certain things have to follow from that acknowledgment. One of those things is that secession cannot be justified.

Further to categorize Lincoln with Caesar and Cromwell, etc. is just not serious. Anyone who would say that cannot have read much of what Lincoln himself said about tyranny or his pained and anguished attempts at overcoming that impulse on the part of the more zealous elements of the outraged North. If there had not been a Lincoln I actually shudder to think what might have come to the South. I do not see how any person who looked carefully at the whole war (particularly at the politics in the North) could look at Lincoln and claim that he was some kind of wild-eyed zealot. I admire Lincoln because of his attitude toward slavery--yes, but many men thought slavery was unjust. I admire Lincoln because of his leadership as a war time president. But many men can lead a nation to victory in war. What distinguishes Lincoln more than anything, to my mind, was not his ability to speak against injustice or his ability to keep an opposing army at bay. It was his ability to do all these things while still holding the center of his own party and keep them from going over the deep end as they were so prone to do. He kept an explosive and irrational war within the realm of the rational.

Bravo, Julie.

Well, Brutus, I guess those of us who disagree with you are just not "familiar with the founding." So you assert, for the umpteenth time.

Julie, I think secession was about economics, but also about culture. Even then, Northerners were disdainful of the South, and the South (under chronic cultural criticism) began to form a sense of separate nationhood. Moreover, if you look at the pattern of secession, more than a third of the seceding States left after Sumter and Lincoln’s call for troops to invade those that already had seceded...this included Virginia,North Carolina, and Texas...States whose folk did a lot of the fightin’. So, my answer to you is that no, it was NOT totally about slavery. About half the Confederacy felt a cultural affinity for the Deep South, and chose to leave rather than invade those they considered cultural kin. Lincoln forced people to take sides, and they did.

In short, Julie, your assertive, self-confident post is in actuality a little lame. I might also add that, if consent of the "whole" people is required for nation-building, then no nation-building will ever take place. Even the American founding violated your logic...which suggests of course that it is a silly idea. As for theft, how was the "Federal" land originally acquired? There was no "theft" involved, and I suspect South Carolina would have reimbursed the Yankees for the cost had Lincoln chosen peaceful partition to bloodshed.

Julie this whole thread smacks of absurdity to me. You begin by stating this: "But when you agree that the real principle at work in politics is nothing more than will or power, it sometimes turns out that your enemies have more in common with you even than your friends."

Lincoln transformed a Union based on consent into a union based on coercion. That fact is not disputable. He forced eleven states back into the Union at the point of a gun. That’s "will" and that’s "power."

And why do you invoke my ancestors against me? Do you even know where my kin are buried? If you do let me know because I’m not entirely sure myself. I would hope that all of my ancestors would look proudly on a son who upheld the right of a people to self-government. Who held that the people have a right to alter or abolish their government when it becomes destructive of the lives, liberties and property of the people who made it.

Finally stop quoting Alexander Hamilton Stephens to me. He did not run the war for independence, Jefferson Davis did. And those two did not see eye to eye on anything, least of all natural rights.

Looking over all these posts and the others that preceeded it a few days before I might have to re-think what I said in post one above. NLT types would never accuse Confederates of hyprocrisy: to do so would be to imply that Confederate at least had the right principles.

The whole universe of discourse coming off this site seems so upside down to me. But if the only primary sources from the period that I knew were Lincoln’s speechs and Stephen’s god-awful Cornerstone address I might be more inclined to agree with you.

Read alone Lincoln entices with his "rhymn" and "poetry" and "reason" and "decency." He does a good job of selling his war. For instance, when one reads his First Inaugural and hears that he only intends to use his power to "collect the duties and imposts" that sounds pretty benign. But if you know that as soon as the first seven states left the Union Lincoln put a 50% tariff in place those words don’t sound benign at all. "Better angels" were not about to make South Carolinians come back into a Union like that. Heck, with a 50% tariff even John Moser would probably call for secession.

I think this tariff business is off target, Brutus. Correct me if I am wrong, but the February, 1861 Morrill Tariff was passed by the Congress elected in 1858 (and the vote was helped by the fact that many secessionist members had left town). In February, Lincoln was not yet president and was still in Springfield. True, it was a Republican tariff.

Let us recall that South Carolina had threatened secession over the tariff before, and no one followed them. Now of course things were different, but not because of the tariff.

Lincoln’s initial conciliatory policy failed. His was perhaps too optimistic and failed to appreciate what he was dealing with. The South, too, failed to appreciate what they in turn were dealing with.

Steve, I certainly agree that neither side foresaw what was about to happen. You have to wonder if they both would have pulled back had they any inkling of the horror to come.

Nonetheless, you speak of an "initial conciliatory policy." Other than Lincoln’s inaugural addresss, what are you referring to?

dain, I meant the speech: its contents. I’d include the offer of command to Lee, part of Lincoln’s optimistic attempt to hold Virginia. I suppose you and I disagree about whether Lincoln provoked the South. Certainly his election did; perhaps you think his rejection, after the election, of legal and constitutional compromise did. His decisions about Fort Sumter are familiar ground for debate, along with the initial call for 75,000 volunteers - which sent VA and TN over.

After Harper’s Ferry and after the 1860 election, it is hard to see what could have worked, short of abandoning his and his party’s core convictions - that slavery was wrong and must be put (back) on a course of ultimate extinction, and that the log-jam over western development must be broken.

All in all, his conciliatory moves were attempts to buy time, with the thought (which proved wrong) that the secessionists could be once again politically isolated. Lincoln was right about Maryland and Kentucky, but it wasn’t enough once VA and TN and NC jumped.

Hello Steve.
This tariff stuff gets really crazy. I just looked in my old F. W. Tausig "Tariff History of the United States." Republicans put the Morrill Tariff through in 1861 after the seven states left. According to Tausig some rates actually went over 50% but the overall average only went to 37.2%. Then, in 1864 the Republicans raised them even more up to an average of 47%.

Tarifff rates remained high (around 40%) for the rest of the era of Republican dominance. Ludwell Johnson argues that one of the most important outcomes of the war was the triumph of the Federalist-Whig-Republican agenda. I think he’s right on target with that one.

Of course Lincoln and his friends introduced the first income tax as well.

And so yes Steve, in response to your question it was Buchanan who signed the tariff into law. But the tariff remained a huge issue and Lincoln proved willing to do to the brink over it, especially when it became clear that the Confederates only had a 15% flat tariff which would prove just enough to pay for the kind of limited government they preferred.

Steve, offering Lee the opportunity to beat the Hell out of the South isn’t an act of conciliation...come on. The fact is, other than empty words, Lincoln intended to fight from the get-go. He did everything he could to promote it.

And if you are saying that anti-slavery was what animated the Northern will to fight, that just doesn’t square with the history. I suspect Lincoln had either 1) Union, or 2) Whiggishness on his mind. I don’t know which, but I doubt being true to his anti-slavery beliefs was the reason he pushed the war. He certainly didn’t frame the war in that way at the beginning, and I don’t think this was due to "conciliatory" feelings. His own statements suggest that UNION and GOVERNMENT were is uppermost concerns.

I am willing to concede that he was a complex individual, however. It is possible that his thinking evolved OR that, even in the beginning, he saw kicking the Hell out of the South was an opportunity to get more centralized government as well as emancipation without sacrificing Union. If the latter is true, he was a simple imperialist, willing to ride roughshod over millions of people to realize his vision.

dain -

offering Lee the opportunity to beat the Hell out of the South isn’t an act of conciliation...come on. The fact is, other than empty words, Lincoln intended to fight from the get-go. He did everything he could to promote it.

Robert E. Lee was a strange choice for Lincoln if beating the Hell out of the South was his purpose from the get-go.

I doubt that anti-slavery "animated the North", especially in 1861. Northern nationalism, strongly ant-"slave power" would have been sufficient. I agree with you: Lincoln sought to save the Union, to show that democracy could survive the election of 1860. That’s what he said, and I believe him.

Yes, fulfilling the Republican platform, leaving aside no-extension of slavery, required a government on its way to probably more centralization than you like. You probably would have voted against the Railroad [subsidies through landgrants] Act.

Lincoln didn’t intent to fight from the get go.


Lincoln intended to preserve the Union from the get go, but to say he wanted to fight, meaning use the military option, from the get go has no basis in history and is just opinion.

"Further to categorize Lincoln with Caesar and Cromwell, etc. is just not serious. Anyone who would say that cannot have read much of what Lincoln himself said about tyranny or his pained and anguished attempts at overcoming that impulse on the part of the more zealous elements of the outraged North."

And, yet, I am derided for my supposed lack of education in general and on this matter specifically.

You aren’t well-educated on this issue. You should avoid Lincoln threads, or do some reading. Sorry, but that’s a fair assessment, and I for one am not willing to argue with you any longer. Consider this my last post addressed to you.

Not well educated by whose standard?


I’ll take that as a compliment for I absolutely refuse to accept your distortions on the truth.

"A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them."
- Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address, Feb 27, 1860

Yeah, Lincoln was just itchin’ for a fight from the get go.

And, yeah, I am just an uneducated bulb.


Wasn’t about slavery?

"The Southern States claimed only the unrestricted enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution"
- Joint Resolution In Relation To the War
- Address Of [Confederate] Congress To The People Of The Confederate States

Now, what rights were they talking about?

"Slavery was undoubtedly the immediate fomenting cause of the woeful American conflict. It was the great political factor around which the passions of the sections had long been gathered--the tallest pine in the political forest around whose top the fiercest lightnings were to blaze and whose trunk was destined to be shivered in the earthquake shocks of war."
- John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA, ’Reminiscences Of The Civil War’

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

"The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war."
- Georgia’s Declaration of Secession

"She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?"
Texas Declaration of Secession

"We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety."
- South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession

But, hey, it wasn’t about slavery at all now was it?

I mean, Missouri Compromise, the Kansa-Nebraska Act, etc was really just about ... well ... I don’t know, I am just not educated enough to figure this out.

Julie, this was not addressed to me but here goes anyway.

"Why did the South want to secede from the Union Dain? Can you make a serious argument that has nothing to do with slavery?"

Of course slavery was a cause of secession, but the causes of secession were not the causes of the war. Secession was an entirely peaceful act. The sole cause of the War was that Lincoln invaded us. Why did he invade us? To free the slaves? He is so on the record that that was not his intent that it can not be seriously argued. He went to war to "save the Union." (Consent indeed.)

So your position is that it was OK to get 600,000+ killed etc., etc., in order to save a Union that many (South and North) did not want saved.

And then people object when some on our side say the Yankee position is statist.

Dan Phillips - Haven’t we done this?

You refer to "us." Maybe that’s a new topic here. Dunno. Nothing wrong with piety, but it is pretty complex, as Plato demonstrated. Lincoln was given to piety. So we have dueling pieties, linked to dueling federalisms and dueling Declarations. But we’ve done them too.

Us = the South, the CSA, the land of my birth, the land where I was raised, the land where I currently reside.

I don’t get your objection?

The North can’t invade its own property.

If Lincoln was as given to tyranny and vainglorious action as some of you claim, then why did he not claim the abolition of slavery as his principle object in the war? It is clear that the abolition of slavery was the innermost desire of his heart ("If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong . . . etc."). But he knew that he had no Constitutional authority to touch it until the war made it a necessity. Even then, he took pains NOT to touch it in the border states where no state of rebellion existed.

So your position is that it was OK to get 600,000+ killed etc., etc., in order to save a Union that many (South and North) did not want saved.

Yes. And God Bless every one of them for what they sacrificed that we might have that Union still today and I think, in most respects, improved.

Dan Phillips - I wasn’t really objecting, just pointing out that pretty much everything that can be said has been said.

Secession either was or was not permissible under the constitution. We’ve had that discussion here several times over.

We have also argued about your word "invasion." If I remember correctly, the first shot at Fort Sumter was fired from the shore batteries. But I do not expect that this will persuade you. More can and has been said about that fateful incident.

Your post was, I thought, an act of piety - that is, you were being loyal to your ancestors and their political world. My point was only that, like you, Lincoln also stressed piety: it was the source of his conservatism, as he called it (cf. his numerous references to Washington, to Jefferson, and in Cooper Union to those who framed the constitution). What are we to make of this? Does piety provide an emotional attachment that reinforces reason - is that Lincoln’s point? Does piety substitute for reason? Can one honor the ancestors, remain loyal to them, yet reexamine the wisdom of their cause?

You also use the word "statism." I have no objection to your dislike of such a thing. Many years ago Eric McKitrick pointed out that Lincoln, because of his party, had a stronger state at his disposal than Davis had. So I suppose "statism" comes into play. But your hostility to "statism" merges with your loyalty to the ancestors and, in my opinion, causes you to get Lincoln wrong - not just as a person but as a thinker and statesman.

I think I’m done here...the Lincolnophiles simply don’t understand the history very well. For instance, Julie seems to think that Lincoln’s rather late assault of slavery is somehow indicative of his goodwill. Sorry, wrong. Abolitionists were a TINY proportion of the Northern population (and yes, I can look it up if you insist). Lincoln was contending with Copperheads (particularly out west), hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had no love of blacks (hence the NY draft riot), and personal convictions that priortized the Union (and ’improvement’) over ending slavery. I don’t think we can interpret his hesitation to attack the institution of slavery as benign or conciliatory. Rather, he focused on maintaining the Union because that was about the only thing united the North. Later, when the bloody senselessness of it all was beginning to sink in, he used emancipation first as a tool to undermine the South, and then as a moral imperative to mobilize an increasingly war-weary North. All of these things are either directly documentable or consistent with the sequence of events.

dain - you seem ready to march on home, puffing that "Lincolnophiles" are unworthy of your time. That may be, but first you might sharpen your statement about the specifically historical dispute. Insofar as I can follow you, I agree with pretty much everything in your last post. You conclude we are ignoramuses. I conclude that Lincoln had an extraordinary sense of timing in a constitutional cause.

Well, if the shoe fits...

In my estimation, what’s happening here is that some of you were taught to worship Lincoln in school, and now you just can’t let go of that false image. Others idolize the "United States," and Lincoln is of course the midwife of the U.S. as currently configured. Either way, you are letting cultural myths cloud your judgment.

I was taught to venerate Lincoln as well, but I’ve read an enormous amount of history and commentary about the Civil War. Lincoln was a masterful politician, but he was no saint, and doing what he did to the South cannot be justified using the philosophical principles of the Founding. He has far more in common with Cromwell than with Washington, and I think that’s a fact.

And I’m not emotionally invested here. I think it was expedient and probably important that the North won the war. What I will not tolerate are fools who deride a noble people who were struggling for their own independence while elevating a dictator to demi-godhood. It’s sick, and it does not reflect the old American consensus about the war (i.e., that the South fought bravely and deserves respect for that, even if they were defending slavery among other things).

What I will not tolerate are fools who deride a noble people who were struggling for their own independence while elevating a dictator to demi-godhood.

I am happy to learn you are not talking about anybody on this thread.

Whoever said Lincoln was a saint?

None of our great leaders have been perfect with some being very far from perfect, yet that does not mean they weren’t great leaders.

Yep, Lincoln was no saint, but he saved the Union and the Constitution and for that I am grateful

Oh, I don’t know about that. Lots of Lincoln-worshippers in the Claremont/Ashbrook Axis, and some of them are mighty quick to condemn Southerners. I’d cite the posts, but I’m not the Craigtroll...I don’t keep libraries of past commentary.

One doesn’t have to look far to find someone at Ashbrook just gushing about the late great Abe Lincoln. The man has been deified by this conservative group...Straussians? Claremontains? Whatever you call them...

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