February 26, 2006

King Lincoln

One of the more interesting books I've read in the last decade was The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo. More recently, Mark Alexander wrote a column that encapsulates DiLorenzo's book in a neat package. Excerpt:

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln employed lofty rhetoric to conceal the truth of our nation's most costly war -- a war that resulted in the deaths of some 600,000 Americans and the severe disabling of over 400,000 more. He claimed to be fighting so 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." In fact, Lincoln was ensuring just the opposite by waging an appallingly bloody war while ignoring calls for negotiated peace. It was the "rebels" who were intent on self-government, and it was Lincoln who rejected their right to that end, despite our Founders' clear admonition to the contrary in the Declaration.
Posted by Hube at February 26, 2006 09:34 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Well, well, I see it all now. It's a shame that Lincoln just didn't let the South go and let them keep their slaves.


Posted by: Dana Garrett at February 26, 2006 09:53 AM

This is an issue I've thought a lot about: was Lincoln right? I do think (as we've discussed before) that the South had the right to secede. But, at the same time, they initiate a war by attacking Fort Sumter, which was United States government property.

Add to that some of the actions Lincoln took to maintain the Union which put him more in the class of a dictator than a President. I'm not saying these actions were even wrong, but it's troubling to me and I still haven't been able to come to a firm conclusion one way or the other.

Posted by: Paul Smith at February 26, 2006 09:58 AM

Yeah, yeah. That's it. Right. Uh-huh.

Posted by: Hube at February 26, 2006 09:58 AM

My last comment was directed to Dana, obviously, who must be back to smoking bassett hound dung in that pipe of his.

Posted by: Hube at February 26, 2006 09:59 AM

Hey -- check out these comments, especially those made at December 20, 2005 04:47 PM!


Posted by: Hube at February 26, 2006 10:06 AM

So which way do conservatives want it? Do they want to believe in this dude's take on Lincoln--basically, it seems to me, that the South should've been free to secede? Or do they want to keep using the ridiculous phrase "party of Lincoln" until they're blue in the face?

The two cannot ever go hand-in-hand. Republicans cannot simultaneously use those words to convince black people they're in their corner---and then turn around and say Lincoln never gave a crap about slavery as a moral issue.

Posted by: dan at February 26, 2006 11:46 AM

dan: the mistake you're making is that conservatives = Republicans.

And there's no contradiction on the slavery issue. Just b/c people may believe the South should have had the right to secede in no way means that they believe slavery was OK. As DiLorenzo states in his book (and Alexander in his article) no other country fought a massive war to eradicate the heinous institution. "Compensated emancipation" was the preferred method, and certainly would have been a LOT cheaper than what the Civil War cost. But, since this is the age of quick sound bites (of which you're clearly engaging here), merely stating that the South should have been permitted to secede -- as clearly believed by the principles of the Founders -- is enough to get one the "R" word label, even though that is ludicrous.

OTOH, how do liberals view Lincoln, especially now w/their attitude towards "King" George Bush? Do they view Lincoln's actions as "violating the Constitution" (as they most certainly were), or do they feel they were necessary considering the circumstances?

Posted by: Hube at February 26, 2006 12:45 PM

And there's no contradiction on the slavery issue. Just b/c people may believe the South should have had the right to secede in no way means that they believe slavery was OK.

My first paragraph was unclear..in that I mixed the themes of the book together. I didn't mean to imply that thinking the South should've been allowed to secede is automatically racist. But then again...the idea that this isn't why many people in the South believe it is more than a little delusional. But anyway... if a few states wanted to secede right now and do something heinous, is it OK to let them go do it? Couldn't letting them go constitute tacit approval of their policies? Or is it OK to let them go if the price of keeping them is too high? Where should we draw the line? Genocide? I actually have no idea, I'm just thinking out loud. If it were GWB in charge during such a secession, we'd clearly never let them go, or we'd go to war with them immediately--as we are nation builders now and mustn't allow other nations to follow an anti-freedom path.

Anyway, all I was actually trying to respond to was the notion that Lincoln didn't really care about the slaves. Who knows if this is true? I'm no student of the era. But I stand by my original point---that if this is what Republicans/conservatives/whatever think, then they ought not use the phrase, "Party of Lincoln" in discussions of race relations.

Posted by: dan at February 26, 2006 01:30 PM

Hube, I have read DiLorenzo's book, and completely agree with you. The South did have the right to secede.

Paul, "But, at the same time, they initiate a war by attacking Fort Sumter, which was United States government property."
Then why did Lincoln order the fort resupplied? He is just as responsible for the War Between the States as the South is.

I also am not a fan of Lincoln's (and early Republican Party's) economic policies. They followed Henry Clay's "American System" and were the biggest expanders of government pre-FDR.

You should also check out DiLorenzo's "How Capitalism Saved America." It isn't as good as his Lincoln, but he makes some really good arguments. Also contains the truth about the "Robber Barons."

My review: http://www.jokerstotheright.com/2005/10/book-review-how-capitalism-saved.html

Posted by: Ryan S. at February 26, 2006 07:55 PM

dan: As Ryan touched on, there were other reasons the South was unhappy with the North other than the slavery issue -- notably tariffs, a national banking system and federal subsidies for internal improvements.

Your hypothesis about states seceding now is completely worthless now, dan. Lincoln forever changed that with his actions. Secession is neither feasible or even marginally legal. And your invocation of "genocide" and the like is likewise useless as a comparsion to slavery -- especially considering the time-frame. As DiLorenzo notes, slavery was a dying institution. The South would not long have prevailed continuing it, and utilizing compensated emancipation would have been a lot less costly, in terms of $$ and lives. Even if the North didn't offer such, the South would have been international pariahs for continuing slavery when all other [then]-modern nations abolished it.

Lincoln's views regarding slavery are mixed, from what I have read. There is clearly much evidence that he didn't really care much about emancipation. After all, the Emancipation Proclamation didn't even free slaves in the North -- only the South -- and it had NO real power of enforcement! In addition, Lincoln also once considered a "colonization" plan -- sending blacks back to Africa or other areas such as Haiti.

Lastly, modern conservatives ("neocons") should feel free to use the phrase "party of Lincoln" all they wish; after all, it is they who expanded the federal government to astronomical proportions and into areas where it doesn't belong (contrary to the Founders' beliefs) ... just like Lincoln. Neocons only believe in federalism when it suits them. Lincoln and his Republicans didn't believe in it at all.

Posted by: Hube at February 26, 2006 09:02 PM

Ryan, are you reall asking me why Lincoln resupplied a US military outpost? Isn't that self-evident? By the same logic, couldn't resupplying our base at Guantanamo Bay be a provocation to Castro?

Posted by: Paul at February 26, 2006 09:08 PM

"As DiLorenzo notes, slavery was a dying institution. The South would not long have prevailed continuing it, and utilizing compensated emancipation would have been a lot less costly, in terms of $$ and lives. Even if the North didn't offer such, the South would have been international pariahs for continuing slavery when all other [then]-modern nations abolished it.?"

And what is the basis for this claim? It seems to be belied by the facts. There were more slaves in the South in 1860 than any other time in USA history. Even though no more slaves were imported legally per the constitution (beginning 1808), the black market of new slaves was an open secret, so much so that the ships would take the African slaves off the boats in in the major Southern ports in broad daylight. There was an entire industry of apologists for slavery to counter the abolitionist movement in the south & north. Even Northern workers tended to support slavery because they believed that emancipated slaves repersented a pool of labor that would work for far less money.

Employing people cost less than enslaving people? That's obviously a specious argument. If the Southerners had thought that, they would have given up the institution of slavery. But they didn't, now did they. Besides, it's been known for a long time what it cost a slave owner to have slaves. One pair of clothing a year, the cost of a minimal amount of food often cultivated & harvested by the slaves themselves, rudimentary shelters, again constructed by slaves. That's far cheaper than paying wages. Besides, slaves could be a source of income in two ways:

1. Tbey could be hired off to private employers for cheap wages, which the Master kept of course. Frederick Douglass did that in the Baltimore shipyards.

2. Child slaves, often the result of the white masters raping their slave women, could be sold off to other Masters for slave labor or to pedophiles who would rape the slave children and prostitute them. You just can't sell off an employee for income like you can a slave.

Also your statement about the Emancipation Proclamation not freeing northern slaves is misleading. By 1860 18 states had already freed their slaves: At the beginning of the American Civil War, the 18 free states were as follows: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Oregon and California. And Maryland and Missouri abolished slavery during the Civil War. (It's on Wiki-)

That didn't leave much left in the North. The border states was a different matter, however.

This book sounds like one of a variety of revisionist histories of slavery that suggest slavery wasn't really all that bad and those poor misunderstood southern slave owners got a bad rap.

You know historical revisionism in the service of tacit racism.

Posted by: Dana Garrett at February 26, 2006 10:27 PM

To my knowledge, Lincoln did not try any sort of diplomatic arrangement with the Confederacy in realtion to US bases.

Posted by: Ryan S. at February 26, 2006 10:31 PM

Lincoln tried to hand control of Ft Sumter over to Dubai Ports World, but was blocked by a filibuster led by then junior senator Jesse Helms.

Posted by: G Rex at February 27, 2006 12:32 PM

heh heh.

Posted by: dan at February 27, 2006 01:25 PM

G Rex, that was good.

Ryan, again, since when does the President need to negotiate with anyone to resupply our troops? As I stated above, I'm by no means a Lincoln apologist, but I find it hard to find the smallest problem with what he did regarding Fort Sumter.

Posted by: Paul Smith at February 27, 2006 02:44 PM

Dana doesn't actually believe in the whole "racism" angle. He's just being deliberately provocative and/or using unnecessary hyperbole. If he does mean it, then one can conclude he is an anti-Semite based on his posts and comments regarding Israel.

Now, it may actually help to READ DiLorenzo's whole book before you KNOW what it says (and thus how to rebut it). (Here is one examination of DiLorenzo's book.) As for the economics of compensated emancipation, here's some info on Lincoln's strategy, functional or otherwise:

Lincoln's strategy relied on the economic principles of supply and demand. He believed that if he could prevent the expansion of slavery into the federal territories and prevail upon state legislatures, beginning with the northern-most slave states, to accept gradual, compensated emancipation, the demand for slaves would fall while the supply would increase in the deep South. The combined effect would be to reduce the value of slave property. By thus "shrinking" slavery, he would make it uneconomical and once again place it back on the eventual road to extinction that he believed the Founders had envisioned.

Historians with much more knowledge than I (and Dana) greatly differ on the Lincoln era, so clearly the debate is not nearly as settled as some make it out to be.

In addition, in this case, a perhaps appropriate response comes from the former link:

Early in the twentieth century, W. A. Dunning and his students at Columbia University portrayed the Reconstruction period as, in the words of Claude Bowers, a "tragic era," dominated by corruption. The Republican Party, easily controlling new black voters, established puppet governments in the conquered Southern states. The party "used the power gained from this to plunder the taxpayers of the South for more than a decade after the war ended" (p. 202).

One might think such blatant corruption hard to defend, but a group of historians began the task in the 1930s. Our author rightly notes that many of these historians were Marxists, but this is a restrained understatement. In fact, several of this movement's leading lights, such as James Allen and W. E. B. DuBois, found Lenin greatly to their liking; and the Communist Party actively propagated the new line. By smearing the older view as racist and pro-Southern, the new partisans triumphed.


Idiotic (and all-too typical) injections of racism aside, back to the original basis of the post: Did Lincoln act like a king more than a president? Dana's comments here clearly indicate he believes so. As for secession, if you do not believe the individual states had that right, then you essentially ENDORSE Lincoln's view of government (not the violations of the Constitution per se, but a national, as opposed to federal, government).

And, if you believe war was the necessary avenue by which to eradicate slavery (even though no other country had done so), then why not support George Bush's invasion of Iraq to liberate those people from de facto slavery?

Posted by: Hube at February 27, 2006 04:52 PM

And by the way, Dana (if you happen back here): Recall what you told DT about at your site about what you regarded as his nonsense: "Do it at your own site." I (we) would appreciate the same consideration here.

I (and some others) specifically stopped commenting at your place b/c it obviously upset you -- to the degree that it clearly showed in your counter comments. I think it was silly for you to get upset, but you did. But, I haven't commented since, and I won't. I also refuse to get into tit-for-tat nastiness (again) that this post has the threat of degenerating into. So do me (us) a favor -- either stay away or refrain from the foolishness. And you know what I'm talking about.

No, we ain't gonna ban you. We'll just plain ignore you if you persist. I'm sure there'll be the customary "I'm omniscient and you suck" rant to follow; but, please do that at your own place if you choose that route, OK? Thanks.

Posted by: Hube at February 27, 2006 06:04 PM

Paul, that is a very good point. I think I may have to concede on this one.

Posted by: Ryan S. at February 27, 2006 08:39 PM

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