By: James Ostrowski
was a typical example of the humanitarian with the guillotine:
a familiar modern 'reform liberalí type whose heart bleeds for
and yearns to 'uplift' remote mankind, while he lies to and
treats abominably actual people whom he knew."
Masugi is partially right about Tom DiLorenzoís book, The
Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an
Unnecessary War (2002). It is "awful" "awful"ly
good, even great. Tom DiLorenzo has completely and irrevocably
destroyed the myth, the legend, the fable, the fairy tale
the tall tale of Abraham Lincoln, Americanís first military dictator
and its first Presidente after the violent regime change of 1861.
predict that this book will sell more copies than there were troops
at Gettysburg on both sides, and will cause a major transformation
in American thought about Lincoln, which will ultimately redound
to the benefit of the Republic for which Lincoln did not stand,
the Lincoln myth being the cornerstone of the United State of Greater
America the world minus China that replaced that Republic.
predict that the attacks on DiLorenzo and his book will continue
and increase in number and virulence. There is a strange entity
out there which I call the Church of Lincoln, the church of one
who had no church. Gone with the wind and the internet are
the days when courageous revisionist historians and dissenters like
DiLorenzo could be ignored to death. With two of the leading
political websites in the world heralding his tome, Mises.org
and LewRockwell.com, and
his book selling like statist intellectualsí souls, the Church of
Lincoln could not ignore DiLorenzo. When Ilana
Mercer fired her starterís pistol, the congregation raced to
book before it was even published.
I am not without sympathy for the Church and its predicament.
They are facing an enemy they havenít faced before and like typical
generals, they are fighting the last war. They continue to
spar with the racial views of Douglas and Calhoun while being skewered
by a potent new foe, the modern libertarian DiLorenzo. Imagine
how General Meade would have felt if Lee had been able to attack
the union army from the front, the rear, and both flanks simultaneously,
and you will get a taste of the present consternation of the Church
of Lincoln. For what DiLorenzo has done is attack the myth
of Lincoln from 360 degrees all at once, with guns blazing.
And these are guns they haven't seen before: a real Jeffersonian
attacking the spurious Jeffersonianism of Lincoln; a sincere supporter
of natural rights attacking the disingenuous lip service Lincoln
paid to natural rights; Lincoln being attacked "from the left" on
slavery by an opponent who is "to the right" of Jefferson Davis
on secession! "Why, by God, I actually pity those poor [expletives
deleted] we're going up against. By God, I do!" (General
George S. Patton, Jr., June 5, 1944).
discussing the reviews and reaction, letís review DiLorenzoís findings.
He makes about 71 discrete factual, legal, political, or moral accusations
or allegations against or about Lincoln or his subordinates as follows:
Saying contradictory things before different audiences.
Opposing racial equality.
Opposing giving blacks the right to vote, serve on juries or intermarry
while allegedly supporting their natural rights.
Being a racist.
Supporting the legal rights of slaveholders.
Supporting Clayís American System or mercantilism as his primary
political agenda: national bank, high tariff, and internal improvements.
Supporting a political economy that encourages corruption and
Supporting a political economy that became the blueprint for modern
Being a wealthy railroad lawyer.
Never defending a runaway slave.
Defending a slaveholder against his runaway slave.
Favoring returning ex-slaves to Africa or sending them to Central
America and Haiti.
Proposing to strengthen the Fugitive Slave law.
Opposing the extension of slavery in the territories so that "free
white people" can settle there and because allowing them to become
slave states would dilute Republican influence in Congress because
of the three-fifths rule.
Opposing black citizenship in Illinois or their right to immigrate
to that state.
Failing to use his legendary political skills to achieve peaceful
emancipation as was accomplished elsewhere Lincoln's war was
the only "war of emancipation" in the 19th.
Nullifying emancipation of slaves in Missouri and Georgia early
in the war.
Stating that his primary motive was saving the union and not ending
Supporting a conscription law.
Sending troops into New York City to quell draft riots related
to his emancipation proclamation, resulting in 300 to 1,000 deaths.
Starting a war that took the lives of 620,000 soldiers and 50,000
civilians and caused incalculable economic loss.
Being an enemy of free market capitalism.
Being an economic illiterate and espousing the labor theory of
Supporting a disastrous public works project in Illinois and continuing
to support the same policies oblivious of the consequences.
Conjuring up a specious and deceptive argument against the historically-recognized
right of state secession.
Lying about re-supplying the fedís tax collection office known
as Fort Sumter.
Refusing to see peace commissioners from the Confederacy offering
to pay for all federal property in the South.
Refusing to see Napoleon III of France who offered to mediate
Provoking Virginia to secede by taking military action against
the Deep South.
Supporting a tariff and other policies that systematically redistributed
wealth from the South to the North, causing great consternation
in the South.
Invading the South without consulting Congress.
Illegally declaring martial law.
Illegally blockading ports.
Illegally suspending habeas corpus.
Illegally imprisoning thousands of Northern citizens.
Tolerating their subjection to inhumane conditions in prison.
Systematically attacking Northern newspapers and their employees,
including by imprisonment.
Deporting his chief political enemy in the North, Congressman
Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio.
Confiscating private property and firearms.
Ignoring the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
Tolerating the arrest of ministers who refused to pray for Lincoln.
Arresting several duly elected members of the Maryland Legislature
along with the mayor of Baltimore and Maryland Congressman Henry
Placing Kansas and Kentucky under martial law.
Supporting a law that indemnified public officials for unlawful
Laying the groundwork for the establishment of conscription and
income taxation as permanent institutions.
Interfering with and rigging elections in Maryland and elsewhere
in the North.
Censoring all telegraph communication.
Preventing opposition newspapers from being delivered by the post
Illegally creating the state of West Virginia out of the "indestructible"
state of Virginia.
Tolerating or supporting mistreatment of citizens in conquered
Taxing those citizens without their consent.
Executing those who refused to take a loyalty oath.
churches and arresting ministers.
Burning and plundering Southern cites.
Quartering troops in private homes unlawfully.
reating an enormous political patronage system.
Allowing an unjust mass execution of Sioux Indians in Minnesota.
Engineering a constitutional revolution through military force
which destroyed state sovereignty and replaced it with rule by
the Supreme Court (and the United States Army).
Laying the groundwork for the imperialist and militarist campaigns
of the future as well as the welfare/warfare state.
Creating the dangerous precedent of establishing a strong consolidated
state out of a decentralized confederation.
Effectively killing secession as a threat, thus encouraging the
rise of our modern federal monolith.
Waging war on civilians by bombing, destruction of homes, and
confiscation of food and farm equipment.
Tolerating an atmosphere which led to large numbers of rapes against
Southern women, including slaves.
Using civilians as hostages.
Promoting a general because of his willingness to use his troops
as cannon fodder.
DiLorenzo blames Lincoln for the predictable aftermath of the
war: the plundering of the South by Lincolnís allies.
Supporting government subsidies of the railroads leading to corruption
Supporting a nationalized paper currency which is inherently inflationary.
Creating the federal tax bureaucracy and various taxes that are
still with us.
Establishing precedents for centralized powers and suppression
of liberties that continue to be cited today.
Ending slavery by means that created turbulence that continues
to this day.
FIRST DEFENSE SHOOT THE MESSENGER
DiLorenzo makes over seventy separate allegations against or about
Lincoln or as part of his overall case against Lincoln. (Perhaps
I missed a few or possibly there is a little duplication in my list.)
What do DiLorenzo's reviewers say about these allegations?
Very little. Instead of dealing with these charges, his opponents
spent most of their efforts attacking a few citations. The
only such alleged error that is anything other than a technicality
or difference of opinion concerns Lincolnís racism. Yet, leaving
that apparent misquote aside, DiLorenzo still gives us several other
quotes and other evidence that makes the same point. For example,
have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between
the white and black races. There is a physical difference
between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever
forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality.
I . . . am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior
position." [p. 11]
hereís some more that are not, I believe, in the book:
I would most desire would be the separation of the white and
black races." (Springfield, July 17, 1858)
- ". . .
I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which
forbids the marrying of white people with negroes." (Charleston,
Illinois, September 18, 1858)
these procedural points, the reviews are filled mostly with insults,
misrepresentations, irrelevancies, generalized rhetoric and various
lame excuses and justifications for Lincolnís actions. Tom
Krannawitter compares DiLorenzo to John Wilkes Booth without the
aim. His "message is old hat" but the messenger is "incompetent."
"They have sent a giddy, careless, half-educated boy to do a manís
a brief review for Amazon.com, a history professor states that (Pennsylvania-born)
DiLorenzo quotes southern-born authors who tried to prove their
ancestors "could not be fighting for slavery." Granted that
apologists for Lincoln are congenitally incapable of distinguishing
between seceding and fighting, not recalling that thrust, I pulled
the book out and found this statement: "íSlaveryí was the main reason
why the seven states of the deep South were the first to secede."
[p. 123] I guess you have to read the book and not trust those
who have obviously conspired to see that you donít. (The ten
or so critics obscure figures except for Harry Jaffa all seem
to know each other.) DiLorenzo does argue that the four states
of the upper South did not secede over slavery but because
the Union was going to force the Deep South states to rejoin the
union. No reviewer or critic to my knowledge has challenged
that critical point. This history professor, by the way, who
has publicly decried the lack of "civility" in political discourse,
today, had some very uncivil things to say about DiLorenzoís book.
OF THE REAL LINCOLN ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION
with Quackenbush; praised Owens article in letter
with Ferrier; praised Owens article in letter
Jaffa; cites Ferrier & Quackenbush
of Masugi, worships Jaffa
people who visit the Declaration Foundation web site also
frequently visit the Claremont Institute site.
critic, Eric Root, takes issue with DiLorenzoís point that Lincoln
did not discuss slavery much prior to 1854. Mr. Root would
do well to read his Lincoln: "I have always hated [slavery], but
I have always been quiet about it until this new era of the
introduction of the Nebraska bill began." (Chicago, July 10,
1858 (emphasis added)). Why so quiet, Mr. Lincoln, when others
were screaming? He was too busy pushing the slave master Henry
Clayís agenda, I suppose: "Henry Clay, beau ideal of a stateman,
the man for whom I fought all my humble life. . . "
(Ottawa, August 21, 1958 (emphasis added)). Clay devoted his
career to an agenda of allowing some people to use the state to
steal other peopleís money and property by means of inflation, protectionism,
patronage and pork: the natural right of the majority to steal.
Lincoln talked anti-slavery, but practiced legalized
graft, as DiLorenzo amply documents.
whatís with all that false modesty that Lincoln continually feigned?
Was Jefferson pretentious? Was Adams? Franklin?
Lee? Davis? Why do some people need to project a false
image? "The world will little note nor long remember what
we say here. . ." Does anyone really believe Lincoln meant
that? Face it. The guy was an extremely ambitious political,
legal and literary genius masquerading as a backwoods lawyer.
Abe was slicker than Johnnie Cochran summing up for O. J., pushing
an agenda that killed way more than two people. Thanks to
his incomparable rhetorical skills, Lincoln has heretofore been
found not guilty of killing 670,000 people and one constitution.
is accused of failing to precisely divine the real intent of Lincolnís
writings and speeches, as if his critics know what Lincoln really
meant. Yet, one of his prime indictments of Lincoln is that
he cleverly made statements that could be construed more than one
way, that is, he double-talked, and he did so to deceive people
into voting for him so he could gain political power.
DiLorenzo's critics respond essentially by saying that Lincoln needed
to be vague so he could get elected. That is, however, precisely
DiLorenzo's charge! Lincoln was a "masterful, gifted, fence-straddling
politician wanting to have it both ways. . . " [page 13]
He claimed, in 1848, to support a right of secession and/or revolution,
but qualified it by adding the proviso that the secessionists must
have the "power" to do so. However, the purpose of rights
is to regulate or restrain power. Also, if you have the power,
why bother with rights-talk? His whole statement is confusing,
perhaps intentionally so.
Masugi writes that DiLorenzo merely recycles the views of Jefferson
Davis and Alexander Stephens. Even if true, which it is not,
this "argument" begs the question. If Lincoln was wrong on
secession, then Davis and Stephens were to a certain extent right
and vice versa; thus, if we assume that Davis and Stephens were
wrong, then we assume as true that which is in dispute. Masugi
commits another logical fallacy here, the argument ad Hitlerum.
According to this silly argument, if some unpopular person such
as Hitler or Davis, said "X", then "X" must be false. Talk
about sending a boy to do a manís job.
modern defenders cannot extricate themselves from the dilemma created
by their heroís racist remarks. Masugi implies that Lincolnís
racist remarks were mere pandering to the audience to get elected.
And heís defending Lincoln! However, Masugi offers no evidence
to suggest that Lincolnís racial remarks were insincere. Yet,
if they were sincere, he wasnít pandering at all. If, on the
other hand, they were insincere, given how often they were repeated,
that makes Lincoln a damned liar, a man who lied about being
a racist! Also, why pander? Why not put aside personal
ambition, speak the truth and use his undeniable genius to move
society along much faster toward true justice?
ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING
in the tradition of forensic sleight of hand Lincoln made famous,
the critics of DiLorenzo have a clever answer for everything.
If Lincoln was for high tariffs, this was because he hated slavery!
I always thought people were for high tariffs because of greed.
Now they say it was altruism. This altruism consisted of Northerners
transferring to the North wealth created partly by slaves in the
Illinois had racist laws, this was actually because they hated slavery!
Masugi writes: "The anti-slavery forces actually joined with racists
to keep their state free of slavery, and also free of blacks."
Illinois did have a law that forbade bringing slaves into the state
to free them. See, Owens v. People, 13 Ill. 59 (1851).
Why opponents of slavery would support such a law is known only
to Masugi. As for other laws that discriminate against blacks,
again, opponents of slavery would have no reason to support them.
Let me quote Lincoln in support of DiLorenzo: ""We want [the
new territories] for the homes of free white people." (Peoria,
Oct. 16, 1854).
we have big government now, it is the fault, not of "our greatest
president", but of the "centralized bureaucracy, which is intimately
connected with the nihilistic universities and interest factions.
. . " (Masugi). These, however, are precisely what you
get when you raise majority rule to the level of a religious principle
and you prevent exploited minorities from escaping.
SECOND DEFENSE THE PROGRESSIVES DID IT
critics do discuss DiLorenzo's claim that Lincoln is the originator
of the modern, all-powerful federal American state. They blame
the Progressives. Similarly, I suppose, if a person had lung
cancer that metastasized to the brain, and the person thereby died,
we could blame the brain cancer and not the lung cancer. Rather,
as DiLorenzo clearly spells out, Lincoln created the philosophical
and political framework for the Progressives. The Progressives
merely intensified Lincolnian trends and mechanisms and increased
his militarism, imperialism, and centralization of government power
in Washington, aided by one of their favorite judges, Oliver Wendell
Holmes, who fought for Lincoln in the Civil War.
appointed to the Supreme Court by Progressive Teddy Roosevelt,
had nothing but scorn for the man DiLorenzoís critics say was Lincolnís
hero: Thomas Jefferson. On the one hundredth anniversary of
John Marshall taking the bench as chief judge of the Supreme Court,
1901, Holmes made reference to Jefferson's political enemy and cousin.
He spoke of:
fortunate circumstance that the appointment of Chief Justice fell
to John Adams, instead of to Jefferson a month later, and so gave
it to a Federalist and loose constructionist to start the working
of the Constitution."
he obliquely noted that:
has been on Marshall's side, and the theory which Hamilton argued,
and [Marshall] decided, and Webster spoke, and Grant fought,
and Lincoln died, is now our corner-stone." (Emphasis added)
say "obliquely" because Holmes never states just what that "theory"
is that is now our corner-stone. Whatever that "corner-stone"
is, however, it is safe to assume that Holmes thought Jefferson's
philosophy was now buried under it. A reviewer of a
biography of Holmes writes:
"The only area in which Holmes was at all inclined to limit the
power of the state was in questions of freedom of speech and the
press." Rejecting natural law, Holmes gives us his own theory
of law: "the majority will of that nation that could lick
all others," a legal philosophy that is not surprising coming from
an officer in the Union army in the Civil War. Thus, not only
did Lincolnism impact on the Progressive era ideologically, but
one of the Progressives major heroes was a philosophically committed
soldier for Lincoln. Holmes famously said, "Taxation is the
price we pay for civilization." On the contrary, in the last
century, war, imperialism, and barbarism were the price the world
paid for taxation.
we merely open our eyes to the world around us, we will see that
Lincoln, not the progressives, is the icon of the modern American
state. We are besieged by images of Lincoln, paintings of
Lincoln, statues of Lincoln, speeches about Lincoln, movies about
Lincoln, including one by John
Ford. Where have you gone, Woodrow Wilson?
only "progressive" whose memory lives on in popular culture today
is Republican Theodore Roosevelt. They did manage to
squeeze his wide face into that narrow gulch at Mount Rushmore.
I have no doubt Teddy would have preferred to occupy the mountain
all by himself rather than share it with those lesser lights.
If TR remains alive for us today, it more because of his larger
than life persona and that charge up San Juan Hill (and Kettle Hill),
not his progressive philosophy. Remember, that was no photo
op; real bullets were flying and he didnít care. On second
thought, there is something Lincolnesque about fighting an imperialistic
war on foreign soil for the sake of "democracy". Just a few
years later, Roosevelt, according to Edmund Morris in Theodore
Rex, would later cite Lincolnís war to justify the American
war against the Philippines.
is altogether fitting that Teddy Roosevelt managed to use "Abraham
Lincoln" as the last two words of his Inaugural Address.
So much for there being a sharp break between Lincoln and the Progressives.
The connection is so obvious, even a schoolboy could see it:
harbored a desire to return the party to the progressive attitudes
it had had under the leadership of Lincoln. * * * 'I [Roosevelt]
did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive
power. In other words, I acted for the public welfareÖregarding
the Executive as subject only to the people, and, under the Constitution,
bound to serve the people affirmatively in cases where the Constitution
does not explicitly forbid him to render the service, was substantially
the course followed by both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.
. . '" "Theodore Roosevelt: President and Progressive,"
by Christopher Vena (grade 12, City Honors High School, Buffalo,
pro-Lincoln historian James MacPherson believed that Lincoln wrote
the "blueprint for modern America." Thatís why we are having
this debate in the first place. If DiLorenzo had written
a book trashing James Buchanan or Millard Fillmore, who would have
me call as my final witness on Lincolnís influence on the Progressives,
the great man himself, Theodore Roosevelt. What say you, Sir?
the days of Abraham Lincoln [the Republican party] was founded
as the radical progressive party of the Nation. * * * It
remained the Nationalist as against the particularist or State
rights party, and in so far it remained absolutely sound; for
little permanent good can be done by any party which worships
the Stateís rights fetish or which fails to regard the State,
like the county or the municipality as merely a convenient unit
for local self-government, while in all National matters, of importance
to the whole people, the Nation is to be supreme over State, county,
and town alike.
to all action of this kind there have long been two schools of
political thought, upheld with equal sincerity. . . The course
I followed, of regarding the executive as subject only to the
people, and, under the Constitution, bound to serve the people
affirmatively in cases where the Constitution does not explicitly
forbid him to render service, was substantially the course followed
by both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.
I was inaugurated on March 4, 1905, I wore a ring [Lincolnís secretary,
John Hay] sent me the evening before, containing the hair of Abraham
Lincoln.. . . I often thereafter told John Hay that when I wore
such a ring on such an occasion I bound myself more than ever
to treat the Constitution, after the manner of Abraham Lincoln,
as a document which put human rights above property rights when
the two conflicted.. . . . I believed in invoking the National
power with absolute freedom for every National need. . . "
YOUR OWN PLATFORM!
critics say he exaggerated Lincolnís commitment to installing Henry
Clayís American System. Preventing the extension of slavery
in the territories was Lincolnís sole obsession in the years leading
up to his election. The Republican Party Platform resolves
AT CHICAGO, 1860
That we, the delegated representatives of the Republican electors
of the United States, in Convention assembled, in discharge of
the duty we owe to our constituents and our country, unite in
the following declarations:
That to the Union of the States this nation owes its unprecedented
increase in population, its surprising development of material
resources, its rapid augmentation of wealth, its happiness at
home and its honor abroad. .
That, while providing revenue for the support of the General Government
by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment
of these imposts as to encourage the development of the industrial
interest of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national
exchanges which secures to the working men liberal wages, to agriculture
renumerative prices, to mechanics and manufactures an adequate
reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation
commercial prosperity and independence.
That appropriations by Congress for River and Harbor improvements
of a National character, required for the accommodation and security
of an existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and
justified by the obligations of Government to protect the lives
and property of its citizens.
That a Railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded
by the interest of the whole country; that the Federal Government
ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction;
and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily Overland Mail should
be promptly established.
we see explicitly stated Lincolnís economic agenda emphasized by
DiLorenzo and essentially ignored by his critics: high tariff, internal
improvements, and the transcontinental railroad. Paragraph
three also lends support to the view that the opponents of secession
had an explicitly economic agenda. To the union are attributed
wealth, population, and power. There is indeed a connection
between supporting a high tariff and opposing secession, as DiLorenzo
states. An empire is needed to enforce a high tariff.
Compare paragraph three with these analyses of why the war was fought:
North] fought . . . for all those delicious dreams of national
in future ages, which she must relinquish
as soon as the union is severed."
love the Union because . . . it renders us now the equal of the
greatest European Power, and in another half century, will make
us the greatest, richest, and most powerful people on the
face of the earth."
is remarkable that the first journal, which was British, pro-South,
and post-War, saw the war in the same nationalistic and imperialistic
terms as did the second journal, which was American, pro-North,
interests tend to find their way into legal arguments. Hence,
the numerous contortions and distortions needed to deny the right
of secession such as "the union is older than the states", an argument
that historian Forrest
McDonald calls "untenable."
THIRD DEFENSE JEFFERSON MADE ME DO IT
main theme of the Church of Lincoln is to defend Lincolnís claim
that he was merely a follower of Jefferson. Letís compare
the two on some of the more important issues of their times:
Amendment. The First Amendment was virtually a Jeffersonian
creation. Jefferson, away in France, chastised his protťgť
Madison for failing to include a bill of rights in the Constitution
containing, among others provisions, "freedom of the press."
Madisonís First Amendment, modified in various ways of no great
importance to us now, became the law of the land in 1791.
It did not, however, stop the Federalists from enacting the Alien
and Sedition laws in 1798 which outlawed speech critical of the
government. Thus, in ten short years, the wily Federalists
went from arguing that no First Amendment was necessary because
the federal government had not been delegated power over the press,
to arguing that the federal government could regulate political
speech even after the passage of the first amendment.
typically, saw the contradiction. He wrote to the naive Madison,
who had seen no need for a first amendment:
other enormities, [the Sedition act] undertakes to make certain
matters criminal tho' one of the amendments to the Constitution
has expressly taken printing presses, etc., out of their coercion."
one challenged the Sedition law in the Supreme Court, but Jefferson,
the ever-vigilant libertarian, took action which was to have consequences
far beyond the narrow issue of free speech. He authored anonymously the
Kentucky Resolution. Jefferson wrote:
several states composing the United States of America are not
united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general
government; but that, by compact, under the style and title of
the Constitution of the United States, and of certain amendments
thereto, they constituted a general government for general purposes,
delegated to that government certain powers, reserving, each state
to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government;
and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated
powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void and of no effect."
Jefferson developed the controversial theory of state nullification
of unconstitutional federal laws in order to deal with the free
speech crisis caused by passage of the Sedition act.
contrast, Lincoln was the First Amendmentís greatest enemy.
In 1839, Alexis de Tocqueville had written: "Among the twelve million
people living in the United States, there is not one single man
who has dared to suggest restricting the freedom of the press."
Just twenty-five years later, Lincoln, true to his Federalist and
Hamiltonian roots, felt no compunction whatever about jailing during
the Civil War a total of thirteen thousand Northern civilians
who had expressed views critical of Lincoln or his war. According
to historian Arthur Ekirch, this was often done "without any sort
of trial or after only cursory hearings before a military tribunal."
deeper implications of Lincolnís suppression of free speech are
rarely noticed. The need for widespread suppression suggests
that Lincolnís war was not part of the electoral majority
mandate that he claimed to be vindicating by invading the South.
Historian Paul Johnson said the only Northern state that initially
favored war was Massachusetts. If true, that means that Lincoln
paradoxically had to drag the rest into a war for the benefit of
that same majority. Lincoln pointed out in his First Inaugural
Address that, on key constitutional questions, the nation divides
into majorities and minorities. However, on the key constitutional
question of secession, he prevented a true consensus from emerging
in the North by declaring martial law.
Lincoln opposed secession and started a bloody war to stop it.
Jefferson never explicitly said, "I believe states have the legal
right to secede." However, everything he ever said that touched
on the subject was consistent with that right. He authored
the greatest secessionist document in history, the Declaration of
Independence. The core principles of the Declaration were
arguably ensconced in the constitution at the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
Jefferson supported state nullification of federal laws, a doctrine
which, if not identical to secession, implied it, and which was
seen as identical by opponents of both. If there is a right
to nullify, this must be solely up to the discretion of the states,
else it is not a right. If it is a right, it must include
the right to withdraw from the union if the union attempts to nullify
the nullification, that attempt being yet another and more serious
act of usurpation by the federal government whose only appropriate
remedy is secession.
Taylor called Jefferson's compact doctrine the "Pandora's Box" out
of which flew the "closely related doctrines of nullification and
secession," which he notes, with less than perfect foresight, "were
extinguished once and forever by the Civil War." Jefferson's
Sterne Randall agrees:
forthrightly held that where the national government exercised
powers not specifically delegated to it, each state 'has an equal
right to judge . . . the mode and measure of redress.' . . . He
was, he assured Madison, 'confident in the good sense of the American
people,' but if they did not rally round 'the true principles
of our federal compact,' he was 'determined . . . to sever
[Virginia] from that union we so much value rather than give
up the rights of self-government . . . in which alone we see liberty,
safety and happiness.'" (Emphasis added)
armies. Jefferson thought large standing armies were a
threat to liberty and an invitation to tyranny; Lincoln proved he
by jury. Jefferson was one of the leading advocates of
trial by jury as early as the Declaration where it is mentioned.
Lincoln was Americaís greatest violator of this right.
Bank. Lincoln supported a national bank; Jefferson opposed
interpretation. Jefferson strictly construed the powers
of the federal government; Lincolnís Constitution was made of rubber.
Jefferson has been unfairly maligned on this issue. Yes,
he owned slaves. No, he did not free them. Jefferson
was born into a world in which slavery was commonplace. Yet,
Jefferson was arguably one of the greatest opponents of slavery
of his time! He tried to condemn it in the Declaration of
Independence, but his clause was deleted:
King] has waged cruel war on human nature itself, violating its
most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant
people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into
slavery. . . "
passage "echoed seven years of his determined attempts to curtail
the slave trade in Virginia and the spread of this murderous institution."
record is well-known. Personally, he opposed it one of the
few libertarian sentiments he ever expressed but officially, he
promised to safeguard it where it existed. (What libertarian
would do that?) And letís not forget, he was president of
a slave federation: the United States, which held five slave
states and one slave capital even after secession.
Corpus. Jefferson was his eraís greatest defender of habeas
corpus; Lincoln its greatest enemy. Jefferson complained that
the "eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws" was
not protected in the new Constitution. Lincoln in contrast, illegally suspended habeas
corpus during the Civil War and simply ignored an order by the Chief
Judge of the Supreme Court to release a political prisoner. Jefferson
listed "freedom of the person under the protection of the habeas
corpus" one of the "essential principles of our government."
Address, 1801) Jefferson went so far as to criticize sham
suspensions of the writ: "Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections
and rebellions? . . . Examine the history of England. See
how few of the cases of the suspension of the habeas corpus law
have been worthy of that suspension." (Thomas Jefferson to
James Madison, 1788)
Amendment. Jefferson was a strong supporter of the
right to bear arms: "The constitutions of most of our States assert
that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their
right and duty to be at all times armed." (Thomas Jefferson
to John Cartwright, 1824, emphasis added) Lincoln not only
ignored the Second Amendment, he perverted its intent and undercut
the premise of Madisonís argument in Federalist No. 46 by calling
out the militias of the northern states to fight against the militias
of the Confederate States. His agents violated the Second Amendment
rights of citizens in border states by systematically seizing their
attempt to portray Lincoln as Jeffersonís fulfillment is foolish.
Lincoln was a Lincoln in Jeffersonís clothing.
letís continue to turn the tables around and look more at the quality
of the criticsí scholarship. Tom Krannawitter writes:
divorced the idea of states' rights from natural rights, and invented
the doctrine of legal or constitutional "secession" to replace
the natural right of revolution as the ground for independence.
The South understood that to appeal to the right of revolution,
as Jefferson had in the Declaration, was necessarily to appeal
to the idea of individual natural rights. Southern leaders
balked at such an appeal, because they understood that natural
rights flew in the face of their fantastic justifications for
slavery. All this is lost on DiLorenzo."
Krannawitter has not read Jefferson Davisí first inaugural address,
wherein he cites the natural right to alter or abolish government,
"a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined
to be inalienable." Davis continues:
present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history
of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest
upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of
the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become
destructive of the ends for which they were established ."
suppose Krannawitter will respond by saying he meant "Southern leaders"
other than Davis. Strictly speaking, Davis does not mention
"revolution"; in fact he denies the South revolted. However,
Jefferson does not refer to "revolution" either. The events
of 1776 can best be described as a secession, which, being resisted
by a foreign power, led to a revolutionary war. Similarly,
the South did not seek control over union states and wanted to leave
in peace. They fought when they were invaded by an enormous
union army. Nevertheless, Davis did refer to the passage that
Krannawitter cited. Perhaps he believes that Calhoun, who
died in 1850, is a better spokesman for the Confederacy than Jefferson
do they distort the situation in this way? Apparently, they
wish to characterize the secession as an illegal attempt at revolution.
Though revolution can be a moral or political right, it is not a
legal right, they believe. Further, since they claim the Confederatesí
prime motive was to preserve and protect slavery, this wrongful
motive destroys the Confederatesí moral claim to revolution.
there are problems with this reasoning. First, there is confusion
between the contexts of 1776 and 1861. In 1776, there was
no established legal right to secede. There was merely
a moral or political right as announced in the Declaration.
The secession was resisted and because it was resisted, war
broke out which we call a revolution. After the revolution
was concluded, a Constitution was enacted which, many believed,
incorporated the core philosophy of the Declaration, particularly
in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
while England could be expected to fight in opposition to this new
principle of secession, the situation in 1861 was entirely different.
The Southís secession occurred in a nation that recognized secession
as a moral or political right, and a large body of opinion going
back many years also concluded it was a legal right as well.
This explains why the Confederates did not feel the need to talk
about "revolution." Also, the term revolution usually conjures
up war. Yet, the acts of secession did not necessarily produce
Sumter did not mean war; it merely served to supply Lincoln with
political support for a war he had already desired. Before
becoming president, Lincoln had been more honest. He had simply
said "we wonít let you" secede. (July 23, 1856, Galena).
Granted that Fort Sumter was a sideshow, let us be clear on who
started the war and how, because such has been almost hopelessly
obscured. The war started when Lincoln ordered a large army
into Virginia. Had he not done so, that would have been the
end of it. Only because history is written by the victors
do most people believe the South started the war. Those who
control the present control the past.
Confederate leaders did justify their actions by resort to natural
rights principles, principles which they believed had become of
the law of the land. The use of the term "revolution" would
have been pointless, provocative and premature. There was
no "revolution" until Lincoln made it so.
course, it is in the nature of legal argument that there are usually
two sides to be argued. Language is ambiguous and vague.
The precise purposes behind the use of certain language is often
unknown. There is an old story that Lincoln won a case in
the morning and returned in the afternoon to argue the exact opposite
of what he had argued in the morning. The judge was skeptical
but Lincoln replied, "I was wrong this morning. I am right
now." Jonathan Swift said, there is "a society of men among
us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied
for the purpose, that white is black and black is white, according
as they are paid." (IV:5)
Personally, having written one of the
few modern essays on the subject (cited by DiLorenzo), I believe
that secession was a reserved state power under the Constitution,
a power without which all the other reserved powers cease to exist.
I find particularly persuasive the following points:
Secession was not expressly addressed in the Constitution, almost
certainly because dealing with the issue would have prevented
ratification. Three states, New York, Rhode Island, and
Virginia, expressly reserved their right to "reassume" the powers
delegated to the federal government. Obviously, they would
not have ratified a document that prevented them from doing so.
The Constitutional Convention considered and rejected a provision
that would have authorized the use of Union force against a recalcitrant
state. On May 31, 1787, the Convention considered adding to the
powers of Congress the right: "to call forth the force of the
union against any member of the union, failing to fulfill its
duty under the articles thereof." The clause was rejected after James Madison spoke
Union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to
provide for its own destruction. The use of force against
a State, would look more like a declaration of war, than an
infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by
the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts
by which it might be bound."
The notion that the union was a voluntary one among the states
is born out by various duties assigned to the states that cannot
be effectively compelled.
Thus, it cannot be denied that prevention of secession by force
completely altered the nature of the union in a way that is contrary
to the original structure and meaning of the Constitution.
many others disagree and hold that secession was unconstitutional.
Letís get beyond the contentious legal dispute. Two
questions arise. How do we deal with scenarios where reasonable
minds can differ? Lincoln dealt with this scenario by starting
a war that killed over 600,000 people. Here is one instance
where the well-known liberal credo that certainty of conviction
leads to violence is perfectly exemplified. Lincolnís
certainty of his position is seen in his overblown rhetoric.
In his July 4, 1861 address to Congress, he called the doctrine
of the secessionists "an insidious debauching of the public mind"
and "an ingenious sophism."
what core values animated Lincoln and animate his modern critics?
It is, after all, by reference to underlying values that we ultimately
resolve complex legal issues. Here is how I see it:
Modern Libertarian Critics
to use war to advance policy
to aggressive force and war
will of the federal majority
rights, including secession.
secession even by small political units
and law as preferred methods of social change
culture and economy as the preferred methods of social
trade and free markets
opposition to chattel slavery and its spread
Opposition to all forms of slavery: chattel,
tax, regulatory and conscription
disciples will no doubt chafe at the suggestion that Lincoln valued
majority rule over natural rights. "No, Jim, youíre all mixed
up. Lincoln supported majority rule because he believed in
natural rights." There may be kernel of truth in that wheat
field. On its best day, majority rule was a convenient tool
for deciding who would staff a minimal state republic whose purpose
was set by the natural rights creed set forth in the Declaration:
protection of the individual right to life, liberty, and property.
However, over time, the conceptual hierarchy got "all mixed up."
in large part to Lincoln, majority rule was elevated to an end in
itself, the highest end, an end the pursuit of which justified the
wholesale violation of natural rights by war, suppression of civil
liberties, conscription, invasion, and occupation. The pursuit
of government "by the people" led to government by martial law enforced
by a foreign army. Very strange indeed coming from a man who
got 39.82 percent of the vote (no votes in the deep South) and who
had mocked President Buchananís 45.28 percent.
we understand that the only value of majority rule is its efficacy
in protecting natural rights, we can see the key to the problem.
There is another political tool designed to protect natural rights
that outranks majority rule: secession! When a majority
in one region concludes that the overall majority is not running
the government in a manner conducive to their interests, they can
separate and hence create two happy majorities. Those
left behind cannot complain that they have been deprived of government
by the majority; they still have that. All they lost is power
over the previously unhappy minority. Thus, secession
is not the enemy of majority rule, but a way to create multiple,
satisfied majorities. At the same time, the option of secession
serves to deter electoral majorities from exploiting electorally
weak minorities, lest they seek a political divorce.
of course, the objection to this is obvious. Whatís to stop
an infinite regress of secessions leading to anarchy? This
is not a good argument, though Jaffa describes it as "descending
from the heavens". [page 280] It assumes as a premise
that people are unable to govern themselves, which, if true, moots
the whole discussion. If people are unable to know when to
quit seceding, what makes anyone think they have the wisdom to govern
themselves in the first place? Letís just call in the dictators.
. . AND ITíS ONE, TWO, THREE, WHAT ARE WE FIGHTINí FOR?
interesting than the merits of the argument, is its nature.
It was, as of 1861, purely theoretical. As Lincoln suggests
in his famous poem, self-government was a new idea; secessionist
movements were even newer and the infinite regress hypothesis was
untested. Thus, Lincoln was willing to launch a continent
into war for the sake of a floating abstraction. To avoid
anarchy in theory, he created anarchy in fact: four brutal years
of war in the South; four years of military dictatorship, suppression
of liberties and rioting in the North. This irony mirrors
the whole debate between the Church of Lincoln and its blasphemers:
what the Church says seems to make sense in theory, but in
practice, it all worked out badly, as DiLorenzo documents.
Maybe there was something wrong with the theory in the first place.
therefore fits the profile, more familiar in the 20th
century, of the ideological fanatic, "the humanitarian with the
guillotine", a leader willing to sacrifice lives, liberty, and
property for a spurious ideology, in his case the ideology of an
indivisible union serving the neogod of majority rule. In
contrast, the bulk of the Confederates fought (not seceded, fought)
for something more real. To quote Shelby Foote:
on in the war, a Union squad closed in on a single ragged Confederate.
He didn't own any slaves, and he obviously didn't have much
interest in the Constitution or anything else. And they
asked him, What are you fighting for? And he said, 'I'm
fighting because you're down here.' "
summarize, reasonable minds can differ about whether there was a
legal right to secession since it was not directly addressed in
the Constitution, however, the argument in favor of secession is
very strong, historically, logically, and textually. In terms
of moral and historical judgment and evaluation, however, it is
more fruitful to focus, not on legal technicalities, but on how
Lincoln acted in the face of a debate over those technicalities
and on the core values that underlay those technical legal arguments.
with a complex legal dispute over the legality of the Southís secession,
Lincoln acted not with restraint, moderation, or a willingness to
compromise or negotiate, but rather with inflammatory rhetoric,
Machiavellian manipulation and dishonesty at Fort Sumter, an absurd
and disingenuous promise not to use force as long as the South paid
its taxes, and, finally, with massive and ruthless military force
in the South and the ruthless and unprecedented suppression of civil
liberties in the North.
Lincolnís core values went against the predominant trends of American
political thought. Prospectively, those values gave way to
the modern American welfare/warfare state with its corrupt redistributionist
political system. Before Lincoln, there was always a tension
between Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian principles, with Jefferson
usually prevailing. After Lincoln, Jeffersonianism would be
in steady decline to this very day. Its last stronghold would
be in the countryís continuing respect for freedom of speech, religion,
and the press. Lincoln himself was of course a virulent enemy
of free speech and a free press and his present-day descendents,
using his tools, continue his assault with increasing success.
on boys! Give them the cold [FACTS]!"
moved the debate from legal metaphysics to the more solidly grounded
dispute over core values, let us move onto firmer ground still with
a summary of hardly debatable facts and reasonable inferences.
There are facts our opponents are stuck with regardless of their
fancy theoretical footwork. Professors, you can meditate upon
your sacred texts and theorize till your next sabbatical, but donít
forget there is a real world out there, beyond your skulls.
There are facts. Here they are:
started the most destructive war in the history of the Western
- He did
this for the sake of an abstraction which converted majority
rule from a tool to secure natural rights to a rationalization
for their destruction.
was ended but the slaves were not made free.
were not free under Reconstruction. They were not free under
the Northern or Southern versions of Jim Crow, each enacted pursuant
to Lincolnís sacred principle of majority rule. Nor are
their descendents free now in the inner-city slums where many
of them live, slums which are in many ways the result of numerous
majoritarian federal policies imposed on the residents: war on
drugs, welfare, "the projects", urban "renewal", and the like.
The number of black men in prison or on probation or parole today
is comparable to the number of adult male slaves in 1860.
Blacks are hindered in their efforts to raise themselves up by
heavy taxation and burdensome regulations, including occupational
licensure. Their children are "educated" in government schools
run mainly for the benefit of the mostly middle class white staff.
Blacks have been drafted to fight and die in foreign wars by the
same federal government that, having protected slavery for eighty-five
years, boasted of freeing them from slavery. Slavery ended,
but blacks were not freed.
as a check on the power of the federal government was destroyed.
- The federal
government has been growing ever since with no apparent stopping
point, not even the Euphrates river.
not Jefferson or Washington, is the icon of the modern American
created the framework for the modern American state as follows:
He ended the threat of secession as a check on federal power;
He established war as an efficacious means for improving the
He created precedents for the growth of federal power such
as conscription, income taxes, and paper money;
replaced individual rights and limited government with majority
rule as the prevailing political philosophy.
- We are
not free and we are not free to leave.
the freedom to leave a state which, like virtually all the ones
that have ever existed, ignores our natural rights and acts
like an organized criminal gang bent on expropriating our lives,
liberty, and property, we are all slaves.
Church of Lincoln canít figure out why we "keep re-fighting the
Civil War" all these years later. Itís because you and the
hyper-state you worship keep ramming the results of that war
down our throats on a daily basis!
THEM BACK TO AFRICA?
informs us that Lincoln wanted freed slaves to be sent "back" to
Africa. The critical reviewers say nothing about this.
As a trial lawyer, I always get suspicious when my opponents do
not want to talk about something relevant to the case. I sense
vulnerability. First, it is true: Lincoln said he wanted
to send the slaves back to Africa. "My first impulse would
be to free all the slaves and send them to Liberia." (Ottawa,
August 21, 1858) Granted, he issued all sorts of qualifications
and doubts about that idea, but that is vintage Lincoln as DiLorenzo
asserts. Keep people guessing; keep them off balance.
Maybe youíll get votes from both sides. On other occasions,
however, he was less equivocal about his support for colonization.
Lincoln wanted to send "back to Africa" people who had never lived
there, did not know the language, did not know the manner of life
there to any extent, and who were unlikely to end up where their
ancestors lived in any event. The whole idea is preposterous.
Also, we can say, with a perspective on history that Lincoln could
not have that is, from the perspective of the last 130 years, that
the politically-orchestrated mass movement of peoples is tantamount
to murder. I do not hold Lincoln to that charge, but
it is true nevertheless.
I do not believe that Lincoln really favored colonization!
I think he was lying. He was either a liar or a fool and we
know he was nobodyís fool. Why did he lie? Because Lincoln
had no realistic solution to the problem of slavery in the South.
Yet, colonization gave people the vague notion that he did.
It also made politically palatable his bizarre distinction between
the natural rights of slaves under the Declaration and his politically-correct
rejection of citizenship and full legal rights for freed slaves.
If the freed slaves are in Africa, they canít vote or marry white
women in Illinois, right?
my trial lawyerís intuition with the generous interpretation of
noted historian David
reality sometimes broke in, Lincoln persisted in his colonization
fantasy until well into his presidency. For a man who prided
himself on his rationality, his adherence to such an unworkable
scheme is puzzling, but not inexplicable. His failure to
take account of the overwhelming opposition of blacks to colonization
stemmed from his lack of acquaintances among African-Americans."
reader can judge whose analysis makes more sense of the facts.
Donald does agree with me that Lincolnís colonization "fantasy"
was politically expedient. [p. 368]
Lincoln had no plan for what to do with the slaves upon emancipation
and his colonization scheme was a fantasy or a fraud. We approach
here the heart of the controversy over Lincoln, slavery and the
war. We are led to believe that the war was "all about" slavery
and either not at all or only tangentially about secession.
Yet, Lincoln had no plan for what was to happen to the slaves after
their presumed emancipation. They would not be going to Africa;
they were not wanted in the North; he disfavored giving them the
rights of citizenship; apparently, he had no plan at all.
is what we find in Lincoln-defenders generally. They have
everything figured out until Appomattox. You canít secede;
weíll whip you if you do; then leave the slaves to be governed by
the embittered foe we just defeated, eking out a meager existence
in an economy we just destroyed. In one of Lincolnís last
statements, he refused to say whether the Southern states were in
or out of the union. As the last 135 years have shown, this
lack of a plan turned out rather badly for the slaves and their
descendants, the alleged beneficiaries of the war. Perhaps,
though, there was a plan. Perhaps there was a plan for an
ambitious politician to achieve fame, power and glory by means of
rhetorical chicanery, political manipulation, and cannon foddery.
Yankee Plantation South Bronx
descendants of slaves may also stay at this fine Yankee establishment
high priest of the Church of Lincoln is Harry V. Jaffa. He
calls Lincoln "Father Abraham" and compares him to Moses.
(I never heard a Jeffersonian call him Father Thomas.) He
is considered by some to be the greatest living scholar of Lincoln.
Which only proves that sometimes when you get too close to your
subject, you lose your objectivity.
major work on Lincoln is A
New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil
War (2000). The book is filled with profound insights
and silly arguments. Jaffa tries very hard to give the reader
the impression of something that isnít so: that there is some necessary
or logical connection between the right of secession and a pro-slavery
attitude. All the effort is in vain because this is obviously
false. One could in 1861 or today have the following views:
if we further confound the analysis by adding the variable of legal
versus moral opinion, and also add the variable of secession
by the South versus secession by the North, it gets even
more complicated. In any event, the point is made. There
is no logical connection between the issues of slavery and secession.
few examples will make the point even clearer. Stonewall Jackson
was anti-slavery and pro-union initially. Alexander Stephens
was pro-slavery but was opposed to secession initially, though he
believed it was a right. Thoreau, genius that he was, wanted
the non-slave states to secede from the slave states because he
believed, correctly, that the union, by protecting the South
from invasion and insurrection, by returning slaves to the South,
and by fostering a national economy that benefited from slavery,
supported slavery! Horace Greeley was against slavery
but urged the union to let the South go in peace. Lincoln
himself, in a famous letter to Greeley said:
paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union,
and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 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; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not
believe it would help to save the Union."
take Thoreauís argument even further, what if the slave states had
had the power to force the Northern states to adopt slavery?
In that case, only secession by the North could have thwarted that
effort to make the connection between secession and slavery a necessary
one, is disingenuous and cynical. Letís imagine that the South
abolished slavery but decided to secede because of the high tariff.
Would Lincoln and his followers have conceded their right to do
so? Obviously not. Their arguments against secession
are issue-neutral. They oppose secession per se. What
if New York decided to secede from the union today because its residents
disagreed with the unionís foreign policy and feared further terrorist
attacks? Would Lincolnís arguments allow them to do so?
Obviously not. The truth is, Lincoln and his modern
Church oppose secession per se and their attempt to graft onto secession
for all time the historically dead issue of chattel slavery is demagogic.
I can just see them now, standing in front of the former World Trade
Center, and telling the pro-secession residents rallying there that
the only reason for secession is to protect chattel slavery in the
Deep South. Huh? Calling Bellevue.
arguments against secession would make a sophist blush.
says the union creates the states. This reminds me of
the scene where Superman catches Lois Lane in midair.
He says, "Don't worry Miss Lane, I've got you." Lois replies:
"You've got me - who's got you?" If the union created
the states, who created the union?
argues that the bloody Civil War paved the way for 135 years
of "peaceful succession" of power thereafter. His definition
of "peace" is somewhat generous, including submission at gunpoint.
Whether "the use of force to uphold the law" (his term) is "peaceful"
all depends on what laws you are talking about and how you define
peace. It is difficult to take a man seriously whose definition
of primary concepts is so Orwellian.
agrees with Lincoln that bullets were necessary to ensure that
ballots could not be overruled by bullets, neither realizing
that ballots were backed up by bullets in the first place.
Thanks in large part to Lincoln, ballots have become the great
rationalizer of democratic bullets, which hurt just as much
as any other kind of bullet.
argues that the Southís secession was illegitimate because "they
could not consistently demand the benefit of being ruled only
by their consent" while denying that same right to slaves.
[page 38] Yet, he proves too much. If the Southís
citizens cannot make legitimate political decisions because
they had slaves, then the entire slave republic called the United
States, whose Constitution was cited as justification for war,
must also be condemned as illegitimate. Also, while Lincolnís
election did not depend on the Southís electoral votes, Jaffa
now informs us that those votes were a sham and a fraud
in the first place. According to his logic, Lincoln should
have announced in advance that he would ignore these electoral
votes because slaves were not allowed to vote. That action,
however, would have negated the other part of their argument:
that the South lost fair and square and must now accept Lincoln
as their President. So many contradictions; so little
argues that the Confederacyís pro-slavery motives undercut its
moral and legal arguments for secession, apparently oblivious
to the fact that, if the promotion, preservation or protection
of slavery undercut a governmentís moral and legal status, then
the government of 1776 was thereby nullified, as was the federal
government in 1861, making the whole discussion moot as it would
then involve two illegitimate entities arguing about whether
an illegitimate constitution authorized one of the illegitimate
entities to leave an illegitimate federation. Here, Jaffa
strangely metamorphoses into Lysander Spooner. (No offense intended,
must deal with the secession of the states in 1788 discussed
in detail in my essay
published in 1998. The first nine states that ratified
the constitution seceded from the union, an embarrassing fact
noted long ago by Jefferson Davis. Jaffa calls this a
"revolution"! This reminds me of James Prattís comment
that we often attack an argument by reducing it to the absurd,
but we are at a loss when the argument is already absurd.
This "revolution" is one Jaffa approves of, yet elsewhere in
his book, he writes that "rebellions . . can be met only by
armed force." [page 271] To say it was a revolution
is to say it was illegal, a claim I have never heard before.
Suppose they gave a revolution but nobody noticed? Letís
apply Ostrowskiís Razor itís a lot easier to say it was a lawful
secession. More problems: why call it a revolution when
it was not resisted? By the same token, why call the Southís
secession a "revolution" prior to the Unionís invasion of the
South? It is the resistance that makes it a revolution.
Thatís why it is Lincolnís revolution. Also, on
Jaffaís own principles, this "revolution" was illegitimate:
it was based on natural rights (self-government) but it violated
what Jaffa views as an even more fundamental natural right:
self-ownership. It put slavery on an even stronger footing.
Thus, Jaffa gets entangled by his own principles here and his
whole argument comes tumbling down.
as one who has been intimately involved in electoral politics for
thirty-five years, I can say that Jaffa is incredibly naÔve about
how democratic politics actually operates. He worships the
theory of democracy and majority rule, but doesnít seem to have
a clue about what it means in practice. He does not mention
the Public Choice analysis of politics. He does not mention
rational ignorance or rational apathy, from which
vantage points it becomes clear that majority rule actually means
minority rule, rule by special interests. He seems
to have no notion that democratic politics is dominated by ethnic
and religious sentiments. Years ago, in a race for state legislature
against an Irish candidate, I received all fifty votes in a Polish
district I had never visited. Jaffa writes that proper majority
rule is impossible where people vote based on "sectarian religious
grounds." [p. 149] That he is seemingly unaware of the impact
of religious affiliation in current voting patterns is amazing.
ignorance is specifically important in this sense. He exculpates
Lincoln for his racist remarks, his opposition to citizenship for
blacks, and his overall lack of any plan for freed slaves.
Yet, it was predictable that freed slaves would, even after gaining
the right to vote, be at the mercy of a hostile racial majority
that Lincoln did nothing but inflame with his continual and self-serving
claims of racial inequality. These majorities were further
inflamed in the South by a murderous war and in the North by the
sudden shift in the theme of the war from union to emancipation.
See, the New York City Draft riots. Lincoln, Jaffa would have
us believe, is the greatest human being since Socrates, yet Lincoln
apparently thought of none of this. Or, maybe he did and just
wanted to be elected President, the future be damned. Which
is more plausible? Or to put the same question differently,
are you a member of the Church of Lincoln or a heretic?
evaluation of Lincolnís views on colonization is remarkable.
It reminds me of the guy charged with murder who said he wasnít
there, but if he was, it was self-defense. Jaffa first says
Lincoln was "sincere" about this. Who said he wasnít, prior
to this article? Then, Jaffa writes, "Even if he wasnít, it
would have been an almost indispensable position for him to adopt.
. . " Since Jaffa believes that lying is acceptable in politics,
I wonder what Jaffa is lying about.
places heavy reliance in a sort of immaculate conception theory
of the American founding. He repeatedly says, presumably referring
to the founding, that a proper government rests on the "unanimous
consent" of the people. Obviously, no known government, including
ours, was formed by the unanimous consent of all adult human beings
nearby. I think the women, slaves, Loyalists and Anti-federalists
of the time would agree with me about that. Thus, this critical
premise is either childish nonsense or some esoteric and ineffable
Straussian-type argument that a mere trial lawyer from could not
be expected to understand.
can "democracies" be based on obscure arguments that only a few
PhDís in political thought can understand? Or letís put the
question this way: if the million man union army had been given
a copy of Jaffaís book and been told "This is why we fight.", how
many after reading it would have marched into a breeze of bullets
for this dense, arcane and tendentious book? I suspect their
reading would have ended at page 83 where Jaffa says the Civil War
was in the "service" of "friendship". Which is too bad because
if they read just another 31 pages, they would find Jaffa explaining
that aggressive force in human affairs is destructive of "friendship."
of bullets, it is amazing how bloodless the book is. There
are no young conscripts forced on pain of a firing squad to march
into near-certain death at Cold Harbor. (Jaffa does not mention
conscription at all, but does note that the great conscriptor believed
in the Lockean right of self-ownership and ownership of the fruits
of oneís labor.) No towns are bombarded or burned. No
women raped. No editors thrown into dungeons. No draft
riots in New York. Jaffaís world is the life of the mind,
the classroom, the college library. Itís a safe, comfortable
world. But bloodless. Throughout history and currently,
there are men whose job it is to meet the troops at the train station,
fill them up with philosophical rationalizations for war and wave
goodbye to them as the troop train carries them off to kill or be
killed. Old men are adept at proving with geometric logic
that young men should kill each other for mere abstractions that
cannot be seen, heard, or touched. Jaffa urges in his last
sentence: "go forth to battle once again" for "Father Abraham".
Which kind of armies "go forth to battle"?
paradox of history is that we look backwards at human action that
occurred forwards with knowledge the participants lacked about how
it all turned out. We must look backwards but be careful that
we donít do our history backwards. The deification of Lincoln
results from doing history backwards. They start at the end,
with the grotesque body count and physical and economic destruction.
All this over a legal argument understood by only a few then and
now? No, it was a glorious moral crusade to end slavery in
the South. It canít be about secession because saving the
union is not worth 670,000 lives.
it was about secession, not slavery. Lincoln said so
and had previously stated that preserving the union was the higher
value. Who else would know? "Much as I hate slavery, I would
consent to the extension of it rather than see the Union dissolved,
just as I would consent to any GREAT evil, to avoid a GREATER one."
(Peoria, 1854) (Query: If Lincoln didnít really mean what
he said, how do we know he really meant what he didnít say?)
Even after Manassas, Congress passed a resolution stating that "this
war is not waged . . . for any purpose of . . . overthrowing established
institutions [meaning slavery] . . . but to defend . . . the Constitution
and to preserve the Union." (Cited by David
Herbert Donald at page 307).
however, we have to show that secession and slavery are inseparable.
If they were ever to be separated, the announced legal purpose of
the war would be severed from its post hoc rationalized moral purpose.
All that death and destruction would be on our conscience again.
To show that the right of secession was only made up to keep slavery
alive, we then go back with our historianís whiteout and erase all
the words and deeds in American history that argued for a right
of secession. You end up arguing, as Jaffa does, that the
greatest secessionist document in history, the Declaration of Independence,
which declares the states "Free and Independent", was designed to
announce a permanent and irrevocable ban on state secession.
WOULDNíT BE PRUDENT
of Lincoln want us to believe that Lincoln had to hide his real
agenda from his ignorant white racist audience. If he told
them what he really thought which members of the Church of Lincoln
know because they are able to channel the real Lincoln he would
have lost the election and the whole world would have disintegrated.
So far so good, but there are, alas, a few small problems.
Lincoln said he started the Civil War to vindicate the principle
of majority rule expressed in his election by an electoral vote
majority. If, however, those who voted for Lincoln were misled
about what they were voting for, then the sacred principle of majority
rule has been destroyed. Government "by the people" expired
even before the Gettysburg Address.
argue below that the war was not primarily or essentially a crusade
to end slavery. Rather, it was a war for union, for empire,
for economic power, all with a light seasoning of opposition to
extending slavery to the territories, and was never explicitly a
moral campaign to end slavery in the South. See, both inaugural
addresses, Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation.
However, letís assume for the sake of argument that it was such
a campaign. If Lincoln started the war or fought the war to
end slavery in the South ("a new birth of freedom"?), protected
as it was by the Constitution, then the sanctity of the Constitution
was destroyed by the war. However, Lincolnís rationale for
invading and occupying the South and his successors' rationale for
ruling the South in the post-war years and today is that
very same Constitution. If we are scrapping the Constitution
insofar as it protected Southern slavery, then we can and must also
scrap it insofar as it allegedly banned secession.
Operating then on the level of pure moral or political theory only,
we must recognize the right of the people of the South (and North,
East, and West) to form their own governments without outside interference.
Thus, the post hoc rationalization of the war as a crusade against
slavery comes at a huge cost for the Church of Lincoln. If
slavery forced association is wrong, so is forced union, for the
same reason. (Hint: itís the force, stupid.)
LIBERAL YANKEE JOINS THE DEBATE
critics decry his scholarship and the scholars he relies on, and
the prospect that his naÔve readers will not have read from the
approved list of Lincoln scholars. Yet, DiLorenzoís book is
buttressed by another published about the same time and by a writer
who could be expected to otherwise have no sympathy for The
Real Lincoln. Louis Menand, who has a PhD. from Columbia
in English, is author of The
Metaphysical Club (2001), which is treats the Civil Warís
impact on various key members of the Progressive Movement: especially
Holmes, James, Peirce and Dewey. Menand writes:
allowed the North, for four years to set the terms for national
expansion without interference from the South, and the wartime
Congress did not let the opportunity slip. That Congress
was one of the most active in American history. It supported
scientific training and research; it established the first system
of national taxation and created the first significant national
currency; it made possible the construction of public universities
and the completion of the transcontinental railway. It
turned the federal government into a legislative engine of social
and economic progress." (Emphasis added)
what DiLorenzo wrote:
the Southerners had left the U.S. Congress and the Republican
Party was firmly in control of the federal government, Alexander
Hamiltonís old mercantilist coalition was finally in charge.
Now that the coalition dominated Congress as well, its members
were not about to be stopped in their seventy-year quest to bring
British-style mercantilism to America."
and DiLorenzo agree on what happened though Menand thinks it was
a good thing, apparently. What is striking is how callously
opportunistic the Republicans were. Here they were in the
midst of a war for union and, allegedly, against slavery,
and they cared not a whit about pushing their corrupt agenda of
patronage, pork and inflation down the throats of the absent Southerners
who would presumably be stuck with all these economic atrocities
once their young men were slaughtered in the field by much larger
armies. It is hard to think of any explanation for all this
other than DiLorenzo is right.
is not done with his unwitting assistance to our present project.
He sums up his findings this way:
. . . is about giving space to minority and dissenting views so
that, at the end of the day, the interests of the majority
may prevail. Democracy means that everybody is equally
in the game, but it also means that no one can opt out.
Modern American thought, the thought associated with Holmes, James,
Peirce, and Dewey, represents the intellectual triumph of unionism.
* * * democracy is the value that validates all other values.
Democratic participation isnít the means to an end, in
this way of thinking; it is the end." (Emphasis added)
Menand recognizes that out of the Civil War and its immediate intellectual
aftermath came the notion of majority rule as an end in itself,
as in effect the great rationalizer of all the follies of the modern
state. He thinks this is good, I think. I think it stinks.
me cite one more authority on Lincoln, albeit one who lacks a PhD,
lest the reader think I am exaggerating Lincolnís contribution to
the apotheosis of majority rule:
questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies,
and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the
minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government
must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the
Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. . . . . A
majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations,
and always changing easily, with deliberate changes of popular
opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free
assured that this passage accurately reflects Lincolnís views as
it was written by Lincoln himself. Here, Lincoln bluntly states
that "constitutional controversies" are decided by "majorities".
So much for the constitutional limitations on majority rule.
As for the restraint on majority rule provided by "constitutional
checks and limitations", after Lincolnís conduct of the Civil War,
we can justly ask: what the hell was he talking about?
disregard of constitutional checks and limitations was predictable.
The whole theory is senseless: constitutional limitations on majority
rule will be enforced by officials elected by majorities or appointed
by those so elected. Makes you sleep well at night, doesnít
it? Moreover, Lincoln had already made clear his views about
that branch of government one would think would be most responsible
for ensuring majoritarian compliance with constitutional checks
and limitations: the Supreme Court. On June 17, 1858, at Springfield,
discussing the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln all but said the political
fix was in:
was the court decision held up? Why even a Senatorís individual
opinion withheld, till after the Presidential election?
Plainly enough now: the speaking out then would have damaged the
perfectly free argument upon which the election was to be carried.
Why the outgoing Presidentís felicitation on the indorsement?
Why the delay of a re-argument? Why the incoming Presidentís
advance exhortation in favor of the decision?" (Springfield,
June 17, 1858)
the same speech, Lincoln sets forth his theory that Supreme Court
decisions are not necessarily binding on the political branches
of government: the legislature and executive. Thus, again,
his 1858 speech vitiates the "held in restraint" element of his
view of majority rule. So what we got with Lincoln and what
we have had in American government since 1865 is federal supremacy
over states and persons and a federal government that can do pretty
much what it wants because its officials were democratically elected.
Federal majority might makes right is the legacy of the Civil War.
for the really bad news. Majority rule is nothing of the kind.
Modern democracies are dominated by small, cohesive groups political
machines out for graft, whose superior organization, discipline,
greed and ruthlessness allow them to seize control of the state
and use it for their own confiscatory purposes. This was true
in Lincolnís day as DiLorenzo demonstrates and it is true in ours
as exemplified in burlesque fashion by the Clinton Administration.
Republican administrations do likewise, but with more stealth and
aplomb. Thus, the truth is precisely what DiLorenzo asserts:
Lincoln is the prophet and progenitor of the thoroughly corrupt
modern American political system, a democratic kleptocracy.
LIBERAL YANKEE CHIMES IN
another liberal, academic writer who unwittingly backs DiLorenzo's
historical analysis is Mark Goldman in High
Hopes: the Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York. As I
was reading his history of my hometown, Buffalo, for another project,
I was pleased to stumble upon Goldmanís discussion of the Civil
Warís impact on Buffalo, then the ninth largest city in the North.
First, letís see what DiLorenzo wrote:
foregoing discussion calls into question the standard account
that Northerners elected Lincoln in a fit of moral outrage spawned
by their deep-seated concern for the welfare of black slaves in
the deep South." [page 32]
Goldman is a liberal whose second book, City
on the Lake: The Challenge of Change in Buffalo, New York, is
about official racial discrimination against blacks in the 20th
century. About Civil War-era Buffalo, he writes:
most Americans in the middle of the nineteenth century, Buffalonians
were distinctly racist, and while many may well have abhorred
slavery (no working man in his right mind would want to compete
with slave labor), the overwhelming majority had no desire to
live among blacks. This was true of the reform-minded WASP
community who supported colonization of Americaís blacks in Africa
as well as for the German and Irish immigrant community who for
racial as well as economic reasons wasted little love on the black
race." [p. 90]
quotes from a German-language newspaper: "íWe want no negroes in
the northern states because we anticipate nothing good from the
mixing of the black and white races. We want the region of
Kansas to be reserved for honest white workers.í" [p. 90]
Almost sounds like Lincoln! Goldman continues:
relations in the city. . . were further poisoned during the Civil
War years by the imposition of a federal draft * * * were the
Irish really expected to offer their lives to free people who
offered them thanks by breaking their strikes?" [pp. 92-93]
asserts of Buffalo what DiLorenzo wrote about the North generally:
There was "a lack of enthusiasm for the Union effort, particularly
following the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. . .
" [p. 122]
THE LIBERTARIAN? (JESUS THE ATHEIST?)
Lincoln be defended on libertarian grounds? Surprisingly,
there is among some libertarians nostalgia for a Lincoln who never
existed. These libertarians engage in retroactive wishful
thinking. They imagine that Lincoln was a minimal state libertarian
who was merely invading the South to vindicate the slavesí natural
right to liberty. Lincoln was not a minimal state libertarian
or any other kind of libertarian. He was a statist, a Henry
Clay man. He said so. He was a centralizer, a consolidator,
a conscriptor, an inflator, a blockader, an economic ignoramus,
a jailor of legislators and publishers, a mercantilist, a heavy
taxer, a military dictator; in short, a tyrant! Nor was his
war a crusade to free the slaves. He never said it was and
he didnít act like it was. He never said this even in the
pro-Civil War libertarians argue that the Southís secession was
wrong because it involved kidnapping the slaves As I pointed
out in a prior essay,
since the Founders also "kidnapped" slaves in their act of secession,
this line of argument is also a repudiation of the American Revolution.
contradiction between secession and emancipation that these libertarians
perceive is only apparent. Emancipation is nothing but a micro-secession.
Slavery is a union forced upon the weaker party by the stronger
for the latterís benefit. Sound familiar? The Civil
War did not free the slaves; it merely gave them a new master: the
federal government. The fact that some descendents of slaves
have fallen in love with their new master is not surprising.
Itís called Stockholm Syndrome.
for what to do when a state violates individual rights, these libertarians
say, call in the feds. And when I ask,
what do we do when the feds violate our rights, I hear nothing but
silence. I will answer for those libertarians who would hate
to say, "create a world state.", knowing how loathsome that idea
is, and knowing what my next question would be. I say, with
Thoreau, go the other way. When a state violates rights, decentralize
even further until that rogue stateís power to do evil whithers
imagine that, contrary to all evidence and common sense, Lincoln
was on this mission, a moral crusade, legalities be damned.
First, this would have involved tossing out the constitution the
union! which ensconced slavery in its text. That would have
pulled the rug right out from under Lincoln as he was acting as
President pursuant to a constitution he would then be repudiating.
Since natural rights would now be the constitution, sure the slaves
would be freed but the Southís right to alter or abolish government
would also be in play precisely the result that the real Lincoln
fought so hard to avoid! DiLorenzoís critics argue incorrectly see
above that the South did not refer to this "revolutionary" right
as they were worried this would also justify emancipation, while
never considering that Lincoln did not justify his war by reference
to natural rights because he was worried that such reference
would also justify secession. Next, Lincoln would have had
to attack several Union slave states as well. Then, he would
have to attack his own slave capital. Next, he would have
realized that he had no political support for this abolitionist
war. It wouldnít be prudent.
assume Lincoln did have support for his revolution. Since
he claimed to favor colonization, he would first have issued an
ultimatum to the South to let the slaves leave, perhaps with a proviso
for compensation. If no agreement was reached which satisfactorily
ended slavery, Lincoln would have invaded the South, but making
it clear that his only purpose was emancipation and that he would
interfere with no person or institution unless the same resisted
emancipation. As we can see, this hypothetical begins to sound
like time-warp, parallel-universe science fiction. Itís pure
fantasy. It never happened. Why pretend it did?
Any attempt to pretend that the Unionís invasion of the South
was a moral cause to end slavery and did not have numerous other
and evil goals, the accomplishment of which plagues us today, is
an absurd exercise involving the libertarian endorsement of illibertarian
means and ends then and continuing.
Lincoln had one of the finest minds of the Nineteenth Century.
It is a tragedy that he used that brilliance to advance the age-old
agenda of centralizing power in a distant capital by means of massive
the completion of this essay, I took another look at the Foreword
Real Lincoln, written by Professor Walter E. Williams, which
summarizes DiLorenzoís appraisal of Lincoln and the Civil War.
I was struck by the accuracy of that appraisal, particularly in
light of the previously quoted views of Theodore Roosevelt and Louis
Menand. It is remarkable that Roosevelt and Menand, writing
from two different perspectives in two different eras, and disagreeing
with DiLorenzoís political philosophy, nevertheless, agree
with his historical analysis. Professor Williams writes:
1831, long before the War between the States, South Carolina Senator
John C. Calhoun said, 'Stripped of all its covering, the naked
question is, whether ours is a federal or consolidated government;
a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting solidly
on the basis of the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained
will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited
ones, in which injustice, violence, and force must ultimately
prevail.í The War between the States answered that question
and produced the foundation for the kind of government we have
today: consolidated and absolute, based on the unrestrained will
of the majority, with force, threats, and intimidation being the
order of the day."
Real Lincoln is a triumph for Tom DiLorenzo, for the Mises Institute which held the first modern
academic conference on secession in 1995, and for LewRockwell.com which has led the
world in Lincoln revisionism.
It is a triumph for reason as well. Does might make right
or is the pen mightier than the sword? Bunford Samuel wrote
these profound words in 1920:
history, force appears as the arbiter of the moment. . . Reason,
organically slow Ė reacting against force only when the ill effects
of the latter become so general as to be inevitably obvious Ė
finally confirms or annuls its judgement."
a few courageous writers like Tom DiLorenzo and his colleagues,
using logic, evidence, and moral suasion, negate what their opponents
thought they had won with over a million troops on battlefields
138 years ago? Yes! That is why, to protect a victory
apparently won by bullets, todayís "Northern aggressors" are firing
words at Tom DiLorenzo. Those words, unlike yesteryearís bullets,
are missing their mark. The "cold steel" of truth is winning
 Murray Rothbard, "Americaís Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861Ē,
Costs of War: Americaís Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, ed
(2nd ed. 1999).
 Emphasis added.
Theodore Roosevelt: an Autobiography (New York: Macmillan
Company, 1913) pp. 381-382, 394-395, 420 (emphasis added).
 The Athenaeum (6 May 1865), quoted in C. Adams,
"The Second American Revolution: A British View of the War Between
the States,Ē Southern Partisan (1st Quarter 1994), p. 19
 New York Courier and Enquirer (1 December 1860), quoted
Causes of the Civil War, rev. ed., Kenneth Stampp, ed. (Englewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 55 (emphasis added).
 Randall at 277.
 Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.
 Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention,
Vol. I (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911). p. 47.
 Id. at 54.
Originally Published at: http://www.lewrockwell.com/ostrowski/ostrowski39.html