By Gerald Christian (“Jerry”) Nordskog
Abraham Lincoln is often cited as “one of our greatest presidents” and that he still speaks today. Hardly.
Granted, Old Abe was a great speechmaker, and could apparently captivate an audience with his rhetoric, yet much of what he said and wrote he failed to demonstrate in his actions. For instance did Lincoln truly believe in limiting the roles government should play? A worthy goal certainly, but Lincoln expanded the federal government and consolidated its control more than any other president (except perhaps FDR and GWB, and possibly our present national executive, who is often compared to Lincoln). Lincoln set the pace for the 20th century changing the face of government from our federalist roots as established by our Founders.
The notion that there was no room for an entitlement mentality is fabricated. Lincoln advocated and fought hard to provide special interest pork barrel money to his political backers, particularly the railroad industry, bleeding substantial money from the taxpayers. While there were successful ‘private’ railroads built, Lincoln excessively spent public funds, setting a trend that has continued. He is known as ‘The Great Centralizer’, consolidating power in the hands of the executive branch with grand schemes of socialization through legal plunder.
As to contention that Lincoln did not seek revenge, what do you call his inhumane attacks against the Southerners, that maimed and murdered not only soldiers fighting for their freedom but on civilians (old men, the sick, women and children), in violation of 1860s newly established international rules of just war. Instead, pillaging, plundering, burning private property, homes, possessions and crops in his war he called a “rebellion” were common. Lincoln conveyed ‘the thanks of the Nation’ to General Sheridan for razing the Shenandoah Valley, and encouraged General Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea’. This trend led to Grant’s later massacre of the plains Indians.
I concur how unpopular a president he was then, prior to martyrdom and revisionist historians changing his image. He and his war were controversial, thus he used power-grabbing schemes, including imprisoning over a hundred newspaper editors or owners. Likewise he jailed political enemies who questioned the war against fellow Americans and the tactics he promulgated. Lincoln did all in his power to stifle opposition, ignoring freedom of speech.
He arbitrarily suspended Habeas Corpus constitutional provisions. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney issued a judicial opinion, ignored by Lincoln, stating the president had no lawful power to do so. Taney argued the Constitution was drawn up shortly after a war was fought against the King of England, that the founders would never have given an American president “more regal and absolute power” over the personal liberties of the citizens than any king of England.
Lincoln actually opposed the abolition movement. “Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist” said David Donald in “Lincoln Reconsidered.” Rather Lincoln proposed sending negroes (he said were an inferior race) back to Africa. “The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave” stated Thomas J. Dilorenzo in “The Real Lincoln”. It was political gimmickry to gain tactical advantage in the highly unpopular unconstitutional war. Yet he chose not to require Northern and Border States to free the slaves, passing a law requiring returning all slaves who fled on the underground railway. It was merely a ploy. His reputation of ‘The Great Emancipator’ is a myth.
A dozen nations of the world had ‘peacefully’ eliminated slavery the first half of the 19th century. Lincoln could have averted the War Between the States without the carnage as the Confederacy solicited compromises to avoid a war, and settle the issues of mercantilism, high tariffs against the South, and the right of secession originally granted the states, but Lincoln chose war on Americans.
The dozen-year Reconstruction plan implemented by Lincoln Republicans in Congress was a punitive action against the Southern states, and did not allow for white male Southerners to hold public office, except as hand-picked by the union government backed by military intervention. Democracy was stifled.
Abe Lincoln’s actual record is fraught with breaches of civil liberties, defiance of the Constitution, a consolidation of executive power (by military force), establishing a massive powerful central government usurping Constitutional rights of the citizens, deceptive and tyrannical. Presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison established a different federalist system, a democratic Republic with checks and balances.
On President’s Day, I am not honoring the ‘real’ Lincoln, rather, our courageous, virtuous, beloved, heroic, Christian “Father of Our Country”, General/President George Washington, “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen”.
E.g. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “The Great Centralizer: Abraham Lincoln and the War Between the States,” (http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_03_2_dilorenzo.pdf, Fall 1998).
“When Lincoln Made Free Speech Illegal,” http://www.issues-views.com/index.php/sect/21000/article/21089, 2009.