Buttle's World

13 February, 2009

Lincoln’s Legacy

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 16:33

Abraham Lincoln accomplished a great many things. Freeing the slaves was not one of them. (It was a great thing, just not Lincoln’s.) His foresight with the railroad alone would earn him a place in history. But, as Mark Alexander points out, he should not be held up as a defender of the constitution.

In truth, not a single slave was emancipated by the stroke of Lincoln’s pen. The Proclamation freed only “slaves within any State … the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States.” In other words, Lincoln declared slaves were “free” in Confederate states, where his proclamation had no power, but excluded slaves in states that were not in rebellion, or areas controlled by the Union army. Slaves in Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Maryland were left in bondage.

Lincoln’s war may have preserved the Union geographically (at great cost to the Constitution), but politically and philosophically, the constitutional foundation for a voluntary union was shredded by sword, rifle and cannon.

“Reconstruction” followed the war, and with it an additional period of Southern probation, plunder and misery, leading Robert E. Lee to conclude, “If I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.”

Little reported and lightly regarded in our history books is the way Lincoln abused and discarded the individual rights of Northern citizens. Tens of thousands of citizens were imprisoned (most without trial) for political opposition, or “treason,” and their property confiscated. Habeas corpus and, in effect, the entire Bill of Rights was suspended. Newspapers were shut down and legislators detained so they could not offer any vote unfavorable to Lincoln’s conquest.

Before Lincoln we said “The United States are…”. After Lincoln we said “The United States is…”. That was a sad step in the wrong direction.

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