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Abraham Lincoln

16th US President, 1861-1865

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America's first dictator and the case for legal secession.

  • Apr 2, 2013
This essay will be a controversial look at our 16th, and supposedly best, President Abraham Lincoln, and a case for the legal right of states to leave the union. Though at face value this may seem offensive to some, I ask only that you try to understand the arguments presented here and at least try to see where I'm coming from. Thank you.
Consider if you will a fictional President of the near future. Suppose said fictional president, elected by a regional base not representative of the country as a whole with a minority of popular and electoral votes, immediately set upon raging a war of aggression against his fellow countrymen for following proper and widely accepted constitutional law which, such as the right to vote, is not explicitly mentioned yet we commonly viewed as a right of the people. Consider what your reaction might be if this nightmare President, in order to squelch opposition to his undeclared and therefor unconstitutional war, suspended the right of habeas corpus, also without the consent of Congress, and preceded to jail, censor, bankrupt, intimidate, and deport political opponents whose only crime was outspoken criticism of a war against one’s own countrymen. What would you think if this man supported openly deportation of every member of a disenfranchised minority group, such as Mexican Americans, in order to make American lands “secure for the white man”? Might you be made to resist this man if he were to arrest your legislature, threaten to bombard your capitol, and militarily occupy your state?
What honor do you think such a man deserves? What title should future generations bestow upon such a tyrant? Of course you already know the answer, for as the title of this post and even a basic understanding of history would tell you one of our supposed ‘greatest’ Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, whose record is more reminiscent of a tyrant than that of a protector of individual liberty, is guilty of such crimes. And yet his face appears on our currency, in monuments to his name, and the side of a mountain, while his legacy has reached that of almost universal admiration, where even the act of criticizing him is shouted down in a sea of emotional falsehood; proof that history is written not by who is right, but by whoever has the most guns. The commonly accepted misconceptions, outright lies, and rationalizing excuses for Lincolns actions aren’t hard to understand, after all America spent four years fighting the bloodiest and most costly war on the American continent, of course its victors are going to spread the lie that they were morally and legally right from the beginning, and not merely strong enough to force their will upon the militarily and industrially weaker south. This is why our history is so blatantly slanted towards Lincolns, and the Republican parties, point of view, not because they were right, in the same sense that the colonies almost a hundred years earlier were right, but because they were willing and able to reduce the southern states to a smoldering ruin in order to get their point across. Six hundred and twenty five thousand military deaths alone. Factored as a percentage of the population, today that would cost the lives roughly two million lives, 100X the number of deaths suffered in Vietnam. The Civil War was the most costly war in American history, and it was completely avoidable.
The myth that Lincoln ‘freed the slaves’ is at once the biggest misconception about the war and the easiest to disprove. One need only read the Emancipation Proclamation to see for themselves. Pay extra attention to paragraph three and four.
“Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.”
Lincoln not only exempted loyal slave holding states such as Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia (a state whose constitutionality I will not get into here) but also puts a great emphasis on not freeing any slaves in captured confederate territory at that time. Lincoln, in reality, freed the slaves only where he had no power to do so, where at the time of the proclamation in September 1862 (it didn’t go into effect until January 1863) he had no reason to believe he’d ever have the authority to end slavery having days before narrowly turned back an invasion of Maryland in the bloodiest single day in American history. What was the point of such an act? What principled abolitionist would be so cynical as to free the slaves only where he could not? What enemy of slavery would expressly exempt occupied confederate territory as well as northern slave states when given the chance to end slavery in America once and for all? Isn’t that what so many seem to believe the Civil War was about? To end slavery?
Lincolns own words shed light on the myth that he was an abolitionist. “[Abolitionists] would shiver into fragments the union of these states, tear to tatters its now venerated constitution and even burn the last copy of the Bible, rather than slavery should continue for even an hour.”1  Harsh words from America’s so called ‘Great Emancipator.’ In fact notable abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who wrote ‘The Unconstitutionality of Slavery’ in 1845 and ‘A Defense for Fugitive Slaves’ in 1850 had this to say at the conclusion of the war, “All these cries of having “abolished slavery,” of having “saved the country,” of having “preserved the union,” of establishing a “government of consent” and of “maintaining the national honor” are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats- so transparent that they ought to deceive no one.”
            “The President has purposely made the proclamation,” wrote the New York World, “inoperative in all places where we have gained a military footing which makes the slaves accessible. He has proclaimed emancipation only where he has notoriously no power to execute it. The exemption of the accessible parts of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia renders the proclamation not merely futile, but ridiculous.”2
            Lincolns own Secretary of State William Seward stated, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”
It would seem to me that the overall principle of the Emancipation Proclamation is not that one man may not own another, but that one man can own another only when loyal to the United States. Lincolns so called proclamation was nothing more than a sham, a ruse used in order to prevent England, which abolished slavery peacefully several years earlier, from joining the war on the side of the Confederacy. By presenting an end to slavery as one of the main purposes for the war, despite the fact that the war was already more than a year old and going badly for the north, he could claim a moral high ground while, for all practical purposes, doing absolutely nothing. The slaves in the union states would remain slaves for the duration of the war, and remain slaves until December 1865 when the 13th amendment was passed, long after Lincoln’s death. Military defeats in the Seven Days Battle, Manassas I and II, and Fredericksburg (which took place before the emancipation took effect), along with bloody stalemates at Shiloh and Antietam, forced Lincolns hand. Had any European power intervened at that point the war would be over. The slavery issue was little more than a tool used to achieve his goal of winning the war.
“I 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; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I ... am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.”
Lincoln was no abolitionist; indeed the evidence that he was, like most men of the time, a very strong racist is pretty clear. His support of the fugitive slave act by saying “When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one” in his first inaugural address, and his support of deportation and colonization of American blacks, slaves and free men alike, proves it. Though his rhetoric on this issue is more often than not presented as a means to uplift Africa by sending freed slaves there who could take with them the “rich fruits of religion, civilization, law, and liberty” (though how this could possibly be accomplished when near all blacks in America were deprived their most basic rights, even in the north is not explained) other statements point to a less than noble (if naive) reasons.
            “The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these [new] territories. We [the Republican Party] want them for the homes of free white people.”3
Regardless, no matter how noble Lincoln’s reasons for wanting to deport thousands of black Americans may seem judging by some of his statements, the very idea is absolutely disgusting. Imagine if a modern President tried such a thing? What would you think of a President who preached of the nobility and benefit of deporting Mexican American’s back to Mexico so that their native land might benefit from them bringing back “religion, civilization, law and liberty”? Blacks, even free blacks in northern states, enjoyed precious few rights in America, but even that must be better than being deported to a far off continent unknown to them, having been slaves and oppressed their whole lives, without the benefit of education, law, or liberty. What possible advantage could this be for either the country they would colonize (Liberia and Haiti mostly) or the deported blacks themselves? What’s more, how can a man who championed the deportation of an entire race (though, to be fair, he did see the impracticality of such an act) be celebrated as a man who liberated said race? Such a notion that Lincoln was a principled abolitionist and a champion for racial equality (despite statements to the contrary) while supporting colonization is an absurdity. Lincoln was, in fact, a racist who opposed abolition and saw it as a greater threat to liberty than slavery itself, and wished to have blacks deported. And this is the man whose face we carved into a mountain? I understand that he was a man of his time, and most people back then held similarly racist viewpoints, but his legacy of being a liberator and champion of minority rights is overblown at best, and an outright lie at worst. He does not deserve such distinction.
The main question of the Civil War then was not slavery, as many would suggest, for Lincoln had no inclination of freeing them nor did he take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. Rather the main question of the war was federalism, or more accurately the question of state sovereignty. Were ‘These United States’ one whole, indivisible country split into regional provinces with no independent identity or sovereignty like Mexico, Canada (with the exception of perhaps Quebec) and Australia? Or was it rather a collection of independent states with more in common with the European Union, who agreed to follow certain rules and agreements as a condition of a union of states? Also, did this union of states agree to anything in the constitution, or anywhere, as a condition to their joining, that would strip them of their right to leave said union peacefully at a later date?
The question of state sovereignty was hardly even a matter of debate when the colonies declared their independence from the British Empire and cast off imperial tyranny. The Declaration of Independence states that the United Colonies “are, and ought to be, free and independent states.” The union that came to be known as the United States was a voluntary union of independent sovereign states into a contract with one another for mutual beneficial gain. Thirteen states, thirteen sovereign entities (much like the EU but with a centralized constitution), not ‘one nation indivisible’ by any stretch. The federal government had (has) no power except what the states allow it to. The 10th amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Constitutional amendments can only be passed by 2/3rds vote of state legislatures, Presidents are not elected through a popular vote of “the people as a whole” but by the votes of state electors selected by state legislatures. Senators (before the 17th amendment) were to be representatives of the states in the federal government, and each state regardless of population, wealth, or size is guaranteed equal representation. Such provisions are strong indications within the wording of the constitution that the states were not merely regional chapters of the federal government, who derived their rights from said government, but independent sovereign entities from which the federal government derived its powers. The states created the federal government and it is the states who grant it its powers, not the other way around. Sovereign entities do not derive their powers from some outside source, as the federal government does. The federal government is limited to the powers given them by the states via the 10th amendment, powers that can only be given or taken away by state legislatures via the amendment process, therefor the federal government, as it relies exclusively on the states for its power to govern, is not sovereign. One could also make the argument that because the states derive their powers from the consent of the governed that it is not the state that is fully sovereign, but the individual, as the declaration also states. This argument is also correct, but the states only derive their powers through the consent of the individuals within their respective states, not from those in the country as a whole.
This is why individuals in New York have no say (or should have no say) in the internal affairs of those in Florida, Montana, Maryland, or any other states. The constitutions and laws of each state are not subjected to the will of those in other states. It is through the elected representatives of each state that individuals grant the federal government its powers, not directly, therefor since all the powers of the federal government are granted through the states and them from the people, if the people so wish it they may at any time sever their ties with said government.
As the Declaration of Independence (which was in essence a declaration of secession from the British Empire) states, “That to secure these rights (life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such a form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” From the very day our nation declared its independence on July 4th 1776 the right of the people to cast off their government and implement a new one was seen as ‘self-evident’ alongside the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. This is seen as self-evident because it was precisely what our founding fathers did; they succeeded from the British Empire and instituted a new form of government that was “most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” It was no revolution as the French, English, and Russian communist revolutions were. There was no attempt, and no desire, to abolish the British government, only to sever its political ties and establish the sovereignly of ‘these free and independent states.’ If such an outcome were possible to obtain though peaceful means, than our founders would have taken it. This is exactly what the southern states did when they succeeded from the union, only succession wasn’t preceded by bloodshed as the formal colonial Declaration of Independence was. It was not until after the Lincoln administration refused to recognize the sovereignty of the legally succeeded states that the worst bloodshed in American history commenced.
Historical precedence up to that time also supported the legal, constitutional right to leave the union. In Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address he defended succession as a state right, saying “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” Years later after New England threatened secession; he once again came to its defense “if any state in the union will declare that it prefers separation… to continuance in union… I have no hesitation in saying ’let us separate.’”
Evan Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson’s staunch rival and philosophical opposite who was the predecessor of centralized government advocates like Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln spoke out against forcing an unwilling state to stay in the union, “It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amendable to the suit of any individual without its consent. This is the general sense and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every state in the union… the contracts between a nation and individuals are only binding on the conscience of the sovereign, and have no pretensions to a compulsive force. They confer no right of action, independent of the sovereign will. To… authorize suits against states for the debts they owe… could not be done without waging war against the contracting state…, a power which would involve such a consequence, would be altogether forced and unwarranted.”
“To coerce the states is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised… what picture does this idea present to our view? A complying state at war with a non-complying state: Congress marching the troops of one state into the bosom of another? Here is a nation at war with itself. Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself- a government that can exist only by the sword?”
Hell, Abraham Lincoln during the Mexican War had this to say, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable—a most sacred right—a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit.”
Daniel Webster had this to say, “if the northern states state’s refuse, willfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the south would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side, and still bind the other.”
President John Quincy Adams: “The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the constitution, to form again a more perfect union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center.”
President Andrew Jackson: “Our government is not to be maintained or our union preserved by invasions of the rights and powers of the several states… its true strength consists in leaving individuals and states as much as possible to themselves… not in binding the states more closely to the center.”
James Madison, the father of the constitution, also expressed support for state sovereignty when he stated the meaning of the constitution is to be sought “not in the opinions or intentions of the body which planned and proposed it, but in those of the state conventions where it received all the authority which it possesses.”
So it’s not as if the southern states invented the idea of state sovereignty to justify secession, the principle was very strongly supported at the time. Too bad Jefferson and Madison weren’t there to set Lincoln straight.
But wait, you might be asking, didn’t the states give up their right to secede when they joined the union? Doesn’t the constitution forbid it? The simple answer is no. Though the Articles of Confederation referred to the union as ‘perpetual’ that word does not exist anywhere in the constitution, nor does anything exist in it that would forbid secession. The Articles of Confederation are no longer legal documents, they do not work in conjunction with the Constitution, they were replaced by the Constitution. There is nothing in the US constitution that even hints at restricting the states right, as voluntary sovereign members, to succeed. As argued before states do not derive their rights and powers from the federal government, rather it is the other way around, therefor a state’s rights and privileges cannot be arbitrarily  restricted without the contract of the states (the constitution) being altered. The federal government may not take away or alter the states’ rights without first being granted permission from the states via the amendment process. The 10th amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The 9th amendment states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
The very omission of secession is a very strong indicator that it is indeed a right maintained by the states and by the people, as it is never mentioned as a right of the federal government to force a state to remain in the union, nor does it give other states the right to decide the matter. The constitution was a contract made between the sovereign states, as such the states needed to give up certain powers. These powers were very specific, the right to declare war for instance, regulate commerce and sign treaties with foreign nations, coin money, etc. Nowhere will you find secession as a right prohibited of the states, as found in Article 1 Section 8 or section 10. No rules or regulations are placed upon the states for secession, no mention at all is even made, which makes it by default a 9th and 10th amendment issue. The states, as sovereign entities, never gave up their right to secession; therefor to this day the states retain this right.
In fact, rather than give up this right, three states explicitly stated during their constitutional conventions that by signing the constitution they were not giving up their right to leave at some future date. Rhode Island, New York, and Virginia all, as a condition of joining the union, made it abundantly clear they were to keep this right for themselves. “The powers granted the constitution being derived from the people of the US may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their oppression.”
            -Virginia Constitutional Convention.4
It may also be noted that in all three of these states the vote to adopt the constitution was very close, and without all three the constitution would not have been ratified. The constitution, had it contained, as the Articles of Confederation had, a clause stating that no state may leave the union without the consent of the other states, probably would never have been ratified based on that alone. It is extremely unlikely these states would have agreed to a constitution that was understood by the states would prevent secession. Since the states were sovereign to begin with and at no time did they give up the right to secede, Lincolns war against the state’s legal, constitutional, and peaceful right to leave was no less wrong and misguided than King Gorge’s war against the colonies; in fact where King Gorge had a legal (if not moral) claim to the colonies, Lincoln had none. In order to charter British colonies they had to pledge an oath of loyalty to the crown, no such pledge was required of the governors or state legislatures, nor was such a pledge required of the citizens of the states. As the Declaration of Independence stated, when a government becomes destructive to the means of protecting liberty than the people have a right to abolish it. This was a self-evident right to the founders, and it should be seen as a self-evident right today. This is not to say that the nation as a whole gets to decide the criteria for such an exit, only the individuals in the states through their elected state representatives can decide what is in their own best interest, so only the individual states can set such criteria.
Which brings us to the topic of Ft. Sumter. It is utterly amazing to me how people will blindly point to the attack on that fort as proof the confederacy had no intention of a peaceful withdrawal from the union. This could not be further form the truth. Lincoln, from the very beginning, had no intention of allowing the southern states to secede. To do so would severely damage his economic agenda for the nation as the remaining stats would lose a great deal of income from taxes collected off tariffs; also the confederate constitution outlawed tariffs that lasted more than a set period of time, making trade with the south much cheaper and profitable than trade with the north. Along with the political implications for Lincoln and the Republican Party, allowing secession just wasn’t an option from Lincolns point of view if he ever wished to implement Henry Clays economic agenda. Seeing how the south was determined to be independent, for Lincoln the only option was a violent suppression of state sovereignty. After the first wave of secession the union army pulled out of all but two forts, Fort Pickens in Pensacola Florida, and Ft. Sumter in Charleston South Carolina. Charleston was the richest port city in the south, the heart of the secessionist movement. Sitting on a little island in the middle of the harbor was a fort belonging to a hostile government who refused to vacate the fort or recognize southern independence. Lincoln made it abundantly clear in his first inaugural address he had no intention of allowing the south to peacefully secede, when he said “It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
  I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.”
-Lincolns first inaugural address.
Let it also be noted the hypocrisy in which Lincoln invokes the cause of ‘taking care of the constitution’ when he routinely violated the very document he swore to protect as he suspended the right of habeas corpus, deported a US Congressman, censored telegraphs in the US, and shut down northern newspapers. The reasoning is Orwellian at its best; in order to save the constitution, Lincoln had to first destroy every protection and every freedom that it protected. Freedom is slavery. Not to mention the fighting of a bloody war to keep together a union of separate and equal partners. War is peace.
 Therefor all Ft. Sumter represented to the confederate states was a foothold from which an attack could be made on the city. The fact that Lincoln refused to vacate the fort, instead deciding to send warships to re-supply it, could have enforced this in their minds. Although I am against pre-emptive wars on principle I find it hard to find fault with the reasoning leading to the attack. An enemy base in the middle of the South’s richest port city? A rejection of peace delegates from both the south and, of all places, Napoleon III5 sent to allow a peaceful withdrawal from the union? Lincolns inaugural address? All pointed towards Lincoln and the northern states intention to enforce their will upon the south, through military force if need be. It must also be noted that Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina did not declare secession until after April 15 1861, the day Lincoln called for 70,000 volunteers to “retake federal forts.” If slavery were the sole motivating factor behind these successions, why is it these states did not succeed with the other Deep South? A more likely explanation would be that the second wave of secession was caused by President Lincoln’s intention to use force to prevent the southern states from executing a constitutional right. War was inevitable regardless of whether or not the south fired upon Ft. Sumter, not because the confederacy wanted it, but because Lincoln was bound and determined to suppress what he saw as an insurrection. Did the south have its share of the blame? Yes, attacking the fort played right into Lincoln’s hands and provided the excuse needed to rally public support for an invasion of the south.
Throughout the war northern armies routinely made war not just on southern armies which they were tasked to destroy, but also upon the civilian population, woman, children, the old and crippled, as well. General Sherman was notorious for his famed ‘march to the sea’ after burning Atlanta to the ground. The cruelty inflicted upon the southern people by Sherman’s army is well documented, from the burning of whole cities such as Atlanta, to the scorched earth campaign through Georgia and South Carolina far beyond what military necessity called for. The horrors of ‘total war’ were forced upon a population made up of those too weak to defend themselves.
“War is cruelty,”Sherman once said, “and the cruller it is the sooner it will be over.” But can it really be argued that cruelty on such an epic scale as Sherman inflicted upon the defenseless woman and children of the south was necessary given the South’s militarily desperate situation at the time? This was not the same situation the allies of WWII were in when they firebombed Tokyo or Dresden before dropping two atomic bombs. The allied armies did not leave scorched earth behind them in France, Italy, and Germany as they advanced; they left destruction and ruin yes but as a consequence of the war, not as a deliberate policy of unnecessary desolation and plunder against the civilians of these countries. Such acts would undoubtedly be condemned today as cruel, vindictive, and evil. Yet Lincoln apologists like to gloss over the atrocities of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, Charleston, and the Shenandoah Valley. This kind of total war, waged against defenseless civilians rather than against armies, violated all sense of moral law, and instead allowed soldiers of the union army to rape the south of its resources and leave those left behind homeless and starving. In America, not some far off land, but here at home. If any American war called for restraint and decency it was the Civil War where fellow Americans were the ones to suffer the consequences of total war, and yet such restraint was never shown.
Sherman stated to his wife the purpose in the war was, “extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”6
His wife responded, “that all southerners would be driven like swine into the sea. May we carry fire and sword into their states till not one habitation is left standing.”
To say Lincoln knew nothing of the atrocities of union armies is absurd. Lincoln is very famous for his micro managing of the war. To say that he was then unaware, as President, of the actions of his generals is not to say he is guiltless, but that was incompetent. Certainly he knew, you don’t scorch the earth of an entire state and not know anything about it.
I haven’t even mentioned Lincoln’s unconstitutional dictator like actions in the north during the war. The best example I can think of is also one of the least known, the case of Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio Democrat who opposed Lincoln and the Civil War. As a Congressman he opposed Lincoln’s war from the very beginning. Here is an interesting article I found about him. In a nutshell, after leading a rally against General Burnsides general order 38 in Ohio which was a clear violation of the right to free speech, he was jailed, convicted by a military tribunal, and later deported.7
I will not go into detail the powers of dictatorship Lincoln took during his four year Presidency, as my post is already overlong. These unconstitutional powers are already well documented, such as his violation of the right to freedom of speech and of the press by censoring newspapers and banning ‘dissenting’ speech (The habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested with a view of being tried. . .or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends. It must be understood that treason, expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this department,” General order 38, issued by General Burnside in Ohio), his suspension of Habeas Corpus without the consent of Congress, (Article 1 Section 9 of the constitution states, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it,”  though this is a power maintained by Congress not the President, as Article 1 relates to the powers and limitations of Congress, and Congress didn’t approve this action until 1963), jailing secessionist sympathizing legislatures in the Maryland state legislature, and other political opponents without trial except by military tribunal, and fighting an undeclared war (a violation of the constitution as only Congress, not the President, can start a war).
By fighting the Civil War to save the union he did the opposite. The union was a collection of independent sovereign states, after the war the states were little more than regional chapters of the federal government. The nation was only saved in the geographical sense. He no more “saved” the union than an abusive husband who beats his wife senseless after she tries to run out on him, and drags her, unwillingly, back into their house, has saved his marriage. Sure, if by marriage one means the couple is still together, than yes he has saved it. But if by marriage you mean a voluntary union of two individuals than the marriage he has saved is nowhere near the same marriage they agreed to upon their wedding day. In the same way Lincoln only saved the union in the sense that he prevented the loss of power to an ever more dominant federal government, but in reality the voluntary association of states created by the founding fathers was forever destroyed by that great American dictator.  
Abraham Lincoln was no great President, or man.
1.      http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/clay.htm
2.       http://www.civilwarhome.com/lincolnandproclamation.htm
3.       http://www1.assumption.edu/ahc/kansas/LincolnKansas-Nebraska.html
4.      http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ratva.asp
5.       http://www.san.beck.org/LincolnCivilWar.html
6.       http://www.astheworldsleeps.org/node/2433
7.       http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=389
What follows is a list of links which support the central arguments made in my paper.
1.       http://www.amazon.com/Real-Lincoln-Abraham-A...nnecessary/dp/076153641
2.       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/no...es-to-new-colonies.html
3.       http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=389
4.       http://www.civilwarhome.com/vallandighambio.htm
5.       http://teachingamericanhistorymd.net/000001/...00/000017/html/t17.html
6.       http://markii.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/racis...py-black-history-month/
7.        http://www.civilwarhome.com/marylandcmh.htm
8.       http://www.slate.com/id/2059132/
9.       http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/813646/posts
10.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_in_the_American_Civil_War
11.   http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo44.html
12.   http://www.slavenorth.com/exclusion.htm
13.   http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm
America's first dictator and the case for legal secession.

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April 05, 2013
Jonathan, there are many points in your essay; at this time I will take issue with one of them. My first point is that it is a dubious venture when the writings and views of any of the founding fathers are extrapolated to the 1860's. The United States was a much different country 70+ years after the writing of the constitution and the Federalist Papers, so there are many reasons to believe that people such as Jefferson and Madison would not have retained their pre-1800 positions. Another questionable point you make regarding Lincoln and what you term his unconstitutional behavior neglects historical facts concerning the actions of the founding fathers. Second President John Adams and his Federalist allies passed the Alien and Sedition Acts that allowed for the prosecution and imprisonment of Adams' political enemies. Although Thomas Jefferson spoke out against them, once he became president he also used them to attack some of his political opponents. While I am on the topic of Thomas Jefferson, his most significant act as president was the Louisiana Purchase. There is no provision in the constitution for such an action, Jefferson was in violation of a strict interpretation of the constitution when he did it and he knew it. Furthermore, Jefferson was also aware that he was buying stolen property. Napoleon had invaded and conquered Spain and so took control of the Louisiana Territory. Strictly speaking, he had no right to sell it. I cite these facts to point out that even the founding fathers were not above violating the constitution when it suited them.
April 02, 2013
You really put a lot of good info into this and did a lot of research! Nice job! I would say the part that Lincoln had freed slaves in territories of which "he had no authority" is based on the premise that the South was "Legally" a separate country at the time. I guess winning the war makes "criminals" of the losers and would mean that the Southern States were never "legally" part of another country. The whole thing would have been different had they won.
April 02, 2013
I would argue, yes, that the South was a legal independent state, and therefor the President of the United States, no matter who he may be, would have no authority except the authority of a larger and better equipped army to do so. I would also argue that at the time he had no actual physical power to free said slaves. The North had just been invaded, and up to that time had won no substantial victories. By all indications the South was winning, and could have won if not for certain events such as Lee's battle plans falling into union hands. At the end of the day, winners get to write history, but that does not mean that winners were always right to begin with. Just because you win a war doesn't mean you were right in your reasons to fight it in the first place, otherwise we'd have to justify morally the actions of any evil empire that just happens to win an unjust war.
April 02, 2013
LOL! Quit your day job! Quit it, I tell you, quit it!
More Abraham Lincoln reviews
Quick Tip by . August 15, 2010
He saved the Union, and it needed to be saved. We would be a couple of "Bannana Republics" without him.
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Jonathan J.D. Lane ()
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I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery. Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States, Lincoln won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year. His tenure in office was occupied primarily with the defeat of the secessionist Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As the Civil War was drawing to a close, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated; it would be another month before the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces and Jefferson Davis' capture.

Lincoln closely supervised the victorious war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including Ulysses S. Grant. Historians have concluded that he handled the factions of the Republican Party well, bringing leaders of ...
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Abraham Lincoln

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