Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Lincoln Myth

Written by Samuel Ashwood

Recently conducted polls have shown that Americans decisively consider Abraham Lincoln our greatest president. Last week, the birthday of that sixteenth president, who guided the Union to victory in the Civil War, was celebrated. This week, he and other occupants of the Oval Office will be celebrated on President’s Day.Because Lincoln has reached a near-deity status in America, symbolized by the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial in Washington, it behooves us to take him under careful consideration. When we take a closer look at Lincoln, his character is not quite so shining as our schools and newspapers would lead us to believe.
For instance, Lincoln is viewed as an early day advocate of racial equality, and the greatest friend the black man ever had. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Lincoln was long a loud voice in the campaign to deport blacks back to Africa. Furthermore, in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Lincoln offered this bit of wisdom:
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, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.
A close look at Lincoln shows him to be an advocate of the old Whig policies, which he transferred into the Republican Party. Yes, they wanted no more slave states added to the union. But Whig policy was clear that they wanted those states for “free white labor.” In fact, Lincoln’s own home state of Illinois would not permit blacks to reside there.
The Emancipation Proclamation is often cited as Lincoln’s greatest contribution to the cause of freedom and racial equality. Unfortunately for the myth, even a superficial reading of the Proclamation shows that Lincoln only “abolished” slavery in areas of the country where he had no authority; in other words, those portions of territory still under control of the Confederate government in Richmond. Even those portions of the Southern states occupied by Union troops were exempted from emancipation. Slavery could continue there, as well as in slave states that had remained in the union, such as Maryland and Delaware.
Lastly on this matter, one should not ignore the Corwin Amendment, proposed about the time the Southern states began to secede. This amendment would have forever abolished the right of the Federal government to interfere with the institution of slavery. In his inaugural address, Lincoln offered support for the said amendment. The Southern states proved disinterested in returning even on those terms, not under a Lincoln presidency. Lincoln went on to announce in his inaugural that he would not invade the South to abolish slavery, but he would use military force to collect the tariffs.
Abraham Lincoln was, contrary to his portrayal as a freedom fighter, probably the greatest tyrant this nation has ever seen. Lincoln waged war against the opposition press in the North, shutting down newspapers by the dozens that disagreed with his policy. In May of 1864, he ordered General John Dix, “You will take possession by military force, of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce… and prohibit any further publication thereof… you are therefore commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison… the editors, proprietors and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers.” Not only newspapers were attacked. Ohio congressman Clement Vallandigham was deported to the South for speaking out publicly against Lincoln’s policies, including his institution of the first income tax in American history.
But the South in particular would feel the wrath of America’s great humanitarian. Lincoln spoke of “charity towards all, malice towards none,” but his war policies belied his words. Under attack from all quarters, some 50,000 Southern civilians perished, according to widely respected Civil War historian James McPherson. Lincoln approved of the indiscriminate bombardment of cities in the South, as towns like Fredericksburg, Atlanta, and Petersburg would learn to their grief. In border states such as Missouri, terrorization was the order of the day. Men even suspected of Southern sympathy were often imprisoned without charge, and sometimes murdered. Often families of innocent women and children were imprisoned for the crime of being related to Confederate soldiers.
And this is not to even speak of Philip Sheridan’s destruction of the Shenandoah Valley, so complete the general boasted a crow flying over the valley would have to carry his own rations. Six years later, serving his government as an observer with the Prussian Army fighting in France, Sheridan told German chancellor Otto von Bismarck that civilians of a defeated country “must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with.” Clearly Sheridan spoke from experience. Bismarck was duly disgusted.
Sheridan’s practices were far from isolated. Sherman’s famous “March to the Sea” was summed up in the statement, “They took everything that was not red-hot or nailed down.” Rings were torn from the fingers of women, houses and barns were burned, food supplies were stolen or torched, and occasionally helpless women suffered rape from Sherman’s “bummers;” usually black women. Abraham Lincoln is said to have suggested to Sherman that he practice a more humane form of warfare. But never did he lift a finger to enforce such a policy. Furthermore, when one considers that Lincoln is widely known to have been a micro-manager of the war effort, he cannot help but believe Lincoln approved and encouraged the barbaric policies that would have done honor to Genghis Khan.
Modern America has sold its conscience to the Lincoln idol. He is not our greatest president, unless one chooses to rank him as the greatest tyrant. It is time for America to take a realistic view of history, and to pull down the blinds which obscure the reality of our sixteenth president’s nefarious character. History will never suffer from honest scrutiny. But tyrants and dictators might.
Sources:1. War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, by Walter Brian Cisco.2. Lincoln Unmasked, by Thomas DiLorenzo3. The Real Lincoln, by Thomas DiLorenzo

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