Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Abraham Lincoln

These photos are alleged to be Abraham Lincoln before and after the Civil War.  Who was Mr. Lincoln and, was he a noble hero, or an opportunistic politician?  As always, I ask you to decide for yourself.  We cannot judge using our paradigm.  We have been exposed to so much more information, and we have the luxury of hindsight.  I think he, like all men, was a combination of both. Perhaps the South would have been spared some cruel and unjust treatment had he lived.  We will never know.  However, we do have a reasonable account of his politics.  David continues his account based on his own research into the matter.  What were the reasons for war and were they noble?

"In the very early 1800's the Whig Party, of which Lincoln was a very active member until it imploded, was fighting to force U. S. capitalism to abandon free trade for mercantilism.  Mercantilism is defined by one economist as follows:

'A system of statism which employs economic fallacy to build up a structure of imperial state power, as well as special subsidy and monopolistic privilege to individuals or groups favored by the state.'

This system relied on protectionism, which is legal protection from international competition through high tariffs and quotas.  Nationalized banking and tax funded subsidies to politically connected businesses and industry are also key elements.

So, what does any of this have to do with the war?  For one thing, Lincoln had always, from the beginning of his political career, been a zealot for mercantilism.  He gave speeches in which he said no product which could be made in the U. S. should be imported.  The general concept of mercantilism is in direct contrast to the economic views of almost all of the Founders, including Jefferson and Madison.

Lincoln's main objective was always protectionism for Northern manufacturers; buying votes with cheap federal land sales; and the purchase of even more votes and campaign contributions through a massive spoils system created by government subsidies to the railroad system.

Mercantilism, and all of its aspects, was vehemently opposed by the South, and the South had good reason.  Almost 80% of the burden to the economy caused by the tariffs fell on the Southern States. The South imported and exported far more than the North from 1840 to 1860. The tariffs protected the northern industrialists and punished the Southern agrarian and shipping society.

In his first inaugural address, Lincoln stated that he would invade and militarily enforce the tariffs on any state which did not collect them on imports.  He meant it and the South knew it.

Keep in mind that at this time in our history, the government of this country was organized and run as the Founders intended.  All powers not specifically granted to the federal government, and they were few, were reserved exclusively to the states.  The states considered themselves independent, sovereign entities which were voluntarily bound together by the Constitution which granted certain, limited powers to a federal, not a national government.

Lincoln believed none of this as I will illustrate later.  Her believed in a powerful national government to which the states were subservient in all things.  That's where we are today and it was Lincoln who began the transformation...but he had to do it by force of arms.

At that time in our history, succession was recognized by most citizens as a right of any state. Madison, the author of much of the Constitution confirmed this right.  Three states, New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, specifically reserved this right in writing when they joined the original Union.  Lincoln himself apparently believed in secession when it suited him as he broke part of Virginia off and created West Virginia without observing any of the constitutional requirements for doing so.  On the other hand, he proclaimed all secessionists as traitors when it suited him to do so.

Lincoln forgot Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence stating that '...governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; [and] that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.'

Secession was not really an issue in the North until Lincoln made it so.  This was not a civil war.  No seceding state, nor the Confederate government, wished to overthrow the U. S. government.  They merely wanted to go their own way and be left alone.

The idea that these states could secede was recognized by most legal scholars, jurists, and the media in the North even as secession occurred.  However, Lincoln declared it illegal and enforced his opinion with the military."


  1. The Lincoln you present here Pappy is the one I was taught as a child, before the history revisionists took over our education system. Good stuff.

  2. We should never sanitize or do away with our history just because it doesn't fit the current social paradigm.

  3. I am struck by the similarity with our current administration.

  4. Indeed, the same type, seemingly drunk on power and determined to have his way. He is a product of our times, full of self righteous ego and elected by a disconnected electorate without knowledge of their own history or the rule law that makes for a sane and civil society.


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