The Right Opinion

Abraham Lincoln

By Walter E. Williams · Feb. 20, 2013

Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln” has been a box-office hit and nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrayed our 16th president. I haven't seen the movie; therefore, this column is not about the movie but about a man deified by many. My colleague Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor at Loyola University Maryland, exposed some of the Lincoln myth in his 2006 book, “Lincoln Unmasked.” Now comes Joseph Fallon, cultural intelligence analyst and former U.S. Army Intelligence Center instructor, with his new e-book, “Lincoln Uncensored.” Fallon's book examines 10 volumes of collected writings and speeches of Lincoln's, which include passages on slavery, secession, equality of blacks and emancipation. We don't have to rely upon anyone's interpretation. Just read his words to see what you make of them.

In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, “I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists.” In a Springfield, Ill., speech, he explained, “My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but can not be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects.” Debating with Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said, “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of … making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

You say, “His Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves! That proves he was against slavery.” Lincoln's words: “I view the matter (Emancipation Proclamation) as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.” He also wrote: “I will also concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition.” At the time Lincoln wrote the proclamation, war was going badly for the Union. London and Paris were considering recognizing the Confederacy and considering assisting it in its war effort.

The Emancipation Proclamation was not a universal declaration. It detailed where slaves were freed, only in those states “in rebellion against the United States.” Slaves remained slaves in states not in rebellion – such as Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. The hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation came in for heavy criticism. Lincoln's own secretary of state, William Seward, said, “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.”

Lincoln did articulate a view of secession that would have been welcomed in 1776: “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. … 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 of so much of the territory as they inhabit.” But that was Lincoln's 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the war with Mexico and the secession of Texas.

Why didn't Lincoln feel the same about Southern secession? Following the money might help with an answer. Throughout most of our history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859. What “responsible” politician would let that much revenue go?



Howard Last in Wyoming said:

Lincoln should have been tried as a war criminal for Sherman's March to the Sea. And I am still waiting for someone to tell me which section of the Constitution says a state can not secede. When I hear the term Civil War it is like fingernails on a blackboard. The states that seceded did not want to take over the government, they only wanted to be left alone. Call it what it was, the Northern War of Aggression. I guess I am not PC.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:27 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Howard, I am like you. I no longer bother to be PC. Lost some friends because of it but feel like I am better off without them. You can guess what party they belong to.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:47 AM

MIResident in Michigan replied:

I take it as a badge of honor when someone 'de-friends' mo on FB!

btw-fond memories of Hinesville.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. replied:

Why do you think that I so idolize Abraham Lincoln?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Today, Red States, with fiscal solvency, may want to secede away from the Blue ones.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 5:54 AM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

Thank you Dr Williams for clearly highlighting the hypocrisy of Lincoln. It was Lincoln's unconstitutional abuse of executive power that established the power of the Federal government and the limitations on the ability of individual States to determine their own destiny. We see the result of that folly today.

The South did not need the Union, but the Union needed the South. In order to keep it, they put us all in chains- the chains of central government control.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Tony in Texas said:

The federal government will not stop attemping to forward their agenda. It is a disease. The war of northern aggression pales in comparson to the biggest holocaust in all humanity. Native Americans.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM

MAJ USA Ret in Saint Louis said:

Thank you Dr. Williams.
Howard: You know the answer: the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit secession and the War between the States was unconstitutional. However, political forces demanded the end of slavery, especially in the south where slaves added to the population and justified greater representation in the U.S. House of Representatives (3/5ths clause).
The lesson we must never forget is our national leadership can become corrupt to lead us into unconstitutional actions when given enough political support, especially if fueled with righteous indignation. This continues to occur, though the costs far less than the Civil War. It occurs with such things as the "War" on poverty, global warming, the environmental movement, the attack on traditional marriage, and the "right" to an abortion, among a few.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Keith in Saint Robert, MO said:

Thank you for bringing to light a few of the many liberties that Lincoln took with the constitution--much more credible coming from someone with academic credentials than common folk. Especially the disparity of tariffs levied on Southern Ports is rarely mentioned in our PC world and certainly not in the teaching of what passes for "history" in our disfunctional education systems. Your council to "follow the money" is spot on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM

TruthInAction in TX said:

These comments by Lincoln are well-known. Lincoln was against slavery for humane reasons. The Confederacy started the war. Lincoln did not.

The Founders needed the Southern States to sign the new document to replace the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, but they made it clear that slavery was not welcome in the USA, so they "kicked the can down the road" and said after 1808 that importation of slaves (all races as many people came as indentured servants) was no longer desired and in typical political fashion they taxed it heavily to induce behavior along those lines (similar to paying a horrendous tax on cigarettes, or your income, which was originally prohibited by the Constitution).

Moreover, the Southern states needed the Northern states in the Union, too. All of the states were suffering under Great Britain's tyranny, and that threat did not disappear just because the US won a war. There were still many "Americans" who were loyal to the King, so preservation of the American Revolution as the Declaration of Independence stated was still in doubt, so Southern states willingly went along with replacing the confederation with a federal government. If the Southern States wanted provisions for secession in the Constitution, they could and should have brought it before signing. Personally, I've never seen documentation of those discussions being made public.

This secession stuff is all a myth for covering up the racism and inhumanity that existed in slavery. One only need review the vile statements made by several politicians from the South. Slavery was a continuation of how Great Britain colonized North America and our Founders knew it needed to end, not for economic reasons, but for moral reasons.

In the end, that was Lincoln statement, and he was assassinated because of his moral beliefs. He did the right thing. Dr. Williams is much admired and only makes a point regarding how Lincoln, too, was only human, and the movie (gasp) doesn't fully explore that side of Lincoln. As the old saying goes, the "winners" write history, and we know how distorted that can get.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 6:32 AM