Joseph Sobran's syndicated columns appear in
newspapers across the country and are published on his website, Sobran's.
The column below is currently at this
URL. Please read this column but don't stop there. If you want a
true understanding of slavery and specifically, African slavery, you must
dig deeper. Try Hugh Thomas' THE SLAVE TRADE which is listed on the
described in more detail below.
The central point is: historians are exposing the
real Lincoln, but does anyone hear?
More about Joseph Sobran.
Lincoln with Fangs [Feb.8,
Abraham Lincoln, who
was born 192 years ago this month, remains the most venerated of
Americans. His signal achievement is believed to be the Emancipation
Proclamation, which, in the middle of the Civil War, marked the beginning
of the end of slavery in America.
Most people don’t realize that Lincoln didn’t want to
issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He was forced to do it. His own
preference was for gradual emancipation, accompanied by the
government-subsidized migration of free blacks outside the United States.
Lincoln had a dual goal: to
prevent the political separation of North and South, while promoting the
racial separation of white and black. He saw America as a haven for people
of European origin. He thought slavery was wrong, but he opposed giving
free blacks equality in the white man’s land: he wanted to find a separate
haven for them.
If you think I
overstate the case, I urge you to read Forced into Glory: Abraham
Lincoln’s White Dream, by Lerone Bennett Jr. (Johnson Publishing,
1999). It’s a bitter, scorching, 652-page assault on Lincoln’s undeserved
reputation as a friend and benefactor of the black man.
Bennett, a black who grew up in segregated
Mississippi, follows Lincoln’s career in close detail, showing the gross
contrast between his splendid rhetoric of “equality” and his consistent
practical record of opposing the betterment of blacks. Lincoln supported
Illinois’s harsh Jim Crow laws, opposed civil rights for blacks, advocated
the colonization of blacks abroad, fought and frustrated abolitionists,
endorsed the Fugitive Slave Act, pandered to voters’ anti-black
prejudices, privately ridiculed blacks, freely used racial epithets,
delayed taking steps against slavery, put consideration for slaveowners
ahead of justice for slaves, and actually tried, at crucial points, to
these things are incontrovertible facts, amply documented. If you have any
respect for Lincoln, Bennett’s book is mighty unpleasant reading. What
really infuriates Bennett, though, is Lincoln’s hypocrisy. When forced at
last by Republican radicals and wartime necessity to issue the
Emancipation Proclamation, he consciously assumed the pose of the Great
Emancipator, the humanitarian liberator, the benefactor of the
downtrodden. In doing this, he upstaged the principled abolitionists who
had consistently fought and sacrificed and taken risks for the cause he
himself embraced so tardily and unwillingly. Lincoln himself, as Bennett
sees it, was the originator of the Lincoln Myth.
Bennett’s fury is entirely understandable and largely
justified. But it leads him to excess. The tone of his book is
relentlessly shrill; he repeats himself far too often (the book would have
been better, and perhaps even more powerful, at half its length); and he
rarely gives Lincoln credit for anything. In the end Bennett’s Lincoln
seems as two-dimensional as the mythic Lincoln.
Bennett is at his best when he simply sticks to the
facts, which tell their own story without the aid of diatribe. He shrewdly
analyzes the way Lincoln operated as a politician, cunning and calculating
while seeming guileless and principled, preserving slavery while
professing to oppose it. He gives the epithet “Honest Abe” the ironic
resonance of “honest Iago.”
more rounded and nuanced portrait of Lincoln may be found in Richard
Current’s 1958 book The Lincoln Nobody Knows, which also
looks closely, though without Bennett’s rancor, at Lincoln the political
operator. But Bennett performs the service of debunking the fraudulent
icon of the Great Emancipator, the champion of liberty and healer of race
relations, showing it to be nearly the opposite of the truth.
Still — and it feels odd to
have to say it — Lincoln wasn’t all bad. The beautiful and pathetic traits
that make him adored are as real as his faults, and even after reading
Bennett’s book twice I find much to love in him. Oddly enough, Bennett
approves of some of Lincoln’s worst deeds, such as his ruthless wartime
measures and his violations of the Constitution and civil liberties. In
fact he is annoyed by some of Lincoln’s acts of mercy, especially to white
Southerners. He stops accusing Lincoln of being inhumane just long enough
to accuse him of being too humane.
But these are minor reservations. The dust jacket calls
Forced into Glory “a book that will change the way you look
at yourself, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, race, and American history.”
Yes, it will.
End Sobran Column-----
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