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Joseph Sobran - Listening to Lincoln

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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 Suggested Reading  page and described in more detail below. 

The central point is:  everyone wants to believe the myth of Lincoln, no matter what Lincoln said.

More about Joseph Sobran.

Joseph Sobran  Listening to Lincoln [May 22, 2001]

Abraham Lincoln is by now such an icon, so embalmed in reverent clichés, that trying to correct the standard view of him is like trying to destroy the Lincoln Memorial by pelting it with snowballs. Even his own words, amply backed by his deeds, have no impact on the myths.

Lincoln is like a beloved but senile grandfather whose family still adores him but no longer bothers listening to him. We know some of his famous words as we know the Sermon on the Mount; but we don’t give them the critical attention they deserve. Whatever he says, we just nod and smile at the dear old guy, attaching no significance to his babble.

Case in point: In 1864 Lincoln was up for reelection. Some of his advisors urged him to suspend the elections because the Civil War was still raging. Historians praise him for refusing to do this, though the Constitution would seem to have given him no choice. Apparently it was mighty big of Honest Abe to abide by the Constitution once in a while.

He explained he’d made his decision on grounds that “if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered us.” The historians quote these words with warm approval. But they are nonsense.

The “rebellion” was a war for Southern independence. The South had no design to “conquer” the North, let alone to abolish elections. If anything, it hoped that the 1864 election would replace Lincoln with a new president who would make peace.

Though Lincoln’s words are nonsense, they are revealing. Like most war leaders, he grossly distorted and exaggerated the motives of his enemy. He constantly insisted that the South wanted to “destroy” the Union, when it merely wanted to withdraw from it. He called honorable men like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee “traitors,” though they never betrayed anyone in their lives. He accused the South of “aggression,” when it was the South that was being invaded, and truly destroyed, by the Union armies. Having assured the country that he had neither the power nor the inclination to disturb slavery, Lincoln made the destruction of slavery his lofty war aim in the middle of the war.

After repeatedly declaring his solemn intention to “preserve the Constitution,” he waged war by flagrantly unconstitutional means. After winning the war he had said would decide whether self-government would “perish from the earth,” he installed puppet governments in the South, also unconstitutionally. The Constitution guarantees to each state “a republican form of government”; for Lincoln this requirement seems to have been met by imposing an unelected government run by Republicans.

Having proclaimed “a new birth of freedom,” Lincoln defined the problem of postwar Reconstruction as “how to keep the rebellious populations from overwhelming and outvoting the loyal minority.” Again, nobody seems to be listening, not even the historians. He was going to establish “free” Southern state governments in which his preferred “minority” of voters couldn’t be “outvoted”!

Yes, it was a great victory for freedom, democracy, majority rule, self-government, the Constitution, and all that.

Lincoln saw disloyalty and traitors everywhere — even in the North. He authorized thousands of arbitrary arrests and shut down hundreds of newspapers. Critics of the government were rounded up, jailed, and tried (if at all) by improper military courts, even when the civil courts were operating normally. Thus was the Constitution — minus a few provisions of the Bill of Rights, of course — “preserved.” Lincoln had to violate it in order to save it.

Not incidentally, the crushing of dissent also helped Lincoln win reelection. If canceling the election would have been a victory for the enemies of freedom, what was the suspension of the Constitution itself?

Opposing slavery, yet dreading “the troublesome presence of the free Negroes,” Lincoln favored colonizing them abroad; in 1862 he asked Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to promote Negro emigration. But he started a Negro colony in Central America on his own, without waiting for the Constitution he was “preserving” to catch up with him.

“I cannot make it better known than it already is,” he told Congress, “that I strongly favor colonization.” And he put public money where his mouth was. But never mind: admiring historians insist he didn’t mean what he said.

You should have spoken louder, Abe. Nobody’s listening. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- End Sobran Column-----

The links below will lead the reader to a reasonably comprehensive understanding of the Confederate Cause.

  1. Government as the Founders intended
  2. What does the Confederate flag represent?
  3. Conclusions

....under construction

 

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