The Real Abraham Lincoln
By Dennis Constant
February 12th is celebrated as Lincoln’s birthday. He is variously called the Great Emancipator, and the President who preserved the Union.
However, until Lincoln crushed the states that attempted to secede in the 1860s, state governments could withdraw from the federal government if their goals became incompatible. There was nothing in the Constitution that said they couldn’t. The independent states were sovereign entities within a federal structure.
Most newspapers in the North also stated that states could break away from the Union. As far as they were concerned, if the Southern states wanted to leave the union, they should be allowed to do so. The Albany Atlas and Argus stated, “We sympathize with and justify the South because their rights have been invaded to the extreme. If they wish to secede, we wish them God-Speed.” (Nov. 1, 1860) The Detroit Free Press said that “An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in extent.” (Feb. 19, 1861) The Chicago Daily Times declared, “Like it or not, the cotton states will secede, and Southerners will regain their sense of independence and honor.” (Nov. 21, 1860) The Concord Democratic Standard appealed for “concession of the just rights of our Southern brethren.” (Nov. 24, 1860) and The New York Times put it bluntly: “There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go.” (Mar. 21, 1861) (Interestingly, The Chicago Tribune was one of Abraham Lincoln’s biggest champions during his bid for the presidency.)
Lincoln knew Congress would not grant a declaration of war, so he didn’t ask for one but acted unilaterally. He provoked the Confederacy into firing on federal tax collectors at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, on Apr 12, 1861, and then used the incident (in which no one was killed or even injured) as an excuse to launch a full scale invasion of the South.
The real cause of the Civil War: Lincoln wanted to prevent secession at whatever cost because his primary goal was retaining the tax revenue from the Southern States. If the Southern states had seceded, their low taxes would have siphoned European trade from the North. Lincoln believed in increasing a nation’s wealth by government regulation and tax subsidies for the country’s commercial interests. He was what economists call a mercantilist.
The issue of slavery had nothing to do with the start of the Civil War. Lincoln, like most White men of his day, was a white supremacist. Ebony Magazine editor Lerone Bennett in his book, Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, documents numerous instances where Lincoln called for returning all freed slaves to Africa (at taxpayer expense) and where Lincoln referred to Africans as among “the inferior races.” Lincoln’s own words tell us: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.”
Lincoln’s famous “Emancipation Proclamation” didn’t emancipate anyone. It was strictly political propaganda. After a string of battlefield losses, Lincoln waited until the North’s first significant victory before issuing his Emancipation Proclamation. On September 22, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave.
Lincoln is portrayed as the “humble rail-splitter” and “Honest Abe.” In fact, after leaving the state legislature, Lincoln became a wealthy attorney representing the Illinois Central Railroad and several other railroads. As their highly paid counsel and lobbyist, Lincoln traveled about the country in a private rail car and rubbed elbows with some of the wealthiest and most powerful railroad barons in the country.
Because of Lincoln’s fanatical desire to prevent states from leaving the Union, he was directly responsible, according to the most recent estimates, for the death of as many as 850,000 of our finest men in a totally unnecessary war. Rather than “preserving the Union,” Lincoln created, by force, a powerful federal mercantilist government that replaced the federation of states envisioned by our founding fathers.
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