|Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.|
by Vin Suprynowicz
FEB. 27, 2000
A survey of 58 historians "from across the political spectrum" released by C-Span Feb. 21 ranked the "leadership qualities" of American presidents, placing Lincoln first, followed by Franklin Roosevelt.
Needless to say, presidents who avoided warfare, obeyed their oath of office, and concentrated on preserving American liberties were awarded little distinction by this poll: Among them, Jefferson ranked highest at seventh.
In "America's Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861" (in which the author argues that the just cause in 1861, just to keep the record straight, was that of "Southern Independence,") Murray Rothbard, intellectual heir to Ludwig von Mises and late of the UNLV Department of Economics, describes the onset of Republicanism under Lincoln:
"Lincoln signed no less than 10 tariff-raising bills during his administration. Heavy 'sin' taxes were levied on alcohol and tobacco, the income tax was levied for the first time in American history, huge land grants and monetary subsidies were handed out to transcontinental railroads (accompanied by a vast amount of attendant corruption), and the government went off the gold standard and virtually nationalized the banking system to establish a machine for printing new money and to provide cheap credit for the business elite. ... A huge army was conscripted, dissenters and advocates of a negotiated peace with the South were jailed, and the precious Anglo-Saxon right of habeas corpus was abolished for the duration."
Slavery? "In every other part of the New World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders," Rothbard asserted in the 1994 talk on which this essay is based. (Actually, Haiti was the other violent exception.) "But in these other countries ... there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody work, armed with a gun in one hand and a hymn book in the other. ... The Yankee fanatics were the Bolsheviks of their era."
Lincoln's "character"? Rothbard notes that Lincoln was the perfect model of the modern " 'reform liberal' ... whose heart bleeds for and yearns to 'uplift' remote mankind, while he lies to and treats abominably actual people whom he knew.
Lincoln declared that the Union was "a family, bound indissolubly together by the most intimate organic bonds," Rothbard points out, while meantime acting "viciously toward his own humble frontier family. He abandoned his fiancée in order to marry the wealthier Mary Todd ... he repudiated his brother, and he refused to attend his dying father or his father's funeral, monstrously declaring that such an experience 'would be more painful than pleasant.' "
But Rothbard is gentle on Our Massa Lincoln compared to Libertarian novelist L. Neil Smith, who has made a second career researching and writing fictionalized alternative histories of the United States, such as his new "The American Zone."
Smith points out in his classic essay "The American Lenin" that the War of 1861-1865 was really about imposing the highest protective tariffs in the nation's history a payback to the northern industrialists who had financed the daring if somewhat unusual plan to elect the Illinois Central Railroad's attorney as president of the United States. Unfortunately, southern planters quickly realized they'd be the main victims of this protectionist racket, being effectively banned from importing British manufactured goods, and required instead to pay more for shoddy merchandise from Pennsylvania.
It was "in support of this 'noble principle' ... that Lincoln permitted an internal war that butchered more Americans than all of this country's foreign wars before or afterward rolled into one," Smith writes.
Lincoln "oversaw the systematic shelling and burning of entire cities for strategic and tactical purposes. ... The fact is, Lincoln didn't abolish slavery at all, he nationalized it, imposing income taxation and military conscription upon what had been a free country before he took over income taxation and military conscription to which newly 'freed' blacks soon found themselves subjected right alongside newly-enslaved whites. If the civil war was truly fought against slavery ... then clearly, slavery won.
"Lincoln brought secret police to America, along with the traditional midnight 'knock on the door,' illegally suspending the Bill of Rights. ... To finance his crimes against humanity, Lincoln allowed the printing of worthless paper money in unprecedented volumes, ultimately plunging America into a long, grim depression in the south, it lasted half a century," as the South was taxed to repay the Union's war debts.
"In the end, Lincoln didn't unite this country that can't be done by force," Smith concludes. Instead, "he divided it along lines of an unspeakably ugly hatred and resentment that continue to exist almost a century and a half after they were drawn. ...
"The troubling truth is that, more than anybody else's, Abraham Lincoln's career resembles and foreshadows that of V.I. Lenin, who, with somewhat better technology at his disposal, slaughtered millions of innocents rather than mere hundreds of thousands to enforce an impossibly stupid idea which, in the end, like forced association, was proven by history to be a resounding failure."
The most thoroughly researched and documented fresh look at Mr. Lincoln's War is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men" ($14.95 from Laissez Faire Books at 800-326-0996.)
In the book, Hummel notes: "The Lincoln Administration imprisoned at least 14,000 civilians throughout the course of the war. ... The federal government simultaneously monitored and censored both the mails and telegraphs. ... It also suppressed newspapers. Over three hundred, including the Chicago Times, the New York World, and the Philadelphia Evening Journal, had to cease publication for varying periods."
Former Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, running for governor, "delivered a speech in May 1863 that accused the President of unnecessarily prolonging the conflict. The Union commander in Ohio" never a war zone "rousted Vallandigham from his home at night and jailed him. A military court handed down a sentence of confinement for the war's duration, but public indignation forced Lincoln to commute the sentence to exile behind Confederate lines."
Yet C-SPAN's 58 historians assure us Lincoln ranks first in our history when it comes to "pursuing equal justice for all"!
Slavery? Hummel concludes: "Slavery was doomed politically even if Lincoln had permitted the small Gulf Coast Confederacy" (the states that had seceded by the time of his inauguration) "to depart in peace. The Republican-controlled Congress would have been able to work toward emancipation within the border states, where slavery was already declining. In due course the Radicals could have repealed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. With chattels fleeing across the border and raising slavery's enforcement costs, the peculiar institution's final destruction within an independent cotton South was inevitable."
So the war wasn't even necessary to end slavery while Lincoln never tired of offering to let the southerners keep their slaves, if only they'd stay in the union.
Lincoln revered "all across the political spectrum"? Someone must be out to prove that historians are, indeed, "the camp followers of a victorious army." What Lincoln and his party achieved was to convert this land from a Jeffersonian republic of limited government to a monstrous and ever-growing welfare/police state, taxing and regulating everything in sight, dreaming up monopoly government licensing schemes for everything from the practice of law and medicine to peaceful travel of the highways, and most insidiously creating a vast tax-supported bureaucratic cadre to propagandize the nation's youth education being an arena in which no role for government had previously been contemplated teaching them precisely that their heroes should be none other than those most successful betrayers of the American Revolution, Lincoln the First and Roosevelt the Second!
The messianic "reform" movement which began with the Whig-Republican coalition of the 1860s has never really gone into eclipse. This is the gang who still seek to use the usurped powers of the central state to ban outright such previously well-accepted forms of commerce as prostitution, gambling, and the traffic in alcohol, medicines, and pain-relieving drugs, with the result that America today has the highest rate of incarceration slaves to the state, a whopping plurality of those rotting behind bars being black men who have never committed a violent crime ever seen in the history of mankind.
Yet we are assured, in the ironic words of Broadway librettists Ragni and Rado: "We's free now, thank to yo Massa Lincoln, emancipator of the slaves!"
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the
Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Philosophy of Government
18 mar 2000