As this column is being written, Monday Feb. 19 is President’s Day. Actually, there is no “President’s Day” holiday. According to the official list of federal holidays it is recognized as “George Washington’s Birthday.”
George Washington was the first president elected under the newly ratified constitution. There had been previous presidents under the Articles of Confederation, but for the most part, they are lost to history.
It is a fact George Washington did more and gave more to establish our nation than just about anyone else ever has. President James Buchanan once said, “When the birthday of Washington shall be forgotten, liberty will have perished from the earth.”
I believe the character of America reflects the character of George Washington. His entire life was lived in his own country. There was no foreign education, no habits, tastes or other traits acquired abroad. He was truly and totally American. If one has to point to one single, simple thing it would be that he alone, among modern revolutionaries, returned his power to the people. Washington had the character, the will and the charisma to win a war and found a nation, yet with his moral and spiritual grounding he held himself to what he perceived to be his proper role.
“George Washington was one of the few men in all of human history who was not carried away with power” observed Robert Frost. After all, Washington kept the cause of freedom alive during the eight long years of the Revolutionary War and during that time he only returned once to his beloved Mount Vernon. George Washington, in an unprecedented act after the War was won, presented his sword to the Continental Congress. He was offered the kingship of America three times and declined each. We literally owe our republic to him.
Abraham Lincoln is an entirely different matter.
American history has virtually deified Lincoln who has been cast as a God-sent savior; a brilliant, articulate man and the Messiah of the “Union.”
We are reared on stories of his life in “the little log cabin,” chopping wood, and studying law by lantern light.
I do not hold with the popular view and what follows is my perception of Lincoln after some self-study with a few less biased sources.
Lincoln was a contemptible, cunning, ruthless dictator. He was a conniving and manipulative man and he was nowhere near what Northern historians would lead us to believe. He has been transformed into the icon of the American Union, yet he ruled the country by presidential decree, exercised dictatorial powers over free people in both the North and South, and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. Lincoln blockaded Southern shipping ports under the justification he “would enforce all laws and collect all revenues due the North.” Blockades are, after all, an act of war.
He loosed his Northern army upon the South at Fort Sumner, and thus set in motion one of the most brutal attacks ever upon freedom by maneuvering the South into firing the first shot at the Northern aggressors.
At the center of Lincoln’s political beliefs was a government of high import taxes, and his Republican Party passed the Morrill tariff into law soon after taking office. Lincoln even promised in his first inaugural address to launch an invasion of any state not collecting its share of the tariffs. He was committing himself to collecting customs in the South, even if it meant they would secede, thus putting the free market economics of the South under assault.
During his administration Lincoln signed 10 more tariff-raising bills, manipulated the American public into the first-ever income tax (forbidden by the Constitution), handed out huge land grants and monetary subsidies to transcontinental railroads (corporate welfare), and took the nation off the gold standard thus giving the government complete control over the monetary system.
Under the National Currency Acts, Lincoln practically nationalized the banking system and created a mechanism for printing new money at will, thereby providing cheap credit for the Northern business elite.
Lincoln’s Army pursued genocidal tactics against the South and initiated an unprecedented excess of governmental coercion against free citizens both North and South. Lincoln established conscription when volunteers were insufficient to man the Army he assembled by presidential decree.
Anyone opposed to Lincoln’s actions or who advocated a peaceful compromise or settlement with the South were jailed, and when Lincoln did away with Habeas Corpus for the duration of the war, were forced to stay there. Even Chief Justice Robert Brooke Taney was almost arrested for issuing a contrary ruling in opposition of Lincoln’s assault upon the Constitution. More than 30,000 civilians were imprisoned without due process of law simply because they criticized Lincoln and hundreds of newspapers were suppressed for not adequately supporting the war effort. Civilians were tried in military courts by Generals and summarily executed.
After his Army crushed the secession movement, Lincoln created provisional courts sympathetic to Northern aggression, contrived the office of Military Governor, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which became the ultimate propaganda tool for historians in later years, even though it did not free any slaves in Northern-controlled territories.
Children are taught today Lincoln fought his war to free the slaves. The truth is Lincoln held the black man in little regard and often spoke in terms that would make him a modern-day racist of demonic proportions.
In 1862 Lincoln published a letter in which he stated:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, an it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”
Happy Birthday, George.