Lincolns 200th birthday
Much is being made of February marking 200 years since Abraham Lincoln was born. All the hoopla would indicate his iconic status and elevation to that of a demigod.
On the other hand, I tend to take a little different stance on Lincoln what with being a proud Southerner and all.
Newt Gingrich, whom I usually admire, had a real puff piece in Newsmax magazine this issue musing on what a conversation with Lincoln would be like. It’s certainly different than what my conversation with him would be. For example, my first question would be why he thinks he and his three favorite generals – Grant, Sherman and Sheridan – shouldn’t be arrested, tried, convicted and executed for war crimes for their conduct of the War of Northern Aggression on southern civilians and their property?
Opponents to the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists, argued vehemently its ratification could lead to "consolidated" government and the destruction of the states’ independence. This is exactly what happened; even though they never argued the Constitution itself destroyed state sovereignty, its loss was simply the natural consequence of it.
Remember, our Founding Fathers set up the Constitution to form a voluntary union where the central government was subservient to the sovereign states.
The states delegated certain powers to the central government, they did not forego their own autonomy. This is made very clear by the Tenth Amendment which states that powers not delegated to United States and not prohibited to the states by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or the people.
So, it was pretty clearly established the Founders supported the notion the states were sovereign. In Federalist 81, Alexander Hamilton wrote that waging war against the states "would be altogether forced and unwarranted." He argued also during the Constitutional Convention, "can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself?"
Lincoln, in his first inaugural, more or less threatened using force when he said: "In [preserving the Union] there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority."
Let’s take a look at some of the actions of Abraham Lincoln in order to make an informed decision on his legacy.
First of all, he ordered the Union Army to invade other states. Could he do that under the authority granted him by the Constitution? Article IV, Section 4 seems to signify otherwise: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."
It would appear he illegally ordered an invasion for conquest. He did this in spite of his words at his first inaugural: "[T]he lawless invasion by armed force of any state or territory, no matter what the pretext, is among the gravest of crimes." There is one little catch there – the fatal word lawless. Seems Honest Abe could be as slick as Slick Willie.
I mentioned an arrest, trial, conviction and execution for war crimes. If his actions had been subject to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, he and his favorite generals would have been tried for war crimes including waging "total war" against not just soldiers of the Confederacy but also the entire civilian population of the South. Sherman’s march to the sea was responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, not to mention the damage to property.
Pillage by Northern troops was not only condoned, it was encouraged. One letter was intercepted from an officer on General Sherman’s staff and it outlined a system of spoils that made General Sherman and his officers and men very wealthy.
It went like this: "One fifth of all the proceeds go to General Sherman, another fifth to the other general officers, another fifth to the line officers and two-fifths to the enlisted men."
General Sherman said himself in an official report to his superiors: "We consumed the corn and fodder in the region of the country thirty miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah; also the sweet potatoes, hogs, sheep and poultry, and carried off more than ten thousand horses and mules. I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia at one hundred million dollars, at least twenty million of which enured to our benefit, and the remainder was simply waste and destruction." He had, indeed, made Georgia "howl" as he had promised.
A close comparison of Lincoln’s actions and those of King George that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence bear a striking resemblance. For example, "He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power." Lincoln imposed taxes without consent; he deprived citizens "in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury"; state legislatures were suspended to prevent any votes for more secessions, and he "plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people … to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized Nation."
Indeed, the Lincoln with which most people are familiar is the one who preserved the Union and freed the slaves. Oh, and founded the Republican Party. A close review of history actually reveals something much darker and more sinister.
I guess I won’t be celebrating Abe’s 200th birthday after all.