Re-fighting the Civil War

by Brad Nelson8/1/15

American Thinker has what I think is a bizarre article: Lincoln vs. Lee: How History is Distorted to Preserve Legends. I’m all for free speech. But is it doing a service to readers to legitimize Lincoln Fever?

I don’t know if this is a purely Libertarian thing or an expression of the steadfast grievance of the South. It could be both. Certainly it isn’t a Progressive education that is putting it into the minds of yutes that Lincoln ushered in the era of Big Government (as if Big Government was a bad thing, which to the Left it is not).

I don’t consider myself a student of Lincoln. But I do believe my education has risen beyond the level of simplistic narratives and bumper sticker slogans. Let me give you what I think of Lincoln and the Civil War in a nutshell so you know what I’m arguing for and against:

Lincoln was a man of his times and indeed did initially view the idea of equality for blacks as problematic. Given that what most people saw of blacks was man in the state of severe ignorance and degradation, this isn’t a completely illogical point of view. No one would expect a gorilla or chimpanzee to smoothly integrate into society if such beings were given equal legal status. And what most people saw of the slaves was, for all intents and purposes, a lesser form of human being. Lincoln was not alone in believing that should political and legal equality come, social equality was a long haul.

Frederick Douglass did much to change Lincoln’s mind regarding the black man, as did the progression of the war. Lincoln certainly started out to save the Union and thought (correctly, in my opinion) that the conflict could be seen as a continent-wide battle of slavery vs. free. (I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”)

The Civil War was not about stepping on tender Libertarian sensibilities. It was first and foremost about putting down a rebellion — a rebellion entirely based upon preserving slavery as a way of life. And it was the South that fired the first shot. Lincoln — yes, a politician through and through — did what he could through rhetoric (interpreted dishonestly by the fever-pitched minds as something darker) to assure the South that he would not mess with their peculiar institution. Unlike the fever-pitched minds of Libertarians and other kooks assert, he indeed did hold to the forms of the Constitution. Although the tide against slavery via public opinion was rising, he did what he could via the bully pulpit to assuage Southern feelings. He saw no Constitution power giving him or anyone else the right to abolish slavery by fiat.

Such assurances did no good because the South at this point had doubled-down on grievance and animosity. They ramped up their rhetoric to a fever pitch. They were going a little cuckoo, which is what tends to happen when people are trying to defend an evil. None of that is Lincoln’s fault.

As the war to put down the rebellion progressed, Lincoln’s attitude toward blacks and the slavery questioned changed (which certainly shows we was open to new information). He realized it was morally and politically impossible to bring this war to its conclusion and then, with the boundaries of the nation once again intact, let the South re-establish itself as a slave region. Too much blood had been shed. Slavery had to go. It would be an abomination to go back to the way things were. And by this long, hard point of the war, nothing less was demanded by the public.

And political realities during the war meant there were times when border states had to be coddled. Their slaves were not declared free…because these border states were needed in order to win the war. This had nothing to do with Lincoln’s attitude regarding blacks but reflected the realities of trying to hold a tricky coalition together in the dire circumstances of a Civil War as Commander in Chief.

Was this a war on the part of the South for “state’s rights” as fevered Libertarian brains insist? No. It was a war to preserve their “right” to enslave other men, which Lincoln himself said was a strange thing indeed to fight for a “right” to take those of other men away.

Did Lincoln begin the era of Big Government? No. In the fevered minds of ill-informed Libertarians, they saw the states as separate nations (and still do). They were considered free to leave the union at any time (a bizarre notion given that the Federal government itself created many of the states). That, and other notions, is a complete re-writing of history. Government itself was growing from the time of Washington. One can argue that the direct election of Senators and the institution of the income tax (and probably even giving women the right to vote) exploded the size and scope of government. But it was an ongoing process.

Well, roughly speaking, that’s how I see it. And I don’t know what psychological tic it serves to view Lincoln as another FDR or LBJ, both of whom specifically erected Big Government via their massive laws that meant to do just that. Lincoln, on the other hand, put down a rebellion via using the legitimate power of the Federal government…which is then somehow equated with the start of the era of Big Government. By that reasoning, it was Washington and the revolution against England that started it all.

But if you want to keep slaves, you could view it that way. Lincoln is the villain because he didn’t turn a blind eye when a coalition of Southern states made war on the nation with the specific and central goal of establishing slavery…there and in other states. But slavery itself was a long-festering issue that fell into Lincoln’s lap and was not of his making. This was an issue that had to be resolved one way or another. People back then tried, and the South broke every agreement in their fevered goal to not just preserve slavery but to spread it to every state.

I don’t know what psychological need it serves to re-write history. This certainly is a complex subject. But the broad outline is clear. And many simply skip past the broad outline and put together their own narrative based upon selected quotes here and there. Why? Why must Lincoln be the Father of Big Government and The Primal Villain regarding state’s rights? The article itself disingenuously turns the whole Civil War into a mere economic issue. This is bizarre considering Lincoln’s deep moral outlook on what was happening to the nation.

So what is the root of this sort of moral socio-pathology? Surely everything has economic implications. And no act of man is free from them. But was the Civil War really about the North oppressing the South and exploiting them for pure economic gain? Only a fever-pitched mind with an axe to grind could think of such a thing. Or one devoid of a true moral realm.

So that leaves me to wondering what psychological itch is being scratched by these fantasies. And if Lincoln truly was the father of Big Government and the Primal Villain in regards to eroding state’s right, the question then is: What is it that Libertarians or Southerns want to do now that they can’t?

For many libertarians, all these phony rationalizations are likely induced by the desire to legalize drugs and prostitution, thus any kind of moral exemplar such as Lincoln must be reduced to a mere economic phony — in fact, even lower than Lee in regards to his view of blacks. (Which side did Lee fight on again?)

Please substitute your own reasons for why you think there is this ongoing rewriting of Lincoln and the Civil War. What is it that people want so badly that they must rewrite this history? History is complicated enough without inserting our own narrow motivations. And within the context of the dastardly Left rewriting history for Marxist aims, that is even more reason to treat history with some respect instead of turning it into Silly Putty to stretch to fit whatever fevered narrative one is advocating that day.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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47 Responses to Re-fighting the Civil War

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another oddity to all this — whether talking about re-fighting the Civil War or the peculiarities of that institution call “Libertarianism” — is this fixation on the Federal government. You’d almost think the Federal government was the stand-in for the oppressive (or, most likely, non-existent) father many people have never had, such is their emotional attachment to the Federal government as the villain. So they lash out at it, almost exclusively infusing it with psychological meaning it can’t possibly hold.

    I’m second to none in recognizing how out-of-control (and out of Constitutional boundaries) the Federal government has become. We desperately need another another Calvin Coolidge who will not just talk but slash.

    But it’s this weird psychological transference onto “state’s rights” that is so bizarre, as if states were that Utopian place before the Federal government came along. (And, to be clear, states don’t have “rights.” People do. States have “powers.”) States such as California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, and many others have become Big Government entities unto themselves, every bit as obtrusive (if not more so) than the Federal government. But all we hear from the fevered brains of those re-fighting the Civil War and trying to redefine Lincoln is the big, bad Federal government. And all of this in favor of states (the slave states) that practice unadulterated oppression as a way of life.

    This is highly selective, as are many such arguments that attempt to re-write the Civil War and Lincoln’s role in it.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    There is much both good and bad from the modern conservative viewpoint in Cousin Abe’s record. His doubts about black equality were less than advertised; speaking in debate in racist Illinois, the politician considered them inferior in color and perhaps in some other unspoken way, but NOT in their right to earn the fruits of their labor for themselves rather than Ole Massa. Even that was too much for many in the old Whig belt in central Illinois, which mostly voted for Douglas Democrats. (The Republicans got their strongest votes from the northern part of the state, former Democrats who shared the free-soil attitudes of the New England Yankees so many sprang from.)

    As for his colonization ideas, when one considers how much difficulty there has been integrating the black and white populations even today, a sesquicentury later, was he wrong in his concerns?

    On the other hand, he was a Big Government man by the standards of the day. For one thing, his view that the union preceded the states was simply wrong; the union was formed from sovereign states (which was the basis for the states’ rights enshrined in the Tenth Amendment). He was a big fan of Henry Clay, including Clay’s American System of extensive public works paid for by protective tariffs. And his record on civil liberties during the war was at best mediocre, given that a civil war is always going to be a difficult time. Defying Taney on the writ of habeas corpus was not good. There was also a history of unionist suppression of dissent that Lincoln, at best, did nothing to prevent (at worst, he assisted it, or at least refused to take action against federal officials such as Ambrose Burnside who were involved in the suppression).

    It’s a mixed record. But circumstances meant that the US could probably never get rid of slavery without some sort of civil war (unless we were willing to wait a century or so for it to MAYBE fade away on its own). Lincoln knew his first priority was to preserve the union, but also wanted to do what he safely could against slavery. And for all his constitutional weaknesses, one important reason he didn’t apply the Emancipation Proclamation to unionist states was because he could only legitimately issue it as a war measure.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      His doubts about black equality

      You would have had doubts about black equality (at least in terms of the viability of social or political equality…equality of being as being amongst God’s Children I don’t think was ever in doubt with Lincoln).

      The point is, his opinion changed as new information became available, in no small part due to his friendship (yes, friendship) with the renowned Frederick Douglass. Anti-Lincoln demagogues and dumb-asses remain mired in just one time, or one quote, not caring to see the whole evolving picture. They pick and choose their history as carelessly (and probably for the same reason) as Leftists.

      It was a complicated time with many different competing aspects: political, economic, Constitutional, legal, and not least of all, moral. At the end of all this, the supposed economic-motivated Lincoln gave all but a religious sermon in his second inaugural address. This, too, is ignored by those who want to find in Lincoln (I’m supposing) nothing but the psychologically transferred object of their own inner demons.

      And, yes, Lincoln was a politician, and a quite “progressive” one (as they all are) in the early going where, even though his state was suffering hard economic times, he wanted to build, build, build. At least he was talking about roads, bridges, and canals, not socialized medicine, but somewhat it’s a situation of “same shit, different day.” Politicians always love to build Grand Things using OPM (other people’s money). It’s the nature of the beast.

      He was slapped down for this and (if memory serves) lost an election. But one could say that the man was being prepared, being steeled, by forces we can suppose gave us George Washington, to lead this nation in a time of great crises…and it was not a crisis he brought on. The Southerners were as nutso bombastic at the time as we see those on the hard Left or Pink Mafia…prompted, in part, by the abolitionist movement. A guilty conscience certainly tells.

      In my opinion, Lee made a weak choice to defend a rebellion (based at is was on the preservation of slavery) rather than to, at best, sit it out.

      For one thing, his view that the union preceded the states was simply wrong; the union was formed from sovereign states (which was the basis for the states’ rights enshrined in the Tenth Amendment).

      It doesn’t matter what they were before. They joined a Union. That then became a completely different legal entity. I don’t quite grasp this need to believe (as libertarians tend to do) that the states where then, and are now, actual separate nations. No, we are part of a Union where various powers are divided. It’s called a “federal republic.” The states may have been monarchies or been ruled by a mad hatter in a pink dress. But once they joined the Union under the Constitution, they ceased to be what they once were.

      And his record on civil liberties during the war was at best mediocre, given that a civil war is always going to be a difficult time.

      Anything can be said to be “mediocre.” But his public writings (in the form of a letter to Erastus Corning) on his thinking behind suspending habeas corpus were anything but. One may agree or disagree, but this was not the act of a tyrant going off half-cocked as portrayed by the disingenuous Libertarians and others. As they say, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and Lincoln did not treat it as such.

      And let’s remember regarding Lincoln’s supposed “mediocre” record on civil liberties that he defeated a faction that wished to keep men enslaved. Doesn’t this count on his ledger sheet? Apparently not. The big facts are skipped over as people pick and choose the smaller ones to suit their tastes.

      It’s a mixed record. But circumstances meant that the US could probably never get rid of slavery without some sort of civil war (unless we were willing to wait a century or so for it to MAYBE fade away on its own).

      I think this misses the point that the South was actively trying to spread slavery. This nasty little secret is not acknowledged by Lincoln bashers. At no time was this a matter of Lincoln and the Federal government intruding themselves into the South to wipe out slavery because they weren’t patient enough for it to die a natural death, assuming it ever would.

      Andrew Cunningham writes in Steps in the Development of American Democracy:

      These two systems hardly could have maintained themselves peaceably; they would have been vexed continually by all the old problems of industrial diversity and fugitive slaves. Other wars surely would have followed and in the intervals a militaristic system would have been established. But all this simply shows us that the conflict was really, as Seward proclaimed, an irrepressible conflict, and that this continent must be either one thing or the other, either all free or all slave. The contest, as both Seward and Lincoln maintained, was the age-old contest between privilege and freedom, between the claims of the few to power and ease and the right of the many to eat the bread earned by their own labor, a contest which perhaps never will disappear. Lincoln clearly saw the nature of the conflict: it was a conflict to determine whether democracy as a form of government and a principle of life should survive.

      That last bit is pretty much what he wrote in his Gettysburg address. And I find this re-interpretation of Lincoln by Libertarians and others to be monstrously narcissistic and bedeviled by huge contradictions and slanders. One may certainly agree or disagree with the mindset of Lincoln and Seward, but this is what those two prominent men who were living in that time actually believed.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Actually, I think most of our differences are a matter of wording. For example, the point I made regarding Lincoln’s recorded comments about black inferiority is how minimal they were to begin with. He never openly said that they were intellectually inferior, for example. I have no idea if he ever actually believed it.

        Lincoln’s electoral record was pretty good locally. He only served a single term in the House because of party rotation. He lost Senate races in 1854 and 1858 because Illinois was a Democrat stronghold (the 1854 winner was Lyman Trumbull, a free-soil Democrat, replacing incumbent James Shields, later a Senator from Minnesota and then a Union general).

        Cousin Abe (yes, he is a first cousin five times removed — you know how we long-time Kenucky families are all in-bred) was no tyrant. That was my point regarding emancipation. But he was a little quick to believe that civil war required (and thus justified) sacrificing a few civil liberties.

        And it’s always good for people to remember that the South was no libertarian paradise. Consider that slavery not only meant that a large part of the population (a majority in some places) was held in bondage, but the free citizens had to serve actively in the militia to deal with runaways and slave revolts. Nor was there complete freedom of expression, as anyone who opposed slavery was likely to find out. At Southern behest, the post office wouldn’t send anti-slavery literature into slave territory.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          He never openly said that they were intellectually inferior, for example. I have no idea if he ever actually believed it.

          My general impression is that the normal, average, decent, non-racist people of the day looked at the state of the black man (particularly slaves) and surely saw someone who was intellectually inferior. The South did their best to keep them that way. That certainly has to be the reason that the articulate Frederick Douglass was such a positive influence on Lincoln.

          Hey, before sonograms, it was very easy for people to view unborn babies as just a “mass of tissue.” This was true even of those who didn’t necessarily imbibe abortion as a Leftist sacrament.

          The fascination Libertarians have with the romanticized and sanitized version of the South has always perplexed me. They drag out a hundred-power lens to look at the faults of Lincoln but typically do not acknowledge the gross truth of slavery in the South. Perhaps it is as Mr. Kung says. At heart, Libertarians are little monsters.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        In my opinion, Lee made a weak choice to defend a rebellion (based at is was on the preservation of slavery) rather than to, at best, sit it out.

        I can understand this decision. Sometimes, when it gets down to brass tacks, one chooses ones family or immediate group over political considerations. I know that I, in most cases, would value my family’s interests over the call of some politician or political cause. Sometimes, “sitting it out” is not an option. This may not be gallant, but it is human.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Oh, I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Kung. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred (more like 999 out of 1000) would do what Lee did. I understand that. But when judging for greatness in the halls of history, this does not go to his credit.

          And I suppose sometimes we can be glad of such actions. Washington was technically a subject of Great Britain, but he decided (as many others did) to fight on the side of the Colonists in the American Revolution.

          But moral equivalence begins and ends there. The American Revolution is generally regarded as an oddball revolution of sorts, for it was a conservative revolution. It’s aim was to preserve the rights that these Colonists already had. That some of those “rights” were slavery was part of the ongoing blood compromise whose bill would one day come due. But at the time, the American Revolution had as its aim to preserve and extend freedom to the Colonists, not constrain it as an economic way of life as was the South’s goal.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            The difference wasn’t quite that big. Every colony had legal slavery (except Vermont, which wasn’t considered a separate colony yet by the others). This is what led to Samuel Johnson’s famous question, “Why do the loudest yelps for freedom come from the drivers of slaves?” Not entirely fair, because many of the revolutionaries were themselves anti-slavery, but not entirely unfair, either.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            The modern revisionists notwithstanding, Lee was a great general. Of course his mistake at Gettysburg cost the South dearly.

            Having lost the war, the South needed some figure around which it could build a narrative as to why things went badly even with great leaders. Pride was at stake and pride is much more important in shaping the world than many people seem to understand. So the thought might have been that even with a great man like Lee, the South lost the war, e.g. it was impossible to win no matter what.

            There has always been a somewhat romantic urge in people to love the underdog and glorify lost causes. Add to this the fact that Lee had grace, was a chivalrous figure and was stoic in his loss, and you have the perfect hero.

            But while I like the man, he was no George Washington.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Well, they didn’t lose for lack of trying. The statistics regarding lost limbs and such are staggering.

              The South failed, and failed miserably. And you are absolutely right about pride. It was their pride (arrogance, really) that was the South’s undoing. In a perfect world — scratch that — in a halfway reasonable world, men on both sides could have sat down and figured this thing out without killing over 600,000 people and untold maimed. Slavery obviously couldn’t last forever. Anyone with the slightest awareness in the advances of technology could see that.

              But indecent ways tend to develop indecent men. And that is something rarely talked about. The South was a corrupt place. I think in the biographies of both Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, they talk about the sheer degeneracy caused by slavery. With slaves doing all the work, the plantation master’s sons were typically as dumb as a brick…and nearly as helpless.

              The South was sick and wished to spread this sickness further when they began to feel threatened. But they had every right to feel threatened. They were indeed on “the wrong side of history.” Sucks to be them. But that’s the way it is. And I really don’t see the point of rationalizing all this and making the South the victim and Lincoln a leftist-like “oppressor.” Where have we seen that paradigm before?

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    the states as separate nations (and still do). They were considered free to leave the union at any time (a bizarre notion given that the Federal government itself created many of the states).

    An interesting observation, which I have never seen before. If the states formed by the federal government did not have the right to secede because they were creatures of the Federal government, could this be seen to give support to the notion that the original states which came together under the Constitution might have had the right to secede as the Union was a political treaty of sorts between free standing entities? I believe Massachusetts was the first state which seriously contemplating secession some thirty or so years before the South actually did.

    Furthermore, as I recall, part of the agreement annexing The Republic of Texas to the the U.S.A. was the right of Texas to withdraw from the U.S.A. should it so decide to. Lincoln and the North certainly ignored this. I suppose it could be argued that once Texas attached itself to the C.S.A. this agreement was no longer valid.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      What I find interesting, Mr. Kung, is the disingenuous Libertarians and other Lincoln-bashers use legalese to try to trap Lincoln as being this or that, including the idea that the states are sovereign nations that can come and go as they please.

      But then they turn around and ignore the fact, not supposition, that they legally joined a Union (with others being created by the Federal government as territories became states or several states). So why honor one bit of legalese and not the other? Jesus, even two married people can’t just say “null and void” in regards to their legal contract of marriage. There are implications to joining into a legal agreement. And implications and realities to separating.

      Imagine how absurd it would be if, say, Dupont bought 3M (or the other way around). Stocks get joined, swapped, or whatever they do. Some executives of the company that is acquired stay on, others are out of a job due to redundancy.

      Twenty years pass, and a faction erupts in Dupont who don’t like the direction of the company. Dupont executives want to emphasize paints while some of the remnants of the 3M merger think that adhesives should be expanded. So a faction of 3M executives and employees arm themselves and take hold of several satellite offices. And they surround a few other corporate buildings demanding that they surrender.

      This is what the nation faced with the rebellion of the South. We had been a Union for quite some time and there were realities to this Union not so easily dissolved, including the Federal fort at Sumter. Blood was shed from the time of Washington to create a Union that would be a good, productive, and strong nation, and one that wasn’t easy pickings for England, France, or Spain. A lot went into the Union.

      And the South wanted to destroy it for the sake of enslaving other men. One can find all the fault in the world with Lincoln. He was just a man, and one who had to make a lot of tough and controversial decisions. But notice how the actual context of all this is conveniently forgotten by the Bolsheviks of the Right (libertarians).

      • William says:

        Allow me to say I appreciate your thoughts on this, Brad. On vacation, but will issue a response on my blog and inform you when complete. But suffice it to say, there are many things in your estimation that I find fundamentally flawed, not least of which is your marriage analogy above. Using your logic, no one should suggest that one party, feeling abused for decades, should be forced to remain in that legal relationship, either. The fundamental point of my article is not to draw the conclusion that the South was wholly right – for Gods sake, there’s no justification for slavery. It’s simply wrong to suggest, as so many believe, that the South was wholly wrong. The Declaration insists, as Lincoln referenced in 1848, that there comes a time to dissolve the political bonds which previously connected them to another. The South believed they were justifiably doing that. Mizzou Compromise in 1820, near secession in 1840, 3/5 compromise in 1850 – all were about representation to direct federal policy. The South felt underrepresented in relation toh the wit considerable economic contributions. I think you bring up a good point about Douglass and Lincoln’s evolution, though I don’t think you completely grasp the precursors and events of Sumter. In brief closing for now, it is not some libertarian quest to revise history (incidentally, I am not one- rather I consider myself a classical liberal in the vein of Washington.) It is an appeal to look deeper beyond the black and white rhetoric children are fed in public school at some of those stubborn things lying beneath the legend, called facts. Here’s one- before Lincoln, we spoke of “These United States.” After, we now speak of “THE United States.” The war altered the social contract of what was, theretofore, a voluntary Union. That’s all.

        Thanks again for taking the time to read and address.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Using your logic, no one should suggest that one party, feeling abused for decades, should be forced to remain in that legal relationship, either.

          William, thar’s your problem. You’re having a hard time thinking your way out of a wet paper bag. Words mean things. I said nothing about anyone being forced to stay in a bad marriage. But unless you believe in the kind of citizen’s divorce Steve Martin gave to Kathleen Turner in “The Man with Two Brains,” then legal contracts being entered into entail certainly legal realities….or else it wouldn’t be a legal contract.

          The South believed they were justifiably doing that.

          I find it absurd and just a bit offensive to try to crouch what the South did in terms of the principles sited in the Declaration of Independence. The South was trying to maintain its institution of slavery via making war on the United States of America. Lincoln himself noted how odd it was that a side should invoke “liberty” in the pursuit of enslaving other men. That is the core flaw in all libertarian arguments about this.

          One could say the South believed they were justified, but that says little. Hitler believe he was justified. Stalin believed he was justified. Nearly any evil, mindless, or aggressive act is justified in the minds of those who perpetrate them. The acts themselves have to be judged on different criteria.

          It is an appeal to look deeper beyond the black and white rhetoric children are fed in public school at some of those stubborn things lying beneath the legend, called facts.

          You many consider yourself a “classic liberal,” William, but that is the very justification that liberals, Leftists, and other ne’er-do-wells have used to “bring balance” to a supposed “black and white” issue. But if there are common misconceptions (and I think the general gist of the popular Lincoln motif is correct), then you’re just swinging the pendulum the other way, writing new myths, and calling it “a deeper look.”

          The war altered the social contract of what was, theretofore, a voluntary Union.

          Another libertarian myth. Certainly the social contract was altered in that slavery was no longer allowed. But it is typical libertarian duplicity (or just sloppy thinking) to call something “voluntary” until you don’t agree with a certain policy. A state or states making open war on other states is a rebellion. The South did not try to dissolve their union legally. They tried to do it by force. As much as one might try to white-wash this fact, the fact still remains. Who was trying to bully whom?

          • William says:

            For someone administrating a blog seemingly devoted to facts, you do a nice job of dodging them. You suggested that a marriage cannot be annulled willy nilly because it is a legal contract. The constitution does not address secession directly, though the South believed that the contract to which they belonged was a voluntary Union, per precepts of the Declaration.

            Furthermore, simply suggesting repeatedly that the South fought the war primarily on the grounds of preserving slavery, and that the North fought primarily to end it, doesn’t make it so. Hilarious to me that you admit that you haven’t given detailed study to Lincoln, yet then mount the pulpit to spew opinions of what his supposed motives were (as simplistically as a high school sophomore might in terms of substance, though admittedly more eloquent in the delivery).

            The quotes are well cited in my article, from the horse’s mouth. I give you proof that Lincoln said explicitly “I AM NOT FIGHTING THIS WAR TO SAVE OR DESTROY SLAVERY,” and you offer conjecture as to how his opinion might have changed in the years following. Which, even if it did, it wouldn’t matter in the crucible of facts. He said this AFTER the north invaded the south. He cannot have said later, with any validity, that his war was really about saving slavery all along.

            Where are your facts? I cite many in my article that you link at American Thinker. You offer opinion and accusations about my libertarian stupidity. Research, then cite facts. That is what this site is supposed to be dedicated to, yes?

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              You suggested that a marriage cannot be annulled willy nilly because it is a legal contract. The constitution does not address secession directly, though the South believed that the contract to which they belonged was a voluntary Union, per precepts of the Declaration.

              If the South believed they were in the right, why did they fire on Sumter? Why did they not hold out for the sympathies of all Americans when they asserted their supposed right to leave the Union whenever they pleased? Wasn’t that common knowledge, after all?

              They did not because there is no such right. Oh, might can indeed make right. And the South implicitly understood this, thus instead of suing Lincoln, they fired on the fort.

              Furthermore, simply suggesting repeatedly that the South fought the war primarily on the grounds of preserving slavery, and that the North fought primarily to end it, doesn’t make it so.

              Again, William. Words mean things. I never said what you said I did. Lincoln’s initial motivation was to put down a rebellion and to save the Union. Later the issue of freeing the slaves and eradicating the institution emerged because of various exegencies, not least of which what to do with the slaves in Confederate territory that was taken.

              This is the fact and the history. The other fact is that the South rebelled in order to try to preserve slavery. They didn’t do it for “state’s rights” which is the common gloss thrown over it.

              Hilarious to me that you admit that you haven’t given detailed study to Lincoln, yet then mount the pulpit to spew opinions of what his supposed motives were (as implistically as a high school sophomore might in terms of substance, though admittedly more eloquent in the delivery).

              Fine. Get your jollies any way you wish, William. I’m merely being honest and stating the facts as I understand them, and my opinion in regards to the facts as I understand them. Would you feel better if I feigned omniscience? Sheesh. There’s no pleasing some people.

              “I AM NOT FIGHTING THIS WAR TO SAVE OR DESTROY SLAVERY,”

              Already dealt with that. And putting it in all caps doesn’t really do much or ya.

              You offer opinion and accusations about my libertarian stupidity. Research, then cite facts. That is what this site is supposed to be dedicated to, yes?

              Your “facts,” William, are the same kind of libertarian baloney I’ve run across a thousand times. This here isn’t a court of law. It’s an opinion forum (at present, at least on this topic). I’m not required to reach into my Encyclopedia Britannica and throw out a torrent of quotes and facts. In fact, it would diminish my argument which is, in part, “Any old person can pick a fact here or there to bolster their screed — and while doing so they often miss the forest for the trees.”

              The preponderance of the evidence (and according to the written documents of the South itself) is that the South rebelled in order to preserve slavery. Lincoln initial acted to put down the rebellion and save the Union. Later, because of the weight of the issue, the lives already lost, and the fact that there were thousands of slaves who were in Union hands (Do we just send them back?), the issue of abolishing slavery and freeing the slaves was a natural and unavoidable outcome of the entire war.

              Now, one can lament that this costly war had to be fought. I certainly do. And one can raise eyebrows over some of Lincoln’s decisions. But let’s never lose track of who started it and why. And it’s disingenuous in the extreme to claim that some Union is “voluntary” up until the point where you disagree with a certain policy. No nation, city, state, or anything else could ever function if the minute someone disagreed with something, they called the whole thing off and then aimed guns at you. That’s what the South did. And trying to portray it as anything else is just re-writing history.

              • William says:

                So far as I can tell, you’ve stated one fact: that the South fired first. Now, do me a favor. Sift through those encyclopedias and cite where the Constitution outlaws secession. When you can’t find it, ask yourself why Licoln the prairie lawyer was so wholeheartedly in favor of secession in 1848, if it was such an egregious and unconstitutional act. Then, consider that the right for states to secede from the voluntary Union is far more supported in law by the Declaration, and also in the fact that it was an implied assumption when Constitution was ratified – and declared explicitly in the annexation of Texas in 1845. Many legal scholars and historians would agree with that latter assertion. And if that latter assertion holds water, then a foreign army was surrounding a fort on South Carolinian sovereign territory and would not relent. Now, here’s conjecture with which many historians also agree. That Lincoln did so to goad the South Carolinians to fire upon the federal army, to thereby give him the mandate for war against the South.

                As I conclude in the article, some of these points should be up for open and honest discussion. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. But the notion that you hold a less defensible position on the legality of secession, yet claim some intellectual high ground in spite of that less defensible position, well… That’s just your perpetuating your own fantasy.

              • William says:

                Oh, and lastly, your comparison of the South to Nazi Germany is entirely ridiculous on its face. It’s desperate hyperbole likening two situations and governments that absolutely nothing alike to score emotional points on the cheap. Nothing more.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                The point that the South started things by seceding (whatever one thinks of its theoretical legality — I personally think there’s a good case to be made for it, but preserving slavery — “our rights in the territories”, as Jubal Early sarcastically put it to John C. Breckinridge on their way south from Third Winchester) was a poor justification for it) id sn important one. The creation of a unitary state from a confederation of states was probably inevitable as a consequence.

                Meanwhile, I would like to see any evidence that Lincoln ever supported a right to secede. I certainly haven’t heard of any such thing.

                I agree that comparing the South to Hitler is grossly unfair (there was no equivalent of Auschwitz, and even Andersonville wasn’t quite Dachau, was little worse than some Norther prisons such as Fort Delaware and Elmira, and was at least partly a consequence of lack of resources). On the other hand, while some people did so during the Cross of St. Andrew controversy, Brad’s comment wasn’t intended to do so. He was citing some examples of why saying that they thought they were right doesn’t say all that much. Most villains think they’re right.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            As Bruce Catton once observed, both sides were fighting for freedom. The South fought for their personal freedom (which perversely included their freedom to keep slaves), the North for freedom for all (at least in the last half of the war).

            Note that we see this same dichotomy today. The reason liberals who favor “if it feels good, do it” see nothing wrong with (e.g.) restrictions on smoking is that they don’t smoke. If it doesn’t restrict their own personal freedom, it doesn’t count. Conservatives, in contrast, often oppose such restrictions even when they are actually (as non-smokers) beneficiaries.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              As Bruce Catton once observed, both sides were fighting for freedom. The South fought for their personal freedom (which perversely included their freedom to keep slaves), the North for freedom for all (at least in the last half of the war).

              The Union was fighting to preserve the entire idea of America itself (as Lincoln noted). The South was doing the same in regards to its peculiar institution. But it’s an odd use of the word “liberty” to preserve the right of some men to enslave others.

              And what a monstrous moral inversion for libertarians and others to then play the victim and say “Oh, poor us…this was all voluntary until bad ol’ Lincoln came along.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Carl Sandburg made exactly that point, that the War of the Rebellion was fought over a verb: changing from “the United States are” to “the United States is”. Note that Lee refused to fight to force the South back into the union precisely on those grounds (opposing a union held together by force), though he saw no need for secession. But once it came, he would fight only in defense of his native state. (John S. Mosby, who had expected to fight in defense of union even if Virginia seceded, ultimately made the same decision, probably for the same reason.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        A couple of observations,

        1. As I recall, sometime around the Senatorial election campaign of 1857-58, Lincoln seems to have come off the fence re slavery. He made up his mind it was wrong and came down hard against it.

        2. The South was more than happy to stay in the Union and use the Congress for its purposes as long as it controlled the Congress or at least the Senate, which it did for many years.

        I think it must be recalled that South began to get upset about the political situation once it became clear that the climate and land in future territories south of the various Missouri compromise lines, i.e. 36.30 was poorly suited for slave based agriculture. It was obvious, that with time, the slave holding states would therefore lose political power.

        But it should be recalled that the Southern States had agreed to the various compromises over the decades. They were reneging on their agreements.

        The biggest violation in this regard was the Kansas-Nebraska act which would have made all states slave states if the occupants so voted.

        Unlike William, I like your marriage analogy and it came to my mind as well. Of course, one can finally decide to dissolve any union if it becomes too onerous. As they say, everyone has the right to rebellion, but one takes the chance of losing and must live with the consequences of one’s choices.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I think that last point is very important. I personally think secession was legitimate (which doesn’t mean it was justified in 1860-1). But it’s unrealistic to expect secession to go unchallenged, and one must fact the consequences, just as the colonists were ready to do in 1776.

  4. Pst4usa says:

    Good points one and all, Brad I would add one more point about Lincoln’s mindset as it concerns slavery, one of his early mentors was John Quincy Adams, and it is said you could not be around the former President and not be lectured about the evils of slavery. This, I assume would also hold true about his attitude about the power of the federal government, (coming from our second president his father, also a less than perfect but great president). Based on this, I think he was far more anti slavery than people give him credit for. I also think some of Lincoln’s words used against Lincoln come from what might be called Political Correctness of his time. He was as you say, a politician through and through.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Based on this, I think he was far more anti slavery than people give him credit for.

      Much like John Adams, I don’t think Lincoln had any love for slavery. But as a politician, especially as the president of the entire nation (one that legally included slavery in part), he had to be somewhat practical. And as much as Lincoln is portrayed as a warmonger by libertarians and others, he went out of his way to mollify Southern feelings before and after his election as President.

      But the South was stoked up and, I would lay, ideologically unhinged. These were not the Founding Fathers coming together again for a more perfect union. And as Mr. Kung noted, they saw the writing on the wall in terms of electoral power. They were losing it as more and more states were being added to the Union. So they broke agreements, actively worked to expand slavery to places like Kansas, and ultimately waged war on the United States itself. And libertarians go out of their way to portray the South as helpless and hapless victims.

      Yes, I’d agree with anyone that there is a lot to learn about this whole issue, and that no one side is perfect. But under that heading is usually hidden lots of baloney politics and revisionism. The big picture itself is rather straightforward: The South rebelled, and did so almost entirely on the issue of preserving and spreading slavery.

      That has to be swallowed down and acknowledged before any alleged “balance” or “nuance” is attempted. If not, this “balance” and “nuance” just tends to serve to re-write history.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I think it important to point out that one could clearly make a legal case for slavery. This is so obvious that it probably needn’t be mentioned. After all, slavery was an accepted institution in virtually all societies for thousands of years.

    What one cannot do is make a case for slavery under “natural law”, which as our Libertarian friends like to remind us, the USA was based on. This is, no doubt, why Lincoln went back to the Declaration of Independence for his fundamental legal argument against the institution’s existence in the United States of America.

    Either the country’s existence flows from the proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" or it doesn’t. If it does, then one’s right to one’s “personhood” is without question. Basta, Finito la Musica! Discussion over!

    As to the humanity of slaves, while it is very clear that very few Europeans of that time considered negroes as equals, I have never read that anyone claimed they were not human beings.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      What one cannot do is make a case for slavery under “natural law”, which as our Libertarian friends like to remind us, the USA was based on. This is, no doubt, why Lincoln went back to the Declaration of Independence for his fundamental legal argument against the institution’s existence in the United States of America.

      Good point, Mr. Kung. And as I understand it, regarding the entire slavery issue, it wasn’t that Lincoln necessarily ever intended to wave his magic wand and declare that slaves were free. The nature of capturing slave territory from the rebelling states meant that he was forced to decide what to do with them. For moral and military reasons, he decided eventually on the Emancipation Proclamation (and similar other policies leading up to that).

      And, of course, the entire position toward slaves most decidedly evolved, and was not monolithic. The various theatre generals had quite an impact on how their orders were interpreted or in simply managing things as they saw fit…sometimes with tragic results as in the case where Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis tactically chose to leave behind slaves on the other side of a river.

      It was a controversial decisions in the extreme to allow freed slaves to fight for the Union. But Lincoln saw the utility and justice of it. Few of these kinds of things were likely written in stone in terms of policy when war was thrust upon the Union by the actions of the Confederate rebellion. This is part of the greatness of Lincoln. When tested, what emerged was a great, intelligent, and moral man. When pressed, he responded, and magnificently.

      What started as an attempt to put down a rebellion and preserve the Union necessarily became about defeating the institution of slavery. The former went with the latter. They were inseparable. But neither Lincoln nor any other President could have gained political support by waging a war to eradicate slavery. That wasn’t politically palatable (and certainly wasn’t his initial intention). But as the natural course of things evolved, that aspect became inevitable. One was forced to choose one way or the other.

      So if that’s the nasty little unwritten history of Lincoln, so be it. He didn’t lie when he said he’d settle for half free and half slave it it meant preserving the union. But rhetoric is one thing. The reality of war is another. And any commander, not just Lincoln, would have been forced to make the same decisions as events unfolded.

      Yes, of course, in the abstract (and a good abstract it is), “all men are created equal.” But although words do mean things, cultural practices and establish tradition and laws usually trump even good abstracts. Liberty was something that took time to extend to blacks. And one could say it’s taking time to extend to the unborn.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The first black units were a pair of Louisiana militia units. They were actually available to the Confederates, who for some strange reason never activated them. But Ben Butler, after the fall of New Orleans, decided that it was perfectly justifiable to activate them, provided the soldiers were free Negroes rather than runaways slaves. (They would ask, and it presumably didn’t take runaways slaves long to learn that they only had to claim to be free Negroes to serve if they wanted.) The units first saw combat at Port Hudson.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          As I understand it, Timothy, Lincoln and others were somewhat amazed at the true (not PC revisionist) bravery and utility of the black regiments. These guys could fight. And did fight. And I’m sure in places they fought for the South out of habit. But when freed, they fought for the Union with gusto. As Lincoln (or Douglass, or others) observed, in the Civil War, the blacks without question put some skin in the game and earned their freedom.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    There’s irony in the fact that so many want to reduce Lincoln to the technocratic Father of Big Government. (Why so little angst thrown at the true Fathers of Big Government — Wilson, FDR, and LBJ? It’s an interesting question to ask. Someone should ask a libertarian that.)

    Many miss the remarkable forest for the trees. And Lincoln’s is a remarkable story of growth from a know-it-all boy to a thoughtful and deeply spiritual man. Lincoln started out every bit the kind of Jeb Bush-type of Establishment Republican we would not like, if for slightly different reasons. In his life as a young man, Lincoln shared many of the head-bound traits of a libertarian or other intellectualoid. Lincoln was smart and he knew it, and being a lawyer (strike one) he could use rhetoric to his advantage. Strike two is that he became a politician. Strike three is that in his early life he was all but an atheist. I can’t remember which biography I read that mentioned it, but Lincoln had wrote some anti-religious tract that his friends, thankfully, got ahold of and burned, their eyes (for better or for worse) on a larger political career for Lincoln.

    So Lincoln was, in the early going, this atheistic smarty-pants intellectual (perhaps difficult to distinguish from today’s libertarians) who had the world by its tail, bolstered by his stature and enormous physical strength. And then something happened on the way to Mount Rushmore. This dismissive, somewhat pointy-headed intellectual became a deeper and more moral man. His religion was arguably less orthodox than most. He was not evidently a standard church-goer. But by all accounts, near the end of his life he was breathing God and became friends with a very fine minister.

    Almost nothing is as soul-destroying on a large scale these days than Big Government. And it would indeed be odd if Lincoln was to be made the Father of Big Government, particularly considering the deep religious bearing he developed as he got older.

    None of this speaks to the rightness of this policy or that policy. But to reduce Lincoln to the placeholder for the “war of aggression” against the South, and the de facto Father of Big Government, is to miss what was so great about this man. He is second only to Washington as the greatest president. And, quite arguably, in terms of living and breathing what our Constitution and way of life actually meant, he was (for this trait) his superior.

    The grand nobility of Lincoln shines in his speeches and letters. That he is reduced to a mere villain by many shows that their agenda most certainly is not to understand this complex and great man.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Why do the loudest yelps for freedom come from the drivers of slaves?” Not entirely fair, because many of the revolutionaries were themselves anti-slavery, but not entirely unfair, either.

    What you describe, Timothy, is a complicated reality.

    Washington owned slaves. Okay, we get that. It was a common practice at the time (one that should have been seen as the evil that it was). But such is life. It’s never perfect. It’s complex and full of messy realities.

    And we should understand that “liberty” is an open-ended question. The Left (particularly starting with FDR) have defined it as “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want.” Good luck with that. It’s a logical impossibility. To band together as a nation for self-protection (among other things)? There’s some security in that. Sure. But “freedom from fear”? Not gonna happen. I think FDR knew his demographic, with women now voting.

    Freedom from want? Okay. How much want? And who has to work so that I can get my “free stuff”? All this is just demagoguery, completely at odds with the concept of America, as founded.

    “Liberty” can also mean “freedom from all outside constraints,” thus you run into the weird and unworkable tenet of libertarianism called “non-coercion.” And that is Lincoln’s original sin as far as libertarians are concerned. (Why the South doesn’t get marked down for its coercion of Sumter or their own slaves is another good question to ask libertarians. Someone should ask them.)

    But America, as founded, wasn’t perfect either. Slavery was one of those big issues. And the North and South were, at least initially, bound up in it together via the slavery triangle that involved Africa, Central America, molasses, slaves, and makers of rum and other products. To some extent, it was problematic for the North to berate the South about slavery when, at least earlier, it had profited from it.

    But life is messy. Nothing is perfect. And times change. What was changing for the South was that old “wrong side of history” thing, And they were on the wrong side even as history was marching inexorably forward (or at least onward). Sucks to be them. But that’s the way it was. One could have some latent sympathy for the “evolving standards” regarding homosexual marriage if one didn’t understand that the real standard was actually to destroy Christians, the family, and just normal decency.

    But that’s life. It’s complicated and full of various motivations. And none of this is news to conservatives. We don’t need to be told that schools supposedly have some simplistic view of this historical figure or that historical figure. In grade school and high school, *all* such portraits of historical figures are necessarily simplistic…and then the bell rings and its time for recess (or gender studies).

    But “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. It’s “simple” to say that George Washington is the father of our country. But isn’t that fairly accurate, at least metaphorically? And Lincoln did indeed save the Union and freed the slaves. That there are other details doesn’t counteract that fact. And I do believe there are people trying to counteract that fact.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I was just pointing out that there were some similarities as well as differences. After all, in both wars against America, the British would use offers of freedom to lure slaves away from the Americans, with some success. Incidentally, Johnson once described freedom as the choice between working and starving. Too bad we don’t have such wisdom today.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Timothy said:

    Meanwhile, I would like to see any evidence that Lincoln ever supported a right to secede. I certainly haven’t heard of any such thing.

    Things with no immediate precedent are usually decided (as Rush might note) by the aggressive use of force. The South gambled and lost. And if it was clear that states had a right to secede, their first move would not have been a military one.

    But all this is beside the point. We live in a culture now where everything is being redefined. Marriage. Equality. Liberty. Now Lincoln. The language is fixated on secession but the motive is…who knows? I have no idea why there is such a fever swamp of opinion (read the comments under William’s article) that all our societal ills stem from Lincoln. This is just bizarre.

    Sure, there were costs involved with saving the Union. But only a rube or charlatan would suppose there would be no costs to dissolving the Union. And, really, that wasn’t the issue. Lincoln/Seward correctly defined the issue: this continent would either be all free or all slave. The time had come to decide which. The South lost. And I wonder why with so many other factors — LBJ, FDR, Wilson, the income tax amendment, Obama, and more — that Libertarians reach back to Lincoln as the biggest catalyst of Big Government.

    Well, I’m guessing there were a lot of black people who didn’t think that the Union’s victory was “oppression.” And again and again I come back to the same central fact: These libertarians go out of their way to focus a 100-power lens on Lincoln while giving a total pass to the sins of the South. Why?

    Because of this huge fact, you can know that whatever is motivating this, it isn’t about Lincoln. I don’t exactly know what drives these beliefs. Perhaps they are just the political equivalent of getting a tattoo on the brain. It’s a fad. But the reasonable facts of the case do not support this one-sided Lincoln-bashing view.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’m not sure if libertarians actually consider Lincoln the main source of Big Government. I think it’s more that they consider him the beginning of a long train of increasingly abusive government. They have a point, but he represents only a baby step on the path (and probably not the first, either).

      It’s very easy to deplore the cost of the War of the Rebellion — especially when your back doesn’t face the lash of the overseer’s whip. (Many slave-owners, such as Jefferson Davis, in fact treated their slaves well. But many didn’t, and what was important is that the slaves had no right to good treatment.) It’s easy to cheer the removal of that lash — especially when your blood isn’t flowing out on the battlefield. There was a huge cost no matter what. But slavery had to go eventually, one way or another.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’m not sure if libertarians actually consider Lincoln the main source of Big Government. I think it’s more that they consider him the beginning of a long train of increasingly abusive government.

        Here’s a sampling of comments from the fever swamp under William’s article:

        “The War of Northern Aggression was entirely unConstitutional. And, it set an unfortunate precedent that gives us no secession recourse, without force, to throw off this overgrown tyrannical government.”

        “The war of northern aggression was about money and control. The North wanted to control the agricultural products of the South. ”

        “And don’t forget how the North manned their war effort with fresh waves of Irish immigrants whose choices were to be effective slaves living in slums and sweat shops or to pick up a rifle and don Yankee blue.”

        “And whose fault is it that there is no musket fire? A tag-team of George III, Abe Lincoln, and Attila the Hun couldn’t have dreamt up the outrages against God, nature, tradition, and reason the US Left is issuing daily. ”

        “The slavery factor is more revisionist “filter” than actual reality. Succession was legal and constitutional, Lincoln violated that legal right and deserves to be little more than a footnote in history. Certainly NOT rushmore material!”

        “The problem the south had was all of its wealth was tied up in slaves and the north was just calling for emanicapation without any compensation. ” [Note: the South rejected even compensation plans.]

        ” Obama has a picture of Lincoln hanging in the Oval Office.
        If Hillary is elected, will she hang pictures of Saul Alinsky, Lenin, and Karl Marx in the Oval Office?”

        My advice to libertarians is that if you have to be disaffected yutes looking for a cause (and a villain), choose something more modern and relevant. Obama, for example.

        Do you know how much and how many times Germany changed between 1870 and 1930? So you have this cult of disaffected yutes (and I don’t know why they are disaffected but they really should figure that out) blaming their current circumstances on events of over 150 years ago.

        So let’s say you have the right to secede, dummies. What are you going to do with it? What are you proposing? Are you going to break off libtard California into its own nation? And that will solve what exactly?

        What things are the Federal government not allowing you to do now? And that’s not to suggest that the tax and regulatory burden is non-existent. Of course that’s a big problem. But what is it specifically that Libertarians want to do now but can’t because of the forces Lincoln set into motion? What’s the real issue here?

        If yutes feel disaffected then they need to get to the root of their disaffection instead of scapegoating Lincoln. Good god, you’d think this was just another Weimar Republic splinter group.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Oh, and lastly, your comparison of the South to Nazi Germany is entirely ridiculous on its face. It’s desperate hyperbole likening two situations and governments that absolutely nothing alike to score emotional points on the cheap. Nothing more.

    The point I made was that any regime tends to think itself justified in what it does…Hitler, Stalin, Obama, Jefferson Davis, Castro, Putin, Mao, even George Washington. But in the case of Washington, unlike the other cases, he was probably indeed justified. You might actually read my words in the context I said them instead of misrepresenting what I’m saying, William.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Then, consider that the right for states to secede from the voluntary Union is far more supported in law by the Declaration, and also in the fact that it was an implied assumption when Constitution was ratified

    Too bad you don’t put half the effort, William, into finding support in the law for people not owning other people. Then I might sympathize with you and take you seriously.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Indeed. I’ve sat this one out, Brad, because I didn’t think you needed any help, and certainly not another of my book-length comments. It is absurd for Libertarians to caricature Lincoln (who by the end of his life believed in something very close to laissez-faire capitalism) as the Father of Big Government.

      But I can’t quite manage to hold my tongue on the question of secession since I’ve been thinking about it for some time. As to the right of secession, I believe that is does exist, but it must be for good cause, e.g. that the Federal Government is not obeying the terms of the agreement (the Constitution) but is dangerously transgressing on the powers of the states or the rights of the people. In the present day, a very strong case can be made that the Federal Government is doing exactly that, but as you pointed out, this was not true at the time of the Civil War. The South seceded not because the liberties of its people were being trampled upon but because it wanted to maintain and expand slavery (the latter being a crucial point).

      In the end, the North went to war because it could not abide the South spreading slavery over the western territories. Had the South not pushed so hard to force everyone to acknowledge slavery as a good thing, the Democratic Party could have held together and the North would never have gone to war merely to extinguish slavery in the South.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This is something the revisionists ignore. It was slavery, not such issues as tariffs, that split the Democratic Party and thus ensured Lincoln’s election. Indeed, Douglas as a Midwesterner shared the Southern preference for relatively low tariffs, whereas Buchanan as a Pennsylvanian favored protective tariffs — yet the Southerners chose to back Buchanan over Douglas because the latter really meant it when he talked of popular sovereignty on slavery (as opposed to the territorial slave code favored by the South and the doughfaces).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Nik, I don’t take the issue of “secession” at face value. We could have argued the legal technicalities of that 150 years ago. But even then, what the South did was not a legal action. It was an act of rebellion.

        So was the American Revolution. And as you pointed out, there are good reasons to rebel and bad ones. And regarding the issue of secession, I would say, at best, it’s a gray area. In real life, what raises to the level of “a long train of abuses and usurpations” and justifies “throwing off such Government, and providing new guards for one’s future security” is a debatable issue. But this is considered an extra-legal right of all men, beyond what is on paper. It’s a natural right.

        So it’s foolish (and likely disingenuous) to fixate on the secession aspect. No one is saying that some group of people doesn’t have a right to throw off an oppressor, whatever the terms of their initial union. But libertarians fixate on secession for reasons unknown, especially forgetting that the South was the biggest oppressor of all.

        If they were actually concerned about oppressive government, they’d be concentrating their efforts on environmental wackoism which has been the impetus for violations of property rights. But they keep coming back to 150 years ago to Lincoln, skipping completely over LBJ, FDR, Wilson, the Sixteenth Amendment (income tax), and the vast regulatory state that has assembled itself.

        Why fixate on Lincoln? One can only speculate. But we’re clearly dealing with a crank cult. Their ideas make about as much sense as tattoos or ear gauges. Libertarian ideas seem to be fancy things tattooed on the brain with little other purpose than showmanship. Who are they trying to impress by trying to knock Lincoln down a notch? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s their way to try to raise themselves up. But as Teddy Roosevelt said:

        It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

        I think there’s an aspect of that to libertarian kookiness. I think we’re looking at a group of disaffected yutes grasping at relevance and meaning. They are slashing at history with a blunt knife.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Perhaps the real root of this fixation on Lincoln is the fact that many Southerners simply still don’t like Yankees. Particularly as it is the Yankee part of the nation which consistently votes in Leftists who abridge the rights of all Americans.

          Maybe that is where it started and then the nutty Libertarians latched on to this thought and ran with it.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Perhaps the real root of this fixation on Lincoln is the fact that many Southerners simply still don’t like Yankees.

            That’s possible, but if so that further outlines the fact that Libertarians won’t actually be honest and tell us what is on their minds. If this is simply an expression of the grievance of the South, I could understand that. But is that what it is? Who the heck knows?

            Being from the West, I consider myself outside of the need to justify either the North or the South. Both have guilt on their hands in terms of slavery (some more than others, of course). We may never know what incites libertarians to such disaffection and kooky fixations. What we do know is that two completely different ways of life were in conflict.

            The libertarians I run into out West have this same kooky anti-Lincoln fixation, and I doubt they have any Southern sympathies. Even if the ideology itself doesn’t make much sense, the idea of turning an evil into a sense of victimhood is not. Reading a history of Nazi Germany, it’s interesting that so many Germans (and by all means, not just Nazis, and quite before the Nazis) thought of themselves as victims after the end of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles.

            Yeah, the treaty was harsh but Germany planned to do the same, or worse. It planned to conquer territory and parcel it off as it chose, including demanding war reparations. So instead of facing their evil they took their wounded pride and declared that they were victims. Evil (or at least wrong) refused to look at itself.

            And God only knows why libertarians would pick up the Old South as a cause. I have no idea. They inflated Lincoln to the serpent in the garden of eden, as if all our current problems started there. And yet instead of going on a rampage agains Big Government (however it started) they fixate on Lincoln…and legalizing drugs…and open borders…and in many places they are pro prostitution.

            Kooky cult. To take their arguments at face value is to miss that their ideas make no other sense than as a means of defining themselves. They depend now upon the idea of Lincoln as villain every bit as much as the Nazis did on defining those who negotiated the Treaty of Versailles as villains.

  11. Rosalys says:

    Southerners are sorta funny about Their War. I remember D.A.R. night at the local PBS station (Mom being an active D.A.R. member and I being willingly dragged along) during “Pledge Week.” We were manning the call lines during a rerunning of the Ken Burn’s series. I answered a call from a man (with a southern drawl) who didn’t call to donate but to let us know that, “The South didn’t lose the Civil War. They just didn’t win it!”

    O.K. buddy. Whatever floats your boat!

    I was taught that the Founders wanted the end slavery written into the Constitution, and even delegates from the southern states were willing – except South Carolina. That is why compromises were necessary. And it was South Carolina that fired the first shot of the Civil War.

    I’ve often wondered if it would have been better to call SC’s bluff than to compromise; tell them it was nice knowing them, thanks for your help fighting the Revolution, but if you don’t feel happy with this engagement, there is no need to go through with the marriage. Better to get out while you’re free than to have to go through an ugly divorce later. But of course it is possible that if SC didn’t go along it may have split up the other 12. I don’t know. I find it ironic that the battle over the Confederate battle flag is being fought in SC and that they are finally being forced to take it down. It’s an historic flag and an emotional symbol. Although free people must be allowed to fly whatever flag they want on their own property, perhaps only the American flag and the official state flag should be flown on the statehouse grounds, which is the seat of government.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for that perspective, Rosalys. There’s little doubt that knee-jerk sectional identities went into fueling the war. And I think it was Mr. Kung who posted a quote from a Confederate soldier (who owned no slaves nor had any large property) when asked about why he was fighting the Yankees said “Because they’re down here.”

      It’s unclear whether the writer of this article is from the South. But it is a common Libertarian theme to still be re-fighting the Civil War, even if one is from the Pacific Northwest and has never even set foot in the South. I can understand smoldering resentment from a Southerner. I don’t understand what seems to be artificially constructed resentment from those who are supposedly against Big Government yet fail to mention the hundred-and-one things causing it while fixating on something that happened 150 years ago.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There’s a reason Sherman’s troops were especially eager to ravage South Carolina (they were much milder in North Carolina). One might note that in addition to state flags there are county flags in some places (we saw them at the New Jersey Capitol in Trenton). Also, Louisiana has a display of all the flags that have flown over the state (even the Republic of West Florida), which naturally includes the Confederate flag. That one shouldn’t be taken down.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    PragerU has a timely course: Was the Civil War About Slavery?

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