Lincoln: A brief introduction

Posted by T on October 14, 2006

To understand politics, one must understand origins. And the Republican Party cannot be understood without understanding Abraham Lincoln.

Placing Lincoln in the political divide of his day

In Lincoln’s youth, the trajectory set by the original Federalists still had strong advocates, despite the prominence of Jefferson’s vision for many decades. People of the old Federalist spirit were gathered into the Whig Party. Judge Story had written the story of America favored by that faction. Story actually taught that the states of the Union were a creation of the Union! This fit in well with their vision of a monolothic country to be led into ever greener pastures by a consolidated National Government. The states, on this model, are but the provincial administrative outposts of the national government.

In order to speed up the course of “progress,” the Whigs/Republicans wanted government favoritism for chosen players in industries that were vital for that goal. Canals, then railroads, were the first ones to be favored through the granting of government charters, bonds, rights of way, monopoly, and other special privileges.

Henry Clay was the leader of this faction in the 1830’s and 40’s. The 1850’s saw Lincoln’s steady rise. For various reasons, the Whig party imploded; the fragments made a rally as the Free-Soil Party, but shortly thereafter the new movers and shakers formed the Republican Party, with Lincoln at the center.

The role of slavery

The Republicans favored forbidding slavery in the new western territories. Hardly any of them, except the small band of Abolitionists, ever professed to have a particular concern for the Negro as the basis for this viewpoint. On the contrary, for many, it was a desire that white labor not have to compete under such terms. For others, their opposition to allowing slavery in the West was chiefly a way to oppose the culture of the South. Lincoln himself vacillated between favoring the repatriation of the Negro back to Africa, versus making him into a permanent subordinate class within the nation, even where technically “free.”

Many Southerners were opposed to slavery. What unified them was not in the first place the issue of slavery in the West, but rather the assumption that the National government had the right to settle such an issue in the first place.

The suicidal three-way split of the Democrats over how to proceed in 1860 led to the Republicans mopping up. Lincoln won with 39% of the popular vote.

An irony of the story, is that both Henry Clay and Lincoln were, technically, Southerners. But not in spirit.

The First Secession

There was not just one reason Southern states seceded, nor just one occasion; there were at least two, and non-overlapping.

The first wave seceded just because Lincoln had been elected. So horrific was that fact, it was grounds to leave.

The reason appears to be simply that Lincoln represented the final triumph of regional domination. The self-restraint that should govern all use of the central power was now officially thrown overboard.

The gulf states can be challenged on whether there was sufficient evidence that this transition had occurred to justify secession. But subsequent events showed that either they had sufficient evidence, or were prescient.

Enter Lincoln

Because of the delay between election and inauguration, the first secession took place while Buchanan was still in office. His position was an honorable one: that (1) states do not have the constitutional right to secede, but also (2) he as president did not have the constitutional right to exercise violence to prevent them from doing so.

Lincoln’s vision was quite different. The Union, remember, was the only political entity that really existed, and under the Republicans, it would become the centralized force for secular progress along the old Federalist/Whig model. As head of state, he under that model could do anything and everything to bring that vision to pass. The first order of business, therefore, was to bring the seceders back, by force if necessary.

There was still enough of the old American spirit left, even in the North, that he couldn’t just muster troops and invade without an incident. His strategy, therefore, was to set the stage for the South to fire the first shot, preferably involving an attack on the union flag.

The Confederacy had sent a delegation to Washington to negotiate a peaceful and compensated transfer of the National forts. They desperately sought audience with Lincoln, but he played with them to buy time while arranging a flotilla with three ships of provender and eight battle ships to be sent down to Sumpter.

Unjustly provoked, the Confederacy technically fired the first shot. But this no more proves that it caused the war, than the man that first swings his fist in a fight is necessarily the one that started it.

On the contrary, Lincoln started the war.

Ironically, there was not a single casualty from the reduction of Fort Sumpter. But “firing on our flag” at Sumpter gave Lincoln the excuse he needed. He issued the call for the regional administrative posts — we reactionaries still refer to them as, the States — to muster troops and send them down. This was done on his own, without concurrence of Congress, which wasn’t even in session. (Later, the now Republican-dominated Congress retroactively ratified everything Lincoln did.) The Supreme Court murmured its disapproval, so Lincoln threatened to imprison them. They got the message and shut up.

The second secession

The second wave of secession was due solely to Lincoln’s act of aggression against their sister states. There is no doubt that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas would not have seceded had it not been for that. Nor would Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware have wanted to, these being prevented from actually doing so by a combination of trickery and force, mingled no doubt with excessive complacency in certain quarters.

Lincoln’s words

One must stare long and hard at Lincoln’s speeches to comprehend the deeply embedded lies that are the actual content.

The First Inaugural, delivered before the Sumpter incident, basically says: yes, our estranged brothers, you can leave (as long as you keep paying all the taxes, imposts, and duties to us, and allow our agents free reign to collect them).

In other words, you can pretend like you have left, as long as in fact you remain our serfs.

Lincoln’s speeches were laden with poetry, like the references to divine Providence that he did not believe in: he was a skeptic his whole life. To those that now read Lincoln’s speeches in school rooms, they evoke coos of affirmation. But to those at the time that understood the sub-text, Lincoln’s words whipped up fury: either vengeful and murderous (on the part of the Radical Republicans), or righteous outrage (on the part of Lincoln’s designated victims). For the Republicans, Lincoln’s War was transformed into God’s cause, in which the Lord would trample out the vintage where his grapes of wrath were stored (whatever that means).

Slavery and the War

Many Americans still believe the so-called “Civil War” was about slavery. This widespread belief is itself an effect of the political and school book propaganda unleashed and made possible by the fifty-year Republican hegemony that was the fallout of Lincoln’s reign. The victors write the history books.

Lincoln himself, however, made it crystal clear that the war was not about slavery. It was about union. He stated unequivocally, that if keeping the union meant keeping slavery it would be kept; if it meant abolishing it, it would be abolished. It was about union, first and last.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Someone will counter, “but the Emancipation Proclamation!”

This was two years into the war, and clearly diplomatically motivated: England was on the verge of recognizing the CSA, and this would have been a huge setback to the Union cause. Trading cotton for arms would have restored a balance of power to the South. Possibly, the blockade would be regarded as a violation of international law.

There were still a lot of feelings in England about slavery, since she had only recently (but peacefully and amicably) abolished it in her own domains. By recasting the war as one concerning slavery, it shifted the balance of opinion sufficiently to prevent the recognition of the CSA.

But the Proclamation was another clever Lincoln lie. It only even pretended to apply to those regions that were in rebellion– where it couldn’t be enforced anyhow. It did not apply to the Union states that had slaves, nor to regions in the Confederacy that were occupied. Only the Great Jokester himself in the history of Christendom could have pulled off a rhetorical stunt like the Emancipation Proclamation.

It bears mentioning, that even if the Proclamation had been honest, it still would have been illegal. The Constitution was ratified with full cognizance of slavery. The President had no constitutional authority to make such a declaration.

How Lincoln waged war

Lincoln soon came to the painful realization that he was out-generaled by the South. He therefore adopted two strategies: (1) “War by the arithmetic,” meaning, use the vastly greater manpower as cannon fodder, knowing that attrition would decimate the South and leave the North still standing. (2) Ruthless warfare against civilians.

The extent of the latter earns Lincoln contention for status as the greatest war criminal in the history of Christendom to his day.

Lincoln waged war on the North as well. Dissenters were imprisoned and exiled. Presses were destroyed. Gettysburg couldn’t be followed up on because troops had to be sent to put down the “rebellion” in New York city [note 1].

The fallout

The fallout of the war was complete Republican domination for about a half century. The South was divided up into military districts that did not even follow state lines, until 1876. They were “allowed” to come back in, even though Lincoln had all along claimed they had never really left.

A series of amendments was strong-armed through; the Southern states were required to adopt them as condition of being re-admitted!

State governments were set up throughout the South by the Republicans, who passed exorbitant internal-improvement bonds, then stole the money. Taxes were raised, lands stolen for the taxes and plundered.

The 14th Amendment turned the Bill of Rights into a charter for direct Federal Government jurisdiction over every individual. This is why, to this day, the Feds get involved in criminal trials and the death penalty that historically had been the sole jurisdiction of the states.

Later, the 14th Amendment became the vehicle for the “person” of the Corporation to become a slippery little demon that cannot be held accountable in local courts.

As a perhaps unforeseen side-effect: it is also why any alien that hurls herself over the border and delivers a child has produced, presto, a new American citizen. In 18 years, a new voter.

The Guilded Age was ushered in– guilded for the manipulators that got the government privileges.


The Republicans, led by Lincoln, destroyed the Constitution.

We have to face that fact, and stop pretending otherwise.

What implications this has for today’s politics, I will suggest in a future post.

Further study

If this viewpoint is new to you, dear reader, you will need to start doing some reading. A good place to begin your research into Lincoln, can be found at a couple places.

Some good introductory material can be found by going to, clicking on “archives” in the left column, then selecting “King Lincoln.” For a recent example, on the relation between current leaders and Lincoln, look at this.

A good introduction to Lincoln and his legacy for those like I that still prefer books can be found in the poet Edgar Lee Masters’ masterpiece, Lincoln: The Man. Warning: his hostility to Christianity is evident, and he often attributes Lincoln’s vindictiveness and bloodthirstiness to “Jehovah theology.” Even Masters however concedes that Lincoln was not an actual believer; so it is an unfortunate juxtaposition revealing Master’s own religious hostility. The phenomenology of Lincoln, however, remains valid.

Note 1. I don’t mean immediately. Lee showed his genius in slipping out of the clutches of Meade in the immediate aftermath. However, Federal veterans of Gettysburg among others were sent to quell the New York rebellion a couple weeks later.

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21 Comments to Lincoln: A brief introduction

  • A very interesting post. Until recently, there was still great hatred for Republicans (at the state level anyways). Sonny Perdue is Georgia’s first Republican governor ever. The Southern Democrats seem to have died off, though, so Republicans will probably be voted more frequently.

  • Very nice summary of a not-so-nice president’s actions. I am sending this link on to my friends.

    God bless,

  • I agree with a lot of this post but to say that Slavery was not a dividing issue seems to be disingenuous. All below quotations are from “Presidential Campaigns” by P.F. Boller unless cited otherwise.

    [snipped… too long– please use a link next time, or summarize]

    Lincoln won 18 free states and Breckinridge won 11 of the slave states. So what does this tell you? Was Lincoln perfect? No. However, I can go through the Bible and point out David’s sin’s or Peter’s sins and play character assassination on them too. Just because we can scrounge up a few quotes of Lincoln not wanting to abolish slavery doesn’t mean that there was never a point later in his life in which he saw slavery was evil… we can all scrounge up quotes to paint the picture we want:

    “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others” (April 6, 1859), p. 376.

    “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, (August 1, 1858?), p. 532.

    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union , and is not either to save or to destroy slavery….” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, “Letter to Horace Greeley” (August 22, 1862), p. 388.

    This quote shows Lincoln ’s intentions regarding the war. Lincoln wasn’t primarily concerned with slavery in regards to the war but this does not mean that Lincoln was apathetic towards slavery. It means merely that his focus in this war was ‘to save the union’.

    You assert that Lincoln’s anti-slavery stance was merely rhetorical tactic for the war… someone else, it seems to me, could easily say that his non-abolitionist remarks were merely a rhetorical tactic to keep the pro-slavery northerners supporting the war or as a political tactic to gain majority of support.

  • Jonathan– I’ve been trying to think how to answer you, because you seem to grant everything I actually asserted in the post. Note that I nowhere said “slavery was not a dividing issue.” There were anti-slavery Societies in the South; there were slave-states that remained in the Union; and (as you yourself point out) “pro-slavery northerners.” Thus it was a source of division, but not a clean North-South division.

    Slavery was, along with the tariff, one of the two main issues by which the constitutional question of jurisdiction was played out. It was relevant as accident, not essence.

    Your statement that someone cd say, “the non-abolitionist remarks were merely a rhetorical tactic to keep the pro-slavery northerners supporting the war” shows something noteworthy: even in defending Lincoln against my charge of lying, you give an example which would simply be a different lie. This should tell you something.

    I think your remarks exemplify what is a common belief with modern Americans: slavery is an ultimate evil; therefore, any sequence of actions that had its eradication as its fallout can be retrospectively justified.

    In other words, the end justifies the means.

    As Christians, we shd reject that ethic .

    However, it turns out that the other premise (re the ultimate evil of slavery) is also full of errors in both history and theology. This will be worthy of another post, so that we don’t get too distracted from the theme here, which is Lincoln, the man, and his consequences. Suffice it to say here merely, that if “the real Lincoln” was anti-slavery, this hardly changes the criticisms I have given of him above. In fact, it is quite irrelevant to my analysis what “the real Lincoln” thought about this, or that, or the other thing.

  • I realize that I grant most everything you said in your post… which is why I granted it in my post. Rather than contradict what you were saying I was trying to balance it. I have friends who would point out the same exact things you point out in this post and in so doing they would forget that slavery WAS an issue and that Lincoln wasn’t simply apathetic when it came to the issue.

    I just didn’t want this post to turn into a “yeah, you’re right-Lincoln hated black people and was merely a power hungry tyrant. Slavery wasn’t a dividing issue!” conversation that I have seen some of these turn into.

  • Where did I say slavery was an ultimate evil and that the civil war was justified in fighting over it?

    How do my remarks exemplify such a view?

  • On books:

    The book by Durand (comment #2) is a treasure trove of quotations.

    A 2002 book by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln, is briefer than Masters’, and with a touch of libertarian emphasis. The preface by Walter Williams concludes, “The Real Lincoln contains irrefutable evidence that a more appropriate title for Abraham Lincoln is not the Great Emancipator, but the Great Centralizer.”

    I own, but have not yet read, a recent book on the Republican destruction of the printing press in (for me) nearby West Chester, Penna, Lincoln’s Wrath. Will review when I have a chance to study.

    It is hard to imagine that any work could exceed the passion of Masters’ (but see my warning in the post). As a minor aspect, yet significant in its own way, he alone deals with Lincoln’s way of relating to women.

  • It hardly seems fair for the heavily southern Republican party of today to be burdened with the crimes of Lincoln and the heavily northern party with which he was connected.

  • Fellow TurretinFan– I haven’t yet made a connection between Lincoln and the Republican party of today, other than perhaps the link I gave “on the relation between current leaders and Lincoln”– which however would apply to many Democratic leaders as well–, and the mention in “Election 2006: Summary”– but that was only a hint.

    You are ahead of me, however: I do plan to propose a linkage. But that discussion will be fruitless unless enough people have first come to understand the real, as opposed to the civic-myth Lincoln.

  • Please pardon my overly hasty leap to an incorrect conclusion as to your intended linkage. I eagerly await the tie-in.

  • You make it sound like anything about today is the end of some linear continuum. Reality is any moment in time is more like the piece of a puzzle. If you add any second piece and find the third, then d draw a line through them, you may just be heading in an almost random direction. Today’s forces directing history are a combination of history and randomness. Events are more like genetics, generating amazing variability from the same source, along with mutations heading in infinitely random directions, still within the boundaries of the puzzle. “You are where you were when”, not where and when your grandparents were. This applies to individuals, organizations, and applications of “constitutionality”.
    The best place to study the Constitution is the Constitution itself and the documents and Founders arguments leading up to it. To say that anything about today, especially the fabric of today’s Republican party is a continuum from Lincoln’s times or that he destroyed it and it has remained so without change is myopic and an over simplification.
    The 14th Amendment did not cause what you say. It was the moment in time application of real need, well founded legal arguments, and the temporal vision of the courts and persons involved that applied it to the definition of Corporations. As a very small (incorporated) business owner, I am damn glad I have some protections from an irrational customer taking every nickel I own, forcing my family into the streets. Anything you don’t like about the larger corporations’ behavior has more to do with human organizational behavior and normal human power rather than the 14th amendment.
    I have a greater sense in your writing that you have an axe to grind. It’s affecting your historical vision.

  • Ron S: Your view of history is a very good illustration of the pagan view, which I am opposing with the Augustinian or Christian view. The former appeals to randomness or the “end justifes the means” as it suits the immediate purpose. The latter sees both continuity and development (thus: not a simple straight-line extrapolation), where both are manifestations of covenant (keeping or breaking), as exercised by people that are all without exception either citizens of the City of God or Man.

    Re your own incorporation, distinguish. If this is a providential means by which you, as an honest man, can protect yourself from unscrupulous customers, then by all means avail yourself of it. But as ethicists, we must also observe that the same contrivance can be used by unscrupulous businesses to shield themselves from honest customers.

    In our age, whenever one applies normative analysis to social affairs, one will be accused by superficial men of “axe grinding” — try it, and see. In reality, I’m not so much grinding an axe as collecting the axes of the court magicians for a big bonfire on the town square.

  • Jonathan B (#9) — someone pointed out that I never responded to your claim.

    I am relieved that you don’t endorse the common opinion that “slavery was an ultimate evil and that the civil war was justified in fighting over it.”

    My remarks (#7) stand contra the common view; don’t read them as personally directed to you. That your view does not exemplify that premise, I freely grant based on your testimony to the contrary.

  • I just found your blog through a series of events. We have mutual friends and I hear you are wicked at Scrabble. Anyway, I have had 2 friends over the last couple of years tell me they changed from a pro-southern view to a more popular view after reading the following book:
    Arguing About Slavery by William Lee Miller.

    Any thoughts on this? Are you familiar with this book?

  • Kay — I haven’t played Scrabble in 22 years, and I don’t think I was very good even then, so I’m guessing you found the wrong guy. Rats.

    Don’t know the book. Why don’t you get your friend to post a brief statement of the two or three best arguments of the book. We’d certainly be interested.

  • Having read it in it’s entirity, the 2 volumes of “America’s Caesar” by Greg Lorne Durand helps one to realize what one was not taught in the public school system.
    Mr. Durand, in my estimation, is brilliant in his expose’ of what the UnCivil war was all about.
    It was about the beginning of a call for unity even if it meant at Gunpoint which I can no where find in the Constitution a legal leg to stand on.
    It was all about the power of government to orveride the Constitution and promote it’s own agenda and to favor one section of the country’s economics over the other. The Morill Tariff Act favored the North economics and devasted the South’s.
    The textbooks failed to reveal the secret plans of Lincoln and General Winfield Scott to disguise supply ships to Fort Sumter and send troops and amunitions to reinforce Major Anderson and subdue South Carolina because she had sedeeded from the Union.
    Lincoln’s lust for union hinged on the fact that a free trading South would produce no income for the bankrupt North and the then coffers of the Government.
    May I suggest that you purchase Mr. Durand’s work. All his work is documented and accurate.

  • I added a clarification of Gettysburg and New York as “Note 1” after a discussion last week that made me think my way of relating the two may have been misleading.

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