Category Archives: Abraham Lincoln

When America Finally Turned Against Slavery – The Wilmot Proviso by Gregory Hilton

The February 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War. The United States acquired tremendous new territory and at the end of the year war hero Zachary Taylor would be elected as America's last Whig President.


“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo.

Passage of the Wilmot Proviso in the House of Representatives was truly a great moment in America history. It is one of the few Congressional debates which completely changed the political landscape. All of the old issues (the tariff, a national bank and internal improvements) were placed on the back burner. House voting patterns and party loyalties radically changed, and slavery now dominated the Congressional agenda. Continue reading

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Abraham Lincoln, Slavery and the Constitution by Gregory Hilton

Libertarians are continuing to attack President Abraham Lincoln. They claim he defended slavery and violated the Constitution. Lincoln understood the institution was protected in part by the Constitution; so some of his statements reflect that recognitgion. Others reflect the difficulty of doing away with the institution of slavery under the circumstances of the 1850s.
Lincoln recognized the practical difficulties, but it this never constituted a defense of slavery. Frederick Douglass understood this perfectly in his magnificent 1876 “Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln.” Douglass stated that Lincoln’s:

great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

The Libertarians also say “The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said Lincoln had no regard for the Constitution.” What they do not mention is that the Chief Justice was Roger Taney, a slave owner, and the author of the Dred Scott decision. It said slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
Taney wrote the majority opinion which said the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Abraham Lincoln reacted with disgust to the 1857 ruling and was spurred into political action, publicly speaking out against it. Lincoln had the correct interpretation of the Constitution, not the Chief Justice.
The Dred Scott case was so outrageous that Frederick Douglass said of it, “We welcome it.” He meant the case was such a rewrite of the Constitution and American history that it showed how far the slavocracy would go to push their position on the country. The slave states were not primarily interested in states rights. It was their ultimate goal to be able to take slaves anywhere they wanted in the U.S., including New York or Illinois.
Lincoln alludes to this in both his House Divided speech and in the Lemon case, which would have done precisely what the slave states wanted if it had been decided in their favor. Chief Justice Taney was hung in effigy in town meeting after town meeting in the free states.
Thomas Jefferson should have abided by his Declaration of Independence which said “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address said “our fathers brought forth a new nation…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln represented America’s most fundamental, profound, and idealistic value: equal justice for all.

The Libertarian Attack on Abraham Lincoln by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: According to the Claremont Institute, “The book is a compendium of misquotations, out-of-context quotations, and wrongly attributed quotations — one howler after another, yet none of it funny.”

BOOK REVIEWS: Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe, Crown, 224 pages, 2006 and The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Prima, 272 pages, 2002. Both books by Thomas J. Lorenzo, a senior faculty member at the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Just when you think the Libertarian Party could not stoop any lower, they take another major swing at a great American icon. Libertarians always blame America first for any evil in the world, and now their target is the man historians rank as our finest president, Abraham Lincoln. They claim Lincoln “destroyed the Founders’ vision of our Republic.” Libertarian Bruce Koerber of Cedar Rapids, Iowa calls Lincoln “an ego-driven interventionist.”
The Libertarians are promoting both of the above books. The title of an article on the “Daily Ron Paul Liberty Forum” refers to the late President as “our first dictator,” and notes:

Lincoln was a ruthless dictator of the most contemptible sort. A conniving and manipulative man, and a scoundrel at heart, he was nowhere near what old guard historians would have us believe. This beast ruled the country by presidential decree, exercised dictatorial powers over a free people, and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. . . Lincoln was a consummate con man, manipulator, and a State-serving miscreant.

Attacks on Lincoln are a standard part of the stump speech of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the former Libertarian Party candidate for president. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, the author of both books, describes the 16th President as a “corrupt and brutal tyrant who micromanaged the murder of thousands of innocent civilians.”
He accuses the 16th President of “orchestrating the murder of some 350,000 fellow American citizens.” Because of Lincoln, DiLorenzo says “America was on the road to becoming just another corrupt, mercantilist empire like the British and Spanish empires. . . It was not to end slavery that Lincoln initiated an invasion of the South.”
In his 2002 attack on Lincoln, DiLorenzo writes:

“A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession. . . The idea of equality was a sheer absurdity” to Lincoln. “The real purpose of the war was to end once and for all the ability of American citizens to control the federal government by possessing the powers given to them by the Tenth Amendment, including the power of nullifying unconstitutional federal laws, and secession or the threat of secession.”

The libertarian attack on Lincoln needs to be answered because it is being repeated by many so-called “constitutional conservatives” and members of the tea party movement. They are now claiming the Civil War was not fought over slavery.
They instead maintain the war was about tariffs and imposing a powerful central government. DiLorenzo says the South was “invaded,” even though the South began the war with its attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
DiLorenzo and his libertarian allies believe slavery has gotten a bad rap. They claim slaves were treated fairly and segregation should have been left alone. The libertarians are especially critical of Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University and the author of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. Foner responded to their comments by noting:

I consider them cranks. Their views on the Civil War era, reconstruction and slavery are not in tune with modern scholarship. They live in their own little world with their own little ideas.

Many of DiLorenzo’s appearance have been coordinated by the Libertarian’s main action arm, the Campaign for Liberty, as well as other libertarian groups. He was a featured speaker at the Libertarian forum during the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference.
The forum was entitled “Lincoln on Liberty: Friend or Foe?” The libertarian answer was to label Lincoln a firm foe of liberty, and DiLorenzo was enthusiastically cheered by the mostly college age audience.
As previously indicated, Ron Paul, the once and future Libertarian Party presidential candidate, often denounces Lincoln. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” in 2007, Paul said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was about taking over property rights and it had nothing to do with race relations. He said Ronald Reagan was a “failure” because he didn’t bring down the federal government to “constitutional levels.” The Texas lawmaker then went on say:

Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. Every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn’t sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.

DiLorenzo and Paul both try to make Abraham Lincoln appear to be a racist. Fortunately, Lincoln has left us hundreds of pages of his writings and speeches. He saw slavery as a form of tyranny and condemned it over and over again. He believed it was an unequivocal moral evil. The libertarans simply ignore the evidence.
The turning point in Lincoln’s life was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery to spread into the territories. Upon its passage Lincoln said, “This covert zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it for the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.”
Lincoln repeatedly made references to the Declaration of Independence and its principle, that “All men are created equal”. This equality clause was a central focus of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which were reprinted as a best seller in 1859.
That same year Lincoln said “The Republican principle — the unalterable principle, never to be lost sight of — is that slavery is wrong.” Near the end of his life, Lincoln was in favor of giving blacks full voting rights.
Lincoln was a product of the 19th century and he made statements which did not reflect perfect treatment in all social situations. However, to claim those statements negate his work for racial justice is a terrible misrepresentation of Lincoln’s struggle. It must also be noted that Lincoln’s views changed, and his commitment to racial equality grew stronger with the passing years.
DiLorenzo tries to prove that Lincoln did not care about the slaves because of this famous statement:
“My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it. . . . What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.” Lincoln was especially careful in the choice of his words. He did not say his “sole objective” was to save the Union, he instead referred to a “paramount objective.”
Were The Confederates Advocates of Small Government?
Another outrageous claim by the libertarians is to portray the Confederate States of America (CSA) as opponents of big government. The CSA definitely wanted a huge government which would permanently enslave the three million blacks living in the south. They wanted a government which would control every aspect of a slaves life.
According to Joshua Felipe, the CSA wanted to:

Control every single moment of a slaves life, every minute of their day; it would tell them where to go, what to wear, where to sleep, when to work, when to eat, what to eat, when to speak, when to be silent. This is probably the biggest form of government that human beings have ever invented in the whole of history.
I vigorously support Abraham Lincoln’s federal takeover of the southern states, and his highly commendable commitment to human rights. Lincoln viewed secession as an attempt to expand slavery. The Confederacy was based on the glorification of inequality and tyranny. The southern leaders clearly spelled out their views. Their motivation was not to be left alone, it was to enshrine slavery. CSA President Jefferson Davis said all black people are “not fit to govern themselves,” and they should be treated in a manner similar to ‘lunatics, criminals and children.'”

Presidential Leadership: The Military Command Decisions of Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush by Gregory Hilton – Part One, Abraham Lincoln

The Bush Adminiatration came to a close at noon today.

The Bush Administration came to a close at noon today.

Presidential Leadership: The Military Command Decisions of Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush by Gregory Hilton, (Part One, Abraham Lincoln).  Armed Forces Radio Network. (This commentary was originally recorded in two 90 second segments. The complete transcript is below).
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFRN) – President Barack Obama’s inspiring Inaugural ceremonies included many references to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The Inaugural theme “A new birth of freedom” came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Obama began his campaign in Lincoln’s hometown, Springfield, Illinois.On Monday he visited the Lincoln Memorial, he took the oath on Lincoln’s Bible, his train ride and even the menu was similar to what was used for our 16th President.
This emphasis on
Lincoln’s legacy is commendable, and Obama is close to matching Lincoln’s eloquence. Hopefully in the years to come he will also have the lonely resolve to match Lincoln’s leadership abilities. This will most involve critical decisions which will not be popular. In his address today the new President was off to an excellent start by warning of “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”  He even promised not to put off “unpleasant decisions.”
We do not know the future of the Obama Administration, but the new Commander-in-Chief is another war president who spoke today of defeating our enemies.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan are in the process of being doubled, and the chant “Death to America” is still repeated on a daily basis by numerous terrorist organizations. Obama will have to meet military challenges and I hope he recognizes the strong parallels between the difficult command decisions of Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush.
Both Lincoln and Bush had little military experience, they were confronted with significant domestic opposition to a war, and it took them years to find a commander who could implement a successful strategy. Both Presidents had to reluctantly learn military strategy. They read the current books and closely questioned the experts. They courageously had to overrule practically all of their advisers to implement plans which involved a major change in tactics. They made decisions which were not popular at the time, but were in hindsight were clearly in our nation’s best interest.
The Union Army was solidly opposed to
Lincoln’s decision to remove the popular General George McClellan, who would become Lincoln’s opponent in 1864. Lincoln’s cabinet was against the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves. Lincoln’s advisors emphasized the dangerous political consequences of an Emancipation Proclamation.
They felt the Civil War should focus on restoring the
Union rather than abolishing slavery. Advocates of emancipation were set back in the 1862 election when Republicans lost 28 House seats. The cabinet vote was 7 to 1 against the Proclamation. The sole vote in favor came at the end of the discussion from Lincoln himself who opposed everyone and said “The ayes have it!” The Cabinet was also unanimously in favor of harsh post-War reconciliation policies for the South, and President Lincoln noted “You are all against me.”
Lincoln became a brilliant military strategist, but it took the President a long time to acquire that skill. Lincoln was in the forefront of advocating what became the modern military command structure. The Civil War’s final end game strategy was primarily the President’s plan, while battlefield tactics were left to General Grant.
Lincoln’s problem was that his initial commanders were reluctant to engage the enemy without having overwhelming force behind them. In the early years of the war the South made significant gains despite having far fewer troops and equipment. On the Antietam battlefield Lincoln told his commander, “General McClellan, if you don’t want to use the Army, I should like to borrow it for a while.”
Lincoln had to fire five Union commanders (Generals Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker and George Meade) before he found the winning formula in U.S. Grant. McDowell lost the first major engagement of the war at Bull Run. McClellan won at Antietam but did not strike a fatal blow against Robert E. Lee who he failed to pursue. Burnside was defeated at Fredericksburg, and Hooker was defeated by Lee’s army at Chancellorsville despite having a huge advantage in troops. Meade let Lee and the Confederate army escape after Gettysburg.
Over 620,000 soldiers were killed in the Civil War. President Lincoln would have lost his 1864 bid for re-election without the public jubilation which resulted from General William Sherman’s victory in
Atlanta two months prior to the balloting. Many of these stories are best told in “Lincoln and his Generals” by T. Harry Williams (1952).