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Blogosphere hosts new attack on Lincoln

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Those of you who began reading my commentary before I had my own blog or who have been reading Mac-a-ro-nies from its inception already know I honed my blog teeth on the neo-Confederate movement. Readers who came along later have probably noticed I mention that pathetic band of Neandertals from time to time. It appears I need to return to writing about it often. A blogger sympathetic to the neo-Confederate movement has been promoting claims that President Abraham Lincoln was a despot and that the Emancipation Proclamation was meaningless.

Thanks for nothin’ Abe

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued his so-called “Emancipation Proclamation” supposedly freeing the slaves.

Lincoln personally disliked blacks and had publicly stated that he would willingly accept the institution of slavery if it would stop the southern states from seceding. Slavery was not a main issue to the southern states, however, and they left anyway.

Re-subjugating the Confederacy to northern domination was turning out to be much bloodier and more costly than Lincoln had expected. He needed more and better reasons for northern families to give up the lives of their sons, preferably something of a moral nature. Therefore, halfway into the war he declared that it was about ending slavery. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

His real view of the moral imperative of ending slavery, however, was better reflected in the clever lawyerly construction of this worthless Emancipation Proclamation, which did NOT apply to slaves held in Union states. In short, by design this Emancipation Proclamation freed ZERO slaves.

Unfortunately, due to lack of information, I gather, quite a few bloggers and readers believe the false assertions Al Barger is making. I will take on the responsibility of providing that information.

I last wrote about the neo-Confederate movement at length in regard to its effort to prevent a statue of Lincoln being erected in Richmond, Va. It was my pleasure to act as a conduit between Robert Kline, the man whose idea the statue was and the media, since I totally sympathized with him. (Besides, he needed the protection the attention brought. Neo-Confederate goons had come to his office and threatened him, an elderly man who would not be able to defend himself.) Atrios, Roger Ailes and Zizka helped me in in that worthwhile effort.

Among the mechanisms the neo-Confederates used in that failed battle was a made-up claim the U.S. Historical Society was guilty of fraud, which it had the Virginia attorney general investigate, web pages defaming the society and fellow traveler legislators in the state legislature and Congress who tried to prevent the monument being built. The neo-Confederates fight dirty and should be given no quarter.

The current assault on Lincoln relies on the same people behind the attempt to prevent the statue of our best president ever from being sited in the southern United States. As you may recall, their chief academic is Thomas DiLorenzo, a non-historian who has written a volume depicting Lincoln as a tyrant who caused the Civil War. DiLorenzo was the guest of honor at a neo-Confederate conference held to protest the opening of the Lincoln statue. The current smear of Lincoln relies on DiLorenzo’s book, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
, and other neo-Confederate sources. Mainstream historians have thoroughly dismissed DiLorenzo when they bother to acknowledge him at all. Even the reviewer for the far Right Washington Times declined joining DiLorenzo in defaming Lincoln. He has found a home in the neo-Confederate movement, but is not taken seriously anywhere else. His ludicrous platform is easily summarized. This reviewer, from a conservative site, incidentally, sees right through his lies.

In this hopelessly pro-Southern book, DiLorenzo offers tired explanations for why the South was righteous, and the Lincoln-led North was tyrannical. It is typical fare for the Southern apologist crowd, which oddly still inhabits the Civil War era. The Loyola College (Maryland) economics professor continuously hammers the theme of states’ rights throughout the work. Predictably, he infuses his writing with deliberately selective quotes from Lincoln and others so that he can make bold accusations (i.e. He implies that Lincoln was a racist, for example).

Interestingly, he pays little attention to the ‘peculiar institution,’ which is otherwise known as slavery. Instead, he focuses the reader’s attention on what he calls “Lincoln’s real agenda: the American System.” Basing one’s arguments primarily on the states’ rights component is a lot like having a polite dinner conversation with a 2000 pound pachyderm in the room.

The professor argues that slavery would have died out on its own at some point (he does not offer how long this might have lasted), since many nations were eliminating slavery peacefully throughout the 1800s. Perhaps the armchair historian is comfortable with that conclusion, but I have a feeling that the slaves of 1865 might have had slightly different feelings about the gradual phasing out of slavery.

He thinks he has our sixteenth president captured when he boldly announces that “Lincoln stated over and over that he was opposed to racial equality.” Unfortunately, DiLorenzo fails to understand that history always involves a context. It is quite obvious that an abolitionist (or even someone who believed in equality for all people regardless of race) would never have garnered the support of the American public. We are talking about the mid nineteenth century, where people’s concepts of race and prejudice were drastically different from today’s standards. Using twenty first century standards to judge a president from the 1800s is foolish from a historical standpoint, and blatantly incorrect. It also exposes the weakness of one’s argument.

. . .Professor DiLorenzo is looking for controversy when he labels the Civil War as an “unnecessary war” in the subtitle of his book. Asking whether or not Lincoln was a dictator, DiLorenzo draws a ludicrous comparison between King George III and the Civil War era president. (George the Third was King of England when the American colonists rebelled, and eventually formed the United States.)

Reducing the Civil War’s root causes to those involving free trade and government philosophy, DiLorenzo all but dismisses the slavery debate. He writes that, “Lincoln waged war in order to create a consolidated, centralized state or empire.” He adds that ultimately the conflict centered around “the battle between the free-trade South and the protectionist North.” While it is true that several factors were involved in the war, slavery’s prominence is undeniable. The reality is that Southern gentry could not command thousands of men to go to their deaths for the aristocracy’s slaves. Rather, framing the debate around “states’ rights” provided a platform that would attract both rich and poor. It also covered up the heart of the issue- whether or not men had the right to own other men.

DiLorenzo has compiled standard pro-Southern dogma, and placed it in new packaging. His “new look at Abraham Lincoln” is recycled material from a long-lived legacy of defeat from a few Southern, Confederate sympathizers, who refuse to live in the present. By the book’s end, we are no closer to finding the real Lincoln than when we first began.

Once they stop snickering at the mention of DiLorenzo’s name, historians take his book apart. About what? Everything. The Real Lincoln has been cited as faulty in every way. A commentator has organized the types of errors in the book as factual errors, distortions of interpretation and shoddy scholarship. Among the monolith of mistakes are purposeful misrepresentations of the Emancipation Proclamation and its effects. For example:

DiLorenzo states that the emancipation proclamation “caused a desertion crisis in the U.S. Army. At least 200,000 Federal soldiers deserted; another 120,000 evaded conscription; and at least 90,000 Northern men fled to Canada while thousands more hid out in the mountains of central Pennsylvania to place themselves beyond the reach of enrollment officers.” This statement is referenced to p. 67 of The Confederate War by Gary Gallagher. However, this is wrong in two ways. First, no such statements are to be found in Gallagher’s book, either on the page noted or anywhere else. (Gallagher’s book tends to focus only on the Confederate side of the war.) Second, DiLorenzo is blaming all desertions on the U.S. side of the Civil War on the Emancipation Proclamation — 200,000 is the consensus estimate for the total number of deserters throughout the war, according to Mark Weitz’s article on desertion in the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000). Needless to say, some Federals deserted before the proclamation was passed, so not all the desertions can be ascribed to it, and it seems unlikely that every U.S. soldier who deserted after September 1862 did so because of the proclamation.

Barger’s claim that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves, which relies on DiLorenzo and other neo-Confederates, is of course, false. As the Northern army progressed through the South, thousands of slaves were freed. However, of equal significance is that the Emancipation Proclamation changed the nature of the war, making it clear it was a war of liberation, and reinspiring Union troops.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom. It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.

So, why would people denigrate Lincoln while lionizing Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee? Even a cursory examination of neo-Confederate sites answers that question. Lincoln’s critics hate him because they believe he ended the possibility of the kind of society they prefer — theocratic, racist, sexist and isolationist — prevailing in the United States. Though they are still working to create such a society, they know there is little hope of achieving their goal. The best they can do is mislead other Americans about the historical events that shaped this country.

Am I saying Abraham Lincoln was a perfect person? No, but compared to most leaders of his time and since, the man was a giant. Virtually no one who had the same conflict brought before him or her could have dealt with it better. Most importantly, Lincoln grew as a person. After observing the valiant performance of black troops who fought for the Union during the war, he rejected the notion that African-Americans should be relocated elsewhere or permanently become second-class citizens. I believe that if Lincoln had survived, Reconstruction would have been successful and we would not have the shameful societal divisions we have today. To demean this man is to demean someone we all, as Americans, should be proud of.

Note: Most of the material describing and analyzing the Lincoln statue controversy can be accessed at Zizka’s site and is well worth reading. (I prepared it before I had a blog.) It is a good introduction to the neo-Confederate movement.

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About The Diva

  • Eric Olsen

    MD, I believe this is exactly the right approach if you object to something: tackle it head on, publicly, and use your skills to persuade others to your point of view. Thanks.

  • Still must say that I am no fan of Lincoln, but good job, and thanks for doing this, MD. Glad you decided to stay, at least for now.

  • Clio


    I’d love to know who you DO hold in esteem, as Lincoln falls so far short in your regard?

    Did you singlehandedly hold the nation together in its darkest hour? I thought not.

    Did you change the course of human history for the better, sacrificing your own life in the process? I thought not.

    Shut your gob, then. You are not worthy.

  • She asks me a question and then commands me to shut my piehole. LOL… 😀

    With all due respect, following your criterion, you should keep silent as well. But that would negate the purpose of this site.

    In answer to your query, I reserve my esteem for my parents, my grandfather, my spouse and children, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and God. On the melanin front, it would be those involved in the abolitionist movement; Dr. King and those who worked with him, such as the Rev. Robert Graetz and his wife and their neighbor Rosa Parks; and El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (though NOT Malcolm X).

  • Dew

    really? why not Malcolm? Just Curious

  • The Theory

    i suspect it would be because Malcolm X was open to violence in his expressions.

  • Precisely, and because El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was someone who cast off hideous beliefs (that “blue-eyed devil” BS) to embrace everyone.

  • Kelli

    I’ve never heard the phrase “on the melanin front” before. What does it mean? My favorite darkies?

    Does it not occur to you that your list of noble persons outside your immediate family (as you are, obviously the center of the universe) would have been picking cotton had Lincoln the not so hot fought the “unnecessary” Civil War?

    Gandhi, by the way, was a great admirer of Lincoln. Both died at the hands of fanatical separatists who reviled them for trying to keep their respective countries together. Minor details, I suppose, to you.

  • Couple of facts:

    “On the melanin front” means those dedicated to ending the oppression based on skin color.

    I doubt that anyone would label Bob or Jeannie Graetz “darkies.”

    Many members of my immediate family would not be labeled as “darkies.”

    Abolitionists came in a variety of hues, and many of them never picked cotton a day in their lives.

    Gandhi was not perfect by any means (former lawyer and supporter of the caste system), and neither am I.

    As for me being the center of the universe, no, that would be Jesus.

    And, with all due respect, I doubt that you know what the future would have held had the Civil War not taken place. I am a pacifist who believes that there are always preferable alternatives to bloodshed.

  • MD, a couple of things jumped out at me in this. First, the Emancipation Proclamation changed the nature of the war. So it wasn’t really about slavery to start with, but somewhere in the middle Abe needed a new excuse for the subjugation of the south. Ah,yes. That’s what it was really about all along. Right.

    Here’s one where you’re WAY out of line: Lincoln’s critics hate him because they believe he ended the possibility of the kind of society they prefer — theocratic, racist, sexist and isolationist — prevailing in the United States.. See how the deal works? If you object to Lincoln, then you are an evil Klansman. And where did you get theocratic and sexist from in this? Looks like you just threw in the normal liberal laundry list.

    No, I object to Lincoln because he did more to destroy the idea of limited government than any other individual in US history. He suspended the writ of habeus corpus, instituted military drafts and an income tax, threw opposition newspaper editors in prison for criticizing him, and all kinds of other ugly stuff.

    I criticize Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation here because I don’t think he deserves much credit. That does not mean that I (or Natalie) support the institution of slavery, or everything about the Confederacy.

    As to your criticism of Dilorenzo, it is heavy on derisive language, but light on facts. It may be reasonable to have different interpretations of facts, or to highlight different facts that would support different conclusions than those of Dilorenzo. There is a lot of room for legitimately differing opinions about these complicated historical matters- though you don’t seem to think so.

    However, you only present ONE narrow claim here of an actual factual error by Dilorenzo: the claim that a footnote to a book by Gallagher doesn’t check out. Even assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, that doesn’t mean a lot. A single error in the footnotes does not mean that the author is an EVIL RACIST WHO HATES BLACK PEOPLE AND WANTS TO MAKE THE COUNTRY A SEXIST THEOCRACY.

    It could be a typo. Maybe it was from page 37 of another book. What are you claiming here, that Dilorenzo absolutely made up hard numbers out of the blue and fraudulently made up a citation? Seems unlikely.

    Now, if you can actually document numerous similar errors, then you would have some more significant basis of criticism. That would start to look like either unprofessional sloppiness, or even dishonesty.

    In the meantime, your righteous moral denunciations of Dilorenzo appear totally unwarranted.

    Also, you are ridiculously overreaching with your accusations against me. I made a fairly narrow, specific criticism that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free the slaves. From that, you decided that I am a neo-Confederate slaver, or some such NONSENSE. Surely you know better.

  • I am not going to respond to Barger, because as Natalie has noticed, he takes pleasure in his foolishness. I will not pleasure him in any way.

    For people who want to know more about why no one takes DiLorenzo seriously except the neo-Confederate movement he is a leader of, you can of course click on the links in the entry. They contain longer explanations of what is wrong with DiLorenzo’s book written by historians. In addition you can conduct your own search of DiLorenzo. You will discover he is a top member of the neo-Confederate movement, but a joke to real historians for yourself. He wrote the book for that audience and it failed to reach beyond it.

    Barger’s support of the neo-Confederates is not limited to DiLorenzo. The other book he cites is also a Bible of that racist and secessionist movement. Furthermore, it is a product from small presses set up by people in the neo-Confederate movement solely to promote their propaganda.

    Small presses? Conferences to attack Lincoln? Goon squads sent to harass their enemies? Pressure on politicians beholden to them? To those not familiar with the movement, all this may sound surreal, as if there is a shadow world the neo-Confederates live in. There is, complete with their own theology, education system and popular culture, including books and music. I now realize I need to write about the movement more often because new people come to Bloggersville and others forget what they’ve read. I intend to keep Mac-a-ro-nies general interest, but will be writing about the neo-Confederates more often after the people supporting Barger’s claptrap opened my eyes. I have virtual tons of information about them I can share. One of the funnier recent episodes is about a neo-Confederate leader (who denies being one, of course) getting caught, in disguise, accepting an award at a Ku Klux Klan banquet. Stay tuned.

  • BJ

    Al, two questions.

    First, this is the sentence I couldn’t get past: Slavery was not a main issue to the southern states, however, and they left anyway.

    Could you provide some documentation on that one? Isn’t that directly contradicted by the resolutions and other events surrounding secession?

    Second, w/r/t your complaint over Lincoln on the grounds of taxes, limited government, habeus, etc., – I’m slightly ashamed to say that I don’t know enough about Lincoln to have much of an opinion on that. But your post was about the Emancipation Proclimation and slavery, not those issues; so it seems fair to respond re: those issues, no?

  • BJ

    MD, if I’m not mistaken, the link to Zizka’s site is broken. I’d love to browse it. (I’m familiar w/ his site generally, but haven’t read those archives.)

  • Fixed it, BJ. Dunno what was wrong with it, but since I used the URL twice, I just copied the one that worked in the body to the note, where the link wasn’t working. I am teaching a couple folks to blog and this is what annoys them most — that a tiny, sometimes undetectable mistake in coding can cause something not to work.

    BTW, Zizka is back after resigning from blogging again. His latest URL is on my blogroll. Now, if only the General would return.

    I believe that having former slaves participate in a war changes the nature of it. In fact, it seems so obvious, I don’t see how anyone could fail to see it.

  • The Civil War was less about slavery than it was about economic issues and state’s rights in general, though slavery, of course, was an important factor. However, I’m a pacifist who considers violence, for any reason, immoral.

    MD, I read all the data to which you linked. Impressive stuff. But it bears saying that one can not be a Lincoln fan while still being vehemently opposed to the Confederacy, the neo-Confederacy, the institution of slavery, and the rantings of DiLorenzo and while being sad that Lincoln was assassinated.

    It is clear that Lincoln’s acts were politically motivated. Should a politician making a political act win moral kudos? Not necessarily — if the pol was doing what he or she knew was the moral, right thing, yes. I am not convinced that Lincoln was moved by morality or goodness.

    John Adams was aware that slavery was wrong, but after warning the so-called “founding fathers” of the horrors that would be unleashed if the abominable institution was not outlawed in 1776, he and his allies capitulated in order to win approval for the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, also aware of the evil of slavery, penned the anti-slavery text that was stricken from the Declaration at the insistence of southern members of the Continental Congress. Of course, he owned slaves himself, fathered slaves himself, and did not free his own children until after his death. Whatever their reasons, they chose to do what was politic over what was right. Lincoln did something politic that was, coincidentally, the right thing to do (and the EP, a fine speech, got the free-the-slaves ball rolling, that’s it). But nothing I have read persuades me that he did it because it was the moral thing. IMO, motivation and character count.

    You say he grew as a person, that he gave up the idea that African-descended humans should be separated from “decent society.” Good, but not good enough.
    Jefferson grew too, after his meetings with Benjamin Banneker, yet his own offspring remained enslaved. I’m glad he grew, but what difference did it make?

    Many people say that we should not judge those who lived in different times and under different mores and beliefs. I say that is codswallop. Look at the example of non-African abolitionists, who risked everything to do what was right. They deserve praise and honor. No, one should not condemn fallible, ignorant human beings like Lincoln and Jefferson, but neither, IMO, should they be praised. Those who choose to praise them are certainly free to do so. Those who can’t, however, have every right not to. And those who can not praise Lincoln should not be tarred as neo-Confederates unless they actually support the likes of Robert E. Lee. I can not and will not speak for Al Barger, but I state categorically my antipathy for anything involving the Confederacy or that “quaint Southern institution.”

  • I largely agree with what you are saying, Natalie. I felt the way you do when faced with Right Wing News “Greatest Figures in American History” poll. The hardest name for me to type was Thomas Jefferson’s. I detest the man for the reasons you stated above. And, frankly, he strikes me as a wimp unwilling to reconcile what he knew to be the truth about people of color and slavery with what was politically amenable. However, I could not ignore his role in forming the country, so I gave in and put him on my list.

    I don’t believe Lincoln was as awful as Jefferson. Let’s remember that he did not get an opportunity to fulfill some of his promises because he was assassinated by a hero of the neo-Confederate movement, John Wilkes Booth. Maybe Lincoln would have wimped out, but I don’t think so.

  • “I don’t believe Lincoln was as awful as Jefferson.”

    Neither do I.

  • mike

    Well, Lincoln benefits from the same mystique that surrounds FDR and JFK. Like them, he died before his ideas were put to their strongest test, and so it’s easy to assume everything would have turned out better had he lived.

    Ever since Reconstruction, Southerners have worked hard to convince the nation that their cause was about more than just slavery. It’s a crock of shit. The South has dragged this country down since its inception. I say it’s time to re-enact the siege of Atlanta. Southerners obviously didn’t get the point the first time around.

  • I can understand having some issue with Jefferson for owning slaves. That is an undeniable black mark on his record. However, other than this private sin affecting a relative handful of people, Jefferson was a great man who helped establish a great if imperfect country.

    Lincoln, on the other hand, screwed us all. He was a fascist, an evil and murderous dictator. If he ended up landing on the right side of this one (admittedly very important) issue, it was only by accident.

  • RE: comment #12 BJ, if Lincoln had made an emancipation proclamation, then the southern states left, that would tend to support an idea that the Civil War was about slavery. Of course that is not what happened.

    Indeed, even during the war, as late as August of 1862, in a famous letter to newspaper editor Horace Greely, Lincoln said:

    My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to 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; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.

    This does not sound like we were fighting the war for the principle purpose of ending slavery.

    In practice, these things are extremely complicated, and there will be legitimate counter arguments. No doubt to SOME northerners, ending slavery was a sanctified calling to war.

    I take it that slavery to the Civil War was somewhat analagous to freeing the Iraqi people is in 2003. It makes a noble sounding backup reason if the real reasons either don’t pan out or don’t sound so good in the first place.

  • Thought Process

    Is anyone adult enough to just let this die?

  • Why? Finally, people are trading facts and opinions rather than insults.

  • Thought Process

    Point noted

  • BJ

    No doubt to SOME northerners, ending slavery was a sanctified calling to war.

    Al – thanks for the response. Your original quote was about the South: Slavery was not a main issue to the southern states, however, and they left anyway.

    That just doesn’t conform to anything I’ve ever seen about the move to secession.

    Slavery was not a main issue to the southern states?

  • Again, it’s tough to say entirely what the “main issue” was to “the southern states” in that there is no Southern State you can ask about her opinion. It’s a whole bunch of different people with differing values and priorities.

    Probably you could go through letters and find a couple of southern soldiers writing about how important it is to keep black folks in their place. I doubt you’d find very many such things though.

    The vast majority of white southerners were NOT slave owners. Barring strong evidence to the contrary that I haven’t seen, I find it difficult to believe that southern boys were going off to fight and die motivated by the desire to protect the rich folks’ right to own slaves. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Especially since there wasn’t yet even any attempt by the north to emancipate the slaves.

  • I don’t understand your perspective, Ash. The neo-Confederates are a very powerful and harmful group, as revealed during the Trent Lott debacle. Why should we let discussion of them die instead of educating the population about them?

    Robbed gets it. Partial quotes from Lincoln early in the conflict not withstanding, the Civil War was mainly about slavery. Sweeping that truth under the rug is unacceptable. People like Barger and other neo-Confederates are not remotely innocent in their desire to mangle history. They believe that misrepresenting what happened 150 years ago will help them accomplish their reactionary goals now and in the future. Their argument: If there was never any race problem except for the meddling of “damned Yankees,” then the whole civil rights movement and its current supporters are bogus. This is some deadly Kool-Aid. Don’t drink it.

    My next neo-Confederate entry will get to the core of the “not about slavery” claim. I will also dissemble the other book Barger is relying on and its publisher, a neo-Confederate small press.

    Will all due respect to Eric, just about everything his friend Barger is saying is pure neo-Confederate boilerplate. It will be easy to refute by primary documents, i.e., those presented by the participants in the secession and the Civil War itself. It is not clear to me how Barger convinced anyone here he knows anything, despite his numerous posts. His remarks on just about everything are as shallow as a soap dish.

    I had intended to spend most of this week discussing the Portland 7 terrorism case on Mac-a-ro-nies. But, I believe negating neo-Confederate influence is just as important.

  • I hope you get to the Portland Seven soon. That is an interesting case: If Patrice Lumumba Ford & co. can face charges for conspiring to wage war on the US, Dubya Bush and his fellow terrorists should face charges for what they did to Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill “Slick” Clinton should face charges for what he did to the Sudan… And on and on…

  • You seem to think that not liking Lincoln somehow means hating black folk. Actually, I’m saying that LINCOLN didn’t give a rat’s ass about a black man. That’s part of why I consider him bad. Again, look at that famous Greely letter.

  • You’re wasting your time, Barger. The Greely quote, another staple of neo-Confederate sites, is taken out of context and divorced from the historical record. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether More or Less Honest Abe would have invited Oprah to dinner. Because of him, the slaves were freed and several generations later Oprah can dine with just about anyone she wants. Lincoln led the Union to victory in the Civil War, freeing the slaves in the process. That is what matters.

  • Miss Diva, you start to make a reasonable argument there in the last sentence. I don’t know that I agree with it, but there might be at least a halfway defensible position there.

    I don’t see how the Lincoln quote was at all out of context, but let’s just settle that problem by including the entire text of his letter to Greely:

    Executive Mansion,
    Washington, August 22, 1862.

    Hon. Horace Greeley:
    Dear Sir.

    I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable [sic] in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

    As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

    I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to 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; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

    A. Lincoln

  • Lincoln was a trial lawyer. He is simply making alternative arguments:

    1) I would leave the status quo alone if that were possible, and

    2) That is not possible, so I will save the Union by fighting to end slavery.

    At that point in his career, he is subordinating emancipation to what he perceives as the greater cause of saving the Union. He may have believed what he is saying, but it is also a diplomatic argument. States with a lot of Confederate sympathizers, such as Maryland, would have been amenable to it. He needed to keep those states from bolting.

  • Eric Olsen

    I would say MD’s statement here pretty much sums up my position on the matter:

      it doesn’t matter whether More or Less Honest Abe would have invited Oprah to dinner. Because of him, the slaves were freed and several generations later Oprah can dine with just about anyone she wants. Lincoln led the Union to victory in the Civil War, freeing the slaves in the process. That is what matters.