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Lincoln and Democracy
by Paul S. Whitcomb


       Nothing so intrigues the mind of the people of the Northern States of the American Republic as the personality of Abraham Lincoln and the imperial American Union. For sixty-two years the crescendo of laudation of Lincoln has been steadily rising, and the end is not yet. For Lincoln was the central figure and the dominating personality in one of the greatest wars of history and, in spite of all the theories of democracy, nothing so appeals to the emotions of men, which are the wellsprings of eulogy, as martial and imperial glory. People are not given to repudiating the wars they wage or those who lead them into war. Lincoln, himself, was retired from Congress for eight years because of his opposition to the Mexican War.
       It is an interesting question as to what Lincoln's place in history would have been if there had been no Civil War with its lurid glow to silhouette his eccentric personality for future generations. At the time of his election to the Presidency he was scarcely more than a local character. He had served in Congress without rising above mediocrity. He had played fast and loose with the questions of slavery and secession without contributing anything original or constructive to the discussion, and what he said only served to further agitate the South and to so compromise his own public position as to make secession inevitable when the Black Republicans came into power.
       He has been called a great thinker, but his attitude toward both slavery and secession was at once doctrinaire and the result of mechanistic logic which failed to recognize the distinction between the laws of physical science and the laws of human action. With regard to the slaves he appealed from their legal status to the "higher" law, but with regard to secession and the rights of the free and highly civilized White people of the South he argued their rights on the basis of those maxims of despotism which were invented for the express purpose of denying to the people their rightful liberties. He argued that the principles of the Declaration of Independence applied to the Negro but denied that they applied to the free White inhabitants of the States in whose favor they were originally promulgated. He failed to discern that the independence of the slave and the independence of the States involved the same fundamental principle, that the right of secession was absolute and unqualified and no more required oppressive acts to justify it than did the right of the slave to secede from his master. He failed to see that those same class of arguments which denied freedom to the South also denied freedom to all men "and undermined the very foundation of free society."
       The indiscriminate and uncritical eulogies which have been heaped upon Lincoln have been pronounced in the face of all but the most superficial facts and as though all the rest of the world was composed of brutes, knaves and fools. There is no evidence that Lincoln was any more honest, kind, accommodating or sagacious than the ordinary run of men. His waging of the Civil War was the very antithesis of common sense and statesmanship. There was no catastrophe potential in secession that in any way justified the waging of the war, viewed simply as a matter of State policy, without reference to the moral and human aspect of the war. It was one of the most colossal bankruptcies of common sense and humane statesmanship known to modern history. As the situation stood in 1860, it were better for the North and the South both that they should separate. The prosperity which followed in the wake of the Civil War was not due to keeping the South in the Union but to the development of the West. But even if it was, it is a Prussian, and not an American, doctrine that war is a legitimate agent of national progress, that the end justifies the means. We have no right to do evil that good may abound.
       Lincoln has been acclaimed the great democrat,(1) yet the greatest act of his career was the very antithesis of democracy. Washington was infinitely a greater statesman and a greater democrat. Robert E. Lee was greater in all around character. It has been too readily assumed that lowliness of birth is evidence of greater democracy. But the man of lowly birth can be no more than a democrat and it is no particular credit to him that he is. But the man of aristocratic birth, who has the privilege and opportunity of being more than a democrat, and yet who remains one, not only in simulation but at heart, can truly claim the title of being a great democrat. The purpose of democracy is not to drag the few down but to lift the many up. It is not to make all common but to make all aristocrats, to diffuse the benefits of culture and good breeding throughout the community. And Washington, who was an aristocrat by birth, because of the largeness of his heart and the breadth of his character became the first democrat through choice and affection. Never can it be truthfully charged against the man who subordinated the military to the civil through seven long miserable, heartbreaking years of revolutionary struggle and at the finish scornfully spurned the crown, that he was lacking in all the great qualities of a democrat.(2)
       When Lincoln said that the question of union or disunion could only be settled by war, and ridiculed those who decried force as a legitimate and lawful means of maintaining the Union, arguing that "their idea of means to preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be exceedingly thin and airy" and compared them to free lovers, Washington said, "Let us erect a standard to which the wise and the just can repair the result is in the hands of God"; and of the accomplished Union he said that it was "the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles." Washington based the Union upon the democratic principle of free consent. Lincoln ridiculed the basis of democracy, spoke of it as exceedingly thin and airy, likened it to a free love arrangement and asserted that force was the only sound basis of government. He appealed from the basis of democracy to the basis of despotism, from the ballot to the bullet. The Civil War was the result of the putting the new wine of democracy into the old skins of despotism.
       The responsibility for the Civil War has been laid at the door of the South on the grounds that they fired the first shot against Fort Sumter. But the grounds beg the question and the responsibility for the war must await the determination of the question as to whether or not the South had the right to secede. If South Carolina had a right to secede she had a right to take Fort Sumter. Lincoln's policy in sitting tight and forcing the South to make the first move was identical with that of Bismarck. "Success," Bismark said, "essentially depends upon the impression which the origination of the war makes upon us and others; it is important that we should be the party attacked."
       But the attack of South Carolina upon Fort Sumter was not an attack upon the North in any such a sense as the attack which Bismarck maneuvered an all too willing Napoleon into making upon Prussia. Fort Sumter was historically and geographically an integral part of the soil of South Carolina. It was there, as Lincoln said in his special message to Congress, for the protection of the people of South Carolina. It was an integral and vital part of their system of common defense. It symbolized the right of these people to defend themselves, a right which is basic to all other rights and which is the very test of manhood. Deny a man or a group of men the right to defend themselves and you deny them all other rights, for what a man has not the right to protect it cannot be reasonably and intelligently argued that he has a right to at all.
       Fundamentally and vitally the fort belonged to the people of South Carolina. The site of the fort had been ceded to the Federal Government for the protection of the City of Charleston, and the moneys with which the fort had been constructed were drawn by taxation from the people of the States by methods to which all the States had agreed in ratifying the Constitution. South Carolina had contributed her share and was morally entitled to a division of the common property. As to the legal phase of it there was none, for there was no law governing the subject, regardless of the fact that no technical, legal grounds can justify such a social catastrophe as war. War defeats the very end of law and government, which is the conservation of human values.
       In spite of the persistent attempt, carried on through school histories and by partisan historians in general, to brand the people of the South in general, and of South Carolina in particular, as so many hell-bent hotheads, the fact is that the secession movement was done "decently and in order." They did not wantonly and in undue haste fire upon Fort Sumter. They sent a commission to Washington to negotiate a peaceful settlement of all questions arising from secession.(3) The assertion that secession was an essentially war-like act was a Federal doctrine and not a Southern doctrine. It was not until this commission had been snubbed on the narrow, childish legalism that the people of the South had no right to speak for themselves, that the people of South Carolina took the only other course open to them and asserted their rights by force of arms.(4)
       In general principle the right of the people of South Carolina to dispossess the Federal Government of Fort Sumter involves no more than the right of any property owner to discharge a watchman hired to protect his property. The Federal Government had no more reasonable or moral right to wage war against the people of South Carolina and destroy their lives and property than a discharged watchman would have to destroy the property he was hired to protect. The authority of government is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The attempt to give to civil authority a special extra moral status is without ethical or social warrant and is simply one of the superstitions invented by despots as a means of awing the people and maintaining themselves in power.
       Unionists would deny that two times two make four if it were necessary to vindicate the Civil War. To them no statement of principle is valid in favor of the independence of the South and against the war. Secession itself is a true principle when exercised in favor of the Union as Lincoln declared in the case of the secession of the forty-nine counties of Old Virginia.
       The issues involved in the Civil War were not of concern solely to the generation which fought the war but are questions of eternal right and wrong and are subject to the law of Lincoln's doctrine that no question is settled until it is settled right. The objection that the war is water over the dam and that the problems of the present demand our attention is valid providing that history is all bunk and that there is nothing to learn from our past. But the problems of the present are largely the legacy of the past, and if the past had settled them right they wouldn't confront us at the present time. It has only been since the late war that an English Premier has quoted the arguments of Lincoln against secession as an answer to the principles of the Declaration of Independence as put forward in defense of the right of the Irish to freedom. And the struggle of Ireland for freedom antedates our Revolutionary War by a century and a half and involved and involves the same questions.
       It is thus that our past rises up to meet us and, as Lincoln said of slavery, "deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world." In setting up the sovereignty of the Union as a basis for making war against the seceding States and as a fence against European interference, he was acting upon the same principle that if one man chooses to kill another, neither that man nor any third man has a right to object. The logic of the Civil War was that the right to govern is paramount over the right to live, that man is made for government, rather than that government is made for man, and that for men to claim the right of self-government is to deserve and incur the death penalty.
       Lincoln's arguments against the right of the South to independence were drawn from baseless exaggerations, the fatalistic sequence of mechanistic logic, an imperial and authoritarian interpretation of the Constitution which ignored its humanitarian purpose, a strange hodge podge of the maxims of monarchical political science, and an instinctive metaphysical attitude toward government.
       Lincoln said of slavery that it was the only thing that endangered the perpetuity of the Union and that it was the sine qua non of secession, but from the constitutional and historical standpoint this is not true. Slavery, as he admitted, was "indeed older than the Revolution." It existed previous to the Constitution and the Union was formed in spite of it. Both from the standpoint of the Constitution and sound statesmanship it was not slavery but the intemperate fanatical Abolition movement that endangered the Union. These Abolitionists proposed to apply all the principles of the Declaration of Independence to a race of people that were totally unprepared for self-government.
       It was the intemperate, arrogant, self-righteous and academic attitude of the Abolitionists that made any constructive solution of the slavery question impossible and led the six cotton States to withdraw from the Union. The right to withdraw was early claimed. As a matter of historical fact South Carolina had threatened to secede over the tariff. The Colonies seceded from Britain over a question of local self-government. Belgium seceded from Holland and Norway from Sweden, where no question of slavery was involved.
       Lincoln said of secession that it was the destruction of the country, of the Union, of the nation, and of the liberties of the people and of the institutions of the country. He said, "We have, as all will agree, a free government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed."
       The argument was absolutely senseless. One would think to read the argument that some Napoleon, Caesar or Alexander the Great were attempting to conquer the Southern people and set up a despotism and that Lincoln was waging a war in aid and defense of those people, rather than that those people were seeking to do nothing more than govern themselves and that Lincoln was warring to conquer them, to keep them from exercising their rightful liberties.
       Secession was not, in any substantial sense, the destruction of the nation, nor was it in a proper sense the destruction of the Union. A nation is simply a corporation through which men exercise certain of their rights, just as they exercise other of their rights through their other organizations. Secession did not destroy the nation, but merely altered it. The Union existed when there were only thirteen States composing it,(5) and it would have continued to exist when there were twenty States left with a boundless public domain.
       As for the liberties of the people, all their liberties would have remained intact. Furthermore, in spite of the gravity of the situation as it existed in 1789, Washington never proposed to use force to compel a Union.
       In his Missouri Compromise speech Lincoln said:

       I trust I understand and truly estimate the right of self-government. My faith in the proposition that each man should do precisely as he pleases with all which is exclusively his own lies at the foundation of all the sense of justice there is in me. I extend the principle to communities of men as well as to individuals. I so extend it because it is politically wise, as well as naturally just; politically wise in saving us from broils about matters which do not concern us the doctrine of self-government is right absolutely and eternally right.

       No argument could give any stronger support to the right of secession than this argument in favor of freedom for the slave. If the inhabitants of the States are men, is it not to that extent a total destruction of self-government to say that they shall not govern themselves? When the people of the North govern themselves that is self-government; but when they govern themselves and also govern the people of the South, that is more than self-government that is despotism.
       The Negro was the beneficiary rather than the victim of slavery, as Booker T. Washington has admitted. Lincoln's talk about "unrequited toil" ignores the fact that the condition of the Negro was better under slavery than it was in Africa, it ignores the fact that as compared to White laborers of equal mentality he was not deprived of any substantial rights, it ignores the economic and social status of northern so-called "free" labor which bordered closely upon serfdom, and it ignores the contribution of management to production. The strong probability is that the Negro received at least as great a share, in proportion to what he contributed to production, as did the technically free Northern laborer.
       In any event civil war was no more a legitimate remedy for slavery than were the reputedly revolutionary methods of the I.W.W. a proper remedy for the wrongs inflicted upon free labor by Northern capitalists.
       In his first inaugural address Lincoln said:

       I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provision of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

       The argument views States simply as political abstractions. It ignores "States" as denoting an organization of men. It assumes that there is some authority capable of making a contract binding upon all generations of men which shall, throughout the course of time, inhabit a certain territory. It assumes that a few hundred thousand voters living along the Atlantic seaboard a century and a half ago possessed authority over all generations of men which may throughout the course of time inhabit all the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboard.
       The Southern people of 1860 had never entered into "a clear compact of government." It is true that a generation of men previously inhabiting the same territory had done so, but that was not their affair. One generation possesses no such authority over future generations. Political theorists may call this anarchy, but they take their theories too seriously. Men do not maintain government because their granddaddy said they should any more than they live in homes, or eat three square meals a day, or go to church because their granddaddy said they should. In some notes on government Lincoln said, "Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men, as I have, in part stated them; ours began by affirming those rights."
       In asserting that if we continue to execute all the express provisions of the Constitution the Union will last forever, Lincoln asserted no more than is true of any institution whose charter runs in perpetuity. But the assertion contains no argument against secession. Theorize, as men will, with regard to the basis of government it must conform to rational and moral reasoning, and there is no rational and moral reasoning to support the assumption that one generation can bind another generation in any such a way as is implicit in Lincoln's interpretation of the idea of perpetuity as applied to the Union.
       Lincoln neglected to draw the distinction between the right to dissolve an organization and the right to withdraw or secede from it. The one is a right which belongs to the members as a whole while the other is a right inherent if not expressed in the laws of any organization except as membership therein partakes of the nature of a contractual obligation involving a consideration. But the Union is not of such a nature and there is no authority by which such a perpetual obligation could be established.
       In arguing that secession was the essence of disintegration and anarchy Lincoln asked:

       Why may not any portion of a new confederacy arbitrarily secede again.... Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union, as to produce harmony only, and prevent renewed secession?
       Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations is the only true sovereign of a free people.

       Grant has admitted in his Memoirs that if the Southern States had been allowed to secede, they would have set up a government that would have been real and respected, and the assertion that secession was the essence of anarchy was purely academic. The essence of secession is not anarchy but freedom, independence, and nationalism.
       Lincoln asserted that, "All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this [continuous disintegration]." He could have better argued that all who cherish warlike sentiments were being educated to the temper of conquest. His argument that secession was the essence of anarchy and that the movement could end only in the complete disintegration of society is answered by his own words that "happily the human mind is not so constituted."
       But while the central idea of secession is not the essence of anarchy, war is anarchy. "It is the essence of war to summon force to decide questions of justice a task for which it has no pertinence."
       After being brought up to the idea that the Southern leaders were so many hasty hotheads, it is disconcerting to read in the speeches of their real leaders the fairness, calmness and friendliness with which they faced the situation. And this attitude was not only in their speeches but in their actions as well. They took only those measures which any people who had determined upon their course, would have taken as a matter of good judgment and precaution.
       Lincoln asked, "Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people," and again, "Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence?" He had better have asked why he should not have a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the Southern people and why he would hazard so desperate a step as war while there was any possibility that the evils of secession had no real existence. He had said of the Southern people that in point of justice he did not consider them inferior to any people and that devotion to the Constitution was equally great on both sides.(6)
       The South in seceding did not take anything that by any moral principle belonged to the North, and if the Civil War is to be justified, either upon policy or principle, it must be upon a showing that secession was an invasion of the rights of the people of the North that justified the taking of human life.(7) No abstract, highly synthetic and controversial theories of sovereignty can justify the taking of human life. Man acting gregariously possesses no other right to take life than is possessed by the individual. Murder is murder whether it is committed by one man or twenty millions of men and the empiricisms of political so-called "science" constitute no authority for murder. The idea that a "nation" can commit murder in order to achieve a fancied destiny is the essence of immorality and imperialism.
       Lincoln said, "This country, with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." His theory was that the territory of the United States belonged to the people as a whole as sovereign proprietor. That the soil of South Carolina did not belong to the people of South Carolina, who inhabit it, but to the people of the United States as a whole. The theory is a legacy from feudalism and monarchy and as applied to a republican Union or State is the essence of communism. Democracy is an association of equals. Under monarchy or feudalism the title to both person and property ultimately resided in the monarch or lord. It was this principle which was the cause of the War of 1812 when England asserted that once a subject always a subject, just as Lincoln claimed that once a State in the Union always a State in the Union.
       The right of expatriation, which is simply a right of personal secession, is an acknowledged American right and has ever been since Jefferson directed the affairs of the nation. We fought over it in the War of 1812 and incorporated it in the Burlingame treaty with China. This right is absolutely inconsistent with the description of the Southern peoples as rebels and traitors and the calling of them to return to their "allegiance" to the Federal Government. The idea of "allegiance" is that of the relation of an inferior to a superior and not of the citizens of a republic to their republican society.
       Certainly there is a territorial consideration in the formation of civil society, but that consideration is born of practical necessity and must end with the necessity. But no such consideration was involved in the secession of the Southern States. They were as able to govern themselves as were the people of the North or of England or of France or any other State. There are however no constitutional grounds for the pretense of territorial sovereignty on the part of the United States Government. The Government of the United States is simply the joint and common agent of the States, members of the Union, just as a farmers co-operative is the agent of its members. The basic principles involved in the Union of the States are the same as those involved in the agricultural co-operatives. And as I have previously observed, the United States cannot, under the Constitution, exercise exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the site for its own capitol, or the sites for forts, dockyards or other needful public buildings without first getting the consent of the legislature in which the site is situated. To call such a government a territorial sovereign is absurd.
       The people of South Carolina possess exactly the same natural, moral and fundamental rights as against the people of the State of New York that the people of Canada do.
       Lincoln spoke of the people as possessing a revolutionary right, but such talk is to deny their sovereignty and imply the sovereignty of the Constitution. Revolution is the overthrow of the sovereign, not of the Constitution or of the Government. The people do not derive their sovereign authority from the Constitution. It is not the Constitution of the people but of the Federal Government and is also the record of a compact between the States.
       Lincoln admitted that the Government could be overthrown and the Union dismembered. A successful rebel becomes a revolutionist and his success vindicates his rebellion. It is a curious doctrine that success vindicates what would otherwise be a crime.
       As a matter of historical fact these rebellions were generally efforts on the part of the people to regain their rightful liberties. As to whether or not secession was revolution depends upon whether the people of the seceding States possessed the right to run their own business.
       Lincoln said of secession that "it recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union," but the fact is, there is no obligation on the part of the States to maintain the Union. He said, "Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them," but in order to justify war he must have a stronger motive, for the Union wasn't established by force and the war overthrew those very liberties for which the Revolutionary War was fought and the Union created the right of each State to govern itself. He said, "This Union shall never be abandoned, unless the possibility of its existence shall cease to exist without the necessity of throwing passengers and cargo overboard." A more accurate analogy would be to compare the Union to a fleet of ships sailing in voluntary convoy for mutual protection and Lincoln's act in waging war to the act of the elected commander of such a convoy in sinking any ship that seceded from the convoy.
       Of the States Lincoln said:

       They have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can do so only against law and by revolution. This Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty.... The Union is older than any of the States and, in fact, it created them as States. Originally some dependent Colonies made the Union, and, in turn, the Union threw off their old dependence for them, and made them States, such as they are.

       Lincoln here pretends to be arguing upon legal grounds. The force of his argument lies in the implication that the Union had the legal authority to create those "dependent colonies, States, such as they are." But the Union of which he speaks possessed no legal status or authority whatever. It was purely an illegal, revolutionary Union whose acts depended for their force upon ratification by the respective Colonies represented in the Continental Congress or tacit consent. It was ridiculous for Lincoln to impute legality to such a Union while denying it to the Confederacy which was established upon the same legal authority as was the United States.
       Lincoln hypostatizes the Union and speaks of it achieving the independence of the States. But the Union was not a personality or an entity but simply a condition of co-operation.(8) Water cannot rise higher than its source; derived power cannot be superior to the power from which it is derived and the Federal Union cannot be superior to the States that created it. The Constitution is supreme only in the sense that the laws of any organization are supreme over its members, so long as they remain members.
       Contrary to Webster's assertion and the language of the enacting clause of the Constitution, it was not ratified either by the authority of the people of the United States or directly by the people of the States.(9) The phrase, "people of the United States," does not bear out the argument of Webster and the imperialists, that the people of the United States are united. The phrase is not "united people" but "United States." The present Constitution was ratified when the Union was still based upon the Articles of Confederation. The mode of ratification ignored the Articles entirely and referred back to the prime authority of the State legislature.
       It is only in a subjective or administrative sense that the people of the United States constitute one people. In the exercise of their sovereign powers they do, and always have resolved themselves into sovereign States. Marshall argued that the United States was sovereign to the extent of its authority, but is no more sovereign than any agent is sovereign. Its powers are delegated powers. In waging the Revolutionary War, the men of 1776 were fighting for everything that Webster and Lincoln argued against. The men of 1776 denied the rightfulness of the asserted British sovereignty. They asserted that they were men with all the rights of men, and Englishmen with all the constitutional rights of Englishmen, and that their colonial situation had no political significance, that it was not a crime for which they could be punished by depriving them of their rights of self-government.
       They claimed for their colonial legislature a constitutional parity with Parliament, possessed of exclusive legislative jurisdiction within its respective colony and that the Empire was bound simply by the theoretical sovereignty of the Crown. They did not fight for union, but for the right of each Colony to complete self-government.
       The question as to whether the Union is a league, confederation, federation or nation, is not a vital one, but is purely technical and is simply a matter of the mode of administration, of the extent of organization, not of obligation. Because it employs some machinery of government also used in its national organizations is no more reason for calling it a "nation" than there would be for calling a gasoline engine a steam engine because of certain features they possess in common.
       The assertion that secession is treason is not borne out by the nature of the Union, by the constitutional definition of treason or the nature of treason itself, or by the principles of democracy. Treason is a crime against the "sovereign." The Union is an association of co-equal States and the Federal Government is simply the common agent of those States. The Constitution says that, "Treason against the United States shall consist in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies," etc. It uses the plural "them" and "their" denoting an association of sovereigns rather than a unitary sovereign. It was Lincoln who committed treason and not the States. Lincoln overthrew eleven sovereign States and State governments, which even according to Webster were the equal of the Federal Government. The idea of the sovereignty of the whole people of the United States is purely an imperialistic dogma. Analyzed, it means that the people of Oregon are sovereign over the people of South Carolina and that the people of South Carolina are sovereign over the people of Oregon. The people of Oregon possess no more sovereign rights in the government of the people of South Carolina than they do in the government of the people of Canada or Mexico. The doctrine is indefensible by the principles of democracy.
       Lincoln has been put forward as the great exemplar of Christianity, but the Civil War was fought in diametrical opposition not only to every principle of democracy, but of Christianity. What he said of John Brown may also be said of Lincoln that "it could avail himself nothing that he might think himself right." That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason.
       Like the enthusiast, of whom Lincoln said that he "broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them," so Lincoln brooded until he fancied himself commissioned by Heaven as a modern Moses raised up to lead the "oppressed" slaves to freedom, and when the war had brought such misery and destruction that it could no longer be justified upon the original object of saving the Union, he then attributed to it the added character of a divinely appointed means of punishing the North and the South for "the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil."
       But, regardless of the fact that slavery was in no sense a unique crime, Christ said that He came, not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. The Civil War was a greater crime than slavery. Both were a denial of the right of self-government, but where slavery simply took away the unrestrained barbaric freedom of the negro and put him to constructive employment, the war destroyed the very lives of those who had been previously denied the right of self-government. Lord Morley has said that it is not enough that we should do good. We must do it in the right way. War was no more a righteous method of perpetuating the Union than it would have been a righteous method of originally forming the Union. It was no more a righteous method of keeping the Southern States inside the Union than it would be a righteous method for bringing Canada into the Union or the United States into the League of Nations. The end does not justify the means.
       Lincoln would have been a true democrat if he had perpetuated the Union by the method by which Washington formed it. He would have been a true Christian if he had followed the example of that other Abraham who said to his kinsman: "Let there be no strife I pray the between me and the for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."



Endnotes

1. In politics Lincoln was a Whig.

2. It is a remarkable confirmation of this character of Washington that Col. Landon Carter, of Sabine Hall, Virginia used the following language on 3 May 1776, before Washington had been called to the command of the American armies, "I never knew but one man who resolved not to forget the citizen in the soldier or ruler, and that is G.W., and I am afraid I shall not know another" (Tyler).

3. They offered to pay the cost of construction of the fort, etc.

4. This does not state the full case. Not only were commissioners snubbed and denied audience, but no attack took place till Lincoln sent an armed squadron to supply the Fort with men and provisions. On this very question he took the advice of his Cabinet on 15 March 1861 and only one of them favored the movement. The rest in effect declared that the measure would inaugurate civil war, and it must be remembered that Mr. Hallam in his constitutional History of England states that "the aggressor in a war is not the first who uses force, but the first who renders force necessary." (Tyler)

5. As a matter of fact it existed when only eleven States were members of it before North Carolina and Rhode Island joined.

6. At this point the author overlooks the circumstance that only the cotton States acted on their rights of secession prior to President Lincoln's making war on them then the other States united in resisting the invading armies.

7. The New York Times, in a remarkable editorial dated 9 September 1864, justified the war not on slavery or the restoration of the Union, but on the threatened danger to the Northern people. It passed a tremendous eulogy on the resistance which had disintegrated the Southern people beyond any in the world, rendering their conquest absolutely necessary, lest in the future the Northern States themselves might become subject to their terrible neighbors. In other words, the more evidence the Southerners gave of their right to self-government, the more it was denied to them.

8. There was no Union in existence before 1781. There was a congress of delegates who acted as allowed or directed by the several Colonies or States. In 1781, Maryland having agreed, the congress then became a Congress of the States and the confederation became operative. Then by Article VII of the proposed Constitution: "The ratification of nine states shall be sufficient for the establishment of the constitution between the States so ratifying the same"; and, when nine States ratified, it went into effect between them; and it went into practical effect, leaving out some of the States. The ratifying States had broken up the old confederacy agreed to be "perpetual."

9. The Constitution was to take effect between the States just as the "perpetual confederation" of 1781 was not over the States, but between the States and Virginia and each other State was, by the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, declared to be each separately "free sovereign and independent States"; and so in subsequent treaties. Nor was their condition altered by the Constitution of 1787.



This article by Paul S. Whitcomb was extracted from Charles L.C. Minor, The Real Lincoln (Richmond, Virginia: Everett Waddey Company, [1904] 1928). Click HERE to order this book.

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