Lincoln on slavery 11


620,000 soldiers died in the American “Civil War”. For what did they die?

This is from Front Page, by Professor Walter Williams:

We call the war of 1861 the Civil War. But is that right? A civil war is a struggle between two or more entities trying to take over the central government. Confederate President Jefferson Davis no more sought to take over Washington, D.C., than George Washington sought to take over London in 1776. Both wars, those of 1776 and 1861, were wars of independence. Such a recognition does not require one to sanction the horrors of slavery.

We might ask, How much of the war was about slavery?

Was President Abraham Lincoln really for outlawing slavery? Let’s look at his words.

In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, “I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists.”

In a Springfield, Illinois, speech, he explained: “My declarations upon this subject of Negro slavery may be misrepresented but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects.”

Debating Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said,I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

What about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? Here are his words: “I view the matter (of slaves’ emancipation) as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.” He also wrote: “I will also concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition.” When Lincoln first drafted the proclamation, war was going badly for the Union.

London and Paris were considering recognizing the Confederacy and assisting it in its war against the Union.

The Emancipation Proclamation was not a universal declaration. It specifically detailed where slaves were to be freed: only in those states “in rebellion against the United States.” Slaves remained slaves in states not in rebellion — such as Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri. The hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation came in for heavy criticism. Lincoln’s own secretary of state, William Seward, sarcastically said, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”

Lincoln did articulate a view of secession that would have been heartily endorsed by the Confederacy:

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. … Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.

Lincoln expressed that view in an 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives, supporting the war with Mexico and the secession of Texas.

So why was the American “Civil War” fought at all, if Lincoln was not against slavery in principle, and was for the right of states to secede from the Union?

Why didn’t Lincoln share the same feelings about Southern secession? Following the money might help with an answer. Throughout most of our nation’s history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859. What “responsible” politician would let that much revenue go?

  • max

    And for those accusing me of heartless “racism”, If America had maintained its conception of itself as a European nation, something Conservatives abandoned post WW2 to their shame, we could always have had a sane immigration policy that allowed for maybe 5 to 10 percent max of non-whites. But those non-whites with high IQs and a record of accomplishment. Nice men like Williams and Sowell and Carson could still have existed in a European America but free from the pathologies that accompany African populations everywhere.

    • Do Europeans have no pathologies that should exclude them?

  • max

    Lincoln also wanted to repatriate the blacks back to Africa. I wish he had lived to carry that out. That would have been the best thing for both people. Look at the disaster we have had trying to assimilate blacks since the Civil War. I would love a libertarian free market state. But we don’t have that and may never have that. It may be that some form of altruism and collectivism is just genetically imbedded in humans especially Europeans.

    But even if we had the same exact semi-socialist conditions that we have today but had no blacks… My god, America would be a near utopia by comparison. The debates about Lincoln continue; was he a defender of liberty or an enemy. To me his major failure and the failure of that generation was not to recognize the insurmountable differences between the European and the sub-Saharan African genotypes and to divorce the two peoples. Think of the beautiful cities Detroit, Baltimore, Birmingham, etc would be.

    • liz

      I think you’re right that we would have been better off if slavery hadn’t happened, or if repatriation had happened. It would have saved us a lot of problems.
      But I think it may have been possible to have a tolerable degree of assimilation of blacks if it hadn’t been for the exploitation of them by our own (European, collectivist) Marxists, who have used them as tools to foment racial unrest and a welfare state.

  • Williams should best stick to his specialty–economics. Contrary to Williams, LIncoln opposed slavery in principle. But he also held to a higher principle–the Constitution. He did not belief the Constitution gave the general government the power to abolish slavery. It was a state institution. He did believe, however, the the Constitution granted authority to the Congress to regulate the territories. And the Republican Party formed chiefly to exclude slavery from the unsettled territories of the West. When Republicans captured the White House and Congress in 1860, the South realized their dreams of indefinite expansion of slavery were over, they decided to pull out. The idea that tariffs lay behind secession is preposterous. All one has to do it read what Southerners themselves said:

    • Then google Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens and his “Cornerstone”s speech.

    • liz

      It does talk about slavery, but it also talks a lot about states rights, and the federal govts. encroachment on them.
      Clement L. Valandigham, a politician who opposed Lincoln, was a states rights Jeffersonian and a strict constructionist of the Constitution. He condemned the Lincoln administrations “persistent infractions of the constitution” and it’s “high minded usurpations of power”, which were designed as a “deliberate conspiracy to overthrow the present form of federal republican government, and establish a strong centralized government in its stead”.
      These dictatorial acts were done, not to “save the union”, but to advance the cause of “national banks…and permanent public debt, high tariffs, heavy direct taxation, enormous expenditure, gigantic and stupendous speculation… and strong more state lines…and a consolidated monarchy or vast centralized military despotism.”

      • Lincoln spent most of his career as a “Henry Clay” Whig, until that party disintegrated. Banks and tariff protection were the staples of Whig–and Federalist Party policy–going back to the 1790s . . . hardly something for Valandigham’s hysteria. The enormous expenditure and debts, of course, resulted from the costs of civil war. Without the civil war, the Lincoln years would have played out as another boring, uneventful “Whig” administration. But if he wants to see that whole war as a vast rightwing conspiracy, nothing said would make any difference.

    • Williams does not say that the secessionists cited tariffs as their reason to secede. He says that Lincoln went to war to stop the secessionist states from seceding for HIS economic reasons.

      • Point taken, Jillian . . . a hasty reading on my part. I quickly and erroneously concluded it was yet another apology for my fellow Southerners that explained secession on tariffs rather than slavery. Williams still has a very weak case. The first premise, that Lincoln did not oppose slavery in principle is false. The second premise,too, lacks solid support. He quotes LIncoln’s speech against declaring war on Mexico in which LIncoln acknowledges the right to revolution. The ellipsis of Williams takes the place of the money quote: “This is a most valuable,– most
        sacred right–a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the
        world.” People have the right to revolution against autocracies–not republics. Lincoln in several speeches condemned the secessionists for destroying a republican government. In this he echos Jefferson in the D. of Ind. when Jefferson denies the right to revolt “for light and transient causes.” Williams would have a stronger case if he actually quoted a speech, a letter, a provision in law supporting his argument that it was about the revenue. The problem is that, as far as I know, no such evidence exists.

  • liz

    Yes, Lincoln not only wanted the revenue, he wanted to centralize power in the federal government. Money and power…
    According to DiLorenzo, “The worst thing that came of the civil war – the thing that was the real purpose of the war – was the centralization of virtually all power in Washington D.C., and the essential death of the Jeffersonian system of states rights or federalism that was the essence of the pre-war constitution.”