I disapprove of your approval rating

Posted: 14 July 2009 in civil rights, human rights, republicans, war

Abraham Lincoln is widely touted as the best President in U.S. history, but I tend to disagree.  It is my opinion that Abraham Lincoln was a monster and is universally lauded by history for perpetrating a heinous war and not much else.

Yeah, I said that.  Lincoln was a monster.  His entire administration was consumed with prosecuting the American Civil War.  And what did the American Civil War actually get us?  Over 1,000,000 total casualties, a collection of states that is still fighting a culture war, mostly along the same geographic lines that existed at the outset of the war, and a bullet to the back of Lincoln’s head.

But slavery!, you say.  Lincoln freed the slaves!  Like hell he did.  The Emancipation Proclamation specifically excluded slaves in states that remained loyal to the Union.

Lincoln unilaterally rejected a delegation from the Confederacy that offered compensation for federal properties and a treaty of peace and open relations.   He was opposed completely to the concept of diplomacy.

Within four months of Lincoln’s inauguration, hostilities had broken out and were going very poorly for the Union.  More states had joined the Confederacy, and Lincoln decided to use slavery as a political tool.  The Crittenden-Johnson Resolution was passed to assure everyone that the war was only being fought to reunify the states under the federal union, not to end the institution of slavery. This was purposefully designed to keep Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, all slave states, as members of the Union.  Lincoln was far more concerned with holding together a union that had already launched into open fighting than he was with any social responsibility to ending slavery.  The Emancipation Proclamation’s use of slavery as a tool to wage war offers further proof of this.

I firmly believe that Lincoln should have allowed the South to secede and accepted their invitation to dialog, or failing that, have sued for peace after the First Battle of Bull Run.  Even at that point, there were nearly 2000 dead and more than that wounded.

I also believe that had Lincoln done this, the course of our history would have been significantly different.  Slavery was an unpopular issue in the North, yet a few states still allowed it.  This would have changed quickly as the prevailing opinion moved against it.  The states that remained loyal likely would have stayed loyal even as public opinion turned against slavery.  Within 10 years, it would have been abolished.  In the Confederacy, things would have moved slower, but economic pressure and a need to trade with the north would have allowed the Union to exert political pressure.  Slavery would have been abolished by the beginning of the 20th century.  With the gradual and relatively organic abolition on both sides, there would have been no rise of racial hatred as a means of scapegoating for a crushing military defeat.  Civil Rights would not have been so violently opposed, and would likely have taken hold a whole decade or two earlier and without the lasting repercussions that exist even to today.

The amendments that followed the Civil War didn’t actually need the conflict to be enacted:  They’d likely have been instituted in similar form following the break up of the Union and the abolition of slavery.  Of course, the inevitable land grab would have been much quicker as the CSA and USA raced to grab as much of North America as possible.  With the loose

So, what did Lincoln actually achieve?  Again, over a million dead or wounded Americans.  Racial tensions that continue to this day.  A political and social divide across the same battle lines 150 years later.   Death and destruction on a horrific scale, and a brutal institution used as a bargaining chip.  I don’t care what kind of leader he was, these actions are monstrous.

  1. Josh says:

    As I reached the end, I wasn’t sure if you were still talking about Lincoln or if you were referring to George W Bush.

    At least Lincoln was an eloquent monster.

  2. Còmhradh says:

    Yeah, fancy that.

    Granted, the man had many admirable qualities. As monsters go, he certainly wasn’t the worst.

  3. Leigh says:

    No matter who you look at in that light they will be a monster. Wars happen. They always will. You can lay blame for them at the door of whoever you want, and take away the humanity of that person all you want but it won’t stop the fact that the civil war would have been fought with or without Lincoln. Without Lincoln it would have been fought later. Without Hitler WWII still would have been fought, it was the inevitable outcome of WWI.
    It’s unfair to say that he was a monster without taking into account that he was making a series of decisions that took us to war while dealing with his insane wife, the death of his son, and his own depression. I’d say he might have had a bit on his plate and may not have seen the long term ramifications of his actions.
    Besides, if we’re going to look back on people and judge their actions then everyone is a monster. We might as well write off everyone right now, no one is exempt, we are all monsters, big and small.

  4. Còmhradh says:

    Without Lincoln it would have been fought later.

    I honestly don’t believe that. If the South had been allowed to peacefully secede, there would have been no need for a war, and I think relations in some regards would be better due to a need for trade: both sides had things the others needed, and this would have been made even more important with the discovery of oil in the South. I seriously doubt a war would need to have been fought.

    Lincoln could have single-handedly averted that war in a way that few other wars could have been stopped by a single man. All he would have had to do was accept the South’s diplomatic overtures and let them go. Heck, given enough diplomacy, they may have even returned to the Union (albeit, with an overall change in the federalist makeup of the Union).

    As for what he was going through, that’s of little consequence – people deal with extraordinary circumstances all the time, but rarely do they launch wars that kill a million people. Of course, that’s yet another fine example in the history of politicians that have put personal ambition ahead of the good of their fellow man. We’ve all committed our little monstrosities, but we don’t tend to gamble with actual lives for our ambitions.

  5. Fiat Lex says:

    Good post, and made me think. Actually it reminds me of something my dad (who was a frighteningly liberal man in some ways) was fond of saying about JFK. That the Kennedy family had close ties to Nazism, that the Vietnam War was at least partially a cove for their attempt to re-establish control over the heroin trade, and that Kennedy’s lasting positive image had more to do with his control over the newspapers of his day than anything else.

    Yet despite the efforts of Dick Cheney and the fawning slaver of Fox News correspondents everywhere, I still somehow doubt that Bush will be “vindicated by history”…

  6. Leigh says:

    The South would not have peacfully seceeded. Anyone looking at the history of the Southern states, or anyone who has been to teh states now could tell you that. They would have left, and they would have declared war anyway. Because they really do hate us Northerners. Always have, even before the war. Lincoln wasn’t stupid, he was living then, we aren’t. He knew that they wouldn’t leave peacefully. And I really doubt that he waged a war for shits and giggles, which is kind of what you seem to be saying. Again, absolutely everyone can be a monster by the standards of hindsight. Unless you were there to make those decisions with him, how can you judge? And by this standard, who isn’t a monster? I really am curious now, which president wasn’t a monster?

  7. Còmhradh says:

    The South would not have peacfully seceeded.M

    They already had. There was four months between secession and the start of hostilities, which could have been averted had the Union simply packed up their forces and gone home. And even after the hostilities, a delegation from the Southern government offered payment for all military installations and normalization of relations. There were plenty of opportunities for peace, all of which required nothing more than a declaration from Lincoln and the beginning of diplomacy. The South had no reason to fight.

    I really am curious now, which president wasn’t a monster?

    None of them. I merely pointed out Lincoln because history remembers him as a saint.

  8. Leigh says:

    “None of them”
    Even when they did good? Because a lot of them did good. I doubt a single one is remembered as a saint (except maybe Regan, by the wingnuts). Lincoln is more fondly remembered. Hell, actual saints aren’t remembered as saints half the time. It’s all a matter of perspective.

  9. Còmhradh says:

    Even when they did good?

    Hey, Tookie Williams is always going to be remembered as an executed multiple-murderer even though while he was on death row he became an anti-gang advocate, wrote a childrens book and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I’m fairly certain that one doesn’t get elected the the Presidency by giving a damn about humanity, so I’d say that the job description itself is basically monster-in-waiting. When given the choice between foreign lives or American financial prosperity, Presidents have unanimously chosen the money – and they’re certainly not unique among world leaders.

  10. Leigh says:

    It’s hard being a leader, it’s certainly not a job I would ever want. A good one has to balance the fact that half the people you’re leading are going to be rip pissed at you about something you’ve done (usually playing some kind of politics) while trying to do the best for everyone.
    Of course a bad one, well they’re in it solely for the power. They are the monsters. But I do believe that some of them came into power to try tomake things better. It’s just harder than any of us can imagine to do.

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