Monday, February 15, 2021

Abraham Lincoln - The Real History

As we celebrate President's Day, Abraham Lincoln is recognized as one of our greatest Presidents for "saving" the Union.   However, since most people in the United States know little of our history, there is a lot about Lincoln that they just don't know.  First, Lincoln was elected with just 39% of the vote.  He was not even on the ballot in the 10 Southern states.  So in no way did Lincoln represent a majority of public opinion.  The election of Lincoln actually caused the Civil War, though in fairness the roots of the Civil War occurred from the very first day with the compromises necessary to adopt the Constitution and then many other compromises to keep the Union together in the years thereafter.  

As one solution to ending slavery, Lincoln actually proposed sending all the slaves back to Africa.  Since by the time of the Civil War, there were almost 4 million slaves in the United States including some in the North, that idea just was not practical.  Prior to the Civil War, Lincoln was perfectly content to allow slavery where it then existed thinking it would eventually die out, which with mechanization would probably have been true.  The Civil War was really about extending slavery to the new states, which came with Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase and Polk's Mexican American War when the United States finally stretched coast to coast.  

Lincoln was actually one of the most hated Presidents in our history during his years in office.  The Republican Party actually asked him not to run for a second term because the war was going so poorly.  One of the reasons Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January, 1863 was to encourage slaves to escape the South to join the Union Army.  It was really a tactical decision designed to weaken the South, not just one out of any special morality.  

Lincoln approved the devastation of the South to win the war, which caused generations of hatred in the South of the North.   He suspended Habeas Corpus requiring that charges actually be filed to put someone in jail.   In the process, Lincoln put thousands of people in the North who opposed the war in jail.  Lincoln was as close to a dictator we have ever had in the United States.   The Civil War to save the Union was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought by the US as 620,000 people on both sides were killed, more than any other conflict in American history.  

While Lincoln saved the Union and freed the slaves, the end result of Reconstruction and deals made between the Republican and Democrat Parties led to more than 100 years of Jim Crow laws allowing for legal discrimination that resulted in no freedom for Blacks in the South.  In fact, in many ways they were worse off living in poverty and many were lynched.  There is a direct connection between Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Hayes decisions and the formation of the Klan to harm Blacks.  

Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest President; but like much in the American story, we should separate myths from facts.  Lincoln saved the Union at huge cost and we continue to pay the price today in terms of BLM and Antifa riots, looting and arson on our streets.  History does not begin and end.  It just continues to reflect both good and bad decisions by our leaders along the way.  

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