"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Friday, February 13, 2009

President's Day Thoughts

There's alot of Lincolnmania this year, with Obama invoking his legacy as a beacon for his own presidency, recent books being published about him, and even the Catholic blogosphere is canonizing the "Great Emancipator."

For a less hagiographic view, we turn to a Joe Sobran classic:

Lincoln and His Legacy

by Joe Sobran

At this point it is probably futile to try to reverse the deification of Abraham Lincoln. Next year, if I know my countrymen, the bicentennial of his birth will be marked by stupendously cloying anniversary observances, all of them affirming, if not his literal divinity, at least something mighty close to it.
No doubt we will hear from the high priests and priestesses of the Lincoln cult: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Garry Wills, Harry V. Jaffa, and all the rest of the tireless hagiographers of academia, who regularly rate Honest Abe one of our two greatest presidents, right up there with Stalin’s buddy Franklin D. Roosevelt, father of the nuclear age and defiler of the U.S. Constitution. Such, we are told, is the Verdict of History.
But if Lincoln was so great, we must ask why nobody seems to have realized it while he was still alive. The abolitionists considered him unprincipled, Southerners hated him, and most Northerners opposed his war on the South. Only when the war ended and he was shot did people begin to transform him into a hero and martyr of the Union cause. But that cause was badly flawed.
The Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln always quoted selectively, says that the American colonies of Great Britain had become "free and independent states" - separate states, mind you, not the monolithic "new nation" he proclaimed at Gettysburg. The U.S. Constitution refers constantly to the states, but never to a "nation"; and this is a fact we should ponder.
Alas, it appears that Lincoln seldom thought about it. For him the Union was somehow prior to its members, except in his younger days, when, oddly enough, he had been a passionate advocate of the "most sacred right" of secession - in other countries. When and why he changed his mind, or the reason he never applied this principle to his native country, we do not know; but Gore Vidal, among other keen observers, has called attention to this most striking inconsistency of his career. What he called "saving the Union" simply meant the denial of this most sacred right, and he was willing to pay any price in blood to achieve it.
No wonder his favourite play was Macbeth. He may have seen himself in the tyrant who had waded too far into a river of gore to turn back. Far more Americans died in his war than in any other in our history.
A few books have told the dark story of Lincoln’s suppression of liberty in the North,
including the thousands of arbitrary arrests and hundreds of closings of newspapers; his war on the South required a war on the Bill of Rights in the North as well. All in the name of freedom, of course.
Despite his symbolic importance, most Americans know little about Lincoln. He was very secretive about himself and his family, and he remains something of an enigma to his biographers. One fact is clear, though: he was poorly educated. He made up for
this with his rare rhetorical and political genius; his eloquence continues to create the illusion of greatness.
Maybe it would have happened anyway, but since Lincoln the Constitution has meant not what it says, but whatever the U.S. Government decides it shall mean. The very meaning of constitutionality has become entirely fluid, so that the law itself has become exactly what law should never be: unpredictable.
Think of the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1973 abortion ruling. Nobody before then had ever suggested that abortion was a constitutional right, but the Court suddenly discovered that it was, protected somehow by the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. The laws of all 50 states were struck down at a blow, but thanks to Lincoln the remedy of secession was no longer available to them.
Today’s United States of America would be constitutionally unrecognisable to the authors of the original Constitution, because today the government has become the wolf at the door. Do I exaggerate? A television commercial asks, "Is the IRS ruining your life?" Imagine what Washington and Jefferson would have said about that question! They never dreamed that their countrymen would live in dread of the government created to secure their liberty. But that is what has happened to this country, and much of this is Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.

To this I would only add: no Lincoln forcing a union on people who did not want it, and no 14th Amendment.

No 14th Amendment, no binding of the states to the policies formulated by the Nine in Washington.

No binding of the states to the Will of the Nine, no abortion on demand (Roe v. Wade), no constitutional right to homosexual sodomy (Lawrence v. Georgia), no centralized micro-managing of states' criminal justice systems.

As Sobran says, it may have all happened anyway, but Lincoln certainly killed federalism as the Founders intended it.

Sadly, I suppose it's necessary to issue the disclaimer that the ending of slavery was an unqualified good for this country. Opposition to Lincoln is not an endorsement of slavery, much as some Lincolnists want to insinuate the contrary.

My own view is that the South was exactly right on the issue of secession and Union, and monstrously wrong on the issue of slavery. I believe everything that happened to the South during and after the war can be seen as an expiation for the sin of slavery, and in that sense, the tyranny we now endure is thus traceable to the sin of slavery (no slavery-no secession-no secession-no war on the states-no war on the states-no stripping of their powers-no stripping of their powers-no federal Leviathan).

Thus endeth the lesson.


Ronsonic said...

Hi, just stumbled into this blog. Looks interesting.

The most obvious evidence of the illegality of Lincoln's war was the complete absence of legal prosecution against the leaders of the Confederacy. Not one trial for treason or even sedition. Nobody with the brains to prosecute such a case was dumb enough to open that can of worms.

Sarah said...

Lawrence v. Texas, bro.