Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Worst president ever?

We have a way of romanticizing history. It is, afterall, written by winners, baby.

But what happens when you find out that the history you learned for years, reading in elementary, middle school, high school and even college text books only told half the story ... on someone you were told was the best president ever.

And what if the other half of the story made you think that he might have been ... the worst president ever?

I'm talking, of course, about our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Interestingly, this is my second column on the misconceptions of Honest Abe. My first column about him dealing with the rumors of his sexuality, which linger to this day.

Lincoln, of course, wasn't all bad. He did free the slaves ... and made those funky stovepipe hats all the rage. But there's something about martyrdom that seems to wipe the slate clean of all his not-so-innocent transgressions.

Our history books teach us that Lincoln ran for office repeatedly, losing over and over. He opposed slavery and won the presidency. The south hated him and seceeded. We had a civil war to bring them back into the fold. The north won and everything was clear sailing after that.

Our history books leave out a lot of details. And fudge some facts.

Here's some facts you may have missed:
  • Not only was Lincoln despised in the south, he didn't campaign in the south at all ... and was completely absent from the ballot in nine southern states. He recieved less than 40 percent of the votes nationwide. The other 60 percent being split by three other candidates.
  • Lincoln supported the Corwin Amendment. It would have given Constitutional protection to slavery in any state in which it already existed.
  • The Emancipation Proclaimation did not free the slaves in all states. It only freed the slaves in non-Union states. In other words, only slaves being held in Confederate states.
  • Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus during the war.
  • Lincoln spent money without congressional authorization, acting as though the executive branch were a monarchy, unchecked by the other two branches of government.
  • Lincoln imprisoned 18,000 "confederate sympatizers" without due process. They never got a trial.
Ironically, Lincoln's greatest credited "accomplishment" is actually the thing which I believe to be his greatest error. It's often stated that "Lincoln brought this country together."

You may wonder how I could possibly oppose such a great feat. The semantics of it make it sound American as apple pie, right? Let's try it in a different direction. "Lincoln consolidated the states under one federal directive." Doesn't sound as pretty that way, does it?

It's often stated that prior to the Civil War, people used the third person plural when referring to this nation: "The United States are ..." After the Civil War, that reference became third person singular: "The United States is ..." In other words, we went from being 36 indiviual "states" ... to one collective "nation."

Power had flowed upward ... from the people ... to their states ... to the federal government. Now the reverse is true. The federal government tells the states ... and their people what to do. It's almost as though in one fell-swoop we went from being a Republic ... to a totalitarian government.

By further explaination, Lincoln killed the 10th Amendment. I say often that the 10th Amendment is the "forgotten Amendment." it was forgotten in the mid 1860's ... when Lincoln was forcing the southern states to conform to northern ideals.

Please don't misconstrue this as some Confederate propaganda. I can't imagine anything worse than the concept of one human being "owning" another. But what we've got now is the federal government owning us all ... and we've got Lincoln to thank for it.