John Cornelius: We are less free today because of Lincoln
February 19, 2011
In "War Crimes Against Southern Civilians," Walter Cisco sums up the true legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Cisco notes that abolitionist Lysander Spooner spent a lifetime battling slavery but found little to rejoice in over the outcome of Lincoln's War of Northern Aggression.
"The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want: and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals. No principle ... can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave."
The Deep South understood Lincoln's sectional victory in the 1860 presidential election as a revolutionary event essentially abolishing the confederated republic of the founders. After Lincoln declared war, the Upper South seceded. The sovereign people — organized as sovereign states — had created the federal government in ratifying the Constitution. States that entered the union of their own free will left it in the same manner. The people of Maryland had no opportunity to choose whether to remain in the United States or join the Confederacy. The federal army overran Maryland. Lincoln imprisoned legislators to prevent them from voting on secession. Robert E. Lee later proclaimed to the people of Maryland: "This [Confederate] army will respect your choice; while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will."
That principle — of people having the right to freely choose their own destiny — was utterly repugnant to Lincoln. In waging war on civilians, he returned to the barbarism of the past; he also dealt a blow to limited, constitutional government from which America has yet to recover. (What Lincoln began has been greatly expanded by most U.S. presidents, mainly Wilson, FDR, LBJ and 0bama, and only briefly restrained by another whose birthday, like Lincoln's, is in February, Ronald Reagan.) That all Americans are less free today and live in a more dangerous world are among Lincoln's legacies.
John Cornelius lives in Jefferson, Texas.