Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Off Topic Tuesday: Lincoln, O'Reilly and the Unneccessary War
However, most who find Lincoln objectionable do not do so because of his opposition to slavery. As with any politician, he at times tried to play both sides of the issue and it was the preservation of the Union that was always his paramount issue. That does not mean, of course, that slavery did not matter to him. Although “Honest Abe” was not always honest about it, there should be no doubt that he was against slavery and wanted to see it wiped from the American continent. It is also true that, even as an anti-slavery sympathizer, he certainly did not possess modern attitudes on the subject of race. He did not think races were equal nor did he think that the “Black” and “White” races could live together peacefully. However, by the standards of his time he was certainly not a “racist” and most of those who were against slavery would have held similar views to the President on the subject of race. It would take many years for attitudes to change in the direction of seeing no races at all. Even today, it seems, that point has not been reached by any racial group.
I know of no one who dislikes Lincoln today because he was against slavery. I do know some people who dislike him because of how he went about saving the Union and doing away with slavery -brutal military force. I tend to think that there would not have been such a long and ugly struggle for civil rights and so much turmoil over the issue of race if slavery had been abolished peacefully, even if it took a step-by-step process that took a little longer than the abolitionists would like. I say that because the war Lincoln fought against the south did not make southerners realize that slavery was wrong. If anything, it made many hate the former slaves all the more as the north identified the slaves as the cause of the whole horrific war and all of the suffering the south endured during and after the war. The south did not give up slavery because they realized it was immoral, they did it because someone was holding a gun to their head.
This always struck me as one of the most horrific but often overlooked “crimes” of the Lincoln administration. And, even if it were done on principle, it still seems despicable to me to refuse to at least save those they could. If the White soldiers had refused to be exchanged without their Black comrades that would have been an immensely admirable sacrifice to make but it should have been up to them and not left to the government to simply ‘write off’ tens of thousands of their own soldiers who were left to die in the most slow and excruciating way possible. And yet, this was the same government that took no action against Major General Benjamin “the Beast” Butler who authorized his troops to rape southern women when he was military governor of New Orleans because they were insulting the Union occupation forces. This was the same government that took no action, indeed even encouraged, the pillaging of cities, the burning of private homes and the killing of civilians.
It also makes me chuckle to see Lincoln being applauded by modern-day “conservatives” and “traditionalists” (Bill O’Reilly doesn’t like to say ‘conservative’ but calls himself a ‘traditionalist’) when you look at Lincoln in a world context. There was no revolution or revolutionary in Europe that the Unionists (especially abolitionists, Freemasons, Protestants and liberal democrats) of the north who supported Lincoln did not celebrate at every opportunity. They cheered the anti-Hapsburg revolutionary Lajos Kossuth, they celebrated the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi who even offered to join the war but refused when Lincoln only offered him the rank of major general rather than total command of all Union forces. “Republican Clubs” were formed in almost every major city, with the full endorsement of Lincoln, to raise money in support of the anti-clerical Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez. Lincoln gave protection and even high military rank to a number of Irish revolutionaries a number of whom (after Lincoln’s death) led the so-called Fenian Raids into Canada in the absurd hope of holding the dominion hostage in return for Irish independence. The list goes on and on and it is no wonder that someone like Pope Pius IX would write sympathetically to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, certainly not because of any support for slavery (which his papal predecessor had strongly condemned) but because he viewed him as a fellow victim of the liberal nationalist wave that was sweeping the western world.