Wooly Wullie

Oh dear. Methinks that Wull Hutton should try reading some american history before he starts pontificating on it.

Instead he is resolutely following his hero Abraham Lincoln, trying vainly to build a cabinet of all the talents. Apparently he gives every new cabinet member Doris Kearns Goodwin\’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals. But Lincoln had a majestic moral cause – the abolition of slavery – before which even political rivals buried their differences.

Lincoln\’s great cause was not the abolition of slavery, it was the preservation of the Union.

Lincoln is famously quoted as writing:
"If I could free all the slaves and preserve the Union I would do that. If I could free none of the slaves and preserve the Union I would do that. If I could free some slaves and leave others is place and save the Union, I would do that also."
The Emancipation Proclamation, which most closely conformed with the \’free some slaves\’ idea, was purely a war measure. It was designed to limit the effectiveness slaves as resources. It also made more unattractive to England and France a possible recognition of the Confederacy. It did not free slaves in Union states such as Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky or Missouri, or in areas of the South that the Union controlled—merely those in areas still in rebellion.
Lincoln resisted, for a time, arming freed slaves or blacks. He overturned acts of emancipation by Hunter in South Carolina and Fremont in Missouri.

Sigh.

7 comments on “Wooly Wullie

  1. Abraham Lincoln forced the supremacy of the federal government over the rights of the states. The Founding Fathers would not have been happy.

  2. Why isn’t that quote anywhere except “yahoo answers”?

    Seems a bit suspicious if you ask me.

    A reference to it written down somewhere would be nice. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet you know.

  3. Olly:

    I can’t give you a cite but there’s hardly a question as to its genuineness. I’ve been aware of it for about 60 years and also of the one now
    getting internet publicity, the one concerning his comments to a group of black leaders (in the White House, I believe) to the effect that, if blacks were to remain in the US, it would be best if their position was legally inferior to that of whites.

    There are a couple of authors whose names escape me (and one in particular) whose forte is a sort of “neoconfederate” exposure of Lincoln misdeeds; you could probably find some of their stuff fairly readily at the lewrockwell.com site.
    Though they are stridently anti-Lincoln, their ire is more particularly directed toward what they believe the “unconstitutional” attitude of opposition to seccession, which eventuality seemed in agreement with the intent of the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation preceding. A strong point in their argument isd that, pre-Lincoln, several of the northern states considered seccession, particularly New York, and that they were kept from doing so strictly on the basis of various arguments which never included the threat of force or even that they had not the “right” to so pursue their separate destinies.

    I don’t know much specific of these matters, so can’t be much clearer. But I’ve also read that the “pro-war” sentiment in the north was much enhanced by the Dred Scott decision confirming
    the right of slaveowners to pursue escaped slaves into all parts of the U.S. Residing in the northern states were blacks never slaves, blacks previously freed and free for generations, their descendants (some of mixed race), etc. All these were threatened by the possibility of being kidnapped by bounty hunters and sold into slavery in the South and there were numerous contemporary accounts of northerners, who, travelling in the South, claimed to have observed many slaves who they said could not be distinguished in any way from white.

    Complicated stuff.

  4. Politicians say a lot of things that are contradictory. I think this topic is one where a little learning is a dangerous thing. Yes, Lincoln had many motives and didn’t always act as people would like now to believe, but most I’d say US historians wouldn’t disagree with Hutton’s point.

  5. “I’d say US historians wouldn’t disagree with Hutton’s point.” Could be, but the only one I’ve discussed it with disagreed entirely with a proposition much like Hutton’s, and did so along the lines of Tim’s quotation.

  6. Lincoln wasn’t a saint, he was a practical politician. Preserving the union was his goal, and he did what he had to do to achieve it, even if an action was unconstitutional, such as suspending habeas corpus. He also knew that slavery would not survive once the Confederacy was defeated.

  7. Hmph. If I may paraphrase the great Sellars and Yeatman, history is not about facts – it is about what you remember.

    And what most Americans remember about Lincoln is what they were told in the 1960s by their primary school teachers, whose degrees were not in history, but in something called ‘elementary education.’

    Hang around with any American long enough and you will hear not only Lincoln’s encomium but other such rote-history as ‘The American Revolution was a protest against tyranny’; ‘We won the war of 1812’; and ‘Columbus sailed in order to prove the earth was round.’

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