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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
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Abraham Lincoln


Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been a box-office hit and nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrayed our 16th president. I haven't seen the movie; therefore, this column is not about the movie but about a man deified by many. My colleague Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor at Loyola University Maryland, exposed some of the Lincoln myth in his 2006 book, "Lincoln Unmasked." Now comes Joseph Fallon, cultural intelligence analyst and former U.S. Army Intelligence Center instructor, with his new e-book, "Lincoln Uncensored." Fallon's book examines 10 volumes of collected writings and speeches of Lincoln's, which include passages on slavery, secession, equality of blacks and emancipation. We don't have to rely upon anyone's interpretation. Just read his words to see what you make of them.

In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, "I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists." In a Springfield, Ill., speech, he explained, "My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but can not be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects." Debating with Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said, "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of ... making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality."

You say, "His Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves! That proves he was against slavery." Lincoln's words: "I view the matter (Emancipation Proclamation) as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion." He also wrote: "I will also concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition." At the time Lincoln wrote the proclamation, war was going badly for the Union.

London and Paris were considering recognizing the Confederacy and considering assisting it in its war effort.

The Emancipation Proclamation was not a universal declaration. It detailed where slaves were freed, only in those states "in rebellion against the United States." Slaves remained slaves in states not in rebellion — such as Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. The hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation came in for heavy criticism. Lincoln's own secretary of state, William Seward, said, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free."

Lincoln did articulate a view of secession that would have been welcomed in 1776: "Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. ... Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit." But that was Lincoln's 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the war with Mexico and the secession of Texas.

Why didn't Lincoln feel the same about Southern secession? Following the money might help with an answer. Throughout most of our history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859. What "responsible" politician would let that much revenue go?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Lincoln was a man of his times; but willing to bend when the situation arose. What he did do began a process that accomplished something he never apparently dreamed of.
Comment: #1
Posted by: partsmom
Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:37 PM
Lincoln was a man of his times; but willing to bend when the situation arose. What he did do began a process that accomplished something he never apparently dreamed of.
Comment: #2
Posted by: partsmom
Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:37 PM
Re: partsmom;... Ma'am; I can say with relative certainty that he did dream of with anticipation the complete freedom of Blacks because he knew the immoral nightmare of slavery first hand... I am fairly certain that he visted the slave market of New Orleans and saw human beings sold like livestock, stripped, examined, humiliated as a step toward their exploitation... He noted how in the South the slave seller was a pariah that no one would deal with except out of necessity, and would socialize with- not at all... And to him this was even Southern recognition of the humanity of these abused people...
You must understand the problem from the perspective of an attorney... Our constitution endows property with certain privilages that we call property rights to distinguish from your run of the mill human rights that are considered simply as rights... You do not need to own any thing or believe any thing to have human rights, and no one can have more of human rights than another... It is the rights of religion and property and press that make people unequal in a political and social sense...And with the country nearly divided equally on the issue of slavery, the most Lincoln or anyone thought they might legally do is limit its spread, and in this sense his great victory was not in the Civil War, or even the Emancipation Proclamation; but was to get Douglas in a series of debates to agree that the people of the West, of Kansas and Nebraska had no right to democratically exclude or include slavery in their areas... It was a great contradiction that the slave states used to their benefit to say the federal government could not forbid slavery in the territories democratically, but the people of the territories could allow the right democratically... This resulted in a split democrat party that put up two candidates for president against Lincoln, and insured his election and all that followed... They were by analogy like the tea party, and unable to compromise and unable without compromise to achieve election...
You should try to understand how slavery was talked of in the North, in the most harsh irreverent tones... Before the Republicans began their sweep, secession was considered as a possibility for the North... Lincoln clearly saw that this was the issue of his times and of the forseeable future... And the saying of the time was: Free soil for free men... As in Ancient Rome, slavery displaced free labor even though it is inefficient... Lincoln noted this in the debates with Douglas saying: "Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska or other new territories is not a matter of the exclusive concern to the people who may go there. The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave states are places for poor white people to remove from; not to remove to. New free states are places for poor people to go and better their condition. For this use, the nation needs these territories."
Slavery took the honor out of free labor, but it took the wealth out of the whole South...There is a reproduction of a hand bill passed out by abolitionists on a wall in Harpers Ferry, which is an economic comparison of the North and the South before the Civil War, and in all major areas the South clearly lagged... It had less of everything from less miles of paved roads to less of libraries and literacy per capita...There was a saying in the North that bad morals mean bad roads...
Some Southern people had money but they also had the control of government to refuse to taxation, and the rest had nothing... One of the reason Andrew Jackson was so strong on popular democracy is that he saw how much agriculture was at the mercy of money, of markets and middlemen... The only people really making money on slavery were in New York City, which considered secceeding with the South, and in the loaning of money on the growing of Cotton, this group depreciated slaves in the same fashion they depreciate farm machinery today, and they rated the life of a slave man in the South as having little more than a ten year life expectancy...
Lincoln saw this, though he thought his only legal option was resistence, but to the South which was slave dependent, the tide was turning, and they brought the situation to a boil...
How Lincoln felt about it personally is laid out well in a letter to Joshua Speed, a dear friend, businessman, and slave owner; dated Aug 24 1955... He wrote: "You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. So far there is no cause for difference. But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave- especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested that you would see the union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you to yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter entirely to yourself. I also acknowledge your right and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841, you and I had together a tedius low-water trip, on a steam boat from Louisville to St. Louis... You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were on board ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border.. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the constitution and the union."
Any fair mind must admit that these are strong and emotional words... As an attorney, no man can stand against the constitution... People bind themselves to their forms... I am not so bound, and the contitution which brought that generation to war has brought this generation to slavery, misery, poverty, and uncertainty...To his credit, there are the individual acts of kindness on the part of Lincoln toward his barber, securing for him a title to a piece of property he was obviously in possession of.. There is the fact that he recognized Stephan Douglas as a friend, which is to say: an equal... Though he is said to have persisted long with the notion of repatriation for the slaves he said even in 1855 how impossible it was, how soon after arriving most of them would be dead, and how impossible would be transport...Yet; one does what one can if one is a moral being; and he did only what the South itself had allowed to him as a necessity and condition of war...
In fact; Lincoln could do no more... It was left for others to set in motion against his work a tide of reaction that all but wiped away his good progress, that made property rights unassailable, and returned black people to a state of servitude...The man is unmatched in the history of his time for his political skill and his clear sight of the problems and implications... He is justly honored as the most intelligent, able, moral, and practically minded of men we have ever had in any office in this land..
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:43 AM
Re: James A, Sweeney... Pay attention as you are writing sayeth the lord: Correction to the above: 1855... See also the letter to the Hon. Geo Robertson, of Lexington Ky. dated Aug. 1855 which thanked the professor of Law at Transylvania College at Lexington for a copy of his: Scrap Book on Law and Politics, Men and Times, -where is laid out Lincoln's principals... Lincolns acknowledgment forshadowed by almost 9 years the theme of one of his greatest speeches...
From the Living Lincoln: The Man, His Mind, His Times, And The War He Fought, Reconstructed From His Own Writings...By Angle and Miers... Copyright 1955, my edition published by Marboro Books, a division of Barnes and Noble, Inc.
I will be happy to field any questions ya'll... My Lincoln Library is gathering dust, as is My Civil War Library; but both are F A T fat... I can't tell Mr. Williams what if feels like to be him, but I guess I know as much about Lincoln as any one who wrote an e-book..
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:05 AM
Sir;... I would like for you to admit how fully the republicans and democrats have traded sides on this issue...The democrats lost the south in the demand for some justice to black people... The reason we have as many black people in the North is that the were escaping the poverty, tyranny, and slavery of the South long after they had nominal freedom...And it was blacks in the North imo who secured some measure of rights for their black neighbors to the South, and if the vast majority of them had stayed South it is unlikely that any part of them would have something like equality to day... But; if they had stayed in the South, and by some chance of fate had secured their rights on their own without the help of the federal government they would everywhere be the majority in those states that now ensure a republican majority... The republicans are reaping the profits of a hundreds of years of injustice from its base in the South and are again making the argument for states rights...
It is no secret that until the republicans disinvited them, that there was a recognizable minority of blacks in their party, but about that same time there were also progressives who were disinvited as well... The land of the North with its good jobs and union wages shone like a beacon to whites and blacks alike, and while both would work, the whites in particular held onto their prejudices and preferences, and voted in turn for Wallace, and Reagan, and Bush I and II...But the condition of labor is still a national issue as is human rights... it is far to easy for sections and states to become tyrannies... Even today, the democrats would own the House if it were not for wide spread gerrymandering which is a technique of tyranny, to appeal to some number, but to deny the majority its power...I know why the democrats tolerate it... They are as guilty of the practice as the republicans, and do not hesitate to use it where they can; but if the government is controlling the people by the means they use to divide them, then the people are not controlling their government... I make no claim for majority rule... People can be ruined by their majorities as well as by their minorities, and that one who understands psychology and mass psychology can manipulate enough people to destroy the rest... Even Lincoln recognized the power of the people, and how their support made all things possible.. I do not confuse majority rule with democracy which really seeks and demands consensus... It is bad politics to run government over the backs of anyone... If people need a reason to get on board with an idea, then give them a good reason... Lincoln tried to get those who were in charge of the governemnt to buy the freedom of the blacks, and pointed out how much cheaper it would be than fighting; but since the war was well underway, and the dead and wounded demanded both victory and vengeance more lives and millions were fed into the pot of misery... Which brings up another point about Lincoln...
Lincoln was a rational man fully able to understand such arts as surveying which demands geometry that is often offered as the model for rational explorations of reality... In many respects, Lincoln was a product of the age of reason as our own American revolution was a result...Reasonable people seeking the support and understanding of reasonable people do not present themselves as unreasonable... Today we know better... Nietzsche and Freud for two, and others as well such as artists and critics such as Dostoyevsky, Baudelaire, and our own Poe all pointed out the irrational character of mankind long after Lincoln's time...Whether Mr. Lincoln presented his emancipation as a rational act based upon purely political or military considerations is insignificant to me... I believe that his reaction to slavery was purely visceral, that the simple human being in him saw the wrong of one person treating another in such a fashion, and Herndon had it from his mouth that having a chance he would strike at it...
People present themselves as rational, and in many instances rational considerations do decide our behavior... Generally, the extent of human reason is seen in the reaching by rational means of irrational goals... On the surface, the freeing of the slaves, and the freeing of democracy from the contradiction of slavery was a impossibly irrational goal... Yet; being an attorney of long practice, Mr. Lincoln must certainly have been aware of the dynamic nature of property, and been able to see the evolution of the concept over time... The language of Feudalism still colors our language in regard to property and other relations while feudalism is long dead, and yet, even there, no one under feudalism, not even a king, could be said to own realestate... What people held was an interest, or a right in a certain area that like all rights were only as good as the social support that could be found for it...And Lincoln could tell that slavery had lost much of its social support, and only held its grip on government through the representatives given to slave owners by their slaves who were not governed, but ruled...
Sir;... The reason shines through Mr. Lincoln in his house divided speech... The fact is that we have no natural borders between North and South, and would no sooner than be apart than be enemies... The world has often been treated to the sight of bloodshed over the Rhine which has never proved an effective border, and he was also correct, that while revolution is our right, there are no provisions for seccession in the constitution... As John Marshall, Chief Justice of our Supreme Court (1801-1836) pointed out long ago in regard to Native American rights; We took this land, and it is ours...
From a practical point of view it does not matter what areas a state controls, or makes claims to... Our United States is our commonwealth, and no one shall have any more of it than the rest of us permit, or that they can hold against our will... It is the oldest rule in Property Law, familier to those who have read Moby Dick: The Fast Fish... The fish is the property of the one fast to it...
The slave owners made claim to the slave states without any sort of extreme majority, and then enlisted poor whites to support their war for which they would not even tax themselves to see to victory, expecting to see it all done on bonds, promises, and inflated currency...Were it not for the patriotism of the poor who bore the wounds and battle, their cause would have been done before begun...
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:45 AM
The anarchist wing of libertarianism targets Lincoln for a laundry list of alleged sins. Their hatred of government prevents them from ever understanding Lincoln's importance to the advancement of American freedom. I generally hold Prof. Williams in high regard, but I am greatly disappointed to see him fall under their sway. As for the movie, it is so powerful that I could hope Prof. Williams might even change his opinion if he were actually to see it.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Phillip Schearer
Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:39 AM
Re: Phillip Schearer;... You do not have to say the guy was perfect... He believed as most republicans still do, that if it was good for business it was good for America... Well; at that time we were not even on par with Great Britain, and in no sense really able to defend ourselves, and no world power... Now that the rich have gobbled up this country and have their eyes set on our rights, perhaps Lincoln would hold another opinion...
I think it is unlikely that he would have supported the 14th amendment if he knew to what extent the due process clause was used to deny human rights and justice... They had just fought a great civil war over property rights that even during the war could only be over turned by denying the many slave states a say in their own property relations, and in view of that small defeat, they strengthened property rights out of all proportion to the threat against it, and it is macabre and sickening...
God made people equal, but property makes all people unequal, and while it is possible in a land were people have civil rights and are respected in their person to have their property respected as an extension of themselves, there is no such result likely from property rights standing alone, since they are quantitative, and people with more property have more rights, such as the ability to influence government more than those without as much money or property, or any of either...You have to look at all ideas like property rights by their implications...
Corporations are not just people in the eyes of the law and of the republicans, but people with power and influence above the mean, and the same civil rights as anyone without...If property rights are in danger in this country it is not from the government or the people... The only real danger is from combinations that deny capital and then take over smaller concerns... It is from big fish eating little fish and little fish suffering in their taxes and overhead all the costs that must be passed to consumers...Rights based upon a quality, such as life, are a much better defense against injustice than property rights which are a defense of injustice and an encouragement of it... And when this country was new and very much in need of defense, such an arrangement where the government provided extra protection for commerce and its gains was justified...
Now that all our rights are in danger from the wealthy and those with property, who can simply thumb their nose at government, reject their citizenship, and leave with their loot; we have no choice but to enforce the government's right to tax the commonwealth in private hands...The only way to get the commonwealth common is to tax the rich out of it... Make them pay for their protection, and they will give it up...
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:51 AM
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