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Abraham Lincoln’s revisitation reconsidered

 

KF Melton III

Guest Columnist

  I had the opportunity to take a gander at Mary Jane Owen’s Abe Lincoln column last week while waiting at the DMV for my daughter’s Instructional Permit.

  While I believe her perspective of the period may be askew- I know her facts are.

  Mr. Lincoln was in fact our sixteenth President- not our twelfth. For the preceding 165 years that distinction has belonged to Zachary Taylor and should continue to do so unabated until the sun goes out.

  And it was the boys in the North that wore the blue. Not only that, they also won.

  Putting things into perspective is really a simple matter of acknowledging the “cold war” that raged prior to 1860 between the Hamiltonian and the Jeffersonian factions of American Politics- a struggle that is rekindling as we speak, despite our ignorance of it.

  The belief she accredits to many of today’s southerners- the root cause of the War being who was elected in 1860- is certainly closer to the truth than her assertion that the South fought for the right to keep others enslaved. No doubt a very bad reason for pitting “brother against brother” especially in light of the fact that no other nation in history had found waging war necessary in ending the scourge of slavery.

  It was only four of the first seven states to secede that singled out the possible abolition of slavery as their chief reason for leaving. The other three identified “frequent violations of the US Constitution” by an ever more intrusive Federal Government and “its encroachments upon the rights that had been reserved by the States” as their chief reason.

 While these “violations and encroachments” were common to every seceding state’s list of reasons for leaving, the primary reason for the final four exits was Mr. Lincoln’s tomfoolery at Fort Sumter.

  So the eleven states of the Confederacy left the union for a number of reasons, common among them the “violations and encroachments” of an ever expanding Federal Government.

  To say nothing of the four states within the Union where slavery remained in practice, Mr. Lincoln’s views on slavery are made quite clear in his first Inaugural Address in which he proclaimed he had no reason or inclination to interfere with slavery or any legal right to do so.

  So why the dust-up?

  Reading onward Mr. Lincoln is nice enough to spell it out for us.

  Of “bloodshed or violence” he said there would be none.... UNLESS it was forced on the national authority. “Beyond what may be necessary” to among other things, collect taxes, “there would be NO INVASION.”

  And it is here we find the common thread.

  These taxes Mr. Lincoln was so intent on collecting made up the majority of the “violations and encroachments” that drove the South from the Union. Among these were exorbitant tariffs, designed to coerce the South back into business with the North, which the federal government had been pushing for years. In fact one had been a 50% whopper of a tax that had darn near started the war in 1833 when South Carolina decided to ignore what it called the “Tariff of Abomination.”

  Cooler heads ended up prevailing and the tax was made less intrusive. Over the years its teeth were filed down even further, at least until Mr. Lincoln was elected in 1860. 

  The firing on Fort Sumter, one of nine posts that had slipped from Federal hands upon secession, was really more like Robert Conrad’s old battery commercial with Lincoln daring Davis to defend against his aggression even after his military advisors had counseled that abandoning the Fort was the proper action.

  Why Sumter?

  There were closer and far more easily re-supplied former posts. Lincoln’s real reason for needing Fort Sumter up and running was that Charleston Harbor was the main departure point for the South’s cotton and, perhaps more important, the main arrival point for the cheaper goods that cotton was turned into.

  Referring to Grant and Sherman as “brilliant tacticians” brings Ms. Owen’s perception further into question. While tactics would advise against repeatedly throwing troops at entrenched positions; brilliance would have surely tried a different tactic at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.

  Today Tecumseh Sherman would more than likely find himself at the UN being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. The man was quite simply a monster who admittedly enjoyed hurting people.

  Mr. Lincoln’s plan to bring the South back into the Union with no strings or any humiliating retribution may indeed have made the agreeably evil of Reconstruction unnecessary but it also included a plan to repatriate the freed slaves back to the continent of Africa- specifically Liberia.

  Slavery was a reason for secession however; Mr. Lincoln waged his war for the want of the enlarged, centralized Federal Government that the Hamiltonian dream of a Mercantile State offered.

  Slavery only became an issue for the North in September of 1862 when they found themselves being beaten. It was only then that Mr. Lincoln pulled the worthless Emancipation Proclamation out of his ear and made the war about slavery.

  Was Abraham Lincoln the great Emancipator or a man who’s misinterpretation of his oath of office unveiled a tyrant that makes our current president look like a piker?

One should probably look to the wisdom of Ms. Owen’s father for the answer to that question.

 

  Kenneth Melton is a U.S. Army veteran (Desert Storm) and formerly an engineer. He has lived in Georgia since 1974 and in Henry County since 1994. He now spends his time enjoying his family and reading.

 

 

 

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