Lincoln freed the slaves
He also gave us land-grant colleges, the Homestead Act and the transcontinental railroad
Sunday marks the 214th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. For the first 69 years of my life, I never thought the four words in my headline — Lincoln freed the slaves — would cause a stir, but here we are. Liberals and some born-and-bred Southerners will not accept that as a fact.
The Southerners, I respect. Their schools taught them a less harsh view of the Antebellum South. Northerners may have embellished their history as well. Above all, the sins of the great-grandfather should not be visited upon their sons, grandsons and great-grandsons.
The Southern argument goes like this:
Confederates were fighting for their land, not slavery.
The fight was over states rights, not slavery.
Lincoln created the huge central government that now enslaves us.
Once liberals mocked that argument. Now they embrace it. I do not respect the liberals because they are being deceptive hypocrites. Demoting Lincoln to a man craven for power does two things for them. The first is it credits him — not FDR, LBJ and Obama — for the sprawling federal leviathan government we now suffer.
It also allows liberals to pretend that the civil war was just between the whites, which allowed those crafty slaves to free themselves.
Why do you think Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday? This promotes the self-liberation lie that allows for a perpetual victimhood, which liberals will exploit to promote the Maoism that will — if not stopped — enslave us all.
Let’s look at the facts. The 1860 election was about slavery plain and simple. This was why Lincoln was not on the ballot in 9 of the 10 Confederate states that used the popular vote to appoint electors to the Electoral College. South Carolina left the decision to its legislature, which frankly was a better a system because it empowers state government.
The reason the South excluded Lincoln and his party was a very real fear of losing their way of life.
The Republican Party was founded on the abolition and temperance. Given Lincoln’s background as being rented out by his drunkard father to local farmers until he reached 18, one can understand why Lincoln was a Republican.
The party’s platform in 1860 resolved, “That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that ‘no persons should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,’ it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.”
Translated into 21st century politics, Republicans opposed expanding slavery into new states, which was the territories referred to. It was not abolition but containment. Of course, the long-range goal was ending all slavery.
The platform also resolved, “That in the recent vetoes, by their Federal Governors, of the acts of the legislatures of Kansas and Nebraska, prohibiting slavery in those territories, we find a practical illustration of the boasted Democratic principle of Non-Intervention and Popular Sovereignty, embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and a demonstration of the deception and fraud involved therein.
“That Kansas should, of right, be immediately admitted as a state under the Constitution recently formed and adopted by her people, and accepted by the House of Representatives.”
Bloody Kansas was a physical battleground between those who supported slavery and those opposed. A Jayhawk is not a bird but rather the name pro-slavery fighters bestowed upon abolitionist fighters in that war.
The Jayhawks had the upper hand. Months before the Republican Convention — on February 23, 1860, to be exact — the Territorial Legislature passed a bill over the governor's veto abolishing slavery in Kansas. Republicans controlled the Legislature. Democrat President James Buchanan appointed Governor Samuel Medary.
The Republican Party platform’s call to grant Kansas statehood clarifies just where Lincoln stood. Bloody Kansas was a prelude to the Civil War. And his opponent in both the 1858 Illinois Senate race and the 1860 presidential race — Stephen Douglas — was the reason Kansas was so bloody.
On September 30, 2015, Politico reported, “In the spring of 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a deeply divisive measure that organized the Kansas and Nebraska territories—territories that the United States had acquired decades earlier as part of the Louisiana Purchase—in preparation for the construction of a Midwestern link to a planned trans-continental railroad.
“At the insistence of Southern senators (most of them, Democrats) who held the bill hostage, Senator Stephen Douglas — the Illinois Democrat who, as chairman of the Committee on Territories, was the bill’s chief author — inserted a popular sovereignty provision allowing residents of the two territories to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery.
“Douglas privately admitted that this one detail would ‘raise a hell of a storm,’ but he underestimated just how quickly that storm would gather force. Kansas and Nebraska were part of the Louisiana Purchase and consequently fell under the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery above the 36’30” parallel.”
In other words, Democrats wanted to expand slavery into the North. Douglas had presidential ambitions. He thought breaking the compromise deal would help him win support from Southerners.
Politico then said, “In one fell swoop, Douglas and his supporters shattered a longstanding arrangement between the North and South and reintroduced the slavery question into American politics.
“William Pitt Fessenden, a Whig senator from Maine, spoke for many Northerners when he called the Kansas-Nebraska Act ‘a terrible outrage. … The more I look at it the more enraged I become. It needs but little to make me an out & out abolitionist.’”
Lincoln was steadfast against the expansion of slavery. Now then, in the 1960s, opponents of the Vietnam War portrayed Lincoln as a fruity pacifist because in his lone term in Congress, he voted against the Mexican War. He was no pacifist. He had been a captain in the Blackhawk Wars. His opposition was to adding a huge territory to the country as a slave state.
Mexico abolished slavery in Texas in 1836, which was one of the reasons Texas rebelled. Mexico abolished slavery completely in 1837 and some American slaves did jump the southern border to freedom.
But historian Alice Baumgartner, assistant professor at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science, said, “The archives in Texas, they do talk about enslaved people escaping to Mexico, but it is often accompanied by them saying that life in Mexico was so bad that the people came back to Texas.”
Oh, I do not dispute that Southerners also were fighting for their land. Most Rebel soldiers came from families that were too poor to own slaves. They indeed were fighting for the South. But denying that slavery was the main issue, however, is to deny that the sun sets in the West.
Which brings me to their second argument: states rights. Actually the South were against states rights before they were for them. The Fugitive Slave Act was a federal law that overrode state laws that freed slaves in free states. The new act was a key part of the Compromise of 1850.
Henry Clay and Daniel Webster crafted a compromise which consisted of having California enter the Union as a free state, ending the sale of slaves in DC, setting Texas’s borders, creating the territories of Utah and New Mexico, and the Fugitive Slave Act.
Ohio History Central reported, “The Fugitive Slave Act clearly favored the slave holders. Anyone caught hiding or assisting freedom seekers faced stiff penalties. United States marshals had to actively seek freedom seekers and return them to their holders. If a marshal refused, the federal government would fine the officer $1,000.
“African Americans could not present evidence to a federal commissioner appointed to hear a case and determine an African American's status as a slave or free person. The slave holder was responsible for paying the commissioner. If the commissioner ruled in favor of the white man, the commissioner received ten dollars. If he ruled against the slaveholder, the commissioner earned only five dollars. Many abolitionists claimed that this portion of the Fugitive Slave Law was a means to bribe the commissioners.”
This ended the practice of slaves fleeing to the north to attain freedom. It meant they had to go all the way to Canada if they wanted to be free.
In Wisconsin, abolitionist Sherman Booth petitioned a local court judge for the release of Joshua Glover, a runaway slave held in federal custody. The state Supreme Court eventually heard the case and ruled in Booth’s favor. The appeal went directly to the Supreme Court, which issued its ruling in 1859.
The Oyez Organization reported, “In a unanimous decision, the Court reversed the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Court asserted the supremacy of federal courts on issues of federal law.
“The Court dismissed Wisconsin's claim of judicial power, since ‘it certainly has not been conferred on them by the United States; and it is equally clear it was not in the power of the State to confer it.’ While Wisconsin courts had authority to issue writs of habeas corpus to cases where the prisoner was held by the state, the Court explained, this authority did not extend to prisoners held by the federal government.”
In light of that, I don’t want to hear about the South fighting for states rights.
Which leaves me to the final Southern/liberal argument that Lincoln created this huge federal government. The Washington Post said as much on October 5, 2011, in a story, “Civil War gave birth to much of modern federal government.”
Lisa Stein wrote, “Almost as soon as he took office in 1862, Francis E. Spinner’s job as U.S. treasurer began to spin out of control.
“Many of his employees had resigned to join the Army — just as a revolution in the country’s money system was underway. He clamored for more clerks.
“‘The work has been performed by devoting not only almost every hour of each day (Sundays not excepted) but many hours of night, to continuous labor beyond the endurance of most men,’ Spinner wrote in a report.
“To help pay for the Civil War, the government had abandoned the gold standard and was printing greenbacks for the first time. The new notes had to be cut and counted, and Spinner, a motivated bureaucrat in tight budget times, turned to an untapped labor pool that would work for less than the going wage: women.
“This is how the federal government began to remake itself into a national, wartime force. The Civil War and its wartime Congresses gave birth to many of the pillars of the modern federal government.”
Nice try but Stein tells only half the tale. After the war, the country ended the income tax in 1872 and went back to the gold standard in 1879. The 16th Amendment was not ratified until 1913, nearly 60 years after Lincoln’s assassination.
The fact is Lincoln was a small government man who gave away much of the federal government’s chief asset — land — to reshape the nation. He gave federal land to states to sell to create universities, hence the name land-grant colleges. He gave federal land to railroads to build the transcontinental railroad.
Finally, he gave federal land to homesteaders who settled the West, which was accessible thanks to those railroads that were built on the federal land he gave away.
All of this was done by acts of Congress, but it shows that instead of growing the government, Lincoln and the Republican Party grew the economy. Because of that, the United States had a postwar economic boom. The nation was able to populate and develop what we called the Great American Desert before the civil war.
We now call that desert Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. The desert stretched from Canada to Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the 100th Meridian, which is west of the Mississippi.
The people who settled that vast emptiness were brave, hardworking and often lonely. They did not steal it from anyone. It was there and it became their land through their toils. The Homesteaders earned their land by weathering cruel heat in the summer and blizzards in the winter.
And then Americans took on the Rockies!
Lincoln’s legislative agenda triggered 60 years of growth. It was accompanied by a technological boom beginning with the invention of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell may have been born in Canada but he was as American as pumpkin pie.
Those inventions and improvements on European inventions created wealth. These Americans were stout-hearted men who reshaped the world.
Rockefeller refined the petroleum industry. Carnegie forged the steel industry. Philip Danforth Armour and Gustavus Swift built the meatpacking industry. The federal government was an afterthought in the Gilded Age those men and hundreds of other captains of industry built.
The Tax Foundation reported, “The federal government expanded dramatically in the 20th century and has continued growing in the 21st. Between 1900 and 2012, federal government receipts increased from 3% of the economy’s output to 16.5%, and federal expenditures rose from 2.7% of economic output to 24%.”
Blaming today’s Union of the Socialist States of America on Lincoln is like blaming weather on carbon dioxide. Liberals do both because they lie, lie, lie. Rare are those who call them out.
I do. Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic says of Jesus, “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”
Do not dare tell me slavery had nothing to do with the civil war. Abraham Lincoln was a man who gave his life to the abolition of slavery in America. He remains the only president to sign an amendment to the Constitution — the 13th, which ended slavery.
And for that he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators — Democrats all.
Ask the slaves if Lincoln and the Civil War freed them. They gave their pennies and raised the money for the Emancipation Memorial. Sculpted by Thomas Ball and erected in 1876, the statue shows Lincoln freeing a slave as modeled by Archer Alexander, a slave who fled Virginia when the Civil War began and made it all the way to St. Louis, where he gained freedom protected by Union soldiers.
The slaves commissioned the statue so that future generations would remember what Lincoln had done. Liberals seek to obscure that.
On June 23, 2020, Democrat Fake Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of DC introduced a bill to remove the Emancipation Memorial. The Trump administration put up barriers to protect it from vandals. On February 18, 2021, she re-introduced the bill to a new Congress.
She said, “Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for this statue, the design and sculpting process was done without their input or participation in any way, and it shows.
“The statue fails to note how enslaved African Americans pressed for their own emancipation. Understandably, they were only recently liberated from slavery and were grateful for any recognition of their freedom. However, in his keynote address at the unveiling of the statue, Frederick Douglass pointedly did not praise the statue, and, indeed, in private remarks, went as far as to say, ‘it showed the Negro on his knee when a more manly attitude would have been indicative of freedom.’
“At the end of last year, Boston removed its replica of the statue and plans to place it in a publicly accessible location where it can be better contextualized. It is time for Congress to place the original statue in a museum, too.”
Her statement shows that liberals want to erase the white people who died to make men free because it is a debt that cannot be repaid. The Great Emancipator was Lincoln. No conservatives should want to be part of the revision of American history that denies his heroism by saying the slavery had nothing to do with the war.
Whether the Constitution allows secession is murky. The Supreme Court avoided the matter.
As for Lincoln suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus — another modern complaint from those who never knew slavery — the Supreme Court upheld him because the Constitution clearly gave him that power. It says, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”
Let us finally accept the civil war for what it was — the bloody end to slavery — and move on. We are closer to the year 2180 than we are to the year 1865.
But let us never forget Abraham Lincoln. He was a martyr to liberty. Sunday marks the 214th birthday of Lincoln. Please thank the Lord for Abraham Lincoln.
Now for today’s totally scientific poll.
Fossil fuels made the steam engine possible. Steam engines made the transcontinental railroad possible. Steam engines made the end of slavery possible.
Thank you for the history lesson, Professor Don. I can only imagine the effort to research and write such an insightful essay. I gladly trade the daily Highlights for this blog.