On July 19 the Associated Press and Reuter’s reported an "amazing find" at a museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania: A copy of a letter dated March 16, 1861, and signed by Abraham Lincoln imploring the governor of Florida to rally political support for a constitutional amendment that would have legally enshrined slavery in the U.S. Constitution.
Actually, the letter is not at all "amazing" to anyone familiar with the real Lincoln. It was a copy of a letter that was sent to the governor of every state urging them all to support the amendment, which had already passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, that would have made southern slavery constitutionally "irrevocable," to use the word that Lincoln used in his first inaugural address. The amendment passed after the lower South had seceded, suggesting that it was passed with almost exclusively Northern votes. Lincoln and the entire North were perfectly willing to enshrine slavery forever in the Constitution. This is one reason why the great Massachusetts libertarian abolitionist Lysander Spooner, author of The Unconstitutionality of Slavery, hated and despised Lincoln and his entire gang.
The Lincoln cult knows about all of this, but works diligently to keep it out of view of the general public. The fact that news organizations reported the "find," however, creates a problem for the cult. A cover-up/excuse-making campaign must commence.
The document was found in the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, Historical Society archives in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The director of the Society, Joseph Garrera, described in the press as "a Lincoln scholar," immediately announced that the document is not at all important, since such documents are "a dime a dozen."
Well, not really. Most of these kinds of documents have been meticulously whitewashed from the historical record. When they do surface and are made public, the Lincoln cult gets to work burying them in an avalanche of excuses designed to fog the real meaning of the documents in the minds of the average American. Garrerra’s statement is the first attempt at this.
Every once in a while, though, a cult member (or an aspiring cult member) slips up and spills the beans. A recent example is the "political biography" of Lincoln recently published by the confessed plagiarist Doris Kearns-Goodwin entitled Team of Rivals. This is Goodwin’s first publication on Lincoln, and she has apparently not been filled in on the standard modus operandi of cover-up and obfuscation that is the hallmark of "Lincoln scholarship." She discusses the above-mentioned "first thirteenth amendment" in some detail (as I do in my forthcoming book, Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe, to be published in October).
Goodwin dug into the same original sources that all Lincoln scholars are familiar with, but unlike most others, she includes the information in her book. Not only did Lincoln support this slavery forever amendment, but the amendment was his idea from the very beginning. He was the secret author of it, orchestrating the politics of its passage from Springfield before he was even inaugurated. Not only that, but he also instructed his political compatriot, William Seward, to work on federal legislation that would outlaw the various personal liberty laws that existed in some of the Northern states. These laws were used to attempt to nullify the federal Fugitive Slave Act. As explained by Goodwin (p. 296): "He [Lincoln] instructed Seward to introduce these proposals in the Senate Committee of Thirteen without indicating they issued from Springfield. The first resolved that u2018the Constitution should never be altered so as to authorize Congress to abolish or interfere with slavery in the states.’ Another recommendation that he instructed Seward to get through Congress was that u2018all state personal liberty laws in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law be repealed.’"
Goodwin reveals all of this because the theme of her book is what a great political conniver and manipulator Lincoln was and this, of course, is a good example of such deceitfulness. In the eyes of a lifelong statist like Goodwin, lying, deception and fakery are praiseworthy traits for a politician. She praises him for his pro-slavery amendment because it supposedly "held the Republican Party together."
Lincoln’s efforts in this regard were enormously popular in the North, and especially in Boston. A thoroughly racist society, the vast majority of northerners wanted slavery to persist in the South because that would keep black people in the South. They opposed the personal liberty laws for the same reason: They wanted any escaped slaves to be eliminated from their midst. Thus, Goodwin writes of how, when Seward made a speech announcing these two proposals (the constitutional amendment and the abolition of personal liberty laws) in Boston, "the galleries erupted in thunderous applause." Lincoln’s political handler and campaign manager, the thoroughly corrupt New York City politician Thurlow Weed, "loved the speech," writes Goodwin, again making the point that the proposals were good politics because they "kept his fractious party together."
Lincoln’s slavery forever amendment read as follows:
"No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State. (See U.S. House of Representatives, 106th Congress, 2nd Session, The Constitution of the United States of America: Unratified Amendments, Doc. No. 106-214).
In his first inaugural address Dishonest Abe explicitly supported this amendment while pretending that he hardly knew anything about it (i.e., lying). What he said was: "I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution . . . has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the states, including that of persons held to service." Then, while "holding such a provision to be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
Lincoln was not an abolitionist and, unlike Lysander Spooner, he believed that slavery was already constitutional. Nevertheless, he also favored making it "express and irrevocable."
The director of the museum in Allentown where Lincoln’s letter to the governors was recently discovered made a feeble attempt to dismiss this entire episode as unimportant by saying that Lincoln was only being "pragmatic." Actually, exactly the opposite is true. Another reason why abolitionists like Spooner detested Lincoln, Seward, and the rest is that he understood that their opposition to slavery was always theoretical or rhetorical. They never came up with any kind of pragmatic plan to end slavery peacefully, as the real pragmatists — the British, Spanish, Dutch, French, and Danes — had done. Indeed, the political leaders of these countries could have provided the Lincoln regime with a detailed roadmap regarding how to go about it. But as Lincoln repeatedly said, his agenda was always, first and foremost, to destroy the secession movement, not to interfere with slavery. And as this episode reveals, for once his actions matched his words.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, (Three Rivers Press/Random House). His next book, to be published in October, is Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (Crown Forum/Random House).