Judge Napolitano on Lincoln

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The recent discussions in the media about Ron Paul’s comments regarding Lincoln and his political legacy got me to thinking, wouldn’t it be great if Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst, would weigh in on the subject. I had this thought because Judge Napolitano included a chapter entitled "Dishonest Abe" in his brilliant book, The Constitution in Exile. Judge Napolitano is a very busy man, hosting a radio show as well as appearing on television, making speeches all around the country, writing books, and practicing law — in addition to (hopefully) having a private family life. Since I am a big fan of his writing I thought I would try to pique our readers’ interest in what the judge has to say on this subject.

The first two sentences of the "Dishonest Abe" chapter of The Constitution in Exile are hard hitting: "The Abraham Lincoln of legend is an honest man who freed the slaves and saved the Union. Few things could be more misleading." He then goes on to say exactly what Ron Paul told the Washington Post, and which seemed to mystify and confuse Tim Russert in his "Meet the Press" interview with Congressman Paul: "In order to increase his federalist vision of centralized power, u2018Honest’ Abe misled the nation into an unnecessary war. He claimed that the war was about emancipating slaves, but he could have simply paid slave owners to free their slaves . . . . The bloodiest war in American history could have been avoided." And, as Ron Paul would likely add, all the other countries of the world that ended slavery in the nineteenth century, including Britain, Spain, France, Denmark, the Dutch, did so without a war. This, by the way, included the Northern states in the U.S. There were no "civil wars" to free the slaves in Massachusetts, New York (where slavery existed for over 200 years), or Illinois.

Lincoln’s "actions were unconstitutional and he knew it," writes Napolitano, for "the rights of the states to secede from the Union . . . [are] clearly implicit in the Constitution, since it was the states that ratified the Constitution . . ." Lincoln’s view "was a far departure from the approach of Thomas Jefferson, who recognized states’ rights above those of the Union." Judge Napolitano also reminds his readers that the issue of using force to keep a state in the union was in fact debated — and rejected — at the Constitutional Convention as part of the "Virginia Plan."

He also discusses Lincoln’s Confiscation Act of 1862, under which "any slaves behind the Union lines were captives of war who were to be freed and transported to countries in the tropics. This was in keeping with Dishonest Abe’s lifelong position (his "White Dream," according to Ebony magazine managing editor Lerone Bennett, Jr, author of Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream) of deporting all blacks from the U.S. "Colonization" was the euphemism that was used for this.

"The Confiscation Acts," writes Judge Napolitano, "show that Lincoln did not have much concern for the slaves. He did not suggest to Congress that freed slaves should be granted civil rights or citizenship in Northern states. Once the freed slaves were transported out of the United States, they would no longer be Lincoln’s problem." This is also why Lincoln tinkered with proposals for compensated emancipation in the border states while they were under U.S. military occupation during the war. These proposals included immediate deportation of any freed slaves. He saw the occupation of the border states during the war as an opportunity to begin ridding the country of "The Africans," as he referred to black people, as though they were from another planet. Judge Napolitano quotes Lincoln in one of his debates with Stephen Douglas as saying what he repeatedly said throughout his adult life: "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes." "Lincoln was more concerned about the failure of [the seceding] states to collect tariffs than he was about slavery, " says Napolitano.

Unlike all those hopelessly miseducated neocon pundits who sneered at Ron Paul’s statements regarding how Lincoln did tremendous damage to the principles of the American founders, Judge Napolitano is well schooled in constitutional history. He writes of Lincoln’s complete trashing of the Constitution by "murdering civilians, declaring martial law, suspending habeas corpus, seizing . . . private property without compensation (including railroads and telegraphs), conducting a war without the consent of Congress, imprisoning nearly thirty thousand Northern citizens without trial, shutting down . . . newspapers, and even deporting a congressman (Clement L. Vallandigham from Ohio) because he objected to the imposition of an income tax."

"Saying that Lincoln abolished slavery and calling him the u2018Great Emancipator’ are grossly inadequate mischaracterizations," writes the judge. "Lincoln was interested in promoting his political agenda of centralizing government power, and freeing the slaves was only a means of advancement of that end."

Lincoln destroyed the union of the founding fathers. He "replaced a voluntary association of states with a strong centralized government. The president and his party eagerly lifted the floodgates to the modern thuggish style of ruling that the U.S. government now employs" (emphasis added). This "opened the door to more unconstitutional acts by the government in the 1900s through to today."

The next time you see Lincoln’s portrait on a five-dollar bill, the judge concludes, "remember how many civil liberties he took away from you."

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 latest book is Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (Crown Forum/Random House).

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

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