Solidifying the Cult of Lincoln, Penny Wise

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In case you missed it (I did), Friday was Abraham Lincoln's
birthday. In honor of the Great Centralizer, the United States Mint
unveiled a new design for the penny. This should put to rest all of
the discussion about the elimination of the worthless copper-clad
zinc cent, but the real emphasis should be on the new message the
penny pushes on the American public: Lincoln "saved the Union"
and State's rights is a fallacy. Don't forget it.

The face
of the penny will remain unchanged, but the reverse will feature
a shield with thirteen stripes and the phrase "E Pluribus Unum"
emblazoned across the top. The Mint described the symbolism of the
new penny as thus: "The new Lincoln “Preservation of
the Union” penny is emblematic of President Lincoln's “preservation
of the United States of America as a single and united country.”
The 13 vertical stripes of the shield represent the states joined
in one compact union to support the Federal government, represented
by the horizontal bar above [emphasis added]." At the unveiling
of the new penny in Springfield, IL, Mint Director Ed Moy said,
"This one-cent coin honors the preservation of the union, which
was Abraham Lincoln’s ultimate achievement. Because of his presidency,
despite bitter regional enmity and a horrific civil war, we remained
the United States of America." This shield was widely used
in the North during the War for Southern Independence as a propaganda
piece. Nothing has changed. The penny will be in circulation for
at least 50 years.

Senator Dick
Durbin of Illinois pushed legislation to redesign the penny through
Congress, and it is probably no coincidence that the new penny directly
attacks the rejuvenated interest in State's rights and Tenth Amendment
issues across the United States. Notice that according to the Mint,
the States are in the Union to support the "Federal" government
and are a "single united country." That would be news
to the founding generation. Outside of the ardent "nationalists"
like Alexander Hamilton or James Wilson, very few believed that
the States joined in a compact to "support the Federal government."
In fact, the Constitution would not have been ratified had this
been the case.

Even Lincoln's
contemporaries doubted his character and his decision to go to war
to "preserve the Union." Few Americans realize that less
than forty percent of the American public voted for Lincoln in 1860
and that he narrowly won re-election four years later (he trounced
George McClellan in the Electoral College but received only fifty-five
percent of the total Northern vote. Had the South voted,
he would have lost). United States Senator James A. Bayard of Delaware
called Lincoln an "ordinary Western man" who had no idea
about "republican government." During a three-day speech
in 1861, Bayard labeled Lincoln a tyrant and issued this warning:

"You
may attempt by war to keep the States united — to restore the
Union; but the attempt will be futile. Conciliation and concession
may reunite us; war, never! The power may be exercised for the
purpose of punishment and vengeance. It may be exercised if you
propose to conquer the seceding States, and reduce the nation
into a consolidated nation; but if your intention be to maintain
the Government which your ancestors founded — that is, a common
Government over separate, independent communities — war can never
effect such an intention."

The
other Senator from Delaware, Willard Saulsbury, remarked in 1863
that, "I firmly believe that the usurpation of arbitrary power
upon the part of the Executive to arrest peaceful citizens in loyal
States has done more to render that disunion of these States, which
now is a fact, permanent and eternal, than anything else…."
Representative Fernando Wood of New York opined that Lincoln had
created permanent sectional animosity by waging war against the
South, and more importantly, had destroyed the United States. "Graves
in our valleys, sufferers in our hospitals, desolation at every
hearthstone, distrust in our rulers, distrust in ourselves, bankruptcy,
anarchy, and ruin — these are the triumphs won by your relentless
policy."

This
is just a scattering of the multitude of comments made in opposition
to Lincoln and the War, and to these men, Lincoln did not preserve
the United States; he forged a new centralized despotism, the antithesis
of the Founders' "united States." The Mint, the Congress,
and Americans in general gloss over the fact that many Northerners
resisted the Federal draft, believed Lincoln started the War and
unnecessarily whipped the North into a bloodthirsty frenzy, and
blamed Lincoln for the destruction of the Constitution. The new
penny is another attempt to whitewash the historical record and
dupe Americans into believing that Lincoln was the greatest president
in American history and the savior of the republic. Those treasonous
Southerners deserved the beating they received, and every American,
North and South, rejoiced once the Union had been "preserved"
and State's rights crushed under the Federal heel. It seems the
winds of decentralization have blown into Congress and the propaganda
machine is revving up to meet this new challenge to their authority.
The misnamed "Preservation of the Union" penny is the
clearest example yet. Keep applying the pressure.

February
17, 2010

Brion McClanahan,
Ph.D. [send him mail],
is the author of The
Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers
and a
history professor at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix
City, AL.

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