Over the Thanksgiving
holiday (decreed by Lincoln in 1863) one neocon Tabloid, National
Review, reprinted Lincoln's October 3, 1863 proclamation, highlighting
Abe's cynical reference to "the Most High God . . ." Another
neocon Tabloid, The American Spectator, published the typical
sappy, a-historical, fact-free, rhetorical mumbo jumbo about "Father
Abraham" that Harry Jaffa and his fellow Lincoln cultists are
to God in Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation, like all other such
references in his political speeches, are breathtakingly cynical
because of the fact that Lincoln never became a Christian (according
to his wife and his closest friend and law partner, William Herndon);
he never joined a church; rarely ever stepped foot into one; as
a young man wrote an entire book that disputed Scripture;
and was famous for his vulgar stories and language. But he studied
the Bible as a political tool, just as today's politicians
study opinion polls.
Prior to 1863
Lincoln's references to God and the Bible in his political
speeches were mostly catch phrases and buzz words ("a house
divided cannot stand"). But as more and more fellow American
citizens were murdered by the thousands by his army, and as the
war crimes mounted, Abe stepped up his Biblical lingo. By the time
of his second inaugural he wrote a speech in which he absolved himself
of all blame for the war ("the war [just] came," he said),
blaming the whole bloody mess on God. Presuming to know what was
in the mind of God, he theorized that the Lord was punishing all
Americans, North and South, for the sin of slavery. He did not theorize
on why God would not also punish the British, French, Spanish, and
others who were responsible for bringing 95% of all the slaves to
the Western Hemisphere. In other words, his Biblical language was
always a diversion and a cover-up for the war crimes against American
civilians (among other atrocities) that he was micromanaging.
The first sentence
of Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation is a real howler. The year
1863, he said, "has been filled with the blessings of fruitful
fields and healthful skies." What? Healthful skies?! As of
the fall of 1863 there had been several hundred thousand battlefield
casualties, including thousands of men in both armies who died of
yellow fever and other dreaded diseases. There were more than 50,000
casualties in the Battle of Gettysburg alone, just three months
In the second
sentence, Lincoln the non-Christian claimed that "we"
are "prone to forget" that all of those "healthful
skies" come from "the ever watchful providence of Almighty
God." Speak for yourself, Abe!
This is followed
by another howler, claiming that "peace has been preserved
with all nations." He apparently forgot about the Confederate
States of America that he was waging total war against.
It gets worse
(and funnier). The next thing he says is that "order has been
maintained." Stalin said the same thing about the Soviet Union.
By that time Lincoln had imprisoned thousands of Northern political
dissenters without due process since he illegally suspended the
writ of Habeas Corpus. He had shut down hundreds of "unorderly"
opposition newspapers, and deported poor old Congressman Clement
Vallandigham of Dayton, Ohio, his most outspoken critic in Congress.
As Dean Sprague
wrote in Freedom
Under Lincoln (p. 299), under Lincoln's "policy of
oppression," the "entire judicial system was set aside"
as "the laws were silent, indictments were not found, testimony
was not taken, judges did not sit, juries were not impaneled, convictions
were not obtained and sentences were not pronounced. The Anglo-Saxon
concept of due process, perhaps the greatest political triumph of
the ages and the best guardian of freedom, was abandoned."
earlier there had been draft riots in New York City that one could
hardly describe as "orderly." An eye witness to the riots
was Colonel Arthur Fremantle of the British Army, who wrote the
following about the New York City draft riots in his book, Three
Months in the Southern States (p. 302):
of outrages, hangings, and murder, were now most alarming, the
terror and anxiety were universal. All shops were shut; all carriages
and omnibuses had ceased running. No colored man or woman was
visible or safe in the streets or even in his own dwelling. Telegraphs
were cut, and railroad tracks torn up.
"order" was restored when Abe sent 15,000 troops to New
York from the just-concluded Battle of Gettysburg. The troops fired
indiscriminately into the draft protesters, killing hundreds, more
likely thousands, of them according to Iver Bernstein, author of
New York City Draft Riots. (This scene was portrayed in
the movie Gangs
of New York, where Bernstein worked as an historical consultant
to director Martin Scorcese).
not let historical facts get in our way. Let's follow the neocon
lead and swoon and weep and get chills up our legs over Abe's Big
Lie that "harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre
of military conflict."
that there was "harmony" and "unity" in the
Northern states during the war is one of the most outrageous lies
in American history. Historian Ella Lonn described how Lincoln created
"harmony" within the U.S. Army in the face of massive
desertions by literally hundreds of thousands of Northern men in
her book, Desertion
During the Civil War. Draftees "were held like veritable
prisoners" and Lincoln's government "had no compunctions
about shooting or hanging deserters," wrote Lonn. The murder
of deserters achieved Nazi-like efficiency: "A gallows and
shooting ground were provided in each corps and scarcely a Friday
passed during the winter of 1863–64 that some wretched deserter
did not suffer the death penalty in the Army of the Potomac. . .
. The death penalty was so unsparingly used that executions were
almost daily occurrences. . ." The "method of execution"
was "generally shooting but hanging seems to have been used
speech gets even worse. The very next uttering of Abe's is that
"the laws have been respected and obeyed." Well, not by
Abraham Lincoln, certainly. Even his own attorney general, Robert
Bates, stated that his suspension of Habeas Corpus was illegal and
unconstitutional, as was the suppression of free speech throughout
the North. West Virginia was illegally carved out of Virginia to
form a new slave state as part of the union. And where in the Constitution
is the president permitted to order soldiers to imprison and deport
an opposition member of Congress without any due process? Or rig
national elections and imprison duly-elected members of the Maryland
state assembly without due process? Doesn't the Constitution require
presidents to see to it that the states have republican forms of
invasion of the Southern states was the very definition of treason
under the U.S. Constitution. Article 3, Section 3 proclaims that:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying
war against them, or adhering to their Enemies,
giving them Aid and Comfort" (emphasis added). Treason under
the U.S. Constitution consists "only" in waging war against
"them," namely, the free, independent and sovereign states,
plural. Lincoln redefined treason to mean any criticism by anyone
of him or his administration. In fact, he even said that
a man who stands by and says nothing while the war was being
discussed was guilty of "treason."
violated international law and his own military code by intentionally
waging war on American civilians for four years, killing more than
50,000 of them according to historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. Even
pro-Sherman biographer Lee Kennett wrote in his book, Marching
Through Georgia (p. 286), that "had the Confederates
somehow won, had their victory put them in position to bring their
chief opponents before some sort of tribunal, they would have found
themselves justified (as victors generally do) in stringing up President
Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violation of the laws
of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants."
All the "great
things" that had happened since he became president, said Abe,
were "the gracious gifts of the Most High God . . ." Therefore,
he said, "we" should celebrate as "the whole American
People" to give thanks to God with a national holiday. This
was another very large contradiction: Lincoln never admitted that
secession was legal, therefore, he always considered Southerners
to be a part of "the whole American people" for political
purposes. It is doubtful that a single Southerner, in 1863, would
have heeded Abe's advice and given thanks for all that he had done
his Thanksgiving propaganda speech with more religious lingo, thanking
the Lord for "the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility,"
and, get this — Union. The Union — always spelled with a capital
"U" — was not just a practical political arrangement created
by the founding generation mostly for foreign policy purposes, as
Thomas Jefferson said it was. It was supposedly divine, the work
of God. Lincoln the non-Christian knew this for sure. It's what
created The Divine Right of Lincoln, similar to The Divine Right
of Kings during the Middle Ages.
deification of the state echoed the words of the fanatical New England
Unitarian preacher Henry W. Bellows, who worked in the Lincoln administration
as its Sanitary Commissioner and whose son, Russell, was Robert
Todd Lincoln's Harvard classmate and best friend. (Lincoln's son
Robert spent the war years "fighting" for good grades
at Harvard). Bellows authored a creepy, totalitarian-sounding book
in 1863 entitled Unconditional
Loyalty which declared that "the state is indeed divine,
as being the great incarnation of a nation's rights, privileges,
honor and life" itself." Moreover, "the first and
most sacred duty of loyal citizens" was "to rally round
the president — without question or dispute."
In his new
book, The Fiery
Trial: Abraham Lincoln and Slavery (p. 265), Lincoln cultist
Eric Foner informs us that "it is not surprising that Lincoln
seemed to share this outlook." This "outlook" would
have caused George Washington to reach for his sword and lead another
Revolution against another despotic and dictatorial regime.
J. DiLorenzo [send him mail]
is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the
author of The
Real Lincoln; Lincoln
Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe
Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton's
Curse: How Jefferson's Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution
— And What It Means for America Today.