Will Ron Paul Destroy the ‘Party of Lincoln’?

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Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: Constitutional Neoconmen

     

Former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson, who is now a columnist for the company newspaper of the company town known as Washington, D.C., recently authored yet another hysterical neocon rant over the Ron Paul candidacy. Ron Paul is on a "quest to undo the Party of Lincoln," blared Gerson's headline. Every freedom-loving, patriotic American can only hope and pray that Ron Paul succeeds.

Gerson's tone is dripping with venomous hatred when he accuses Ron Paul of being some kind of nut by calling the Civil War "senseless" and of saying that Lincoln ruled with an iron fist. Generations of historians have also called the Civil War "senseless" or something similar. "The bumbling generation" is how some historians describe the Civil War-era politicians who plunged the nation into war, the most preeminent of whom was Lincoln himself. But when Ron Paul refers to the war in that way what he has in mind is the true historical fact that all other countries of the world that ended slavery in the nineteenth century — including most of the Northern states in the U.S — did so peacefully. The British, French, Spaniards, Dutch, Swedes, Danes, and others ended slavery in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, the French and Danish colonies, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela without resorting to the mass murder and destruction of war. (See Jim Powell. Greatest Emancipations: How the West Ended Slavery; Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery; and Slavery in New York, published by the New York Historical Society).

Only Gerson's beloved "Party of Lincoln" used slaves as political pawns in a war that all of them — Lincoln as well as the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress of 1861-1865 — stated over and over again was commenced to "save the union" (and consolidate political power in Washington, D.C.), and not to disturb Southern slavery. As Lincoln said in his famous 1862 letter to newspaper editor Horace Greeley, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union." On July 22, 1861 the U.S. Congress announced to the world that the purpose of the war it had commenced was NOT "interference with the rights or established institutions of those states" [i.e., slavery], but to preserve the Union with the rights of the several states unimpaired." Gerson is obviously unaware of all of this.

Of course, Lincoln's "save the Union" rhetoric was always outrageous nonsense. The original American union of the founding fathers was a voluntary union based on the Jeffersonian notion in the Declaration of Independence that the just powers of government result only from the consent of the governed, and whenever that consent was withdrawn, it was the duty of the governed to abolish that government. It was nothing more than a practical political arrangement and not some magical, mystical, sacred union that "justified" the mass murder of more than 350,000 Southerners to "save" it. Indeed, the founding fathers would probably have thought such a thing to be perhaps the biggest atrocity in world history.

Lincoln's war destroyed the union of the founding fathers by forcing all states, North and South, to obey without question the dictates of Washington, D.C. — or else. Michael Gerson seems completely ignorant of all of this history when he mocks Ron Paul by saying "Paul is the most anti-Lincoln public official since Jefferson Davis . . . . According to Paul, Lincoln caused 600,000 Americans to die in order to u2018get rid of the original intent of the republic.'" Exactly. Even if it was not Lincoln's intent — which it most certainly was since he was the political heir to the Hamiltonian/consolidationist wing of the American political tradition — it was undeniably the effect of Lincoln's war. It is what would lead to such absurdities as someone like Michael Gerson becoming a propaganda mouthpiece for our rulers in Washington, D.C.

In his first inaugural address Lincoln threatened "invasion" and "bloodshed" in any state that refused to collect the newly-doubled tariff on imports, which at the time constituted more than 90 percent of all federal tax revenues. Two years later the Republican Party apparently decided that the murder of hundreds of thousands and the destruction of entire cities in the South could not be justified before world opinion if it was motivated by the greed for money and power — which of course it was, as is almost always the case with all wars. So the slaves were used as political pawns to cover up the true intentions of the Party of Lincoln, which from that time on has described itself as the "Grand Old Party" or the party of great moral ideas! (When you hear that rhetoric, think of the party's great moral leaders, such as Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, or Newt Gingrich, all of whom have employed speechwriters like Michael Gerson to compose such nonsense for them).

Gerson also mocks the notion that Lincoln ruled "with an iron fist," which also demonstrates his complete ignorance of this aspect of American history. It is well known by anyone who bothers to learn about it that Lincoln illegally suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus (even his own attorney general said so) since only Congress can legally do so. He ordered the military to mass arrest thousands of Northern critics of his administration, without due process, and imprison them indefinitely. These included many opposition newspaper editors, and even the Mayor of Baltimore, Congressman Henry May of Maryland, and the grandson of Francis Scott Key, who had editorialized against Lincoln's tyranny.

Lincoln issued an arrest warrant for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney after Judge Taney issued his opinion that Lincoln's suspension of Habeas Corpus was unconstitutional. He deported the most outspoken member of the opposition party, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio; confiscated firearms in the border states; instituted the first federal military conscription law; oversaw the daily shooting of hundreds of deserters to his army; and even announced that merely remaining silent when his administration's policies were being discussed constituted "treason." Most importantly, the Republican Party's invasion of the Southern states was the very definition of Treason under the Constitution. All of this — and worse — is why generations of historians have referred to the Lincoln presidency as the "Lincoln dictatorship," another historical fact that Gerson is oblivious to.

Treason is defined in Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution as follows: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort" (emphasis added). "United States" is always in the plural in all the founding documents, signifying the free and independent states. Treason was defined as "only" waging war against the free and independent states, which of course is exactly what Lincoln and his party did. Again, Michael Gerson is ignorant of all of this.

Gerson's ignorance of the history that he pretends to pontificate about gets even worse. He claims that Ron Paul's "conception of liberty is not the same as Lincoln's." Yes, and thank God for Ron Paul. What advocate of liberty would destroy the Constitution, imprison political dissenters, murder hundreds of thousands of his own citizens over tax collection, and then claim the moral high ground by including a few Biblical phrases in his political speeches (even though he himself was an atheist)?

Gerson is also unaware that the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to "rebel territory," where the U.S. Army had no ability to free anyone, and that Lincoln called it a "war measure" that would have ended had the war ended on the next day. In other words, it freed no one, and had the war abruptly ended Lincoln was perfectly satisfied to allow the Southern states to do whatever they wanted to do with the slaves as long as they continued to pay federal tariff taxes. Indeed, in one speech he nonchalantly forecast that slavery would probably fade away sometime in the early twentieth century.

In addition to his shocking ignorance of American history, Michael Gerson is just plain hysterical and nonsensical with some of his other broadsides against Ron Paul. For example, any reasonable person who spends a small amount of time educating himself about the actual effects of the government's "war on drugs" would have to conclude that it has been a colossal failure: It has utterly failed to reduce drug use; it has made the illicit drug trade more profitable by causing the price of illegal drugs (and the profits from selling them) to increase dramatically; it is the primary cause of violence in America, just as alcohol prohibition was in the 1920s and early 1930s; it has corrupted police and judges; it has lured untold numbers of children into the business because of the money they can make; and it has led to the grossly disproportionate imprisonment of young African-American men for victimless "crimes." Gerson mentions none of these facts, but only screams that Ron Paul has "proposed . . . legalization"!!!!!! This is supposed to be a self-evident fact that proves Ron Paul to be "disqualified" as a presidential candidate, says Gerson.

Unlike Ron Paul, who champions the constitutional dictum of equality under the law for all Americans, Michael Gerson parrots the Washington establishment's view that inequality under the law in the form of institutionalized discrimination against white males, which is what "civil rights regulation" became immediately upon passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is more appropriate. To Ron Paul, government-sanctioned discrimination is discrimination, no matter what the skin color of the victims. Two wrongs do not make a right, in other words. Michael Gerson apparently never learned this elementary lesson.

Since David Duke is also known to have run for political office in Louisiana several decades ago by protesting racial hiring quotas and reverse discrimination, Gerson outrageously accuses Ron Paul of "defending former Ku Klux Kan Grand Wizard David Duke," proving that he is dishonest as well as ignorant of the subjects he is writing about.

Gerson is also outraged that Ron Paul has described American foreign policy as "aggressive" and "expansionist." Has Michael Gerson ever stepped foot outside of Washington, D.C.? Does he really reside on Planet Earth?

In one final burst of stupidity, Gerson concludes his essay be claiming that the U.S. entered World War II to save the European Jews from the Holocaust. (Earth to Michael Gerson: The Holocaust happened; the U.S. government did not save the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis). He makes this remarkably stupefying statement so that he can proclaim to his Washington Post audience that "Paul's conception of liberty . . . would have freed the occupants of concentration camps from their dependency on liberating armies."

Michael Gerson pretends that Ron Paul has invented out of thin air his own personal conceptions of "liberty." Anyone who knows anything about Ron Paul — unlike the Michael Gersons of the world — understands why this is so absurd. Ron Paul has for many decades been a serious student of the classical liberal tradition of European and American thought. He is extraordinarily well educated in the free-market economics tradition of the Austrian School of Economics, associated with such scholars as Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Henry Hazlitt. He is well schooled in the natural rights philosophy that informed the American founding fathers, and which is so beautifully articulated in such publications as The Law by Frederic Bastiat. He understands the logic of the foreign policy ideas of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who I would wager were far more thoughtful and educated on the subject than Michael Gerson is.

One thing that Gerson gets right is that Ron Paul's conception of liberty, based on the above-mentioned literature, is indeed very different from those of Lincoln's. Lincoln probably never even read The Federalist Papers; his personal library consisted almost entirely of books on rhetoric and speech making and political strategy. He was a champion of central banking, protectionist tariffs, and corporate welfare, all for the benefit of the Northern business elite that financed his career and his party at the expense of the rest of the public. He was willing to wage total war on his own citizens for the benefit of his own political benefactors. He was a machine politician who would make today's Chicago politicians look like so many Mother Teresas by comparison. He deplored constitutional limitations on his own dictatorial powers, and waged war on his own countrymen for refusing to have their federal taxes doubled. Read Lincoln's first inaugural address for yourself.

If Ron Paul succeeds in his "quest to undo the Party of Lincoln" it would be the greatest advance in freedom for Americans since the ending of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1866.

Thomas 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 and How 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.

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