Neocon Rich Lowry is raging over the Lincoln issue these days. He's shocked and appalled than anyone could ever not agree with him that Lincoln, a corporate lobbyist turned tax-and-spend big government inflationist was the greatest thing to ever happen to America. Lowry even makes the laughably ludicrous statement that Lincoln "was perhaps the foremost proponent of opportunity in all of American history."
As is the case with most conservatives these days, Lowry simply ignores the history of his own movement and ignores the fact that Frank Meyer, the most mainstream of mainstream conservatives, and one of the founders of Lowry's National Review, thought that Lincoln's legacy was "was essentially negative to the genius and freedom of our country."
Meyer of course was probably the leading intellectual of the National Review crowd of the 1950s and 1960s (rivaled only by James Burnham), but Lowry pretends Meyer never existed.
Meyer made such an excellent and measured case against Lincoln, in fact, that I have nothing to add to the two columns I have printed below in their entirety. These columns, written for National Review in 1965 and 1966, are collected in the Frank Meyer collection titled appropriately enough, The Conservative Mainstream.
"Lincoln Without Rhetoric"
By Frank Meyer
National Review, August 24, 1965
Sometimes there are judgments at which one arrives that one hesitates to state publicly, out of respect for deeply held beliefs and prejudices. I have over a number of years come to think that the general admiration for Abraham Lincoln is ill founded. Particularly recently, in the course of work I have been doing on a book on American history, it has been borne in upon me more and more that his pivotal role in our history was essentially negative to the genius and freedom of our country.
It would undoubtedly have been wisest all around had I delayed any public expression of this judgment until I could fully state the reasons for it in my forthcoming book; but an excellent study of Lincoln's repressive measures during the Civil War, Freedom Under Lincoln, by Dean Sprague, crossed my desk and I gave it a brief review (National Review, June 15, 1965), in which I expressed skepticism of the accepted attitude toward Lincoln. A few weeks later, in the issue of July 27, a letter to the Editor took me severely to task. Further, the letter was sharply seconded by my colleague and friend, Mr. William F. Buckley Jr. Under these circumstances I cannot in candor do less than set down here some of the considerations on which I base my judgment.