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Thursday, August 11, 2005


Trashing our history: Lincoln
Since the 1960s, it has been fashionable in some quarters to take cheap shots at Lincoln, asking such questions as "Why didn't he free all the slaves?" "Why did he wait so long?" "How come the Emancipation Proclamation didn't just come right out and say that slavery was wrong?"
....
Just one fact should give pause to Lincoln's critics today: When Lincoln sat down to write the Emancipation Proclamation, the Supreme Court was still headed by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had issued the infamous Dred Scott decision, saying a black man had no rights which a white man needed to respect.

This was a Supreme Court that would not have hesitated to declare the freeing of slaves unconstitutional -- and Lincoln knew it. The Dred Scott decision was not yet a decade old at the time.

There would have been no point in issuing an Emancipation Proclamation that didn't actually emancipate anybody. Ringing rhetoric about the wrongness of slavery would not have gotten the Emancipation Proclamation past Taney and his Supreme Court.

Since Lincoln's purpose was to free millions of human beings, not leave some rhetoric to be preserved in the anthologies, he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in dry legalistic terms that disappointed thoughtless critics in his time and ours, but got it past the Supreme Court.

Nothing in the Constitution gave a President the authority to free slaves. The only thing Lincoln could use to make his actions legal was his authority as commander-in-chief in wartime. But that meant that he could only free the slaves in territory controlled by enemy forces.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Quote of the Day
"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39, 1788)






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