In their zeal to limit taxation and ‘government intrusion’, libertarians often show their lack of moral fiber on national issues that resonate with most Americans. That is one reason that thankfully they do not hold many elective offices in the nation. The problem with libertarian thinking was demonstrated again most recently when Ron Paul was featured on “Meet The Press’ this past Sunday.
I had to shake my head in bewilderment as to why a candidate for president in 2008 would bash President Lincoln, arguably the most important leader this nation ever had. Can Ron Paul be truly void of understanding the moral victory by having slavery ended in the Civil War? Does his reading of American history about the decades that led up to the Civil War make him feel that a ‘buy out” of the slaves would have actually worked? And who was to pay for this plan, or execute it, given that folks like Paul hate taxation and government meddling?
Men such as Vice President of the Confederacy Stephens told Abe Lincoln directly that the south would never allow slavery to be ended based on public opinion. Men such as Stephens were not delivering empty threats. Slavery was seen by a powerful segment of society as a way of life and a right. Given that the southern economy was tied to slavery I think Ron Paul should consider how a whole radically reformed south was to have been born once the government bought the slaves. There is no credible argument for buying out the slaves as a means to ending the shameful practice that the south loved. And Ron Paul knows that.
While talking about Ron Paul’s slavery issue over Christmas Eve dinner with friends, it was noted that libertarian types love to get frothy over these types of eclectic arguments, and that Paul was probably hoping for another dozen votes by bashing Abe Lincoln. I am not sure about the votes, but he did get plenty of snickers.
The problem is that Ron Paul was wrong with his assessment concerning the reasons why Lincoln took the nation to war. Lincoln’s main motive was not to crush the Constitution or alter the founding father’s intentions. There is a whole cottage industry of Lincoln bashing that has built into a rabid following based on such malarkey. Paul was feeding into that line of crap in a pathetic grab for a few votes. Lincoln knew that toughness had to be employed if the Union was to be maintained. And the bulk of society has been forever grateful.
One might argue that Lincoln was too risky in some of the measures he employed to secure the survival of the Union, such as the suspension of habeas corpus. Arguments abound if Lincoln had thought enough about how his actions might make it easier for future presidents to act in such a manner. What is often lost in this line of thinking is that democratic nations do have the right to effectively fight for their survival. There is no civil war that has ever been fought where a bit of repression is not required to obtain victory. Just a fact.
Lincoln was right that the Union should not be dissolved. John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary during the war, wrote that in Lincoln’s mind it was a necessity to prove that popular government was not an absurdity. While the war was very much centered on the question of slavery, the need to put aside the notion of a split Union was forefront to all the actions that Lincoln would take. The fact that Lincoln never had a desire to be a dictator, and relaxed the necessary steps he used at times during the war, is proof of his intentions.
I suppose out of the need to be honest with my readers I should mention that President Lincoln is my favorite person that has sat in the Oval Office. I do not care for the ripping on Lincoln that some think is great sport. Abe Lincoln and the Civil War are well represented on my bookshelves and I much enjoy the writings of folks such as Shelby Foote and Carl Sandburg. In addition, James fifth great grandmother was a third cousin to Hannibal Hamlin. And as I said before most of us in America are grateful for the tall lanky man with the high voice from Illinois.