Ilana Mercer, February 12, 2003

If Americans want to reclaim their moral character as a nation, they will have to confront and denounce “The Real Lincoln,” who carried out a violent unconstitutional revolution (instead of pursuing peaceful emancipation like every other nation did), a revolution, which, in turn, sired the modern imperialist, interventionist, and highly centralized American State.


This moral reckoning will be an uphill battle, not least because of the “Church of Lincoln.” The moral and intellectual nurturers of Lincoln‘s legacy have carved careers out of denying that the soul of the American federal system is state sovereignty. And state sovereignty, as author Thomas J. DiLorenzo points out, is gutless in its power to check the federal government without the right of secession.


The constitutional casuistry of the “Church of Lincoln” only underscores its moral decay.

Let us imagine, as Lincoln lovers claim, that the Constitution ratified in 1788 forbade peaceful secession and authorized the federal government, which was supposed to have limited powers delegated to it by the people, to invade and occupy any seceding state, declare martial law, subdue the secessionists by force, burn and ransack entire cities, and then establish a military dictatorship over those states for a dozen years.


Let’s pretend that it was constitutional to intentionally wage war on civilians—blacks included—to imprison without trial thousands of Northern citizens, jail—even execute—people who refused to take an oath of loyalty  to Lord Lincoln, shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers, incarcerating editors and owners, and generally suspend the Bill of Rights, the writ of habeas corpus, and international law.


If it endorsed—or even accommodated—what Lincoln did, including his ignoring of the Ninth and 10th amendments, and his violating of the Second, then the Constitution is categorically evil and self-contradictory.


The other more plausible option is that the “Church of Lincoln” is lying: In 1861, Lincoln kidnapped and killed the Constitution! The Jacobin Jackals who defend Lincoln‘s actions (by referring to his beguiling words) have been covering up his crimes and ignoring the consequences of this coup ever since.


The nation’s popular war lore must also take a moral turn.


In the film “Gettysburg,” the effects of moral relativism moderate the usual outright condemnation of the South. That’s not an achievement worth celebrating. Filmmakers are never shy of underdog endorsement. Yet the battle for “Little Round Top” is filmed from one angle only; never once does the lens stray to the Confederates’ side. Militarily—certainly visually—the Confederates charging up the hill in unrelenting waves form the suicide mission. The film, however, fails miserably to bring alive the implications of the David/Goliath power differential in the War of Northern Aggression.


The film’s prominent unionists get to deliver all the impassioned speeches. The over-represented abolitionist rhetoric comes from no other than Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who was not even an abolitionist. In the South’s corner, an inarticulate oaf, sniggered at by his compatriots, is charged with presenting the Jeffersonian ideas of states’ rights, liberty, and self-government.


This is inexcusable when you consider that Lord Acton, “the great historian of liberty,” wrote poignantly to Robert E. Lee in person to praise the General for fighting to preserve “the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will”: states’ rights and secession.


The great Lee’s defining features in “Gettysburg” are a southern drawl and a doddering manner. He certainly didn’t get to orate his inspired reply to Lord Acton:


…I believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people…are the safeguard to the continuance of a free government… whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, [my emphasis], will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.


Gettysburg” does portray the obscene and tragic result of Lincoln‘s fratricidal war in which 620,000 soldiers died, and 50,000 Southern civilians perished as a result of the war the hands-on Lincoln waged on non-combatants.


Predictably, the apologists for these atrocities are the same people who quiver like post-coital Court Courtesans (Peggy Noonan comes to mind) every time George Bush promises to forcibly uproot evil from all corners of the globe. Like Bush, they probably believe that invading a nation that has not attacked the U.S. is just another faith-based initiative.


If director and producer Ronald F. Maxwell brings the “Gettysburg” moral incoherence to his sequel film “Gods and Generals,” I’ll keep my distance, no matter how much praying goes on in the film. Piety is not to be equated with the kind of goodness Americans must regain.



February 12, 2003

CATEGORIES: Abraham Lincoln, Constitution, Secession, States' Rights

Leave a Reply