Celebrating America's First Bolshevik
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
A survey of 58 historians "from across the political spectrum"
released by C-Span Feb. 21 ranked the "leadership qualities" of
American presidents, placing Lincoln first, followed by Franklin
Needless to say, presidents who avoided warfare, obeyed their oath of
office, and concentrated on preserving American liberties were
awarded little distinction by this poll: Among them, Jefferson ranked
highest at seventh.
In "America's Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861" (in which the author
argues that the just cause in 1861, just to keep the record straight,
was that of "Southern Independence,") Murray Rothbard, intellectual
heir to Ludwig von Mises and late of the UNLV Department of
Economics, describes the onset of Republicanism under Lincoln:
"Lincoln signed no less than 10 tariff-raising bills during his
administration. Heavy 'sin' taxes were levied on alcohol and
tobacco, the income tax was levied for the first time in American
history, huge land grants and monetary subsidies were handed out to
transcontinental railroads (accompanied by a vast amount of
attendant corruption), and the government went off the gold
standard and virtually nationalized the banking system to establish
a machine for printing new money and to provide cheap credit for
the business elite. ... A huge army was conscripted, dissenters and
advocates of a negotiated peace with the South were jailed, and the
precious Anglo-Saxon right of habeas corpus was abolished for the
Slavery? "In every other part of the New World, slavery was
peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders," Rothbard
asserted in the 1994 talk on which this essay is based. (Actually,
Haiti was the other violent exception.) "But in these other countries
... there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody work,
armed with a gun in one hand and a hymn book in the other. ... The
Yankee fanatics were the Bolsheviks of their era."
Lincoln's "character"? Rothbard notes that Lincoln was the perfect
model of the modern " 'reform liberal' ... whose heart bleeds for and
yearns to 'uplift' remote mankind, while he lies to and treats
abominably actual people whom he knew.
Lincoln declared that the Union was "a family, bound indissolubly
together by the most intimate organic bonds," Rothbard points out,
while meantime acting "viciously toward his own humble frontier
family. He abandoned his fiancee in order to marry the wealthier Mary
Todd ... he repudiated his brother, and he refused to attend his
dying father or his father's funeral, monstrously declaring that such
an experience 'would be more painful than pleasant.' "
But Rothbard is gentle on Our Massa Lincoln compared to Libertarian
novelist L. Neil Smith, who has made a second career researching and
writing fictionalized alternative histories of the United States,
such as his new "The American Zone."
Smith points out in his classic essay
"The American Lenin" that the
War of 1861-1865 was really about imposing the highest protective
tariffs in the nation's history -- a payback to the northern
industrialists who had financed the daring if somewhat unusual plan
to elect the Illinois Central Railroad's attorney as president of the
United States. Unfortunately, southern planters quickly realized
they'd be the main victims of this protectionist racket, being
effectively banned from importing British manufactured goods, and
required instead to pay more for shoddy merchandise from
It was "in support of this 'noble principle' ... that Lincoln
permitted an internal war that butchered more Americans than all of
this country's foreign wars -- before or afterward -- rolled into
one," Smith writes.
Lincoln "oversaw the systematic shelling and burning of entire cities
for strategic and tactical purposes. ... The fact is, Lincoln didn't
abolish slavery at all, he nationalized it, imposing income taxation
and military conscription upon what had been a free country before he
took over -- income taxation and military conscription to which newly
'freed' blacks soon found themselves subjected right alongside
newly-enslaved whites. If the civil war was truly fought against
slavery ... then clearly, slavery won.
"Lincoln brought secret police to America, along with the traditional
midnight 'knock on the door,' illegally suspending the Bill of
Rights. ... To finance his crimes against humanity, Lincoln allowed
the printing of worthless paper money in unprecedented volumes,
ultimately plunging America into a long, grim depression -- in the
south, it lasted half a century," as the South was taxed to repay the
Union's war debts.
"In the end, Lincoln didn't unite this country -- that can't be done
by force," Smith concludes. Instead, "he divided it along lines of an
unspeakably ugly hatred and resentment that continue to exist almost
a century and a half after they were drawn. ...
"The troubling truth is that, more than anybody else's, Abraham
Lincoln's career resembles and foreshadows that of V.I. Lenin, who,
with somewhat better technology at his disposal, slaughtered millions
of innocents -- rather than mere hundreds of thousands -- to enforce
an impossibly stupid idea which, in the end, like forced association,
was proven by history to be a resounding failure."
The most thoroughly researched and documented fresh look at Mr.
Lincoln's War is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's
Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men" ($14.95 from Laissez Faire Books at
In the book, Hummel notes: "The Lincoln Administration imprisoned at
least 14,000 civilians throughout the course of the war. ... The
federal government simultaneously monitored and censored both the
mails and telegraphs. ... It also suppressed newspapers. Over three
hundred, including the Chicago Times, the New York World, and the
Philadelphia Evening Journal, had to cease publication for varying
Former Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio,
running for governor, "delivered a speech in May 1863 that accused
the President of unnecessarily prolonging the conflict. The Union
commander in Ohio" -- never a war zone -- "rousted Vallandigham from
his home at night and jailed him. A military court handed down a
sentence of confinement for the war's duration, but public
indignation forced Lincoln to commute the sentence to exile behind
Yet C-SPAN's 58 historians assure us Lincoln ranks first in our
history when it comes to "pursuing equal justice for all"!
Slavery? Hummel concludes: "Slavery was doomed politically even if
Lincoln had permitted the small Gulf Coast Confederacy" (the states
that had seceded by the time of his inauguration) "to depart in
peace. The Republican-controlled Congress would have been able to
work toward emancipation within the border states, where slavery was
already declining. In due course the Radicals could have repealed the
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. With chattels fleeing across the border
and raising slavery's enforcement costs, the peculiar institution's
final destruction within an independent cotton South was inevitable."
So the war wasn't even necessary to end slavery -- while Lincoln
never tired of offering to let the southerners keep their slaves, if
only they'd stay in the union.
Lincoln revered "all across the political spectrum"? Someone must be
out to prove that historians are, indeed, "the camp followers of a
victorious army." What Lincoln and his party achieved was to convert
this land from a Jeffersonian republic of limited government to a
monstrous and ever-growing welfare/police state, taxing and
regulating everything in sight, dreaming up monopoly government
licensing schemes for everything from the practice of law and
medicine to peaceful travel of the highways, and most insidiously
creating a vast tax-supported bureaucratic cadre to propagandize the
nation's youth -- education being an arena in which no role for
government had previously been contemplated -- teaching them
precisely that their heroes should be none other than those most
successful betrayers of the American Revolution, Lincoln the First
and Roosevelt the Second!
The messianic "reform" movement which began with the Whig-Republican
coalition of the 1860s has never really gone into eclipse. This is
the gang who still seek to use the usurped powers of the central
state to ban outright such previously well-accepted forms of commerce
as prostitution, gambling, and the traffic in alcohol, medicines, and
pain-relieving drugs, with the result that America today has the
highest rate of incarceration -- slaves to the state, a whopping
plurality of those rotting behind bars being black men who have never
committed a violent crime -- ever seen in the history of mankind.
Yet we are assured, in the ironic words of Broadway librettists Ragni
and Rado: "We's free now, thank to yo Massa Lincoln, emancipator of
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. His new book,
Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,
is available at $24.95 postpaid
from Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las Vegas, Nev. 89127; by
dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site
http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html. Credit cards accepted;
volume discounts available.
[Webmaster: Additional reading on Lincoln and the war:
The Real Lincoln, by Charles L. C. Minor.
War for What?, by Francis W. Springer.]