In the realm of U.S. history, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most revered presidents. It’s unfortunate that over time the truth about Lincoln has been lost. It is no surprise that the state propagates myths about state figureheads and Lincoln is without exception. Consider the two biggest supposed contributions that Lincoln is credited for: keeping the union together and ending slavery. In March of 1861, Lincoln said:
The War is waged by the government of the United States not in the spirit of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or institutions of the states, but to defend and protect the Union.
Lincoln had no interest in ending slavery other than to keep the south from seceding. Actually Lincoln was no friend of African Americans or slaves. If there is any doubt, Lincoln wrote:
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery.
Lincoln was, indeed, a white supremacist. In his 1858 debate with Sen. Steven Douglas, Lincoln stated:
And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
To take this further, he was also no supporter of miscegenation; interracial marriage. In 1858, Lincoln remarked,
I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.
A year prior, he said:
There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…
These quotes alone should have any Lincoln supporter scratching his head. However, Lincoln’s misdeeds don’t just stop there. Int eh first year of the Civil War, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, responding to riots and local militia actions in the border states by allowing the indefinite detention of “disloyal persons” without trial. Essentially this meant that Lincoln imprisoned persons without trial.
A Supreme Court justice overturned the order, but Lincoln ignored him. Over the next few years, the Great Emancipator, in one of the war’s starkest ironies, allowed these new restrictions, which also imposed martial law in some volatile border areas and curbed freedom of speech and the press, to expand throughout the Northern states.
More than 14,000 civilians were arrested under martial law during the war throughout the Union. Abraham Lincoln did so because they expressed views critical of Lincoln or his war. During Lincoln’s administration several prominent political adversaries were arrested, including Congressman Clement Vallandigham, a leading Copperhead, and at least one other federal judge – William Matthew Merrick of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia – was placed under house arrest for defying the suspension of habeas corpus.
In 1862, after President Abraham Lincoln appointed him secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton penned a letter to the president requesting sweeping powers, which would include total control of the telegraph lines. By rerouting those lines through his office, Stanton would keep tabs on vast amounts of communication, journalistic, governmental and personal. On the back of Stanton’s letter Lincoln scribbled his approval:
The Secretary of War has my authority to exercise his discretion in the matter within mentioned.
Stanton’s wartime efforts to control the press, included censorship, intimidation and extrajudicial arrests of reporters. On the same day he received control of the telegraphs, Stanton put an assistant secretary in charge of two areas: press relations and the newly formed secret police. Stanton ultimately had dozens of newspapermen arrested on questionable charges. Within Stanton’s first month in office, a reporter for The New York Herald, who had insisted that he be given news ahead of other reporters, was arrested as a spy. In 1884, Lincoln even issues an executive order for the “Arrest and Imprisonment of Irresponsible Newspaper Reporters and Editors.” At war’s end, Lincoln suppressed more than 300 newspapers, which included the arrest of journalists whom he did not agree with.
Finally, consider that the war that Abraham Lincoln started took the lives of 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians and caused incalculable economic loss. This as a result of Lincoln’s insistence that free people cannot refuse to be ruled by their government. Ironically Lincoln’s distorted belief ran counter to the greatest secessionist document in history, the Declaration of Independence.