A Southerner’s Brief, Eclectic Guide to Abraham Lincoln

lincolnI recently happened across a review of a new book regarding the factors that ultimately led to the Civil War.

Honestly, I don’t make Lincoln out to be quite the bugbear others do. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, he was a scrupulous constitutionalist, in many respects. The war ultimately placed him, however unwittingly, on a path dependency. And the real irony of all of this was that Abraham Lincoln ended up a very unwitting Great Emancipator. Frankly, he really didn’t give a damn about the slaves. He would have been happy to resettle all of them in some tropical African or South American backwater after the war. His all-consuming passion was to institute an American System, conceived by his intellectual mentor, Henry Clay, to benefit all Americans, primarily the laboring classes whence he came.

Of course, he ran afoul of the Southern planter elite through his support of Clay’s American System and also free soil settlement policy, which threatened both the low-tariff southern economic system and the economic viability of slavery. Things got complicated, though, when Lincoln, in the course of forestalling Southern secession was forced, arguably by necessity, to forgo his previous constitutional scrupulousness. 

What was perceived in many quarters as his rank disregard for the Constitution ultimately drove the Upper South into Confederate ranks. Consequently, the struggle, which considerable justification, increasingly was regarded even by smallholding Southern soldiers as the second American Revolution – a war against Lincoln’s constitutional excesses.

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About Jim Langcuster

A Southern late-Baby Boomer whose post-retirement focus is on building a post-racial, post-Confederate Southern regional identity. If the election of 2016 underscored one thing, it is that this country is intractably divided and that radical devolution of power to localities and states is the only way to save the American Union.
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