Sunday, September 26, 2010

Abraham Lincoln and the Founding Fathers' Supposed Embrace of Slavery Along with Their Alleged Rejection of Women's Rights

This week, The Economist published a screed describing the tea parties' "constitution-worshippers" as "infantile".
When history is turned into scripture and men into deities, truth is the victim. The framers were giants, visionaries and polymaths. But they were also aristocrats, creatures of their time fearful of what they considered the excessive democracy taking hold in the states in the 1780s. They did not believe that poor men, or any women, let alone slaves, should have the vote.
As far as The Economist's history lesson is concerned, if Lexington had any real knowledge of history, allegedly coming from the framework of "modern politics", he would know that most of the issues he brings up are not as clear-cut as holier-than-thou leftists would like and that, in any event, they were settled already (over 150 years ago, which seems a lot for a progressive like him who has little but scorn for anything not modern), by none other than Abraham Lincoln.

• Regarding "excessive democracy" and not giving the poor the vote, briefly this: the founders did not found a democracy, they founded a republic. They did not want a land of mobs, they wanted a land of laws. By kowtowing to the poor, the state pulls down the rich; by protecting the rights of everybody (including the rich), the state ensures the poor can at least try to raise themselves into a wealthier class.

• Regarding not giving slaves or blacks the vote: during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Stephen A. Douglas, like today's constitution-rejecters, pointed out that slavery had existed since the revolution and the constitution — except that in his case the argument was to make the point, contrary to what today's holier-than-thou moralists hold (that the framers were nigh-despicable and that we should have no admiration for those terrible slave-holders), that slavery was a good thing and was something intended by that time's slave owners.

At Galesburg in October 1858, Douglas spoke words that mirror those of today's founding father scorners (as nothing but slave-holders), except, again, his argument was to defend the fathers as well as slavery:
Let me remind [my opponents] that when Thomas Jefferson wrote that document, he was the owner, and so continued until his death, of a large number of slaves. Did he intend to say in that Declaration, that his negro slaves, which he held and treated as property, were created his equals by divine law, and that he was violating the law of God every day of his life by holding them as slaves? It must be borne in mind that when that Declaration was put forth, every one of the thirteen Colonies were slaveholding Colonies, and every man who signed that instrument represented a slaveholding constituency. Recollect, also, that no one of them emancipated his slaves, much less put them on an equality with himself, after he signed the Declaration.

Abraham Lincoln responded that what Stephen Douglas is asking you in the audience is:
Is it possible to believe that Mr. Jefferson, who penned the immortal paper, could have supposed himself applying the language of that instrument to the negro race, and yet held a portion of that race in slavery? Would he not at once have freed them? I only have to remark upon this part of the Judge’s speech … that I believe the entire records of the world, from the date of the Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago, may be searched in vain for one single affirmation, from one single man, that the negro was not included in the Declaration of Independence; I think I may defy Judge Douglas to show that he ever said so, that Washington ever said so, that any President ever said so, that any member of Congress ever said so, or that any living man upon the whole earth ever said so, until the necessities of the present policy of the Democratic party, in regard to slavery, had to invent that affirmation. And I will remind Judge Douglas and this audience that while Mr. Jefferson was the owner of slaves, as undoubtedly he was, in speaking upon this very subject he used the strong language that “he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just;” and I will offer the highest premium in my power to Judge Douglas if he will show that he, in all his life, ever uttered a sentiment at all akin to that of Jefferson.

At Quincy six days later, Lincoln pushed further, pointing out that people who declare that the founding fathers wanted, that they instituted, or even that they tolerated slavery (whether to praise said fathers or to demonize them) are assuming "what is historically a falsehood":
I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the fathers of the Government made this nation part slave and part free, he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that: when the fathers of the Government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction.
As for the Declaration of Independence, Honest Abe said in June 1857 that
the authors of that notable instrument … did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all [men] were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that “all men are created equal” was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
• How about women's lack of the vote? Again, Lincoln's career is illustrative. Two events during his electioneering are well known, but the — obvious — ramifications have not been inferred. During his 1858 campaign for the Illinois senate, one huge banner said
Westward thy star of Empire takes its way
Thy Girls Link-on for Lincoln
Their Mothers were for Clay
If the feminists' version of history is true — that of long-suffering martyrs with no rights, horrifically oppressed by their male tormentors — this sentence (whom the daughters support(ed), whom the mothers endorse(d)), which was accepted by all, male and female alike, makes no sense. Nor, indeed, does the very presence of innumerable females at the Lincoln/Douglas debates and other such public political events. Unless, of course, you go along with the leftists' (self-serving) view of history, that everyone prior to members of the modern left — male and female alike, again — were dunces fooled by the evil forces of reaction and/or capitalism… Could it be that American females were not that victimized as we are led to believe?

Indeed, during the 1860 election, Lincoln got a letter from a 11-year old girl prompting him to grow a beard. Grace Bedell wrote that
I have got 4 brother's and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. … I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can.
Fancy that! Women (or American women) — even 11-year-old girls (!) — were not long-suffering martyrs, oppressed horrifically by the male tormentors, but individuals discussing politics and attempting to persuade and cajole and "tease" (and/or terrify?!) the (oppressing) menfolk in their lives into voting for the candidate of their choice (and probably into doing many other things — like taking out the garbage)!

Guess what: perhaps it turns out that the male vote of the pre-20th century was not a male vote at all, but a family vote, one that happened to be carried out by the (titular) head of the family…

Related: All the viceless leftists' (self-serving) arguments against the fathers, such as that brought up by The Economist, are thoroughly dissected and examined in detail the books by Harry Jaffa