He’s often hailed as the greatest American president ever. His name is most closely associated with the emancipation of the slaves.

A spirited video on the YouTube channel ‘highimpactflicks‘ claims he was a tyrant and a racist, and didn’t care about slavery, all he cared about was ruling the entire country. A guy hooked on centralized government, opposed to individual freedom, even though his actions did lead to the abolition of slavery (the practice continued in different forms, even to this day. 1 in three male black babies is expected to end up in jail where lots of them will work for a pittance for big companies…)

The video says:

– prior to the civil war he was very clear about where he stood as to race. He clearly saw black people as an inferior race

– early in the war he said his objective was to reunite the country, if he could do that without freeing the slaves, he would do that, if he could do it by freeing them, he would do it, if he could do it by freeing some and keeping some as slaves, he would also do that

– on the eve of the war he claimed he would not touch slavery there where it existed

– he tricked the Confederacy (the 11 states that seceded from the Union in the months following Lincoln’s election victory) into opening the first shot

– he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which enables the authorities to lock up people without having to come up with any evidence of any wrongdoing and incarcerated many journalists

– his armies raped, murdered, plundered

– he conscripted soldiers

– his war was unconstitutional

– the video seems to blame him for the more than 600,000 lives that were lost (a conservative estimate by the way, recent estimates put the tally at 850,000)

Some of the things the video leaves out:

– the southern slave owners had been aggressive in the decades preceding the war, it had sent ruffians into Kansas to basically try and rig the vote when this state decided if it would become a slave state or a free state

– the states that voted for secession (if they ever voted) manipulated the voting process

– Lincoln won the election fair and square in a democratic way. The white males that were allowed to vote elected him as their president, even though in many southern states his name wasn’t even on the ballot

– he was racist, but his views evolved. Although he wanted to ship the black people back to Africa and supported any such efforts to relocate them, he eventually became more and more fond of them. Blacks were officially allowed to bear arms on the northern side, much sooner than they were officially accepted on the southern side. The Confederacy only voted to approve the enlistment of blacks when the war was about to end. Lincoln did his best to make sure blacks could vote. The video and many critics of Lincoln treat him as some sort of static persona and ignore the fact that the man evolved.

– yes, his armies did plunder and destroy entire towns such as Atlanta, but the Confederacy was not afraid to do the same. It burned the northern town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania months before general William Sherman destroyed Atlanta. The North, especially under Sherman and Sheridan, did start to wage war against civilians. The tactic worked by the way. Frontline Confederate soldiers deserted in droves because they were so concerned about what was happening back home on the farm. It gutted the Confederate war effort, and brutal as the tactic may have been, it ended a stalemate situation much like the one that was to come in the First World War. When Sherman slashed through Georgia and the Carolina’s, soldiers from those states left Lee’s army up in Virginia. During at least one incident Sherman’s army let lots of blacks that were following the army drown. They were definitely no saints. But they did get the job done… And as soon as the Confederates sought peace Sherman himself offered such generous terms to his former enemies that his own government thought he had gone mad or had become a traitor…

– the Confederacy promised to execute any white man found in charge of black soldiers

– if a Confederate regiment was badly demoralized they were put in front of lines manned by blacks, because their hatred towards black soldiers motivated them to fight on

– Lincoln’s opponent started conscripting soldiers sooner than Lincoln did

– The states that seceded from the Union did not grant parts of their states the privilege of secession either. It’s not mentioned that Lincoln was fighting an enemy with double standards, claiming the right to secede, but not allowing its own citizens to secede

– if the war was unconsitutional, consider the fact that the constitution has no answer to the question: can states legally secede from the Union? The situation Lincoln faced was unprecedented.

– As soon as the war was won, Lincoln was merciful and was hoping the Confederate leaders would simply leave the country. The terms his generals offered to surrendering Confederates were magnanimous. He said General Lee’s face was a good face to look at, and he said the song that the Confederacy loved, Dixie, was one of his favorite tunes. He wanted to let them up easy.

– Only one Confederate, Henry Wirz, was formally condemned to death and executed after the war. The commander of the Andersonville, which at some point held so many yankee prisoners of war that it became the fourth largest town in the Confederacy. It’s not entirely clear if the sentence was deserved, if the abominal living conditions were the doings of the commander or if the Confederacy simply lacked the means to adequately provide for so many prisoners. The video could have found more ammunition to rail against Lincoln, because northern prisoner of war camps were also hell holes, such as Camp Douglas, and the North DID have the transportation, the materials, construction force, know how and supply to care for these prisoners. There’s no excuse for this.

– if Lincoln hadn’t fought, the Confederacy would have done all it could to expand, to incorporate all slave states (there were 15, but only 11 seceded) and to carve out some new ones out west or even south at the expense of Mexico and Spain (Cuba).

– only a minority of the soldiers who did the actual fighting on the Union side were conscripts. There were too many ways to escape conscription.

– While it’s true Lincoln had no plans to abolish slavery prior to the war, his firm stance against the expansion of slavery condemned the peculiar institution to death. If slavery could not expand, it would die. To survive slavery needed new land. Studies point out that in the upper slave states slavery was profitable because it could sell young slaves down the river. The profitable produce of slavery were the slaves itself in some regions. To keep non-slave holding whites on board, the elite also had to give them at least the dream that one day they too could become slave owners, this was only possible on vast areas of new land. The Southern elite was well aware of the fact that slavery needed ‘Lebensraum’ in order to survive.

– Lincoln offered to reimburse slave owners, but they rejected his offer, except in the district of Colombia, we quote from this webpage:

‘Did slave owners really receive $300 per slave?

Yes, but very few. In 1862 the federal government abolished slavery in Washington DC, but set up a commission to compensate slaveholders who did not join the Confederacy. In the end the government paid out an average of $300 per slave to the 979 owners of 2,989 slaves. (See the complete list here) Those 2,989 slaves represent approximately 0.075% of the 4 million slaves in the country at the time. Though many abolitionists objected on principle to any action which implied that human beings could be bought or sold, the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC created an island of freedom in between the slave states of Maryland and Virginia and became a magnet for runaways from the region. What is more, the Emancipation Act forbade slave owners from evading the act by removing slaves from the District and successfully enforced this prohibition.  

The Lincoln administration attempted to pursue a compensated emancipation policy in the Border States, but gave up after the Delaware legislature bluntly rejected his offer. Thus, no other American slave owner was ever compensated.’

– it’s often claimed that the North wanted to keep the South for monetary reasons. Important tariffs for example. The Confederacy however hardly even mentions this in the documents in which they explain why they seceded, the ordinances of secession for example.

Was Abraham Lincoln a brutal dictator?

Yes, if you totally ignore that he was facing a very dangerous opponent that would have destroyed democracy, weakened the United States as a world power, would have perpetuated AND expanded slavery indefinitely, and was more aggressive than we are let to believe.

Here’s the video: