Top Ten Reasons Why Liberals Would Have Hated Abraham Lincoln

Friday, March 22, AD 2013

The Lincoln (2012) film is coming out on Blu-ray and DVD on March 26, 2013 and I can’t wait to get my copy.  Faithful readers of this blog know that I immensely enjoyed the film.  Go here to read my review.

The film I enjoyed.  The attempt by liberals involved with the film  to steal Lincoln, a very partisan Republican, as one of their own, I did not find amusing, except in a bleakly dark fashion.  Go to here to read a post I wrote to refute the contention of the director of the film, Steven Spielberg, that the parties had switched positions since Lincoln’s day.  Actually modern liberals would have hated Abraham Lincoln, and here are ten reasons why:

1.  Marriage Equality-Gay Marriage was obviously not an issue in Lincoln’s day, but I know he would have been against “Marriage Equality” , the most vacuous political slogan in many a moon, because he was against “marriage equality” for polygamists.  Not recalled much today, but the Republicans ran opposed, as they said in their 1856 platform, to “those twin relics of barbarism, slavery and polygamy”.  Lincoln signed the Morill Anti-Bigamy Act on July 8, 1862.

2.  Military-Industrial Complex-The first example of a Military-Industrial Complex in American history was the mighty war machine assembled by Lincoln to crush the Confederacy.  One can imagine the outraged Code Pink demonstrations.

3.  Catholics-One does not have to peruse Leftist web sites for lengthy periods before usually finding examples of raw anti-Catholic bigotry.  Go here to read about what Lincoln thought of the anti-Catholic bigots of his day.

4.  Separation of Church and State-Imagine, just imagine, the outrage of liberals if a President were to use the White House grounds to host a fund raiser to build a Catholic Church.  Yet, that is precisely what Lincoln did on July 4, 1864.  Go here to read about it.

5.  Dead White Males-Lincoln did not regard the Founding Fathers as dead white males, but champions for human liberty as he ringingly proclaimed them on August 17, 1858:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built. (This statement also indicates where Lincoln would likely stand in our current debate on abortion.  Lincoln could always see the common humanity that unites all those “stamped with the Divine image”.)

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23 Responses to Top Ten Reasons Why Liberals Would Have Hated Abraham Lincoln

  • I can’t believe you left out the number one primary reason liberals would have hated Lincoln no matter what he may have done – his party affiliation. The “R” next to a politician’s name is to liberals like garlic to a vampire.

    On the other hand, a “D” next to a politician’s name offers one unlimited political immunity with liberals.

  • Spot on. The entire “the two parties have switched” fallacy has been uttered by people who are simply bone dry ignorant about politics and history. Were that our kids taught actual history and not mythology they might have a better understanding of the man, Lincoln.

  • I think it would stand to reason that Lincoln would be heartbroken about the slide to the left that much of his beloved Republican Party has taken.

    You have many republicans on the wrong side of many of the things you listed.

    Wasn’t it a republican president (Ike) that coined the term ” military industrial complex”?

  • Wasn’t it a republican president (Ike) that coined the term ” military industrial complex”?

    1. The ratio of military spending to domestic product during the eight years after the Korean War was nearly twice what it is today.

    2. Military conscription was in effect (bar one year) from 1940 to 1973. This had no precedent in American history.

    3. During Eisenhower’s first 27 years in the military, the ratio of military spending to domestic product (deducting the 1st World War and a few years thereafter) was around about 1% of domestic product. At no time after 1940 was it ever less than about 6.5% of domestic product.

    4. The propensity to spend on the military has proved responsive to external circumstances. The military and the aerospace industry have never developed into the sort of entrenched rent-seeking combine that you see in various areas (public employee unions, various institutions of the schoolteacher trade (schools of education, accrediting bodies, and, of course, unions and the very bureaucracies themselves), higher education, real-estate development, agribusiness). This was not clear yet in 1961.

  • “Wasn’t it a republican president (Ike) that coined the term ” military industrial complex”?”

    Ike was a great believer in going nuclear immediately in regard to any war. He fought bruising battles with his top commanders, especially with the Army brass, who thought that going nuclear immediately was madness and that Ike was dangerously underfunding the military, especially the Army, and creating a hollow force.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Look_(policy)

  • Art,

    I’m not saying that Ike would have approved of what are seeing today with the wholesale gutting of our military. I’m surprised you left out his threatening to use that very same “military industrial complex” to use nukes in Korea, Problem was the phraseology he used. It may not have been clear in 1961.

  • I do not think our military has been gutted wholesale. It increases and declines in comparative size in accordance with circumstance. It now consumes about 5.7% of domestic product, which is adequate.

    Just to be clear, I am pointing out that when Eisenhower used the phrase “military-industrial complex” the context and referent was quite different from what it has been at any time in the last 40 years. That is what makes invocations of Eisenhower by the peace-and-justice set invalid.

    Given the comparative size of the military in 1956, it boggles the mind that the brass thought it ‘underfunded’. (The events of the last 50-odd years would suggest the military was adequately funded at that time).

  • “Given the comparative size of the military in 1956, it boggles the mind that the brass thought it ‘underfunded’.”

    The number of Army battalions were reduced by half from the Korean War. General Taylor, Army Chief of Staff, wrote a book describing the experience of the Army under Eisenhower, The Uncertain Trumpet, in 1960 in which he lambasted Eisenhower’s defense policies. Army histories refer to this period as the Babylonian Captiivity of the Army.

  • Lets not forget that he also suspended habeas corpus, suppressed free press (confiscated printing presses), jailed newspaper editors without trial for sedition (Gitmo anyone?) and indulged in massive wire tapping of the telegraph system.
    But he also confiscated citizens firearms which the left would have loved.

  • The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

  • Have you read “Team of Rivals”? I knew nothing about Lincoln before I picked it up, but after I read it I think of him as something like the model politician. Excellent character, could deal fairly with even his worst enemies and had a profound view of God’s actions in history (though he remained a quasi-Christian at best).

  • “Lets not forget that he also suspended habeas corpus, suppressed free press (confiscated printing presses), jailed newspaper editors without trial for sedition (Gitmo anyone?) and indulged in massive wire tapping of the telegraph system.
    But he also confiscated citizens firearms which the left would have loved.”

    Why in the world would Lincoln do those things? Oh yes, something called the Civil War where the nation was fighting for its life. Similar measures, except for the telegraph of course, were utilized by the Founding Fathers during the American Revolution against the Tories. Critics of Lincoln usually ignore the fact that Davis used similar measures in the Confederacy.

  • The number of Army battalions were reduced by half from the Korean War.

    The ratio of military spending to domestic product during the Korean War was 0.145, or equivalent to the general mobilization during the 1st World War. I have been rummaging through old issues of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. The service history of American men born during the years running from 1930 to 1938 was as follows:

    55% Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines
    9% Guard and Reserves
    24% disqualified upon examination
    12% divers

    About the same shares would apply to those in the 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1929 cohorts (who generally did not have WW II service. I do admire my father’s contemporaries and the next cohorts down, but I am not sure how sustainable this is over time.

  • “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”
    Lincoln suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus through Congress. Congress could return the writ intact after the war.

  • I have to say Lincoln was wrong on number ten. The church is the last best hope for the world. I don’t see America playing that role at all. It may have been the best country in which to thrive for a while, and a relatively short time on the historical stage. But I don’t see it as some kind of peculiar hope these days. Perhaps I’m viewing things too darkly, but it seems to me we’ll go the way of all nations. We rose pretty quickly and we’ll probably fall rather quickly too. I find no reason to think we’ll escape the trajectory that has been common to all great powers.

  • “I find no reason to think we’ll escape the trajectory that has been common to all great powers.”

    Woe unto the world Jon if your words become prophecy.

  • Lincoln was also a staunch opponent of the cardinal principle of liberal economics, Free Trade. “I am in favour of a National Bank; I am in favour of the internal improvement system and a high Protective Tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles.” (From Abraham Lincoln’s first political speech, 1832.)

  • Actually MPS by 1860 Lincoln was very lukewarm about a protective tariff. At the Republican Convention in 1860 he told his representatives to let it be known that if elected he would not fight for such a tariff in Congress but neither would he veto such a tariff if passed by Congress.

    “Springfield, Illinois, May 12, 1860.

    My dear Sir: Your brother, Dr. W.S. Wallace, shows me a letter of yours in which you request him to inquire if you may use a letter of mine to you in which something is said upon the tariff question. I do not precisely remember what I did say in that letter, but I presume I said nothing substantially different from what I shall say now.
    In the days of Henry Clay, I was a Henry-Clay-tariff man, and my views have undergone no material change upon that subject. I now think the tariff question ought not to be agitated in the Chicago convention, but that all should be satisfied on that point with a presidential candidate whose antecedents give assurance that he would neither seek to force a tariff law by executive influence, nor yet to arrest a reasonable one by a veto or otherwise. Just such a candidate I desire shall be put in nomination. I really have no objection to these views being publicly known, but I do wish to thrust no letter before the public now upon any subject. Save me from the appearance of obtrusion, and I do not care who sees this or my former letter.”

  • Lincoln was also a staunch opponent of the cardinal principle of liberal economics, Free Trade. “I am in favour of a National Bank; I am in favour of the internal improvement system and a high Protective Tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles.” (From Abraham Lincoln’s first political speech, 1832.)

    It is not the cardinal principle. It is a policy recommendation derived from microeconomic insights.

    Prior to 1913, the federal constitution required that direct tax collections be apportioned among the states. That made the imposition of direct taxes quite cumbersome and IIRC none were ever enacted. The federal government was proportionately small and subsisted on imposts, excises, sales of federal property, and the sale of postage stamps. “Internal improvements” refer to public works; whether or not the federal government would build and maintain interregional roads was a matter of some controversy. Whether or not latter-day economists would recommend it, a tariff was how you financed the government.

  • The perennial “high, protective tariff” (HPT) was not motivated by a need for federal revenue. It was deployed to foster northern economic/industrial growth and development by diverting cash (making English manufactured goods more costly than New England’s) from “Cotton King” south.

    The HPT was the main weapon wielded by the north/federal government in the economic civil war of the first 60 years of the nineteenth century.

  • Balderdash T.Shaw. By the time of the Civil War the tariff was the lowest of the century which it would have remained if the Southern members of Congress had not withdrawn in the madness of Secession. Contrary to cranks like Dilorenzo, the tariff had nothing to do with the Civil War.

  • The perennial “high, protective tariff” (HPT) was not motivated by a need for federal revenue.

    1. Sales of federal property constitute a liquidation of assets, properly applied to debt retirement (whether they were or not I leave to Mr. McClarey).

    2. The sale of postage stamps constitutes a user charge. If you price according to average costs, you have no profits over time. If you price according to marginal costs, you may have a profit depending on the cost curve. The retained earnings of the postal service would be properly applied to investment in plant and equipment for mail delivery. If you need to finance the postal service deficits, you require another revenue source.

    3. Which leaves you with one or another sort of indirect tax: tariffs, excises on particular commodities, general sales taxes, &c. General sales taxes penalize consumers in general; tariffs penalize consumers of imported goods and (indirectly) those dependent on foreign markets; excises penalize consumers of the commodities taxed. Any tax imposed brings in revenue. It is just that different taxes have different distributional effects. You seem to be arguing that the interests of those involved in foreign trade trump the interests of consumers of liquor and tobacco. If you would care to elaborate….

Thaddeus Stevens: Film Portrayals

Monday, December 10, AD 2012

 “I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator.

Inscription on the Tombstone of Thaddeus Stevens

As regular readers of this blog know, I greatly enjoyed the film Lincoln and praised it for its overall historical accuracy.  Go here to read my review.  One of the many aspects of the film that I appreciated was Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens (R.Pa.), a radical Republican who rose from poverty to become the leader of the abolitionists in the House, and one of the most powerful men in the country from 1861 to his death in 1868.  There haven’t been many screen portrayals of Stevens, but they illustrate how perceptions of Stevens have shifted based upon perceptions of Reconstruction and civil rights for blacks.

The above is an excellent video on the subject.

The 1915 film Birth of a Nation, has a barely concealed portrayal of Stevens under the name of Congressman Austin Stoneman, the white mentor of mulatto Silas Lynch, the villain of the film, who makes himself virtual dictator of South Carolina until he is toppled by heroic Klansmen.  The film was in line with the Lost Cause mythology that portrayed Reconstruction as a tragic crime that imposed governments made up of ignorant blacks and scheming Yankee carpetbaggers upon the South.  This was the predominant view of scholarly opinion at the time.  The film was attacked by both the NAACP and the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, as being untrue to history, a glorification of mob violence and racist.

By 1942 when the film Tennessee Johnson was made, we see a substantial shift in the portrayal of Stevens.  Played by veteran actor Lionel Barrymore, best know today for his portrayal of Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, Stevens is portrayed as a fanatic out to punish the South and fearful that the too lenient, in his view, treatment of the South in Reconstruction will lead to a new Civil War.  This leads up to the climax of the film, the trial in the Senate of Johnson, with Stevens as the leader of the House delegation prosecuting Johnson, with Johnson staying in office by one vote.  The portrayal of Stevens is not one-dimensional.  Stevens is shown as basically a good, if curmudgeonly, man, consumed by fears of a new Civil War and wishing to help the newly emancipated slaves, albeit wrong in his desire to punish the South.  Like Birth of a Nation, Tennessee Johnson reflected the scholarly consensus of the day which still painted Reconstruction in a negative light, although not as negative as in  1915.  Additionally,  the issue of contemporary civil rights for blacks was beginning to emerge outside of the black community as an issue, and Stevens in the film is not attacked on his insistence for civil rights for blacks.

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6 Responses to Thaddeus Stevens: Film Portrayals

  • I saw “Lincoln” with my liberal in-laws.

    This thought kept running through my alleged mind every time Stevens was on screen, “Alinsky’s Rule 5: ridicule.”

    The movie didn’t change my opinion of Lincoln, one way or the other. I was impressed that I could sit through the whole of it: not much bang-bang, bloodshed or walking trees, etc.

  • It is one of the best films for showing the nuts and bolts of political horestrading that I have ever seen T.Shaw, and I, of course, found it fascinating for beginning to end. I have seen it twice now, something I have never done with any film while it was still in theaters.

  • T. Shaw I imagine you appreciate this line voiced by Stevens in the movie:

    “The modern travesty of Thomas Jefferson’s political organization to which you have attached yourself like a barnacle has the effrontery to call itself “Democratic”. You are a Dem-o-crat! What’s the matter with you? Are you wicked?”

  • Mac,

    That depends on how you define the word, “appreciate.”

    I think the seed of that “barnacle” was attached by Jackson. Politics and rhetoric are not my areas of expertise. I have a talent for flinging massive strings of four-letter words.

  • Historians often unconsciously reveal more about their own times than the periods they describe, Gibbon and Macaulay, being obvious examples.

  • PLOT SPOILER ALERT: I thought the bedroom scene with Stevens and his mistress/housekeeper was manipulatively gratuitous. His intimate relationship with his housekeeper was based on rumor. It would not be surprising if there was a romance going on, but rumors of one sort or another would of course fly anyway, given that he was single. What bothered me was that, by introducing this love interest, Stevens went from a man who opposed slavery on principle to one who may have been acting under the emotional influence of someone in his household.

Lincoln, a Review

Sunday, November 18, AD 2012

Well, on Saturday I went with my family to see Lincoln. Considering that the screenplay was written by Tony Kushner and the film directed by Steven Spielberg, I wasn’t expecting much. I wouldn’t have been totally surprised to see something along the lines of “Gay Illinois Lincoln and the Confederacy of Doom!’.  Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It is a great film and perhaps a minor masterpiece. It is definitely one of the finest screen representations I have ever seen of Lincoln, and it is a worthy tribute to the Great Emancipator. Read below for the rest of my review, and the usual caveat regarding spoilers is in full force.

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15 Responses to Lincoln, a Review

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  • Why wasn’t the Vice President in the story? Wasn’t he involved in the process?

  • I don’t think either Hannibal Hamlin or Andrew Johnson, who was not yet sworn in as Veep, had much to do with the passage of the 13th Amendment in Congress.

  • Good point, Beth. No doubt Biden feels strongly about his contribution and will soon make note of this embarrassing shortcoming. Only question is whether he can beat Al Gore to the punch.

  • I fully agree. It’s a superb film. I lost track of time and was disappointed when it started to wrap up. May be the best acting I’ve ever seen at a movie. Daniel Day-Lewis = Abraham Lincoln. So many good authentic performances…

  • I enjoyed the film just as much.

    One minor detail, when Lincoln is chastising Seward towards the end of the film in a dark room or when he is talking with Alex on the riverboat (can’t remember which one), he refers to the Constitution as holding “unforeseen rights that we can’t imagine today”. Or something along those lines.

    If they could have not take a partisan shot (and I think Lincoln didn’t say that, sure that Donald will correct me if he did), the film would be ‘complete’ for me as one worthy of adding to my movie collection.

  • As memory serves Tito Lincoln was indicating in the film to Stephens that ending the right to slavery might open up rights unforeseen today. That was a truism as far as it went. We only have a fairly vague idea of what was said at the conference as no stenographic record was made and the participants differed in their accounts.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the finest actors around. I enjoyed the movie There Will Be Blood and especially in Gangs of New York.

    James Spader, it’s nice to seem him make a minor comeback in film, him, Johnny Depp, and Robert Downey Jr. have been my favorite actors since the 80s. It’s good to see them age very well in their acting careers.

  • Very excited to see this film now — thank you Don for ‘the historian’s review’. I couldn’t think of any other actor other than Daniel Day-Lewis who who would be capable of this kind of challenge. Reportedly he spent a year, and read over 100 books on Lincoln, in preparation for the role.

  • He was at the top of his game Chris and obviously looked upon this as the role of his lifetime.

  • Very happy to see this review as I had many of the same reservations as Don. Looking forward to getting to watch the movie sometime after it comes out on DVD. (What, you think me and the Mrs. actually get to go to movies anymore?)

  • Paul, when my wife and I had infants and toddlers I can count on one hand the number of movies we saw in a theater during those years!

  • I’m weighing in a little late here because DH, DD and I just went to see “Lincoln” this afternoon. In a nutshell: liked most (but not all) of the acting, but was kind of disappointed in the movie itself. For one thing, I thought the opening scene with Lincoln and the soldiers in the train station was WAY too contrived. There were also a few too many obvious efforts to generate extra drama and remind everyone that this is a Spielbergian Epic With A Capital E where I don’t think it was necessary (e.g., long, dramatic pauses during the 13th Amendment vote). And while the movie bills itself as based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” the events depicted in the movie make up just a small fraction of the book — probably because it would have taken an epic-length TV miniseries to do justice to the entire book!

    That said, I thought Daniel Day-Lewis made an excellent Lincoln and was especially good at portraying the fact that Lincoln was a skilled political player. I also like the way it showed the “horse trading” and compromising that is often a necessary (though sometimes distasteful) part of accomplishing lofty goals such as abolishing slavery. The scene in which Lincoln tells Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) that a compass can point the way to true north but doesn’t necessarily help you navigate through all the swamps and other obstacles you will run into on the way, is one I think we ought to remember when we debate issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc.

    Sally Field seemed a bit old to be playing Mary Todd Lincoln — Field is past 60 while Mrs. Lincoln was only in her 40s when she was First Lady. But she did a good job of going beyond the typical caricature of Mrs. Lincoln as a crazy harridan who made her husband’s life a living hell. She was at her best in the scenes where she expresses her entirely understandable terror of losing yet another son if Robert Lincoln were allowed to pursue his desire to enlist in the military.

    Finally, a supporting role of particular interest to us was that of Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair Sr. We recently saw Holbrook’s live “Mark Twain Tonight!” show in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo., and were impressed at the way Holbrook, at 87, still keeps his Twain presentation sharp, witty and relevant. In “Lincoln” Holbrook plays an elder statesman who attempts to broker a peace agreement between North and South, even though it might imperil Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. His role is brief but worth watching.

    I think Day-Lewis, Field and possibly Jones deserve recognition at Oscar time but I would NOT be prepared to award the movie Best Picture overall.

  • “Finally, a supporting role of particular interest to us was that of Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair Sr. We recently saw Holbrook’s live “Mark Twain Tonight!” show in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo., and were impressed at the way Holbrook, at 87, still keeps his Twain presentation sharp, witty and relevant. In “Lincoln” Holbrook plays an elder statesman who attempts to broker a peace agreement between North and South, even though it might imperil Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. His role is brief but worth watching. ”

    Holbrook played Lincoln in 1974 miniseries Elaine that I highly recommend and which is out on DVD:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sandburgs-Lincoln-Hal-Holbrook/dp/B004Z2ECX0

  • Thanks for the tip Don!