Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Today’s topic is decidedly non-romantic, for my own sweet patootie is out of town visiting her dying multi-billionaire parents at the Tuscan villa she bought them with her supermodeling money, next to her quantum fluctuation research lab.
Anyhow, since we’re up against Washington’s Birthday (Observed) tomorrow, various websites have various rankings of the Presidents. The lists of the greatest usually have Washington, Lincoln, or FDR at the top. The lists of the “most badass” usually have Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson at the top. The lists of the “most handsome” or “sexiest” usually have JFK, Pierce, or Jefferson at the top.
I find the rankings of the “most libertarian” Presidents to be most interesting, partly because they’re so much different from the typical list of greats. You probably won’t see Washington, either of the Roosevelts, Wilson, or Reagan ranked high on libertarian lists, but you will see such luminaries as Coolidge, Van Buren, and Cleveland near the top.
Lincoln, who would’ve turned 201 years old Friday if he hadn’t been shot or died from anything else, is typically ranked low on the libertarian lists. For instance, “davidbier” listed Lincoln as the worst President of them all, with the following rationale:
Caused the Civil War, Burned the South, Started the First Draft Ever, Huge Protection Tariffs, Income Tax, Corporate Welfare, Cotton Trade Takeover, Huge Deficits, US Bank/Ended the Gold Standard with the Greenback, Censorship of the Press, Imprisonment/Deportation of Political Opponents, Deported African-Americas to Liberia
On another website, Xavier Cromartie listed Lincoln second-worst based on a point system:
Good: Did not finish second term.
Bad: Started catastrophic war (-10) in order to prevent freedom to secede (-10), murdered 350,000 Americans (-10), white supremacist who did not care about slaves and tried to deport all blacks to Liberia (-9), destroyed 10th Amendment (-9), suspended habeas corpus (-9), Union blockade (-5), imprisoned 15,000 political opponents without a trial (-9), shut down newspapers (-8), restricted firearm ownership (-8), rigged elections (-4), started draft (-10) and murdered its protesters (-10), divided Virginia for electoral advantage (-6), ordered destruction (-9), plundering (-9), rape (-9), and murder (-10) of Southern civilian towns, used European mercenaries (-6), Chicago machine “pay to play” politician (-2),nationalized railroads (-7), anti-capitalist (mercantilist) policies:Morrill Tariff (-7), National Banking Act (-9), greenbacks (-9), and deficits (-7), genocidal policy toward Sioux (-10), Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act (-3), created temporary income tax in order to fund Civil War (-9), made medicine contraband during war (-10), attempted assassination of Jefferson Davis (Dahlgren Affair) (-10), used water torture on Northern civilians (-9), cotton industry takeover/cronyism (-9).
[NOTE: Lincoln’s -261 was better only than George W. Bush’s -332.]
I get why these guys would rank Lincoln so low; he expanded federal power far beyond anything yet seen. Heck, I might even agree with their rankings, as awful as they made Lincoln seem, but for one minor detail. Do you notice anything missing from both descriptions of Lincoln’s administration? Anything that might normally jump out at you, anything that might normally be considered his greatest accomplishment, anything that might normally be considered one of the biggest steps towards liberty in American history?
If you guessed “freeing the slaves,” good for you. At least you remember that much from history class. Cromartie, in spite of all the internet research indicated by his citations, seems to have missed it.
One might think that these two bloggers are racist and therefore they don’t care about freeing the slaves, but that certainly isn’t the case. For instance, davidbier credits Fillmore with abolishing the slave trade in D.C., criticizes Washington for signing the first Fugitive Slave Act, and applauds Grant for supporting black voting rights and promoting the passage of the 15th Amendment. Cromartie gives Grant 4 points for supporting equal rights for blacks, gives Jefferson 7 points for banning slavery in the Northwest Territory (before he was President), and deducts 2 points from Buchanan for supporting the Dred Scott decision. Both bloggers even criticized Lincoln for attempting to deport slaves to Liberia. These bloggers aren’t racist.
It is true that the Lincoln-as-Great-Emancipator meme has many flaws–Lincoln was a bit racist; he once made a joke about hanging an abolitionist; he initially opposed black suffrage; he was willing to preserve the Union without freeing any slaves; he supported the “Corwin Amendment,” which would have protected slavery from Congressional interference; he initially opposed the Confiscation Acts; his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply throughout the United States; he wasn’t alive when the 13th Amendment was passed; blacks were denied equal rights for a century after abolition; et cetera.
But I think these two bloggers have missed the forest for the trees. Shouldn’t davidbier at least mention that Lincoln vaguely-kinda-sorta had something to do with freeing four million slaves? Shouldn’t Cromartie give the man at least one point, no matter how many reservations he has?
Simply put, if John Wilkes Booth blamed Lincoln for freeing the slaves and seeking voting rights for blacks, shouldn’t davidbier and Cromartie–lovers of liberty that they are–give him some credit for it?
A quick internet search reveals that today, the Iraqi Communist Party celebrates “Communist Martyr’s Day.” I will celebrate with them, though probably not for the same reason.