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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

From David Horsey.

While Horsey's sarcasm about this sort of ridiculous attack ad is on target, the question in the last frame makes me think: Was Lincoln really a good choice? Was a war that resulted in the death of 620,000 Americans and wounding of over a million more really the best option for 1861? (And those are just military casualties.) Slavery had been abolished relatively peacefully in the British Empire some three decades earlier, and the economics of southern slavery were already failing. American slavery might well have collapsed after secession, and the southern states might have returned to the Union anyway. There might have been less animosity, much of which has wrongly been directed at the "freed" slaves and their descendants in the last 140 years. In 1860, there were close to four million slaves in the United States. Today, there are somewhere around one million African Americans in prison, and probably three times that many who are on probation or otherwise under the control of the criminal justice system. Like Saddam Hussein, American slavery was a very bad thing. But, also like Saddam, time was not on the side of slavery, and its decline was very likely if not inevitable without a war. Also, some 36,000 African-American soldiers died fighting on the Union side, and I'm sure there were many more on the Confederate side as well (counting personal slaves, cooks and the like, as well as some who actually served as soldiers).

Also, just as ridding Iraq of a tyrant was not the original stated reason for the current war, neither was freeing the slaves Lincoln's stated reason for prosecuting the civil war--preserving the union was. Even the emancipation proclamation didn't actually free any slaves, since it technically only applied to areas that were currently not under federal control. (Sort of like Iraqi "sovereignty," it was a publicity stunt.) I believe that Honest Abe was more honest than Bush as the quagmire of the Civil War dragged on for four years; I think he pretty much stuck to "preserving the union" as the main reason--the emancipation proclamation was much more a tool to help win the war than a reason for it. But Lincoln could have chosen not to challenge secession militarily, and thereby at least postponed America's bloodiest war.

I'm not totally anti-Abe, although I've read articles by people who are. But to suggest that he was for sure the best choice for 1860, or that his policies were best for that time, is certainly highly debateable. Slavery had to go, but it seems pretty likely that there may have been ways to accomplish that which didn't kill hundreds of thousands of people and left smoldering animosities which linger to this day. (And, BTW, slavery still exists in America today, and I'm not just talking about Wal-Mart.)