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Ends, Means, and Slavery February 17, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.

I’ve probably watched this video about five thousand times in the last couple weeks, and I’m ready to watch it that many times more.  Ear worm warning:

Fun fact: that video was shot entirely on location at The Hostages.

Mrs. Sobek and I just watched Lincoln.  I thought it was great, and the casting for Secretaries Seward and Stanton was brilliant, if you know what those guys looked like.  Mrs. Sobek liked it too, but there was something about it that bugged her – the same thing that bugged her about the movie Amazing Grace, which I also recommend.  Specifically, both movies involve idealistic men with the laudable goal of ending slavery, using legal means to do so – and also a fair bit of skullduggery.  I agree with that assessment; the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Lincoln had no constitutional authority to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Missus and I both like the ends, but there’s something highly unseemly about the means.

Why should we care about process, though?  If everyone agrees slavery died a long overdue death over a century ago (longer, in the case of England), who cares about process (or, in the case of Lincoln, a little corruption and arguable perjury)?

Because I hate it when the Left pulls that crap against me.  Who cares if ObamaCare was passed in the dead of night, using laughably illegal “reconciliation,” without letting anyone actually read the damn thing, using some odd combination of the tax power when it’s a tax and the Commerce Clause when it’s not a tax, if the end (getting everyone the health care they need) is a worthy goal?  (We’re pretending here that (a) that really was the goal, and (b) the bill will actually do that.)  Who cares if the President violated the war clauses by attacking Libya, if Ghadaffi was a bad man (never mind Leftist inconsistency when you mention Saddam Hussein or the Taliban, or the fact that Bush did have Congressional authorization)?  Who cares if Harry Reid has broken federal law every year he failed to pass a budget, so long as the checks keep rolling out?

I care, for one.  Partly because I hate all that crap, and partly because Obama and his cronies are making a mockery of the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold and defend.

So how to evaluate Lincoln, who was a great man, a noble man of vision, who achieved a noble goal through illegitimate ends?

My answer to Mrs. Sobek was that I can admire the man while acknowledging his faults.  That might sound a little obvious, but it’s something I’ve only been able to arrive at gradually.  The more history I read, the more I learn about the “great” men of history, the more I’ve had to just accept the fact that great men can have some very prominent flaws.  I read a biography of Thomas Jefferson where the author talked about historians wrestling with the question of how the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence could own slaves.  My answer is, what’s the problem?  The man can live inspired moments of greatness, and also have the character flaw of massive hypocrisy.  I read a bio of Andrew Jackson and couldn’t help but admire the man, and that without ignoring or explaining away his utterly horrific treatment of the Indians.  Martin Luther King may have been a great man, but he was also an unrepentant plagiarist, unworthy of the title “Dr.” by any measure.  I can admire Benjamin Franklin without overlooking his philandering, or appreciate Jim Morrison’s music without worrying about the fact that he was cooler than I will ever be.

But wasn’t Lincoln’s skullduggery worth it to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed?

I won’t say yes until someone can persuade me that, but for Lincoln’s lawlessness, the Thirteenth Amendment could not have passed.


1. Retired Geezer - February 18, 2013

Glad to hear you liked it. I haven’t seen it yet because I didn’t trust Spielberg to make the film without a lot of hidden liberal biases.

2. OBF - February 18, 2013

Two cheers for democracy. Three cheers for the brotherhood of love. (I don’t remember who said that but it seems to fit.)

3. skinbad - February 19, 2013

The guy singer looks like the dead INXS dude.

4. Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere - February 19, 2013

No videos were ever made at the Hostages.

5. xbradtc - February 20, 2013

The Emancipation Proclamation was actually fairly circumscribed. It said that those slaves in rebel territories that came under the control of federal forces were freed. It did not proclaim an end to slavery, or even the constitutionality of slavery. Merely that as a military matter, property of rebel forces was forfeit.

6. Sobek - February 20, 2013

That was a clever use of the War Powers clause, but “clever” isn’t necessarily the same things as “legitimate.”

7. Michael - February 21, 2013

How would the Emancipation Proclamation be different from freeing Jewish slave labor during WWII? Was that “legitimate”?

*ding ding ding — violation of Godwin’s Law*

8. Michael - February 21, 2013

Let’s use Cyrus the Great (of Persia) freeing the Jews from the Babylonian captivity as an incident to a war of conquest. Godwin can’t bitch about that example.

9. Michael - February 21, 2013

Or Moses, for that matter, freeing the Jews from slavery in Egypt. That depends on whether the plagues summoned by Moses technically qualify as a “war” against Egypt and the Pharoah, so that the emancipation by Moses was “legitimate.” I say they do. The plagues were a direct humiliation of every major Egyptian deity, culminating with the blotting out of the sun and then the killing of the first-born. The Pharoah claimed to be the divine descendant by right of primogeniture of their principal deity — the sun god Ra. In other words, he was posing as a sort of Egyptian Jesus.

There is a never-ending debate about who the Pharoah was. Amenhotep II? Thutmose III? Ramses II? I vote for Amen-2 as the likely Pharoah of the Exodus, largely because the Dream Stele of Thutmose IV corresponds nicely with biblical dating. Whoever he was, Moses gave him a whole case of whoop-ass whilst delivering his Emancipation Proclamation — “Let my people go.” Note that this was a command, not a request.

Dang Jews sure have required a lot of liberating.

10. BrewFan - February 21, 2013

The main problem seems to be an inability to teach the next generation (Judges 2:10-18). Or a fallen nature.

11. Michael - February 21, 2013

My point being, at the time of Lincoln there was a whole lot of history supporting the notion that the taking or freeing of slaves was routinely regarded as ancillary to warfare. We should not judge the Emancipation Proclamation based upon our modern perspective when official and legal slavery has become an anachronism.

12. Michael - February 21, 2013

Or a fallen nature.

As part of a divine plan. Rom. 11:25-36.

Paul is explicit about this. You and I are Israel too, Brewfan, and a descendant of Abraham by faith.

13. Sobek - February 21, 2013

“How would the Emancipation Proclamation be different from freeing Jewish slave labor during WWII?”

Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply, because your question isn’t an ad hominem that implies I’m a Nazi sympathizer.

In WWII Germany and Achaemenian Persia, freeing slaves was a military tactic justified under international law. So far so good: that’s about what Lincoln argued. But that tradition was part of international law, and Lincoln steadfastly maintained there was no international aspect to the Civil War – it was a rebellion by members of American states, not a war of conquest against a sovereign nation.

“My point being, at the time of Lincoln there was a whole lot of history supporting the notion…”

As a big fan of asking Obama where he finds Constitutional authority for his actions, I have to ask Lincoln, as well. History is used to guide Constitutional interpretation, not to create executive authority.

14. Sobek - February 21, 2013

Incidentally, I’m also convinced the national bank set up at Hamilton’s insistence was both a very good thing and wholly unconstitutional. Same for the Louisiana Purchase, and virtually everything Congress has done with the Commerce Clause, including the war on drugs and LBJ’s execrable war on poverty. Whether any of those things were laudable or not, successful or not, they were not legal.

So I’m not just picking on Lincoln.

15. Michael - February 21, 2013

Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply, because your question isn’t an ad hominem that implies I’m a Nazi sympathizer.

I meant to imply you are at least a fascist. Maybe I failed to make myself clear. Fascist.

16. Michael - February 21, 2013

BTW, Sobek, I once read the infamous and lengthy Dred Scott decision just out of curiousity, because it is widely vilified today as some kind of abomination. I came away convinced that it was well reasoned.

virtually everything Congress has done with the Commerce Clause

And everything SCOTUS has done with the mythical right to privacy, never mind how I feel about whether condoms should be legal.

17. Mitchell - February 21, 2013

In the end, aren’t we all just slaves to the Will of Allah? So what does it matter?

18. OBF - February 21, 2013

Sounds like you’re channeling Hilary? Do you have some sort of desire to be a blonde lady?

19. sobek - February 21, 2013

That was much more clear, thanks. As a hat tip to the irony of being called a fascist in a post about executive over-reach, I’ll respond by calling you a Pythagorean.

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