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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.