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Gettysburg Address Sesquicentennial: Lincoln's Legacy of Dysfunctional Government

No column I’ve penned generated more mail than this July’s Sesquicentennial of the carnage at Gettysburg - one of the bloodiest (tangibly dysfunctional) results in reforming the federal government into the forced coalition observed today. Some mail offered words from another Ohioan, Edwin M. Stanton, which simply asserted the attempted February 1861 Force Bill allowed federal and/or State armies/troops to levy war (in clear violation of Art. 3, Sec. 3) upon another State(s) without approval of the duly elected Legislature or Governor of the State being invaded to suppress Stanton’s alleged ‘insurrection.’ Little surprise this Quaker raised lawyer who litigated the first successful temporary insanity defense in US ‘jurisprudence’ (for Daniel E. Sickles; a prominent oft described ‘political general’ key at Gettysburg for those who appreciate how poor legal decisions continue to permeate in a nation losing righteousness and how men of this sort connect) would become the 27th Secretary of War. Few possessed a more suited character to accomplish the Republican Party’s corporate welfare program via military efforts, once political efforts proved insufficient as more States exercised their sovereignty as they exited the coalition voluntarily joined three score and a dozen years prior. ‘Temporary insanity’ evoked to achieve short-term ends/transfers of this sort often produce a great deal of dysfunction (death & destruction) in the long-run.

One wonders how men like Stanton kept a straight face asserting ‘insurrection’ as armies mustered into serving their respective State(s) were successfully repelling attacks and invasion rather than the much easier task of overthrowing their own State’s sovereign government duly elected by the people. This republican form of government guaranteed in the Constitution is of little concern or use to those wanting to empower the central government. Edwin M. Santon’s championing treason via a Force Bill clearly differed from Congressman Clement L. Vallandiham (also from Ohio) who long before the Gettysburg rhetoric eviscerated Lincoln’s assertion his undeclared war was to ‘save the American union’ after the 1861 Force Bill failed in Congress. Author Thomas DiLorenzo cites Vallandiham’s August 2, 1862 quote, "The president professes to think that the Union can be restored by arms. I do not. A Union founded on consent can never be cemented by force. This is the testimony of the Fathers." DiLorenzo also includes a February 23, 1863 Vallandigham quote which explains the painfully obvious truth about the Lincoln administration’s unconstitutional conscription law as "a confession that the people of the country are against this war. It is a solemn admission . . . that they will not voluntarily consent to wage it any longer." Two weeks later, in a NYC speech, Vallandigham received loud cheers when he declared, "instead of crushing out the rebellion, the effort has been to crush out the spirit of liberty.” Again for those who appreciate irony and how the players connect, Stanton loaned Vallandiham $500 (over $30,000 today) to start his legal practice and were considered friends before Stanton’s advocating treason/war against a State(s)… some still in the union at the time.

Six weeks before imprisonment and deportation, Vallandigham made remarks at a March 21, 1863 meeting in Hamilton, Ohio, that must have been the last straw for the Lincoln dictatorship according to Professor DiLorenzo. Lincoln issued yet another unconstitutional military General Order (Number 15) which condemned private ownership of firearms as "unnecessary, impolitic, and dangerous” and “a violation of civil law" as defined by the military authorities then occupying Ohio. "Are we a conquered province governed by a military proconsul?" Vallandigham asked, "And has it come to this, that the Constitution is now suspended by a military General Order?” It is easy to see how the issue of unconstitutional federal gun control laws are every bit as important today for Bush/Obama types carrying on the post-Lincoln tradition of a federal government transferring more wealth and power from the people. Given the Lincoln, Stanton, et al Republican Party successes, ‘none dared call it treason’ as John Harrington sagely observed in his era - further paving the way to impose this first blatant 2nd Amendment civil right violation; along with the first income tax, conscription acts, suspending writs of habeas corpus, fiat money, imprisoning elected officials and press, etc…

Vallandiham had to be arrested and deported by the Lincoln administration. Republicans couldn’t allow such free and true speech in defense of Constitutional liberty to continue - esp. in the face of mounting military failures. One cannot take Professor DiLorenzo’s ‘dictator’ nomenclature lightly. Congressman Thomas S. Bocock of Virginia prophetically sets out the future speaking against the proposed Force Bill. I strongly suggest reading it [] so you might agree how difficult it would have been to vote for such a diabolical piece of legislation even at the threat of placing oneself at odds with Mr. Stanton. Those who’ve sent me pro-Lincoln mail using Stanton see nothing wrong with revisiting the 1833 Force Bill episode, formally titled "An Act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports" enacted by the 22nd US Congress. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed (unlike the Lincoln/Stanton corporate welfare types) in the 1830s and compromise tariffs averted war and the hundreds of thousands dead observed thirty years later under Lincoln’s dysfunctional result. Our nation has not suffered any more effective enemy of the Constitution (foreign or domestic) than Abraham Lincoln and his supportive minions.

The July 9, 1861 New York Times published:

“It is a proof how wholly unprepared was the last Congress for the direction events have taken since the 4th of March, that it failed to pass the bill of Mr. BINGHAM, authorizing the President to collect the revenue at the Southern ports, or to close them. The omission has left foreign Powers at liberty to discuss the blockade in the light of international law, and to decide whether or not they would respect it, as if they were the interpreters of the code; whereas, had the ports been declared closed as a purely domestic measure, connected with the interests of the revenue service, the question would have been decided by ourselves, and so definitively, that for a European ship to enter a Southern port, even in the absence of a blockading fleet, would expose its officers arid crew to the penalties of smuggling. To place, the question in this position at the earliest possible moment is clearly our duty, and Congress cannot too promptly, authorize the President to take the necessary steps.”

Those who sent this as evidence of great regret the Force Bill did not pass, fail to recognize it lends more weight to the corporate welfare explanation for the ‘dysfunction’ of death and destruction over the tired old public interest rhetoric of “preserving a union” by force. I also find it revealing so many see blockade less an act of war than uninvited Massachusetts troops in Maryland killing citizens. Even when dealing with Cuba in 1962, the federal government was careful to call US Naval actions a “quarantine” instead of a blockade - universally recogonised as an act of war. Incompetent or amoral/corrupt Supreme Court Justices (doesn’t really matter which applies with respect to the end result) who’ve completely destroyed the meaning of the commerce clause (including the most recent Roberts machination) are also blind to the violation of blockading a sovereign State’s ports as an impediment to keeping commerce regular. Alas, the Republicans (since inception) have been more interested in using the tax code to pick winners/losers and redistribute wealth to specific interests over the general welfare - how many lives are damaged/destroyed in the process are of increasingly less concern. Lincoln is our greatest president in this regard by any measure.

Those who expressed great disdain over H.L. Mencken’s quote in my column: “The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history...the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination – that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves” provided excerpts from Senator Charles Sumner’s eulogy on Lincoln in refutation. Sumner described Lincoln’s most (in)famous speech a "monumental act" prophetically asserting the slain president was mistaken in thinking "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," at Gettysburg. Instead this well known, unapologetic advocate of big/coercive government from Boston emphatically claimed, "The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech." The spirit of this modern yankee (sadly the great traditional Yankees of Massachusetts fame who championed freedom, liberty and independence had already faded away to transform into the spirit they once reviled) is still very alive and well today in the disturbing belief speeches and rhetoric to advance leviathan (Soviet-style) government results are more important than those who sacrifice to keep them in power. This callous reformation of a once great nation of sovereign States into the de facto coerced coalition, turned our federal government from a vehicle to advance freedom and the general welfare into a forced suicide pact of slow, self-destruction as her vast wealth and blessings of liberty erode away.

The fiscal constraint resulting from several score of extremism by big govt. conservatives (a.k.a. Republicans) and big govt. liberals (a.k.a. modern Democrats) aided and abetted by all the big govt. moderates (Republocrats) who worst of all have brokered/compromised the many deals of our destruction is finally coming to fruition. This has brought to fore the most deleterious of extremists who wish to (re)evoke the 14th Amendment to continue this Soviet path of destruction instead of learning from the lessons and circumstances which produced this terrible,, most destructive (to date) episode of 1861-5 dysfunction. Little surprise pro-Soviet economists (historians, et al) delight in sending me quotes from President Buchanan who they revile in his principled, well reasoned reluctance to take the Republican Party’s path to destruction. Once again it is revealing when one sends what they believe are the words of a fool because they do not posses the ability, capacity, knowledge nor spirit to appreciate or understand they’re in fact providing words of wisdom from one courageously trying to avoid great harm.

After South Carolina seceded Buchanan asserted:

“Apart from the execution of the laws, so far as this may be practicable, the Executive has no authority to decide what shall be the relations between the Federal Government and South Carolina. He has been invested with no such discretion. He possesses no power to change the relations heretofore existing between them, much less to acknowledge the independence of that State. This would be to invest a mere executive officer with the power of recognizing the dissolution of the confederacy among our thirty-three sovereign States.”

President Buchanan understood one of the foremost concerns of guaranteeing a republican form of government within a sovereign State is the right of the people of each State to independently determine if they wish to remain in any coalition/confederacy of States. No Legislature or Governor (of a State like South Carolina, seceded from the USA/changed to the CSA or from a State like Maryland, still in the USA) asked for federal troops to address civil unrest or insurrection within their State when considering the Force Bill. Not getting the February 1861 Force Bill from Congress after President Buchanan makes it clear he will not commit Art. 3, Sec. 3 treason pressed Mr. Lincoln and the Republicans toward military action before Congress reconvenes to secure their desired transfer of wealth and power.

President Buchanan adhered to the letter, spirit and pre-Lincoln tradition of the Constitution, unwilling to fail his oath of office and step outside his authorization at perhaps the most difficult time since the Nullification Crisis. He understood there are no enumerated powers for the executive to act unilaterally, esp. in this manner not authorized. This is well reasoned by Buchanan in his following words: “The question fairly stated is, has the Constitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into submission which is attempting to withdraw or has actually withdrawn from the Confederacy? …After much serious reflection I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated to Congress or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is manifest upon an inspection of the Constitution that this is not among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress, and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not ‘necessary and proper for carrying into execution’ any one of these powers.” Small wonder pro-governmentt historians unanimously place Buchanan as the worst president.

Seven score and ten later the result is clear - the unauthorized federal military actions of 1861-5 were indeed over slavery. Mr. Lincoln and the Republicans took a nation conceived in liberty, which courageously abolished (less than 20 years after adoption of the Constitution) importation of slaves from abroad; advancing emancipation (even in ‘slave States’ like Maryland where 49% of African Americans/ Blacks were free) at home and reformed it into a forced coalition. In short, it took those who were free or on the path to freedom (esp. as more efficient physical capital displaced slave labour) and coerced the people back into slavery and tyranny. As ‘emergencies and crises’ continue to mount in our command economy, I have little doubt how modern executives will respond when pressed… it will not be the courage of refusing to execute military hegemony to coerce even more transfers of wealth and power from the people. This is the tragic legacy of Lincoln’s dysfunctional government still heralded today as those with the courage and wisdom of Buchanan are vilified.


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