Saturday, July 09, 2016


Lincoln was great but brought down too early


A simple book about the 16th US president, probably the most famous president after George Washington, the 1st president just after the revolution, that explains, without exposing, some aspects of Lincoln’s life.

You will be interested in the chapters about his parents, about his young life as the son a his father and stepmother, working up to the age of 21 for them more than for himself; not getting the education he wanted; and yet taking the final decision of leaving his family and living his own life at the age of 22. The mention of Indians in his life and in the life of his grandparents and father is marginal but it definitely contains the second basic contradiction of the USA and Lincoln. The first one was slavery and he was clearly against it though it was not his political objective to emancipate slaves. The second is of course the genocidal dealing with American Indians. Lincoln takes part in it and will never express any opposition to it.

As for slavery, Lincoln rejects it but his political objective is to reinforce the Union, then to defend it and finally to recompose it. His presidential campaign is calling for a reinforced union in a house that is divided and should find a way to step over this division. As soon as he is elected he is confronted to the Confederacy, hence secession. And he will accept the civil war because it is the only way to save the union by defeating the Confederacy.

It’s only in 1863 when he realizes the slaves in the south are used to strengthen the armed forces of the Confederacy that he will sign the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure and nothing else because it is hardly constitutional. It is in fact a “privilege” of the Commander in Chief who can use all means to bring the US army to victory and this proclamation disorganizes the Confederate army and organization, hence their war effort. It also makes France and Great Britain feel rather awkward since they are strongly against slavery though they are commercially dependent on southern cotton, among other things. And what’s more this proclamation enables the Blacks to serve in the US forces, though on a segregated basis: some Black units were set up though with white officers. The Blacks were also able to serve in various military services.

That proclamation leads to victory: Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Atlanta. Three steps, three moments, and the end of the Civil War. But before Appomattox the book does not mention the whole battle around the 13th amendment won with a one vote majority but we must keep in mind the Constitution itself that states : ““The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution.“ We are speaking here of a one vote two-third majority. The ratification of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery will come after Lincoln’s death, as stated in the constitution, “by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.” And then the crucial state of this three-fourth majority was Louisiana. This shows one element that was crucial in the Civil War. Louisiana was part of the Confederacy but not for long.

“In April 1862, the Yankees pushed up the Mississippi, and, after fierce artillery and naval duels at the forts below New Orleans, took the Crescent City without firing a shot. Many historians agree with the late Charles Dufour who wrote that the fall of New Orleans was “the night the war was lost.” The war would continue for three more years. The old order was destroyed, never to rise again in its prior form. The antebellum world of the wealthy planters and the old order they personified was destroyed forever. Vestiges would arise later during the period known as Bourbonism. The wealthy aristocrats ruled again but without the economic benefits of slavery.” (

What is clear is that the majority of the Black population (according to the US definition of one drop of African blood makes you Black) was free due to the practice of manumission up to the sale of Louisiana to the US by Napoleon I in 1803, fifty nine years earlier, and by the insistence on christening and marriage for all slaves or ex-slaves from the French Catholic Church in agreement with “Code Noir.” This Louisiana society was a three tiered society then and it remained like that under the “slavery” management of the US. Free colored people could not be put back into slavery. The re-conquest of New Orleans and Louisiana in 1862 was the real beginning of the end for the Confederacy. And that will explain why Louisiana will ratify the 13th amendment, thus giving it the three-fourth majority it needed.

But it it a good introduction to this famous man who is the only one to have, with George Washington his Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC, though George Washington and Abraham Lincoln share the Mount Rushmore National Memorial with Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.


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