Last week, Fox Business’s “Freedom Watch” host Judge Andrew Napolitano had some scholars on to discuss the, well, more negative aspects of Abraham Lincoln (h/t to CW Crossroads for pointing this out). One guest was economics professor Thomas DiLorenzo, a rather controversial figure in the field of Lincoln studies, who has written books bashing the “mythology” of our 16th President. To put their commentaries in context, remember that Judge Napolitano himself is an extreme Libertarian who usually sticks to current events; to him, any use of power beyond the strictest of strict interpretations of the Constitution is unacceptable.
The discussion takes its fateful turn at about the 3:25 mark when the Judge claims that the Civil War was the “first time in modern history a government waged war on civilians. Lincoln’s Federal Agents and Lincoln’s soldiers actually targeted civilians in the South. These were not legitimate military targets, they were utterly defenseless, they were totally innocent human beings, and yet we don’t hear about this in the school books and it’s been whitewashed.” Really, Judge? Really??
For now, we’ll put aside the discussion of whether Lincoln actually did or did not target innocent Southern civilians, and whether or not he was all of those bad things that the panel claims he was. This is not easy to do, granted, since passions regarding Lincoln run so high, but again, for now let’s focus on the claim that this was the “first time in modern history” that warring against civilians on such a scale occurred. One need to go no further than the Declaration of Independence itself to realize the absurdity of the Judge’s comment. The Colonists were not only upset about taxes and other restrictive laws, but they alledged whole-heartedly that civilians, “fellow Citizens” even, were indeed the targets of King George and his army. ”To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
It would seem that Thomas Jefferson beat Judge Napolitano to the unparalleled-in-history punch. Perhaps the Judge’s concept of “modern history” doesn’t include the throwback year of 1776 and he instead bases his opinions on the like-it-was-yesterday year of 1787. Please don’t misunderstand, I am neither bashing nor supporting the Judge’s current politics or Fox Business, but when a person bases his philosophy and TV show on America’s Founding Documents, one would think that the Declaration of Independence would be primary in his mind. The whole discussion in the video is riddled with the irony of the host and panelists ignoring the Declaration while claiming that Lincoln usurped the Constitution, but the truth is that Lincoln’s whole view of the Constitution is seen through the lens of the Declaration. Yikes!
A website regarding Abraham Lincoln and the Founders can be found here.
Craig S. Glass is also known as Commodore Perry on his blog Don’t Give Up The Ship