Walter E. Williams

The hypocrisy of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation came in for heavy criticism. His Secretary of State William Seward said, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." The New York World wrote, "He has proclaimed emancipation only where he has notoriously no power to execute it. The exemption of the accessible parts of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia renders the proclamation not merely futile, but ridiculous." The London Spectator mocked, "The principle (of the Proclamation) is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States." Lincoln admitted in a letter to his Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase that his proclamation had no legal justification. Lincoln's motivation for proclamation was the war was going badly for the Union and there was the possibility that England and other European powers, who had recently abolished slavery, might give the Confederacy economic and political aid, but would not do so if the war was seen as a war against slavery. An excellent reference for this period is "The Real Lincoln" by Loyola College of Maryland's economics Professor Thomas DiLorenzo.

President Obama can be forgiven for celebrating the hypocrisy of Abraham Lincoln because the victors of wars write their history and glorify the winners. The recognition that slavery is a despicable institution does not require hero worship of a president who made the largest contribution to the unraveling of our Constitution. After all when it is settled by brute force that states cannot secede, as they thought they had the right to in 1787, then the federal government can ride roughshod over states and their people's right -- in a word make meaningless the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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