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The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate
May 7, 2002
Harry V. Jaffa, Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is David Theroux, and Im the President of The Independent Institute. Im so glad we could shoehorn you all in here. I guess well have to move to the Coliseum next time. [Laughter.]
Im delighted to welcome you to our Independent Policy Forum this evening. As some of you who have been here before know, the Independent Policy Forum is a regular series of lectures, seminars and debates that we conduct here in the Bay Area, and especially here at our conference center in Oakland.
Our program today is entitled The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate. Were featuring the books A New Birth of Freedom by Harry Jaffa, which is, Id say, one of the more important books done on Lincoln. And those of you who know about Harry Jaffas work will understand what I mean. The second book that were featuring is the one entitled The Real Lincoln, by Thomas DiLorenzo, which is a major challenge to many traditional views of Lincoln.
As many of you know, The Independent Institute regularly holds programs like this. Were also very grateful when we do that Robert Mondavi Winery is very kind to donate the wine that we enjoy.
For those of you who are new to the Institute, in the registration packet youll find information about our program. The Independent Institute is a public policy research institute. We organize many conference and media programs. We sponsor many studies on major public policy research areas in economic and social issues. On our home page you can also listen to many of the transcripts, and listen to many of the events from past Institute events.
One of our publications is the quarterly journal called The Independent Review. This is the current issue. The cover story is on Health and Human Services Privacy Standards: The Coming Destruction of Medical Privacy in the United States.
Also in your packet youll find information about tonights program as well as a notice of our next event which is going to be scheduled on June 6th. It is called Big Brother Is Watching. The speaker will be James Bamford, who is currently a distinguished visiting faculty member at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the new book Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. Many of you may be familiar with his earlier book called The Puzzle Palace, also on the NSA, which broke a great deal of ground, and surprised many people who didnt even know that the NSA existed.
Also, youll find in your packet information about our 2002 Summer Seminars in Political Economy for high school and college students. This year were holding two seminars. Theyre being co-sponsored with Holy Names College here in Oakland. The dates for those programs are June 17th to the 21st and also August 12th to the 16th. And students who participate can also earn a one-hour college course credit in economics. We hope that if you know young people, that youll steer them this way.
For this evening, were quite pleased to have two top figures who will be discussing one of the most revered and derided figures in American history. Our program features two scholars who will discuss their books and differing views. The topic of tonights programactually I didnt get a chance to tell you, but I probably should change it, based on some new research thats just come out. The Weekly World News has just announced that Abraham Lincoln was a woman. [Laughter.] And Im not sure if youve seen this research yet. [Laughter.]
The significance of this is that Abraham Lincoln is one of the seminal figures in American history, and a popular publication like this can make a mockery of him and issues, and it doesnt really affect the legacy and the ideas and the controversy that surrounds him.
Most Americans, in fact, consider Abraham Lincoln to be the greatest President in history. His legend as the Great Emancipator has grown to almost mythic proportions as hundreds of books as well as the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. extol his heroism and so forth.
The question: Is Lincolns reputation deserved? In his book, Lincoln scholar Harry Jaffa argues that Lincoln was a model statesman who stuck by high-minded principles as he fought to promote to liberty. Lincoln critic Tom DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln was a calculating politician who waged the bloodiest war in American history, not to free the slaves, but in order to build an empire. Was Lincoln a great hero or a villain or both? Did he honor the promise of America or did he betray it?
So were delighted to have these two scholars here with us. The format we thought we would use for the debate is that each of our speakers will speak for 30 minutes, followed by a five-minute response, and then well open it up to questions from you in the audience.
We also ask that the debate remain gentlemanly; no kicking, biting, spitting. [Laughter.]
Harry has been here before? [Laughter.]
Our program is a battle of ideas. And its between two men of goodwill who incidentally share the abolitionist tradition of ending slavery. So Id like to introduce our first speaker.
Im very pleased to introduce Harry V. Jaffa. Harry is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Political Philosophy Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University. He received his Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research. Hes been a fellow of the Ford, Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and Earhart Foundations.
In addition to his most recent book, A New Birth of Freedom, hes the author of perhaps the most influential single book on Lincoln and the Lincoln-Douglas debate, called The Crisis of the House Divided. His other books include: Equality and Liberty, The Conditions of Freedom, Storm Over the Constitution, Thomism and Aristotelianism, and many others. Its a great pleasure to introduce Harry Jaffa. [Applause.]
Thank you. On the question of the gentlemanliness of the debate, Im reminded that in the Congress, just before the Civil War, the Senator from New Hampshire, I think, made an anti-slavery speech, and a Senator from Mississippi, not Jefferson Davis, invited him to come down to Mississippi to make that speech, promising to see that he was hanged from the highest tree in the forest. The Senator from New Hampshire invited the Senator from Mississippi to come to New Hampshire where he would be given a respectful hearing in every township in that State.
The South Was a Closed Society
When people speak about the results of the 1860 Presidential election, its usually given out that Lincoln had, I think, 39 percent of the popular vote in that election. But, of course, there were 10 states in the South who formed part of the 10 or the 11 states of the Confederacy, in which no Republican electors were on the ballots. And since we know that at least 100,000 men from those states came north to join the Union Army, there were at least 100,000 votes that werent counted.
But the South became a closed society on the eve of the Civil War, and it became a closed society after the end of Reconstruction. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute for some time circulated a book edited by my late friend Mel Bradford, The Essays of Andrew Litell. [Litell] was one of the Southerners who took their stand in 1931, I think it was. And one of those essays, written in 1934, praised lynching as a legitimate exercise of the reserve powers of the states when the government didnt fulfill its duty to take care of racist agitators. So the South was a closed society on the subject of race right up until World War II.
And Lincoln in his Cooper Union speechwhich he gave in February of 1860raised the question, What can we do to satisfy our Southern brethren? No assurances that we give them that we will have no intention of interfering with the institution of slavery where it exists will satisfy them. We must get rid of all anti-slavery sentiments from our state constitutions.
There were eight of them that had laws trying to protect black people who were free from being kidnapped as slaves, because under the law of 1850the Fugitive Slave Actif a Southerner came across from Virginia to Pennsylvania and saw a black man that he thought he would like to have as a slave, he had to say, Well, thats my runaway slave, and this runaway slave would then be arrested and confined, and then there would be a hearing before a federal commissioner. And the would-be slave owner could summon witnessesas many as he wanted. The man accused of being a slave could summon no witnesses, had no counsel. And if the federal commissioner decided he was a slave, he was paid $10, and if he decided he was a free man, he was paid $5. Its hard to imagine any law passed in either Nazi Germany or Stalins Russia that was more inconsistent with the principles of civil liberty than the Fugitive Slave Act.
Lincoln, as we know, supported that Act as part of the Compromise of 1850. But in his inaugural address he mentioned several respects in which that law should be modified so that it would be consistent, at least, with the principles of civil liberty. But that was the temper of the country.
Now my friend Tom DiLorenzo thinks that slavery was not the real issue in the Civil War, that it was the Whig economic program. Banks, tariffs, internal improvements, and what he calls corporate welfare. And he thinks that the slavery question was really only a sham that was not the real question; it was not the real issue.
Thats very strange for anybody reading the Lincoln-Douglas debates, since the subject of tariffs was never mentioned. The only time the word is used, I think, is when Douglas says that the tariff was one of the questions that the two parties used to discuss. But the only subject discussed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates was slavery in the territories.
And its important to understand the sequence of events, and the ideas that accompanied that sequence of events that led up to the Civil War. The subtitle of my new book is Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War, and I believe Ive discussed the question of the nature of secession and the role of secession in that crisis, I believe, more thoroughly than I think its ever been discussed before.
The Right of Secession Is Not the Right of Revolution
Tom DiLorenzo in his book thinks that the right of secession and the right of revolutionthat thats a semantic difference. Well, it was not a semantic difference, it was a fundamental difference. The right of revolution is referred to in the Declaration of Independence when it says, Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [the security of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], the people have a right to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government [such] as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. That is what has been referred to ever since as the right of revolution. Its the right to resist intolerable oppression. Its the right to prevent anyone from being reduced under absolute despotism, which is what the Declaration of Independence says. And this Declaration gives a long catalog of the abuses, of usurpations of power practiced by the King and Parliament of Great Britain, which justified the colonies in their rebellion.
The colonists did not, at this point, claim any privileges under the law of Great Britain. They were breaking from the law of Great Britain. They were appealing instead to the laws of nature and of natures God. And it was under those laws that they had the right to resist oppression.
In 1860, the South did not appeal to the right of revolution. They appealed to a right of secession, which they claim to be a Constitutional right under the Constitution itself. In 1776, the colonists did not claim that in breaking with Great Britain they were exercising a right granted by the British Constitution. They had conducted their struggle until that moment by appealing it through the British Constitution. But when they decided on independence, they appealed instead to the laws of nature and of natures God.
Now, there were many reasons why the South did not appeal to the right of revolution. One reason was that there were no abuses that they had been subject to, comparable to the ones enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, said that there was not a single constitutional right which anybody could point to, to say that that had been violated. They were exercising this right as something that was to their pleasure, for their own purposes, but that had nothing to do with the Constitution, and yet they were claiming it as a Constitutional right to withdraw from the Union.
Now, the issue of the Civil War as Lincoln presented it, in both his inaugural address on March 4th, and in the message to Congress in Special Session on July 4th, four months later, was in essence this. In ratifying the Constitution, each state had committed itself to accepting the results of elections conducted under the rules of the Constitution. The election of 1860 had been conducted under the rules of the Constitution. If there were any violations of those rules, it was by the Southern states in refusing to allow Republican electors on the ballot. But there was nothing that the Republican Party had done. There was nothing in the electoral procedures of the free states, or, for that matter, of the slave states with this exception which justified anyone in saying that the results of this election were not Constitutional results.
If a minority, losing an election, can break up the government rather than accept the results of the election, free government is impossible. If the only alternatives to rule by a Constitutional majorityI say, Constitutional majoritya majority formed under the rules of the Constitution with minority rights secured. There were no examples of the Republicans doing anything to prevent the opposition from having freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of association. There was a great deal of interference with those rights in the Southern states. But they lost the election according to their own rights. And Lincoln said that if people can break up the government rather than accept the results of a fairly conducted election, then the only alternatives are anarchy or tyranny. What is to prevent, he said, anyone of the states seceding from any future union?
So that was the basic issue. Once the ballots had been decided, Lincoln said the only recourse must be through future elections in which the minority can try to become the majority; but there can be no right to reject the results of an election conducted under the rules of the Constitution.
Now let me trace for a moment the sequence of events that led up to the secession crisis.
Prelude to Southern Secession
Ill begin by saying that the decisive act of secessionthe secession which caused all future secessionswas not what happened after Lincolns election. It was the secession of the seven states of the Deep South from the Democratic convention in Charleston of 1860. As far as I know, Mr. DiLorenzo doesnt even know anything about this. He can still comment on that when he wants to.
But what happened then? The majority of the delegates to that convention wanted to nominate Stephen A. Douglas as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. The Democratic Party had the two-thirds rule, which they continued to have until 1936, as a matter of fact. I think only in 36 did they change it to a simple majority; Franklin D. Roosevelts first nomination had to be two-thirds.
The seven states of the Deep South, the same seven states that seceded after Lincolns election and before his inauguration, demanded as a plank in the Democratic platformwithout which they would not support Douglasa slave code for the territories.
Now theres a little story to that. Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott decisionwhich said that the Missouri Compromise restriction of slavery in 1820 and any other one, was unconstitutionalsaid that there was no power in the Congress to forbid slavery in the territories. And he added as a kind of obiter dictum that the only power of Congress over slavery in the territories was the power coupled with the duty of protecting the owner and his rights. Now the seven states of the Deep South interpreted that to mean that the police power of the federal government had to guarantee the integrity of the property of any slave owner going into any United States territory.
This, by the way, was a demand for the greatest increase of federal power prior to the New Deal, maybe even since the New Deal. The greatest demand for an increase in federal power was made by the Southern states in 1860. And the majority in the convention refused to adopt this, and they refused to adopt it because nobody could be elected dogcatcher in a free state who supported a federal police power over slavery in the territories.
But bear this in mind: if this demand had been acceded to, that meant that every territory in the United States which would become a stateand remember, there were then 33 states and there would be 50 states eventuallybut every other state would become a slave state. Because if one slave owner went to North Dakota with his slave, the federal police power would follow him to make sure that he could hold that slave securely in that place.
Now this was a demand for the indefinite extension of slavery, so the choice facing the country was whether slavery will be restricted or whether it will be extended indefinitely with the whole power of the federal government behind the extension of slavery.
And what this could mean, as illustrated by what happened in 1854, the first real test of the Fugitive Slave Act? There was a slave named Anthony Burns in Virginia who stowed away on board a coastal vessel that then sailed to Boston. And Anthony Burns, who was apparently quite literate but not very smart, wrote a letter to his brother back in Virginia telling him where he was. Well, before Anthony Burns was returned to the State of Virginia, the President, Franklin Pierce, had sent an artillery regiment of marines to Boston. He had federalized the National Guard of Boston. He had 3,000 soldiers surrounding them, making sure that nobody could break the jail and let Anthony Burns out. This was an example of the way in which the federal police power would be used to make sure that slaves were returned to their masters or that slaves couldnt escape from their masters. So this is the real issue.
Now, what was Douglass position? Douglas was the man who in 1854, in drafting and sponsoring the Kansas-Nebraska Act, had moved for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise restriction on slavery. And that meant that after Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1820 or 21, that Congress resolved that in all the remaining territory north of 36&Mac251;30which was a southern boundary of Missouriall the remaining territory would be forever free. That meant that the states of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Colorado and Wyomingslavery was excluded from them.
So the repeal of the Missouri Compromise opened that whole territory to the ingress of slavery. That sparked the greatest political revolution in American History. In the spring of 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, there was no Republican Party; there were no Republican congressmen. In the four elections of 1854, 100 Republican Congressmen were returned to the Congress. At that moment, Stephen A. Douglas was looked upon as the antichrist from the point of view of the anti-slavery movement.
Three years later in the contest for Kansas, the administration headed by James Buchanan tried to railroad through a constitution called the Lecompton Constitution, which would have made Kansas a slave state, but on the basis of a phony vote. Douglas stuck to his popular-sovereignty doctrine, which meant that the people of the territory, in a fair vote, would decide for or against slavery. That was the way in which he replaced the Missouri Compromise restriction. It opened slavery, but it said that the decision in each territory would be made by the people in that territory on the basis of their preferences.
Well, Douglas became the leader of the Republicans in the struggle in Congress to defeat the Lecompton Constitution, and he succeeded. And from becoming the antichrist of the anti-slavery movement, he became the savior. And many people in the Republican Party wanted Lincoln and the Republicans in Illinois to support Douglas for reelection.
That was a decisive moment in Lincolns career, and thats the situation he faced when he got up to give his House Divided speech on June 16th of 1858. It was a crisis of his own career. It was also, in my opinion, the gravest crisis this country has ever faced, because the greatest danger to the future of the country came not, I think, from the pro-slavery argument, but from the morally neutral argument of Douglas. And thats a long story and youll find it all spelled out in great detail in my book, which I hope you will read with great care.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
But in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln accomplished something almost miraculous. That is to say, what he had to do was to fight off the challenge of Douglas from the Republican side and at the same time drive a wedge between Douglas and the Southern Democrats. I compared his achievement in that to Stonewall Jacksons Valley Campaign, where Jackson fought two federal armies, beat them both and kept them close to Washington while he joined Lee before Richmond for the final battle of the seven days. It was a case of technical and strategic cleverness and profundity that is, I think, perhaps almost unrivaled in world history.
Douglas accepted Dred Scott, and in Dred Scott, the Chief Justice had said that the right to own slaves is expressly affirmed in the Constitution. And Lincoln said in the debates that it was implied but not expressly affirmed. The argument against any restriction on slavery was that any right expressly affirmed in the Constitution takes precedent over any law or regulation in any jurisdiction whatever. (Remember, the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution says that this Constitution, and the laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof, are the supreme law of landanything in any law or a constitution of any state to the contrary not withstanding.)
And Lincoln pointed out that this argumentwhich the Court applied to the territoriescould also equally well be applied to the states, so that the prospect of slavery becoming national, not only through the spread into the new territories but in the spread to the states, was very great. This was Lincolns argument.
Now, Lincoln said to Douglas, if you accept that Taneys opinion that slavery is expressly affirmed in the Constitution is true, then you are under an obligation to give the slave owners the implementation of this right.
A parallel case was the Fugitive Slave Act. Article IV of the Constitution says that any person held to the service or laborer in any state escaping to another state shall not be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be returned to the one to whom the service or labor is due. This is the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution.
Now the Constitution doesnt say how this right is to be enforced, but it says it shall be done. And from 1793 to 1850 it depended upon the states honoring the Act. Well, that was not working, and so this federal law was substituted which provided enforcement procedures under the auspices of the federal government.
And Lincoln said that if you believe in the Fugitive Slave Act being required by Article IV, you must also believe that the protection of the slave owner and the territories deserves federal protection; the two arguments were perfectly parallel. Douglas said it didnt matter how the Supreme Court in the abstract decided the question of slavery in the territories; if the slave owner went to the territory, he had to get local regulations to protect his property.
And Lincoln said that by your own argument, if the local regulations are not forthcoming, you must support the federal enforcement; if you dont, youre taking the same position as the abolitionists, who denied any obligation to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law.
Well, its not clear how persuasive this argument was in Illinois, but it was persuasive in Mississippi and Alabama and Florida and South Carolina, which said, Well, Lincolns right. This man Douglas is denying us our Constitutional rights. And as a result of that, it was Lincolns cleverness in the debates which split the Democratic convention in 1860, and this is what in fact elected Abraham Lincoln. But it was the rebellion against Douglas, not against Lincoln, which precipitated the whole secessionist movement.
Its been well saidand by many people in many circumstancesthat whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad. These people in the Deep South were mad because they could have elected Douglas, and Douglas would have given them everything they wantedeverything that they wanted that was consistent with his election in the free states.
Douglas was a radical expansionist. Both parts of the Democratic Party in 1860 called for the annexation of Cuba. And there were 100,000 slaves in Cuba, and Cuba was the place that slaves were still being brought from Africa and then resold in the United States. So under a Douglas presidency, we would have taken over the rest of Mexico and Central America whenever we had the resources and the appetite to take to do so. You can be sure that most of the Mexicans would have either been reduced to peonage or to slavery. In the Mexican War itself, in case you dont know it, we appropriated 60 percent of the land area of Mexico as it was then defined through the Spanish Conquest. So we increased the size of the United States by 40 percent and reduced Mexico by 60 percent.
The possibilities for slavery expansion were almost endless. Douglas would have done these things, but he couldnt subscribe to the slave code. And on that basis, they seceded, and that split the Democratic Party, and that elected Abraham Lincoln.
Now, Lincolns position was consistent throughout the debates. A great deal is saidDr. DiLorenzo says it, but its been said countless times beforethat Lincoln used racist language in the debates. Thats not true. Now what Lincoln argued for in the debates was the recognition of the natural rights of black people, when Douglas said that if the people of Nebraska are good enough to govern themselves, they certainly are good enough to govern a few miserable Negroes. And Lincoln replied by saying, I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are as good as the average of people elsewhere, what I say is that no man is good enough to govern another without his consent.
That was the line he took, and he did not try to settle the matter of what would be done if universal emancipation came. No intelligent politician tries to raise questions that will divide his followers. He tries to take positions that will unite his followers. And Lincoln did the best that anybody could have possibly done to unite his followers on the questions of principle, which applied directly to the great issue of public policy, which at that time was slavery in the territories. And I think my time is up. [Applause.]
Thank you very much, Harry. Our next speaker is Thomas DiLorenzo. Tom is Professor of Economics in the Salinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College in Maryland. He was also an Olive W. Garvey Fellow, a program that The Independent Institute runs for graduate students and junior faculty members.
He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. And he has taught at George Mason University, Washington University, State University of New York at Buffalo, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In addition to The Real Lincoln, his other books include Unfair Competition, Underground Government, Destroying Democracy, Official Lies, From Pathology to Politics, The Food and Drink Police, Unhealthy Charities, Cancer Scam, and Public Health Profiteering. Professor DiLorenzo has published over 70 articles in various scholarly journals, especially in the field of economics, and he is widely published in popular publications such as The Wall Street Journal and others. I am very pleased to introduce Tom DiLorenzo. [Applause.]
Thank you, David. I hope Im half as bright as Harry is when Im his age. Hes got three or four years on me, and I hope when Im his age, Im still standing up here giving very articulate and brilliant speeches like he does. [Laughter.]
And I certainly agree with him on Lincolns cleverness and profundity. Its kind of pathetic that in my lifetime, I think of the best politicianas a politicianis Bill Clinton. [Laughter.] I despise Bill Clinton, but as a politician, hes the best. And when I think back to Abraham Lincolnbrilliant man, cleverness, profundityread Lincolns speeches, then read Bill Clintons speeches. And its just horrible, but thats what we live with today.
Lincoln the Whig Mercantilist
Im going to tell a slightly different story about Lincoln. I call him in my book the political son of Alexander Hamilton because for most of his career, prior to becoming president, he was a Whig, and he was an ardent follower or ardent promoter of the Whig economic agenda. And from the time of the founding of the Republic, and certainly until the war, there was the big debate between the Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians. Hamilton wanted a much more highly centralized state. For what? Well, primarily for economic planning. He was a protectionist. He wanted a high tariff. He wanted a central bank and so-called internal improvements: government-subsidized road building, canal building, and so forth.
And Lincoln, when he became active in politics in 1832, became a Whig. And heres what he said when he first announced for office in the State Legislature: I presume you all know who I am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln. Ive been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old womans dance. Im in favor of a national bank
in favor of the internal improvements system and a high protective tariff.
And thats pretty much Lincolns agenda. He diligently pursued that agenda for some 25 years. In 1859 he announced, I was always a Whig in politics. When he eulogized Henry Clay in 1852, he said, Clay was the great parent of Whig principles. During my whole political life, I have loved and revered Henry Clay as a teacher and a leader.
And theres a relatively new book out called The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, by Michael Holt of the University of Virginia, who writes, Few people in the Whig Party were so committed to its economic agenda as Lincoln. Robert Johannsen says the same thing in his book, Lincoln, the South and Slavery. He also says that when the Whig Party imploded in the 1850s and Lincoln became a Republican, Lincoln had labored for 25 years on behalf of Henry Clays American system. And he was not prepared to give up that investment, so he assured the voters in Illinois that there werent that many differences between the Whig and Republican Parties.
During the 1840 and 1848 Presidential elections, Lincoln made many stump speeches in favor of the Whig candidates promoting their economic agenda. He had a big hand in the State of Illinois internal-improvements disaster in 1837. He was an influential member of the legislature, and the Whigs got through a $10 million appropriation for road building, canal building and so forth. And William Herndon claimed that no one had more of a hand in this than did Lincoln.
What happened with this program was described by William Herndon in Life of Lincoln. He said, The gigantic and stupendous operations of the scheme dazzled the eyes of nearly everybody, but in the end it rolled up a debt so enormous as to impede the otherwise marvelous progress of Illinois. The internal-improvement system, the adoption of which Lincoln had played such a prominent part, had collapsed with the result that Illinois was left with an enormous debt and empty treasury.
It was so bad that the Illinois Constitution was amended to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for private corporations of any sort. And also during this period prior to the war, almost every state experimented with government subsidiescorporate welfare, as I call itfor transportation. And it was such a debacle everywhere that by the time the war broke out, only Massachusetts permitted state funding in any way of these things. It was a horrible disaster everywhere.
Lincoln was a protectionist his whole career, and Ill talk more about that in a minute. He and a lot of the other Whigs were devotees of Henry C. Carey, a publicist for the Pennsylvania steel industry who once bragged that he only spent three days studying economics, but he could nevertheless debunk Adam Smiths The Wealth of Nations. And in some of his speeches, Lincoln just said what Harry Carey said. He used the argument that transportation costs were what he called useless labor, so that if someone were to ship something from England to the United States, that is useless labor and we shouldnt abide by that.
In one speech he said that if it were up to him, the only things that would be allowed into the country as imports were things we did not make here. If we did not grow coffee here, thats OK, bring the coffee in. But if we made steel here, dont bring steel in. So he was an ardent protectionist his whole career.
He once said that his aspiration in his early days was to be the DeWitt Clinton of Illinois. DeWitt Clinton was the governor of New York who got the Erie Canal passed, and is credited with introducing the spoils system to America.
This was a big debate in the early part of the nineteenth century, the internal improvements debate. Thomas Jeffersons Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, wrote up a huge central planit reminds me almost of sort of a Soviet central plan, when you look at itto build roads and canals all over the place. Jefferson said you couldnt do that unless you amend the Constitution. James Madisonthe very last thing he did as President was to veto an internal improvements bill, because he said he could see nowhere in the Constitution where there was the right to spend tax dollars on a private corporation. James Monroe did the same thing, as did Andrew Jackson.
On the other side were Hamilton and John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams after he left office said in a letter that one of the deepest regrets he had was not being successful in putting an internal-improvements program in. And he blamed what he called Jeffersons blighted breath, and he blamed it on the sable genius of the South, as he said, Calhoun. And then, of course, Lincoln picked up this mantle after Henry Clay, the mantle of what I call corporate welfare.
Now this system was called the American System. Henry Clay called this combination of economic policies the American System. Economists, though, call it mercantilism. It was sort of the old system from Europea close connection between government and business, where the government would dispense favors to special friends in business in return for their political support, protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare, and inflationism through central banking. In fact, you can argue that many of the people who came to America fled that corrupt high-tax system.
Edgar Lee Mastersnot one of Harrys favorite authors, Im surehad a description of the Clay-Lincoln economic system that, I think, has it on the money. He said, Henry Clay was a champion of that political system which doles favors to the strong in order to win and to keep their adherence to the government. His system offered shelter to devious schemes and corrupt enterprises. He was the beloved son of Alexander Hamilton with his corrupt funding schemes, his superstitions concerning the advantage of a public debt, and a people taxed to make profits for enterprises that cannot stand alone. His example and his doctrines led to the creation of a party that had no platform to announcethe Whig Partybecause its principles were plunder and nothing else. And I think thats pretty accurate. It was a special interest program.
Now the importance of the tariff. As I said, Lincoln during his whole career was an advocate of protectionism. And theres a very important article to this issue by Reinhard Luthin in the American Historical Review, July 1944, that gives a good explanation of the importance of the tariff to Lincolns political career. It starts out by noting how, in the election, Pennsylvania had the second highest number of electoral votes, and its issue was a protectionist tariff. And the Pennsylvania Republican Party made it known that anyone who wins Pennsylvania must sign on to a protective tariff. They were in the catbird seat. They had the power.
And then, Joseph Medill, the editor of the Chicago Press and Tribune, a very influential paper, began promoting favorite son Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency. And the way he did it was to begin writing editorials saying things like this: Lincoln is an old Clay Whig. Hes right on the tariff, and hes exactly right on all other issues. Is there any man who could suit Pennsylvania better? And so, hes promoting him.
Lincoln started soliciting the nomination. Lincoln had a relative by marriage named Dr. Edward Wallace, in Pennsylvania, and he was a Republican, and he wrote a letter to his brother, who passed it on to Lincoln, inquiring into Lincolns views on the tariff. Lincoln wrote back on October 11th 1859, and said, My Dear Sir, Your brother, Dr. William S. Wallace, showed me a letter of yours, in which you kindly mention my name, inquire for my tariff views, and suggest the propriety of my writing a letter upon the subject. I was an old Henry Clay tariff Whig. In old times, I made more speeches on that subject than any other. I have not since changed my views.
So Lincoln is establishing his bona fides as a protectionist here. And at the Republican convention of 1860, Luthin writes about a first-hand account of what happened when the tariff plank was adopted. He said this. The Pennsylvania/New Jersey delegations were terrific in their applause over the tariff resolution, and their hilarity was contagious, finally pervading the whole vast auditorium. It was a big deal. Pennsylvania went for Lincoln. They voted for Lincoln and he won Pennsylvania, and that certainly was a huge help in his winning the election. And then when he went back to Springfield there was a Republic Party rally for him, and they had a big float that had, according to Luthin, several yards of jeans cloth from which a garment was fashioned for Lincoln, and the wagon bore the significant motto, Protection to Home Industry.
So this was a big issue. Im not saying slavery was not also a big issue. It certainly was. I dont argue that in my book. But economics was also important.
Now look at the Moral Tariff that was passed by the House of Representatives in the 1859-60 session and then passed by the Senate on May 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln was inaugurated. President Buchanan signed it into law, and so Lincoln didnt really have anything to do with it directly, although Luthin points out how he did have a lot to do with it by working behind the scenes on all the political maneuveringand Lincoln was certainly a master politician.
And so here you have Frank Taussig, the great tariff historian, in his book, Tariff History of the United States, saying that as of 1857, the average tariff rate was about 15 percent. The Southerners had been complaining since the Tariff of Abominations in 1828, that they were being plundered by the tariff. They were import-dependent. Taussig says that they were paying as much as 80 percent of the entire tariff in various years, sometimes less than that, but he mentions that figure.
The Republican Party orchestrates the Moral Tariffthat was their babyand they propose essentially to triple the rate. The rate would immediately go up to 37.5 percent, but then it would greatly expand the list of items that were covered, so roughly a tripling of the tariff tax, and then right after that, the rate went up to 47 percent.
And so heres whats happening: The Southerners have been complaining for decades that theyre being plundered by the tariff. Theyre paying most of it, and most of the money is being spent in the North. The Republicans come in and say theyre going to triple that. Lincoln is expected to enforce it. He makes his first inaugural address on March 4th and he says this: The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.
So the way I read that, Lincoln says that as long as you collect this triple tariff rate, there will be no invasion; but if you refuseif you do what the South Carolinians did to Andrew Jackson, and nullify it, that is, say were not going to collect itthere will be an invasion. He promised an invasion over the tariff.
After he was elected, Senator John Sherman was quoted in David Donalds  book, Lincoln Reconsidered, on why Senator John Sherman thought Lincoln was elected. (Senator John Sherman is better known as the author of the Sherman Antitrust Act. He was the brother of General William Tecumseh Sherman, an influential member of the Senate during the Civil War, and for 30 some years after.) Heres what he said. Those who elected Mr. Lincoln expect him
to secure to free labor its just right to the Territories of the United States; to protect
by wise revenue laws, the labor of our people; to secure the public lands to actual settlers
; to develop the internal resources of the country by opening new means of communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
David Donald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln biographer, says in his great book (which I recommend to everybody): Let me translate this from the politicians idiom into plain English. Lincoln and the Republicans intended to enact the high protective tariff that mothered monopoly, to pass a homestead law that invited speculators to loot the public domain, and to subsidize a transcontinental railroad that afforded infinite opportunities for jobbery [i.e., political patronage jobs]. And of course all that happened.
David Donald left out the first lineopposition to the extension of slavery into the territories. And, of course, one of the reasons Lincoln and the Republicans gave for their opposition to the extension of slavery was that they wanted to preserve the new territories for white labor. They were very clear on that. They said they wanted the political support of white laborers who did not want competition from slave labor. Yes, he made many eloquent statements in favor of natural rights, but that was also part of the reason they gave for opposition to this.
Opinions about Secession and State Sovereignty
Now, how was this to be achieved? Not with secession, thats for sure. At the time, there was a big two-volume set of books called Northern Editorials on Secession, by Howard Cecil Perkins, and he writes about how a lot of citizens and a lot of editorial writers in the Northhe claims the majority of editorial writers in the Northwere in favor of peaceful secession. And Ill give you one or two examples.
The Bangor Daily Union on November 13th, 1860 said this. The Union depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the sovereign people of each state, and when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their Union is gone. A state coerced to remain in the Union is a subject province and can never be a co-equal member of the American Union. And he quotes numerous newspapers in the North that say those things.
Now where did they get this idea of state sovereignty? Well, it might have been from Thomas Jefferson, who in 1816 said this: If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers a separation to a continuance in Union, I have no hesitation in saying let us separate. John Quincy Adams in 1839, at the Jubilee of the Constitution, addressed secession. And he said if it would ever happen, then will be the time for reverting to the precedence which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect Union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center. And so, he wasnt in favor of forceful, military action against it.
Alexis de Tocqueville said in Democracy in America, The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have the been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.
And so, other relevant facts that I think are relevant. Harry argues with these, but each colony did declare sovereignty from Great Britain on its own. After the Revolution and the Treaty of Paris, each state was individually recognized as sovereign by the British government. The Articles of Confederation said, each state retains its sovereignty freedom and independence. The states then seceded from the Articles and dropped the perpetual Union language in the Constitution.
Virginias ratifying convention said, the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression. And then they asserted this right for all other states. In Federalist 39, Madison said ratification would be achieved by the people not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong.
After Jefferson was elected, the New England Federalists attempted to secede for about 10 or 12 years, and they held a secession convention in Hartford, Connecticut. They voted not to secede. But the leader of this was Timothy Pickering, who was George Washingtons Secretary of State and Secretary of War, and he said that secession was the principle of the American Revolution to justify this New England secession movement. There was a book by William Wright called A Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States, where he writes about a vigorous secession movement there prior to the war, where people there believed there was a right of secession.
But Lincoln had to deny that there was a right of secession. And I quote the legal scholar, James Ostrowski, who, I think, put together a summary of what Lincolns interpretation of the Constitution on this topic has to say, and hes sort of a mind game. He looks and he says, well, this is what the founders had to have believed in when they were ratifying the Constitution in order to take Lincolns position:
1) No state may ever secede for any reason.
2) If a state does secede, the federal government may suppress the secession with military force.
3) The federal government may coerce all states to provide militias to suppress the seceding state.
4) After suppressing the seceded state, the federal government may govern that state with a military dictatorship until the state accepts the supremacy of the federal government.
5) After the suppression, the federal government may force the state to adopt a new constitution imposed on it by military force, which happened in reconstruction.
6) The president may unilaterally suspend the Bill of Rights and the writ of habeas corpus.
And its unlikely that if they believe those things, the Constitution would ever pass; it barely passed to begin with.
Lincoln vs. the Constitution
And I have another chapter, Was Lincoln a Dictator? Its partly based on the books Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln by James Randall, Freedom Under Lincoln by Dean Sprague, The Fate of Liberty by Mark Neely, Constitutional Dictatorship by Clinton Rossiter.
Clinton Rossiter writes, [Lincolns] amazing disregard for the
Constitution was considered by nobody as legal. James Ford Rhodes in his History of the United States  wrote, never had the power of a dictator fallen into safer and nobler hands. James Randall in Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln wrote, If Lincoln was a dictator, it must be admitted that he was a benevolent dictator.
Now why are these scholars all calling Lincoln a dictator? Well, he launched a military invasion without consent of Congress. He suspended habeas corpus, which ended up with at least 13,000 Northern citizens imprisoned without a warrant being issued. (There was a prison in New York Harbor that became known as the American BastilleFort Lafayette.)
He censored all telegraph communication, nationalized railroads, and ordered federal troops to interfere at Northern elections. David Donald writes that the Republic Party won New York State by 7,000 votes in 1864, under the protection of Federal bayonets.
Lincoln deported Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham for disagreeing with him. He confiscated firearms. Ministers in the South were imprisoned for not praying for Abraham Lincoln. Secretary of State William Seward set up a secret police force, and he famously boasted to Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador, that he could ring a bell and have any man in America arrested.
The Journal of Commerce, early in the Lincoln Administration, published a list of 100 newspapers in opposition to Lincolns Administration, and Lincoln ordered the Postmaster General to stop delivering the mail for those papers. Some newspapers hired paper boys, but then they put an end to that, too. And a lot of these newspaper owners and editors were imprisoned at this time. That was apparently necessary to stop the secession.
Also, James McPherson writesand I think its in his book Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolutionwhat a micro-manager Lincoln was of the war effort. Lincoln spent 11 days in the field with the Army at the Potomac. McPherson says he spent more time in the War Department telegraph office than anywhere else except the White House itself. Stephen Oates says pretty much the same thing, that he was very hands-on and that he knew all about what Sherman was up to and what Sheridan was up to.
I dont have much time left but in the interest of saving time, I argue in my book that there were incidents of waging war on civilians at the very beginning1862, 1863. The Town of Randolph, Tennessee, was burned to the ground because Confederate sharpshooters were shooting at the Union ships, and they couldnt find the sharpshooter, so they retaliated by burning the town. And this sort of thing went on the whole time.
Lincoln the Great Centralizer
And so in one of the latter chapters in my book [originally appeared in The Independent Review] called The Great Centralizer, I write about how all of these economic things were achieved in the first 18 months of the Lincoln Administration. The tariff was essentially tripled and remained that high for decades after the war ended. Regarding the internal improvements, Leonard Curry in his book, Blueprint for Modern America, says that there were no more Constitutional scruples, that is, for 70 years there had been Constitutional arguments against corporate welfare. No more, this was gone. And the money supply was nationalized.
Senator John Sherman [approvingly] said of the National Currency Acts and the Legal Tender Acts, These will nationalize as much as possible, even the currency, so as to make men love their country before their states. All private interests, all local interests, all banking interests, the interest of individuals, everything should be subordinate now to the interest of the government.
The New York Times editorialized on March 9th 1863, that the Legal Tender Act and the National Currency Bill crystallize a centralization of power such as Hamilton might have eulogized as magnificent.
The Costs of Lincolns War
And the one question I ask here, in terms of the cost of the war, 620,000 deaths in a population of 30 million people. If you standardize that for todays population of roughly 280 million, that would be the equivalent of about 5 million deaths, or 100 times the number of Americans who died in Vietnam.
I look at that, and its absolutely horrible; no one would disagree with that. In the book, Time on the Cross, by Fogel and Engerman, they do a survey of emancipation in this time period, and they find that dozens of countries, including the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, the French and Danish coloniesdozens of countries ended slavery peacefully through some sort of compensated emancipation.
Now, of course, the standard argument is that this could never have happened here, we could have never have done this. But I dont see any reason to believe why British slave owners valued their slaves any less than American slave owners did. They didnt want this. The British government paid them off 40 cents on the dollar. It might not have been possible in 1861, but I think in terms of the sheer amount of the death and the total destruction of the economy of the country, North and South. The North took a huge economic hit as well as the South. The one big quandary is, why didnt we do what every other country in the world did during the previous 50 years that ended slavery, and end it peacefully through compensated emancipation?
Classical Liberal Opposition to the Civil War
The final thing Ill say is that some of the great classical liberals or Lockean liberals, if you will, at the time were not on Lincolns side. Lord Acton wrote a letter to Robert E. Lee on November 4th, 1866, and said this: I saw in States rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as a destruction, but as a redemption of Democracy
. I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which is lost in Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.
And the famous abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who was quite famous in Massachusetts because he wrote a book on jury nullificationa guide for lawyers in New England on how to go about getting juries to nullify laws that would send slaves back to the South. And he was a big hero among the Massachusetts abolitionists. But by 1870, after he had observed what had happened, he said this: All these cries of having abolished slavery, of having saved the country, of having preserved the union, of establishing a government of consent, and of maintaining the national honor, are all gross, shameless, transparent cheatsso transparent that they ought to deceive no one. And this is a prominent abolitionist saying this!
And the final thing Ill say is that General Donn Piatt, who was a friend of Lincolns and a newspaper editor after the war, made a very interesting comment. He said that the way in which the Republican Party used the former slaves as political pawns in the South so poisoned race relations in the South that they may never recover from that.
And Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America said that he thought race relations were actually worse in the states that had eliminated slavery as of the early 1830s than in the South. Thats just one mans observation, but I think thats one of the costs of the warthe poisoning of race relations. And I think African-Americans would have received, as Doug Bandow has said, justice as well as freedom sooner, much sooner, had we done what England did and all the other countries of the world.
Time is up. [Applause.]
We have five minutes each for our speakers to respond or make additional points, and well start with Harry.
I wish I had 55 minutes instead of five, so I have to be very selective. First of all, on the question of the tariff, it may come as news to Professor DiLorenzo that the protective tariffs were first instituted by Jefferson and Madison, not by the Hamiltonian party. Hamilton tried to get the tariffs, but he was not successful. And the reason why, the protective tariffs first entered our system in the wake of Jeffersons embargo, which put the New England shipping interests out of business. And so the first protective tariffs were put in, I think, under Madisons administration, and supported by John C. Calhoun, who agreed that at that time it was owed to the New England people to give their infant industries protection because they had been put out of business by the embargo, and later by the War of 1812, conducted under Madisons administration.
Madison, by the way, had opposed both the bank and tariffs when Hamilton was Secretary of Treasury. He signed into law the Second Bank of the United States, and endorsed the tariff, said that it has been ratified by the people in subsequent elections, so he reversed his position on that.
What happened in 1828 is also a very curious fact. 1828 was a crucial moment in the history of the tariff, because the national debt was just being paid off, and so the income from the tariff would produce a surplus in the treasury. And at that time, there was a great fear that a surplus in the federal treasury might be used to buy the freedom of slaves.
So the slave issue really underlaid the tariff issue. But it also happened that in the committee which was scheduling the tariffs, the people in South Carolina, and I think other Southerners, moved to raise the tariffs to this abominable level on the assumption that they would be voted down on the floor of the House. And they got fooled by that. Instead of being voted down, it was voted in. They were hoist by their own petard. But in 1833 a compromise was reached. The tariffs were reduced. Jacksons Force Bill was repealed, and so there was a peaceful resolution of that.
I myself believe in free trade and would be glad it could be implemented whenever possible. But in the actual conflict that led to the Civil War, we had two obstacles to free trade, and I ask you to think which one of them was the greater obstacle. One was the tariff, and the other was slavery.
Dont we hear nowadays objections on the part of the labor unions to importing goods from China, which are made with slave labor? Is the existence of slave labor not a reflection upon the idea of a free commercial society?
Now its absolutely true, and I agree with Professor DiLorenzo, that the Republican Party could never have been successful without the support of the tariff interests involved. The Free Soil Party and the Liberty Party were anti-slavery parties, which were, you might say, pure in their principles, but they had no chance of being successful on a national basis. It was the addition of the tariff interests that gave the Republicans the ability to carry their anti-slavery program into action. And its in that light, I think, that you have to look at the whole question of the tariffs.
As far as Hamilton, the banks and internal improvements, contrary to Professor DiLorenzo, I think, and several other people have thought, that Hamilton was the greatest Secretary of the Treasury we ever had. The assumption of the debts of the states, and the funding of the debt through the bank produced an enormous prosperity in the country, and this was all done under Washingtons administration. And if you want to speak of Federalists and people supporting the Federalist economic agenda, the first one of them was George Washington.
Now theres document on a subject of states rights and states sovereignty which is very seldom cited but which is absolutely fundamental to understanding the status of sovereignty under the Constitution: the letter that George Washington wrote transmitting the new Constitution to the Congress on September 17, 1787. And among the ironies of this letter is the fact that John C. Calhoun in his Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, the sequel to his Disquisition on Government, cites the words that Washington used to support his position that this was a federal government, and that federal meant one in which the constituent parts retains complete sovereignty. And he refers to the fact that Washington refers to the federal government of these States.
Now, the truth of the matter is that the idea of the meaning of the word federal underwent a change from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. Under the Constitution, the states gave up their sovereignty in the Calhounian sense. And if you have any doubt about that, let me just read a sentence from George Washington. It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all. So all the rights of independent sovereignty, or some of those rights, have been surrendered.
With this, we are introduced to a unique American contribution to political science: dual federalism and dual sovereignty. The states are sovereign within the spheres of the powers that are reserved to them by the Constitution. They are not sovereign in those things that are delegated to the United States as a whole.
And if you look at the things that are denied to the states in the Constitution, for example, they are denied the right to coin money. Now, throughout history, the right to coin money has been a symbol of sovereignty. If states do not have the right to coin money, they are not sovereign in the sense that would justify secession as a state right.
Are my five minutes up? [Laughter.]
I wish it was five hours. [Applause.]
Well have time during the Q&A to pursue more of this as well. And now Tom has his five minutes.
Well, I wouldnt argue that two wrongs make a right. I would argue that one of the dumbest things Jefferson did was the embargo, so if he was a protectionist in his early days, shame on him. I wouldnt defend him just because hes a Southerner or anything like that. The matter is liberty, to me, and the same goes with Madison or Calhoun or anybody else.
And as far as anti-slavery, Id just like to mention that as far as the Republican Partys anti-slavery position, as Harry mentioned, Lincoln supported the Fugitive Slave Clause. And thats precisely why William Lloyd Garrison, the greatest abolitionistthe banner of his newspaper declared that he advocated secession of the Northern states from the Union, precisely because it would eliminate the Fugitive Slave Clause. It wouldnt be a matter any more, and it would greatly have increased the cost to the slave-owners of capturing their own runaways. And I think it was a brilliant thing on his part, that he understood that this would undermine and ultimately destroy slavery. But Lincoln supported that in his first inaugural.
And also, among the reasons he gave for being anti-slavery was, one, free laborit was labor market protectionism. Economics again. He clearly said that they wanted to secure the new territories for free laborfor white laborwhich wouldnt compete with slaves for jobs. And another reason he gave was that the three-fifths clause of the Constitution artificially inflated the Congressional representation of the Democratic Party, because it said that for every five slaves, you could count that as three people for purposes of determining how many members of Congress would come from each state. And in one of his speeches, he compared Maine and South Carolina, and said that because there were so many slaves in South Carolina, and they were counted in this way, South Carolinians had more votes than people in Maine did in Congress, and so that wasnt a moral argument. So they werent entirely moral arguments that the Republicans were making when we use the language anti-slavery.
And Henry Clay, I quote him as saying after the Tariff of Abominations was renegotiated and whittled down in 1833, that he threatened to defy the Devil himself, as he put it, to raise the tariff rate once again, in the 40 percent range. He was furious about that.
Can I say something now, or do I have to wait for a question?
Please, why dont you say it? You can sit right here.
Professor DiLorenzo thinks that it is a reflection on Lincolns anti-slavery character that he supported the Fugitive Slave Act. But the Fugitive Slave Clause is in the Constitution, and Lincoln thought that any refusal to implement the right clearly defined in the Constitution would justify secession. You cant pick and choose which parts of the Constitution you like. Once you do that, then the Constitution is simply, as Jefferson said once, a blank sheet of paper. Jefferson said that when he was contemplating purchasing Louisiana. And having said that by purchasing it he would make the Constitution a blank sheet of paper, he went ahead and purchased Louisiana.
Well, then he should have advocated a Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Fugitive Slave Clause.
That could never have beenthat was not possible.
Audience Member #1
Mr. DiLorenzo, given that the U.S. Government would not buyout slave owners, can you address the assertion that the only way to end slavery, or that the strongest way to ensure the freedom of slaves, was to keep the Union intact?
Well, I thinkslaveryI hate to quote Alexander Stephens, because hell accuse me of some vile behavior, but he once said slavery was more secure in the Union than out of it, and he agreed with William Lloyd Garrison in that regard, in that the Fugitive Slave Clause made it more secure. And there were other laws, too, that subsidized the slave owners indirectly, as far as that goes.
And we may never know the answer, but the death is what bothers methe equivalent of five and a half million deaths, standardized for our population today, when the rest of the world did find a way. It wouldnt have happened immediately, but England did it in six years. It took six years to end slavery in the British Empire. And, as I said, I think, African-Americans didnt really achieve justice in this country until 30 or 40 years ago, in my opinion, and that would have come much, much sooner had we done what England did.
Right back here. Did you want to comment?
Yeah, Id like to comment. [Laughter.] In the first place, the idea that the Federal government in 1860 should have offered to buy the slaves is a political absurdity. Any claim by Lincoln or his party of any jurisdiction over slavery in the states would have been regarded, and justly regarded, as completely unconstitutional, and advocating the overthrow of the Constitution.
Now, during the Civil War, Lincoln did endorse a program of compensated emancipation. In his 1862 message to Congress, he proposed a series of Constitutional amendments that would have authorized the Federal government to reimburse states that adopted programs of compensated emancipation. He was very anxious. This was before the Emancipation Proclamation, the final one, was issued on January 1, 1863.
But he did want to see to it that loyal slave owners were not expropriated by his emancipation policy. But he couldnt get the Congress to adopt it. He couldnt get any Representatives, and people from Kentucky, or Missouri, or the border states to vote for it, and so he failed. This is the message to Congress which ended with those wonderful words, Gentlemen of the Congress, we cannot escape history. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of Earth. Well, it failed.
And comparing what happened in Englandafter all, in England the Parliament in Westminster was making laws for the West Indies. The West Indians didnt have any representation in the Parliament. The laws were made for them, and they had to go along with it. There was no such power within the Federal government to interfere with slavery, except by limiting the expansion of slavery. And it was Lincolns beliefand I think the best economic analysis that we have of the American economy in the antebellum United States indicatesthat if the expansion of slavery had been ended, and if it was no longer possible for surplus slaves to be sold from the old states to new territories, that the pressure within the states to adopt programs of emancipation would become great enough to do that.
In other words, Lincolns belief was that slavery could be ended peacefully through the action of the states themselves. It couldnt be done through direct intervention by the Federal government, but it could be done within the states themselves. And after all of the states north of the Mason-Dixon line had adopted plans for emancipationslavery was lawful in every one of the 13 colonies, and the 13 states which declared their independence.
By the way, Professor DiLorenzo is absolutely wrong in saying that the 13 states were recognized as independent separate sovereignties. They were not. In 1826, Madison and Jefferson together, in making rules for the University of Virginia, resolved that the first of the documents that should be studied by the law faculty of the University of Virginia, was the Declaration of Independence as the Act of Union of the States. The Declaration was a declaration of separation from Great Britain and union with each other. And the state legislatures, or state revolutionary colonial legislatures on the road to independencealmost all of them passed resolutions calling for independence and for union.
But all those same resolutions said that, in the Declaration of the Union, the internal police of each colony should be recognized as binding. In other words, the origins of American dual federalism are to be found in the resolutions of the revolutionary assemblies authorizing the Continental Congress to declare independence. They declared independence and union together, and there was never any time in which any state acted on the international sphere, having diplomatic relationsand the Constitution itself forbids each state to have any diplomatic action. They could not act independently of the other states in the international arena.
Tom, do you have a really quick ?
I actually did re-read the Treaty of Paris before I came out here, and it does list each state by name in the Treaty of Paris. And also, Lincolns emancipation in the border states proposalhes called it a war measure, not an emancipation measure, and he combined it with deportation. Any of the freed slaves would be deported to Central America, Africa, or Haiti. And that was his career-long position, colonization. He took that from Henry Clay. And so he combined it with deportation.
OK, right here.
Audience Member #2
Dr. Jaffa, I want to ask you this. Youre an opponent of legal positivism in most of your writings. I remember during the Bork nomination, you made a very big point of this. And yet, you constantly uphold the Constitution as kind of sacrosanct, as opposed to the natural rights tradition that is enunciated in the Declaration of Independence.
Now, if we do have unalienable rights to liberty, as the Declaration proclaims, then why does it matter so much to you that the Constitution somehow does not sanction secession? I, as a free person from a free country, ought to be able to leave if I choose, and to take whatever is mine with me. And if a whole bunch of people want to join me, we ought to be able to do that, because we have a natural right, an unalienable right, to our life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. [Applause.]
We have these inalienable rights, and in the exercise of these same inalienable rights, we agree with each other to form civil governments. And Madison has an essay on sovereignty, which is a sort of simplified repetition of John Lockes argument in the second chapter of the Second Treatise.
If the people in this room were not citizens of the United States, if they were not citizens of any state, or of any sovereign government, and if we decided that we needed to, for our own protection, first beginning with safetySeptember 11th told us why we need each other for the sake of safetyform a government, we have to recognize, each one of us, that this government shall protect the right to life, and to liberty, and property of each one of us.
No one of us can say that he deserves protection for the government to be formed, but not somebody else, or that somebody is entitled to more protection than anybody else. Anybody who demands more protection from the government than his fellow citizens wont be accepted as a fellow citizen.
But once we have reached this agreement and we then elect a government and that government functionsand the election for that government is one in which theres freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, so that it is a legitimate governmentthen that government commands our obedience. We have no right to reject our duty to obey because we dont like the result of the electionprovided the election is conducted fairly and Constitutional rights are observed.
You can not have free government if you can not bind the people who participate in the government to accept the results of the election. It is the exercise of our inalienable right to life that enables us, and justifies us, in forming legitimate governments. When those governments are formed, we cannot reject them because we dont like the results.
Audience Member #3
This is a question for both of you. Was it the consensus of the Constitution, or the members of the Constitutional Convention, that the Articles of Confederation had failed, and that when they entered into the Constitutional Convention, that they were voluntarily and knowingly surrendering their sovereignty in order to form a new Constitution?
The 43rd Federalist deals definitively with this question. There was no question but that the Constitutional Convention, simply as a convention, had no authority of any kind. It did not form a government. But it said that the ratification of nine states shall then bring this new government into existence. The Congress of the Confederation transmitted the results to the country, the ratifications took place, and the government came into existence.
Well, Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island asserted the right to secede from the Union as a condition of ratifying the Constitution. And they asserted that right for the other states as well, and they were allowed into the Union after doing that, and so, that is one thing that happened.
That is absolutely wrong. Its just flat-out wrong.
Well, they did. I quoted the Virginia thing in my
They did not speak of secession as a lawful right under the Constitution.
It was an exercise of the Right of Revolution, which they had recently exercised under the British Constitution. But you simply, stubbornly refuse to recognize that theres a difference between secession as a Constitutional right and revolution as a natural right.
I disagree with that, and I just
No, youre wrong. [Laughter.]
I think youre wrong.
Youre just wrong. You dont know what youre talking about.
Audience Member #4
I would like to ask both speakers to answer the question of the egregious amount of violation of the Constitution. The South, it has been claimed, seceded in violation of the Constitution. The Lincoln Administration became a dictatorship in violation of the Constitution. Which of these two violations is the most egregious?
Im sorry, I didnt hear the question.
If both the South and the North violated the Constitution, which was the more important violation? Is that a fair rendition of your point?
Audience Member #4
Which is the most egregious?
Im still not of the opinion that the Constitution says anything one way or the other about secession, although William Rawle, whose book was used to teach all the cadets at West Point, Constitutional law prior to the war, argued that there was a Constitutional right of secession. But there arent too many arguments like that. I dont think that says one way or another.
So I would say, without a doubt, during the Lincoln administration, thats why Clinton Rossiter and James Ford Rhodes called him a dictator, but a good dictator, because of all the violations of civil liberties. Mark Neely even writes in his book that political prisoners in the North, there werent many of them, but some were hung by their wrists and water-tortured, and that sort of thing went on with William Sewards secret police. And I dont think secession was unconstitutional, in my view.
Any questions on this side?
Audience Member #5
Dr. Jaffa, do you really believe that September 11th proves that we need a Federal government to keep us safe? [Laughter.]
I think that September 11th reinforced the sense that security of life and liberty and property depends upon government. I dont see how it can be protected in a state of anarchy, where there are no national defense forces or no police. Of course, we need government, and we need a Federal government, because we are a government of many states and one nation.
Well, since youre looking at me, one more point I would make is, I think Lincoln destroyed the Union as a voluntary association of states. He didnt say that he destroyed it, and I dont see why we couldnt have a union of states for self-defense measures like that.
But with regard to your question, the Federal government still doesnt allow airline pilots to arm themselves, so the idea that theyre protecting usIve been in airports a lot the last couple days, and its kind of silly that theyre protecting us with these procedures. But Im not arguing against having a union or a Federal government.
Audience Member #6
My question is also for Professor Jaffa, although Id like to give Professor DiLorenzo a chance to comment on it also if hed like, since I think most of the questions have been going to his opponent here. But in your closing remarks, Professor Jaffa, you mentioned that you thought Lincoln supported the Fugitive Slave Act because he didnt want to pick and choose from the Constitution, because that would have ended up justifying secession. But didnt he, in fact, go on to do many later things that egregiously violated the Constitution, and thus, according to your own argument, justified secession? And, as a second kind of follow-up to that, Id just like to hear a little bit more about your thoughts of when, exactly, people do deserve the right to self-determination.
Well, in the first place, I deny that Lincoln acted unconstitutionally at any time during the Civil War. It was a civil war. There were traitors in the midst of all of the free states. The possibility of recruiting soldiers and keeping them from deserting. There was lots of desertion on both sides of the Civil War, and it just happens that there were more Confederate soldiers executed for desertion than there were Union soldiers. But there were plenty of executions on both sides.
It was a terrible war. The idea that the cost of the war is due to Lincoln is simply absurd. It was a terrible war because the country was deeply divided, and the question of the future of the nationwhether or not it would be based upon principles recognized as principles of individual liberty, or whether the idea of one race dominating another race would be accepted as a means for governance. Let me just read one short statement here that might interest you. Since the Civil War, in which the Southern States were conquered, against all historical logic and sound sense, the American people have been in a condition of political and popular decay
. The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America. That has been the position of defenders of the Confederacy from Alexander Stephens through Thomas DiLorenzo. Do you know the man who said that was Adolf Hitler? [Laughter.]
Anything you want to say?
Anything I want to say? Well[Laughter] now I know where Harrys getting his political philosophy.
From the anti-Hitler school?
I dont believe anything Hitler says, but if you want to quote him in your book, go right ahead.
Ive done it.
I look forward to the next one.
Way in the back.
Audience Member #7
Professor DiLorenzo, it really bothers me as a libertarian that you call yourself a libertarian, then claim to support states rights. I think the essence of libertarian is denying that states have any rights. So I want to know, how far do you want to take this?
Youve spoken in support of states rights and asserted that peaceful secession and nullification are the only means of returning to a system of government that respects rather than destroys individual liberty.
Now, the Confederate states, of course they seceded to preserve slavery. We know that because the Mississippi Declaration of Secession said that Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slaverythe greatest material interest of the world.
You obviously support secession for slavery, black slavery, but suppose one or a group of states wanted to secede to establish a society that, say, is based on the ritual kidnapping and raping of nine-year-old white girls. Would you support that as a states right, or do you draw the line at some point between that and Negro slavery?
Is that a step up or a step down from the Hitler comment? [Laughter.] Im not sure.
As I discuss in my book, in the Deep South, slavery was the issue when they seceded. But when Virginia voted on secession, first they voted two to one against it, and the upper SouthVirginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennesseedidnt go out at the same time that the Deep South went out, and Lincoln was happy to have them in the Union, slaves and all. And so its a little more complicated.
They changed their vote after Lincoln launched an invasion of their sister states, and so, I think slavery was more of an issue. It wasnt a zero issue in the upper South, but it was more of an issue, like you said, in Mississippi and places like that. So I dont think its accurate to say that it was the sole issue in states like Virginia, because they voted to stay in the Union.
Audience Member #7
Just limit your answer to Mississippi, then. Would Mississippi have been OK to secede to establish a society based on the kidnapping and ritual rape of 9-year-old girls?
Im not going to answer crazy hypotheticals like that.
Audience Member #7
Where do you draw the line?
I would say, if a state has a right to secede, if a right to secede exists, a right to secede exists even if slavery was the issue, and we should have diligently worked to get rid of it peacefully.
Audience Member #7
Or anything else?
No, Im not going to answer crazy hypotheticals. Child raperidiculous.
One thing I should mention is, both of our speakers are dedicated to the abolitionist idea. They have different ways they think it could be best achieved. So just to clarify that. Other questions.
Audience Member #8
Dr. Jaffa, recently the online Web site of the Claremont Institute published a rebuttal article, I think it was called, In Re: Kemp vs. Sobran, or something like that.
Joe Sobran, right.
Audience Member #8
In one of the paragraphs, you likened the Union to a contract, and there are lots of ways you could attack that analogy. But I guess the basic question is, can you find any parallel in modern legal terminology where one party to a contract claims the sole right to interpret it, and also enforce that interpretation?
Well, Lincoln, in his July 4th Special Message to the Congress, 1861, said that the people of the South were a law-abiding people, and they would not have undertaken to do what they were now doing if it hadnt been for the invention of an ingenious sophism, according to which a state could secede from the Union without the permission of the Union or of any other state.
The ratification of the Constitution was an action undertaken by all of the states which joined the union and adopted the Constitution, and that was a contract between them and among themthat they would abide by the results of the elections conducted under the rules of the Constitution, and that they could not act independently of the other states with which they had jointly and severally agreed and contracted to be governed by.
Any comment? We have time for one more question. How about the gentleman right there.
Audience Member #9
Professor Jaffa, it seems to me that your insistence on saying that as long as the elections are followed, people are bound to obey them, basically says that as long as procedure is followed, there is no recourse. No matter how unjust a law might be, if procedure is followed, there is no recourse. And I dont think that is consistent with an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, the Constitution doesnt force all men to give up a right that is unalienable.
No, on the contrary, the Constitution exists to protect that right. The important point is that the Constitution exists to protect individual liberty and individual property. In fact, the most important of all of the rights, really the foundation of all rights, are the rights to private property. But the right to private property is a right for each individual human being to own himself.
And so, the idea of slave property contradicts the idea of private property, and the Southerners taking their stand on their property rights and their slaves were, in fact, taking their stand on a principle which was incompatible with the idea of constitutional government.
It was in the Constitution. Slavery was in the Constitution, so its not
It was recognized as a necessary evil at the time, and the justification for the ratification of the Constitution with slavery is that any alternative arrangement would have been more favorable to slavery than the Constitution itself. The Constitution created a government strong enough to deal with the question of slavery when it became what it did become in 1860.
And the war was a terrible war, but it was a war for human freedom, and if the South had succeeded and if slavery had been extended, the United States, or part of it, might very well have been on the side of Hitler in the Second World War. We would not have been the bastion of freedom we have been in the twentieth century.
Well, Lincoln, of course, when he was elected, said Southern slavery is OK. He promised not to disturb slavery where it exists.
He did not say its OK.
Where it exists.
He said he had
I have not intention to
He said he had no legal power to intervene.
Slavery where it exists.
He said that he had no more jurisdiction over slavery in South Carolina than he did of serfdom in Russia. That was the nature of the Federal
Stay in the Union, and pay the tariff, and you can keep your slaves, was essentially what he was saying.
No, thats not true. [Laughter.] No truth in that whatever. [Applause.]
I want to thank both of our speakers, Harry Jaffa and Tom DiLorenzo. Copies of their books, A New Birth of Freedom and The Real Lincoln, are available upstairs for those of you who have not gotten copies. Both of them would be delighted to autograph copies for you and speak privately as well. And thank you all for coming and making this such a successful evening. Thank you again, and good night.