16, is the prescribed national holiday celebrating the lives of Presidents
Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. For me, it is a curious holiday when
you consider the myriad and substantial differences between these two giants
of American history.
Washington, of course, even when stripped of the mythical hyperbole, still
retains the sobriquet, “Father of our Nation.” Today, however, Washington
is charged with being a “white, Eurocentric, male” and the nemesis of all
things liberal, left, and progressive. As a student of President Washington
I can’t deny his contemporary unsuitability. In fact, I should think he might
have the quaint notion that any number of our political leaders would be
suitable for the gibbet or the recipients of 40 lashes, publicly administered!
Washington’s political philosophy is decidedly old-fashioned and definitely
out of vogue; the central government established by the “several” states
-- the old Compact Theory -- and constrained by the doctrine of enumerated
powers left little wiggle room for “consolidators,” the 18th century’s ancestors
of our own beloved techno-fascists that now inhabit the Beltway. And, this
“mild” government, as Mr. Jefferson was wont to refer to it, held sway for
80 years, so restrained in its administration that there was no illegal income
tax to pillage our pockets and few bureaucrats to annoy us. Ah, but those
halcyon days of unfettered liberty -- for white men and freedmen -- soon
gave way to the presidency of the old “log splitter” and railroad mouthpiece,
Lincoln was a Henry Clay Whig who adjudged government largess a “progressive”
theme as long as the monies sheared, from primarily Southern sheep, was utilized
on roads, canals, and harbors north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Born in abject
poverty and raised by a father with limited husbandry skills, Lincoln considered
the agrarian way of life suitable only for the uneducated and semi-literate.
People whom he thought required government assistance, thus auguring the
establishment of the agricultural bureaucracy in 1862.
But, Lincoln’s claim to fame is, of course, the euphemistically titled, Civil War!
The South, unable or unwilling to tolerate the threat to their way of life
-- including the abhorrent “peculiar institution,” African chattel slavery
-- chose to exercise the constitutional option and secede from the United
States, establish their own republic, and live in peace with their neighbors.
But the New England mercantilists who placed Abraham Lincoln in office could
not tolerate a Southern nation that would threaten their tariff -- backed
price gouging that kept European goods, artificially, at a higher price than
their own products. And, while the rhetoric about “saving the Union,” and
“freeing the slaves” proved to be powerful propaganda tools, the question
was about profits and power. And, Abraham Lincoln was their factor, he would
do their bidding if it required destroying the very foundation of the central
And, that is what Lincoln did! For three months, at the beginning of the
crisis, Lincoln refused to call Congress to Washington. On his own, bereft
of constitutional authority, he raised monies and troops, and after lying
to the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, tried
to force a federal fleet into Charleston harbor, to re-supply Fort Sumter,
thus instigating the opening of hostilities.
During the course of the war he suspended the writ of habeas corpus
and imprisoned more than 20,000 Northern citizens for little more than disagreeing
with him. With a hubris reminiscent of 20th century tyrants he ordered the
arrest of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who had the temerity to
point our that he didn’t have the right to incarcerate American citizens
without publicly notifying them of the charges!
He shutdown Democrat newspapers that editorialized against his usurpations,
broke up opposition state legislatures, made military districts out of several
northern states, including Ohio, and, like every competent dictator, used
the federal army to get elected in 1864 -- by a meager 38,000 popular votes.
Then, with a panache reserved for future presidents he orchestrated the secession
of the western counties of Virginia, illegally creating out of whole cloth
the federal state of West Virginia -- and West Virginians have been paying
dearly for it ever since!
Lincoln attacked the tenets of the first secessionist rebellion -- the one
of 1776 -- and tried to replace those principles with the Jacobin precepts
of the French revolution. He obfuscated the “compact theory” of state’s rights
and imposed by force of arms the Webster-Story historical myth that the central
government was created by some magical elixir in 1787, which then, with a
decided benevolence, established the “several states.”
George Washington was the first chief executive of a government instituted
by brilliant and heroic men who shared an abhorrence of tyranny and the concentration
of power. Men who fashioned a constitutional republic that lasted 80 years.
By contrast, Lincoln’s war gave birth to the nascent American Empire and
sired the “bipartisan Jacobinism” dominating the two primary political parties.
Together, the Democrats and Republicans have destroyed “federalism,” engaged
the nation in “foreign entanglements” that have cost the people blood and
treasure, created the Welfare state -- corporate and otherwise, contrived
the Constitution a “living” document, and laid waste the rule of Law!
Consequently, on this President’s Day, as contrived as it is, I’ll abstain
from any celebration. Rather, on February 22, the old “Washington’s Day,”
I’ll hoist the national colors in quiet remembrance of America’s greatest
president, first citizen, and “Father of our Country.”
You may, if you prefer, read the Gettysburg Address.
Bob Cheeks has written for The American Enterprise, Human Events, Southern Partisan, and The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.