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Some Thoughts on Presidents Day
by Bob Cheeks
16 February 2004George Washington

Presidents Day is a curious holiday when you consider the myriad and substantial differences between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.


Monday, February 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, Abraham Lincoln.

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 government!

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
.

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