Tuesday, June 28


The freshman Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama (D-IL), needs to go back to school on this nation's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, as quotes attributed to him by "Time" magazine, and as reported in this Associated Press (AP) story, suggest he's either ignorant of Lincoln's positions vis-a-vis slavery and human rights or he's trying to take a page from the book "Historical Revisionism For Dummies" and attribute to himself the best of Lincoln's personal attributes and strength of character, while decrying Abe as more rank pragmatist on the issue of slavery, than moralist and natural law advocate.

To wit, Senator Obama is quoted as saying:

I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.

As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an African-American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document, than a clarion call for justice.
The problem here is that the Illinois Democrat, either through ignorance or by design, is pointing exclusively to the Emancipation Proclamation to make such an ill-founded assessment of Lincoln's views on slavery.

I suggest he read a seminal work by an eminent Lincoln historian: "A New Birth of Freedom" by Harry V. Jaffa. Jaffa focuses on Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," providing a commentary on Lincoln's "acceptance of the idiom of natural rights and natural law" and pointing to a speech in which the 16th President betrays his dedication to "the proposition that all men are created equal" -- indeed to "an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."

Perhaps, to quote the Senator, Lincoln had indeed "limited views on race." He didn't see an issue of Negro Slavery, as much as he saw in any form of slavery of any kind of race a violation of the transcendant order of nature and of nature's God.

As Jaffa writes:

Implicit in everything he (Lincoln) says (in the Gettysburg Address), however, is the thesis that the benefits of a free society cannot be long enjoyed by those who would arbitrarily deny them to others. Like fidelity in marriage, that is the one inescapable 'cost' that the 'benefit' of freedom entails. Hence the underlying question remains: Can those for whom slavery is a 'positive good' or those who are indifferent to slavery love the Union as do those for whom the Union is the practical implementation of the principles of human freedom embodied in the Declaration?