Abraham Lincoln as the worst president? That's a new one to me. It's kinda funny because most conservatives I know tend to praise Lincoln. Then occasionally I'll hear a someone talk about how horrible Lincoln was and they also tend to be really conservative. In school you learn he was an awesome president, so I'm curious what made him so bad? Really, I'm genuinely curious, not being sarcastic. Any books out there you can recommend about this?
Conservatives and Lincoln
Prince LaQroix correctly notes that most "mainstream" conservatives are fulsome in their praise of President Lincoln. In my experience, this is due to three major reasons.
Libertarians and Lincoln
As Prince LaQroix also notes, there are those who truly despise Lincoln's legacy, and they seem to be, if anything, even more conservative- like me- than their counterparts on the right.
(Public school FTW, eh? Though for the sake of fairness I should point out, I was privately educated all my life, and I never knew any of this until my mid-twenties when I started thinking for myself.)
There is a (probably apocryphal) quote attributed to General Robert E. Lee along the lines that, if he had known what would happen to his beloved South after the War, he would have ordered his Army to fight and die to the last man rather than surrender at Appomattox. While the attribution of the quote is very poor, once one knows anything about what the post-war Republican Congress tried to push President Andrew Johnson to do, it's not hard to see why the Deep South still holds such anger about the post-bellum period; talk to any real Southerner about the War, and you're sure to get several earfuls about how unjust and unnecessary the whole thing was.
The Real Lincoln
I invite the serious and open-minded reader who is not convinced of President Lincoln's abuses and usurpations to go look up the following facts. Every one of them is true and is a matter of public record.
- As President, Lincoln signed executive orders authorising the suspension of habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from unlawful and unjust imprisonment, repeatedly and despite lacking any Constitutional authority to do so, in direct contravention of Article One, Section 9 of the Constitution;
- Under Lincoln's aegis, a military draft was instituted, in direct contradiction of both the spirit of the Declaration of Independence's complaints about standing armies;
- President Lincoln was a disciple of the Kentucky politician Henry Clay, who believed strongly in a powerful central government that provided subsidies directly handed to big businesses for the purpose of developing and modernising the American economy, along with punitive tariffs leveled on foreign trade for the purposes of gaining revenues;
- He authorised the imprisonment, without due process, of thousands of suspected Confederate sympathisers;
- His generals, especially William Tecumseh Sherman, were perfectly willing to violate the norms and rules of war by inflicting catastrophic damage upon civilian areas in order to bring the South to its knees- see especially Sherman's March to the Sea;
- The Emancipation Proclamation, since considered Lincoln's political masterstroke, did not free a single slave that was in the South at the time;
The Secession Question
There is not room enough here to go into all of the intricacies and details of the causes of the War Between the States. There are many, and the reading list I will provide below will provide far more information than I ever could.
- A voluntary union that is explicitly agreed to be non-binding is, somehow, absolutely binding, in perpetua;
- The Union of States somehow precedes in time the actual states in its composition;
- The rights of the several member states are somehow less important and less worthy than the rights of the government created by their union, with their express consent
There are a number of great books written about Lincoln's legacy. Unfortunately, most of them are highly hagiographical in nature, praising Lincoln fulsomely and sticking to the party line that he was the greatest of all American Presidents since Jefferson.
(He recently released Part 3: Progressive Empire, which is on my, unfortunately rather long, reading list.)