Official history venerates Abraham Lincoln as an apostle of American democracy who waged war on the South to preserve the Union and free the slaves.  Official history is a lie.

Lincoln was a dictator who destroyed the Old Republic and replaced the federal principles of 1789 with the ideological foundations of today’s welfare/warfare state.  His administration was characterized by paranoia, a lust for power, and rampant corruption.  The magnitude of that paranoia was evidenced by Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, who declared that “Every department of the Government was paralyzed by treason.”  “Traitors” were to be found

in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the Federal Courts . . . Treason was flagrant in the revenue and in the post-office service, as well as in the Territorial governments and in the judicial reserves.

In his bid for absolute power, Lincoln used “treason” as a pretext to unleash war and shred the Constitution.  Freedom of the press was curtailed.  The Chicago Times was one of over 300 Northern newspapers suppressed for expressing “incorrect” views.  As late as May 18, 1864, Lincoln ordered his military to “arrest and imprison . . . the editors, proprietors and publishers of the New York World and the New York Journal of Commerce.”

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.  He criminalized speech and legalized arbitrary arrests.  Twenty thousand political prisoners were held incommunicado and denied legal counsel.  Maryland’s legislature was overthrown, and New York City was placed under military occupation.

In his December 1861 lectures in Boston and New York City, Northern abolitionist Wendell Phillips declared that “We live today, every one of us, under martial law.  The Secretary of State puts into his bastile, with a warrant as irresponsible as that of Louis XIV, any man whom he pleases.”

Lincoln’s war against the South was not to preserve the Union from treasonous secessionists.  Lincoln himself had championed the right of secession.  In a speech before Congress on the Mexican-American War, he declared that “Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.”

Nor did Lincoln wage war against the South to emancipate black slaves.  In his First Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln emphatically declared: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.  I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

On September 11, 1861, Lincoln countermanded General Fremont’s order freeing the slaves in Missouri.  And on May 19, 1862, he countermanded General Hunter’s order emancipating the slaves in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.  On August 22, 1862, Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley, declaring: 

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

With the demise of the Confederacy nowhere in sight, however, Lincoln changed his position on emancipation.  On September 13, 1862, Lincoln explained to a visiting delegation of clergy the purpose of his forthcoming Emancipation Proclamation: “I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.”

That the Emancipation Proclamation was “a practical war measure” can be seen in the fact that it did not free a single slave within the jurisdiction of the Union.  The proclamation only declared that “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free.”  Slavery remained legally protected in those slave states that stayed loyal to the Union—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia—and in those portions of the Confederacy under Union occupation.

The Emancipation Proclamation was an act of military desperation designed to realize two goals.  Lincoln hoped, first, to dissuade the British and the French governments from intervening militarily on behalf of the South.  As Lincoln noted, the Emancipation Proclamation “would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition.”  Second, Lincoln hoped to incite slaves to murder defenseless white women and children on the farms and in the cities of the Confederacy in the expectation that the Confederate army would disintegrate as soldiers abandoned the field to return home to save the lives of their families.  Lincoln justified this goal by asserting:

. . . I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy; nor do I urge objections of a moral nature, in view of possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South.

In issuing his Emancipation Proclamation as an incitement for a race war, Lincoln was continuing his policy of violating both the Constitution and international law.  Food and medicine had already been declared contraband.  Later, Lincoln issued “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field” (General Orders, No. 100, 1863), authorizing starvation and bombardment of Southern women and children.

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was “a practical war measure,” its enforcement was determined by whether it advanced Lincoln’s war effort.  As a consequence, when Lincoln’s Army arrived, “freed” Southern slaves often found themselves re-enslaved under the fiction of a one-year work contract.  They could suffer a loss of pay or rations for acts of laziness, disobedience, or insolence and had to obtain a pass to leave the plantation.  Provost marshals ensured that they displayed “faithful service, respectful deportment, correct discipline and perfect subordination.”  

Other “freed” Southern slaves found themselves forced to build installations and fortifications for Lincoln’s Army or were violently conscripted.

In a May 1862 report, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase was advised that 

The negroes were sad . . . Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off to the woods for refuge . . . This mode of [enlistment by] violent seizure is repugnant.

As late as February 7, 1865, Lincoln wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, operating in Kentucky: “Complaint is made to me that you are forcing negroes into the military service, and even torturing them.”

In The Plundering Generation, Ludwell H. Johnson summarized the real reasons for Lincoln’s violent opposition to the South’s independence:

Manufacturers feared the loss of American markets to a flood of cheap British goods pouring through a free-trade Confederacy; Northern shippers feared the loss of their monopoly of the coasting trade and their share of the trans-Atlantic carrying trade; merchants feared the loss of the profits they garnered as middlemen between the South and Europe; creditors feared the loss of Southern debts; the Old Northwest feared the loss or curtailment of the Mississippi trade; the Republicans feared the disintegration of their party should it let the South go and bring upon the North all of the consequences just mentioned.

Lincoln waged war on the South, however, to achieve more than preservation of the status quo.  War was the means to establish the North’s hegemony over the political and economic life of the United States.  War offered Lincoln, his party, and Northern special interests a continental empire to exploit.  And they did so with ruthless abandon.

In the North, Lincoln’s Congress imposed excise taxes on virtually all items; raised the protective tariff to the highest level in the country’s history (under the Morrill Act of 1861); issued paper currency (Legal Tender Act of 1862); awarded Northern railroad companies government loans and extensive land grants (Pacific Railway Act of 1862); unilaterally repealed Indian land claims; promoted settlement of Western lands by Northerners (Homestead Act of 1862); effectively “nationalized” the country’s financial institutions (National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864); and furnished Northern businesses with cheap labor (Contract Labor Law of 1864).

In the South, Congress authorized the theft of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars worth of Southern property (Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862, Direct Tax Act of 1862, and Captured and Abandoned Property Act of 1863).  The cotton, alone, that the North stole has been conservatively valued at $100 million.

This legalized robbery was in addition to the plundering by Lincoln’s Army.  In December 1864, Sherman wrote, “I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia . . . at $100,000,000; at least $20,000,000 of which has inured to our advantage, and the remainder is simple waste and destruction.”  

With Lincoln came the wholesale corruption of the political system.  In 1864, Edward Bates, Lincoln’s attorney general, lamented that “the demoralizing effect of this civil war is plainly visible in every department of life.  The abuse of official powers and thirst for dishonest gain are now so common that they cease to shock.”

As Henry S. Olcott, special investigator for the U.S. War and Navy Departments, revealed in The War’s Carnival of Fraud (1878), “at least twenty, if not twenty-five, percent of the entire expenditures of the government during the Rebellion, were tainted with fraud.”  Later estimates put the level of fraud involving Army contracts at 50 percent.

Such institutional corruption defines the post-constitutional America that Lincoln created.  The destruction of the Old Republic ensured the entrenchment of a permanent kleptocracy.  That is Lincoln’s legacy.  Since 1861, the United States has had a government of special interests, by special interests, and for special interests, dedicated to the proposition that their power and profits “shall not perish from the earth.”