Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I've never been very interested in the Civil War, which can be problematic now that I live in the south where nearly everyone is obsessed with it. But in this Salon piece from yesterday on secession (being considered by some in blue states), there was this paragraph about Lincoln. I didn't know any of this (yeah, I know, I'm ignorant about the Civil War) and it surprised me:

And if saving the union was Lincoln's sole purpose, then breaking the law appeared to be his method. One wonders what kind of union he hoped in the end to save. As DiLorenzo notes, Lincoln was the first and only president to suspend habeas corpus. He shut down hundreds of newspapers that preached peace or criticized his administration, arrested thousands of political dissenters en masse, censored telegraph communications, used federal troops to intervene in elections, even deported a congressional opponent. Church ministers too felt his heavy hand: They were threatened with imprisonment if they failed to include at the beginning of each service a prayer for Lincoln and the preservation of the union.

According to Edward S. Corwin, writing in 1947 in his book "Total War and the Constitution," Lincoln probably "invented" the war-powers doctrine that has since provided such convenient legal cover for militarist ventures issuing from the White House.


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