Given those precedents, what sane person could possibly deny the same right of secession to Americans who withdrew consent from the federal government? Early in the 19th century, Northern rather than Southern states threatened to secede. Vermont considered secession in order to register its extreme disgust at the – whose champion, Thomas Jefferson, knew was unconstitutional and who throughout his life affirmed the right of any state to dissolve the bonds of Union. Further, Massachusetts threatened to secede as a protest against the , the War of 1812 and the annexation of Texas in 1845. On none of these occasions did any Southerner (or any American of any description) threaten Yankees with invasion. When Texans seceded from Mexico, no American doubted their right to do so and to join the Union. Quite the contrary: all insisted that they had such a right, and that no Mexican had any right to stop them. But to Lincoln and his henchmen, freedom of association did not permit freedom of disassociation: hence Southerners (including Texans) could join but couldn’t depart the Union. Like the insect in the Venus Flytrap and the guest at the Hotel California, you’re free to enter but you can never leave.
The truth, however, is that in 1861 the principle of freedom of association and right of secession was as widely understood and affirmed in the North as it was in the South. As The Brooklyn Daily Eagle editorialised on 13 November 1860, the Union “depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the sovereign people of each state, and when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their Union is gone.” The New York Journal of Commerce concurred. On 12 January 1861 it warned that a coerced Union, one in which states were forcibly restrained from secession, would change the nature of government from “a voluntary one, in which the people are sovereigns, to a despotism where one part of the people are slaves” (see also John Remington Graham, A Constitutional History of Secession, Pelican, 2002).
Lincoln the dictator
A fourth blatant lie, cherished by Republicans, is the assertion that Lincoln was a “Defender of the Constitution.” The polar opposite is true: Lincoln was a tyrant and the despoiler par excellence of the Constitution. Generations of historians have accurately labelled him a “dictator.” “Dictatorship played a decisive role in the North’s successful effort to maintain the Union by force of arms,” wrote Clinton Rossiter in Constitutional Dictatorship (first published in 1948). “Lincoln’s amazing disregard for the Constitution was considered by nobody as legal.”
James G. Randall documented Dishonest Abe’s assault upon law and liberty in Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln (first published in 1926). Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and ordered the military to arrest tens of thousands of political opponents. At his command, but without a shred of legal authority, ca. 300 newspapers were closed and all telegraphic communications censored; elections in the North were rigged; throughout the Union, Democratic voters were intimidated; ; West Virginia was unconstitutionally carved out of Virginia; and the most outspoken member of the Democratic Party opposition, Congressman of Ohio, was deported. For good measure, duly-elected members of the Maryland legislature were gaoled, as was the mayor of Baltimore and a Maryland Congressman. In total disregard of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, inhabitants of Border States (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia) were disarmed, and wherever Lincoln’s evil tentacles could spread, private property was confiscated.
A fifth lie is that Lincoln was a “great humanitarian” who bore “malice towards none.” The truth is that Lincoln planned and managed a total war upon Southern civilians (see in particular Mark Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War, Cambridge University Press, 1997). Like Robert Mugabe today and sordid host of dictators during the 20th century, Lincoln ordered his troops to murder women and children. His war included the destruction of entire towns populated solely by civilians, massive looting, rape and execution without trial (or even charge) of non-combatants. To this day, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s (November-December 1864) remains the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil (see, for example, "" by Clyde Wilson). Americans would be wise to remove their blinds and recall that this evil act was perpetrated by the agents of the U.S. Government at the vengeful behest of a Republican president. Sherman wrote on 24 December: “We are not only fighting armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organised armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect.” Using the rules established by the Allies after the Second World War, Lincoln and the high command of the Union Army unquestionably qualified as war criminals.
A sixth lie, perhaps the most despicable of all, is that the War of Northern Aggression was necessary. Only war, say its mythologisers and apologists, could have ended slavery. The truth, of course, is that it was a war of choice and not of necessity. This war, the deadliest in American history, caused the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number (but possibly as many as 250,000) of civilians. Approximately one in four adult, white male Southerners perished. And it was all for nothing. During the 19th century, dozens of countries, including the British, Russian and Spanish empires, abolished the indefensible institution of slavery. They did so peacefully and by means of compensated emancipation. Among the countries of the Western Hemisphere that followed this route were Argentina, Colombia, Chile, all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, various French colonies, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Only in the Land of the Free is war and the destruction of property and constitution regarded as a necessary condition of emancipation. Whether in the American South or the Middle East, Republicans, it seems, have to destroy a country in order to deliver it.
Abraham Lincoln, then, was not the Great Emancipator: he was the Great Warmonger and Imperialist, the Great Racist, the Great Taxer-and-Spender, the Great Corruptionist, the Great Incarcerator and the Great Vandal of the Constitution. He was a war criminal and America’s worst-ever president.