Written by Doug Tjaden and republished with permission.
Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has intentionally modeled himself after President Abraham Lincoln. He uses a similar style of rhetoric, and has gone so far as to adopt some of Lincoln’s travel patterns in order to create a symbolic link to him. Obama and his handlers want the public to connect him with one of America’s most well-known presidents.
We are now well into Obama’s second term. If he believes he is indeed the “second coming” of Lincoln, the American people should understand the truth of what the Lincoln presidency meant to this nation. Because thus far, Obama’s presidency is paralleling that of Lincoln’s in ways the unsuspecting, Lincoln-adoring, public may not comprehend.
Despite a century of monopolistic narrative that has defined the Lincoln presidency, a small group of authors and scholars are having their voices heard above the din. The facts they are uncovering are reshaping the debate on why the states went to war under Lincoln.
Lincoln’s distaste ran deep for the existing political climate, where Jeffersonian state sovereignty dominated. Throughout his political career, Lincoln firmly advocated for a Hamiltonian, consolidated central government that would oversee a single “union” of states. Given the chance, he would do everything in his power to replace what he viewed as a destructive flaw in the Constitution.
His position added fuel to the hostile political climate present when he took office. States had been debating for decades over economic and moral issues, such as tariffs and slavery. Lincoln’s desire for a controlling central government put him at odds with Jefferson and Madison’s doctrine of state nullification, as expressed in the 1798 Kentucky and Virginia resolutions.
Both northern and southern states had engaged in nullification prior to the Lincoln presidency.
- In 1809, the Massachusetts legislature, along with other New England states, nullified President Jefferson’s embargo on trade during the conflict between France and Britain, calling it “unjust, oppressive, and unconstitutional.”
- During the War of 1812, nullification was used by the states to overturn federal conscription laws.
- During the 1830s it was used to nullify tariffs.
- Prior to the Civil War, nullification was used to stand against the grossly immoral fugitive slave laws.
The Founders’ doctrine of “divided sovereignty” did not fit with Lincoln’s misguided belief that it was “the whole people” who adopted the Constitution, and that as such, once joined, a state could never leave the union. This factual error in his thinking led to his tragic insistence that the union must be “preserved at all costs.”
In Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he made his position clear; “A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted. I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments.”
This is in direct contrast to the Declaration of Independence, which states, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [to secure our liberty], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The remainder of Lincoln’s first inaugural address is centered on the word “Union.” Lincoln was obsessed with preserving his vision of a single union, to the point that, despite numerous assurances to the contrary, he took the nation to war.
Political opposition to his quest was not tolerated. During the height of the Civil War, Lincoln unconstitutionally suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and without due process, imprisoned thousands of political dissenters, including politicians and those in the press. This unconstitutional act is glossed over by Lincoln “scholars” as a necessary evil that he had to impose in order to win the war and preserve the union.
Win the war he did. The states’ right to self-government were annihilated by his victory, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. Dean Sprague summed it up in Freedom Under Lincoln: “States’ rights, which prior to 1860 had been as important a part of northern beliefs as southern, were overturned” by Lincoln’s victory.
But that was the point, wasn’t it? More historians are coming to that conclusion.
Parallels of Peril?
Like the mid 1850s, today we live in an era of immense division between the people of this nation. This time it is not defined as much by geography, as it is ideology. Yet, the foundational issues are the same. Moral and economic issues dominate the debate, with little common ground to be found.
Overseeing this division is a president who believes in a central government so strong and dominating, that it should control nearly every aspect of our lives. During his first term, Obama aggressively built upon the foundation his idol laid for him. Like his predecessor, he has demonstrated that he will not hesitate to use the tools at his disposal to silence political opposition. Today, that includes the mainstream media, the IRS, and the NSA.
The military chain of command is being systematically purged of those who do not align with this administration’s vision of a fascist/socialist utopia. Big business and big banks are given legal protections that act as quasi-tariffs, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Issues of morality, such as abortion and non-traditional marriage, are doggedly guarded as sacred, and any dissenting opinion is labeled “hate speech.” And last, but not least, just as in the 1850s, the issue of race is being used to consolidate political power.
There Is Hope
States are once again beginning to take fledgling steps to recapture the Founders’ vision of “divided sovereignty.” The current occupant of the White House has obstacles that Lincoln didn’t have. The first Lincoln did not have the alternative media, which continues to expose the lies and hypocrisy of the second Lincoln.
The first Lincoln also did not have to deal with organizations like the Tenth Amendment Center, which has a national platform from which to educate citizens on states’ rights, and lead in the restoration of the doctrine of nullification.
Mike Maharrey, communications director of the Tenth Amendment Center, writes in his book, Our Last Hope, “If we ever want to wrest control and power away from Washington D.C. and place the federal government back into its properly prescribed role, the people must take control of their state governments and demand that they serve as a check on federal power, as they were intended to do.”
It is working. Federal laws ranging from REAL ID, to medical marijuana, to gun control, have been nullified by several states in the past few years. Laws to nullify Obamacare and the NSA will be introduced, and likely passed, in 2014.
However, recall that we have a president who has throughout his career, modeled himself after a president that did more to destroy states’ rights than any other in history. What does that say about our future?
The current pushback against nullification has only begun. Will it again lead to calls for secession? If so, President Obama has clearly signaled that he is of the same mold as the man that took this nation to war with itself in order to preserve his beloved union. For those who naively see only the parallels between Obama and Lincoln that the mainstream media wants you to see, you had better dig a little deeper into your history. You may be getting something much different than you bargained for.