I should kick off by explaining that I’m perfectly aware that Lincoln’s lies are not property of Spielberg. When I call this review “Father Abraham of Lies,” I’m referring to two fib factories, neither of which are Hollywood: 1) the historians that have been duping innocent (and ignorant and gullible) Americans ever since before the War began; and 2) “Honest” Abe himself, who was as sneaky, conniving, dishonest, and manipulative as your stereotypical lawyer and politician combined.
Now, many of my friends admire Lincoln and support the cause of the North, and these are friendships I would like to keep. But virtually all of my friends are opposed to our nanny state and its federally justified evils today, and I would ask that if that is you, keep reading. If you’re for biblical liberty, keep reading. If you hate our nation’s legalized abortion, keep reading — because we’re going to be looking at the roots of all this pussyfooting around the Constitution.
None of what I write here is intended to separate friend from friend, only truth from lie. Because, bottom line, there’s probably more truth in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter than in this movie.
It’s polite, I suppose, to start with the positive stuff. I don’t have many nits to pick with Lincoln’s impressive production or Tony Kushner’s well-paced, gripping, dialogue-powered screenplay. Steven Spielberg proves his worth once again (nice recovery from War Horse, because even Tintin couldn’t quite make up for it last year) and makes me think he should work with Kushner more often. John Williams (another nice recovery from War Horse) takes the back seat here, stepping in only every now and then with perfectly timed (if unduly noble) strings and horns reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, but more often fiddle and piano that enrich the period feel.
The film’s starry supporting cast is another huge appeal, especially Tommy Lee Jones as the bold, abrasive, and unscrupulous Thaddeus Stevens. Sally Field is wondrously tiresome as Mrs. Lincoln, though only enough to become a dripping faucet. Her borderline hysteria is still too normal for the woman who would later be committed to an insane asylum. As for Joseph Gordon Levitt, he is familiarly solid, but is somewhat overqualified for the story’s small contribution from Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son, and makes you wonder if somehow most of his scenes are going to show up in the “deleted” specials on the DVD.
But as everyone knew from the minute casting was announced, the movie’s real claim to fame is Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s the kind of out-of-this-world thespian who should probably win an Oscar for every movie he makes, and yet the fact that his shapeshifting from role to role (thanks, in part, to aggressive method acting) has been legendary for years doesn’t prepare you for how he reincarnates himself here as Abraham Lincoln.
The gentle, wiry gait, the sunken chest and hunched shoulders of a reedy giant (Lincoln was over half a foot taller than the average male), the high, wavering tenor which DDL had to defend to Americans who had imagined their favorite president with a booming voice — he’s the photographs brought to life without any of the campy theatrics that would be so easy with such a colossal historical figure. You don’t just recognize your own imagination of Lincoln; you completely forget you’re watching a modern, Irish-accented Brit who spends most of his time avoiding movie sets altogether. “Plenty of performers can change their accent, posture or waistline to suit the part,” says one reviewer on TIME Entertainment. “Day-Lewis alone seems capable of remolding his larynx and vocal cords.” He stayed in character so relentlessly that Joseph Gordon-Levitt said he never met the real Daniel until after the entire movie had been shot, when suddenly the 16th President was just a normal guy in jeans and a T-shirt.
Why the overkill? Well, it isn’t, really, if you look at the results. But Day-Lewis has his own answer to that: “I don’t think I’m a good enough actor to be able to not do it this way.”
So far, two thumbs up.
Everything else about the movie is treacherous, unpatriotic, and wrong.
The movie follows the well-worn footsteps of nearly all our modern history books in telling two big lies: that the War Between the States was fought to free the slaves, and that Abraham Lincoln was some kind of kindly, avuncular yet savvy patriot who did his country a great service by “saving the Union.” Neither of those are anywhere near the truth. If those statements were standing on, say, the head of the Lincoln Memorial, the truth would be somewhere out past Pluto. (Pretend it’s still a planet.) Let me explain.
The war was not fought to free slaves.
The war did indeed result in the freeing of slaves, but that was not why Lincoln invaded the South.
1. Racism in the North.
For one thing, the racist North could hardly have been induced to go to war for black people whom they (for the most part) did not care about. Despite little hot pockets of abolitionist fervor, the North was overwhelmingly prejudiced against blacks with racism that was “virulent, scientific, modern, and cruel” (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, p. 86). Pick a Northerner, any Northerner. Odds are, he couldn’t have cared less about the welfare of the slaves, because the majority of Northerners treated the blacks in their midst with contempt, ridicule, discrimination, and even violence (Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln, p. 25). Blacks were institutionally deprived of of the most fundamental human freedoms: they could not earn a lawful living in any kind of business; they had no voting rights, which left them vulnerable to political plunder; and they had no right to defend themselves in court, which left them wide open to criminal abuse by whites (27). Thirty years before the war, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known” (Democracy in America, p. 402).
2. The Non-Emancipating Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln was himself a white supremacist who insisted several times, right up to the war, that he had no right to free the slaves. In his inaugural address, he reminded his audience what he had promised in his first debate with Stephen Douglas on August 21, 1858: “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.”
In his public letter to Horace Greeley on August 22, 1862 (more than a year after the supposed “war to end slavery” had begun), Lincoln emphasized that he still did not care about emancipation except as a means to forcing secessionists to stay in the Union: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” (Note that while Lincoln made clear his apathy towards the blacks, he was already going back on his promise in his inaugural address to leave slavery alone. At least as early as mid-1862, he thus showed himself openly prepared to ignore the Constitution and assume dictatorial powers. Indeed, he had already done as much.)
When Lincoln finally did give the Emancipation Proclamation, it wasn’t until the war had been going on for almost two years, and even then, it did not free a single slave. The proclamation applied only to rebel territory (where it had no effect) and specifically exempted by name the federally occupied states (Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, and many counties of Virginia) where it actually could have made an impact. As DiLorenzo analyzes: “Lincoln, one of the nation’s preeminent lawyers, was careful to craft the proclamation in a way that would guarantee that it would not emancipate any slaves” (36).
The Emancipation Proclamation was merely a war measure. Lincoln himself admitted as much: “Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game! I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy….[For] I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue the enemy” (The Lincoln Reader, pp. 407, 409). Lincoln was desperate to apply the screws to the South and turn the tables of a war he was inches away from losing, so he issued a proclamation in the hopes of sparking a revolt among the slaves and causing even more upheaval in the South. The war didn’t exist for the Emancipation Proclamation; the Emancipation Proclamation existed for the war.
3. Reactions to the “Nigger War.”
Most Northerners were shocked and outraged at the proclamation because their government had never told them that they had been fighting and dying by the tens of thousands for black slaves (DiLorenzo, p. 43). Race riots shook New York City as whites protested the proclamation in January, 1863. Worse than that were the assaults and murders of blacks when Lincoln issued his new conscription law in March. Mobs set fire to the orphanage for black children and began attacking black men and boys in the tenement district (The New York City Draft Riots, pp. 11, 5). (Tidbit: These riots are featured in the end of the film Gangs of New York, in which Daniel Day-Lewis plays a vicious Lincoln-hater.)
Colonel Arthur Fremantle, the British emissary to the Confederacy, was an eyewitness to these riots:
The reports of outrages, hangings, and murder, were now most alarming, the terror and anxiety were universal. All shops were shut: all carriages and omnibuses had ceased running. No colored man or woman was visible or safe in the streets, or even in his own dwelling. Telegraphs were cut, and railroad tracks torn up. The draft was suspended, and the mob evidently had the upper hand. The people who can’t pay $300 [to avoid the draft] naturally hate being forced to fight in order to liberate the very race who they are most anxious should be slaves. It is their direct interest not only that all slaves should remain slaves, but that the free Northern Negroes who compete with them for labor should be sent to the South also. (Three Months in the Southern States: April-June 1863, p. 215, emphasis added)
The Emancipation Proclamation caused a desertion crisis as more than 200,000 Federal soldiers fled. “Plenty of soldiers believed that the proclamation had changed the purpose of the war,” writes James McPherson. “They professed to feel betrayed. They were willing to risk their lives for the Union, they said, but not for black freedom” (What They Fought For: 1861-1865, p. 63). “If emancipation is to be the policy of this war,” said one officer, “I do not care how quick the country goes to pot” (60-61). Another officer declared that “I don’t want to fire another shot for the Negroes and I wish that all the abolitionists were in hell….I do not fight or want to fight for Lincoln’s Negro proclamation one day longer” (For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought the Civil War, pp. 122-24). Soldiers insisted that the war had “turned into a ‘nigger war’ and all [were] anxious to return to their homes, for it was to preserve the Union that they volunteered” (123).
If the war was fought to free slaves, why didn’t Lincoln say so at the beginning? Why did he wait two years before bringing up anything about emancipation? Why didn’t that emancipation actually emancipate? Why did the North react so strongly to this new “nigger war”? Could it be because the war was actually about something else entirely?
Yes, it was. And its result would enslave far more men than it ever set free.
The war was fought over the biblical meaning of constitutional government.
In a nutshell, the Southern States wished to preserve the biblical form of government as established by the Founding Fathers and laid out in the Constitution. Lincoln’s agenda was the complete opposite. To put it bluntly, he was on a quest for an empire — a centralized government armed with powers beyond those expressly granted it by the Constitution. That is what put Lincoln and the South on a collision course, because the South was prepared to exercise its constitutional right of secession in order to avoid such an empire. The bloodiest of our wars occurred because Lincoln ignored the covenantal nature of the Constitution when he decided to keep the States in the Union by force (Wilson, 45, footnote).
As Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens explained: “The War had its origins in opposing principles, which…lay in the organic structure of the government of the States….The contest was between those who held [the government] to be strictly federal in it character, and those who maintained that it was thoroughly national. It was a strife between the principles of federation, on the one side, and centralism, or consolidation, on the other” (A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States, p. 10, emphasis original).
The Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist debate had been going on ever since Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had the floor, and the South recognized the first steps towards a federal government of “unlimited powers” — the very thing which Jefferson opposed (p. 484), and the very thing the colonies had left in the first place. The oven was preheating long before 1861. Thirty years earlier, South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun put it this way: “The naked question is, whether ours is a federal or consolidated government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting solidly on the basis of the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones, in which injustice, violence, and force must ultimately prevail” (Fort Hill Address, July 26, 1831).
That is the kind of Union the Southern states fought to leave. And that is the Union to which Lincoln forced them to bow their necks. DiLorenzo summarizes it forcefully:
Lincoln sugarcoated the centralization of governmental power by repeatedly referring to it as ‘saving the Union.’ But the union could only be ‘saved,’ according to Lincoln’s definition, by destroying the highly decentralized, voluntary union of states that was established by the founding fathers at the constitutional convention and replacing it with a coercive union that was kept in place, literally, at gunpoint. That was Lincoln’s real agenda. (53, emphasis original)
The right of secession, as protected by the Constitution, was the states’ last check on a tyrannical government, and it was this right which Lincoln squashed. The irony here is knee-buckling. The Founding Fathers considered the right of secession to be the fundamental principal of political philosophy, as they showed in the Declaration of Independence (which wasn’t anything if not a declaration of secession): “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Pretty much the most un-American thing the government could ever do would be to refuse her own States the very freedom for which they had fought and died.
On top of that, less than fifteen years before the War, a certain congressman declared: “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. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.” The speaker was Abraham Lincoln.
The idea of forcing States to remain in a Union which had been created voluntarily by those same States was shocking and repugnant to just about everyone. Even Alexander Hamilton, who pushed fiercely for the consolidation of governmental powers, had spoken against the idea at the Constitutional Convention:
To coerce the States is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised….What picture does this idea present to our view? A complying State at war with a non-complying State: Congress marching the troops of one State into the bosom of another? Here is a nation at war with itself. Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself — a government that can exist only by the sword?
The Northerners were also largely in favor of allowing the Southern states to secede peacefully. And some of them were just as insightful as their Southern brothers as to where Lincoln’s refusal was leading: “The right of secession…must be maintained less we establish a colossal despotism against which the founding fathers uttered their solemn warnings” (Providence Evening Press, November 17, 1860). Opposing 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” (New York Journal of Commerce, January 12, 1861). “An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in extent” (Detroit Free Press, February 19, 1861).
Fifty-seven years later, H. L. Mencken said as much in his critique of the hogwash in the Gettysburg Address:
It is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the Battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision of the rest of the country.
After the 13th Amendment passes (through lies, bribery, and cheating) towards the end of the film, the Northerners are shown rejoicing in the streets, singing:
The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
Sitting in the theater, I felt my stomach clench. Then and now, for Americans to laud “the Union” and “freedom” in the same verse is blind confusion. Lincoln, that champion of Constitution sidestepping, trampled on the Founding Fathers’ true union of free and willing States during his entire administration, and transformed it into a tyrannous “Union” that continues his abuses, and more, to this day.
Lincoln was a dictator, not a hero
The Rebels had the same tune as the Yankees, but different words. This is how one of their verses went; I wish they’d been allowed to sing it in the movie:
They have laid down their lives on the bloody battle field.
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Their motto is resistance — “To the tyrants never yield!”
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
To the tyrants never yield. What I wish to show here is that Lincoln was more than a slick politician: he was a power-hog, an abuser of the Constitution (some of which I’ve already covered), and a tyrant. Does that sound too strong? Consider the praise from Lincoln-admirer Clinton Rossiter, who writes in Constitutional Dictatorship that Lincoln “was the government of the United States” and that “he acted on no precedent and under no restraint…He thereby saved the Union” (emphasis added).
Consider also what else you would call a president who suspended constitutional liberty (in the North, no less) for his entire administration, launched a military invasion without the consent of Congress, declared martial law, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, imprisoned thousands of Northern citizens without trial for simply opposing his policies, censored all telegraph communication, imprisoned dozens of dissenting newspaper publishers, used Federal troops to meddle with elections in the North by intimidating Democratic voters, approved the waging of total war on civilians, and effectively gutted the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. All of this is acknowledged by many Lincoln scholars. Like Rossiter, they even openly acknowledge that he was a dictator. What’s appalling is that they justify it.
Let’s dig into this.
1. Suspension of Habeas Corpus
On April 27, 2861, Lincoln issued a declaration that he was suspending the writ of habeas corpus, which was justified (in his mind) because he viewed the South’s struggle as an insurrection. He ordered the military to suspend the constitutional liberties of citizens: the right to speedy public trial, the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, the right to be confronted with witnesses against them, and the right to legal counsel. This suspension was in effect throughout his administration.
And enforce it the military did. Anyone who raised objections to Lincoln’s war or even his domestic policies was viewed as a possible “traitor,” and could be arrested and imprisoned without further ado. Lincoln established a secret police force under Secretary of State William Seward (played by David Strathairn, left) which made thousands of arrests, sometimes on the mere suspicion of disloyalty (“disloyalty” conveniently defined as any objection to Lincoln’s tactics). In 1862, a New Orleans man was executed for tearing down a U.S. flag. The total number, as historians generally agree, was more than 13,000 political prisoners imprisoned during Lincoln’s administration. So many of them were housed in Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor that the fort became known as the “American Bastille.”
2. Suppression of the Press
Shortly after the war began, Lincoln ordered the Postmaster General to deny delivery to over a hundred Northern newspapers who had editorialized against going to war. Mobs, even mobs of Federal soldiers, were allowed to ransack offices and destroy the property of newspapers that were critical of President Lincoln (DiLorenzo, p. 147). In February 1862, the government began censoring all telegraph communications as well.
Francis Key Howard, the grandson of Francis Scott Key and editor of The Baltimore Exchange, was arrested on September 13, 1861 for criticizing Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, but was never charged or tried. He was imprisoned at Fort McHenry for over a year — the very place where his grandfather had composed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Howard later wrote of this irony: “The flag which he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”
3. Waging War on Civilians
Historian James Randall writes that the South was ruled by a “military regime” whose commanders often made “severe and sweeping orders.” Summary arrests were made; newspapers were suppressed; land was condemned; railroads were taken over; private houses were commandeered; banks were forbidden to give out Confederate money; ministers were arrested and imprisoned; church services were closed; public assemblages were suppressed; property was seized; citizens refusing the oath of loyalty were threatened with deportation; and hundreds of churches were put to the torch (Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln, pp. 148, 225-26).
As the war dragged on, Lincoln abandoned international law and the U.S. military’s own code and began waging total war. Vandalism was rampant; the eyewitness reports are too many to quote here, but this one stands out:
Great three-story houses furnished magnificently were broken into and their contents scattered over the floors and trampled on by the muddy feet of the soldiers. Splendid alabaster vases and pieces of statuary were thrown at 6 and 700 dollar mirrors. Closets of the very finest china were broken into and their contents smashed onto the floor and stamped to pieces. Finest cut glass ware goblets were hurled at nice plate glass windows, beautifully embroidered window curtains were torn down, rose-wood pianos piled in the street and burned or soldiers would get on top of them and kick the keyboard and internal machinery all to pieces. (The Hard Hand of War, p. 108)
And everyone knows the horrors that crippled town after town under Sherman, Sheridan, Grant, and others. “Every time the telegraph wire was cut we would burn a house,” reported Colonel John Beatty of his warning to the residents of Paint Rock, Alabama; “every time a train was fired upon we would hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport.” In the end, the entire town was burned to the ground (The Hard Hand of War, p. 80).
“Extermination,” said Sherman, describing his intentions to his wife. “Extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”
Did Lincoln personally endorse all this? Did he even know what was going on? How could a president who is praised now (and grumbled at then) for micromanaging the war, who “spent more time in the War Department telegraph office than anywhere else except the White House itself” (66), not know what was going on? Beyond that, he visited with Sherman personally and “wanted to know all about Sherman’s marches, particularly enjoying stories about the [looters] and their foraging activities” (Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order, p. 336).
Lincoln responded to several bitter military defeats by pulling a major strategy change designed to strike the South at home. It was calculated, it was deliberate, and it worked. But none of this is shown in Lincoln. Too bad. Because Daniel Day-Lewis makes an awesome villain.
Conclusion: The War Isn’t Over
America’s worship of Abraham Lincoln isn’t simply childish and silly, it’s ghastly and dangerous. H. L. Mencken was spot-on when he described him as “the American solar myth, the chief butt of American credulity and sentimentality….The varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting Abe into a plaster saint…, a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost” (Chrestomathy, pp. 221-22).
Steven Spielberg’s film manages to rub off just a bit of the glow of Lincoln’s halo, but in such a way that actually does more harm. Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln is conflicted about the Emancipation Proclamation and several other unconstitutional measures, but he deems that they are all necessary to achieve the master goal: winning the war and saving the Union. And that is all that matters. His men had better get on board, because “I am the President of the United States, clothed in immense power,” as he seethes in one of his most striking scenes.
The movie isn’t as blind as some history stories to Lincoln’s hatchet job on the Constitution, but its honorific portrayal of Lincoln’s faults as virtues is actually far more damaging than covering up his sins could ever have been. The movie doesn’t have a tagline, but it should: the ends justify the means. That is the moral of the story, and it is portrayed as funny, as necessary, but above all, as surpassingly noble.
But the ends never justify the means. God justifies the means, or else they are not justified. And in this case, I would argue that He justifies neither the ends nor the means. Lincoln’s end was to create a mammoth Federal government bristling with powers never granted it by the Constitution. His means were tyranny, revolution, and a war that slaughtered 620,000 of his own people. In today’s population, that would be roughly 5 million dead — nearly 100 times the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. One out of every four white Southern males between the ages 20 and 40 died from the war, which today would amount to 8.4 million men (DiLorenzo, pp. 52-53).
Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham, who was later imprisoned for his “treason,” declared prophetically:
Let this terrible truth be proclaimed everywhere, that whenever, either through infraction and usurpation by the President, or by violence, the Constitution is no longer of binding force and the highest rule of action, then we are at the mercy of mere power…. This is despotism, absolute, unmixed, cruel despotism — a despotism enforcing its orders today by arbitrary imprisonments, and tomorrow by bloody executions. (The Record of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham on Abolition, the Union, and the Civil War, p. 142)
If you think that the despotism which Vallandigham decried ended with the war or with Reconstruction, think again. Look at where we are now, look at our nation’s grossest sins, and ask how we got here. I’ll pick what is probably the biggest: abortion. We’re coming up on the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. For the past forty years, we have legally murdered over fifty million unborn children under the “protection” of the Constitution.
This is like playing a Sudoku puzzle where you make one wrong move, and suddenly, you can’t trust any of your moves. Finding the first mistake is key. Where did we go wrong? When did we take the misstep that allowed our Constitution to be so grotesquely abused? When did it become this elastic plaything, this bad piece of postmodern poetry that can mean both A and non-A? When did the federal authorities decide to treat it as a blank screen onto which they could project whatever the hell they wanted?
Lincoln’s despotic approach had everything to do with it. Roe v. Wade was made possible by the outcome of the War Between States, for since the Constitution was left in virtual tatters by Lincoln’s regime, the Supreme Court could now overturn many state laws against abortion (Wilson, pp. 68, 107). Jeffrey Hummel confirms this in his book Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, where he says of the Fourteenth Amendment: “No other constitutional innovation has proved more momentous. It extended from the national to the state governments nearly all the restrictions on government power contained in the Bill of Rights. Thus at a single stroke it subjected much state legislation to federal review” (p. 301, emphasis added). This is exactly what happened on January 22, 1973. “An overweening and arrogant federal government mandated the deaths of millions of Americans, and that states did not believe themselves to be in a position to resist the decree” (Wilson, p. 68). This legal abomination could not have happened before the Constitution was so molested.
If you’re wondering why all this time has been spent rehashing a war that ended nearly 150 years ago, a war which many feel like we should just bury and forget, my answer is that this war isn’t over. Our battles in 2012 are just a later campaign in the same war. It’s all the same wretched chess game, a thousand wretched moves later, which means that not only is the fighting far from finished, but we won’t understand how to fight or what to fight for unless we understand why we lost in the 1860s and regain what we were fighting for then.
The war isn’t over, but we are still losing. We’re losing because we’ve swallowed the lies slandering those soldiers who have died ahead of us, we’ve lost sight of our flag, and we don’t even know where to point our guns. The answer is surprisingly non-militaristic, and that is repentance. But though it is not militaristic, it is far from impotent. Nothing more powerful or more necessary has ever been set before us: to drop our lies, to drop our sins, and to pick up the truth that sets men free. That truth is nothing short of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in whose salvation is our only true freedom, no matter what despotism chains us or what tyrant plays God.