Where Lincoln is concerned, no such schism exists. He is "considered by both historians and ordinary Americans to have been the greatest American president," says the taxpayer-supported website of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Oh, really? Tell that to Bragdon Bowling, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He won't be lighting any candles for Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12.I always find it fascinating that the people who want to reach into your bedrooms, hospital rooms and wombs, are always upset about some phantom liberal who supposedly wants to tell them how to live. But it seems to be based upon this odd idea that goes all the way back to the civil war that if a fellow American is not in 100% agreement that they are trying to inflict their "values" on others.
"Lincoln is responsible for the devastation of the founding principles of our country, and you can lay 600,000 bodies at his feet, the casualties of a totally unnecessary war," Bowling told me. As for the bicentennial, "It's just a continuation of the Lincoln myth-making paid for with public dollars."
Bowling sounds like an outlier crank, but south of the Mason-Dixon line his views aren't particularly radical. His anti-Lincoln line springs partly from popular culture, and partly from academic scholarship. In the marketplace of ideas the Lincoln-o-phobes lack the throw weight of, say, David Herbert Donald (of Lincoln, Mass.) or Doris Kearns Goodwin. But they are there, for those who want to hear them.
What's their beef? They view Lincoln as a cynical, self-serving politician with no particular aversion to slavery, who precipitated the Civil War, sorry - the War Against Southern Independence - to keep his Republican party in the White House. "It was all about power," Bowling observed at an anti-Lincoln rally in Richmond in 2003. "All so Lincoln and his friends could consolidate their power to tell other people how to live their lives."
Former University of South Carolina historian Clyde Wilson particularly objects to the beatification of the 16th president as a genial, all-knowing Christ figure trapped in a bloody hecatomb not of his own making. Writing on the website of the Abbeville Institute, a think tank for revisionist Southern scholarship, Wilson calls Lincoln "the tender-hearted leader who authorized ruthless terrorism against women and children, refused generous offers of prisoner exchange while declaring medicine a contraband of war, accepted Grant's costly policy of losing three men for every one Confederate killed, was not above keeping his own son out of harm's way, and invited his own fate by clandestinely organizing the attempted assassination of Jefferson Davis."
Wilson sent me a copy of a forthcoming anti-Lincoln article, timed to coincide with the bicentennial. Inter alia, it reserves particular scorn for Boston, whose citizens, Wilson believes, fanned the flames of war to ensure the economic hegemony of the industrial North over the agrarian South. Yankee hypocrisy is a favorite target: "New England shippers got rich in the illegal African slave trade to Cuba and Brazil right up to The War and Bostonians owned slave sugar plantations in Cuba even after The War," he writes.
Wilson even assails Ms. Julia Ward Howe of Mt. Vernon Street, for the "bigotry and blasphemy" of her composition, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." "She subsumes Christ to her secular vengeance and conquest," he explained to me. That's a little rich, I'd say.
By "the left" I'm including almost the entire Democratic Party, you can count the exceptions on your fingers, you can name them, Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman...The whole mainstream of the party is engaged in an effort that is a betrayal of America, what they care about is not winning the war on terror...I don't think they care about the danger to us as Americans or the danger to people in other countries. They care about power.That's right. Everyone in the Democratic party was engaged in an effort to betray America because they only care about power. Just like Lincoln and the northerners. I suspect that projection is the foundation of this ongoing sense of conservative victimization. They have to quiet the voices in their own heads by shutting up those who disagree with them.