Conservative historian M.E. Bradford was deeply concerned by the ongoing deification and cult status of Lincoln, and how Yankee idolatry of him had so blurred the history, nature and consequences of the war “as to render Lincoln impervious to serious criticism.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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Lincoln’s War to Prevent Self-Government
“As [historian] Frank Owlsey complained in 1946, there was afoot in this land, “what seems to me a Lincoln cult bordering on pagan deification which is taking place in the popular mind of the North”; and it has been seriously inspired by serious scholars, who have allowed their emotions and bias to overemphasize certain elements and minimize others.”
In his essay on “A Southerner’s View of Abraham Lincoln,” Owsley’s principal complaint was not that Lincoln lacked moral scruples, but that he frequently exercised poor judgment – as seen, for example, in *his refusal to accept the Crittenden Compromise and in his naïve, persistent belief that the people of the South would never support their leaders in a war of secession.
*Though he did approve of the original 13th amendment. BT.
|I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment,
however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the
Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions
of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid
misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to
speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a
provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to
its being made express and irrevocable.
First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, Monday, March 4, 1861
Lincoln, argued Owsley, never fully grasped the depth of Southern patriotism or the magnitude of the war, until it was too late to compromise. By denying the South the right to self-government, Lincoln also subverted the democratic principles of the document he so often cited as authority for his constitutional views – the Declaration of Independence. “It seems ironic to Southerners that the United States,” observed Owsley, “a nation based upon the right of the people to live under a government of their choice, should make war to prevent a people – the South – from living under a government of their choice.”
No less charitable with respect to Lincoln’s motives and moral reasoning, Donald Davidson also questioned Lincoln’s political acumen . . . asserting that the emancipator foolishly made war on his own ideas and objectives, ruining both the South and the North while creating an America he did not want.
[M.E.] Bradford persuasively demonstrated [that Lincoln] was more than simply wrong-headed; he was “dishonest” and “duplicitous” “pseudo-Puritan,” a disingenuous “opportunist” guilty of “calculated posturing,” “historical distortions,” and “high crime”; he was indeed “the American Caesar of his age.” “It is at our peril,” Bradford cautioned, “that we continue to reverence his name.”
M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 45-46)