This essay was originally published in Southern Partisan Magazine, 1985.
A priceless magazine that is unfortunately, no longer published. Such a shame.
|Southern Partisan Magazine|
Historians have long misinterpreted the responses of Europeans to the events of the American War Between the States. One of the earliest cases in point was Karl Marx, who considered himself a scientific historian and a knowledgeable commentator on the great American Crisis. Writing on December 12, 1862, about the Emancipation Proclamation, Marx praised Lincoln’s capacity to “accomplish the most significant things in the least conspicuous way possible.” Marx was convinced that Lincoln would win the hearts and minds of the European working class by making a morally compelling case for the Union. However snidely English newspapers treated Lincoln’s rustic manners, Marx was convinced that European workers and progressives would rally to support the Great Emancipator.
Marx’s view of Lincoln is puzzling for at least two reasons. One, Marx claimed to be an historical materialist who saw ideas as derivative from economic circumstances. Yet, in the matter of refounding the American regime, he had faith in the power of Lincoln’s hidden moral vision to touch everywhere proletariat souls. This would occur, or so Marx believed, despite the military-strategic purpose of the Proclamation and despite the resentment of millworkers in Lancashire and in other English industrial centers left jobless because of the Northern blockade of the cotton-producing South.
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