Midnight Rantings

Tired rantings in a tired world.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Happy President's Day

George Washington's birthday was in February. Abraham Lincoln's birthday, also in February, started being celebrated after his assassination in 1865. In 1968 the holiday created. Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays were lumped together. Comparison of the two men would show vastly differing ways of governing.

George Washington thought the Executive Branch of the federal government had little power. He formed the basics and built the executive branch from scratch. He firmly maintained America's neutrality in European wars. George Washington is not known as the Father of Our Country for nothing.

Abraham Lincoln has achieved near legend status. He was a masterful politician. He felt the question of secession was illegal and was willing to fight a war costing over 600,000 dead. The total US population was 31.5 million. Two percent of the US male population died. As a matter of fact, the population growth went down in the ten years between censuses. Thomas DiLorenzo points out that Lincoln was hated during his Presidency. In his article on LewRockwell.com (admittedly not an objective source), DiLorenzo points out how flawed Lincoln was. In this article DiLorenzo expounds on the myths of Lincoln.

My personal take on Lincoln was a man of naked ambition. He felt that a strong federal government was more important than small independent states. The legacy of the War of Secession continues today. The lasting effects of one group dominating another group is felt in every stereotype of the South. It was not until after World War II that the South began any real Reconstruction. Northerners were more concerned with punishment. Is the US stronger today than prior to the war? On a federal level. Many of the Founders felt the will of the states was more important than the will of the federal government. They feared a concentration of power in any group. They gave us the three branches of government, statehood (rather than provinces), electoral college, representative government. We are seeing a gradual erosion of these safeguards. Lincoln began much of this erosion. He used the executive branch and wielded greater power than any President prior.

As we celebrate President's Day, remember that Lincoln's cult of personality is very different from Lincoln the man. Although I do not advocate a tearing down of our national heroes, I think an honest reevaluation of the man is needed. Only through reevaluation and examination will we ever know the true Lincoln. Sadly, we associate Lincoln and Washington as the greatest Presidents our country has ever seen. The two men could not have more different, nor could they have had a different philosophy on the role of government. I would rather have a boatload of Washingtons to a single Lincoln.