I have always found it better to seek the truth about American history and deal with the reality of it—no matter how distasteful the truth might be—than to attempt to cleanse our national conscience by resorting to lame rationalizations and historically questionable myths. For example, consider the issue of slavery. The historical truth is that our Founders blew it on this issue. As Americans we are still suffering the after effects of having fought a war with Great Britain to secure freedom and liberty while denying those same God-given rights to black people, some of whom fought alongside white soldiers in that war.
But slavery is not something most Americans are comfortable talking about. Some would like to just sweep slavery under the carpet and pretend it never happened, while others want to blame every social problem associated with black Americans on the evil institution. The former like to pretend that slavery ceased to be an issue 148 years ago, while the latter like to use it as an excuse for the high rates of crime, poverty, fatherless families, drugs, and dropout rates in the black community. This is 2013 and a rationale dialogue on slavery and the associated race-related issues that plague America is still notpossible.
One of the reasons we cannot have an adult conversation on race in America is that for generations public school students have been fed a steady diet of historical myths—driven by a leftwing agenda—instead of accurate American history. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is the treatment of Abraham Lincoln in public school textbooks and the deification of old Abe by liberals with an agenda. The popular myth of Abraham Lincoln is that he freed the slaves. In liberal as well as conservative circles President Lincoln is held up to the world as a martyred saint. On the left he is deified and worshipped as the father of abolition. On the right he is honored by Republicans who call the GOP the party of Lincoln. In both cases the historical facts are at odds with the popular myth.
This is why I am not the adoring fan of Abraham Lincoln that most Americans have been conditioned to be since birth. Public school textbooks paint a saintly picture of the 16th president, black Americans view him as the president who righteously loosed the chains of bondage, liberals squirm every time they hear the Republican Party proclaim “we are the party of Lincoln,” and feckless historians—in a nod to political correctness—go along with the revisionist charade. Lincoln is many things to many people, but he is rarely—if ever—portrayed accurately. Frankly, I think the revisionist treatment of the 16th president has prevented an objective, unbiased portrayal of his time in office by presidential historians, a fact that still impedes race relations in America.
When asked about Abraham Lincoln, I always give the same response: “Don’t believe anything you read in your public school textbooks or heard in a public school classroom until you have studied Abraham Lincoln’s own words.” It is in the words of Lincoln himself that a more accurate picture of the man emerges. Those who take the time to study Lincoln’s own words will find that he is not the patron saint of the black race who freed the slaves. What they will find is a president who was committed to holding the Union together and who would do anything—no matter how unworthy—to achieve that worthy goal.
A new book was recently released that makes finding Lincoln’s actual words a much simpler undertaking. The new e-book by Joseph Fallon, Lincoln Uncensored, is a 10 volume compilation of Lincoln’s writings and speeches. For those who deify the 16th president for his views on blacks and slavery, here is a sample of Lincoln’s actual words on the matter: “My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men are created equal in all respects.” On the same subject he also said: “I am not nor have I ever been in favor of …making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people…”
If a politician uttered these words today he word be excoriated in the press as a racist, drummed out of office, and consigned to the dustbin of history. While it is unfair to judge Lincoln’s words spoken in the mid-1860s by the standards of 2013, even with the span of time between then and now it should be clear to the unbiased reader that the popularly accepted myth of Lincoln as the savior of black Americans is, at the very least, generous. Further, the document that some Lincoln fans claim wiped away any race-related stains on his record and set all things right—the Emancipation Proclamation—deserves closer scrutiny and a more historically accurate treatment.
While it is true that the Emancipation Proclamation declared some slaves free, it did not even attempt to declare all slaves free. In point of fact, it did not free any slaves. It claimed to free the slaves in the confederate states—slaves over which Lincoln at the time had no authority or ability to free—and specifically did not free the slaves in the border states that had not joined the confederacy (e.g. Kentucky and Maryland). In essence, the Emancipation Proclamation was a bit of political grandstanding on the part of Lincoln, the kind that is still popular in Washington, D. C. to this day.
A word to the wise for those who actually want to know the truth about American history: Don’t accept what you read in politically-correct, agenda-driven textbooks. Study original documents and the actual words of those who made American history. This exercise may change how you feel about some historical figures, but it will only strengthen your love for and admiration of our country. With all of its warts and blemishes, the United States really is that “shining city on the hill” President Reagan proudly spoke of.