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The Lincoln Curse (Obama Edition)

September 27, 2012
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
9/27/2012

In an essay entitled “Lincoln, the Declaration, and Secular Puritanism: A Rhetoric for Continuing Revolution,” the late literary scholar Mel Bradford explained the ideological genesis of American military and foreign policy that has prevailed since 1863. Lincoln’s “erroneous understanding of the Declaration of Independence” as espoused in The Gettysburg Address, wrote Bradford, established “a rhetoric for continuing revolution” and “set us forever to ‘trampling out the grapes of wrath.’”

What Bradford meant by this is the way in which Lincoln quoted the “all men are created equal” line from the Declaration and reinterpreted it to mean that it was somehow the duty of Americans to stamp out all sin in the world, wherever it may be found, so that ALL MEN everywhere could share in equal freedom. Hence the “rhetoric of continuing revolution.” The “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which referred to the death of some 850,000 Americans (the latest estimate of the “Civil War” death toll) as “the glory of the coming of the lord,” went a long way toward implanting this vision in the minds of Americans. The decades-long deification of Lincoln after his death (by the Republican Party with the help of the New England clergy) served (and serves) the same purpose.

Prior to 1863 American foreign policy was based mostly on the Washington/Jeffersonian ideology of commercial relations with all nations, entangling alliances with none. It was considered a virtue to remain neutral in disputes between two other countries. As Murray Rothbard wrote in an essay entitled “Just War,” in those days “neutrality was considered not only justifiable but a positive virtue.” In the old days, “he kept us out of war” was a great tribute to any political leader, wrote Rothbard, and “standing idly by” while other nations warred with each other was “a mark of high statesmanship.” Lincoln and his political descendants in both major political parties, but especially the Republican Party, changed all that with their enormously successful implantation of Lincoln’s imperialist fantasies about perfecting the entire planet as the bedrock of American foreign policy ideas.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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