CLIFFORD F. THIES
At the Golden Globe Awards, Bill "Mr. Reprehensible" Clinton gave what Hollywood described as an inspiring description of Abraham Lincoln's leadership in guiding the 13th Amendment through the Congress (the story portrayed in the movie "Lincoln"). Clinton said that the movie portrays the deal-making and compromises by which any "tough bill" is passed through a "divided" Congress.
The Obama-adulating crowd, which applauded an award to an actress who besmirched Sarah Palin, rose to applaud their unimpeachible hero, congratulating themselves on the deals and compromises by which their most favored pieces of legislation have been passed.
For example, Clinton's own tax bill of 1993, which passed 219-213 in the House, without one Republican vote, and 51-50 in the Senate (Al Gore breaking a tie), again, without one Republican vote.
Or, Obamacare, which survived a filibuster vote in the Senate 60-40, without one Republican vote, and which passed in the House 219 to 212, also without one Republican vote.
This is what Democrats mean by "compromise." No Republican votes. As for deals, yes, we all know about the Louisiana Purchase, along with the special arrangements for unions and other friends of the Administration, and the meaningless executive order to placate so-called pro-life Democrats in the House. All the deals are with fellow Democrats. The Lincoln movie assuages any liberals feeling guilty about the raw politics in Obamacare, since St. Abraham of Lincoln likewise dirtied himself in political compromises and deals.
Or did he?
First, let's look at the votes on the 13th Amendment: It passed the Senate 38 to 6. Yeah, that's what we call divided!
The Senate bill then passed the House 119 to 56. OMG! Bitterly divided!!! How did Lincoln get that one done? Must have been a lot of "arm-twisting," and loads of pork and earmarks!
Then, it took twenty-four days for the amendment to be ratified by 18 states which, according to some at the time, was sufficient for ratification given that the states of the Confederacy were in rebellion. (The Secretary of State wisely waiting for 27 states to ratify, to allay any possible concern for the legitimacy of the Amendment.) Twenty-four whole days, why, why, that's almost a month. Especially considering we're talking of the month of February 1865, one of those twenty-eight day months.
Second, let's consider what would have been the 13th Amendment if St. Abraham of Lincoln had been successful in his original attempt:
"No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or servitude by the laws of said State."
Do you notice anything about the original 13th Amendment? Instead of ending slavery, it would have made slavery a permanent part of our country and even enshrine slavery in our Constitution.
Isn't that what Brother Bill Clinton calls "compromising" and "deal-making?"
Lincoln, anxious to preserve the Union, was willing to do anything, including embrace slavery, as what other option did he have? The other option would have been to let the Southern states secede. Then, the northern states, no longer restrained by the Constitution could have done anything they considered prudent to deal with the evil of slavery in the southern states. Fortunately, the slavers rejected the compromise offer, and, with the firing on Fort Sumter, drew the north into a civil war.
Lincoln continued his position of compromise into the war. At one point, he relieved General John C. Fremont of command of the Army of the West, because Fremont, in an order anticipating the Emancipation Proclamation, freed the slaves of Missouri. Lincoln, you see, was still hoping for a negotiated settlement.
But, as the months dragged on, asthe casualties mounted, as the President had to make recourse to the complete mobilization of the north for war and undertake a total war against the south, he was forced to confront the evil of slavery head-on. He had to give the soldiers of the north a cause worthy of the sacrifice that would be necessary. A cause that would impel men to affix on their clothing badges that they had purchased with their own money so their remains could be identified, and then march straight into glory in a war of attrition where the massive advantage of the north in men and wealth would secure victory.
"As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free," they sang on their march to glory.
Is that what you call "compromise" and "deal-making?"
We libertarian-Republicans claim as our heritage the Liberty Party and Free Soil Party elements that preceded the Republican Party, not the Whig Party. Our heroes, in the formation of the Republican Party, were men like Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, not the Lincoln of the beginning of the Civil War, who followed in the foot-steps of Henry Clay of the Whig Party, the Great Compromiser.
But, as for the Lincoln that was transformed by the War, who came to see and deeply appreciate the meaning of liberty, and the man who, along with so many others, gave his life in the great cause of liberty, we are proud to be associated with him. Indeed, knowing how awful war is, we do not judge Lincoln harshly for trying to find a way avoid war while preserving the Union. There are times and places where compromise is called for, but there are times and places where what is demanded is principled commitment.