Southern conservative M.E. Bradford saw Lincoln as the politician he was – one who used the abolitionist movement as a partisan tactic to destroy the Democratic Party in the North and pursued Alexander Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The Northern military victory enabled Lincoln’s to break with the original Constitution and implement a new interpretation with the support of fellow revolutionaries.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Lincoln’s Political Millenium
“Lincoln’s personal opinions about and his actual public policies toward African Americans are evidence, according to Bradford, that partisan politics were behind Lincoln’s high-sounding rhetoric . . . His claim that a nation half free and half slave cannot endure in spite of a historical record to the contrary, the Black Codes of his home State of Illinois, the racist attitudes of his Northern electoral base, his support for recolonization of African Americans to Liberia, selective emancipation, and the plight of freedmen overall (at the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 Lincoln is quoted as saying they can “root, hog, or die”) give an empty ring to his rhetoric of universal human rights.
As Bradford poignantly remarked, “For the sake of such vapid distinctions he urged his countrymen to wade through seas of blood.” . . . [Can] one reasonably assume that Lincoln was zealously obsessed with the pursuit of power for a just cause and that the “seas of blood” that flowed during his tenure were justifiable consequences of his “new birth of freedom” he alluded to in his Gettysburg Address? Or, was there a more mundane motive behind Lincoln’s policies, with the ensuing war unexpectedly getting out of hand?
There can be little question that Lincoln and his Republican supporters had a mundane public policy agenda that overshadowed the rhetoric and legacy of their tenure in power. That agenda was Hamiltonian, insofar as it required a substantial transfusion of power from the States to the national government, in order for the latter to more effectively promote the style and pace of development toward a commercial empire and the corresponding opportunities for personal and national profits that such rapid commercial development entailed.
The politically contentious issues of internal improvements, the national bank, and [tariff] protectionism made giant strides on behalf of national supremacy during the Lincoln Administration. In fact the Gilded Age can be traced to the political economy of those Republicans who controlled the national government in the early 1860s:
“It is customary to deplore the Gilded Age, the era of the Great Barbeque. It is true that many of the corruptions of the Republican Era came to a head after Lincoln lay to rest in Springfield. But it is a matter of fact that they began either under his direction or with his sponsorship. Military necessity, the “War for the Union,” provided an excuse, and umbrella of sanction, under which the essential nature of the changes made in the relation of government to commerce could be concealed [Bradford, Remembering Who We Are, 146].”
Lincoln’s rhetoric in the Gettysburg Address reveals the importance of a Republican Party committed to the fulfillment of Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The emergence of a commercial empire within the conceptual framework of Lincoln’s incorporation of the Declaration [of Independence] into the Constitution (or vice versa) would result in the political millennium he alludes to in the Gettysburg Address.
And Lincoln had good reason to be optimistic. During the Republican Party’s Civil War and postbellum dominance, the use of government as a means toward commercial expansion and personal aggrandizement was shifted into overdrive.
[And] Lincoln’s expansive interpretation of presidential powers made him the most imperial president in American history, thereby setting a dangerous precedent for predisposed successors. The incarceration of approximately twenty-thousand political prisoners, the closing of over three hundred newspapers, the interruptions of State legislatures, the blockade of the South, the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus, explicit and implicit defiance of the Supreme Court, the sanctioning of the creation of West Virginia, private property seizures, and electioneering/voting irregularities have all been rationalized as necessary war measures.
[Bradford suggests] the evidence indicates that “in this role the image of Lincoln grows to be very dark – indeed, almost sinister . . . Thousands of Northern boys lost their lives in order that the Republican Party might experience rejuvenation, to serve its partisan goals.”
(A Southern Reactionary’s Affirmation of the Rule of Law, Marshall L. DeRosa; A Defender of Southern Conservatism, M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 111-113)