DL Fowler's Blog

Fact or Factoid

Posted in Lincoln, Lincoln Raw, Manifesto, Research, Themes by DLFowler on July 21, 2014

A factoid is a little piece of truth, or a false statement that gets repeated often enough it becomes accepted as the whole truth.

I saw this on Twitter –

We the people are the rightful masters, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln.

It got me thinking: what did Lincoln think was perversion? Did the person posting it have a clue what was going on in Lincoln’s head when he said it?

Truth is Lincoln said those words. Question is, what did he perceive as a perversion of the Constitution? I doubt that most people who cite this quote actually know what he meant by perversion.

The context of the quote goes like this –

Lincoln hated slavery, but believed the Constitution protected it where it existed when the nation was founded. He also believed that the Constitution and the Congress had set slavery on a course that would lead to its extinction. When he retired from politics in 1849, he was content that what he perceived to be a fundamental intent of the Constitution was the settled law of the land.

In 1854, he became incensed over a what he saw as a political ruling by US Supreme Court (Dred Scott Decision) – the ruling, which far exceeded the scope of the case under review, declared that slaves were property (a special class of property since slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person for apportioning the Congress). The decision was based on the 4th Amendment, barring unlawful seizure of property. The argument was that if you tell someone they can’t take their slaves with them if the move to Nebraska, that’s seizure. Lincoln had convulsions over that perversion.

A few years before the Dred Scott Decision, Sen. Stephen Douglas introduced a new interpretation of the 10th Amendment. Douglas’ idea of Popular Sovereignty asserted that each individual had the right to choose for himself whether or not to own slaves, wherever he lived. By 1850, Lincoln and Douglas had been political adversaries for two decades, and Lincoln had fought the idea of Popular Sovereignty even before it found its way into public discourse. To see such a perversion become national policy sent tremors down his spine.

Lincoln’s concept of constitutional perversion was routed in his belief that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were paramount. The Constitution must be understood in the context of those principles. Consequently, any provision of the Constitution that did not fully assure the equality of all was only transitional, providing the foundation for full equality.

Here’s what he called a manifesto he wrote in early 1861 to guide him through his presidency:

Lincoln Raw-a biographical novel (p. 398)

Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result, but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something is the principle of “Liberty to all”—the principle that clears the path for all, gives hope to all, and, by consequence, enterprise and industry to all.

The expression of that principle in our Declaration of Independence was most happy and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government and consequent prosperity. No oppressed people will fight and endure as our fathers did, without the promise of something better than a mere change of masters.

The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union and the Constitution are “the settings of silver” framed around it at a later time. The frame was made, not to conceal or destroy the apple, but to adorn and preserve it. The setting was made for the apple—not the apple for the setting.
So let us act, in a way that neither setting nor apple shall ever be blurred or bruised or broken.

To so act, we must study and understand the points of danger.

Some questions for discussion:

Do you agree with Lincoln, that the Constitution’s purpose is to adorn the principle of Liberty to all?

Were Douglas’ use of the 10th amendment and the SCOTUS interpretation of the 4th adornments of the principle of Liberty to all?

Is government the only agent of oppression?

Does minimal government assure Liberty to all, or does it merely increase the opportunity for a change of masters?

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