Abraham Lincoln would be on Trump’s side. In his address to Congress on the third of December, 1861 Lincoln outlined how he saw the cultural forces that were dividing The Union. He was crystal clear on what was at stake. As he put it. “It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government,—the rights of the people.”
What leaps off the page for me is the universality of his message- and it’s direct reflection for us in this newly tattered Union of the United States in 2021. Lets start with the defamation of what is derided as “populism” but used to be known as government by the people. Lincoln says of The South and its sympathizers in the press:“ Conclusive evidence of this is found in the most grave and maturely considered public documents, as well as in the general tone of the insurgents. In those documents we find…, laboured arguments to prove that large control of the people in government is the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at, as a possible refuge from the power of the people.”
Today we face not intimations of Monarchy, but the social and cultural hegemony of an “expert elite class” who want to tell us what we can and cannot do or think- but the effect is the same. The freezing out and manipulation of the “will of the people.”
Lincoln continues, “In my present position, I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.”
To identify the root motivation of the forces of despotism he to the central conflict we are witnessing he continues, “It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labour, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labour is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labours, unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow, by the use of it, induces him to labour. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire labourers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all labourers are either hired labourers, or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired labourer is fixed in that condition for life.”
In one fell swoop, he has both made a powerful argument against the labor abuses of the early industrial age and set the stage (many months later) for the Emancipation Proclamation. Keep in mind, that he is not using the terms “capital” and “Labour” in the modern sense that was heavily influenced by Marxist Theory. In Labour, he is actually talking about the human dimension of what people can do themselves for themselves- each man or woman is an entrepreneur of their own production and can choose how to work to his own advantage. By capital he means both the (acceptable) ability to hire and the (unacceptable) ability to enslave. He makes that clear next: “Now, here is no such relation between capital and labour as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired labourer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.”
Lincoln’s great genius was his combination of intellect and humanity. His intellectual understanding of the interactions of wealth, power and human nature are faultless and yet he also sees that it is really about the people and the relationships. He cuts to the core of wealth and labour and speaks to the ultimate origin of the wealth of the United States- the small, independent business- the ultimate human dimension:
“Men with their families—wives, sons, and daughters—work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favours of capital on the one hand, nor of hired labourers or slaves on the other…, there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all—gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.”
Lincoln would be dismayed today to see the state of so many of our young people who leave colleges with their lives mortgaged so heavily by student debt, so neutered by the social and political correctness and so pathetically untrained in useful skills that they seemed doomed to corporate servitude -if not slavery. The expert elite have subjugated a great number of drones with easy college loans, post modern education and financial manipulation.
A couple of other points from earlier in this same speech draw the comparison to our situation much closer. In laying out the threat to the nation he begins with this chilling insight.“ The principal lever relied on by the insurgents for exciting foreign nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the embarrassment of commerce. ” What he means in his speech, clearly is that The South’s attempts to coerce the support of other nations for their cause by using “King Cotton” as a bludgeon.
The elites of the present day have no such obvious bludgeon as the slavery-produced cotton fibre that once ruled the textile industries of the world. They have something more imposing and subtle. Today, they have a computer driven information and control monopoly that manipulates everything from what information you can receive about anything to the way votes are counted in elections. And the foreign nation they have chosen to ally with against us is China.
China has co-opted our ruling elites, ransacked our manufacturing sector, filched our intellectual property, poured addictive drugs across our borders and sent a plague upon our population. Our elites don’t respond. They think that have turned the tables on humanity- as the saying goes- “You are not the customer, you are the product.” The ultimate “embarrassment of commerce” is happening to us and only a few are objecting. I am referring to the devastation of small businesses and family companies that is the Covid 19 lockdowns.
Never, in Abraham Lincoln’s worst nightmares, did he ever imagine a danger to the soul of this nation as pervasive and evil as the unscientific, illogical, massive, prejudicial, immoral and extra-legal holocaust of independent businesses that has been enforced in this past critical year of 2020. Lincoln knew that the life’s opportunity provided by one’s own labor is the very foundation of our form of government he said as much in this speech of his. It is the very source of motivation. This is not just a matter of broken lives, bankrupted families and shattered dreams. It is an attack on personal independence and populism a cynical attempt to deal a mortal blow to government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The South and its sympathizers in his day, called Lincoln all kinds of names, uncouth, rude, idiot … They made fun of his appearance. They said he looked like a gorilla a simpleton. It was was partly because they had no answer for his ideas and arguments but mostly because he was not one of them- not one of the power elite of the day. One of them finally put a bullet in his brain but it was too late for “The Cause”. The same kind of insults and unreasoned hatred have been aimed at President Trump – instead of shooting him, they have tried to steal the election from him – that must not be allowed to pass.
If we allow the theft of elections, the destruction of independent businesses and the demoralization of our young to go on unanswered, the blame for it goes to the cynical elites but the shame is ours- all of ours. I’ll let Lincoln have the last word:
“The struggle of today, is not altogether for today—it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”