SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

SOWELL SPOTLIGHTS LINCOLN'S EMPANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. In his column for today, Dr. Thomas Sowell gives a glowing, positive review of Prof. Allen C. Guelzo's recent book, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Guelzo was co-winner of the Lincoln Prize for that book, now in paperback. It was the second time he has received that distinguished award. Indeed, Guelzo's book was perhaps my favorite book from all of 2004.

Frequently I hear misguided complaints or criticisms of President Lincoln focusing on how he dealt with the slavery issue. This firstly strikes me as odd because his actions DID finally end slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation put slavery into permanent decline and Lincoln helped begin the push for the 13th Amendment (though he did not live to see its enactment). A twisted sort of absolutism carries weight in some leftwing critics of Lincoln, whereas silly Confederacy-sypmathizing criticisms of him sometimes emanate from quarters within the right. But Guelzo provides the important backdrop and context of the Emancipation Proclamation, showing the difficult dynamics Lincoln faced from popular, political, legal and military quarters. As Sowell notes:

Once you understand the constraints of that world, and how little room for maneuver Lincoln had, you realize what courage and brilliance it took for him to free the slaves.

Sowell is one of those intellectuals of today's age who has a valuable and decidedly uncharateristic ability to recognize the operation and effects of constraints and trade-offs in the real world. So its no surprise to me that he would praise Lincoln in this light.

In his review, Sowell focuses particularly upon Lincoln's concern that an Emancipation Proclamation that reached too broadly would be struck down by the Supreme Court--then under the leadership of Chief Justice Roger Taney. It was Taney who authored the dreaded and disingenuous Dred Scott opinion from a few years earlier, which helped bring on the war itself. Lincoln's apprehension in this regard is entirely responsible.

Not to mention the fact that Lincoln still had to take steps to make sure his Administration continued, so that the war would continue to be prosecuted. Were Lincoln to lose the border states or the White House, a peace Democrat could easily have been elected and the war would have ended. The United States would co-exist with a slaveholding Confederate States of America.

Lincoln was a marvelous statesman, Guelzo is an outstanding historian, and Sowell is a top rate writer and scholar. It's a combination suited for good reading and contemplation.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)


  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger Elise said…

    Thanks for the suggestion. Lincoln is by far my favorite political figure of all time. I read "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858" a few years ago, and it did a wonderful job illustrating the magnitude of the time period he lived in.

    I loved Lincoln's tenancity on the campaign trail too. Can you imagine a candidate today following around an incumbant and speaking to THEIR crowds until the incumbant agreed to debate them? Lincoln exemplified that kind of courage right up until the day he died.

  • At 12:57 PM, Blogger Coop said…

    I couldn't agree with you more. Lincoln so ably cut to the heart of matters and spoke clearly about right and wrong--all the while recognizing the need for prudence and effective practical means to achieve important ends.

    And that's a great point you make about Lincoln's tenacity. Given Stephen Douglas's stature, it truly is astounding that a ex-Congressman of one term and country lawyer was able to follow around a party leader and presidiential contender--and goad him into debate.

  • At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Cat Furniture said…

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  • At 2:37 PM, Blogger Elise said…

    I was also amazed to learn that Lincoln appointed his three primary rivals to his cabinet after winning the presidency. Each was vastly more experienced and educated than Lincoln, and probably all still very bitter from losing the nomination. Yet, Lincoln felt not having his former adversaries in the cabinet would be a disservice to the country.

    A prideful man may have worried about being seen as a figurehead with such a strong cabinet. Or even the possibility of being sabotaged before the next election...but not Lincoln. Like I said earlier, he truly lived a life of courage, which is why he'll be a fixture of the American spirit forever.

    I promise I'm done talking about how wonderful Lincoln is now! I appreciate your insight into the new book. I'm definitely putting it on my must read list.

  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Coop said…

    You can praise Lincoln ALL YOU WANT on this blog! Since one of the book's I'm reading right now is yet again about Lincoln, I'm just in that mode.

  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger Elise said…

    Good to know. I must confess, however, that I do have one critism of President Lincoln. He passed on the opportunity to be Governor of the great State of Oregon, which was offered to him after leaving Congress. Such a shame! Had Lincoln been an Oregonian, my home state's political philosophy may not be as extremely misguided as it is today.

  • At 4:26 PM, Blogger Coop said…

    What would Oregon look like if President Lincoln had become its Territorial Governor?

    Sounds like the premise for a geeky alternate universe novel!


  • At 5:04 PM, Blogger Elise said…

    I don't think I have the patience to write a book, but I might have enough political nerd in me to get through a short story.

    There is just one thing I can't figure out. What would happen to all the hippies? Is there such a thing as a conservative hippie? Because the bottom line is Oregon is not Oregon without tye-dye loving hippies.


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