Does end justify means for Lincoln?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2006

To the Editor:

Every now and then the debate over how Lincoln should be remembered is rekindled.

In a recent letter Eve Shapiro took exception to an earlier letter that referred to Lincoln as a despot.

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Ms. Shapiro seems to think that Lincoln’s commitment to the preservation of the Union excuses his crimes.

In his defense she stated that “Lincoln did what he had to do to achieve his primary objective.”

Since the same could also apply to Hitler, Stalin, or Sadaam Hussein, the question of his despotism remains open.

What we do know is that Lincoln violated the borders of legally recognized states, the sovereignty of which was guaranteed in the Constitution, in order to reestablish his own power (euphemistically called Union).

In the north he threw people in prison without charges who disagreed with his views; he closed down newspapers which exposed his constitutional violations;

and he used deadly force against rioters opposed to the draft.

Ms. Shapiro obviously agrees with the outcome of Lincoln’s war.

Her idolization of Lincoln seems to be based on the belief that the end justified the means. This is a dangerous proposition for a supposedly civilized nation of laws.

Early on in his attempt to “save the Union” Lincoln backed an Amendment to the Constitution which would have made slavery perpetually legal in the Southern States if those states would return to the Union. Would Ms. Shapiro still idolize Lincoln if this means to maintain his power had been successful?

Living in Maryland, Ms. Shapiro should know better about Lincoln.

Maryland was largely sympathetic to the South but was not likely to secede. Nevertheless Lincoln marched soldiers from other states into Maryland, provoking a conflict which ended in numerous deaths and the unlawful imprisonment of elected officials.

The despot with his heel on thy shore referred to in the opening line of Maryland’s state song (Maryland, My Maryland) is none other than Abraham Lincoln himself.

Ms. Shapiro should follow her own advice and stop being so naive about history.

Steven Fitts