It always worries me when a so-called “conservative” is quick to attack Ron Paul. Because again and again the only reason they do so is because Ron Paul does not support spreading democracy through war… something conservatives believed up until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ron Paul insisted in a recent interview that Abe Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War by buying the southern slaves from the southerners…
Of course, this is ridiculous on many levels. For one, hindsight is 20/20. No one knew going into the war what it would mean to this country– that 600,000 Americans would lose their lives, that the South would be devastated.
And, buying out the slave owners was not an option.
Ron Paul’s statement was not that the North should have purchased slaves from their owners to prevent the Civil War. It was that if Lincoln truly did not want civil war and if the real reason for the civil war was to end slavery, than Lincoln could have made the offer to buyout slave owners. And as much as GP would like it to be so, the proposition is not some wild notion that Dr. Paul thought up in his basement.
Not only had other former slave owning countries like Britain freed slaves buy buying out their owners, but Lincoln’s own letters show he considered doing it himself after the costs of the war started to mount.
“As to the expensiveness of the plan of gradual emancipation with compensation, proposed in the late Message, please allow me one or two brief suggestions.
Less than one half—day’s cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware at four hundred dollars per head:
Thus, all the slaves in Delaware, by the Census of 1860, are 1798
Cost of the slaves, $ 719,200.
One day’s cost of the war ``2,000,000.
Again, less than eighty seven days cost of this war would, at the same price, pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri.
Cost of the slaves $173,048,800
Eightyseven days’ cost of the war ``174,000,000.”
According to US Census data from 1860, there were 3.9 million slaves in the whole of the United States. Even at $400 per, that’s only $1.5 billion to free the entire nation, not just the South as Lincoln did in his Emancipation Proclamation. Yet, GP holds on to some analysis that seemingly ignores Lincoln’s own conclusions.
A major problem here was that the costs of such a scheme would have been enormous. Claudia Goldin estimates that the cost of having the government buy all the slaves in the United States in 1860, would be about $2.7 billion (1973: 85, Table 1).
By the time you add the total cost of the Civil War, roughly $7 billion, and the cost of lives lost, 600,000, $1.5 billion appears to be a bargain even Wal-mart couldn’t dream of.
So again we return to Paul’s original statements.
“I don't think [Lincoln] was one of our greatest presidents. I mean, he was determined to fight a bloody civil war, which many have argued could have been avoided. For 1/100 the cost of the war, plus 600 thousand lives, enough money would have been available to buy up all the slaves and free them. So, I don't see that is a good part of our history. Besides, the Civil War was to prove that we had a very, very strong centralized federal government and that's what it did. It rejected the notion that states were a sovereign nation.”
He’s right. Lincoln fought the Civil War not to free slaves, but to demonstrate that the United States was not a union of 50 independent states, but one nation under the control of Washington bureaucrats.
“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery… If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it.”
- Abraham Lincoln
On top of Lincoln not being concerned with ending slavery, his own generals were raging anti-Semites.
“General Henry W. Halleck linked ‘traitors and Jew peddlers.’” General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No.11 in 1862 which banished all Jews in his military district, an area that included all of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.
At first Lincoln ignored protests that GO #11 violated the Constitutional rights of Jewish citizens. Rallies in St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati fell on deaf ears.
Only after Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation did he feel enough pressure to rescind Grant’s order.
Today Lincoln is only remembered for freeing slaves, an act he was unfortunately reluctant to carry out. Instead, he should be remembered for strengthening the central government so much so that it now finds no problems with infringing on the rights of its citizens and ignoring the rights of its states.
No matter, the simple truth still exists, Lincoln could have appeased slave owners and freed the slaves without firing a single shot, without expending 600,000 lives had he employed the same abolitionist techniques as our British allies, that of simply purchasing the slaves and then freeing them.
Paul’s conclusions about Lincoln are not only spot on, they are appropriately timed given the recent overreaches by the federal government.