Sic semper tyrannis; the shooting of the Northern tyrant
By Bob Livingston
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth slipped into a private box at Ford’s Theater and fired a shot into President Abraham Lincoln’s head just behind the left ear.
After slashing an army officer who tried to grab him, Booth jumped from the box and onto the stage — a stage on which he had performed as an actor many times — and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis (thus always to tyrants) — the South is avenged.” He then hobbled out of the theater on a broken leg (he broke it in his jump), mounted a horse and made his getaway.
Lincoln died the next morning, becoming the first U.S. president to be assassinated.
The South was anything but avenged by Booth’s actions. Lincoln, through his generals, had waged total war on the South. There was apparently little concern over the killing of women and children, and the South was plundered for its resources and its homes and farmland were torched and livestock slaughtered and fed to Northern soldiers, leaving Southerners destitute.
Some 850,000 people died as a result of the war, the equivalent of close to 9 million people in today’s population.
Lincoln made war on the South not to free the slaves, as the Lincoln cultists continue to proclaim. He stated in his inaugural address that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” He also wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley:…My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alo…
What Lincoln wanted to save was the system of protectionism and the inflow to the federal treasury of tariff money imposed on the South. He was a former Whig, bankster lobbyist and crony capitalist who pushed for the reprisal of a national (central) bank.
In addition to asserting that he would not interfere with slavery, in his inaugural address he threatened the Southern states with invasion if they did not comply with terms of the Morrill tariff, passed by Congress and signed by President James Buchanan two days before Lincoln’s inauguration. The bill raised the tariff rate from 15 percent to 37.5 percent and expanded the list of items, essentially tripling the tax burden. The South was paying about 80 percent of the tariff and most of the money collected was spent on Northern projects and interests.
“The power confided in me,” he said, “will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion — no using force against, or among the people anywhere.”
As Lincoln historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo writes, Lincoln was essentially telling the Southern states, “‘We are going to make tax slaves out of you and if you resist, there will be an invasion.’ That was on March 4. Five weeks later, on April 12, Fort Sumter, a tariff collection point in Charleston Harbor, was bombarded by the Confederates. No one was hurt or killed, and Lincoln later revealed that he manipulated the Confederates into firing the first shot, which helped generate war fever in the North.”
Because Lincoln died days after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, signifying the de facto end of the war of Northern Aggression, there was at the time an ongoing Lincoln hero-worship in the North. He was at the height of his popularity. This, combined with the fact that the Radical Republicans controlled government and were able to, as the victors, write the history of the war, a cult of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” and saver of the Union took root and grew and continues to dominate today — thanks in no small part to the U.S. (non)education system.
But what Lincoln did during the war with his unconstitutional invasion of the Southern states, the suspension of habeas corpus, the suspension of elections, and the interference with state politics was to create the ridiculous notion that anything the U.S. does is justified so long as it is couched in the term of spreading “freedom” around the globe, even if that freedom must be installed at gunpoint.
Lincoln’s conquering of the south effectively destroyed the 9th and 10th Amendments and any power the states had to check the federal government. In doing so it paved the road for the imperial presidency under which we suffer today.
(The Tenth Amendment (Amendment X) to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It expresses the principle of federalism and states’ rights, which strictly supports the entire plan of the original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.)
(The Ninth Amendment (Amendment IX) to the United States Constitution addresses rights, retained by the people, that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. It is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment reads:
THE ENUMERATION IN THE CONSTITUTION, OF CERTAIN RIGHTS, SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO DENY OR DISPARAGE OTHERS RETAINED BY THE PEOPLE.
The amendment was introduced during the drafting of the Bill of Rights when some of the American founders became concerned that future generations might argue that, because a certain right was not listed in the Bill of Rights, it did not exist. However, the Ninth Amendment has rarely played any role in U.S. constitutional law, and until the 1980s was often considered “forgotten” or “irrelevant” by many legal academics.)
In dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to nationalize industries in order to coerce them into producing needed materials. In addition to granting the president this power, the DPA — passed in 1950 as the U.S. was ramping up to fight the Korean War — empowers the president to impose wage and price controls, settle labor disputes, control consumer and real estate credit, establish contractual priorities, and allocate raw materials towards national defense.
Even though the U.S. is not involved in a major war, this is the second time Trump has invoked the DPA. He first used it in 2017 to classify two sets of products as “critical to national defense.” President Obama invoked it in 2011 to force U.S. telecommunications firms to disclose what Chinese-manufactured hardware and software they were using.
This indicates how eager presidents are to use any and all powers granted to them and why the Founders created an executive presidency with little power to begin with beyond executive power and be commander in chief of the armed forces.
Even as most governors have complied with Trump’s suggestion that they destroy their economies and shut down all production and travel over the coronavirus, some reporters have queried the president over why he hasn’t ordered a nationwide shutdown. Trump claims he has the power to do so, but would rather not because he “cherishes the Constitution.”
But nothing in the Constitution gives him that authority any more than the Constitution granted Lincoln the power to do what he did.
The Constitution has essentially been meaningless for 155 years since Lincoln, and subsequent presidents have continued ripping it to ever-smaller shreds.
Steve Balich editors Note:
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (CWAL), volume 1, pages 61 – 69. The CWAL is online at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/
Speech on the Sub-Treasury
December 26, 1839
This lengthy speech, the only speech of Lincoln’s to survive from the period, was one he probably delivered in dozens of variations while campaigning for William Henry Harrison in his successful 1840 bid for the White House. It compared the second Bank of the United States to the hard money-only “sub-treasury” system with which Jackson’s followers had replaced it—producing, according to Lincoln, vastly inferior results. The speech, which was widely reprinted, thrust Lincoln (and the banking question) into the national spotlight.
“THE [NATIONAL] BANK WAS PERMITTED TO, AND DID ACTUALLY LOAN [PUBLIC REVENUES] OUT TO INDIVIDUALS, AND HENCE THE LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY ANNUALLY COLLECTED FOR REVENUE PURPOSES, WHICH BY ANY OTHER PLAN WOULD HAVE BEEN IDLE A GREAT PORTION OF TIME, WAS KEPT ALMOST CONSTANTLY IN CIRCULATION. ANY PERSON … WILL REFLECT, THAT MONEY IS ONLY VALUABLE WHILE IN CIRCULATION, [AND] ANY DEVICE WHICH WILL KEEP THE GOVERNMENT REVENUES, IN CONSTANT CIRCULATION, INSTEAD OF BEING LOCKED UP IN IDLENESS, IS NO INCONSIDERABLE ADVANTAGE.
“BY [CONTRAST, UNDER] THE SUB-TREASURY, THE REVENUE IS TO BE COLLECTED, AND KEPT IN IRON BOXES UNTIL THE GOVERNMENT WANTS IT FOR DISBURSEMENT, THUS ROBBING THE PEOPLE OF THE USE OF IT, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT ITSELF NEED IT, AND WHILE THE MONEY IS PERFORMING NO NOBLER OFFICE THAN THAT OF RUSTING IN IRON BOXES. THE NATURAL EFFECT OF THIS CHANGE OF POLICY, EVERYONE WILL SEE, IS TO REDUCE THE QUANTITY OF MONEY IN CIRCULATION … [RESULTING IN] DISTRESS, RUIN, BANKRUPTCY, AND BEGGARY.
“WE DO NOT PRETEND, THAT A NATIONAL BANK CAN ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A SOUND AND UNIFORM STATE OF CURRENCY IN THE COUNTRY, IN SPITE OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, BUT WE DO SAY, THAT IT HAS ESTABLISHED AND MAINTAINED SUCH A CURRENCY, AND CAN DO IT AGAIN, BY THE AID OF THAT GOVERNMENT, AND WE FURTHER SAY THAT NO DUTY IS MORE IMPERATIVE ON THAT GOVERNMENT, THAN THE DUTY IT OWES THE PEOPLE, OF FURNISHING THEM A SOUND AND UNIFORM CURRENCY.”
Source: CWAL, volume 1, pages 160 – 179.
Address to the People of Illinois
March 4, 1843
While Lincoln’s Whigs had won the White House in 1840, they went down to defeat in Illinois, owing in part to the lingering effects of the economic downturn in 1837. Seeking to regroup, the party leadership called on Lincoln to formulate a statement of principles easily understood by the public. One of those resolutions concerned banking.
“THE THIRD RESOLUTION DECLARES THE NECESSITY AND PROPRIETY OF A NATIONAL BANK … THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK WAS ESTABLISHED CHIEFLY BY THE SAME MEN WHO FORMED THE CONSTITUTION, AT A TIME WHEN THAT INSTRUMENT WAS BUT TWO YEARS OLD, RECEIVING THE SANCTION, OF THE IMMORTAL [PRESIDENT[ WASHINGTON. [T]HE SECOND [NATIONAL BANK] RECEIVED THE SANCTION OF [PRESIDENT] MADISON, [HOLDER OF] THE PROUD TITLE OF ‘FATHER OF THE CONSTITUTION;’ AND SUBSEQUENTLY THE SANCTION OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE MOST ENLIGHTENED JUDICIAL TRIBUNAL IN THE WORLD.
“UPON THE QUESTION OF THE EXPEDIENCY, WE ONLY ASK YOU TO EXAMINE THE HISTORY OF THE TIMES, DURING THE EXISTENCE OF THE TWO BANKS, AND COMPARE THOSE TIMES WITH THE MISERABLE PRESENT.”
Source: CWAL, volume 1, pages 309 – 318.
As a wartime president, Lincoln focused on his role as commander-in-chief, leaving most non-military decisions to the discretion of Congress. On the handful of domestic issues that really mattered to him, however, Lincoln provided determined leadership. A safe and sound national banking system and a reliable national currency were among those issues, as he said in a message to Congress from 1862.
“… IT IS PECULIARLY THE DUTY OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT TO SECURE TO THE PEOPLE A SOUND CIRCULATING MEDIUM … FURNISH[ING] TO THE PEOPLE A CURRENCY AS SAFE AS THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT.”
Source: CWAL, volume 5, pages 282- 83.
For Lincoln, as he told a confidant, the creation of a national banking system was a “special interest”—special enough for him to bend every effort to persuade Congress to pass the founding legislation prepared by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. The President thus took great satisfaction in signing into law the National Currency Act, which created the national banking system and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as its supervisor. Although promoted partly as a wartime measure (the new national banks were required to purchase government bonds as security for the bank notes they issued), Lincoln, in his message to Congress of December 1864, left no doubt that his intention was to create a system that would serve the country long into the future.
“THE NATIONAL BANKING SYSTEM IS PROVING TO BE ACCEPTABLE TO CAPITALISTS AND TO THE PEOPLE … THAT THE GOVERNMENT AND THE PEOPLE WILL DERIVE GREAT BENEFIT FROM THIS CHANGE IN THE BANKING SYSTEMS OF THE COUNTRY CAN HARDLY BE QUESTIONED. THE NATIONAL SYSTEM WILL CREATE A RELIABLE AND PERMANENT INFLUENCE IN SUPPORT OF THE NATIONAL CREDIT, AND PROTECT THE PEOPLE AGAINST LOSSES IN THE USE OF PAPER MONEY.”
Source: CWAL, volume 8, pages 143 – 44.