Today we honor our great Presidents.
What makes a President great? President Lincoln’s greatness is credited to saving the Union and freeing the slaves. However, this adulation is based on tenuous claims that Lincoln’s path was the only way to reach today’s outcome.
First, consider Lincoln’s management of the Civil War. The seceding states were greatly outmatched, but nonetheless it took over 4 years to win and at times the outcome was not certain. This is not the record of a great commander in chief, but that of a blunderer with great determination that came at the cost of immense human suffering.
But why even have a war at all? It that how slavery has ended throughout human history? Through bloody, devastating civil wars? Absolutely not. The greatest contributors to human freedom ever, the British Empire, ended slavery throughout much of the world without firing shot. In 1837, when Lincoln was 25 years old, Britain ended slavery with an act of Parliament.
With 23 years for Lincoln to study the difficulties and successes of Britain’s lead the best the President could deliver was a brutal war based on a campaign slogan.
A truly great President could have brought the secession states back into the union without loss of life and ended slavery following the British model. A mediocre President could have at least won a war against a nearly unarmed and defenseless agrarian society without nearly destroying his own in the process.
What of today’s President? Is President Obama destined for greatness? It is certainly to early to tell, but early events do not augur well. Appointing a tax cheat as Secretary of the Treasury does not speak highly of Mr. Obama’s moral character. Preparing to sign a spending bill that will place a multi-trillion dollar tax burden on his fellow Amercans – a burden that is a form of indentured servitiude – for his party’s benefit, does not speak well to a man who compares him self to Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.