Not-so-honest Abe

Country lawyer or the ultimate liar?


Photo by Victoria Van

Story by Maddie Anderson, staff writer

Perhaps the most well-known and revered president is arguably the most mysterious and beloved. From obscurity, Abraham Lincoln rose to the highest office in the land through dedication, hard work and honesty. He endured vicious slander and harsh opposition, yet he still maintained the Union and abolished slavery. Through his strifes and struggles, Lincoln emerged as the ultimate patriot and reformer.

The problem with this American hero is that the qualities he is praised for are purely mythical. The true blue patriot was anything but what he claimed to represent. He resisted individual rights and had no respect for the founding principles that governed the country.

Probably his most dramatic legacy was his defeat of the Confederation of Southern States and the abolishment of slavery. In reality, Lincoln couldn’t care less about slaves. In a letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.”

His racist sentiments did not end with slavery, but continued into all aspects of equality.

In debates against opponent Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln made his position on racial equality quite clear, stating, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of, bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believed will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

The true blue patriot was anything but what he claimed to represent.”

— Anderson

Furthermore, the much beloved American independence and individualism was nearly destroyed by Lincoln. In truth, Lincoln held much contempt for personal freedom, as seen through his creation of a compulsory draft, suspension of the rights to trials, imprisonment of anti-war protesters, confiscation of private property and censorship of newspapers that criticized him.

Lincoln would even deport those who publicly opposed him, seen in the case of Clement Vallandigham. An anti-war democrat, Vallandigham charged Lincoln and his “minions” as trying to “restrain the people of their liberties, to deprive them of their rights and privileges” and “a base usurpation of arbitrary authority.” He even condemned the Civil War as “a wicked, cruel and unnecessary war.” On May 19, 1863, Lincoln, who considered Vallandigham a “wily agitator,” ordered him to be sent to the enemy lines to the Confederacy, a sure way to be taken as a prisoner of war.  

If Lincoln’s motives were purely selfless, then he would have avoided the Civil War. The only reason Lincoln pushed to abolish slavery was to damage the Southern economy, not because he was opposed to slavery. Confederate leader Jefferson Davis actually sent diplomats to Washington D.C. to negotiate for peace, but Lincoln did not care. War was the last resort for everyone except Lincoln.

Lincoln has been regarded as perhaps the greatest president by both scholars and citizens alike. His legacy has come to hold the fascination and interest of Americans for years, proving beyond comparison the strength of his political mythology. Yet in the end, the American public only saw the carefully cultivated facade of humility and honesty, not the fraudulent and racist core that built him. Lincoln was not the greatest president— he was the greatest liar.