[OK, I’m all over the map on this post, but maybe some of it will spark a thought or two. I blame lack of sleep and caffeine deprivation, both. 🙂 ]
The strange thing to my eye about this post by, urm, David Post in response to an article titled, “The Monster of Monticello,” is that he uses the words of Lincoln, a man I suspect was truly decent in many ways, but also truly blind to his own hypocrisy (just one example: see the hypocrisy of the words of the Gettysburg Address spoken by someone waging a war AGAINST self-determination and the very foundational principles of federalism and the very Constitution he swore to defend) to support Jefferson’s place as a truly great champion of freedom, though his personal practices as a slavemaster were at stark odds with the principles he championed.
While I agree with Post’s general viewpoint that yes, Jefferson WAS a great champion of liberty even though he was an individual example of some of the worst practices of slavery, I’m surprised his defense wasn’t simply, “Ad hominem arguments are invalid on their face,” and just leave it at that. After all, reasonable people would agree that attacking the ideas and principles a person utters (and even fights for) by attacking their character is unreasonable, while unreasonable people will just be unreasonable anyway, so ANY reasoned argument is worthless with such.
Ad then there’s the implicit hagiography of Lincoln in the post. *sigh* I’ll not go down that path right now, but using Lincoln’s words to defend Jefferson on the matter of championing liberty is a briar patch I’d certainly not want to throw myself into, but then I do GARA about the facts of Lincoln’s exercise of power leading up to and during the War Between the States. It’s not a matter of Mr. Lincoln’s personal character but of his very well-spoken propaganda in support of his exercise of office.*
So, hypocrisy abounds, but great men can still do good. I believe Jefferson was by far the greater of the two men and has been a far, far greater force for good, but Lincoln did at least manage to kill over 600,000 Americans with his war. That alone makes him a great man in any history.
Oh, and he said a lot of really nice things, as president, that his actions as president–not as a private citizen–contradict. I’ll be happy to take his words and embrace many of them and their ideals. Just spare me from another hypocritically Lincolnesque president.
Jefferson’s slaves never had it as bad as the men Lincoln had shanghaied and sent to their deaths.
*No, Lincoln did not “free the slaves” and no, the War Between the States was not primarily about slavery but about control of the States by the “federal” (functionally, as Lincoln viewed and exercised it, and as it is today, “national” and NOT “federal”) government. Slavery was a pretext and handy propaganda issue. After all, Lincoln ONLY “freed” slaves in areas where his government exercised no authority and CREATED slaves with his draft, which he enforced militarily. (See New York City draft riots.)