Judge Napolitano on Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt; Amity Shlaes on Coolidge and FDR

On Friday's special President's Day episode of The Independents, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst and Reason.com columnist Andrew Napolitano celebrated the holiday by sharply criticizing the revered president Abraham Lincoln:

For more on Napolitano's Civil War-related commentary, consult his Dred Scott's Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America. The judge's latest book, Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom, was subject of another Independents segment:

Also comparing presidents was Amity Shlaes, author most recently of Coolidge, and also The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression:

Reminder: All these videos and many score more are available on The Independents' playlist page.

Nick Gillespie interviewed Shlaes for Reason in 2007, and Napolitano for Reason.tv in 2011. The judge also got cross-examined by Brian Doherty in 2007, and Damon Root in 2010.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Protagoronus||

    Any chance you guys can get The Independents added to Fox Business News' Roku app for us cable cutters?

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Lincoln was a tyrant. Discuss!

  • WTF||

    "Sic semper tyrannis!"
    -JWB

  • MJGreen||

    And Crazy Joe Davola.

  • Mr. Soul||

    If only Abe had some Binaca handy.

  • Pavlov's Cat||

    Article III, Section 3, "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them".
    Lincoln certainly levied war against the states.

  • WTF||

    He only levied war against the Confederate Sates, not the United States.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Precisely.

    Had Lincoln levied war against only 33 of the 34 states, whoever the Yoo/Holder of 1861 was would've explained helpfully that the President had levied war only against "some of them," not "them."

  • MJGreen||

    But didn't he also insist that the states were still part of the Union and the CSA was illegitimate?

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Such was his theory - he thought the CSA states were still legally in the USA but had been taken over by rebels. There was also the Sumner "state suicide" theory - by which the Confederates, in rebelling, destroyed their existence as states and assumed the states of federal territories which the feds could reconquer and reconstruct at will. Lincoln was willing to accept Sumner's support, though it was based on a different constitutional theory.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Vampires have rights too!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    For those who can't see the embedded video:

    Napolitano

    But Napolitano is being dishonest when he speaks about the "death" of slavery. Was slavery dying in the parts of the world still under the rule of Holy Britannia? Yes. Was it dying in America? No. He refers to the English abolition of slavery, he would do well to mention that slavery was abolished first under common law (the air of England is too pure to be breathed by slaves, therefore any man who sets foot in England must be free). The then American colonies responded by inserting slavery into their statutes. Scott v. Sanford that the Slave Power was not only NOT dying, they were on the rise, as Scott had nullified every domestic abolition law passed in the North.

    The tariffs is a lame canard, a post-war dodge by the defeated Confederates and their descendants to make their defense of the Slave Power (the greatest material interest of the world, according to the state of Mississippi) somewhat palatable.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Anonymous Coward,

    But Napolitano is being dishonest when he speaks about the "death" of slavery.


    Slavery in the U.S. was becoming increasingly expensive especially with so many states nullifying the Fugitive Slave law, so what Napolitano means is that slavery as an economic process was becoming progressively less productive. Napolitano was making an economic argument. You're trying to make an argument from impatience - i.e. it wasn't happening fast enough for you.

    The tariffs is a lame canard, a post-war dodge by the defeated Confederates


    You're maming the same exact mistake that millions of those who endured the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem continue to make to this day, and that is to confuse the reasons for secession with the reason for preserving the union. Whereas the resentment against the tariffs was not the only stated reason for secession (and it was stated), keeping slavery being the other, the reason that Lincoln pursued the war was to bring the Southern states back into the Union so the central government could successfully levy the tariff. A similar tariff caused a major crisis in 1832 which threatened to unravel the Union back then, so calling the tariff a "post-war dodge" is nothing more than showing ignorance of YOUR OWN HISTORY.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    You're trying to make an argument from impatience - i.e. it wasn't happening fast enough for you.

    No, I'm accusing him of error and/or dishonesty. One cannot conflate abolition in the British Empire to American abolition. And because act of slaveholding was expensive is no sure indicator that it would be abolished. If people acted solely in their best long-term economic interests, the world might be better off.

    Whereas the resentment against the tariffs was not the only stated reason for secession


    Of course. The first secessionists skulked home for the simple fact that Lincoln won the election. Hell, they seceded before he was even sworn into office or the tariff law was brought for a vote.

    the reason that Lincoln pursued the war was to bring the Southern states back into the Union so the central government could successfully levy the tariff.

    You mean the Morrill tariff that would have never passed had the Southerners not taken their ball and gone home?

    A similar tariff caused a major crisis in 1832 which threatened to unravel the Union back then,

    Maybe Lincoln should have pulled a page from the playbook of Jackson and threatened to start hanging people.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Anonymous Coward,

    No, I'm accusing him of error and/or dishonesty.


    And I am telling you that your accusation is baseless. How about that?

    Hell, they seceded before he was even sworn into office or the tariff law was brought for a vote.


    AC, Lincoln campaigned on the tariff, just like Obama campaigned on Obamacare. Are you really saying that Southerners back then were incorrect in their assessment of Lincoln and yet the people who rejected Obama in 2008 were NOT?

    You mean the Morrill tariff that would have never passed had the Southerners not taken their ball and gone home?


    You cannot know that, that's speculation. The fact is that the threat of the Tariff was enough at that time to make most Southerners (who were not slavists or slave owners, by the way) be wary of the northern industrialists who pretty much owned the GOP and especially Lincoln.

    Maybe Lincoln should have pulled a page from the playbook of Jackson and threatened to start hanging people.


    Well, he got close enough to that - Lincoln snuffed 750 THOUSAND Americans out of existence, possibly more than that, and destroyed two economies in the process: the South's and the North's.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    And I am telling you that your accusation is baseless. How about that?

    You are entitled to persist in your incorrect opinion.

    AC, Lincoln campaigned on the tariff, just like Obama campaigned on Obamacare. Are you really saying that Southerners back then were incorrect in their assessment of Lincoln and yet the people who rejected Obama in 2008 were NOT?

    Your PUBLIX SKOOL EDUMACASHUN is showing. In 1860, Lincoln didn't campaign on his own behalf at all. He attended one rally in Springfield. And still won. Others campaigned on his behalf. You know, that whole, "office should seek the man" thing.

    You cannot know that, that's speculation.

    I believe we call that arithmetic, not speculation. It's more speculative than the paranoid wild-assed-guessing that the tariff would pass because Lincoln would pay off Southerners, or the GOP would win the next two elections.

    wary of the northern industrialists who pretty much owned the GOP and especially Lincoln.

    The Kochtopus looms eternal, it seems.

    Well, he got close enough to that - Lincoln snuffed 750 THOUSAND Americans out of existence


    How about the 13,000 men who died at Andersonville? Lincoln reach out and kill them too?

  • sarcasmic||

    In an industrial age, slavery is an economic loser. That's not opinion. It's just a fact.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I agree wholeheartedly. The problem is, and various parties like to pretend, that slavery in America was purely economic in nature. They would have us believe that slavery was merely dollars and cents, and that the scientists and philosophers of the day did not write texts informing their audiences that servitude was the natural state of the African slave. They would have you believe the pastors did not preach that the African slave was under the curse of Ham, as evidenced by his black skin, or that slaves had a duty under God to obey their masters while quietly sliding Deuteronomy 28:15-16 under the rug. That pretend that there was no prestige attached having even a single slave, much less a small army of them to attend their every need like the gentry of old Europe. And even the ones who owned no slaves derived a benefit from having people who were legally, economically, and socially beneath them. Hell, a few of them might have volunteered for the slave patrols, to keep the slaves in line, break up their gatherings and harrass them on the roads (sort of like their modern descendants, the police).

  • Calidissident||

    ^This. In addition, it must be remembered that slaves weren't some small minority in the South. They were 40% of the population in the CSA, and a majority in South Carolina and Mississippi. There was a very widespread belief among white Southerners that society could not function if blacks were freed from their state of enslavement.

  • sarcasmic||

    None of those things cancel out the fact that slavery is an economic loser.

    That means that the slave economy would have been unable to compete economically with the rest of the world.

    When you are unable to trade you are forced to become self-sufficient, and that's the road to poverty.

    It appears that you believe they were such fervent racists that they would choose poverty over ending slavery.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It appears that you believe they were such fervent racists that they would choose poverty over ending slavery.

    People and governments have done crazier things. How long has our own government persisted in this costly, unproductive, anti-liberty War on Drug Users, despite all evidence that it has succeeded in doing nothing but driving up rates of incarceration?

    Why does Afghanistan continue in much the same state it has for centuries, despite being the world's largest producer of both opium and cannabis?

    Culture and society do matter. Some people will move heaven and earth to prevent a change they don't like, even if all evidence suggests that the change would benefit them. Call it vanity, call it stupidity, but don't pretend it doesn't exist or all men bow at the altar of reason.

  • sarcasmic||

    Call it vanity, call it stupidity, but don't pretend it doesn't exist or all men bow at the altar of reason.

    I never said it did not exist. I said that slavery is an economic loser. As a business model it fails in an industrial age. Failed business models fail. That's reality.

    Slavery would have died without government intervention. When your competitors can get their products to market at a lower price, you must change what you are doing or go out of business. That's reality.

    Slavery would have died without war.

    That's reality.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Slavery would have died without government intervention. When your competitors can get their products to market at a lower price, you must change what you are doing or go out of business. That's reality.

    Slavery would have died without war.

    That's reality.

    That it is. And while the Slave Power is busy dying its slow, laborious death, what's your explanation for those who turn its wheels? "Sorry you can't enjoy liberty today, you'll have to wait until your masters have no further need for your labor? It might be tomorrow, it might be in 50 years, but hey, it's just a little slavery, right? It's not like we the slave population would fight a war over something like...taxation?"

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It's not like we the slave population would fight a war over something like...taxation?"

    Now for the less-garbled sentence: "It's not like we the American population would fight over something like...taxation?"

  • sarcasmic||

    Now you agree that war was not necessary to end slavery. That is good.

    Whether or not it would have ended fast enough for your liking is a totally different matter, and not at all relevant to my argument that slavery is an economic loser.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I don't deny that, but I counter that "Someday, in the fullness of time, taking one thing with another, when conditions are perfect" is thin gruel for the people actually being deprived of their rights.

    I agree that slavery is economically inefficient, but that economics is not the first and last consideration when it comes to slavery, as I pointed above.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    In the real world apart from theory, nations formulated quite a few solutions to the slavery problem, only one of which entailed mass bloodshed followed by reconstruction, mass death of former slaves to disease and starvation, and jim crow bitterness that lingered for more than 100 years.

    If you were to imagine the worst way imaginable to end slavery, you'd be scratching the surface of the American "solution," which was just a secondary outcome of securing the union.

  • Calidissident||

    It seems to me that the real question (given that the Union, as we all agree, did not go to war to end slavery) is not why did we end slavery through war, but why were the Southern states, and the powerful slave owners that ran their governments, so scared shitless at the thought of ending slavery that they seceded from the Union (risking an invasion that proved devastating) when Lincoln was elected, even though he didn't run on a platform of abolitionism or have the numbers in Congress (as long as the Southern states stayed in the Union) to end it, without adding several new free states (and that last bit is what scared the South; they feared that new free states would be admitted to the Union until eventually there were enough free states to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban slavery)? It's not like the North just all of the sudden said "Hey, we're gonna invade you if you don't abolish slavery right now!" The South freaked the minute Lincoln was elected and decided to jump ship; to me, why they did that (when slaveowners in every other country never did anything similar) is the real question, not why slavery was ended through war in this country.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've never understood the argument regarding Slave Power in relation to secession.

    Slave Power gave the southern states representation in the federal government, the government from which they were trying to secede.

    Seems to me to be totally irrelevant.

  • Calidissident||

    It might be a loser for society as a whole, but there were a lot of people making a lot of money off of it, who stopped making money when it ended. There wasn't much competition from non-slave agriculture for the big plantation owners. Add on top of that the cultural factors, and while I do agree that slavery would have eventually ended, I don't think it was imminent at all in 1860.

  • Calidissident||

    Anyone who reads the Declarations of the Causes of Secession or Stephens's Cornerstone Speech and concludes that the tariff even remotely approaches slavery as a reason for secession is either illiterate or in denial.

  • sarcasmic||

    Slavery was indeed the reason for Secession.

    But it wasn't the reason for the war.

  • Calidissident||

    It takes two to tango; slavery was the reason the South fought the war.

  • Juice||

    Obama campaigned on Obamacare

    Wrong. Hillary campaigned on Obamacare. Obama campaigned against it.

  • So very tired||

    Hillary campaigned on Obamacare.

    She was running in 2012?

    How?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    nullifying the Fugitive Slave law

    That's the big one. The cost of a slave was roughly equivalent to that of a luxury car today, and when your luxury car disappears and can't be returned by force of law, it might encourage you to rent rather than buy.

    That's not to say that slavery wouldn't've lingered for a long, long time, but the relative price of ending slavery economically was much lower than the price in blood that the nation paid, not to mention the rise of a powerful federal government that did so much damage a few generations later.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    That's the big one. The cost of a slave was roughly equivalent to that of a luxury car today, and when your luxury car disappears and can't be returned by force of law, it might encourage you to rent rather than buy.

    Which smacks of blatant hypocrisy. The Slave Power screamed nullification to the high heavens when shit didn't go their way, but when they got the Fugitive Slave Law (and the power of the federal marshals to enforce their "rights") and Scott v. Sanford (states have no right to abolish slavery within their own borders), then they were just fine with using the federal jackboot on those damn Yankees.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Yes, but that doesn't stop the modern "federalism=racism!" talking point.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    They were, but no one's accusing CSA states of being heroes--they were sleazy states. I'm looking at the economics of slavery in the nullification era in the same way that we might look at the economics of colonialism. Neither practice ended (or would've ended) peacefully until it became clear that the costs outweighed the profits. State nullification of the FSAs would've driven those costs through the roof.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    In point of fact, the reason there was a split in the Democratic party for that election is because the Southern wing of the party wanted Deed Scott (one of the worst SC rulings ever) upheld, as well as guaranteed slavering the Territories and a refusal to admit free states and a slew of other legislation aimed at restricting free states' rights and the free speech rights of abolitionists.

    Somehow, only the South is allowed to be outraged in the pro-CSA narrative.

  • ||

    OT: Have some Connecticut anti-gun retard stamping his foot. Delicious.

    But the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.

    A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit.

    If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This is fun. Let's try when sodomy was a crime:

    But the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers homosexuals who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law as sex offenders.

    A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit live near a school.

    If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.

    Gee, vague appeals to authority are fun for the whole family!

  • lap83||

    That comparison isn't fair because homosexuals are stylish but gun owners are hillbillies. /prog

  • WTF||

    Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.

    Background checks and registration will never be used for confiscation. Trust us.
    And weren't they assuring us that the background checks could not be kept in a database as de facto registration?

  • ||

  • Killaz||

    President's Day falls on my birthday. I feel like I have been slagged.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Well be careful til it wears off or you'll be taking double damage.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Call it Washington's Birthday and save yourself the grief.

    And happy birthday.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Will Martha Washington sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in a sultry voice?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    No doubt Washington would've had his pick of sultry harlots to sing the 18th-century equivalent of happy birthday to him, with Martha near the bottom of that pile.

    George was apparently quite the flirt, especially when it came to the other FF's wives. And apparently a lot of the framers were lotharios, Adams excluded. Plus ça change...

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    Hey, women dug his snuff and his gallant stroll...

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    30 goddamn dicks

  • Killaz||

    Thanks. I fried baby back ribs in butter and ground pepper for the occasion. Will barbeque them on the grill when I get back in this evening to celebrate. Beer recommendations?

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Blithering Idiot for a night you'll never remember.

  • Killaz||

    An English Barleywine! I have a few doppelbocks in the fridge that would compliment that nicely.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Washington?! That tyrant? Ever hear of the Whiskey Rebellion? Discuss!

  • Killaz||

    Where he defeated the rebellion, axed their barrels, and outlawed haggis. Tyrant!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Only 13 responses to this piece of comment-bait?

    I guess you're all admitting that the Lincoln Memorial should be even bigger!

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    They're all spent from yesterday maybe.

  • Killaz||

    I am working on a teleportation device that will peacefully disassemble it and once put back together drop it in a deep ravine in the Atlantic Ocean. Who wants to Kick Start it?

  • PD Scott||

    Yes, and there should be a statue of a snarling Jeff Davis under Lincoln's feet.

  • Killaz||

    My objection isn't so much the historical, Civil War took two assholes to tango, but the current reality of having a temple dedicated to a man on the mall. All larger than life statues would get the teleporter. As well as Mount Rushmore.

    So, sign of to Kick Start today!

  • Loki||

    "It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another." - Malcolm Reynolds

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Only 13 responses to this piece of comment-bait?

    Let me try again.

    If Lincoln wasn't circumcized, he should have been. Discuss!

  • Killaz||

    Lincoln invented deep dish Illinois style pizza.

  • WTF||

    And since he lived in Illinois, he also liked deep dish pretend-pizza.

  • lap83||

    There wasn't enough time to circumcise him, he was aborted.

  • Killaz||

    http://www.economicpolicyjourn.....seize.html

    Donna Brazile Tells The President To Seize More Power Today

    .@BarackObama. Enjoy #PresidentsDay. With Congress on recess, this is action day! Let's move America forward.
    — Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) February 17, 2014

  • Marc F Cheney||

    We're just supposed to lean forward, not actually move.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    We're just supposed to lean forward, not actually move.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    We're just supposed to lean forward, not actually move.

  • Pavlov's Cat||

    "Lean forward?" Isn't that the first step in BOHICA?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    If only Obama could keep Congress on permanent recess, just imagine the things he could get done!

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Every day is a good day for putsch in the minds of Obama supporters.

  • Almanian!||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv6OOuPI5c0

    SFW

    Can't believe I haven't seen this yet.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I will never understand the libertarian fascination with secession. What does it matter that a territorially smaller/localized government exercises sovereignty as opposed to a larger/more distant one? The most oppressive governments in the world, N Korea and Cuba, are no larger than Kentucky. More important is the aggregate freedom of the government you are under - and I have no idea how one could claim that the quasi-feudal antebellum South was preferable on that count to the North at the time - anymore than one could deny that the modern Southern states are better on most freedom issues than their Northern counterparts.

  • sarcasmic||

    You certainly did a good job of dispatching that straw man while totally missing the point.

    Congrats!

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Leaving aside the questions of self-ownership, self-determination, the Declaration of Independence, and whether local governments have the means to be as oppressive as imperial states, if you understand the fascination with federalism, you understand the fascination with secession.

  • cheap soccer jerseys||

    Anyone who reads the Declarations of the Causes of Secession or Stephens's Cornerstone Speech and concludes that the tariff even remotely approaches slavery as a reason for secession is either illiterate or in denial.

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