Wednesday, 21 January 2009

History Through Art

Only a nation ignorant of its own history could buy the comparison of the empty vessel with the silver tongue that is Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln, the president who won the Civil war and signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation.

Historian Scott Powell teaches History Through Art as part of his History at our House programme for high school-age children – or adults keen to learn history in a new way.


Think about taking History Through Art to put you ahead of the pack. To explore the options you have in integrating History Through Art into your history program, see Scott Powell’s Implementation and Product Tiers pages.

And in the meantime, see what art might be able to tell you about Abraham Lincoln.


  1. History through really bad Art.

  2. The way Bill Bryson tells it Lincoln thought the Gettysburg address was a miserable failure at the time. He followed someone who spoke more in the mode that was current at the time, with terrifyingly florid classical references at interminable length.

    Apparently Lincoln didn't give any campaign speeches in the 1860 election so presently I'm not sure what the grounds of comparison would be.

  3. Lincoln was a murderous swine. He was directly responsible for the mysery, rape and death of many of his own countrymen. In comparison with Obama hae had two features in common- he was a non-productive parasite (a failure) and he could talk nice words.

    The best thing that can be said about him was that he ended his days in mortal agony.


  4. LGM, don't believe everything you read in DiLorenzo's book.

    In my judgement, Lincoln was neither ogre nor hero. I'm with Tibor Machan> in considering him to be mixed -- but it would be incorrect to call him a murderous swine who was directly responsible for the misery, rape and death of many of his own countrymen.

    Lay that at the feet of the slave-owners and secessionists. As Tibor argues, "when one considers that the citizens of the union who intended to go their own way were, in effect, kidnapping millions of people -- most of whom would rather have stayed with the union that held out some hope for their eventual liberation -- the idea of secession no longer seems so innocent. And regardless of Lincoln's motives -- however tyrannical his aspirations or ambitious -- when slavery is factored in, it is doubtful that one can justify secession by the southern states."

    Tibor concludes that "however flawed Lincoln was, he was a good American." FWIW, I agree with him.

  5. Paul, in this context the best art is that which most clearly demonstrates the historical context, no?

  6. Kids deserve better art than turgid 19th Century costume dramas. Besides, the purpose of teaching History is not to promote legends of great men doing noble deeds. History is far more complex and far less ideological than that.

  7. LGM said "The best thing that can be said about him was that he ended his days in mortal agony"

    It's a pity LGM's daddy didn't pull out of his mummy and blog would-be LGM all over the blankets.

  8. PC

    Putting aside that Lincoln was of the big tax, big govt, mercantilist persuasion, he indeed had an important choice to make. Did he allow a war to start- one which he knew would result in mass destruction, the maiming, the difugurement, the disablement and deaths of scores of his fellow citizen Americans or did he choose to avoid it?

    Would YOU make the decision to take your fellows into such a war given similar circumstances (the right to tax)?

    The historical record demonstrates exactly what Lincoln was, what he allowed and what he did. The USA has sufferred for it subsequently. It is a small measure of justice that he died as he did.


  9. Anonymous

    It's a pity your mother flushed the baby and kept the pooh. Ah well, she was lonely and couldn't remember which rodent had fertilised her anyway.


  10. The "choice" about war did not lie with Lincoln. It lay chiefly on those who sought secession to maintain their ownership of slaves.

    Just as I say above, and as Tibor argues.

  11. LG, a former flatmate of mine in San Francisco (whom I discovered to be a libertarian years later!) is dubious of Lincoln, too. Several years ago he sent me a published essay (not his) whereby the author was very critical of AL for the protectionist reasons you note.

    The essay's essence was that the Civil War was economically-driven, with abolition being the necessary excuse. That while the North was clamping down fiscally (& going backwards as a result), the South was organising its own export arrangements & flourishing, etc. And as such, the North was not happy with the power imbalance.

    The author was not defending slavery in any manner, noting that the abhorrent practice would eventually have been abolished .. because that's just what happens as people evolve. (Think small boys up chimneys, etc).

    As we know, the Unionists razed the south in the end. Absolutely destroyed it. And the cruel irony was that blacks were still treated very poorly, not receiving the vote for another century.

    I backpacked through the south 20+ yrs ago. (Trotted over the field at little Gettysburg, too, while in PA). Old habits die hard down there. A chap in Charleston told me that kids don't know that 'damn yankee' is two words until they learn to read ...

  12. PC

    Lincoln was president. He was the leader of the Federal Government of the USA. The choice about whether to enter a violent war or seek an alternative resolution to the situation resided with Lincoln, the President. He WAS the president; the authority in power. He was in possession of solid advice about the policies he was about to pursue. He decided which path to take. His decision shaped the results and determined the consequences. Worse, his on-going decisions determined the nature of that horrible war- from sea to shining sea, while we were marching through Georgia etc. etc. etc.

    BTW he was not concerning himself about the plight of the slaves in the Southern states when he chose warfare over other alternatives. The proclamation of emancipation occurred AFTER the blood letting on both sides was so severe that Lincoln sought ANYTHING, ANYTHING AT ALL he could find to damage the Southern ability to continue to fight.

    But the damning decision remains that first step- the one where he decided to commit Americans to fight, to rape, to injure, to pillage, to rob, to steal, to destroy... THAT and a hugely inflated Federal power is his legacy.


  13. The choice you describe did not exist.

    After decades of "alternative resolutions" to the problem that was put off by the founders -- from acceptance of slavery to the Missouri Compromise to the Dred Scott decision to the new slave states potentially admitted to the Union that would have tipped the balance in favour of slavery -- the keg was already lit, and the choice you claim was open to Lincoln was no longer possible.

    The situation had already exploded under him.

    I stand behind what I quoted from Tibor above, and what he wrote in the two links he posted.

  14. PC

    Lincoln's decision to enter a war was determined for mercantilist and tax reasons. He was NOT making his decision according to a concern about the plight of the slaves. It is doubtful he would have given them much thought whatsoever AT THE TIME. They were certainly NOT the driver of his decision.

    Once the Southern States vacated the Union (a constitional mechanism existed for them to do this), that should have been the end of the matter. President Lincoln did not have a right to start a war to build supreme authority for Federal Government. The Federation of States was over at that point. Lincoln acted to prevent that situation from becoming established as a permanent state of affairs and also to prevent the economic difficulties the secession would have provided for the North (and his backers).

    The decision he faced: do I send my fellow citizens into a war, to rape, pillage, injure, destroy, steal and kill etc. or not?

    Later decisions he made determining the prosecution of that war are even more damning.

    BTW the President does indeed have the power to make the decision about whether or not to enter a war. That's a wee small part of his powers and responsibilities.


  15. LGM, yes, he was a mercantilist. Yes, Mercantilism was one of the drivers of the differences between North and South.

    But pointing to that as the primary cause of the war is just flat wrong. Suggesting Lincoln could have avoided war is just not right. Suggesting the South had a moral right to secede, "in effect, kidnapping millions of people -- most of whom would rather have stayed with the union that held out some hope for their eventual liberation," is just flat wrong.

    May I suggest once again that you deal with the issues raised in Tibor's two posts.

  16. PC

    What I wrote was that Lincoln (the individual) had a choice. His reasons for his decision were not based on a concern for the plight of the slaves in the South. They were based on other priorities.

    The assertion that it is "just not right" that Lincoln could have avoided his war remains merely assertion. Suffice to say, a single simple act, such as withdrawal from Sumter, rather than a provocative resupply, would have been one modest step toward negotiation and avoidance of serious violence. It was one opportunity that was lost (among others). It was squandered for deliberate calculated reason.

    A suggestion that the Southern States were "kidnapping millions of people" is quite as obscene as the idea that the North would "liberate" millions of people by the acts of conscription, torturing, raping, burning, looting murdering, destroying, maiming, stealing etc. Did the North "own" these people? Perhaps it is best remembered that it is best policy to avoid arguing history according to collectivist premise...

    In the final analysis, Lincoln had a vital choice to make. He exercised it. Note that he didn't make just that one choice either. He made a consistent series. The prosecution of that terrible civil war was fought according to a standard of conduct with Lincoln's full and specific knowledge and worse, to his instruction. That is a matter of historical fact. The papers, letters etc. still exist.

    Lincoln's contributions to the USA remain the enablement of a powerful centralised Federal government (which the founders and framers of the Constitution greatly feared and had taken some efforts to attempt to avoid), the dilution of a great Constitution and a horrific civil war (culminating in the destruction of the Southern States). He paved the route for a new direction away from Republic and toward Empire.

    Was he all evil? Don't know. His wife liked him, as did others. She was said to have been nice. Was he a power lusting politician who had failed in private business.......?

    BTW an interesting aside to the American Civil War is that the Imperoial German Army sent several observers to learn about the prosecution of the civil war first hand. Some are said to have actually taken part in the action, while others observed. The most ambitious group were most interested in the potential for mobilising industry for what later came to be known as total warfare. They spent much time and effort examining that aspect. The idea of full civilian involvement seemed to be an appealing development in more ways than one and the Germans soon got over their squeamishness. Several books were written summarising their findings and recommendations. Rather than wading through the turgidity of that you can find a brief summary in Hunt Tooley's account of WW1.


    PS can anyone name the most famous German military officer who visted the USA during the Civil War? He was introduced to a device that later defined his life and his life's work.

  17. LGM said "It's a pity your mother flushed the baby and kept the pooh"

    What is it with you and poo? Is it because you are annoyed that you have to keep dry-cleaning Perigo's poo off your curtains [after he's withdrawn from your arse]. Suck it clean for him - you crawling lowlife, you know you want to.

    Keep up with the collective agreement on the most puritanical Libertine position, you totalitarian nutbar. LOL

  18. LGM said"
    What I wrote was that Lincoln (the individual) had a choice. His reasons for his decision were not based on a concern for the plight of the slaves in the South. They were based on other priorities"

    LGM. How dare you offer a "non-approved" Libertine viewpoint of Lincoln to that of Lord High Priest Cresswell.

    Shame on you, you are obviously displaying clear signs that you lack the required ideological purity to conform to the Libertarian collective !

    Loser. LOL

  19. Redbait (a.k.a. The Banned One, a.k.a Anonymous, etc. etc.)

    Thought it was you. It is so easy to flush you out (all one needs recall about you is your unhealthy fixation with the potty and your botty).


    PC and I can debate this subject because we are both aware of the history, the ideas at issue and the results of what occurred. Each has invested the time to read the relevant material and consider it in detail. Our debate is really one regarding context- not that you'd have a clue.

    Contrasting with your own situation- no specific knowledge, no reading, no thinking, no background research, nothing but emotive outbursts related to that unhealthty fixation of yours. Time to get your head out of the toilet, dry your hair and get the professional help you so clearly need.



1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.