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US: Lincoln and the South

Several postings have illustrated the resentment many Southerners feel about their defeat in the Civil War. A large new Abraham Lincoln Library will be inaugurated in Springfield, Illinois tomorrow, and a Lincoln Museum being built nearby will be inaugurated in 2009. In preparation for tomorrow's opening, C-Span ran a long program about the project, the highlight being a discussion with Thomas Schwartz, Research Director of the Library. Many calls came from Southerners who disapproved so much that one Northerner called in to say that Lincoln must be judged according to his time. One Southerner read a long section from a speech by Lincoln making clear that he was a White supremacist. Thomas Schwartz said that he was a politician who had to say that to get votes. This excuse makes Lincoln appear to be a typical lying politician. Especially interesting was one call from a Southern Republican who said that Lincoln should not be the hero of his party, rather it should be Andrew Johnson, who was impeached. The Solid South used to be solidly Democratic, but now those conservatives are solidly Republican. As Southerners they cannot accept Lincoln as their hero, but would accept Andrew Johnson, who was impeached and nearly condemned. Johnson was a Southerner born in North Carolina. He grew up in Tennessee, of which he became Governor. He also represented the state in Congress. He represented the eastern part of the state, where there were few slave holders: Their stronghold was the cotton- growing western part of the state. Johnson was elected Vice President rather than a strong abolitionist from Maine, since he was a Southerner, but not a slave owner. although he defended slavery. In the Civil War he was the only Southern senator loyal to the Union. As President, he broke with the Republican Party, and his impeachment was political. He fought the abuses of Reconstruction, and so he is naturally more popular in the South than Lincoln. History has treated him unfairly.

Ronald Hilton - 11/17/02