Without a Single Shot Fired

As we all know, the left has made a large issue of the number of American casualties in the 5 year Iraq War – 4 thousand plus. The argument is that these deaths are the result of an unnecessary war and are themselves a waste of precious lives. For this, Democrats and other leftists around the world despise the current president and have declared him the worst president in American history.

While today’s intellectuals consider Bush the worst president, they almost all consider Abraham Lincoln (despite his less-than-correct views on race) the best president for his decision to fight a war which resulted in the emancipation of the slaves. But Lincoln, in pursuing the war against the Confederacy, was responsible for 600 thousand plus deaths (six million in today’s population, according to a recent book by Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust) in 4 years.

Was this war necessary? Would slavery have continued on into the 20th century? If slavery had been allowed to die a natural death, would black people have been subjected to the terror of Jim Crow for a century after the war ended?

An interesting letter in the Wall Street Journal speculates:

I am one of the “wised-up debunkers” who Andrew Ferguson attacks in his informative, yet one-sided tribute to the man inside the Lincoln Memorial. As a longtime observer of — and occasional participant in — major historical events (Normandy, June 6, 1944), I have come to question the massive human costs involved in many of our historical landmarks.

Was the result worth the cost? The compromise ending the election of 1876 decided otherwise. Only a decade after Appomattox, the South gained the withdrawal of federal troops and the right to impose a system of peonage on the region’s black population. Only after another assassination, John F. Kennedy’s, was it possible for a politician matching Lincoln’s adroitness to achieve the results that Lincoln intended.

Could Abraham Lincoln have had a different legacy? Consider the case of one of the greatest humanitarians of the 19th century, Dom Pedro II of Brazil. When he came to the throne in 1840, half of the seven million Brazilians were slaves. But long before he died in 1891 — a poverty-stricken exile in Paris — all of Brazil’s slaves had been freed, without a single shot being fired.

William M. Burke
San Francisco

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