Monday, June 27, 2005

Did Barack Obama Slam Lincoln?

Drudge sure thinks so, latching on to the following phrase from Obama's essay in Time:
...I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an African American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document than a clarion call for justice. Scholars tell us too that Lincoln wasn't immune from political considerations and that his temperament could be indecisive and morose.
Of course, Obama wraps that passage up in a largely positive portrait of Lincoln. So let's take Obama up on it, and go to the source:

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Sounds pretty unambigious to me; I'm not quite sure what Obama's beef with this is: the wording wasn't flowery enough? Beats any event, I think Lincoln's reputation will survive Obama's curiously tepid response. It seems to me, in a time of war, that a military document proclaiming freedom would be worth far more than a ringing speech calling for justice. Regardless of the motivation, this document quite literally freed the slaves, or most of them; that it took generations for the seed he planted to bear fruit can hardly be layed at the feet of Lincoln.

UPDATE 9:15 p.m.: Done With Mirrors lightly takes me to task for saying the Proclamation quite literally freed the slaves by making the excellent point (I'm getting sloppy in my old age) that Lincoln's proclamation only freed the slaves in areas in active rebellion, i.e., in areas where he had no power or jurisdiction, while at the same time failing to address the situation in the areas that he did control.

UPDATE 2 11:23 p.m.: Lots of good stuff in the comments. Gulf Coast Bandit agrees with Done With Mirrors, but don't miss Fred's impassioned defense of the Proclamation as 'simply the most radical document produced by 19th century America'.

UPDATE 3 06/28/05 10:41 a.m.: Many thanks to PoliPundit for the link; you can read his thoughts (hint: he's no Obama fan) here...

No comments: