July 4, 2015

THE BETTER MAN LOVED TRAINS:

What Did Lincoln Really Think of Jefferson? (ALLEN C. GUELZO, JULY 3, 2015, NY Times)

Lincoln, who was born less than a month before Jefferson left the presidency in 1809, had his own reasons for loathing Jefferson "as a man." Lincoln was well aware of Jefferson's "repulsive" liaison with his slave, Sally Hemings, while "continually puling about liberty, equality and the degrading curse of slavery." But he was just as disenchanted with Jefferson's economic policies.

Jefferson believed that the only real wealth was land and that the only true occupation of virtuous and independent citizens in a republic was farming. "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people," Jefferson wrote. He despised "the selfish spirit of commerce" for feeling "no passion or principle but that of gain." And he regarded banks with special suspicion as the source of all commercial evil. "Banks may be considered as the primary source" of "paper speculation," and only foster "the spirit of gambling in paper, in lands, in canal schemes, town lot schemes, manufacturing schemes and whatever could hit the madness of the day."

Lincoln, who actually grew up on a backwoods farm, saw little there but drunkenness, rowdyism and endless, mind-numbing labor under the rule of his loutish and illiterate father. He made his escape from the farm as soon as he turned 21, opened a store (which failed) and finally went into law, that great enforcer of commercial contract. "I was once a slave," he remarked, "but now I am so free that they let me practice law."

As an Illinois state legislator, Lincoln promoted a state banking system and public funding for canals and bridges. As a lawyer, according to colleagues, Lincoln was never "unwilling to appear in behalf of a great soulless corporation" -- especially railroads -- and had no compunction about recommending the eviction of squatters who farmed railroad-owned land.

As president, he put into place a national banking system, protective tariffs for American manufacturing and government guarantees for building a transcontinental railroad. Lincoln was Jefferson's nightmare.

Posted by at July 4, 2015 11:01 AM
  

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