[Marxism] Marx on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Thomas thomasfbarton at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 13 23:24:23 MDT 2017

Where can one find the article quoted?  MEC appear to be out of action.


-----Original Message-----
>From: Ralph Johansen via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
>Sent: Mar 14, 2017 12:14 AM
>To: Thomas F Barton <thomasfbarton at earthlink.net>
>Subject: [Marxism] Marx on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

>I just stumbled on this while looking for something else:
>Lincoln is a /sui generis/ figure in the annals of history. He has no 
>initiative, no idealistic impetus, no cothurnis, no historical 
>trappings. He gives his most important actions always the most 
>commonplace form. Other people claim to be "fighting for an idea," even 
>when it is for them a matter of square feet of land. Lincoln, even when 
>he is motivated by an idea, talks about "square feet." He sings the 
>bravura aria of his part hesitatively, reluctantly and unwillingly, as 
>though apologizing for being compelled by circumstances to "act the 
>lion." The most redoubtable decrees - which will always remain 
>remarkable historical documents - flung by him at the enemy will look 
>like, and are intended to look like, routine summonses sent by a lawyer 
>to the lawyer of the opposing party, legal chicaneries, involved, 
>hide-bound /actiones juris/. His latest proclamation, which is drafted 
>in the same style, the manifesto abolishing slavery, is the most 
>important document in American history since the establishment of the 
>Union, tantamount to the tearing up of the old American Constitution.
>Nothing is simpler than to show that Lincoln's principal political 
>actions contain much that is aesthetically repulsive, logically 
>inadequate, farcical in form and politically contradictory. as is done 
>by the English Pindar of slaves, /The Times/, /The Saturday Review/ 
>and/tutti quanti/. But Lincoln's place in the history of the United 
>States and of mankind will, nevertheless, be next to that of Washington! 
>Nowadays, when the insignificant struts about melodramatically on this 
>side of the Atlantic, is it of no significance at all that the 
>significant is clothed in everyday dress in the new world?
>Lincoln is not the product of a popular revolution. This plebeian, who 
>worked his way up from stone-breaker to Senator in Illinois, without 
>intellectual brilliance, without a particularly outstanding character, 
>without exceptional importance - an average person of good will, was 
>placed at the top by the interplay of the forces of universal suffrage 
>unaware of the great issues at stake. The new world has never achieved a 
>greater triumph than by this demonstration that, given its political and 
>social organization, ordinary people of good will can accomplish feats 
>which only heroes could accomplish in the old world!
>Hegel once observed that comedy is in fact superior to tragedy and 
>humourous reasoning superior to grandiloquent reasoning. Although 
>Lincoln does not possess the grandiloquence of historical action, as an 
>average man of the people he has its humour. When does he issue the 
>proclamation declaring that from January 1, 1863, slavery in the 
>Confederacy shall be abolished? At the very moment when the Confederacy 
>as an independent state decided on "peace negotiations" at its Richmond 
>Congress. At the very moment when the slave-owners of the border states 
>believed that the invasion of Kentucky by the armies of the South had 
>made the "peculiar institution" just as safe as was their domination 
>over their compatriot, President Abraham Lincoln in Washington.
>- MECW 19:250

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