[Marxism] Marx on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Mon Mar 13 23:54:08 MDT 2017

Citation to Collected Works is at bottom of message. Unfortunately, MECW 
are not online, this version still under copyright by International 
Publishers or Lawrence and Wishart afaik.

On 3/13/2017 10:24 PM, Thomas wrote:
> Where can one find the article quoted?  MEC appear to be out of action.
> T
> -----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 remarkable historical documents - flung by him at the enemy will look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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