[Marxism] Marx on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Mark Lause markalause at gmail.com
Tue Mar 14 09:12:11 MDT 2017

It's from Comments on North American Events in October 1862.

On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 1:54 AM, Ralph Johansen via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> 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 remarkable historical documents - flung by him at the enemy will look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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