Uncle Sam’s Shrine to Lincoln

On the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination this year, I stopped by Abe’s birthplace in Hodgenville, Kentucky, with one of my professors and two friends on the way to Lexington for an academic conference. During our brief visit, we witnessed an appalling level of state worship. Religious connotations, designed to brainwash Americans into viewing Lincoln as a godlike figure, permeate the site. The building that houses the cabin where Lincoln was born is called a "shrine" and is modeled after the Parthenon, the temple that housed the Greek gods. The cabin itself is roped off, much like a religious relic. Uncle Sam prohibits flash photography to remind Americans of the Vatican and other real religious sites. Interestingly, the guide told us that this is not even the actual cabin where Lincoln was born.

As many others have pointed out, Lincoln deserves no such recognition. He waged an unnecessary war, supposedly in an effort to defend the very Constitution he was destroying. Trying to arrest the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for questioning his violations of the Constitution, ordering troops to shoot draft resisters, and arresting Northern newspaper editors who courageously opposed his war are not actions that warrant deification. So why is Uncle Sam willing to waste thousands of taxpayer dollars to deify him?

Historical sites presented in this manner contradict the principles upon which this nation was founded, and it is imperative that Americans understand why the State promotes them.

The founding fathers would never approve such sites. George Washington rejected any titles that sounded regal; he insisted on being called only "President." Thomas Jefferson thought that even Washington had infused the presidency with too much pomp. During his administration, he replaced the custom of bowing to the president with a simple handshake. If the founders rejected anything resembling kingship and the despotism associated with it, efforts to deify a tyrannical president would certainly horrify them.

The State insists on deifying Lincoln because his War to Prevent Southern Independence destroyed the concept of limited government in America. Many of Lincoln’s successors have utilized his actions as precedents for their own warmongering and unconstitutional seizures of power, George W. Bush being a prime example, with his crackdown on civil liberties and wars of "liberation." Franklin Roosevelt followed Lincoln’s example by placing thousands of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. In short, Lincoln’s actions provide power-hungry presidents with a "noble" precedent for starting wars and aggrandizing State power. Therefore, the State must uphold Lincoln’s reputation as a liberator and great leader, lest Americans realize that the current Imperial Presidency lacks a constitutional basis.

Our group intended to eat lunch at the picnic tables in the park nearby, but our plans quickly changed when a park worker asked us to leave. Apparently we were the only ones who thought it funny that my professor wrote "Sic semper tyrannis" in the "Comments" section of the guestbook. In hindsight, however, this should not have surprised us; to Uncle Sam, such a remark is, literally, heresy.

September 20, 2004