From: "Charleston Voice" – bilrum@knology.net
Date: February 17, 2010

Solidifying the Cult of Lincoln, Penny Wise

by Brion McClanahan

In case you missed it (I did), Friday was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. In honor of the Great Centralizer, the United States Mint unveiled a new design for the penny. This should put to rest all of the discussion about the elimination of the worthless copper-clad zinc cent, but the real emphasis should be on the new message the penny pushes on the American public: Lincoln "saved the Union" and State’s rights is a fallacy. Don’t forget it.

The face of the penny will remain unchanged, but the reverse will feature a shield with thirteen stripes and the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" emblazoned across the top. The Mint described the symbolism of the new penny as thus: "The new Lincoln "Preservation of the Union" penny is emblematic of President Lincoln’s "preservation of the United States of America as a single and united country." The 13 vertical stripes of the shield represent the states joined in one compact union to support the Federal government, represented by the horizontal bar above [emphasis added]." At the unveiling of the new penny in Springfield, IL, Mint Director Ed Moy said, "This one-cent coin honors the preservation of the union, which was Abraham Lincoln’s ultimate achievement. Because of his presidency, despite bitter regional enmity and a horrific civil war, we remained the United States of America." This shield was widely used in the North during the War for Southern Independence as a propaganda piece. Nothing has changed. The penny will be in circulation for at least 50 years.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois pushed legislation to redesign the penny through Congress, and it is probably no coincidence that the new penny directly attacks the rejuvenated interest in State’s rights and Tenth Amendment issues across the United States. Notice that according to the Mint, the States are in the Union to support the "Federal" government and are a "single united country." That would be news to the founding generation. Outside of the ardent "nationalists" like Alexander Hamilton or James Wilson, very few believed that the States joined in a compact to "support the Federal government." In fact, the Constitution would not have been ratified had this been the case.

Even Lincoln’s contemporaries doubted his character and his decision to go to war to "preserve the Union." Few Americans realize that less than forty percent of the American public voted for Lincoln in 1860 and that he narrowly won re-election four years later (he trounced George McClellan in the Electoral College but received only fifty-five percent of the total Northern vote. Had the South voted, he would have lost). United States Senator James A. Bayard of Delaware called Lincoln an "ordinary Western man" who had no idea about "republican government." During a three-day speech in 1861, Bayard labeled Lincoln a tyrant and issued this warning:

"You may attempt by war to keep the States united – to restore the Union; but the attempt will be futile. Conciliation and concession may reunite us; war, never! The power may be exercised for the purpose of punishment and vengeance. It may be exercised if you propose to conquer the seceding States, and reduce the nation into a consolidated nation; but if your intention be to maintain the Government which your ancestors founded – that is, a common Government over separate, independent communities – war can never effect such an intention."

The other Senator from Delaware, Willard Saulsbury, remarked in 1863 that, "I firmly believe that the usurpation of arbitrary power upon the part of the Executive to arrest peaceful citizens in loyal States has done more to render that disunion of these States, which now is a fact, permanent and eternal, than anything else…." Representative Fernando Wood of New York opined that Lincoln had created permanent sectional animosity by waging war against the South, and more importantly, had destroyed the United States. "Graves in our valleys, sufferers in our hospitals, desolation at every hearthstone, distrust in our rulers, distrust in ourselves, bankruptcy, anarchy, and ruin – these are the triumphs won by your relentless policy."

This is just a scattering of the multitude of comments made in opposition to Lincoln and the War, and to these men, Lincoln did not preserve the United States; he forged a new centralized despotism, the antithesis of the Founders’ "united States." The Mint, the Congress, and Americans in general gloss over the fact that many Northerners resisted the Federal draft, believed Lincoln started the War and unnecessarily whipped the North into a bloodthirsty frenzy, and blamed Lincoln for the destruction of the Constitution. The new penny is another attempt to whitewash the historical record and dupe Americans into believing that Lincoln was the greatest president in American history and the savior of the republic. Those treasonous Southerners deserved the beating they received, and every American, North and South, rejoiced once the Union had been "preserved" and State’s rights crushed under the Federal heel. It seems the winds of decentralization have blown into Congress and the propaganda machine is revving up to meet this new challenge to their authority. The misnamed "Preservation of the Union" penny is the clearest example yet. Keep applying the pressure.