Just when I thought was done with Departmentalism vs. Judicial Supremacy, they pull me back in again! In my last post, I quoted Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement about Dred Scott in his first inaugural: “if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers” (emphasis added). I noted that one might interpret this as expressing the view that a series of decisions might…
In my previous post, I wrote about a talk that I had recently given about Lincoln. I had not expected it to be terribly controversial – in fact, I wondered whether it was such common knowledge that it was not worth reporting.
But there is something about Lincoln that leads people to react in extreme ways.
Let me start with the long criticism by the first commenter, which is then endorsed by the second commenter. The comment goes on and on, in an extremely intemperate way. The principal complaint appears to be that I took Lincoln at his word and did not conclude that he repeatedly lied to the American people about his views on slavery. For this, I am accused of somehow not respecting Lincoln. I would think if I had accused him of lying, without any foundation, that I would be open to criticism. But apparently the opposite is the case.
The funny thing is that my post did not suggest that Lincoln personally approved of slavery or would not have liked to have eliminated it more quickly. Quite the contrary. As I said, “in Lincoln’s defense, he believed that any stronger position would have been rejected by the American people and therefore this was the best that could be accomplished for the slaves.”
Today, one of the least-discussed aspects of the Emancipation Proclamation is whether it gave rise to a takings claim. The Proclamation was enacted under Lincoln's war powers, whereby he seized property (slaves) in the rebel states, and then emancipated them. Apparently, many southerners sought to raise takings claims against the Federal Government. Similar claims were lodged following the ratification of the 13th amendment. At the time, Congress estimated that the cost of compensating the emancipated slaveowners was somewhere between $1.6 billion and $2 billion, roughly half of the total value of all property (real and personal) in the south. Section 1…
One of libertarianism’s more admirable traits is its spiritedness, a welcome addition in a grey world. My blogging colleague Mike Rappaport adds thoughtfulness to spiritedness in his various elaborations on libertarianism. Lately he has asked what a libertarian immigration policy might be and has responded to Michael Lind’s provocation that there are no libertarian countries.
Mike’s responses raise questions fundamental to the adequacy of libertarian thinking. I speculate that a kind of universalism originating in the Declaration of Independence underlies his thinking, but that a decisive Lincolnian correction is needed.
“The Boston Strangler was one of my students. Or so it seems.” “How,” distinguished law professor Ronald Rotunda asks, “would DeSalvo [aka the Boston Strangler] have been able to talk his way into places where women lived in fear of the rapist-killer?” Rotunda accepts blame: My class in rhetoric offered an answer. When giving a speech, the speaker's goal should be to win over the audience. He must try to be charming and seem genuine. Best of all is to possess that ineffable characteristic known as charisma. None of these qualities can be taught. DeSalvo had them all. He was someone you…
Even before FLOTUS’s announcing Argo as the best picture, it was not a good night at the Oscars, and not just for conservatives. Neither Lincoln nor Zero Dark Thirty won all the accolades they deserved. But for them to be bested by a film which ends with Jimmy Carter as the hero is a humiliation for the Academy and the country, yet again.
I once attended an annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Atlanta in the 1980s, at which Jimmy Carter was wildly applauded. And there are more conservatives in Hollywood than among political scientists. At least Hollywood split their tickets between Carter and Lincoln, while denying top prize to the Marxist musical. (I have already reviewed Lincoln for this site.)
Zero Dark Thirty and certainly its director, Kathryn Bigelow, deserved better, but politics got in the way. Their competition was not only singing communists but George Bush and Dick Cheney’s Iraq policies and bipartisan opposition to the alleged praise of torture in the film.
Recently, I speculated on why Abraham Lincoln had signed the 13th Amendment, and asked whether anyone knew the actual reason why. Seth Barrett Tillman writes in to suggest another possibility: that Lincoln was unaware of the Supreme Court's opinion (such as it was) in Hollingworth v Virginia [which appeared to hold that presentment to the President was unnecessary in the case of constitutional amendments]. Prior to the 13th Amendment, it had been half a century since a proposed amendment was passed by Congress and ratified by the States. It may simply have been that Lincoln had no idea what the regular time-honored procedure was…
I caught Lincoln last night, which I greatly enjoyed. Spielberg’s directing, Kushner’s writing, and a first rate cast make it a truly enjoyable movie. One test I have for a movie is how many times I look at my watch. I have to admit, in a two and a half hour movie, I never looked once.
Of course, it is not surprising that I would love a movie about this period. For the last several months, much of my work has focused on the 1860s — in particular, the adoption of the 14th Amendment, rather than the movie’s focus on the of the 13th. Since I don’t know that much about 13th Amendment’s enactment, the big question for me is how much of the film is historically accurate. Many historians have already weighed in on the question, and one can find the discussions of Kate Mazur, Harold Holzer, and Allen Guelzo, among others at the end of this Wikipedia entry.