With Presidents Day last week, some conservative pundits deemed it prudent to reevaluate the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. As you might expect, this resulted in the spewing of a lot of truly asinine ideas. So in a segment titled “Denunciation Proclamation,” The Daily Show decided to see how this "contrarian" view of Lincoln lines up with the facts.
On Fox News earlier this month, Judge Andrew Napolitano offered his so-called "contrarian" view of Lincoln. According to Napolitano, you see, Lincoln was a war-mongering hawk, initiating the Civil War and needlessly sacrificing thousands of lives: "At the time [Lincoln] was the president of the United States, slavery was dying a natural death all over the western world. Instead of allowing it do die, or helping it to die, or even purchasing the slaves and then freeing them, which would've cost a lot less money than the Civil War cost, Lincoln set about on the most murderous war in American history."
Of course. For Napolitano, waging the Civil War over the simple matter of slavery was useless, because slavery was going away on its own. Stewart's response: "Oh right, compensated emancipation. Why didn't Lincoln think of that ... Oh, he did think of that, [but the border states] said 'fuck off.'"
To examine the rest of Napolitano's argument, Stewart brought on Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore, With regards to that whole slavery dying on its own argument, Wilmore said: "The South was so committed to slavery, Lincoln didn't die of natural causes." And there's the fact that "slavery is still going on 150 years later," of course.
How about Napolitano's argument that the actual "impetus" for the Civil War wasn't slavery at all, but taxation? Wilmore has a rather apt description of just how awful taxes can be: "You think it's immoral for the government to reach into your pocket, rip your money away from its warm home, and claim it as its own property, money that used to enjoy unfettered freedom ... You know that sadness and rage you feel about your money? That's the way some of us feel about people."
Yeah, that should settle it. Turns out this conservative rethinking of Lincoln and the Civil War doesn't really hold up. In the words of Larry Wilmore, "I just un-fucked your facts."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.