A Thought Experiment
I firmly disagree with the popular assessment that Lincoln was the best president in U.S. history. In fact, I would like to explain at least one reason for my disagreement by way of a thought experiment, which helps us bring some of the facts surrounding Lincoln and his war into our own context today. Please don’t allow your personal feelings about legalized abortion to disrupt the flow of the narrative below. Please just follow each paragraph carefully, until the end, where the application is to be found.
(P1) Imagine, after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion on demand and subsequently over ruled many of the states’ then-current laws, imposing the federal ruling through legal force, that our nation was literally and absolutely divided in two over this issue. The absolutely antithetical divide caused by the issue further involved not only issues of ethics, public policy, religion, and scientific contrasts but also a geographic divide as well. That is, imagine that precisely half the states were decidedly pro-abortion and the other half radically anti-abortion. This tension is so high that the union of our otherwise united states is threatened by being torn asunder over this issue.
(P2) Imagine further that a small band of zealots, among the anti-abortion sympathetic states, came together and entered the pro-abortion states, blowing up several key Planned Parenthood clinics. In response, the pro-abortion states gave these zealots their just retribution and held them in contempt throughout the annals of their history. The anti-abortion states, however, hailed the leader of these radicals as a hero and a martyr for their cause. Regardless of the mutually exclusive responses by the two sides of the conflict, this event only antagonized the precipitations toward a war between these two confederated groups of states. Even if, in our imaginary history, the terroristic actions of this small group of zealots were relatively isolated, it showed the pro-abortion states that the enemy was quite willing to use violence to see the Supreme Court ruling disregarded and their position vindicated. On the ethical side of things, they understood that their violence against abortionists and pro-abortion states would eventually save many more lives than it takes, preventing the death of the unborn. Therefore, the zealots thought, the end justifies the means.
(P3) Now, it takes little imaginative power to insert a presidential candidate that shares the anti-abortion states’ sentiments toward the issue. Obviously, the pro-abortion states fear this candidate’s ascendency to the White House, as he could be put in a position to impose his perspective by executive and military power on the pro-abortion states. Picture also the fact that this incoming president has made it clear that in his heart of hearts, one thing that absolutely trumps the ethical concerns of the abortion conflict for him is that this issue is threatening to rip the Union into two distinct nations! Thus, to preserve the union of the states under the current centralize federal government, the abortion issue must be settled once for all, and at any cost!!
(P4) Soon, our imaginary world would provide just such opportunity to settle this volatile threat to make to one nation twain. Due to our newly elected president’s threats of further economic sanctions against the pro-abortion states, several of these strong pro-abortion states were taking steps to secede. Finally, these radical pro-abortion states decide to siege and overtake the several federal military bases within the bounds of their provinces. After many weeks, one particular base becomes the focus of the boiling tension. Against the prudential advice of some of his cabinet members, hoping to evacuate and surrender the base, so that other means of negotiation can discover a peaceful resolution, our president sends an envoy of supplies and extra military personnel to secure the base and stave off the siege. The president saw this as that opportunity to forever solve the issue. All he needed was one bullet from the pro-abortion state militia and he would have his justification for a full-scale war, securing the Union.
(P5) The result is a war between these states, wherein 6,341,190 casualties and twice the number wounded of the union’s own citizens are suffered in the course of four short years. Imagine further that, in the anti-abortion administration’s campaign, many cities and countless homes are razed to the ground, killing and displacing entire families, and all the other subsequent horrors of a civil war. All of this, just to preserve the unity of the nation under a centralized anti-abortion agenda. This imaginary administration in general and its president in particular sought to vindicate the death of the 53,000,000 unborn Americans by causing the death of over six million more! The noble end does not justify the means! What would be justified would be the words of a newspaper reporter from one of our president's own anti-abortion states, who could prophetically write, “If the expedition brought war [this president] would go down in history as a ‘monster’ who should have been assassinated before he worked his evil!” (citation included below).
Drawing the Analogy
Paragraph 1 (P1)
The 1973 Roe v. Wade case = the 1857 Dred Scott case. In the Dred Scott case, the U.S. Supreme Court of Illinois, where Lincoln served on the Senate seat, ruled that Scott, a slave, was not a person but property, and therefore could not sue for his freedom. Analogically, Roe ruled that the unborn were not persons and therefore did not enjoy the rights of a citizen promised by the 14th Amendment.
Paragraph 2 (P2)
The Planned Parenthood bombings/the movement’s leader = Harper Ferry’s Raid/John Brown.
Paragraph 3 (P3)
The anti-abortion president = the anti-South, abolitionist President Lincoln.
Paragraph 4 (P4)
Siege of the anti-abortionist military installations in the pro-abortion states = Fort Sumter debacle.
Paragraph 5 (P5)
The 6,341,190 casualties (as of the current U.S. population at 11:00 a.m. Wed., Nov. 13, 2013) = the 618,000 casualties resulting in the Civil War. These figures are based on calculations determining the per capita deaths based on the current population figures. In sum, the over six hundred thousand deaths in the Civil War would be the equivalent of over six million today, as the population of the nation has grown since.
Moreover, the 53,000,000 unborn = the approximately 4,000,000 slaves in the South in the mid-nineteenth century.
Lastly, the quotation in this paragraph comes from William Marvel’s Mr. Lincoln Goes to War (Boston: Houghton Miffin Co., 2006). Simply add President Lincoln’s name into the brackets and it represents the words of a Delaware (not a Southerner’s) reporter’s published comments before the war (23-24).
Bringing It Together
Granting that the thought experiment provides the necessary correspondences to make the analogies work, I would contend that, rather than being one of the best, much less the best, presidents in American history, Lincoln was one of the worst.
How does the imaginary president in the above story fare on a best to worst scale? Is he a good president or a bad one? By analogy, one’s answer to the thought experiment should logically correspond to one’s view of Lincoln. If there is a difference, there is a glitch in one’s rational assessment of one or the other.
Even though—rather because—I am prolife and have a high view of the sanctity of life, I believe that the imaginary president above, though he claims to be supporting a prolife agenda, is a “monster.” As a prolife citizen, I would stand at the front of the line to protest using violence and killing against my fellow man to establish the prolife perspective. Such would be the ultimate hypocrisy, and worthy of the severest condemnation, especially if there was a deeper underlying motive like preserving the Union. So, hopefully whether one is prolife or prochoice, the thought experiment above sufficiently illustrates the primary reason why Lincoln was one of the worst presidents in American history.