Letter to the Editor: Whose story is it?

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. honors the memory of one of our greatest presidents, the man whose determined leadership preserved the United States in the face of an armed rebellion and ended the abomination of slavery within its borders, only to be martyred by an assassin’s bullet.

Closer to home, the majestic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn  pays tribute to “The Defenders of the Union,” the more than two million men who answered Abraham Lincoln’s call to save their country. Of these, over half a million perished or were maimed.

Yet Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge and the senior judicial analyst for Fox News, and now a distinguished visiting professor at Brooklyn Law School, has a decidedly different view of Lincoln and those who served the Union cause.

In his published works, speeches and numerous TV appearances, Napolitano, an ardent civil libertarian, has embraced an extremely revisionist view of history. He labels Abraham Lincoln a bloodthirsty tyrant who usurped the Constitution and who waged an unprovoked, aggressive war against the South, which he regards as having every right to secede after the 1860 presidential election did not go its way, even though that would have led to the dissolution of the country and placed Washington, D.C. in the borders of the Confederacy.

He has compared Lincoln to Stalin, Hitler and Mao, and accused him of killing 750,000 Americans, the estimated number of men who died in the war, most of whom actually fought for the Union. He claims Lincoln was a racist who had no interest in freeing the slaves but only wanted to expand federal power and abuse “states’ rights.”

Napolitano asserts that the South seceded over tariffs and not slavery, a claim that no responsible historians accept. He argues that South was in the process of abolishing slavery and Lincoln used slavery as a pretext to invade and conquer the South in order to expand federal power.

This is arrant nonsense to anyone who has read the secession ordinances of the southern states, public statements of Confederate leaders, and the Confederate Constitution, which clearly show the South seceded over its desire not only to perpetuate slavery, but to expand it into the western territories. Lincoln was opposed to the expansion.

Napolitano dismisses the evils and horrors of southern slavery, which kept 3.7 million men, women and children in bondage, which broke up families and which resulted in widespread sexual exploitation of slave women by masters and overseers. Instead, he reserves his wrath for Abraham Lincoln and places a halo over the Confederates as noble defenders against tyranny.

At Brooklyn Law School, Napolitano teaches a course on the Constitution, the very document that called for the “More Perfect Union” that Lincoln and the Union soldiers preserved. What a travesty and a dishonoring of their memory.

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