Vital Signs

Lincoln’s Other War of Aggression

Lincoln’s war against Southern independence is just one component of the American Civil War.  Like a Matryoshka doll, the Civil War opens up to reveal a set of nested wars, one inside another.  There is Lincoln’s war against international law; his war against the Congress; his war against the judiciary; his war against the Bill of Rights; and, finally, his lesser known war against the Indians of Minnesota in 1862—an event that both demonstrated Lincoln’s character and influenced U.S. policy toward the Plains Indians for the rest of the 19th century.

For Lincoln, the American Civil War was the instrument he needed to achieve his two key objectives: consolidating political power in the federal government, particularly in the presidency; and imposing Henry Clay’s “American System”—corporate welfarism for Northern special interests, such as the banks, railroads, mining, and manufacturers.  This system institutionalized corruption and created what Mark Twain would later derisively call the “Gilded Age.”

Lincoln’s victims were not just the states, both Southern and Northern, but the Indian nations.  His conduct toward the Indians revealed his duplicity.  While condemning corrupt practices by traders and agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Lincoln supported the immigration of thousands of settlers onto Indian lands and refused to honor...

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