No better way to reflect on New Year’s Day than to think on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln brought about a new birth of freedom for our nation at the price of the greatest expansion of executive power in our history.
But was Lincoln a “dictator,” as liberal scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. or Edwin Corwin once said? Or did he properly expand presidential powers to react to the greatest challenge in our history? Here’s my take, on the opinion page of Fox News:
Lincoln’s greatness is inextricably linked to his broad vision of the executive. He invoked his authority as commander in chief and chief executive to conduct war, initially without congressional permission, when many were unsure whether secession meant war. He considered the entire South the field of battle. While he depended on congressional support for men and material, Lincoln controlled all tactics, strategy, and policy. Only Lincoln’s broad interpretation of his commander in chief authority made the sweeping step of freeing the slaves possible.
Lincoln image via Shutterstock.