If I haven't dissed it--it ain't worth dissing!

Frank Apisa

Frank Apisa
Piscataway, New Jersey, USA
August 09
On a political continuum with Extreme Liberal at 1 and Extreme Conservative at 10, I can be found at position “P.” I get a chuckle at much of what passes for liberal thought, but don’t much chuckle at anything conservative. Quite frankly, I consider American conservatism to be one of the most dangerous pieces of garbage ever to pollute the planet Earth. A major problem with this mindset is occasioned by the fact that I am a 72 year old, white male who works at a county golf course in one of the richest, most conservative counties in the United States. Since I get free golf (at five county courses) as part of my compensation package, I play 4 – 5 times a week. Bottom line: Goddam near everyone I work with or play golf with, almost all of whom are 70+ year old white, males, is a die-hard conservative. I love each and every one of ‘em—love every bone in their heads. Truly! Sure is a tough haul, though—‘cause I am not given to holding my tongue. Just think of all the fun I have at work and play! Don’tcha envy me?

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JANUARY 27, 2013 11:27AM

Lincoln Bought Votes!

Rate: 8 Flag



I saw Steven Spielberg's Lincoln yesterday. 

It was a terrific movie...well acted, well directed, and well staged. It should be a strong contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Steven Spielberg should be a strong contender for Best Director; Daniel Day-Lewis should be a strong contender for Best Actor; and Sally Fields should be a strong contender for Best Supporting Actress. 

All that aside, the picture depicts (I think with reasonable accuracy) Abraham Lincoln buying votes for the 13th Amendment--effectively bribing legislators to cast their votes in favor—and causing others to buy votes for that Amendment. 

The Amendment effectively ended the abomination of slavery in the United States. 

Your opinions, if I may:  Did the ends justify the means in this case? 

I suggest the ends often justify the means…and in this particular case, I definitely think they did. But I acknowledge that some people think "principle" ought be the trumping priority...and I solicit their arguments in that direction.

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I haven't seen the film yet, but I will give you my opinion: Yes, sometimes the end justifies the means. When looking at moral development for sociology studies there are situations presented wherein a person breaks the law for a higher and greater good. The lower stages of development remain rooted in the concept of rules. As more critical thinking develops the concept of "greater good" triumphs.
Thanks for responding, Onislandtime. I feel that same way. I hope others come by to give an opinion. The notion has relevance to events happening right now.
Lincoln bought votes. That is not an ethical conflict. The ethical conflict is extending the war to get the amendment. Even in that case it was warranted. I can't see any action as being too costly to guarantee freedom, as long as the action is necessary. The country voting to end slavery did not validate the action. It was te action that validated the country.
Of course he did. I was actually hoping for much more "dirt." Before we judge Lincoln, we must try to picture the culture of his time and what politics was like then. In fact, I think that the movie tried to force extra idealism and "patriotism" that was unnecessary. The founding fathers did their best for this country, but they also possessed the faults of their time. A fine question, Frank, I would like to see the answers myself. R

You ask:

Does the ends justify the means?

When should 'principle' trump priority?

Lincoln was at war. The American Civil War brought Lincoln a sobering average death rate of 425 soldiers per day -all Americans, in his eyes-, every day, every single day, without stop, three hundred and sixty five days a year, for four years...

Does the 'end' justify the 'means'? It depends on what 'end' one has in mind. The 'end' Lincoln had in mind, which was to abolish slavery for all time, was an undoubtedly desirable 'end', so the 'means', whether by hook or by crook or by 'blood drawn from the sword', were indeed and in fact options.

Abraham Lincoln was the rarest of men, and we were very lucky to have him appear when he did. Yes, he bought votes, but that isn't all he did. Here:

During the 80 days that elapsed between Abraham Lincoln's April 1861 call for troops and the official convening of Congress in special session on July 4, 1861, Lincoln, without congressional approval, called forth the militia, increased the size of the Army and Navy, expended funds for the purchase of weapons, instituted a blockade--an act of war--and suspended the precious writ of habeas corpus. Lincoln did all of this without congressional approval, and, just as you can imagine, it wasn't a big hit with the public.

Yet, the important thing to remember here is who [Lincoln] did what [suspend Constitutionally guaranteed rights] to achieve what 'ends' [save the Union and abolish slavery].

My guess is that very few men [or women] would be able to pull of what Lincoln did, for only the rarest of men have ever been 'clothed in [such] immense power', and execrcised such power for such a 'good' cause.

I will end here with the incomparable description of the unassailable character of Abraham Lincoln.

"Lincoln was a figure", Karl Marx wrote, “neither to be browbeaten by adversity, nor intoxicated by success, inflexibly pressing on to his great goal, never compromising it by blind haste, slowly maturing his steps, never retracing them, carried away by no surge of popular favor, disheartened by no slackening of the popular pulse, tempering stern acts by the gleams of a kind heart, illuminating scenes dark with passion by the smile of humor, doing his titanic work as humbly and homely as Heaven-born rulers do little things with the grandiloquence of pomp and state; in one word, one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great, without ceasing to be good. Such, indeed, was the modesty of this great and good man, that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr.”

May we all aspire to these high standards.
Bill Beck Thanks for the comment. Yup, Lincoln bought votes. I disagree that there was no ethical conflict there…but I do think that considering the ends (the abolition of slavery) the means (more of which are mentioned later by Steve Kenney), were more than justified. (In my opinion.) Keep in mind, th0ugh, that there are many who suggest principles never should be compromised in the interests of ends…no matter how compelling the object of the “ends.”

I would hope that the 13th Amendment did validate the ethics of our country…particularly on this horrendous issue.

Thoth Yup…once again, Lincoln bought votes. I think the “more dirt” you were looking for was found in the way legislator treated legislator in session during those days. We moan and groan about what our politicians do to each other, but today’s actions are like “patty cake, patty cake, bakers dead” compared with what they said to each other back then. I think the film did a good job there. I definitely was impressed. In any case, Lincoln was a man ahead of his time…and even if the film did succumb to some literary license…it captured the essence that Lincoln was willing to do damn near anything and everything to seize the day. I think he realized the moment might never come again…particularly if the South capitulated before the amendment was passed. I am still dazzled by the fact that most of that stuff was happening in our country less than 150 years ago. We certainly have come a long, long way. Glad you see the major question as interesting…I’m looking forward to other thoughts on it. Stick around and see what others have to say. Thanks for the posting.

Steve Kenny Excellent thoughts and information. I am sure there are still people here who will question your suggestion that “the situation” determines if “ends justify means”…or if, as some think, adherence to principle trumps all. Hope the discussion continues…with more views. I absolutely loved the Marx quote regarding Lincoln. We indeed were lucky to have a man such as he in office at that moment in our history. Thanks for the posting.
Man over principle? So if Lincoln had abandoned the principle of abolishing slavery in order to get elected that would have been OK? Hardly.
Mr. Python,
You said:
"Man over principle? So if Lincoln had abandoned the principle of abolishing slavery in order to get elected that would have been OK? Hardly."

I think your statement is called a 'pivot' in the political world.

We are talking about Licoln here [Lincoln Bought Votes!], not George W. Bush.

My point is that Abraham Lincoln was the exception, and not the rule.

An exceptionally moral man faced with an exceptional challenge, who rose to the occasion exceptionally well.
I liked how the movie showed the agony of some of the voters. They were physically challenged to cast their ballots. It was a great movie.
Different Not really sure what your point is. If you state it more clearly, I will respond. Thanks for posting.

Zanelle The “agony” of some of the voters was very graphic. The object lesson was that politicians bucking their party on very contentious issues can live the life of the damned in doing so. Some of the Democrats were putting their political lives on the line here…and they knew it. Glad they did it…no matter what their motives. Thanks for responding.
So it's it's my favorite of the Oscar contenders (I've also seen Argo and 0D30). It may not win but it's better than many past winners. Lincoln was certainly no stranger to the politics as the art of the possible philosophy. I'm firmly in that camp and it was fascinating to watch how the deal-making unfolded. Good thing he wasn't one for noble, uncompromised defeats.
"The ends justifying the means" is sometimes a question of discernment.
So if I may question back, for I do not know the answer; does one KNOW when the means justify the ends? I would say slavery is universally understood to be wrong, but is that an accurate statement in the 1860s?Is a tre leader and great person one who understands that the ends justfy the means before many others do in hindsight?
Sorry tobring a host of other questions and thus muddy the water, but I am afraid that I have few answers and a host of spin off questions in my feeble mind.
Well, pick up your drink, and I will pick up mine.

Here is the key:

"Man over principle?"

Yes. Man over Principle.

Specifically, One Man [Abraham Lincoln] and his principles, over another [the Confederate South] and their principles.

The question should, and shall always be this:

Have we learned yet?
When you look deeper, you will see that all the main characters of the North were grounded in humility -Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumsah Sherman, Phil Sheridan, etc..., and not remotely belligerent.

We should aspire to such humility.
My point being that 'principles' always, always, come from within.
"Principle" is the twin of conscience.

Abrawang As far as movies go, I thought Zero Dark Thirty was going to be my favorite for Best Picture. I think I have changed my mind. Both are excellent movies…and I hope people can see that there are related elements being explored.

Because of personal prejudices, many will be able to answer the same questions about both situations with ease. For me…the answers can be a bit more complicated…although I seem content to come down on opposite sides of major questions for each.

I, like you, am glad Lincoln made the compromises of principle that he did in favor of getting done what absolutely had to get done. Thanks for responding.

JD Smith You asked: " does one KNOW when the means justify the ends? “

I don’t think any of us can “know”—I suspect we can only have opinions on it. And I suspect further that the opinion will at times be “yes” and others when it will be “no” for each of us. Thank you for responding.

Steve Thanks for your further comments.

I wonder, though! When you wrote: “Specifically, One Man [Abraham Lincoln] and his principles, over another [the Confederate South] and their principles.”

Do you honestly feel that bribing legislators in order to get their votes was a part of Lincoln’s “principles?” Or do you think that this was just a case of Lincoln putting aside his principles because he saw the ends justified the means?
Thanks for asking, Frank.

We all come to the table bringing our 'principles'.

Some, like me, are weak, and have, upon occasion, set aside their [my] principles, to our [my] everlasting shame.

Abraham Lincoln was not weak, and never set aside his principles.

Sure, upon occasion, he was willing to meet those he had an argument with halfway, but that was out of sheer compassion.