By Edward Epstein
Friday, April 16, 2021
Ed Steers Jr., Lincoln Group member and the author of several books about Abraham Lincoln, has written a column published in Time magazine in which he decries critics of the 16th president who have called for removing statues of Lincoln and taking his name off public schools.
Historical revisionism based on fallacies or falsehoods has no place in making such decisions, Steers opined. "Historical revision in itself is not bad, but it must be based on facts. Truth, after all, is the stock-in-trade of all historians. Lincoln said it best: 'History is not history unless it is the truth,'" he wrote.
Steers concedes that the Emancipation Proclamation, which applied only to African-American slaves in Confederate territory, by itself did not free lots of slaves. "However, just as the Declaration of Independence did not free a single American, the Emancipation Proclamation established the basis upon which a war would be fought and freedom won," Steers said.
He also conceded that Lincoln sanctioned the execution of 38 Dakota Indians for their role in killing hundreds of white settlers in Minnesota in 1862. However, Lincoln, after personally going through records of their military trials, Lincoln pardoned 265 of the Indians, despite warnings that by doing so he would face negative political repercussions in the upper Midwest.
Steers says that Lincoln led a "nuanced life," but that his contributions to American democracy far outweigh any negatives.
" What we do know for certain is that he saved the union and, in doing so, helped bring about the freedom of millions of enslaved people. Judge him by those actions, and there will be little room for doubt," Steers concluded.
Ed Steers' column is available at: https://time.com/5954962/abraham-lincoln-historical-revision/