Abraham Ain't It So?

AIR: "John Anderson, My Jo John"

"John Anderson, My Jo John" remains one of the most loved lyrics written by Robert Burns. This set of lyrics represents some of the most sophisticated critiques of the Lincoln administration, while still attracting the support of upset white voters that were forced to fight in a war they did not condone. Lincoln opponents are critical of his suspension of habeas corpus, attack on the free press and arrest of individuals for merely speaking openly against the legality and wisdom of the Civil War. McClellan supporters compare the alleged political prisoners to French citizens before the French Revolution. More striking is how the song harshly criticizes Lincoln for the provision that allowed wealthy people to buy their way out of the war or hire substitutes- "there is a conscript law to make the poor man go/whilst the rich man can remain at home- old Abe ain't it so." The song alleges hypocrisy of the abolitionists: how can you "enslave" citizens with conscription to free others in bondage? These lyrics are filled with anger and vulgarity but remain a powerful reminder of the anti-war sentiments that raged throughout the Union.

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