How can this be justified?

John Hall
Mon, 1 Oct 2001 14:16:43 -0700

I thought so too, but apparently not.  Or rather, he meant something
more than just the difference between slave and free.

What we normally associate with 'free labor' is the right of contract.
If the two parties (employed and employee) agree, then it is 'free

Lincoln came from an American tradition that still placed the farmer
farming his own land, or the small proprietor in his own shop, as the
central institution in a free society.  Wage labor was ok for a limited
time in order to obtain a grubstake -- and thus eventually stop working
for a wage and enter the free labor pool.  Wage relations were it was
seen as impossible for a prudent person to accumulate such a grubstake
were seen as not much better than slavery.

In other words, it wasn't much different than the idealization of the
yeoman farmer by Jefferson.

In that environment, the equation of slavery in the South with wage
based industry in the North apparently had more resonance than I would
have thought.

It was apparently after the Civil War when it became obvious that the
old ideas about 'free labor' were untenable, and that large numbers of
people would wind up working for wages their entire life, that the
concept switched to freedom of contract.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On 
> Behalf Of Russell Turpin
> Sent: Monday, October 01, 2001 12:20 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: How can this be justified?
> John Hall writes:
> >It even pays to be careful about the words.  When Lincoln said "Free 
> >Labor"
> >he didn't mean what the Libertarians mean when they use the phrase.
> I had always assumed that Lincoln used this phrase to 
> distinguish the labor of free men from the labor of slaves. 
> Are you suggesting he meant something else?
> Or maybe I misunderstand what you think libertarians
> mean by this phrase? (I don't see this phrase much in
> modern libertarian writing, since that isn't a large
> issue today. So maybe there is some odd usage strange
> to me?)
> Russell
> _________________________________________________________________
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