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Author Topic: Lincoln, Conservatism, and Liberalism  (Read 2882 times)
#Ready4Nixon
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« on: January 15, 2011, 08:52:22 am »
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People often say that the Republican Party got away from being "The Party of Lincoln" when it was taken over by Conservatism. My question is: "How was Lincoln Liberal?" I have virtually no knowledge of his policies outside of slavery and tarrifs, so I would appreciate input.
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2011, 09:33:40 am »
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Lincoln was most certainly a Liberal within the context of nineteenth century politics, much like every American politician of his day that didn't own slaves/sympathise with those that did.
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2011, 10:03:11 am »
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Lincoln was most certainly a Liberal within the context of nineteenth century politics, much like every American politician of his day that didn't own slaves/sympathise with those that did.

Hamilton didn't own slaves, and I think today he is consistently considered a conservative.

But i'd consider Lincoln a Liberal because he pushed for nationalization of the railroads, created the first income tax, was against free trade (but I suppose back than conservatism was against that in general.) and generally meddled in the affairs of the economy, ex. the Homestead Act. Not to mention his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and invading the south.
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#Ready4Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2011, 01:37:28 pm »
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Lincoln was most certainly a Liberal within the context of nineteenth century politics, much like every American politician of his day that didn't own slaves/sympathise with those that did.

Hamilton didn't own slaves, and I think today he is consistently considered a conservative.

But i'd consider Lincoln a Liberal because he pushed for nationalization of the railroads, created the first income tax, was against free trade (but I suppose back than conservatism was against that in general.) and generally meddled in the affairs of the economy, ex. the Homestead Act. Not to mention his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and invading the south.

Well I don't know about everything else, but you can't insult the man for invading the South. They attempted to secede, and I think Lincoln made the right decision there.
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#Ready4Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2011, 01:43:42 pm »
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I went to his wikipedia page, and to my surprise I saw the only political experience he had before President was one term in the US House of Representatives. I had always assumed he was a Senator.
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2011, 01:43:48 pm »
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People often say that the Republican Party got away from being "The Party of Lincoln" when it was taken over by Conservatism. My question is: "How was Lincoln Liberal?" I have virtually no knowledge of his policies outside of slavery and tarrifs, so I would appreciate input.

Lincoln and the Republicans of the 1800s advocated a positive role for government in promoting economic development, civil rights, labor, education, agriculture, ect.  

Lincoln created the Department of Agriculture to support farmers; the Comptroller of the Currency to regulate bankers; and signed the Morrill Land Grant College Act, which donated federal land to states for the building of colleges.  

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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2011, 01:47:53 pm »
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I went to his wikipedia page, and to my surprise I saw the only political experience he had before President was one term in the US House of Representatives. I had always assumed he was a Senator.

He ran for the Senate but lost.  He also served in the Illinois legislature for several years. 
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#Ready4Nixon
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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2011, 01:49:20 pm »
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I went to his wikipedia page, and to my surprise I saw the only political experience he had before President was one term in the US House of Representatives. I had always assumed he was a Senator.

He ran for the Senate but lost.  He also served in the Illinois legislature for several years. 

Well, I don't really count campaigns or terms in a state legislature as experience.
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#Ready4Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2011, 01:49:52 pm »
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Also, how were the Democrats different? Were they the more Conservative party?
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2011, 02:21:54 pm »
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Also, how were the Democrats different? Were they the more Conservative party?

I think so. 

Consider that the 1856 Democratic platform declared that the federal government should not fund any infrastructure improvement projects, that no federal land or money should be allocated to the states for any purpose, that rigid economy must be used in government, taxes/tariffs lowered, no banking regulation, and no federal interference with slavery.

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Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2011, 02:47:44 pm »
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I went to his wikipedia page, and to my surprise I saw the only political experience he had before President was one term in the US House of Representatives. I had always assumed he was a Senator.

He ran for the Senate but lost.  He also served in the Illinois legislature for several years. 

Yes. At one point, in order to stop a bill from passing, he and several other Whig members jumped out a window to deprive the Democrats of a quorum.

I went to his wikipedia page, and to my surprise I saw the only political experience he had before President was one term in the US House of Representatives. I had always assumed he was a Senator.

That is because he did so well debating Douglas. He actually won the popular vote, which post 17th amendment, would have made him Senator. The State legislative districts were gerrymandered enough to preserve a Dem majority in the state legislature and thus reelect Douglas.

Lincoln was most certainly a Liberal within the context of nineteenth century politics, much like every American politician of his day that didn't own slaves/sympathise with those that did.

Compared to other countries, almost every American politician was liberal. Of course the term liberal had a slightly different meaning back then as well.

Lincoln was most certainly a Liberal within the context of nineteenth century politics, much like every American politician of his day that didn't own slaves/sympathise with those that did.

Hamilton didn't own slaves, and I think today he is consistently considered a conservative.

This is where ideological labels become difficult. Lincoln's economic policies were essentially the same ones put forth by Hamilton and then repackaged by Clay as "The American System".

Not to mention his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and invading the south.

Oh my, "The Cause". Wink Tongue

Also, how were the Democrats different? Were they the more Conservative party?

At different points, yes. Especially in preserving Slavery and instituting segregation. Though it should be noted that the Populist movement arised from within that very same Democratic coalition, and so did sometimes Progressive Woodrow Wilson, a southerner and racist.
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2011, 02:55:59 pm »
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Well, from what I could gather...

For awhile Lincoln was part of the Illinois delegation to Congress. He opposed Polk and the war with Mexico, and the latter cost him his support for renomination by the Whigs. The Whigs were in decline at the time that favored modernity, tariffs, and national integration - whereas the Democrats favored laissez-faire economics, free trade, small government, and states' rights. Lincoln left politics for awhile and as a lawyer developed a deep-seated loathing of injustices and oppression. It is also noteworthy that he refused to demand more pay from his clients than he felt his services were worth or they could reasonably afford. At the time Lincoln felt slavery should be left to the individual states and that abolitionists were doing more harm than good, but with time a fellow by the name of William H. Herdon talked him into a more rigorous position on the matter.

When the Republican Party formed Lincoln liked its abolitionist-friendly platform, helped organize it in Illinois, and despite his relative obscurity got floated as a possible pick for VP by the party's first national convention. Debates in Illinois between Lincoln and Douglas about the slavery issue during a race for the U.S. Senate got a lot of attention; others running for office used their support of one man or the other as a campaign pitch. Later, on his way to Washington after winning the Presidency, he assured people that war was unnecessary and that the North-South crisis was mostly an artificial one. Given the constituencies parties had back then it was not always obvious who was "liberal" or "conservative" all-around but it seems the GOP was progressive in that era.

The Lincoln administration offered federal land-grants to colleges and land to homesteaders. It established a national banking system, paper currency, National Academy of Sciences, excise taxes, income taxes, and a Freedmen's Bureau to provide freed Southern slaves with food, clothing, land, and health care. A Constitutional amendment was passed to abolish slavery, Lincoln declared amnesty for most rebels willing to take an oath of loyalty to the Union, and leaned toward reconciliation in his plan for Reconstruction but never lived to see through its implementation.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2011, 03:10:32 pm by Redalgo »Logged

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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2011, 03:01:41 pm »
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Another thing to consider.    When the European revolutions of 1848 failed, radicals immigrated to the US to escape persecution in Europe.  These radicals became part of the Republican party in the 1850s.

For examples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Willich
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Weydemeyer
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2011, 03:20:15 pm »
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... Though it should be noted that the Populist movement arised from within that very same Democratic coalition, and so did sometimes Progressive Woodrow Wilson, a southerner and racist.

As was well said earlier ...
This is where ideological labels become difficult.

Is Populism liberal?
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Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2011, 03:33:15 pm »
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Well, from what I could gather...

For awhile Lincoln was part of the Illinois delegation to Congress. He opposed Polk and the war with Mexico, and the latter cost him his support for renomination by the Whigs. The Whigs were in decline at the time that favored modernity, tariffs, and national integration - whereas the Democrats favored laissez-faire economics, free trade, small government, and states' rights. Lincoln left politics for awhile and as a lawyer developed a deep-seated loathing of injustices and oppression. It is also noteworthy that he refused to demand more pay from his clients than he felt his services were worth or they could reasonably afford. At the time Lincoln felt slavery should be left to the individual states and that abolitionists were doing more harm than good, but with time a fellow by the name of William H. Herdon talked him into a more rigorous position on the matter.

When the Republican Party formed Lincoln liked its abolitionist-friendly platform, helped organize it in Illinois, and despite his relative obscurity got floated as a possible pick for VP by the party's first national convention. Debates in Illinois between Lincoln and Douglas about the slavery issue during a race for the U.S. Senate got a lot of attention; others running for office used their support of one man or the other as a campaign pitch. Later, on his way to Washington after winning the Presidency, he assured people that war was unnecessary and that the North-South crisis was mostly an artificial one. Given the constituencies parties had back then it was not always obvious who was "liberal" or "conservative" all-around but it seems the GOP was progressive in that era.

The Lincoln administration offered federal land-grants to colleges and land to homesteaders. It established a national banking system, paper currency, National Academy of Sciences, excise taxes, income taxes, and a Freedmen's Bureau to provide freed Southern slaves with food, clothing, land, and health care. A Constitutional amendment was passed to abolish slavery, Lincoln declared amnesty for most rebels willing to take an oath of loyalty to the Union, and leaned toward reconciliation in his plan for Reconstruction but never lived to see through its implementation.

I do beleive its Herndon not Herdon. Tongue

... Though it should be noted that the Populist movement arised from within that very same Democratic coalition, and so did sometimes Progressive Woodrow Wilson, a southerner and racist.

As was well said earlier ...

I didn't see it in this thread.

This is where ideological labels become difficult.

Is Populism liberal?

[/quote]

Its not exactly conservative in nature either especially when you look at the policies proposed to deal with railroads etc. Hence why I said ideological labels are "difficult".



Another thing to consider.    When the European revolutions of 1848 failed, radicals immigrated to the US to escape persecution in Europe.  These radicals became part of the Republican party in the 1850s.

For examples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Willich
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Weydemeyer

The Republican Party included such diverse characters at the time. Whigs, Democrats, Free-soilers, Know-Nothings. So the inclusion of a few radicals and Communists wouldn't surprise me. 

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Carlos Danger
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2011, 04:21:48 pm »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

Quote
I am informed by some whose opinions I respect that all the acts of Congress now in force and of a permanent and general nature might be revised and rewritten so as to be embraced in one volume (or at most two volumes) of ordinary and convenient size; and I respectfully recommend to Congress to consider of the subject, and if my suggestion be approved to devise such plan as to their wisdom shall seem most proper for the attainment of the end proposed.

Lincoln would be a very conservative Republican today.  It doesn't really make sense to talk about "conservatives" and "liberals" back in his time - people voted along ethnic and regional lines, not ideological, and, if anything, people would describe Lincoln as a "conservative" and Breckinridge as a "liberal."
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#Ready4Nixon
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2011, 07:53:06 pm »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

That, while it can sound Conservative in one light, could sound Populist in another. It depends on who he's referring to. If he's referring to the welfare state, then yes it is Conservative. However, if he's referring to the bankers, the bosses, and the employers, it is Populist (or at least by my definition).
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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2011, 08:06:34 pm »
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I do beleive its Herndon not Herdon. Tongue

Yes, I think you are right.
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« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2011, 09:06:25 am »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

Quote
I am informed by some whose opinions I respect that all the acts of Congress now in force and of a permanent and general nature might be revised and rewritten so as to be embraced in one volume (or at most two volumes) of ordinary and convenient size; and I respectfully recommend to Congress to consider of the subject, and if my suggestion be approved to devise such plan as to their wisdom shall seem most proper for the attainment of the end proposed.

Lincoln would be a very conservative Republican today.

Those quotes that don't sound conservative to me at all.    The first one sounds like a statement of someone trying to win the support of the AFL-CIO.   The second one reminds me of  the Clinton-Gore National Performance Review.
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« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2011, 09:46:02 am »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

That, whiel ti can sound Conservative in one light, could sound Populist in another. It depends on who he's referring to. If he's referring to the welfare state, then yes it is Conservative. However, if he's referring to the bankers, the bosses, and the employers, it is Populist (or at least by my definition).

He was writing about the conflict between capital and labor.  When he wrote "others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits" he is referring to employers, bankers, etc.
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« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2011, 08:02:44 pm »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

That sounds like Young Marx.
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« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2011, 08:58:54 pm »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

That sounds like Young Marx.

That was just my thoughts. He seems to be espousing some form of the labor theory of value (joining ranks with Smith and Ricardo among others) rather than going on some nonsense tirade against then non-existent income taxation (the first progressive income tax in the United States was, in fact, enacted by the Lincoln administration during his first two years in office) or the even more fantastic notion of the 19th century welfare state.

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« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2011, 09:56:07 pm »
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From Lincoln's first annual message to Congress:

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Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things ought to belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has happened in all ages of the world that some have labored, and others, without labor, have enjoyed a larger proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor as nearly as possible is a worthy object of any good government.

That sounds like Young Marx.

That was just my thoughts. He seems to be espousing some form of the labor theory of value (joining ranks with Smith and Ricardo among others) rather than going on some nonsense tirade against then non-existent income taxation (the first progressive income tax in the United States was, in fact, enacted by the Lincoln administration during his first two years in office) or the even more fantastic notion of the 19th century welfare state.


That's pretty much it.  He was complaining about people who make money without actually having to work. i.e. slavers and aristocrats, not the willfully unemployed.  Though it does make you wonder what happened to people back then who would be considered "welfare charges" today.
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« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2011, 10:12:52 pm »
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Not to mention his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and invading the south.

Oh my, "The Cause". Wink Tongue

Is it an upgrade from "The Lost Cause"? Cheesy

It's important to remember that in the context of "Labor" in the south wasn't like in the North. So advertising something akin to socialism in the South was different, because they were horribly treated. So a revolt of the "Labor class" in the south was seen as better than in the North. At least to the damnyankees.
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« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2011, 07:24:04 pm »
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Not to mention his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and invading the south.

Oh my, "The Cause". Wink Tongue

Is it an upgrade from "The Lost Cause"? Cheesy

It's important to remember that in the context of "Labor" in the south wasn't like in the North. So advertising something akin to socialism in the South was different, because they were horribly treated. So a revolt of the "Labor class" in the south was seen as better than in the North. At least to the damnyankees.

Its actually a shameless steal of a line from the movie Gettysburg. Which takes place just around the time it became "The Lost Cause". Though really in hindsight, it was a lost cause from the moment Fort Sumter was fired upon.


Support of whiggish business-friendly governmental implements of the American System (infrastructure, protective tariff, central bank) would not be considered "liberal" in a 19th century context.

On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln did possess some genuinely liberal inclinations, and that explains his ability to maintain a viable political coalition throughout the Civil War.

Indeed, in fact Lincoln depended on maintaining support of the laboring class and not just in America. In Britain, after the initial impact of the lost availability of cotton drove working classes to be sympathetic of the south, the Lincoln administration and its representatives came to rely on the them push Palmerston more towards real neutrality and away from the South.
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