Presidential Studies Quarterly
March 1, 2004
No. 1, Vol. 34; Pg. 167; ISSN: 0360-4918
...DiLorenzo's assault on the president...deserves some credit for producing an anti-Lincoln book worth discussing. The prominent libertarian finds fault with nearly all of Lincoln's actions and views. He dismisses the emancipator as a "white supremacist all his life" (p. 204) and calls his views on secession "simply foolish" (p. 113). Unlike Chief Justice Williams, he finds the president's record on constitutional issues to be appalling and lists "Lincoln's Train of Abuses" in the same manner that the Founders had once excoriated George III (pp. 149-53). He even tags the Civil War president with "the largest mass execution in American history," the hanging of 39 Sioux Indians in 1862 (p. 158).
Most of these contentions and a litany of others tossed off pugnaciously within the book are old charges that have been twisted badly out of context, but DiLorenzo still offers one of the more rigorous presentations of the case against Lincoln. For that reason alone, his book is worth discussing and refuting. As he points out, for example, Lincoln did express some white supremacist views in his famous debates with Stephen Douglas, but he did so grudgingly, after ferocious race baiting by his opponents, and in a fashion that allowed him to evolve into a more enlightened position by the end of his life. Lincoln's tough response to secession was certainly not the only alternative to the crisis and did ignore some contradictory precedents, but it was grounded in the legal opinions of several contemporary scholars whose judgments DiLorenzo ignores. And while the mass execution of Sioux was a terrible example of frontier justice, most historians rightfully credit Lincoln with reducing the original list of capital defendants from over 300 to fewer than 40.
The Real Lincoln is even more unbalanced in its treatment of other historians. DiLorenzo adopts a posture more suitable to talk radio than historical monographs as he belittles and mischaracterizes most other work in the field. To him, Columbia University historian Eric Foner is nothing but a "Marxist," and prominent intellectual historian Garry Wills, simply a "leftist" (p. 165). The result is unprofessional and distasteful to read.
The Real Lincoln: a New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War; Book Review; book review
March 22, 2003
No. 4, Vol. 7; Pg. 611; ISSN: 1086-1653
Gamble, Richard M.
By Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Roseville, Calif.: Forum/Prima, 2002. Pp. xiii, 333. $ 24.95 cloth.
Cynics learn through harsh experience to be skeptical of any book promising the "real" history behind a controversial figure such as Abraham Lincoln. It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet Thomas J. DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of big government and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation's memory of Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator" with the record of Lincoln as the "Great Centralizer."
In ten concise chapters, DiLorenzo attempts to demythologize Lincoln's reputation as the humanitarian benefactor of the slaves and the judicious statesman who preserved, protected, and defended the Union and the Constitution in their hour of greatest crisis. With the flair and passion of a prosecuting attorney delivering closing arguments to a hostile jury, he exposes Lincoln's embarrassing views on race, his ambition for economic nationalism, his rewriting of the history of the founding of the nation, his cavalier violation of constitutional limits on the presidency, and his willingness to wage a barbaric total war to achieve his ends. DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln opened the gates of war and plunged his fellow countrymen, North and South, into four years of misery and death not to preserve the Union as it was or to free the slaves, but to advance his own, his party's, and his constituency's power. In many ways, The Real Lincoln is a sobering study in power and corruption.
For those familiar only with the deified Lincoln of the copper penny, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., or the portrait on the classroom wall, DiLorenzo's catalog of Lincoln's racial views, for example, will come as something of a shock. The Real Lincoln ventures to cure the selective amnesia Lincoln's defenders have promoted. DiLorenzo provides evidence that Lincoln, very much a man of his time and not a visionary prophet, never favored social equality for blacks. Throughout his political career and into the war, Lincoln promoted overseas colonization of freed slaves, for the most part opposed the extension of slavery into the territories so that the land would remain open for white settlers, and promised never to touch slavery in the Southern states. When Lincoln finally did embrace emancipation, he adopted it as a pragmatic war measure, subordinating the freedom of slaves to winning the war and maintaining the Union.
Judged by his actions rather than his words, Lincoln's "real agenda," according to DiLorenzo, emerges as primarily economic, not humanitarian. Lincoln inherited his political agenda from his role model, Henry Clay, the leader of the Whig Party who promoted a vision of national economic development called the "American System." In large part a resurrection of Alexander Hamilton's fiscal and industrial policies, the American System advocated protective tariffs, a national centralized banking system, and federally subsidized internal improvements. DiLorenzo sees this scheme as a revival of European-style imperial mercantilism--a revival that, once victorious, sent the United States hurtling toward statism. He argues forcefully that Lincoln waged war from 1861 to 1865 with a single-minded determination to remove the South's obstructionist Jeffersonian principles of strict construction, states' rights, local autonomy, limited government, and free trade.
In the remaining chapters, DiLorenzo tackles secession, Lincoln's assumption of dictatorial "war powers," his resort to total warfare, the ugly story of Reconstruction, the merciless Indian wars on the frontier, and the continuing legacy and costs of Lincoln's political agenda and abuse of power. The chapter on secession most clearly indicates the book's potential to open minds to supposedly unthinkable possibilities and helps to recover the lost language and logic of states' rights. The quotations from Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, and Alexis de Tocqueville eloquently answer the arguments of those who would claim that postwar apologists for the Old South in large part fabricated the right of secession in retrospect. DiLorenzo effectively summarizes Northern editorial opinion on the eve of the war, a surprising amount of which was sympathetic to the Southern cause, favorable to secession, and unwilling to have the once-voluntary Union held together by force and violence. The bad news for Lincoln's defenders is that the documentary evidence here and throughout the book might have been multiplied a hundredfold.
Despite its provocative insights and obvious rhetorical skill, however, The Real Lincoln is seriously compromised by careless errors of fact, misuse of sources, and faulty documentation. Although individually these flaws may seem trivial and inconsequential, taken together they constitute a near-fatal threat to DiLorenzo's credibility as a historian. A few examples indicate the scope of the problem: DiLorenzo's own article on Lincoln as "The Great Centralizer" appeared in the The Independent Review in 1998, not in 1988 (p. vii); Lincoln advised sending freed slaves to Liberia in a speech in 1854, not "during the war" (pp. 16-17); Lincoln was not a member of the Illinois state legislature in 1857 (p. 18); the commerce clause was not an "amendment," and Thomas Jefferson was not among the framers of the Constitution (pp. 69-70); Thaddeus Stevens was a Pennsylvania representative, not a senator (p. 140); and Fort Sumter was not a customs house (p. 242).
Unfortunately, these lapses are more than matched by a clumsy mishandling of sources that violates the presumed trust between author and reader. DiLorenzo claims, for example, that in the four years "between 1860 and 1864, population in the thirteen largest Northern cities rose by 70 percent" (p. 225). On the face of it, this statistic is absurd and defies common sense, and sure enough, the source DiLorenzo cites says that the growth occurred "in fifteen years." Page 11 says that Lincoln's law partner and biographer William Herndon was quoting his own recollections of Lincoln, but he really was quoting another biographer. A few pages later (p. 14), DiLorenzo claims that Lincoln, in his eulogy for Henry Clay, "mustered his best rhetorical talents to praise Clay," but all of the examples that follow come from the "beautiful language" of a newspaper that Lincoln was quoting at length. Moreover, Lincoln's supposed comment about the "deportation" of blacks in his Cooper Union speech was in fact a quotation from Thomas Jefferson, as Lincoln himself says (p. 18). In chapter 3, DiLorenzo claims that in a letter to Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln "admitted that the original [Emancipation] proclamation had no legal justification, except as a war measure" (p. 37). His source, however, is the recollections of a conversation (not a letter) that portrait artist Francis B. Carpenter (not Chase) had with Lincoln, and at no point do these recollections sustain DiLorenzo's summary of them. Moreover, in the reference for this section, DiLorenzo misidentifies the title of his source as Paul Angle's The American Reader, when in fact the jumbled material comes from Angle's The Lincoln Reader. Other errors include misplaced quotation marks, missing ellipses, and quotations with incorrect punctuation, capitalization, and wrong or missing words.
Further examination of the endnotes leads into a labyrinth of errors beyond the ingenuity of Ariadne's thread. On page 281, for instance, note 1 cites page 66 of David Donald's Lincoln, when in fact the quotation comes from page 66 of Donald's Lincoln Reconsidered. On the next page, note 7 cites Lincoln's debate with Stephen Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois, on August 21, 1858, but the quotation comes from the debate at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858. Moreover, hardly a single citation of the Basler edition of Lincoln's Collected Works includes the volume number (see notes 25, 26, and 33), and several of the remaining citations of the Collected Works turn out in fact to be references to Basler's Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings (notes 24, 31, and 44). Note 9 on page 282 again cites Lincoln's 1858 debate with Douglas at Ottawa, but the quotations this time actually come from Lincoln's 1852 eulogy for Henry Clay. Note 14 leads down another blind alley to no trace of the quoted material. On page 287, note 3 cites the wrong page number from Donald's Lincoln, and although note 4 immediately following says "ibid.," it actually refers to Basler's Abraham Lincoln. On page 293, DiLorenzo cites Federalist No. 36 as his source, but the quotation comes from Federalist No. 46. Sad to say, this catalog of errors is only a sampling. Readers looking further into the matter will find incorrect titles and subtitles as well as misspelled publishers' names. Obviously, in view of these problems, the maze of endnotes does not provide the "meticulous documentation" promised by the book's dust jacket.
As it stands, The Real Lincoln is a travesty of historical method and documentation. Exasperating, maddening, and deeply disappointing, The Real Lincoln ought to have been a book to confound Lincoln's apologists and to help rebuild the American historical consciousness. Ironically, it is essentially correct in every charge it makes against Lincoln, making it all the more frustrating to the sympathetic reader. DiLorenzo's love of the chase needs to be tempered by scrupulous attention to detail. Without it, his good work collapses. He is an author of evident courage and ability, but his sloppiness has earned him the abuse and ridicule of his critics. A book such as The Real Lincoln needed to be written, but until it is revised and corrected in a new edition, this is not that book. In the meantime, there is still hope for skeptical cynics.
Abraham Lincoln in another light
The Washington Times
June 23, 2002, Sunday, Final Edition
BOOKS; Pg. B07
By William H. Peterson
In an order to Gen. John Dix on May 18, 1864, Abraham Lincoln wrote: "You will take possession by military force, of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce . . . and prohibit any further publication thereof . . . you are therefore commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison . . . the editors, proprietors and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers."
So Lincoln skewered our precious rules of press freedom and habeas corpus.
Yet on goes our Lincoln obsession, if that's what it is. Yes, the Lincoln legend has epic proportions: some 16,000 biographies, a national holiday, a huge monument in D.C., a touching saga of the Great Emancipator, with most Americans deeming him the greatest president in U.S. history.
Greatest? Our author respectfully differs, and in the foreword Walter Williams, George Mason's John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and nationally syndicated columnist, endorses the difference. Mr. Williams says the War between the States [his phrase] was not fought to end slavery but to save the Union, adding war was hardly the way to end it.
Dozens of nations such as the territorial possessions of the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, had ended slavery peacefully in the 18th and 19th centuries via compensated emancipation. Mr. Williams sees the War with 620,000 dead as far and away America's bloodiest, that number would be the equivalent of 5 million today or 100 times greater than the toll in Vietnam. Too, he mourns the War's killing off "the great principle" in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." Was Southern consent crushed? And how.
Author of "The Real Lincoln," Thomas DiLorenzo, economist at Baltimore's Loyola College with 11 books and over 70 articles in academic journals, cites H. L. Mencken on the Gettysburg Address for more evidence on Lincoln's true legacy as that of the Great Centralizer, a destroyer of "states' rights" guaranteed in the 9th and 10th Amendments. Mencken said the Address is "poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense." He held that the Union soldiers actually fought against "government of the people, by the people, for the people," i.e. against self-determination, that indeed it was the Confederate soldiers who fought for the vital right of their people to govern themselves.
Mr. DiLorenzo, here with some 500 citations, holds that Lincoln wantonly warred on innocent women, children and old men with generals like William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Henry Sheridan whose armies terrorized, pillaged, and torched cities from Atlanta to Harrisonburg, that in 1866 a Republican-dominated Congress blackmailed the South to pass the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by barring congressional representation to those states unless they ratified the amendment, a blackmail clouding the Amendment's constitutionality.
In fact, Mr. DiLorenzo pictures Lincoln as a man who was a Hamiltonian interventionist at heart, whose entire political calling was to win Henry Clay's American System and upset the Founders' plan from one limited in federal scope and decentralized via states' rights into the activist centralized power in the D.C. we know today. But barring the way was the South: independent states, John Calhoun-bred suspicion of Northern trickery, King Cotton's export dependency, ergo hatred of Northern protectionism as Lincoln and the Republican Paarty doubled the height of the [average] tariff wall, rising tension over slavery.
No wonder secession and war: a war far bloodier and longer-lasting than Lincoln had foreseen, an unnecessary war as free labor more and more triumphed competitively over slavery, as even Adam Smith had seen in 1776.
Protectionism was but one engine in the Lincoln centralizing machine. Others: subsidized corruptive "internal improvements" such as the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 granting millions of taxpayer dollars to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads [both going bust in 1869], Lincoln legalizing fiat paper money known as "greenbacks" with his Legal Tender Act of 1862 sparking sharp inflation, his imposing America's first income tax.
While Lincoln saw slavery as a "monstrous injustice," he fought "social and political equality" of the races, thus denying blacks the right to vote, become jurors, and so on. In his 1860 Cooper Union speech he urged peaceful "deportation" of blacks. As he wrote in a famed 1862 letter to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune on his war aims: "If I could save the Union without freeing a slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." But those aims foiled his point in his First Inaugural Address that he had no constitutional power to undo slavery, a foil seen in the Proclamation which applied only to rebel territory and specifically exempted Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia and many counties of Virginia.
So thousands of slaves were left unfreed. Secretary of State William Seward was cynical: "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." As Thomas DiLorenzo winds up his moving, reasoned, provocative if most iconoclastic book on the Lincoln legacy: Lincoln's war "let the genie of centralization out of the bottle, never to be returned."
William H. Peterson is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a contributing editor to the Foundation for Economic Education's Ideas on Liberty.
The Unreal Lincoln
October 14, 2002, Monday
Books, Arts & Manners; Vol. LIV, No. 19
By KEN MASUGI
The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (Prima, 352 pp., $24.95)
To get an idea of how truly awful this book is, consider that its author sneers at what he calls some "pledge of allegiance to the central government." (He means, of course, the pledge of allegiance to the flag and "to the republic for which it stands.") This offhand remark epitomizes Thomas DiLorenzo's feckless treatment of his subject, Abraham Lincoln and his place in the American political tradition. We should, nevertheless, treat this shabby work seriously, because it offers an occasion for reflection on the place of Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence in contemporary conservatism -- which has been wary of both.
DiLorenzo, a professor of economics at Loyola College in Baltimore, claims to offer "a new look" at Lincoln, in contrast to the prevalent "myths" about him; but what he actually does is recycle the articulate pro-Confederate views of Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Edgar Lee Masters, and Claude Bowers. He charges Lincoln with being a racist, a war criminal, and the decisive centralizer of the constitutional order and destroyer of American liberties.
In making the charge of racism, DiLorenzo sounds like an especially nasty liberal. He frequently distorts the meaning of the primary sources he cites, Lincoln most of all. Consider this inflammatory assertion: "Eliminating every last black person from American soil, Lincoln proclaimed, would be 'a glorious consummation.'" Compare the nuances and qualifications in what Lincoln actually said: "If as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means, succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery; and, at the same time, in restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future; and this too, so gradually, that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation." One need not be a Lincoln admirer to recognize that DiLorenzo is making an unfair characterization. DiLorenzo actually gets so overwrought that at one point he attributes to Lincoln racist views Lincoln was attacking.
DiLorenzo adopts as his own the fundamental mistake of leftist multiculturalist historians: confusing the issue of race with the much more fundamental one, which was slavery. Pulitzer prize-winning historian Don Fehrenbacher has carefully explicated the dilemma of principled statesmen of the antebellum era: Lincoln's Illinois was anti-slavery, but it also passed laws discriminating against blacks. This was not a paradox. The anti-slavery forces actually joined with racists to keep their state free of slavery, and also free of blacks.
These were treacherous waters for politicians to swim in. For Lincoln, a "universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded"; to do so would be to violate the principle of the consent of the governed. In disregarding the sentiments of the time and the anti-black rhetoric of Lincoln's opponents, such as Stephen Douglas, DiLorenzo ignores the political context of Lincoln's speeches. Lincoln promised only to put slavery "in the course of ultimate extinction," not to abolish it. He wanted a constitutional amendment to end slavery and would have compensated slaveholders; DiLorenzo obfuscates Lincoln's principled position, which left him scorned by abolitionists and slaveholders alike.
Fortunately, we are not dependent on DiLorenzo for an understanding of Lincoln's political philosophy; Lincoln himself summarized it in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. For Lincoln, the preservation of the equality of natural rights demands a strong government, but one limited in its powers. This founding principle leads politically to the need for consent of the governed, the basis of our republican government. But DiLorenzo maintains that the Declaration of Independence -- the key text on these questions -- was merely concerned with the independence of the several states, and that the states could therefore withdraw their initial consent to be governed under the 1787 Constitution. Citing the New England Federalists of the early 1800s, he argues that secession was always recognized as a legitimate, constitutional procedure. Indeed, for the Founders, "the most fundamental principle of political philosophy was the right of secession." But DiLorenzo is proposing a logical absurdity. Secession is the same as revolution, as secessionists must admit when pressed, and therefore no legal right of secession can exist. There is indeed a moral duty to rebel against an illegitimate government; the test of legitimacy is whether a government protects natural rights.
DiLorenzo then complains of the war measures Lincoln took after secession: military tribunals, restrictions on civil liberties, and the suppression of newspapers. But he doesn't mention the South's suppression of discussion about abolition, or the fact that Lincoln could not appear on the ballots of ten of the eleven states that were to make up the Confederacy. With such restrictions on liberties and elections, the South was basically a banana republic. As Forrest McDonald has noted, both North and South "found it necessary to suppress states' rights for the nonce and to centralize power."
DiLorenzo also contends that Lincoln violated international law in his "savage" conduct of the war. Not once does DiLorenzo entertain the thought that a disunited America might have become prey for the designs of European imperial powers, which would have put an end to the experiment in self-government. And as for the destruction caused by Sherman's march through Georgia, historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed: "It is a hard thing for contemporary liberalism to envision war as not always evil, but as sometimes very necessary -- and very necessarily brutal if great evil is to disappear."
But why would Lincoln indulge in these criminal actions? Since he was a racist and had no great interest in freeing slaves, DiLorenzo concludes, his "real agenda" must have been the imposition of a "mercantilist/Whig" high-tariff economic system: "This is why both the federalist system and the Constitution created by the Founding Fathers had to be destroyed -- so that Lincoln and the Republican Party could lord over the largest political patronage system ever created by any government on earth." The South's call for low tariffs became a demand for preserving an agricultural economy based on slavery. To view the conflict between North and South as primarily one of two incompatible economic systems obscures the central place of slavery.
The true target of DiLorenzo's anti-national fulminations is George Washington, the original unifier of America. When -- well before the federal Constitution -- Washington resigned his commission as general, he was already speaking of America as one country, one free nation. And, in this, he was simply echoing the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of "one people" and "our constitution."
Demagoguery like The Real Lincoln distracts us from understanding the origins of today's real enemy: the centralized bureaucracy, which is intimately connected with the nihilistic universities and interest factions. It was not Lincoln but the Progressives -- Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Charles Beard -- who created the real break with the Founders' limited government, by rejecting natural rights. Progressivism was based on the same historical-evolutionary brand of thought, dating back to Rousseau, that justified black slavery as the cornerstone of Confederate civilization. And Progressivism begat modern megastate liberalism.
For all its crudity, DiLorenzo's attack on Lincoln is at one with powerful and far more sophisticated influences on contemporary conservatism. Libertarians and traditionalists have desperately sought a weapon to fight the political and cultural outrages around us. In their opportunism they have chosen as their enemy a man who was, in fact, the greatest friend of the Founders' Constitution -- which after all left future generations with slavery to confront. Some libertarians would not see a paradox in a liberty to own slaves and thus to enslave oneself: This is precisely DiLorenzo's position stripped of all its pretensions. Others on the right, such as Russell Kirk, Robert Bork, and Robert Kraynak, have criticized the Declaration for being French, nihilistic, or irreligious. But in two magnificent works, Crisis of the House Divided and A New Birth of Freedom, Harry V. Jaffa captured Lincoln's teaching about our founding principles. Jaffa demonstrated how tradition, majoritarianism, revelation, and latter-day states'-rights arguments cannot provide for liberty, human excellence, and republican limited government as well as the natural-rights teaching of the Declaration as sublimely articulated by Abraham Lincoln.
An honest look at Abe: Abraham Lincoln is usually regarded as a saintly figure, but a detailed book about Lincoln shows that much of what historians say about him is pure fiction; Book review
The New American
March 20, 2006
Pg. 31(2) Vol. 22 No. 6 ISSN: 0885-6540
Dwyer, John J.
The Real Lincoln, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002, 361 pages, paperback (2003 ed.). (For ordering information, see the ad on page 38.)
Have you read Thomas DiLorenzo's landmark book The Real Lincoln: ANew Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War? If not, ask yourself these five questions: 1) Was Lincoln America's greatest president? 2) Did he save the Constitution? 3) Was he the preserver of the Founding Fathers' vision for America? 4)Was he the great emancipator of and friend to the black race? 5) Was he a devout, professing Christian the final years of his life?
I know I am venturing into sacred territory for many patriotic Americans with such questions, and I assure you that I do so with soberness and concern at the reaction it may generate. The stakes for our country, and the lessons we draw from its past as we assess how to properly govern it today, however, are too important not to do so. So, Iam compelled to suggest that if you were tempted to answer yes to even one of those questions, you purchase The Real Lincoln. An eye-opening read awaits you.
Among other things, DiLorenzo demonstrates in the book Abraham Lincoln's obsession with building and expanding an imperial American colossus; his contempt for the rule of law--local, federal, or international; his efforts to drain civil power from the states who formed theunion and centralize it in the seat of national government; his heartfelt wish to free the slaves--then deport them to Africa and elsewhere; and his rejection of the Just War principles formulated through centuries of Christian thought by such theologians as Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin.
Indeed, over the past four years or so, DiLorenzo and The Real Lincoln have stirred up a hornet's nest of frothing, apoplectic liberalsand neo-conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, as they vainly attempt damage control of the bleeding myth of Lincoln, the "Redeemer President."
In fact, you yourself might be saying along about now, "Hey, I know who Abraham Lincoln is, and why is this Dwyer character seeking to tarnish him?" Well, allow me, with respect, to touch on just one of themany examples where Lincoln the myth resides far from Lincoln the real man: Lincoln the supposed friend to the blacks.
He certainly expressed his enthusiasm at the prospect blacks mightgain their freedom, as long as it did not infringe on the successfulgovernance of the Union--and as long as they were then shipped out of America to Africa, South America, or islands in the Caribbean. Yes,that is right, as long as they were deported to distant lands and continents.
DiLorenzo provides page after page of quotes from Lincoln himself and his associates that offer irrefutable proof of the man's decades-long hope that freed blacks be removed from this country. "Send them to Liberia, to their own native land," he said. He approvingly quotedhis mercantilist mentor Henry Clay as saying that "there is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children" since "they will carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of religion, civilization, law and liberty," and that sending all blacks back to Africa would prove a "signal blessing to that most unfortunate portion ofthe globe." After signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln told Congress: "I cannot make it better known than it already is, that Istrongly favor colonization." Eliminating every black person from American soil, Lincoln proclaimed, would be "a glorious consummation," and their peaceful "deportation" would allow "their places [to] be ... filled up by free white laborers."
According to DiLorenzo, famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison certainly understood Lincoln's intentions to colonize blacks in otherlands when Garrison declared, "President Lincoln may colonize himself if he choose, but it is an impertinent act, on his part, to proposethe getting rid of those who are as good as himself."
Regarding another misunderstood topic, even my high-school historystudents know something smells when Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and others write books that highlight Lincoln's "kindness, empathy, generosity, and humility," then ignore or justify his jailing tens of thousands of Northern citizens, and his "total war" campaign against the civilian population of the South, which destroyed roughly half of all their property, caused thousands of them to die by starvation, sickness, and numerous other causes, and killed one-fourth of their white male population between the ages of 16 and 60.
The renowned political commentator and University of Dallas literature professor M.E. Bradford said before his too-early passing that for Americans to understand the causes, events, and consequences of the War Between the States--and the many contemporary problems stemmingfrom it--the towering idol of Lincoln must first be brought down. I remember my own dear mother, God rest her soul, fondly recalling the two ribboned badges she and her classmates received in Sunday School more than a half-century before, and which they had proudly worn--oneof Jesus and one of Lincoln.
No one has more effectively set about Mel Bradford's mandate than Tom DiLorenzo. And the man possesses imposing credentials. He has been a professor of economics for nearly 30 years, the last many of themin the Sellinger School of Business and Management at the prestigious Loyola College in Maryland. Specializing in economic history and political economy, he has authored over a dozen books and around 100 articles in academic journals. He is also widely published in such popular outlets as the Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, USA Today, National Review, and Barron's. The Real Lincoln is a bestseller many times over. His latest book is How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold Story of Our Country's History, from the Pilgrims to the Present (Crown Forum/Random House, August 2004).
Since the 2002 release of The Real Lincoln, DiLorenzo has accomplished that rare feat of shoving an issue of enormous significance--yetscarce understanding--into the arenas of both academic and popular discourse. Unquestioning devotees of Lincoln--who still abound in academia, media, and Internet alike--may complain, accuse, marginalize, slander, or bay at the moon, but truth is in the process of being revealed to be on the side of those who believe Lincoln to be quite a different man than the one that has been presented by American historians.
A mountain of primary source documentation is blessedly available,and DiLorenzo's work is awash in it, footnoted every step of the way, with bonus quotes included in recent editions of the multi-printingbook that vanquish challenges from his critics. However many or few Americans eventually learn the truth about Abraham Lincoln, that truth is available to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Leaving further discovery to you of the treasures found in The Real Lincoln, I'll close with this dramatic endorsement of DiLorenzo's thesis from Walter E. Williams, the well-known conservative black columnist, and Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University: "The War Between the States settled by force whether states could secede. Once it was established that states cannot secede, the federal government, abetted by a Supreme Court unwilling to hold it to its constitutional restraints, was able to run amok over states' rights, so much so that the protections of the Ninth and Tenth Amendmentsmean little or nothing today. Not only did the war lay the foundation for eventual nullification or weakening of basic constitutional protections against central government abuses, but it also laid to rest the great principle enunciated in the Declaration of Independence that 'Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.' The Real Lincoln contains irrefutable evidence that a more appropriate title for Abraham Lincoln is not the Great Emancipator, but the Great Centralizer."
John J. Dwyer, the history chair at Coram Deo Academy near Dallas,is the author of The War Between the States: America's Uncivil War.
NEW BOOK ON LINCOLN IS FAR FROM HONEST ACCOUNT
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
April 28, 2002 Sunday, FINAL
INSIGHT; Pg. G4
Edward Achorn, the Providence Journal
One hundred thirty-seven years after his assassination, Abraham Lincoln still sells a lot of books. There are said to be 16,000 separate volumes about Lincoln on the shelves, and most seem to treat him as a sainted figure.
No wonder. Lincoln held this country together when weaker men would have given up. He did it with uncommon empathy and humor, in the face of vast suffering and loss. His eloquence was unmatched by any other American president, and maybe by any American writer. His humanity -- his awkwardness, the map of pain in his lined face, his depression -- makes him all the more appealing.
But is there a less hagiographic take on Lincoln?
As one who often reads about him, I find myself wanting to test my admiration against his critics' views. And so, I looked forward to The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln (Prima Publishing), by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, an economics professor at Loyola College in Maryland.
The book has created a buzz among conservatives and has won praise from history professors.
There is an argument in conservative circles that the Civil War was unnecessary, that Lincoln's ferocity in fighting it caused much greater harm than if he had simply let the South go. That has always struck me as wishful thinking and silly revisionism.
DiLorenzo's book, alas, is more of the same.
His key point is that the view of Lincoln as "the Great Emancipator," a man driven by moral passion to abolish slavery, is a myth. Lincoln's real passion in life, he contends, was shifting power to Washington and creating opportunities for political corruption. From the moment he entered politics, Lincoln championed Henry Clay's "American System," which advocated internal improvements, protective tariffs and a national bank.
DiLorenzo notes that Lincoln advanced segregationist and white supremacist views, wanted blacks removed from America and was slow to act to free the slaves. He exploited the war as an opportunity to wield unconstitutional power. His legacy was a vast expansion of corruption in Washington, and the death of some constitutional protections and state's rights.
Well. Some facts obviously go into this assessment: Lincoln was, indeed, a Whig before becoming a Republican, and deeply admired Henry Clay (whether that is an unpardonable sin, tantamount to favoring destruction of the Constitution, is open to debate).
He did argue that whites were superior to blacks in some ways (though not in having a right to freedom), and he did support some harebrained schemes to send blacks to Africa or Central America. But DiLorenzo's facts are trotted out without context, and seemingly without an understanding of the world in which Lincoln lived.
And some of what he says is just plain wrong. From 1854 on, Lincoln did write obsessively about slavery, which he considered a horrifying evil that would eventually strangle all freedom in America if it was not halted. He struggled for ways to get the United States out of its grip without breaking the country apart, something that he thought would be catastrophic to the preservation of liberty.
DiLorenzo's argument that slavery could have been ended peacefully would seem to be contradicted by the reality of the 1850s and '60s -- the South had dug in its heels and invested its pride (and its economy) in perpetuating slavery.
Lincoln unquestionably assumed some attributes of a dictator during the war -- but the context was chaos, the wrenching apart of the country, the very real risk that Washington would be surrounded by secessionist states and the game would be lost.
It is true that the Civil War weakened states' power and made Washington stronger. The Founders would not have approved.
On the other hand, Lincoln was right, I think, in arguing that the Declaration of Independence carried in it the seeds of slavery's destruction, in expressing the belief that all men are created equal, and are endowed by our Creator with the right to liberty.
In fighting so brilliantly to preserve the Union, he rescued that noble vision of humanity.
The Washington Times
May 12, 2002, Sunday, Final Edition
LETTERS; Pg. B02
In his judicious review of Thomas DiLorenzo's assault on Abraham Lincoln, Mackubin Thomas Owens makes one crucial error: He attempts to identify the best example of Mr. DiLorenzo "pulling a fast one" with history, logic and interpretation ("Real Lincoln not found in book," Civil War, May 4).
Actually, the book is so filled with errors great and small that picking the "best" one is impossible. It's better, and more fun, to pick our individual favorites. I have two.
First, Mr. DiLorenzo gleefully quotes Lincoln "mocking the Declaration of Independence ." If one reads the speech from which this quote is taken, one finds that the passage is actually Lincoln quoting a pro-slavery Virginia clergyman, whom he then skewers for mocking the declaration. That one captures the spirit of the book. Mr. DiLorenzo has since blamed a secondary source from which he copied the quotation for this error. You would think that a scholar giving us "The Real Lincoln" would read for himself the speech in which Lincoln "mocks the Declaration."
The factual mendacity of the book's thesis, however, is better illustrated by Mr. DiLorenzo's attempt to prove that between 1854 and 1860, when Lincoln helped found the Republican Party and rose to the presidency, he was not principally motivated by the danger posed to free political institutions by an expansionist slave power but by his "corrupt Whig economic agenda." Mr. DiLorenzo's primary evidence for this amazing thesis is his claim that: "In virtually every one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln made it a point to champion the nationalization of money and to demonize Jackson and the Democrats for their opposition to it."
This is not a claim likely to be made by a scholar (or a high school student) who has actually studied the famous debates. Lincoln expressed not the slightest sentiment or opinion on "the nationalization of money," or any related subject, in any of the debates. Indeed, it would take a better detective than I to find Lincoln offering an opinion on these subjects at any time between 1854 and 1860.
Reading Lincoln bashers on their own turf is like reading Palestinian textbooks on Israeli history. Mr. Owens has done us a service in summarizing well the weird pathology of "The Real Lincoln." Seeing is believing, however, and I recommend Mr. DiLorenzo's book to all serious students of Lincoln - but be sure to do what the author did not - read the original sources.
Oak View, Calif.