By Kerry Walters
February 18, 2017
If there are any sacred cows in America, the one at the head of the herd has got to be Abraham Lincoln. Our culture gleefully vilifies almost everyone. Psycho-biographies, in which the darkest interior rooms of the subject are exposed to light, are the rage these days. But somehow Lincoln for the most part has managed to escape all this. He’s still the great American hero, venerated by layperson and scholar alike, sometimes to the point of embarrassing hagiography. (I once knew a history professor, for example, who insisted that students refer to Lincoln, both in class discussions and in term papers, as “MR. Lincoln.” His class could just as well have been offered by the theology department.)
Thomas DiLorenzo refuses to genuflect before Lincoln’s altar. In *The Real Lincoln*, a book that’s guaranteed to infuriate a wide audience, ranging from Civil War buffs to Lincoln scholars to African-Americans to political liberals to history traditionalists, DiLorenzo claims that Lincoln’s real historical legacy is the strong centralized state that characterizes the American political system today. From first to last, claims DiLorenzo, Lincoln’s political vision was the creation of a Whiggish empire of protectionist tariffs, government subsidized railroads, and nationalization of the money supply. In the first year and a half of his administration, he pushed through much of this agenda. The average tariff rate tripled, railroads began raking in government money (a “war necessity”), and the National Currency Acts monopolized the money supply.
The Real Lincoln: A Ne... Best Price: $4.20 Buy New $7.98 So far none of this is terribly alarming. Even admirers of Lincoln will admit much of what DiLorenzo says about Lincoln’s economic dream and Whig leanings. But where DiLorenzo begins to stir up a storm is when he claims (1) that Lincoln basically allowed an unnecessary and horribly bloody war to occur in order to further his political vision of a strong state; (2) Lincoln was a “constitutional dictator”; and (3) Lincoln was never terribly concerned with slavery as a moral injustice.
In reference to the first point, DiLorenzo points out that the right to secession was simply taken for granted by most Americans prior to Lincoln’s administration because they saw the country as a voluntary association of states. Lincoln didn’t “save” the Union so much as he destroyed it as a voluntary association. In reference to the second point, DiLorenzo provides example after example of Lincoln’s disregard–supposedly in the interests of the state–for the Constitution: launching a military invasion without Congressional consent; suspension of habeas corpus; censorship of newspapers; meddling with elections; confiscating private property; and so on. Finally, in reference to the last point–which is probably the book’s most inflammatory one–DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln rarely mentioned the issue of slavery in political speeches until it became politically expedient to begin doing so. His opposition to slavery was always based on what he feared was its economic dangers, not on moral principle.
As his contemporaries accurately noted, Lincoln the “Great Emancipator” was never an abolitionist. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, he was willing to tolerate slave-holding in non-secessionist states. His ultimate solution–one that infuriated abolitionists such as Horace Greeley–was to colonize American blacks “back” to Africa or the Caribbean.
Much of DiLorenzo’s claims about Lincoln’s activities will be familiar. What’s new about the book is the overall unfavorable portrait of Lincoln that emerges as DiLorenzo discusses them. It may be the case that DiLorenzo has swung too far in the opposite direction from conventional Lincoln hagiography. But it may also be the case that his book will encourage more moderate and accurate portrayals of Lincoln in the future.Reprinted from Amazon.com
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