The Real Lincoln

Posted here (week 1617).

Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln is a frightfully timely discussion of a President that ruthlessly pursued his political agenda to increase the fortunes of his comrades at the expense of the nation, yet used patriotic rhetoric to garner popular support and still enjoys broad adoration. The back cover subtitle best sums up the message: “Most of what you know about Abraham Lincoln is false.”

Some (well supported) assertions from its pages:

  • Lincoln was not opposed to continued slavery, and by no means believed in racial equality. He strongly supported efforts to export blacks out of North America. He used the equality only as a useful political issue.

  • Throughout the world, emancipation was achieved peacefully, but Lincoln gave no attention to implementing any of these proven strategies domestically.

  • Lincoln’s mentor was Henry Clay, and in Clay’s footsteps he espoused the Whig platform of protectionism, centrally-controlled money, government subsidies to corporations, and an American empire.

  • The right of states to secede was widely respected at the time; Lincoln manufactured the idea of State servitude to the Union to support his Federalist agenda.

  • The southern states seceded not to preserve slavery, but as a political maneuver to keep Federal power in check (as the foundering fathers intended). Northern-influenced politicians like Lincoln were imposing harsh tariffs that benefitted Northern manufacturers at the expense of the Southern agricultural economy.

  • Lincoln’s military response prompted many more states to secede, and his oppressive rule (imprisoning thousands of political opponents, forcibly shutting down dissident newspapers) prompted even many Northerners to call for secession.

  • …the monetary costs of the war alone would have been enough to purchase the freedom of every last Southern slave (and give each 40 acres and a mule). p 275

  • The Lincoln administration placed itself above the law via an “indemnity act” that was not even voted in by the Senate.

  • The Emancipation Proclamation was merely a military ploy; Lincoln hoped to incite insurrection in the states he had the least military control and destabilize them. This is evident in the scope of the Proclamation, which only included states not under Union control.

  • The death of states’ rights ultimately meant that Americans were forced to effectively give up the idea of government by consent. In its place was put the European idea that citizens owe obedience to the central state-the very idea that caused many of the original colonists to flee England in the first place Far from “saving the Union,” Lincoln destroyed it in a philosophical sense, if by “Union” one means a voluntary confederation of states. pp 268-269

It should be noted, perhaps, that I am a fan of the Lincoln remembered by mainstream history. Regardless of whether this book’s contrarian view is “setting the record straight” or “conspiracy nit-picking”, I find the nuances interesting.