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Review of "The Real Lincoln" by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

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Every person you meet on the street knows a great deal about Abraham Lincoln.  But most of what these people know is not true.  The American textbooks about Lincoln have perpetuated a mythology, and anyone new to this subject and reading DiLorenzo’s book on Lincoln is in for a shock.  I will leave it to others to explain why the textbooks have omitted the truth about Lincoln.

Some people thinking about this book may be inclined to ask, “Why be concerned about events that  happened a  hundred and fifty years ago?”  One answer is that we should always be interested in serious injustices in history in order to avoid being a party to future injustices of the same kind.  That is a good  reason for reading history.   Another answer to that question is that those past injustices, by being concealed, continue to cause injustices today.

DiLorenzo’s book is not the only book that exposes this cause for national shame.  But it is one of the most damaging  to the Lincoln mythology because it not easily dismissed  by those who are in denial on the subject.   The book contains irrefutable evidence.  And, it is interesting that informed  people who disagree with DiLorenzo, don’t deny the facts he cites. Rather,  they excuse the things that were done simply because these things were done by Lincoln.

DiLorenzo is a professor at Loyola College in Maryland.  He is the author of 11 books and more than 70 articles in academic journals.  The book is extensively researched and well documented.

The Real Lincoln has a Foreword by Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University Professor Walter E. Williams who concurs with the findings of DiLorenzo’s work. Williams’ education in economics is quite relevant because economic issues figure more importantly in the concealed Lincoln story than you might think.

Lincoln did not believe in racial equality.   Many times in his political career, Lincoln makes his position on the matter of race and slavery quite clear.

Discussing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, he said: “[When slave owners] remind us of their constitutional rights [to own slaves], I acknowledge them, not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the claiming of their fugitives.”
In debate with Douglas in 1858 at Ottawa, Illinois, Lincoln said: “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races.  There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”

Lincoln repeated these beliefs in several venues.  In his  First Inaugural Address in 1861 he said he had no “purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery, in the States where it exists.  I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” But he dedicated most of the speech to denying that States could legally secede from the Union. 

In saying he had no inclination to interfere with the institution of slavery, Lincoln was voicing the view of the overwhelming majority of citizens of the day, North and South. (Not one of the four parties which put forward presidential candidates in 1860 was in favor of  the abolition of slavery.)  But Lincoln was opposed to the extension of slavery into the territories, not for moral reasons, but like the new Republican party, he was concerned that slaves would compete with white laborers in the territories.

In Peoria on October 16, 1854, Lincoln said: “Whether slavery shall go into Nebraska, or other new territories, is not a matter of exclusive concern to the people who go there.  The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories.  We want them for the homes of free white people.  This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted with them.  Slave states are the places for poor white people to move from. . . .New free states are the places for poor people to go and better their condition.”

Lincoln’s “solution” for the blacks in the United States was to colonize them back to Africa.  He toyed with several plans to do that, which prompted William Loyd Garrison, the abolitionist,  to denounce him: “President Lincoln may colonize himself if he choose, but it is an impertinent act, on his part, to propose the getting rid of those who are as good as himself.”

The Emancipation Proclamation was confessed by Lincoln himself to be a political move during the war to keep England and other European countries from recognizing the Confederacy as a separate country.   The Proclamation did not apply to states which were loyal to the Union where it would have meant that slaves would actually be freed, but to the states of the Confederacy where Lincoln had no control over the matter.  “Lincoln’s own secretary of state William Seward, mocked the Emancipation Proclamation by saying, ‘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.'”

Why did Lincoln not try peaceful emancipation?  If freeing the slaves had been Lincoln’s purpose,  he probably could have done so without war.   DiLorenzo points out that everywhere in the civilized world where slavery was eliminated, it was done without war.  Often it was a matter of remunerating slave owners for freeing their slaves.  But the reason that approach was not attempted  in the United States was, first, there was no substantial interest in freeing the slaves in 1861, except by the active but small group of abolitionists.   And second, Lincoln, the Republican Party, and the Northern states needed a war to give them a stronger central government, which would have control over a national currency, control of Southern ports, and power to implement “internal improvements.”

In 1832 Lincoln said, “My politics are short and sweet. . . .I am in favor of a national bank. . . .in favor of the internal improvements system and a high protective tariff.”   To give all these powers to the Federal government, it was necessary to override or ignore the Constitution.  The best way to do that in Lincoln’s view was through war.   And to do that Lincoln wanted South Carolina to fire on Fort Sumter and thereby develop sympathy in the North for making war on the Southern states.  DiLorenzo presents a half dozen contemporary and modern reports and Lincoln’s own words to show it was Lincoln’s plan.  And it worked.  The war produced all the effects that Lincoln wanted although he didn’t live to see them.  The Ninth and Tenth Amendments are still in the Constitution but they have been ignored for a century and a half by Presidents, Congress, and the Supreme Court.

This book also shows that the Union Forces’ invasion of the South was accompanied by rape, pillage, and murder of civilians.  A few quotations will suffice to give some idea of how these war crimes against Southern Civilians were carried out.  DiLorenzo demonstrates that Lincoln had knowledge of and approved of these crimes.

Upon taking command in Memphis, Sherman described his ultimate purpose in the war to his wife: “extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”  His loving wife responded by expressing her sincerest wish that the war would be a war “of extermination and that all [Southerners] would be driven like the Swine into the sea.  May we carry fire and sword into their states till not one habitation is left standing.”

“Although it is oddly missing from most histories of Sherman’s march, many eyewitness accounts of rape by Federal soldiers have been recorded.  Many accounts emphasize that black women suffered the most and that many black men, in response, became just as bitterly opposed to the Federal army as any secessionist was.  Civilized people do not publicize the names of rape victims, so we will never know the extent to which Sherman’s army committed acts of rape. But the University of South Carolina library in Columbia. . . contains a large collection of thousands of letters and diaries. . . . This collection contains hundreds of personal accounts of rape at the hands of Sherman’s army.”

“During the century prior to the War between the States, nations agreed that it was a war crime, punishable by imprisonment or death, for armies to (1) attack defenseless cities and towns, (2) plunder and wantonly destroy civilian property, and (3) take from the civilian population more than what was necessary to feed and sustain an occupying army.”  But the Federal army committed all three offenses.  It was a general policy from the earliest days of the Union’s invasion of the South.  “McClellan and several other top Union generals harshly criticized such actions, but Lincoln ignored their criticisms.”

The policies of Lincoln continued after his death.   After the war, the Federals used the same tactics in the West against the Indians that they had used against Southern civilians. Grant gave Sherman the assignment in July 1865 of ethnic genocide against the Plains Indians to make way for the government-subsidized railroads.  Sherman wrote Grant in 1866, “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads.  We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men women and children.”

Among other Union officers who carried out this warfare against the Indians were John Pope, O. O.  Howard, Nelson A. Miles, Alfred H. Terry, E. C. Ord, C. C. Augur, and Edward R. S. Canby. “Among the colonels, George Armstrong Custer and Benjamin Grierson were the most famous.”

“Both the Southern Confederates and the Indians stood in the way of the Whig/Republican dream of a North American economic empire, complete with a subsidized transcontinental railroad, a nationalized banking system, and protectionist tariffs.  Consequently, both groups were conquered and subjugated by the most violent means.”

Federal forces occupied Southern states during the “Reconstruction” period when anyone in the South who had taken part in the War for Independence could not hold office.  Also anyone who purchased bonds from the Confederate government was disenfranchised.  “Even if one did not participate in the war effort, voter registration required one to publicly proclaim that one’s sympathies were with the Federal armies during the war. . . .”

“The ex-slaves were promised many things, including the property of white Southerners, if they registered and voted Republican and, at times, were threatened or intimidated if they dared to register Democrat. All of this was funded with federal tax dollars.”

DiLorenzo also enumerates the many ways that the occupying forces in collusion with the Republican party plundered the economy of the Southern states.

The book is available on Amazon.com.