PHOTO: According to the Claremont Institute, “The book is a compendium of misquotations, out-of-context quotations, and wrongly attributed quotations — one howler after another, yet none of it funny.”
BOOK REVIEWS: Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe, Crown, 224 pages, 2006 and The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, Prima, 272 pages, 2002. Both books by Thomas J. Lorenzo, a senior faculty member at the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Just when you think the Libertarian Party could not stoop any lower, they take another major swing at a great American icon. Libertarians always blame America first for any evil in the world, and now their target is the man historians rank as our finest president, Abraham Lincoln. They claim Lincoln “destroyed the Founders’ vision of our Republic.” Libertarian Bruce Koerber of Cedar Rapids, Iowa calls Lincoln “an ego-driven interventionist.”
The Libertarians are promoting both of the above books. The title of an article on the “Daily Ron Paul Liberty Forum” refers to the late President as “our first dictator,” and notes:
Lincoln was a ruthless dictator of the most contemptible sort. A conniving and manipulative man, and a scoundrel at heart, he was nowhere near what old guard historians would have us believe. This beast ruled the country by presidential decree, exercised dictatorial powers over a free people, and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. . . Lincoln was a consummate con man, manipulator, and a State-serving miscreant.
Attacks on Lincoln are a standard part of the stump speech of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the former Libertarian Party candidate for president. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, the author of both books, describes the 16th President as a “corrupt and brutal tyrant who micromanaged the murder of thousands of innocent civilians.”
He accuses the 16th President of “orchestrating the murder of some 350,000 fellow American citizens.” Because of Lincoln, DiLorenzo says “America was on the road to becoming just another corrupt, mercantilist empire like the British and Spanish empires. . . It was not to end slavery that Lincoln initiated an invasion of the South.”
In his 2002 attack on Lincoln, DiLorenzo writes:
“A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession. . . The idea of equality was a sheer absurdity” to Lincoln. “The real purpose of the war was to end once and for all the ability of American citizens to control the federal government by possessing the powers given to them by the Tenth Amendment, including the power of nullifying unconstitutional federal laws, and secession or the threat of secession.”
The libertarian attack on Lincoln needs to be answered because it is being repeated by many so-called “constitutional conservatives” and members of the tea party movement. They are now claiming the Civil War was not fought over slavery.
They instead maintain the war was about tariffs and imposing a powerful central government. DiLorenzo says the South was “invaded,” even though the South began the war with its attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
DiLorenzo and his libertarian allies believe slavery has gotten a bad rap. They claim slaves were treated fairly and segregation should have been left alone. The libertarians are especially critical of Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University and the author of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. Foner responded to their comments by noting:
I consider them cranks. Their views on the Civil War era, reconstruction and slavery are not in tune with modern scholarship. They live in their own little world with their own little ideas.
Many of DiLorenzo’s appearance have been coordinated by the Libertarian’s main action arm, the Campaign for Liberty, as well as other libertarian groups. He was a featured speaker at the Libertarian forum during the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference.
The forum was entitled “Lincoln on Liberty: Friend or Foe?” The libertarian answer was to label Lincoln a firm foe of liberty, and DiLorenzo was enthusiastically cheered by the mostly college age audience.
As previously indicated, Ron Paul, the once and future Libertarian Party presidential candidate, often denounces Lincoln. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” in 2007, Paul said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was about taking over property rights and it had nothing to do with race relations. He said Ronald Reagan was a “failure” because he didn’t bring down the federal government to “constitutional levels.” The Texas lawmaker then went on say:
Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. Every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn’t sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.
DiLorenzo and Paul both try to make Abraham Lincoln appear to be a racist. Fortunately, Lincoln has left us hundreds of pages of his writings and speeches. He saw slavery as a form of tyranny and condemned it over and over again. He believed it was an unequivocal moral evil. The libertarans simply ignore the evidence.
The turning point in Lincoln’s life was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery to spread into the territories. Upon its passage Lincoln said, “This covert zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it for the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.”
Lincoln repeatedly made references to the Declaration of Independence and its principle, that “All men are created equal”. This equality clause was a central focus of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which were reprinted as a best seller in 1859.
That same year Lincoln said “The Republican principle — the unalterable principle, never to be lost sight of — is that slavery is wrong.” Near the end of his life, Lincoln was in favor of giving blacks full voting rights.
Lincoln was a product of the 19th century and he made statements which did not reflect perfect treatment in all social situations. However, to claim those statements negate his work for racial justice is a terrible misrepresentation of Lincoln’s struggle. It must also be noted that Lincoln’s views changed, and his commitment to racial equality grew stronger with the passing years.
DiLorenzo tries to prove that Lincoln did not care about the slaves because of this famous statement:
“My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it. . . . What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.” Lincoln was especially careful in the choice of his words. He did not say his “sole objective” was to save the Union, he instead referred to a “paramount objective.”
Were The Confederates Advocates of Small Government?
Another outrageous claim by the libertarians is to portray the Confederate States of America (CSA) as opponents of big government. The CSA definitely wanted a huge government which would permanently enslave the three million blacks living in the south. They wanted a government which would control every aspect of a slaves life.
According to Joshua Felipe, the CSA wanted to:
Control every single moment of a slaves life, every minute of their day; it would tell them where to go, what to wear, where to sleep, when to work, when to eat, what to eat, when to speak, when to be silent. This is probably the biggest form of government that human beings have ever invented in the whole of history.
I vigorously support Abraham Lincoln’s federal takeover of the southern states, and his highly commendable commitment to human rights. Lincoln viewed secession as an attempt to expand slavery. The Confederacy was based on the glorification of inequality and tyranny. The southern leaders clearly spelled out their views. Their motivation was not to be left alone, it was to enshrine slavery. CSA President Jefferson Davis said all black people are “not fit to govern themselves,” and they should be treated in a manner similar to ‘lunatics, criminals and children.’”