The government run schools in America were founded with the goal of indoctrinating the masses to become good citizens of the state. In the 1800s it was the new immigrants to America that needed socializing in republicanism. In the latter half of the Twentieth Century, the public schools have done an exemplary job of brainwashing Americans about the virtues of big government. Generations have been taught to revere such leviathan builders as Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln in particular has been deified as the noble republican (small r) who rose from economic squalor to unify a torn nation, free the slaves, and in the end heroically give his life for his country like Jesus gave his for his followers.
According to Thomas J. Dilorenzo in his book, Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe, the above characterization of the poor rail splitter could not be farther from the truth. In his book, Dilorenzo smashes the Lincoln myth that has been fed to schoolchildren as gospel for many generations. In fact, after reading it one realizes that Honest Abe was probably the most anti-constitution, undemocratic, and anti-free market presidents of all time.
First of all, Dilorenzo argues rightly that the States were viewed by the Founders as sovereign entities that joined the union voluntarily and could secede voluntarily as well. The fact that the States elect presidents through the Electoral College and ratify amendments through their legislatures or conventions instead of directly by the voters was/is indicative of the fact that States were/are sovereign institutions independent from the national confederation. Additionally, the meaning of the term “State” is different today from what it was in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Then it meant a nation. Today, we use it to describe the political jurisdiction over a definite territory.
Thus, Lincoln invaded sovereign States and perpetrated a war that killed over 600,000 Americans. The southern States that seceded were only guilty of having the temerity to secede. But even then, before they broke away Confederate peace commissioners along with Napoleon III of France attempted to broker a peace deal. Lincoln would have none of it.
Of course what is taught in our schools is that the justification for the Civil War was the freeing of the slaves. And we are taught that on this issue Lincoln was not willing to negotiate. But, according to Dilorenzo Lincoln’s actions do not justify this claim. Before he became president he favored a constitutional amendment that would have restricted the North from regulating slavery further. It is true that he was the first president to meet with freed slaves but it was not a goodwill gesture but an effort to persuade them to emigrate to Liberia because he felt the two races (white and black) would be better off if they lived apart. It is true that Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the western states but as Dilorenzo makes clear it was for political purposes not humanitarian goals. He and the new Republican Party wanted to maintain their numeric advantage in the Congress and allowing any new States to be admitted as slave states would have bolstered the cause of the Democrats.
And this was the true Lincoln that was depicted by Dilorenzo – a political animal. Dilorenzo dispels the myth that he was poor and pious. Lincoln married into an affluent Kentucky family that owned slaves. As for himself, he made a very good living as a railroad lawyer and lobbyist. Coming out of the defunct Whig party, Lincoln was politically well-connected statewide in Illinois. He favored a strong centralized government, protective tariffs, a national (central) banking system, and perpetual public spending and debt to build a national infrastructure of roads, bridges, canals, and especially rail lines. In essence Lincoln and his Whig cronies, now calling themselves Republicans, sought to provide federal largess to their buddies in industry in an effort to preserve their party’s control of Washington for generations. Given that for the most part Republicans were the dominant national party from the Civil War until the Great Depression the plan worked. Of course, FDR’s New Deal turned the tide and made the Democrats the majority party for more than a half century afterwards. Make no mistake about it the economic policies and the political domination of his party were Lincoln’s justification for the Civil War. It had nothing to do with freeing any slaves.
Besides depriving the southern States of their constitutional right to secede and directly causing the deaths of over 600,000 Americans what else did Lincoln do that was so awful? The answer: plenty. According to Dilorenzo, he censored telegraph communications, rigged northern elections, shut down over three hundred opposition newspapers, used the military in the North to jail thousands of northern critics without due process, unconstitutionally suspended the writ of habeas corpus, imprisoned several and even deported one elected northern official due to opposition to the war, created West Virginia illegally, and set General Sherman lose on southern civilians. Remember these things were not done to free the slaves but to impose on the whole nation Lincoln’s economic and political philosophy. If you are having a hard time comprehending this I understand. You probably attended public schools.
But, that is the very purpose of the skewed account of Lincoln we are taught in the schools – to make us ridicule any other accounts of him we may hear. After all, how can any of this be true when they built that huge monument to him in Washington, D.C.? It is true. Thomas J. Dilorenzo’s book is a good survey of Lincoln’s transgressions against the Constitution, the free market, and the American people. It is a work that will make any open minded American reconsider the meaning of John Wilkes Booth’s words “Sic semper tyrannis” (Thus be to tyrants).