Thomas DiLorenzo: More on the Myth of Lincoln, Secession and the ‘Civil War’
With Anthony Wile
Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Thomas DiLorenzo.
Introduction: Thomas DiLorenzo is an American economics professor at Loyola University Maryland. He is also a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and an affiliated scholar of the League of the South Institute, the research arm of the League of the South, and the Abbeville Institute.
He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech. DiLorenzo has authored at least ten books, including The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (2003), Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution and What It Means for Americans Today (2009), How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, From the Pilgrims to the Present (2005), Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (2007) and most recently, Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government (2012). Thomas DiLorenzo is a frequent columnist for LewRockwell.com, lectures widely and is a frequent speaker at Mises Institute events.
Daily Bell: Remind our readers about one of your central intellectual passions, which is confronting academic “Lincoln revisionism.” Who was Lincoln really and why have you spent so much of your career trying to return Lincoln’s academic profile to reality?
Thomas DiLorenzo: Lincoln mythology is the ideological cornerstone of American statism. He was in reality the most hated of all American presidents during his lifetime according to an excellent book by historian Larry Tagg entitled The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President. He was so hated in the North that the New York Times editorialized a wish that he would be assassinated. This is perfectly understandable: He illegally suspended Habeas Corpus and imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern political critics without due process; shut down over 300 opposition newspapers; committed treason by invading the Southern states (Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as “only levying war upon the states” or “giving aid and comfort to their enemies,” which of course is exactly what Lincoln did).
He enforced military conscription with the murder of hundreds of New York City draft protesters in 1863 and with the mass execution of deserters from his army. He deported a congressional critic (Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio); confiscated firearms; and issued an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice when the jurist issued an opinion that only Congress could legally suspend Habeas Corpus. He waged an unnecessary war (all other countries ended slavery peacefully in that century) that resulted in the death of as many as 850,000 Americans according to new research published in the last two years. Standardizing for today’s population, that would be similar to 8.5 million American deaths in a four-year war.
Lincoln was deified by the Republican Party, which monopolized the government for half a century after the war. The Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Robert Penn Warren wrote in his book, The Legacy of the Civil War, that all of this mythology created an ideology of “false virtue” that was (and is) interpreted by the American state to “justify” anything it ever did, no matter how heinous and imperialistic. The truth about Lincoln and his war “must be forgotten,” said Warren, if one is to believe in this “false virtue,” which also goes by the slogan of “American exceptionalism.”
Lincoln was a nationalist and an imperialist. He was the political son of Alexander Hamilton who, as such, advocated a government that would serve the moneyed elite at the expense of the masses. Hence his lifelong advocacy of protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare, and a central bank to fund it all. This was called “mercantilism” in the previous centuries, and was the very system the American colonists fought a revolution over.
Daily Bell: What did you think of the recent Steven Spielberg movie about Lincoln? Are defenders of Lincoln getting increasingly desperate?
Thomas DiLorenzo: Yes, the Lincoln cult is getting desperate. Spielberg hired Doris Kearns-Goodwin, a confessed plagiarist, as his advisor on the movie (See my LewRockwell.com article entitled “A Plagiarist’s Contribution to Lincoln Idolatry”). The main theme of the movie is exactly the opposite of historical truth. The main theme is that Lincoln used his legendary political skills to help get the Thirteenth Amendment that ended slavery through the Congress. But if one reads the most authoritative biography of Lincoln, by Harvard’s David Donald, one learns that not only did Lincoln not lift a finger to help the genuine abolitionists; he literally refused to help them when they went up to him and asked him for his help. Lincoln did use his political skills to get an earlier, proposed Thirteenth Amendment through the House and Senate. It was called the Corwin Amendment, and would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery. Even Doris Kearns-Goodwin writes about it in her book, Team of Rivals, discussing how the amendment, named after an Ohio congressman, was in reality the work of Abraham Lincoln.
Daily Bell: Why should that be so? Is the myth of Lincoln a central one to the larger and continued myth of modern US exceptionalism? Who propagates these myths and who benefits?………………