Book review: The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo
There are few figures in history as revered as Abraham Lincoln. He holds the dual status in our racially-sensitive society of having been on the side opposing slavery, and then he was assassinated, which tends to forgive all manner of ills. Even among the politically incorrect, it’s rare to find anyone who thinks Lincoln was a bad guy.
Thomas DiLorenzo is such a man. DiLorenzo is primarily an economist, not an historian, which enabled him to approach Lincoln from a new direction, avoiding what he calls the ‘myth’ of Lincoln’s near-godlike goodness.
Common sense would tell you that, as a human being, Lincoln was a flawed as any of us. And depending on where you stand politically, you might still support many of the things that he did. But for a man who is usually revered, DiLorenzo points out that a lot of what Lincoln believed and fought for was inimical to the well-being of the United States.
In The Real Lincoln, DiLorenzo covers two main ideas: that Lincoln’s centralist economic policies laid the groundwork for the big-government control that we experience today, and he refutes the myth that Lincoln fought the South because he wanted to ‘save’ the Union and because he resisted slavery as a moral evil.
Using facts and writings from Lincoln and his contemporaries, DiLorenzo demonstrates that Lincoln, like most people at the time, did not consider slavery to be a priority when the War Between the States began. Until the time of the War, it was assumed that the individual States had the right to leave the Union if they so desired, just as they had voted to enter it. The United States did not have the power to compel States to remain in the Union, at least until the United States defeated the Confederate States and forced their representatives to rejoin the Union under harsh terms.
Ultimately, Lincoln believed in government control of the States, politically and economically. He had grandiose plans for government-funded railroads, transportation, and industrial development. When the southern States seceded, it threatened his vision of a unified nation, and he fought tooth-and-nail to force the country to remain unified, disregarding Constitutional principles and precedent to do so. At the end of the war, the base of power in American had drastically shifted from the people within the individual States to the government in Washington, D.C., and we have seen that only expand ever since.
The Real Lincoln is a controversial book whether you stand on the political left or right. But I recommend reading it, if only to train yourself to consider views that contradict accepted norms.