DiLorenzo, Lincoln

/ Reading Notes /

DiLorenzo, Thomas, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Anyone who embarks on a study of Abraham Lincoln… must first come to terms with the Lincoln myth. The effort to penetrate the crust of legend that surrounds Lincoln… is both a formidable and intimidating task. Lincoln, it seems, requires special considerations that are denied to other figures…
— ROBERT W. JOHANNSEN, LINCOLN, THE SOUTH, AND SLAVERY

pk inserts: How much of what we know about Jesus is true? There’s no telling.
How reliable a source of history is the Bible? Ah, there there is some telling, some intelligent guesswork possible, a few mostly ratinal conclusions; but it’s difficult, very difficult: and your studies will seldom be supported and never left in peace.
How much of what we know about Lincoln is true? There the answer is closer to the second above than to the first: partly possible, but very very difficult: and getting harder all the time: as the Lincoln myth industry flourishes, making zillions on spins.
More below.

Citing the text:

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was little more than a political gimmick, and he admitted so in a letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “The original proclamation has no… legal justification, except as a military measure.” Secretary of State William Seward said, “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.” Seward was acknowledging the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to slaves in states in rebellion against the United States and not to slaves in states not in rebellion.

The War between the States settled by force whether states could secede. Once it was established that states cannot secede, the federal government, abetted by a Supreme Court unwilling to hold it to its constitutional restraints, was able to run amok over states’ rights, so much so that the protections of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments mean little or nothing today. Not only did the war lay the foundation for eventual nullification or weakening of basic constitutional protections against central government abuses, but it also laid to rest the great principle enunciated in the Declaration of Independence that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The purpose of American government was transformed from the defense of individual liberty to the quest for empire.

As historian Richard Bensel has observed, any study of the origins of the American state should begin no earlier than 1865.

According to Lincoln scholar Mark Neely, Jr., Lincoln seethed in frustration for many years over how the Constitution stood in the way of his political ambitions.

In addition to abandoning the Constitution, the Lincoln administration established another ominous precedent by deciding to abandon international law and the accepted moral code of civilized societies and wage war on civilians. General William Tecumseh Sherman announced that to secessionists — all of them, women and children included — “death is mercy.” Chapter 7 details how Lincoln abandoned the generally accepted rules of war, which had just been codified by the Geneva Convention of 1863. Lincoln famously micromanaged the war effort, and the burning of entire Southern towns was an essential feature of his war strategy.

Lincoln’s political legacy is explored in chapter 8 in the context of how, during Reconstruction (1865–1877), the Republican Party essentially plundered the South for twelve more years by instituting puppet governments that constantly raised taxes but provided very few public benefits. Much of the money was simply stolen by Republican Party activists and their business supporters.

Lincoln’s policy of crushing dissenters with overwhelming military might was continued after the war with the federal government’s eradication of the Plains Indians by many of the same generals who had guided the North’s war effort (particularly Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan). The stated purpose of this campaign against the Plains Indians was to make way for the government-subsidized transcontinental railroads. The quest for empire had become the primary goal of government in America.

On the issue of slavery, Lincoln’s position was virtually identical to Clay’s. “I can express all my views on the slavery question,” Lincoln announced, “by quotations from Henry Clay.”
This position was, as Johannsen described it, “opposition to slavery in principle, toleration of it in practice, and a vigorous hostility toward the abolition movement.”

By the 1850s his income averaged about $5,000 per year, three times what the governor of Illinois was paid.

Lincoln has become such an American icon that when one delves into the historical literature, one discovers that much of the Lincoln historiography is not so much an attempt to explain history as to devise rationalizations or excuses for Lincoln’s behavior.

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.[45]
This idea — that the new territories were to become a whites-only preserve — defined the Republican Party’s position on slavery in 1860.

Citations aren’t separated here, future editing may fix that.

pk 2¢
Never forget for a second that the “new territories” were not unpopulated: the US was busier than ever exterminating the inhabitants so “white” people could freely move there. Talk about the morality of slavery (for “blacks”) is a blind: to conceal a worse intention: genocide.

related pk 2¢
Lincoln talked about sending blacks “back” to Africa, or to Haiti, to South America: anywhere but the US, or its territories being rapidly wholly stolen from natives. Now: let’s agree that talking the blacks from Africa in the first place was wrong. Let’s agree that breaking into your house and stealing your silverware is wrong. Now, let’s assume that I use your silverware for a generation or two. Meantime, the house was sold and resold, completely different people now pay taxes on that house from which the silver was stolen. The thief’s great grandson has twinges of conscience: does he have the right to break into the house to return the stolen silverware?
Imagine that the Soviet Union suddenly had fits of conscience about what they’d done with Chechnians: Did StalinN have the right to parachute Chechnian prisoners into Boston? or Omaha?

2012 11 18 I started reading this challenging book over a year ago. Now with the new movie coming out — proved stars, great talent, lots of money: Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis — I intend to read more of it and to see a couple of Lincoln movies: John Ford, Gore Vidal …
I’m sorry to mention that my touting this book to an old friend precipitating my no longer talking to her: she wouldn’t listen, refused new information. Sad. But familiar.
Citations resume:

Lincoln’s insistence that no such right [right of secession] existed has no basis whatsoever in history or fact. He essentially invented a new theory — that the federal government created the states, which were therefore not sovereign — and waged the bloodiest war in world history up to that point to “prove” himself right.

Reading Notes

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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