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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10657/the-despot-named-lincoln/

The Despot Named Lincoln

September 15, 2009 by

Why is The Real Lincoln so much superior to Harry Jaffa’s A New Birth of Freedom? Jaffa offers a purely textual study: as if he were dealing with Aristotle or Dante, he considers every nuance he can discover or manufacture in Lincoln’s speeches. Professor DiLorenzo follows an entirely different course. He compares Lincoln’s words with what he actually did, and the result is a historical rather than a mythological figure. FULL ARTICLE


P.M.Lawrence September 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

‘In the face of Sherman’s march to the sea and Sheridan’s burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Mark Neely writes that “Sherman and his ‘fellow generals waged war the same way most Victorian gentlemen did, and other Victorian gentlemen in the world knew it.’…”‘

That’s actually quite accurate – because that sort of thing was indeed part of the repertoire and quite widely practised in that era. Read up about the pacification of Algeria sometime.

Nate September 15, 2009 at 8:55 am

“The government of the U.S. has any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their land, their everything…war is simply unrestrained by the Constitution…to the persistent secessionist, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better” Mjr. Gen. W. T. Sherman, USA


“Through the broad extent of country over which you have marched by your respect for the rights and property of citizens, you have shown that you were soldiers not only to defend but able and willing to defend and protect.” Lt. Gen Thomas Jackson, CSA

Confederate Welfare-Warfare State September 15, 2009 at 9:14 am

Here is a partial list of the tyrannical policies of Southern governments (to say nothing of slavery itself). The central and state governments of the Confederacy:

* instituted military conscription

* used forced labor in their government-owned factories;

* preached anti-capitalism in Marxist terms, denouncing the “wage-slavery” of the North

* adopted military aggression as its foreign policy;

* carried out untold numbers of warrantless searches,seizures, and arrests, starting early in 1861

* seized guns from civilians beginning in 1861(after the war, governments of Southern states would enact
the first gun control laws in the U.S.);

* printed paper money to finance military aggression, leading to runaway inflation;

* repudiated lawful debts and contracts;

* took political prisoners;

* silenced dissent, curtailing freedom of the press, speech, and assembly;

* instituted a welfare state;

* created, in less than three years, a bureaucracy of 70,000 in Richmond to manage the socialist

* regulated agriculture by imposing acreage controls on cotton and tobacco;

* nationalized control of foreign commerce, regulating exports, raising tariffs, and banning the importation of all “non-essential” goods;

* occupied East Tennessee with thousands of troops to prevent the counties there from seceding from the Confederacy (as the counties of western Virginia did).

SOURCE: THE TRINITY REVIEW, Christians and the Civil War by John W. Robbins

“Here in the South one occasionally hears people refer to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression or the War for Southern Independence. They say it in jest, but there seem to be undertones of both resentment and deadly seriousness. Somehow , they think , the North aggressed against the South, an opinion based, not on history, but on Confederate mytho logy. Part of that mythology involves blaming Lincoln, not only for the war (anyone who thinks Lincoln started the war is seriously misinformed), but also for unconstitutional policies that led to the growth of government in the 20th century. This is a distortion of American history (the Progressive Era and the New Deal would seem to be more likely culprits) for the
purpose of defending slavery and the Confederacy by maligning Lincoln and the Union. Some of the pernicious policies pursued by the federal government in the 20th century either originated in the South or were the results of the war the Confederacy started.”

John Anthony September 15, 2009 at 9:44 am

Guess the Yankee-Lincoln apologists don’t like the truth about their deity being bashed.Mr.Robbins must be a warmongering nut who thinks that Christians should kill for the state like the proto Marxist Lincoln and the war criminal Sherman.Hurrah for DiLorenzo and the others who speak up for the truth.

Old Hop September 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

I agree in the main with the arguments brought forth by Confederate Welfare-Warfare State. They explain in large measure why my great-great-grandfather (like thousands others) deserted from his NC regiment in August 1863. Yeoman Southerners gained nothing from the Confederate government.

I would add that most but not all East Tennessee counties were pro-Union (actually, “anti-Confederate” is more accurate). Additionally, only slightly more than half the counties comprising present-day West Virginia favored secession from Virginia (which, incidentally, violates the Article IV, Section III of the Constitution; Lincoln was apparently okay with breaking up sovereign states as long as the seceding parts wanted back into the Union). The southern and eastern-most counties of WV were subject to Union military occupation and fraudulent “loyalty” votes.

None of the solid arguments regarding the tyranny of the Confederacy negate the distinction brought up in Nate’s post above. Jackson had a principled respect for property; Sherman was driven by his demons.

gene September 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

One thing is sure about Lincoln, he was first “great” corporate president. He deeded “free” almost ten percent of the American land base to the corporate railroads. Of course, like Cheney, he worked for the railroads before his presidential giveaway.

And, the giveaway had little to do with the building of the railroads. they got paid mightily by the mile of track installed. The giveaway was to “allow” the railroads to raise capital based on the land. Then it was to be returned, which it never was. giveaway “apologists” are still making excuses for the act that instigated corporate control of our economy.

Barry Loberfeld September 15, 2009 at 10:23 am

For an intriguing counterpoint, see the Claremont Institute 2002 review. The two reviews constitute quite a “debate.”

Eric Parks September 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Both sides did much that was wrong. Lincoln’s deification is due to the victory by the government he represented. History, we all know, is written by the victors but eventually becomes analyzed individually as the facts are made clear – especially as the warring generation gives way to new ones that don’t have the the need to taint their bias in order to assuage any guilt for the bloody realities associated with any war.

I have heard/read Mr. DiLorenzo remark that his shining light on Lincoln’s deeds is in no way an endorsement of the confederacy. However, shallow minds can’t resist the ad honimem remarks when such a hallowed figure like Lincoln is thrashed in the critical realm of debate.

Lincoln is just as despotic as other conquerors and just as loved as other tyrants who taught their subjects, as well as the conquered, how to love them through the use of unending propaganda. The fact that Lincoln has been exalted as a martyr, as well, further ingrains the propaganda that much more thoroughly.

Augie September 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Great book. Still need to get to Hamilton’s Curse.

Russ September 15, 2009 at 3:49 pm

For Prof. DiLorezo’s books on Lincoln to be taken more seriously, he should write a companion piece called “The Real Jefferon Davis”, showing how he was not nearly as libertarian as the neo-Confederates suggest. Only then does he stand a chance of avoiding the label of neo-Confederate himself.

Martin OB September 15, 2009 at 4:31 pm


Thanks for the link. That review apparently blows up the book. For instance, it shows that some “racist” quotes from Lincoln were in fact Lincoln quoting someone else to disagree. Sorry, but that’s nothing short of dishonest. Another point:

“According to DiLorenzo’s libertarian-public choice analysis, Alexander Hamilton and his Whig followers — Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Lincoln above all — were arch-villain “statists” for supporting tariffs, while Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John C. Calhoun were defenders of “free trade.” DiLorenzo seems not to know that the first protective tariff in American history (1816) was introduced by Calhoun and supported by Madison and Jefferson, and opposed by Webster. ”

Any rebuttals?

Jeff September 15, 2009 at 8:48 pm

The best description I have ever heard of the Confederacy: another failed government program. Yes, it was just as bad as the Union but on a relative scale how many of the Union’s atrocities are ever shown in the same light as the Confederacy’s? Virtually no one bothers to touch the legacy of Lincoln and for doing so DiLorenzo deserves great praise.

As far as having to write a book exposing the despotism of Jefferson Davis to “prove” he’s not a neo-Confederate give me a break! The assumption that criticizing Lincoln automatically means someone is a neo-Confederate says much more about your own bias than it does about the author’s. If you oppose WWII on libertarian grounds does that mean you endorse Nazism? C’mon.

Russ September 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Jeff wrote:

“As far as having to write a book exposing the despotism of Jefferson Davis to “prove” he’s not a neo-Confederate give me a break! The assumption that criticizing Lincoln automatically means someone is a neo-Confederate says much more about your own bias than it does about the author’s.”

I don’t mean that he must logically be a neo-Confederate. What I mean is that since so many neo-Confederates abuse the libertarian / state’s rights arguments to excuse the Confederacy, it’s too easy for people who worship Lincoln to assume that he’s just doing the same. Unless he addresses these issues seriously, and debunks both Lincoln *and* the neo-Confederate “Lost Cause” revisionism, he’s only preaching at the choir.

jsp September 16, 2009 at 8:14 am

Quoting John Robbins is about as legitimate as quoting the staff at your local ACORN office. He made a career of attacking others, and was lauged off by this theological contemporaries (he wrote more on theology than politics).

greg_w September 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

There is another review by Jeff Kiviat at:

It has been years since I read both the review and the book. IIRC, Kiviat made some valid points, although I did not agree with the whole critique of DiLorenzo.

Once again IIRC, I have a book of Lincoln’s writings and doublechecked some of Kiviat’s contentions. Indeed, I agreed with Kiviat that DiLorenzo took *some* Lincoln statements/writings out of context, and rather sloppily so. I am not convinced (yet) that Lincoln can be defended any better than The South.

While I do appreciate many of DiLorenzo’s writings and talks — they’ve been helpful, for sure — my experience with the Lincoln book told me to *hold in reservation* a certain amount of confidence in DiLorenzo’s social commentaries.

cavalier973 September 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Murray Rothbard on Lincoln and the Civil War of Northern Aggression and Southron Independence:


“Modern left-liberal historians of course put this case in a slightly different way. Take for example, the eminent abolitionist historian of the Civil War James McPherson. Here’s the way McPherson revealingly puts it: “Negative liberty [he means "liberty"] was the dominant theme in early American history – freedom from constraints on individual rights imposed by a powerful state.” “The Bill of Rights,” McPherson goes on, “is the classic expression of negative liberty, or Jeffersonian humanistic liberalism. These first ten amendments to the Constitution protect individual liberties by placing a straitjacket of ‘shall not’ on the federal government.” “In 1861,” McPherson continues, “Southern states invoked the negative liberties of state sovereignty and individual rights of property [i.e., slaves] to break up the United States.”

What was McPherson’s hero Abraham Lincoln’s response? Lincoln, he writes, “thereby gained an opportunity to invoke the positive liberty [he means "statist tyranny"] of reform liberalism, exercised through the power of the army and the state, to overthrow the negative liberties of disunion and ownership of slaves.” Another New Model Army at work! McPherson calls for a “blend” of positive and negative liberties, but as we have seen, any such “blend” is nonsense, for statism and liberty are always at odds. The more that “reform liberalism” “empowers” one set of people, the less “negative liberty” there is for everyone else. It should be mentioned that the southern United States was the only place in the 19th century where slavery was abolished by fire and by “terrible swift sword.” In every other part of the New World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders. But in these other countries, in the West Indies or Brazil, for example, there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody work, armed with gun in one hand and hymn book in the other.”

P.M.Lawrence September 17, 2009 at 12:04 am

Cavalier973 wrote ‘It should be mentioned that the southern United States was the only place in the 19th century where slavery was abolished by fire and by “terrible swift sword.” In every other part of the New World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders.’

That is wrong, as follows:-

- Haiti achieved it through a slave revolt and wars against reconquest.

- Brazil did not buy out slaveholders, by and large, but mainly used a grandfathering method (“freeing in the womb”).

- Britain did not reach agreement with slaveholders (although consultation took place) but simply used a legislated compulsory purchase with transitional arrangements to ensure nobody was simply turned loose to starve (as in fact happened when the later indentured labour system in the same region was ended; see V.S.Naipaul); slaveholders often incurred losses.

- There was at least one slave revolt in the British West Indies during the process – against emancipation, from fear of destitution, before the transition had been properly explained.

- There were serious slave revolts in the Danish West Indies, which may or may not have been connected with freeing the slaves.

All this happened during the 19th century.

cavalier973 September 17, 2009 at 12:44 am

You realize, of course, that I didn’t write that; if you notice the quotation marks around the paragraphs, you’ll see that I was quoting what Rothbard wrote.

P.M.Lawrence September 17, 2009 at 1:55 am

Actually, Cavalier973, that second paragraph you wrote does not have quotation marks around it, and I did not assert that you originated that material but only that you wrote it. Certainly, this is a quibble – but no more than suggesting you didn’t write that. You did, albeit by way of quotation – or it wouldn’t be up there. And the errors did need to be pointed out, once they were written up there, whether they are originally someone else’s or yours (and notice, I made no remark about whose errors they were – although you at the very least spread them, whether you shared them or not).

cavalier973 September 17, 2009 at 10:51 am

Well, you got me (and Rothbard) on the whole “slavery was bought out by agreement with the slaveholders” thing.

It is interesting, though, that slavery was ended in most other nations through peaceful means; it wasn’t necessary for a government to invade the slaveholding areas and kill the slaveholders.

Perhaps it would have been better for Lincoln to respond to the secession crisis by saying “Go in peace, but we no longer have to return your runaway slaves per the Fugitive Slave Law; also, if you want back in, you must abolish slavery first.”

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