Byline: Mackubin Thomas Owens, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Thomas J. DiLorenzo's "The Real Lincoln" claims to provide a "new look" at Abraham Lincoln. It does no such thing. It is instead a rehash of Confederate propaganda spiced up with touches of Marxist economic analysis.
The book's thesis can be summed up by a passage from a speech delivered by the archsecessionist Roger Atkison Pryor in Charleston, S.C., just before the attack on Fort Sumter. He thanked South Carolina for annihilating "this accursed Union, reeking with corruption and insolent with excess of tyranny."
Indeed, to paraphrase what Harry V. Jaffa once said about the anti-Lincoln screeds of one of my former professors, the late Mel Bradford, everything in this book has its antecedents in Southern editorials during and after the Civil War. As Mr. Jaffa also said about Mr. Bradford, Mr. DiLorenzo writes as if the war were still going on, as in his mind it apparently is.
The story line of "The Real Lincoln" goes something like this:
Lincoln's aim was not to end slavery but to implement a neo-Hamiltonian Whig-Republican economic system. Unfortunately for him, he was blocked by the Constitution and the South, which favored states' rights and unfettered free trade. That slavery had nothing to do with the onset of the war is proved by the fact that Lincoln himself was a racist who was opposed to the political or social equality of the races and who favored colonization of blacks outside of the United States.
Fearing that the election of Lincoln, a sectional candidate, would further weaken the position of the South in the Union, seven states peaceably exercised their "right" to secede from the Union. Lincoln invented a fraudulent theory of government that held that the Union had created the states rather than the other way around. Moreover, the crafty fox then maneuvered the Confederacy into firing the first shots.
Lincoln then launched an unnecessary and cruel war against the South designed to yoke the region to the Whig-Republican economic model, during which time he repeatedly violated the Constitution. He abandoned "international law and the accepted moral code of civilized societies and wage* war on civilians."
His legacy was Reconstruction, a 12-year period in which the Republican Party plundered the South, exterminated the Plains Indians and centralized the economy, and that resulted in the death of federalism. "The war," Mr. DiLorenzo writes, "was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession."
So many things are wrong with "The Real Lincoln" that it is hard to know where to start.
Was Lincoln a racist? Mr. DiLorenzo joins Ebony magazine publisher Lerone Bennett and Southern 1950s- and 1960s-era White Citizens Councils in portraying him as such. Lincoln's statements on race, however, must be placed in historical context. Though Lincoln certainly was no abolitionist and shared the prejudices of most whites of his time, he nonetheless believed slavery was a moral evil.
During the first debate with Stephen Douglas, he argued that although a black may not be the equal of a white in terms of color, and perhaps moral or intellectual endowment, "in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is ... the equal of every living man." In addition, his attitude changed during the war as blacks swelled the ranks of the Union army and fought bravely in numerous engagements.
Mr. DiLorenzo claims that Lincoln could have achieved peaceful emancipation rather than plunging the country into a destructive war. The problem with such an assertion, of course, is that it ignores the fact that the South did not want to end slavery.
As Alexander Stephens, a U. …