Lincoln and FDR

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In response to a recent question regarding why Abraham Lincoln
and Franklin Delano Roosevelt seem to be politically sacrosanct,
I offer the following suggestions.

  1. Rhetoric.
    Each man was a master of rhetoric. Lincoln was America’s
    consummate master of the written political word, in an era
    when the newspaper had become the key mass media technology.
    FDR was a master of the spoken political word, beginning
    in the first full decade in which radio was universal. FDR
    was matched by Churchill and Hitler, two other early rhetorical
    masters of radio.

  2. Victorious
    wars. Both Presidents oversaw huge wars that were successfully
    prosecuted on the battlefield. Churchill had the same post-war
    battlefield advantage, and he therefore looms large in the
    textbooks. Victors write the history textbooks. The magnitude
    of the loss of life and the gigantic economic cost made post-war
    revisionism difficult to sell to the American public. The
    public was not psychologically prepared to consider any suggestion
    that these deaths and costs had been avoidable and therefore
    in vain. The American public was not told that both men had
    lured the respective enemy nations into firing the first shot:
    Lincoln by dispatching a warship to Charleston harbor, and
    FDR by imposing a peacetime economic embargo — theft
    from American exporters — on Japan.

  3. Well-timed
    deaths. Lincoln became a martyr, thereby escaping responsibility
    for the victor’s justice imposed by the Radical Republicans
    and the military in the South: Reconstruction. FDR died shortly
    before Hitler committed suicide, and he thereby escaped responsibility
    for dropping the two atomic bombs. Woodrow Wilson did not
    die soon enough after World War I, and his reputation suffered,
    as did his party at the polls in the next election. The same
    was true of Churchill.

  4. Politics.
    Lincoln was the first President elected by his political party.
    FDR was the first President to be elected for four terms,
    solidifying his party’s control to such an extent that the
    Republicans have simultaneously captured both houses of Congress
    and the Presidency only twice: 1953-55 and today (which will
    be lost when Strom Thurmond dies). Their political heirs do
    whatever is necessary to preserve the reputations of these
    crucial Presidents.

  5. Statism.
    These two were the greatest centralizers of political power
    in the history of the Presidency. The reigning academic class
    is generally statist, having been funded by the State. (State-funded
    propaganda is one of the few products that often seems to
    stand the test of time. The money actually produces the unofficially
    intended results.) These people write American history for
    the masses.

February
22, 2001

Gary North is the author of an eleven-volume series, An Economic
Commentary on the Bible. The latest volume is Cooperation
and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Romans. The series can
be downloaded free of charge at www.freebooks.com.

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