Certain neo-conservatives have responded to the publication of my book, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, with quite hysterical name calling, personal smears, and slanderous language. The chief practitioners of this vulgar means of public discourse are Alan Keyes and employees of his Washington, D.C. based "Declaration Foundation."
On the Foundation’s Web site on Easter Sunday was a very pleasant, Christian blessing, located right below a reprinting of Paul Craig Roberts’s March 21 Washington Times review of my book ("War on Terrorism a Threat to Liberty?"). In a very un-Christian manner the Declaration Foundation accuses Roberts (and myself, indirectly) of "ignorance and calumny." According to Webster’s College Dictionary "calumny" means making false and malicious statements intended to injure a reputation, slander, and defamation. Let’s see if what Roberts said in his column fits that definition.
"Lincoln used war to destroy the U.S. Constitution in order to establish a powerful central government," says Roberts. This is certainly a strong statement, but in fact Lincoln illegally suspended the writ of habeas corpus; launched a military invasion without consent of Congress; blockaded Southern ports without declaring war; imprisoned without warrant or trial some 13,000 Northern citizens who opposed his policies; arrested dozens of newspaper editors and owners and, in some cases, had federal soldiers destroy their printing presses; censored all telegraph communication; nationalized the railroads; created three new states (Kansas, Nevada, and West Virginia) without the formal consent of the citizens of those states, an act that Lincoln’s own attorney general thought was unconstitutional; ordered Federal troops to interfere with Northern elections; deported a member of Congress from Ohio after he criticized Lincoln’s unconstitutional behavior; confiscated private property; confiscated firearms in violation of the Second Amendment; and eviscerated the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
A New Orleans man was executed for merely taking down a U.S. flag; ministers were imprisoned for failing to say a prayer for Abraham Lincoln, and Fort Lafayette in New York harbor became known as "The American Bastille" since it held so many thousands of Northern political prisoners. All of this was catalogued decades ago in such books as James G. Randall’s Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln and Dean Sprague’s Freedom Under Lincoln.
"This amazing disregard for the Constitution," wrote historian Clinton Rossiter," was "considered by nobody as legal." "One man was the government of the United States," says Rossiter, who nevertheless believed that Lincoln was a "great dictator."
Lincoln used his dictatorial powers, says Roberts, to "suppress all Northern opposition to his illegal and unconstitutional acts." This is not even controversial, and is painstakingly catalogued in the above-mentioned books as well as in The Real Lincoln. Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward established a secret police force and boasted to the British Ambassador, Lord Lyons, that he could "ring a bell" and have a man arrested anywhere in the Northern states without a warrant.
When the New York City Journal of Commerce published a list of over 100 Northern newspapers that opposed the Lincoln administration, Lincoln ordered the Postmaster General to deny those papers mail delivery, which is how nearly all newspapers were delivered at the time. A few of the papers resumed publication only after promising not to criticize the Lincoln administration.
Lincoln "ignored rulings hand-delivered to him by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney ordering Lincoln to respect and faithfully execute the laws of the United States" says Roberts. Absolutely true again. Taney — and virtually all legal scholars at the time — was of the opinion that only Congress could constitutionally suspend habeas corpus, and had his opinion hand delivered to Lincoln by courier. Lincoln ignored it and never even bothered to challenge it in court.
Roberts also points out in his article that "Lincoln urged his generals to conduct total war against the Southern civilian population." Again, this is not even controversial. As pro-Lincoln historian Steven Oates wrote in the December 1995 issue of Civil War Times, "Lincoln fully endorsed Sheridan’s burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Sherman’s brutal March to the Sea through Georgia, and the . . . destructive raid through Alabama." James McPherson has written of how Lincoln micromanaged the war effort perhaps as much as any American president ever has. It is inconceivable, therefore, that he did not also micromanage the war on civilians that was waged by his generals.
Lincoln’s war strategy was called the "Anaconda Plan" because it sought to strangle the Southern economy by blockading the ports and controlling the inland waterways, such as the Mississippi River. It was, in other words, focused on destroying the civilian economy.
General Sherman declared on January 31, 1864 that "To the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy." In a July 31, 1862 letter to his wife he said his goal was "extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people." And so he burned the towns of Randolph, Tennessee, Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi, and Atlanta to the ground after the Confederate army had left; bombarded cities occupied only by civilians in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1863; and boasted in his memoirs of destroying $100 million in private property and stealing another $20 million worth. All of this destroyed food stuffs and left women, children, and the elderly in the cold of winter without shelter or food.
General Philip Sheridan did much of the same in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, burning hundreds of houses to the ground and killing or stealing all livestock and destroying crops long after the Confederate Army had left the valley, just as winter was approaching.
"A new kind of soldier was needed" for this kind of work, writes Roberts. Here he is referring to my quotation of pro-Sherman biographer Lee Kennett, who in his biography of Sherman wrote that "the New York regiments [in Sherman’s army] were . . . filled with big city criminals and foreigners fresh from the jails of the Old World." Lincoln recruited the worst of the worst to serve as pillagers and plunderers in Sherman’s army.
Lincoln used the war to "remove the constraints that Southern senators and congressmen, standing in the Jeffersonian tradition, placed in the way of centralized federal power, high tariffs, and subsidies to Northern industries." Indeed, Lincoln’s 28-year political career prior to becoming president was devoted almost exclusively to this end. Even Lincoln idolater Mark Neely, Jr., in The Fate of Liberty, noted that as early as the 1840s, Lincoln exhibited a "gruff and belittling impatience" with constitutional arguments against his cherished Whig economic agenda of protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare for the railroad and road building industries, and a federal government monopolization of the money supply. Once he was in power, Lincoln appointed himself "constitutional dictator" and immediately pushed through this mercantilist economic agenda — an agenda that had been vetoed by president after president beginning with Jefferson.
Far from "saving the Union," writes Roberts, Lincoln "utterly destroyed the Union achieved by the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution." The original Union was a voluntary association of states. By holding it together at gunpoint Lincoln may have "saved" the Union in a geographic sense, but he destroyed it in a philosophical sense.
Paul Craig Roberts based his column on well-documented facts as presented in The Real Lincoln. In response to these facts, in a recent WorldNetDaily column the insufferably sanctimonious Alan Keyes described people like myself, Paul Craig Roberts, Walter Williams, Joe Sobran, Charles Adams, Jeffrey Rogers Hummell, Doug Bandow, Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett, Jr., and other Lincoln critics as "pseudo-learned scribblers," with an "incapacity to recognize moral purpose" who display "uncomprehending pettiness," are "dishonest," and, once again, his favorite word for all who disagree with him: "ignorant."
"Ignorant" and "slanderous" is the precise language one should use to describe the hysterical rantings and ravings of Alan Keyes and his minions at the so-called Declaration Foundation.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is the author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Forum/Random House 2002) and professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.