When Random House released Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo’s critique of Abraham Lincoln, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, in 2002, it caused quite a stir. Dr. DiLorenzo eloquently and effectively disputed the accepted Lincoln myth, and the liberal academics who’ve made a living off of Lincoln’s unassailability didn’t like it one bit.
Born in Pennsylvania — southern Pennsylvania, as he is quick to point out — Dr. DiLorenzo earned a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech and is now professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.
In addition to The Real Lincoln, Dr. DiLorenzo is the author of ten books, including Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us; The Food and Drink Police: America’s Nannies, Busybodies, and Petty Tyrants; and Underground Government: The Off-Budget Public Sector (co-authored with James T. Bennett).
Professor DiLorenzo is widely published in the popular press as well, including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, Readers Digest, and many other newspapers and magazines. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, CSPAN, and the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show, and writes regularly for such websites as LewRockwell.com. Recently, he was interviewed by the History Channel for an upcoming documentary about Lincoln.
Dr. DiLorenzo is a member of the senior faculty of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, an educational institution that is devoted to advancing the work of the free-market "Austrian" school of economics.
Barron’s magazine labeled The Real Lincoln as its "top pick" of books with economic themes for the year 2002.
We caught up with Dr. DiLorenzo on a branch campus of Loyola College in Maryland.
How did you get on to Lincoln?
I was real interested in the War, and I started thinking about how I could combine my profession with this hobby of mine: the history of the War.
More and more, as I read about Lincoln, I realized he was a tyrant. He was all about money and power. He was the political water-carrier of the Northern big business interests. Of course, he was a centralizer. I’m sort of a libertarian, although Clyde Wilson would say "Jeffersonian." Jeffersonian is pretty much the same thing to me. Most people hear the word "libertarian" and think of people who advocate taking drugs, and that sort of thing. Jeffersonian is more like it.
It really struck me that the War destroyed the Jeffersonian ideal of government. I started writing a few articles about this, and turned it into this book.
The reaction to your book has been mixed.
Bipolar! I’ve had thousands of e-mails from just ordinary people, which are 99 percent positive. Every day. They come in all the time.
These are people who’ve always believed this about Lincoln, and now you’ve codified it?
Yes. I got an email two days ago from a young guy who was very eloquent. He said he studied history his whole life, and especially the War and Lincoln. He went to public school in Michigan. He said this book convinced him that he had been lied to his whole life by his teachers and everybody. I get letters like that all the time. I have stacks and stacks of them.
What about your peers among professional historians?
I don’t really care if I don’t convince the History profession. They’re mostly liberals and leftists anyway. Some of them are amazingly dishonest, like William Harris, who wrote this book, With Malice Toward None. He teaches at the University of North Carolina.
He and I were on a panel together last March sponsored by the Museum of the Confederacy. There were about 150 people there. He stood up there and said, "No private property — nothing — was ever stolen from a Southern household by any of Lincoln’s armies." I’m so glad it was on videotape!
Then he said, "Lincoln did not wage war on civilians." This was in Richmond. The people in the audience couldn’t believe it. This is a distinguished professor. He’s the chairman of a committee that hands out the Lincoln Award every year to the biggest lie and cover-up about Lincoln that’s written in book-form. It’s just unbelievable.
How can he get away with that?
People just lie like that because most people are too timid to challenge them.
I shouldn’t be surprised. So much of the literature is like that: dishonest. I’ve learned what it means to be a Lincoln scholar. You take all these horrible acts of tyranny, like the mass arrest of civilians, and if you can come up with ten or twelve plausible excuses or justifications for them, then you’ve got a publishable paper in a scholarly journal.
That’s why they hate my book so much. I don’t make excuses for it. In fact, I state the obvious. It’s horrible.
The American Enterprise magazine had an article in their March 2003 issue arguing that crimes against Southern civilians were not only justified, but beneficial — that they needed to be taught a lesson…
Oh yeah. Victor Davis Hanson. He also said that Sherman was some sort of egalitarian crusader; he was concerned with fairness; that’s why he did what he did. But, if you read anything about Sherman, he was as big a racist as ever lived, as big an anti-Semite who ever lived. He hated the Indians. He hated the Mexicans and called them "mongrels." And here’s this guy saying that he was a modern-day Ted Kennedy, concerned about fairness and equality. And Victor Davis Hanson is a real big shot.
You see his name a lot. He’s a classics professor?
Many of the main Lincoln liars are associated with this Claremont Institute in California. They’re all followers of a philosopher named Leo Strauss. Their method is to read the classics, and then to look at documents, like the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln’s speeches. Then they reinterpret these documents and spin a story to make them say something they don’t say.
According to them, Lincoln was a Jeffersonian because he quoted from the Declaration in the Gettysburg Address, that "all men are created equal." He literally waged war against everything else in the Declaration of Independence, such as the consent of the governed. In my book, I go through the train of abuses of the Declaration and show that everything King George III did, Lincoln did as bad or worse.
There’s even a foundation called The Declaration Foundation that claims to champion this view of Lincoln and the ideas of the Declaration.
It really is creepy. It reminds me of Soviet Union-style propaganda. "Orwellian" is the best word for it.
You’ve said that most of the scholarship about Lincoln is dishonest. Do you think that it is a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth, or is it just a myth that has been taken as fact?
All myth, or most. There are some pretty good books. David Donald’s book puts out a lot of facts and information. They’re very damning about Lincoln, if you just look at the facts. You can still read books like that and get a lot of knowledge about what actually went on.
Most Lincoln scholars focus almost exclusively on Lincoln’s words. William Lee Miller, the former Lyndon Johnson speech-writer, wrote a book called Lincoln’s Virtues not long ago. It’s a whole book about Lincoln’s virtuous speeches. Every word in the speech is interpreted to be put in the most wonderful possible light, as though the words came directly from God into Abraham Lincoln’s mouth. At the dedication to the new Lincoln statue in Richmond, he compared the second inaugural to the Sermon on the Mount. It’s blasphemous. Talk about deification of a politician.
The other thing about them is that they’re very political. They wage big campaigns of character assassination against anyone who disagrees with them. A silly National Review [January 8, 2004] article claims that all Lincoln critics must love John Wilkes Booth. It’s just a smear.
How do you defend yourself from these attacks?
In the paperback edition of The Real Lincoln, in the afterword, there’s a section called "Falsifying The Real Lincoln." Reviewers actually lied about what was in the book, so in the afterword, I point out what was actually written.
Obviously, their objective was not to engage in a debate or scholarly discussion, but to make people think that I’m some sort of crazy man. The Claremont crowd is unscholarly, unprofessional, political, and untruthful. That’s been my experience.
How has the press treated your book?
Barron’s magazine has an annual issue where they recommend books. They picked my book as number one. The Conservative Book Club told me it’s one of the biggest sellers they’ve had in ten years. Laissez Faire Books also told me it was one of the biggest sellers they’ve had in years. Six months after the book was out, my publisher told me that I had already sold ten times more than what Harry Jaffa sold of his latest book on Lincoln.
I gave a little talk in Abbeville [SC] to the League of the South guys down there, probably just a couple of months after the book was out. I brought a stack of e-mails with me, from people, because I thought they’d like to know what real people are having to say, other than these grouchy academics.
Why has the reaction of the critics been so severe?
The nationally syndicated columnist, Paul Criag Roberts wrote to me and said, "They’re attacking you because you’re destroying their human capital." What he meant by that is that there are academics who have spent careers writing fables and fairytales about Abraham Lincoln. Then I come along and do my best to present real facts and portray Abraham Lincoln as a real life human being, not as a saint. It threatens their whole veracity.
The very first e-mail I got was from a philosophy professor at Gettysburg College. He congratulated me and told me that in his opinion, "You’ve overthrown the myth about a real legend." And he said his colleague, Gabor Boritt, is not going to like it at all.
I quote Gabor Boritt commenting on Lincoln’s career-long infatuation with colonization, or shipping all the black people back to Africa or Haiti or South America or someplace. I quoted Boritt as saying, "This is how honest people lie." In other words, all those statements about colonization were honest lies. If that’s not Orwellian, what is?
In a sense, you’re not attacking Lincoln, so much as the very foundations of modernAmerican national government.
I call him the Founding Father of big government. It’s kind of strange. There are these self-described conservatives who are the big Lincoln idolaters, like the people at the Claremont Institute. But really, when you look at them, they advocate nationalism and executive power. That’s one reason why they idolize him so much. That’s totally at odds with the Jeffersonian tradition.
On the other side of the coin are the liberal historians. Liberals always have Lincoln and FDR as their number one and number two presidents, because they were the most dictatorial of all our presidents. So, you have this odd mix of liberal and conservative academics, both of whom idolize Lincoln because they really do embrace big government.
Big government conservatives don’t mind big government as long as people like themselves are in charge of it. They run the Bush administration, at the moment.
Doesn’t it seem terribly contrary that liberals attach themselves to Lincoln the way they do?
That’s my whole case. It doesn’t make sense. Lincoln spent 28 years in his involvement in politics, working diligently for policies that would use the government to benefit primarily big business and big banks, which were almost entirely in the North. Why would he spend 28 years in the political trenches, working for these things, and then, when he becomes president, why would that not be his main goal? I argue that it was. That’s why he waged war.
When the South seceded, they would’ve taken all that tax revenue with them. In 1860, the tariff was 95 percent of federal tax revenue. Ninety-five percent! He lost a huge chunk of the federal revenue. He could not have a transcontinental railroad, and an activist government, and a political career, frankly, without all that revenue. That is what really outrages the Lincoln scholars.
It’s like all the people out there with picket signs that say "No War for Oil." We need to have ones that say "No War for Tariffs."
That’s right, but it wasn’t just tariffs. The population of the North was more than double the population of the South. Congressional representation was starting to overwhelm the South.
The Whigs tried to gain power for 30 years. When Lincoln was elected, they finally got it. They finally got power to implement their high tariffs, their corporate welfare, and their federal bank monopoly. That’s what we got in the first 18 months of the Lincoln administration. We got it all put into place at once.
Let me play devil’s advocate a little bit. Weren’t tariffs essential? Didn’t the South lose the War because we didn’t have the money and native industry to run a war machine?
When the Founding Fathers put in the first tariff — Alexander Hamilton’s work — it was 10 to 12 percent, maybe up to 15 percent. They called it a "revenue tariff."
The big debate existed over tariffs between Calhoun — essentially the Jeffersonians — and the Hamiltonians, who were the Whigs before the Republican Party. The Whigs wanted a protectionist tariff. They wanted the rate to be much higher than 15 percent, which was roughly enough to finance the constitutional functions of government. They wanted government to do more. They wanted the government to build roads, to build canals, railroads, and make all sorts of corporate subsidies.
I quote Senator Toombs from Georgia in my book, complaining that, even before the War, there was a federal government program that paid Boston cod fishermen a bounty on each codfish they caught. We were already seeing the beginnings of pork barrel politics. The Southerners saw that the North had the upper hand in allocating the money. They were at the point where they knew they were going to be out-voted in Congress for a long time because of the way the population was shaping up. That’s why the tariff was important.
The way it really harmed the South was perfectly understood by Calhoun in the 1820s. The tariff primarily benefited the Northern manufacturers. They’re the ones that had less competition because of the tariff, aside from the effect on consumers.
With an import tariff, what happens is, all consumers are harmed by the tariff. Everything is more expensive, if there’s a tariff on shoes and sweaters, shoes and sweaters are more expensive for everybody. If you’re a businessman, you charge a higher price for what you’re selling because you’re paying more for the things you buy.
The problem the South faced was that they sold most of what they produced on the world market — cotton and tobacco. The world market was intensely competitive, and they couldn’t pass on any of that price. They just had to eat it. If there are tariffs on these things, it was a 100 percent burden on the South, but most people and most business in the North could get around it. They could pass it on in the form of higher prices.
Another thing that always happens with an import tariff is that it restricts trade. It makes our foreign trading partners poorer. They have less money to buy our exports. So, American farmers have always complained about import tariffs. Whether the farmers are from Minnesota or South Carolina, they’ve always understood that when you have protectionism, it reduces the amount of money the people have abroad who buy their cotton and their wheat and their farm goods. They can see their incomes falling whenever the tariff rate went up. They didn’t have to take courses in economics. They saw the pocketbook shrinking.
It also meant the end of the Northern trade system. One thing that I found a real revelation in your book is this big movement to blockade ports and to shut down ports here —
…before the War started, oh yes. Republican Party newspapers were calling for the bombardment of Southern ports, because they knew the Confederate constitution had outlawed protectionist tariffs altogether. If you have a 50 percent tax on goods imported in New York harbor, and a minor 10 percent tax if you imported them into Charleston harbor, then a lot of the trade would come to Charleston and those goods would eventually have been smuggled up the Mississippi River and elsewhere, and sold all over the country. That would’ve wrecked the New York harbor as a commercial center — and Boston harbor. They were very clear about it. As you said, they advocated bombing the Southern ports before the War even started.
What do you think the lessons of history are to the tariff situation today — the China trade policy?
There’s a long history of tariff disputes, as far as trade with China. One of the things you have to remember is that high tariffs never benefit Americans.
Just look at President Bush’s steel tariff. It greatly harmed the automobile industry, because it made the price of steel go up. With every car that is made, General Motors has to pay more for steel, and anything else we make out of steel. So, some Americans are helped only by harming other Americans.
It’s always sold as, "Let the Chinese pay the tariff." It doesn’t work that way; we pay it. If the Chinese want to send cheap goods over here, I look at it as foreign aid in reverse. Even if their governments want to subsidize their companies, which I don’t think they do as much as people say they do, it’s taking money out the pockets of somebody in China and putting it into my pocket — if I can buy goods cheaper.
Textiles used to be big in the South, where they could find cheap labor. Those jobs appear to be going farther south. What do you say to the fellow who’s lost his job and is clammering to his congressman, who says "Ok, we’ll jack up the tariff in order to protect these good-paying jobs"?
I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania, which was the heart of the steel industry. There’s no industry that’s been "protected" more. From the time the industry started, guess who was behind the Morrill Tariff of 1861 … Thaddeus Stevens, the steel manufacturer! Justin Morrill, the congressman from Vermont, was also a steel manufacturer.
When I grew up in the 1960s and early ’70s, the steel industry was on its way to disappearance, despite the fact that there had been very high tariffs on steel for years and years and years, and quotas on steel. What happened was, they kept the competition out for a while, but it caused the businesses and the unions to just be lazy, and sloppy, and inefficient. The end result was that the steel industry — even though it was protected — couldn’t compete. It has essentially disappeared from western Pennsylvania altogether.
The idea that protectionism protects industries is just not true, historically. You have to consider these dynamic effects.
All business is the same way. If textile businesses want to get fat and lazy, and eventually go out of existence altogether, protecting them from competition is how to do it. It might temporarily stall things, but it’s a bad plan for the state — for any state, to think their future rests in trying to isolate themselves from the world. You have to think otherwise.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the employment level. What do you think is behind it?
Well, look at what’s been happening. Government — at all levels — takes up well over 40 percent of national income in taxes of all kinds: the income tax, the social security tax, sales tax, property tax, the tax on beer, the tax on cigarettes, everything, If you add all that up, the total taxes are approaching 50 percent of all the national income in the country.
That’s one reason why there are so many families, now, where the mother and father both have to work to pay the mortgage, as opposed to the last generation. Two generations ago, that wasn’t necessary. Taxes and big government are the reason.
Even under President Bush, government domestic spending has increased faster in the first three years of the Bush administration than in eight years of the Clinton administration, if you can believe that. Spending is, ultimately, the tax. Even though they might reduce certain types of taxes, like Bush did, he’s actually raised taxes. They must find money somewhere to pay for all that spending. It’s going to come out of our pockets, one way or another. That’s the big problem.
Also, we haven’t done anything with the system we have now. Businesses are just so hyper-regulated. We have lawyers, now, who look at businesses as potential cash cows to be milked through lawsuits. Other countries don’t have that. That’s another thing that’s chasing more and more American businesses overseas.
We give businesses a new reason to move overseas every day by piling more taxes and regulations on them. During the Bush administration, there’s been no talk whatsoever on cutting back on government — nothing. In fact, he’s a bigger liberal than Ted Kennedy ever was, as far as spending goes. Ted Kennedy and the Democrat Party never, in my lifetime, were able to increase spending as fast as George Bush has.
That all comes out of the private sector. You’re wondering why unemployment is sticky? It’s the growth of government.
What will become of the Republicans?
The way I see it is that the Republican Party is returning to its Lincolnian roots. For the whole nineteenth century, the Republican Party was the party of big government! For the last half of the nineteenth century, the Jeffersonians were all Democrats. That’s why Southerners were all Democrats until about 20 years ago.
That all changed with Woodrow Wilson, when he became a hyper-interventionist. Then FDR, of course, totally destroyed the Democratic Party as the party of limited government.
It’s ironic. Someone runs for president on a particular platform, then does the exact opposite when he gets in office. Lincoln, before the War, said, "I’m going to be hands off with the slavery issue." Then he was the biggest interventionist ever. FDR ran, actually, on lower taxes —
A balanced budget, yeah.
And, of course, Clinton was going to be the most ethical administration in history.
Some historians call Lincoln a "master politician," which I think he was. As I say in the book, that means he was a masterful liar, conniver, and manipulator. If Bill Clinton is a master politician, that’s what he is. If Franklin Roosevelt is a masterful politician, he’s a masterful liar, conniver, and manipulator. That’s what it means to be a masterful politician.
When the Partisan was being attacked during the Ashcroft nomination, the mainstream press lifted out certain quotations. One of them they lifted was where we were saying that. They left out the "if he was a masterful politician, then — " part. They just said that we said, "Lincoln was a liar," and that was one of the horrible things —
Well, it’s still true the way they wrote it. He was. He was a trial lawyer. His campaign wasn’t a campaign. He didn’t say a single thing, from the nomination to the general election. He was so tight-lipped that if he wrote anybody a personal letter, he would say in the letter, "Don’t tell anybody that I wrote you a letter, because they’re going to ask if I said anything about public policy." That’s the way he was.
That’s an awful thing to have a secretive dictator, for the president of the United States, not telling the public what he’s going to do, and then forcing them to do it through military conscription.
Do you think the War was inevitable?
I think it was avoidable. It’s a controversial thing to say. People hate to think all that death was unnecessary, but it was avoidable if people stuck to Jefferson’s thinking on secession and the consent of the governed. If they would’ve let the Deep South go, they would’ve eventually reunited. That would’ve forced the North to be less aggressive with its economic plans, its grandiose Manifest Destiny to have an empire that would rival Great Britain’s. It would’ve calmed them down a great deal. It would’ve brought them to their senses, but they couldn’t tolerate that. So, they had to kill one out of every four adult white males in the South to get their way.
The New England Federalists threatened to secede, and had they done it, they would have been allowed to go in peace.
What they would’ve had to have done is compromise on the tariff, for one thing. The Republican Party, as soon as it got power, doubled the tariff rate, then it tripled it.
It stayed around 45 to 50 percent until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson introduced the income tax. That was part of the deal of the income tax. "We’ll reduce the tariff, if you vote for the income tax."
In your book, you talk a lot about Northern racism — the idea that they didn’t want the expansion of slavery into the territories because they didn’t want blacks there. Then there’s the Northern attitude toward the Indians after the War. Do you get a lot of criticism for your book on the race question?
No. I can’t think of any criticism, just mostly people saying, "I never knew this." Because, of course, the government schools don’t teach this.
The clear reason the Republicans gave, and Lincoln gave, for opposition to the extension of slavery was that they wanted to preserve the territories for the white race. They didn’t want competition for jobs from anybody: Irish immigrants or black people, free blacks or slaves or anybody.
Then there was also the three-fifths clause, which created the political issue that if slavery did go into the new territories that would’ve artificially inflated the Democratic Party’s congressional representation a little more. That’s what the big argument was about.
Lincoln was very clear on that. He made a speech saying that — that the reason he’s opposed to the extension of slavery was the political balance of North and South. It was unfair, he thought. That’s hardly a humanitarian reason.
In his first inaugural, he promised to support a constitutional amendment that would have forbidden the federal government from ever interfering with slavery. On the day he was inaugurated, he was willing to see slavery exist long past his own lifetime, as long as it didn’t come into the territories and skew the political balance so the Republican Party couldn’t have its way.
An amendment actually passed both houses of Congress and was signed by Buchanan to make slavery perpetual, right?
Lincoln says it in his first inaugural. He said, "I understand a constitutional amendment has been proposed," and he describes it. He said, "I think it is already constitutional to do this," to have slavery exist forever. Then he said, "but I have no objection to it being made express and irrevocable." He used those words: "express and irrevocable." That’s pretty clear.
That’s a remarkable thing. You don’t see that in any of the history books. Where have you ever seen this proposed 13th amendment in any history book? I’ve found that that really turn people around, if they know that — if they know that he, and not only he but the Congress, both houses, were willing to see slavery exist indefinitely.
And, that was voted on without the Southern Senators.
Yeah, right. They voted March 2nd — two days before Lincoln was inaugurated.
That means all the Southern Senators were out of there. Those were all Northern votes for that. Of course, the reason they were doing it was that they were trying to keep the South back in the Union.
Yeah. They showed their hand.
That’s the argument we need to use to say, "Look, see, how could it have been about slavery?"
Lincoln said his purpose was to save the Union, not slavery. Congress said the same thing in 1861. Are they liars or not?
Harry Jaffa, the big Lincoln idolater has been trying to explain away Lincoln’s white supremacist comments for 50 years. The best he’s been able to do is to say, "Well, he was lying." He used words like "inferior" and "superior" to describe the proper relation between the races and advocating colonization.
He was a huge fan of Henry Clay, who was the president of the American Colonization Society.
Lincoln was the president of the Illinois Colonization Society.
Is that right?
Yeah. He was the president. He wasn’t just a member. He was the president of it. You can look it up in David Donald’s biography. It’s no secret.
There have been a lot of movies that have taken a disparate view. Gangs of New York, at least to some extent, showed what was happening in New York at the time, which sort of parallels what you talk about in your book. Do you see any kind of shift in thinking?
I can’t forecast anything like that. In all due modesty, I know I’ve made a difference in a lot of minds, because I get mail all the time. And who knows, I get mail from students all the time.
I got a letter from one young man who said he wrote a paper based on my book and he got an "F." The teacher said, "You made it all up." Then he showed the teacher the book. He said the teacher changed the grade to an "A" and went out and bought the book for himself. This sort of thing is happening.
I’ve already been interviewed by the History Channel for a whole hour on a documentary on Lincoln. They just called me up again two days ago, because they’re doing another one, a different one. They’re calling me.
The fact that I’ve been attacked by all these neoconservatives is encouraging, too. If you’re not making an impact, they just ignore you.
I’d like to see more books written. Charles Adams has a new one that he’s finishing up on European opinions of the War. It’s probably a greatly revised version of The Glittering Illusion. He’s been researching this for a couple years now. I just spoke with him a couple of weeks ago.
His reasoning is: Americans won’t believe Southern newspapers about what was going on, and pro-South Northern newspapers were censored or shut down. It’s very interesting to find out what the British and other Europeans were saying. He’s found a real gold mine of material about the European views of the War. This sounds like it’s going to be a really good book.
If you think about it, in the last couple of years, there’s been Adams’s book, When in the Course of Human Events, the Foundation for American Education republished Lincoln The Man, my book, the book by Jeffrey Hummel, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. The King Lincoln Archives on LewRockwell.com have had a big impact. There are 20 or 25 different authors there. People read this and say, "I never knew that." The Internet is changing the whole world with regard to Lincoln and everything else. I think it is changing a lot of minds about this.
What I found important and really interesting is that the four most important books written recently are your book, Jeffrey Hummel’s book, you mention Charles Adams’s book, and also John Remington Graham’s book, A Constitutional History of Secession.
Yeah, he’s Canadian.
These are people who are not Southerners. They are learned scholars that are pointing this out. When Martin Scorcese actually made a movie and told people about the draft riots — we’ve been telling people for years and they ignore us — people perked up their ears.
They think you’re making it up when you say it.
Iver Bernstein, who wrote The New York City Draft Riots, was a consultant to Martin Scorcese in making the movie. In that final scene about the draft riots, the riots are going on and somebody’s reading headlines in the movie. You can hear they’re reading headlines. They were the exact headlines from the real newspapers. They paid a lot of attention to accuracy with those draft riot scenes.
As far as the movies go, I think Gettysburg was a huge eye-opener to a lot of people. It didn’t portray the Southerners as devils and demons. Longstreet was portrayed as a real sympathetic character. Lee was too. And all these other people.
In Gods and Generals, my favorite scene was the looting of Fredericksburg. I even like Joshua Chamberlain’s speech about Caesar, comparing Lincoln to Caesar. That was pretty good, too. Who has ever done that?
Then, of course, there was a more modern movie, Ride with the Devil, which was canned after a couple of shows.
But with DVDs, a lot of people can see these things. You don’t have to rely on the gatekeepers out there.
Charles Adams told me that Simon and Schuster said that the gatekeepers won’t give you a fair hearing if you write a book about secession and Lincoln and all this stuff.
They’ve done their darnedest not to give me a hearing, but I’ve made it out there.
What’s it like to be Pennsylvanian and to suddenly be the darling of the heritage movement?
I lived in Pennsylvania until I was 21. Most of my life, I’ve lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I went to school at Virginia Tech.
I don’t see this whole issue as a geographical thing so much as a philosophical thing. I see it as Jeffersonianism versus Hamiltonianism and big government, as the issue here. You can be a Jeffersonian and be from Minnesota.
During the presidential campaign in 2000, one of Al Gore’s Pennsylvania directors said, in an attempt to denigrate Pennsylvania, "Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh on one end, Philadelphia on the other, and Mississippi in between."
They call it Pennsyltucky.
One of the things I point out in my book is that in the whole southern rim of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey were called the "middle states."
The Yankee belt ran from New England, through northern Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, and the upper Midwest. Those were the descendents of the Puritans, who couldn’t tolerate other lifestyles and wanted to use the powers of government to force everyone to do things their way. Everybody hated them.
In the end of your book, you talk about how things don’t seem to change. What do you see as the future of America? Do you see us getting worse before it gets better?
Right now, the people in charge of the government remind us every day that they are the Party of Lincoln. They’ve stretched Lincoln’s philosophy to say that not only should we wage war within our own country ostensibly for democracy, as Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, but we should wage war all around the world to force democracy on people, whether they want it or not. Not just in Iraq. They’re talking about invading the entire Middle East, for starters, to bring democracy there, as though it were any of our business.
That is empire. Any country that has had a big empire like that has always been bankrupted. If that’s the road we’re going on, I think it’s the road that Lincoln started us on. Look at what the same government did. Immediately after the War, they commenced a campaign of ethnic genocide against the Plains Indians. That was all part of this plan to have a continental empire.
Now, these people think we need to have a world empire. It’s un-American. The Founding Fathers would have fought another revolution over this.
What do you think will happen?
It seems to me that the American public has been dumbed down so much by the government schools that they’re just going to go along with this until it either bankrupts us all or we make enough enemies out there that September 11 will seem like child’s play. You can’t do this without making a lot of enemies in the world. That’s my biggest fear — that we won’t get rid of these Sons of Lincoln who run the Republican Party.
I agree with Clyde Wilson that America can’t be saved or returned to its roots until the Republican Party is destroyed.
Who are you going to vote for, for president?
I can’t stomach any of them. I probably won’t vote for any of them.
You’re not going to vote Libertarian?
No, probably not. It only encourages them. It enables them to say, "We have the will of the people behind us. Look at all the votes cast." No one is proposing anything near constitutional government. I consider the act of voting to be treasonous to the Constitution. I’m not going to vote.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Your last line in the book is, "The genie is out of the bottle."
The genie of centralization. Lincoln let it out of the bottle, for sure.
Seriously, the only way it could, would be secession. If a big chunk of the United States actually seceded from the federal government and pained it a bit and deprived it of a large amount of its revenue. Otherwise, how else could it possibly happen?
Could it possibly return to limited government roots? I can’t see how it could possibly happen.
I’m not very optimistic anymore. I was more optimistic when communism fell. I never thought I’d see communism collapse in my lifetime. But, I was thinking for a while, well, if it could happen there, we can get rid of our rotten system. But, the Republican Party, which is in power and in control of things, worked out the direction. They, now, no longer oppose the welfare state. In fact, they’re expanding it because they want to win the votes from all the people on welfare.
Sons of Lincoln. I keep having to say it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
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, (Three Rivers Press/Random House). His latest book is How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold Story of Our Country’s History, from the Pilgrims to the Present (Crown Forum/Random House, August 2004).