In his treatise Human Action, Ludwig von Mises made many sage comments about the conduct of research not only in economics but in sociology, psychology, history, and other disciplines. One of his comments on the study of history seems particularly relevant to the literature that I have been focusing on for several years, namely, the political economy of the War Between the States. Consider the following statement from page 48 of the Scholar’s Edition of Human Action (Mises Institute, 1998), in a section entitled "The Scope and Specific Method of History":
It is obvious that the historian must not be biased by any prejudices and party tenets. Those writers who consider historical events as an arsenal of weapons for the conduct of their party feuds are not historians but propagandists and apologists. They are not eager to acquire knowledge but to justify the program of their parties . . . . They usurp the name of history for their writings as a blind in order to deceive the incredulous.
I was reminded of this passage recently when a friend sent me an email link that included the announcement of the 2007 "Lincoln Fellows" at the Claremont Institute, the shrine in California devoted to the worshipping of Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill. The Institute said it was proud to announce its latest Lincoln Fellows, who will be treated to eight days of indoctrination this summer in Newport Beach, California. There is no pretense that this "fellowship" program is a scholarly endeavor. The first line of the announcement says "Lincoln Fellowships are offered to professionals serving elected officials or appointed policy makers in the federal government, as well as staff members of national political parties, non-profit institutions that research and publish on public policy and constitutional issues, and political editorialists in the media." Political hacks, propagandists and apologists, in other words.
This of course is an untrue statement. Claremont’s Lincoln Fellowships are intended for Republican Party hacks, propagandists and apologists only (or a few wayward Democrats who, like the odious Joe Lieberman, support the neoconservative foreign policy agenda of world domination, imperialism, and perpetual global warfare). "Alumni" of the program are said to include "senior staff of United States Representatives and Senators, White House staff and speech writers, and senior advisors in numerous U.S. [government] Departments and agencies. Indeed, a California newspaper editor recently mentioned to me that Claremont staffer Ken Masugi has left the shrine to work as a speech writer for Alberto "Torture Chamber" Gonzalez.
This makes perfect sense. You are not likely to find anything Masugi has ever written being used as scholarly input at any university in America outside of Claremont, California. But like all other Claremontistas, he is capable of inserting out-of-context and a-historical quotes from Lincoln (whom he habitually calls "Father Abraham") into a politician’s speeches to give "the incredulous" the impression that the politician’s policies would meet with Dishonest Abe’s approval.
I suspect that Masugi will inform Gonzalez of the passage in the book, Fate of Liberty, by fellow Lincoln cultist Mark Neely, Jr., where Neely describes how the Lincoln regime employed its own torture chambers, which included water torture, among other things. According to Neely, the torture of Northern civilians, not enemy soldiers, was exposed when a British subject was subjected to it by mistake and the British foreign minister protested and demanded the man’s release (he had been unjustly imprisoned without due process since Habeas Corpus was suspended by Dishonest Abe). Despite the fact that this barbaric behavior was revealed to the public, Lincoln did nothing to stop it according to Neely. It’s a good bet that this story will be fed to Alberto Gonzalez at some point. If "Father Abraham" did it, then it surely must be acceptable.
Looking over the list of this year’s Claremontista Lincoln Fellows, there appears to be a preference in favor of spies, spooks, Defense Department propagandists, and Republican Party hacks and hangers on in general. There’s a "Strategic Planning Commissioner" from the U.S. Department of Defense, no doubt a junior member of the Pentagon Cheney gang. The treasurer of the California Republican Party will be honing his Lincoln-quoting skills as well (perhaps with an Austrian accent). The California director of the Republican Jewish Coalition with a background in the "Naval Intelligence Reserves" will also engage in Lincoln fellowship.
A "Director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council," formerly with the U.S. State Department, will be indoctrinated in neoconservative political correctness this summer, as will a former bureaucrat at the wasteful, useless, and scandal-ridden Department of Homeland Security. They will be joined by a former "Senior Writer at the Republican National Committee," and a few bureaucrats from the Bush State Department and the Defense Intelligence Agency (a.k.a., the Neocon War Propaganda Agency).
All of the fellows will be treated to a week of seminars on "the theory and literature of the American founding, the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln, and the rise of modern liberalism . . ." Judging by everything I’ve ever read by Claremont Cult Leader Harry Jaffa, which is simply repeated over and over by his acolytes, what the fellows will be taught, essentially, is the fake and mythical "history" of the American founding that was first concocted by Alexander Hamilton and repeated by fellow nationalists (advocates of a centralized, monopolistic government with dictatorial executive powers) such as John Marshall, Joseph Story, Rufus King, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Dishonest Abe. Short shrift — if any shrift at all — will be given to the anti-nationalists, also known as the anti-Federalists or Jeffersonians.
Hamilton revealed the nationalists’ hand at the constitutional convention, where he proposed a president for life (i.e., a king) who would appoint all the governors of the states and have veto power over all state legislation. Under this scheme the citizens of the states would have no control whatsoever over the central government, just has the American colonists had no control over the government of King George, III.
Hamilton’s plan was discarded, after which he denounced the Constitution as a "frail and worthless fabric." But he and his (Federalist) party did not give up. They immediately began rewriting history claiming, for example, that the states were never sovereign, that the Constitution was adopted by "the whole people" of America, not the citizens of the states. This is part of the Claremontista dogma, but it is probably the biggest lie in all of American history. The purpose of the lie was to use this mythical "history" to propagandize for Hamilton’s dream of a monopolistic central government. All political power must be centralized in the nation’s capitol, the Federalists argued, and the citizens of the states must not interfere. They believed that the central government should be the master, rather than the servant, of the people. (All to serve "the public good," one of Hamilton’s favorite phrases.) The Jeffersonians believed the opposite. (See The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin Gutzman for an overview of this history.)
The Federalists became the Whigs in the 1830s, and then the Republicans in the 1850s (and thereafter). It is telling that during the War to Prevent Southern Independence, European commentators on the war, including such luminaries as Charles Dickens and John Stuart Mill, quite naturally referred to the Northern Army in their writings as the army of "the Federalists" (see Charles Adams’ new book, Slavery, Secession, and Civil War).
The Big Lie about the "whole people" adopting the Constitution, and the citizens of the "free and independent states," as they are called in the Declaration of Independence, never being sovereign, is the false "history" of the founding that is taught at Claremont. It is not actual history, but a modern rendition of the Big Hamiltonian (and Lincoln) lie. It was the lie that was invoked by Dishonest Abe as his "justification" for micromanaging a war that killed 300,000 of his fellow citizens, all for the abstraction of "the glorious union," which finally realized the Hamiltonian dream of a monopolistic central government with unlimited powers.
But as Judge Andrew Napolitano pointed out in his book, The Constitution in Exile (p. 49), all one needs to do to expose this lie is to read Article VII of the Constitution: "The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same." The Constitution "was not approved by the people in the form of a national plebiscite," writes Napolitano. This is true American history, unlike the version that is spouted at Claremont.
This is just one of the bigger lies that will be taught to the Republican Party propagandists and apologists at Claremont this summer, all in the name of "recovering" the "moral conditions of free society," as their press release says.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and 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 Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (Crown Forum/Random House).