There would be very stiff competition indeed for the literary award of "Most Absurd Lies and Myths About Lincoln." In the running would be almost all of Harry Jaffa’s writing, including the statement in his latest Lincoln book that "Lincoln opposed making voters or jurors of Negroes in the 1850s so that they could be voters and jurors today." Or Gabor Borit’s statement that Lincoln’s lifelong advocacy of "colonization," or deportation of black people from America, is an example of "how honest people lie."
But there is a new entry to the field: an article from the February 9, 2009 issue of Newsmax.com by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen entitled "What Would He Say to Us Today?" It seems as though every time Newt Gingrich, who never served in the military himself, begins making the case for sending other peoples’ children off to die in another unnecessary war, he starts quoting Lincoln. A couple of years ago Gingrich wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in which he advocated a military invasion and occupation of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. The title of the article was "Lincoln and Bush." President Bush should "be like Lincoln," he said, and initiate five more wars simultaneously. More recently, Gingrich has been calling for the nuking of North Korea, so it is not surprising to me that he is once again waxing eloquently about Dishonest Abe.
It is well known that the founding fathers feared democracy. Indeed, in Federalist #10 James Madison explained that the sole purpose of the Constitution was to create a constitutional republic that would hopefully "restrain the violence of faction," by which he meant democracy. Gingrich and Forstchen unwittingly admit that their hero literally destroyed the constitution of the founding fathers by describing the Lincoln Memorial as "his [Lincoln's] throne" that is "Modeled after Grecian temples" and is "our American temple to democracy . . ."
In reality, the Lincoln Memorial is a temple to the idea that government in America is not voluntary, and never will be as long as Lincoln is its primary symbol and as long as Lincoln mythology remains the state’s cornerstone ideology. Lincoln micromanaged the murder of some 350,000 fellow Americans, including more than 50,000 civilians, in order to "prove" his point that the central government is indeed not voluntary, the states were never sovereign (so he said), and that any group of citizens who contemplate leaving it will be killed en masse, their cities and towns burned to the ground, and their wealth and personal belongings confiscated by the U.S. Army. If we standardize for today’s population, Lincoln’s killing machine would lead to the death of more than 6 million Americans.
To Gingrich and Fortschen, this is how America became "united." To me, it sounds more like how Soviet Russia was "united" in its own "glorious union." Do these men really believe that Southerners in 1866 felt "united" with their fellow citizens in the North?
The two people who were closest to Lincoln were his longtime law partner, William Herndon (who he affectionately called "Billy") and his wife, Mary Todd. In a biography of Lincoln Herndon wrote of how Lincoln was either an atheist or an agnostic. As a young man, said Herndon, Lincoln even wrote a book that argued that the Bible was not the word of God and that Jesus was not the son of God. When he decided to get into politics, the book was burned.
When Herndon was preparing his biography he asked Mrs. Lincoln to comment on Abe’s "religious" views, and she told him that he never became a Christian. "Mr. Lincoln," she said, "had no faith . . . . He never joined a church . . . he was never a technical Christian." (See Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln the Man, p. 150).
That Lincoln "had no faith" is no secret to the "Lincoln scholars." In her book Team of Rivals, the high priestess of the Lincoln Cult, Doris Kearns-Goodwin, acknowledges this fact but adds the usual spin: We should all feel even more sorry for poor, poor Abe, she says, since he suffered from not believing in an afterlife.
Gingrich and Fortschen mislead us about this by writing that Lincoln "was a man of deep and abiding faith." They apparently write this on the basis of the fact that Lincoln, like Bill Clinton, was fond of quoting Scripture in political speeches. (Recall how Clinton used to clutch that fifty-pound Bible in front of the television cameras every Sunday?) Indeed he was. In his second inaugural address he blamed the whole bloody mess of the war on God, absolving himself of all responsibility by saying the war just "came," as though he had nothing to do with it. He also claimed to be able to read the mind of God by asserting that the war was God’s punishment of all Americans, North and South, for slavery. He did not attempt to explain why God would not also punish the British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Swedes, and others who were responsible for 96% of all the slaves that were kidnapped and brought to the Western Hemisphere. Unlike the Lincoln regime, these countries all ended slavery peacefully, as Jim Powell documents in his excellent book, Greatest Emancipations.
Lincoln is praised by "Lincoln scholars" for having been an obsessive micromanager of the war. He knew everything. He knew that Southern civilians were murdered and plundered from the very beginning, even before the Battle of First Manassas commenced. He authorized the bombing of Southern cities and he was also apparently obsessed with experimenting with larger and larger weapons of mass destruction — to be used on fellow Americans. He profusely thanked and rewarded officers like Sherman and Sheridan for waging war on civilians, as they did during Sherman’s March, the burning of Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina, and the burning of the Shenandoah Valley. General Sherman wrote that Lincoln "especially enjoyed" his stories of how Southern women, children and old men were terrorized by Sherman’s "bummers," as his looting, pillaging, plundering, and raping "soldiers" were called.
But to Gingrich and Forstchen Lincoln had a "deep sense of love and compassion" for everyone. He even knelt and prayed with a wounded Confederate soldier in a hospital, they claim; his "eyes filled with pain over the suffering of others"; and "was known for extreme gentleness to an injured animal." They list no sources or references when they write this, only saying that they come from "stories." Such stories are completely contradicted by Lincoln’s actual sociopathological behavior.
Perhaps the most outrageous piece of propaganda in the Gingrich/Forstchen article is their statement that "Lincoln was the first president to invite and socially greet a delegation of African-Americans into the White House." They say this to give their readers the impression that Lincoln was enlightened on the issue of race. He was not. He was as much a white supremacist as any man alive. Moreover, the purpose of the White House meeting with the delegation of African-Americans was not to meet and greet, but to urge these men to lead by example and self-deport themselves to Liberia in West Africa. It is all explained in Lincoln’s Selected Writings and Speeches, in the entry for August 14, 1862.
At this meeting Lincoln told the delegation of free black men that "You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races . . . . This physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both . . . and affords a reason at least why we should be separated . . . . It is better for us both, therefore, to be separate." He then made his sales pitch for the men to deport themselves to Liberia, an offer that they wisely declined. One would never know about this by reading the Gingrich/Forstchen article. (Besides, Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard has told me that this was not even the first time a black person had entered the White House).
Neocons will apparently never stop lying about Lincoln, but we can all stop believing their lies.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution — And What It Means for America Today.