Krugman’s 'Civil War' Fantasies
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas DiLorenzo: The
Political Economy of Government Employee Unions
M. Buchanan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1986 the
first thing he said at his George Mason University press conference
was that the award "does not make me an instant expert in everything."
Buchanan was well aware – and amused – at how previous recipients
of the award had made fools of themselves by viewing the award as
a license to pontificate about anything and everything, whether
they knew anything about the subject or not.
modesty and sense of reality occupies the mind of a more recent
Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman. As a New York Times columnist
he has always done what all New York Times columnists do
– pretend that he does in fact know everything about everything.
A case in point is his March 29 New York Times blog entitled
"Road to Appomattox Blogging." After mentioning how the
Times has a special "Disunion" blog to commemorate
the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, Krugman
gives a hilarious, elementary-schoolish rendition of his "take"
on the "Civil War."
he has always been infatuated by the "symbolism" of Lee’s
surrender at Appomattox, with "Lee the patrician in his dress
uniform," compared to General Grant, who was "still muddy
and disheveled from hard riding." Krugman is apparently unaware
that by the late 1850s, on the eve of the war, Robert E. Lee was
in his thirtieth year as an officer in the United States Army, performing
mostly as a military engineer. He was hardly a "patrician"
or member of a ruling class. Grant, by contrast, was the overseer
of an 850-acre slave plantation owned by his wealthy father-in-law.
The plantation, located near St. Louis, was known as "White
Haven" (which sounds like it could have been named by the KKK)
and is today a national park. (On the "White Haven" Web
site the National Park Service euphemistically calls Grant the "manager"
of the slave plantation rather than the more historically-accurate
In 1862 Lee
freed the slaves that his wife had inherited, in compliance with
his father-in-law’s will. Grant’s White Haven slaves were not freed
until an 1865 Missouri emancipation law forced Grant and his father-in-law
to do so. The fact that Lee changed clothes before formally surrendering
did not instantly turn the 36-year army veteran into a "patrician,"
contrary to the "all-knowing" Krugman’s assertion.
on to assert that the North’s victory in the war was a victory in
"manners" by a region that "excelled at the arts
of peace." Well, not really. What the North "excelled"
in was the waging of total war on the civilian population of the
South. The Lincoln administration instituted the first federal military
conscription law, and then ordered thousands of Northern men to
their death in the savage and bloody Napoleonic charges that characterized
the war. When tens of thousands of Northern men deserted, the Lincoln
administration commenced the public execution of deserters on a
daily basis. When New Yorkers rioted in protest of military conscription,
Lincoln ordered 15,000 soldiers to the city where they murdered
hundreds, and perhaps thousands of draft protesters (See Iver Bernstein,
New York City Draft Riots). It also recruited thousands
of European mercenaries, many of whom did not even speak English,
to arm themselves and march South to supposedly teach the descendants
of James Madison, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson what it really
meant to be an American. Lee Kennett, biographer of General William
Tecumseh Sherman, wrote of how many of Lincoln’s recruits were specially
suited for pillaging, plundering and raping: "the New York
regiments were . . . filled with big city criminals and foreigners
fresh from the jails of the Old World" (Lee Kennett, Marching
Through Georgia, p. 279).
The North waged
war on Southern civilians for four long years, murdering at least
50,000 of them according to historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. It
bombed cities like Atlanta for days at a time when they were occupied
by no one but civilians, and U.S. Army soldiers looted, ransacked,
and raped their way all throughout the South. The "arts of
As for the
war being a victory of "manners," as Krugman says, consider
this: When the women of New Orleans refused to genuflect to U.S.
Army troops who were occupying their city and killing their husbands,
sons and brothers, General Benjamin "Beast" Butler issued
an order that all the women of that city were to henceforth be treated
as prostitutes. "As the officers and soldiers of the United
States have been subject to repeated insults from the women . .
. of New Orleans," Butler wrote in his General Order Number
28 on May 15, 1862, "it is ordered that thereafter when any
female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt
for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded
and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her
avocation." Butler’s order was widely construed as a license
for rape, and he was condemned by the whole world. Ah, those Yankee
the victory of "a democratic nation" (the North) in his
blog. But during the war the North was anything but "democratic":
Lincoln illegally suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus and imprisoned
tens of thousands of Northern political critics without any due
process; shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers; deported Congressman
Clement Vallandigham of Ohio for criticizing him; threatened to
imprison Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for issuing the (correct)
opinion that Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus was unconstitutional;
censored all telegraphs; rigged elections; imprisoned duly elected
members of the Maryland legislature along with Congressman Henry
May of Baltimore and the mayor of Baltimore; illegally orchestrated
the secession of West Virginia to give the Republican Party two
more U.S. senators; confiscated firearms in the border states in
violation of the Second Amendment; and committed a grand act of
treason by invading the sovereign states of the South (Article 3,
Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason as "only"
levying war against the states, or giving aid and comfort
to their enemies).
right about democracy in a sense: Democracy is essentially one big
organized act of bullying whereby a larger group bullies a smaller
group in order to plunder it with taxes. The "Civil War"
proved that whenever a smaller group has finally had enough, and
attempts to leave the game, the larger group will resort to anything
– even the mass murder of hundreds of thousands and the bombing
and burning of entire cities – to get its way. After all, in his
first inaugural address Lincoln literally threatened "force,"
"invasion" and "bloodshed" (his exact words)
in any state that refused to pay the federal tariff, which had just
been more than doubled two days earlier. He followed through with
his threat. This is "the kind of nation I believe in,"
says Paul Krugman.
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
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.
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