Lincoln Was the Great Centralizer

Thank goodness for Thomas DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln, and Walter Williams’s foreword to it. The book presents a badly needed corrective to the history that presents Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Years before the war John C. Calhoun had said, “the question is, whether ours is a government resting on the sovereignty of the States, or on the unrestrained will of a majority.” Lincoln's win in the War To Prevent Southern Independence put that argument to bed, established the Republican party, and led us to the corporate Washington we have today, an unconstitutional club of business and government bureaucrats and lobbyists responsible to no one but themselves, with force, threats, and intimidation being the order of the day.

This is considerably at odds with the ideas of our founders. The full title of the book is The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War.

As DiLorenzo documents, the war was not fought to end slavery; if it was, one wonders why a war was necessary? More than a dozen countries, including the territorial possessions of the British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, ended slavery peacefully during the nineteenth century.

Abraham Lincoln's direct statements indicated his support for slavery; He defended slave owners' right to own their property, saying that “when they remind us of their constitutional rights [to own slaves], I acknowledge them, not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the claiming of their fugitives” (in indicating support for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850). He also admitted in a letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “The original emancipation proclamation has no legal justification, except as a military measure.” Secretary of State William Seward acknowledged that the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to slaves in states in rebellion against the United States and not to slaves in states not in rebellion.

The true costs of the war were not only the 620,000 battlefield-related deaths (and 50,000 civilian deaths) out of a national population of 30 million. The true costs included a change in the character of our government into one where states lost most of their sovereignty to the central government. This had been the fear of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Calhoun and many reasonable men.

Today most Americans believe that states do not have a right to secede. DiLorenzo marshals numerous proofs that from the founding of our nation that the right of secession was seen as a natural one. The Virginia delegates affirmed “that the powers granted under the Constitution [] may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to injury or oppression.” Alexis de Tocqueville observed in Democracy in America, “The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disapprove its right of doing so . . . .” The New England states debated the idea of secession during the Hartford Convention of 1814–1815.

This was certainly settled in the war, and settled by force. A forced solution, like any forced solution, is, in the long run, no solution. Indeed, we have become the world's rogue state.

Lincoln's vision for our nation has now been accomplished beyond anything he could have dreamed. The Real Lincoln contains irrefutable evidence that the most appropriate title for Abraham Lincoln is the Great Centralizer, not the Great Emancipator.

March 2, 2005