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Commentary

More Lies and Sophistry


     
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    “[T]ariffs were in the service of free trade . . .” [???]
    Thomas L. Krannawitter

This Orwellian absurdity—the statement that protectionist tariffs are good for free trade—defines the intellectual shallowness of the latest tirade against my book, The Real Lincoln, to come from the Claremont Institute. In a supposed “review” in the Spring 2002 Claremont Review of Books Thomas Krannawitter lies about the contents of my book, attacks straw-man arguments, and simply makes things up.

He claims, for example, that I say that Lincoln “did not care a whit about” slavery. This is a lie; these words do not appear in my book, nor does any similar statement. On page 13, I note how Lincoln used natural rights language to condemn slavery by calling it a “monstrous injustice,” among other things.

Krannawitter amazingly claims that I do not produce “a shred of evidence” for my assertion that “Lincoln and the Republican Party pursued an agenda of centralized government and the pursuit of empire.” He obviously hasn’t read the book; in it I trace how Lincoln and the Republican Party inherited the political mantle of the Whigs, who themselves were the political heirs to the Hamiltonians, the party of centralized government power and the pursuit of empire. This is another lie that Krannawitter presents to his readers.

A third blatant lie in Krannawitter’s screed is his statement that in my book I claim that Lincoln “only wanted to talk about [the Dred Scott decision] as an avenue for championing the nationalization of money.” What I actually say on page 68 is that: “Even when commenting on the Dred Scott decision on June 26, 1857, Lincoln apparently couldn’t resist once again criticizing Andrew Jackson’s refusal thirty years earlier to recharter the Bank of the United States . . .”

My point is the opposite of what Krannawitter says it is: Lincoln commented extensively on the decision, which had nothing to do with banking policy, but he also could not help but throw in another minor jab at Jackson for not rechartering the bank. Such things were always apparently on his mind.

Krannawitter also makes a big deal about a botched quote that was in the first printing of my book which I admitted in print as having been a mistake two months before his “revie” appeared. It is dishonest of him to dwell on this point in full knowledge of the fact that I have acknowledged the mistake and have corrected it in the latest printing.

The quote had to do with Lincoln’s opposition to racial equality, which he enunciated on many occasions. Thus, the fact that I messed up that one quote in no way affects my argument. Lincoln was not nearly as devoted to equality as the Claremontistas would have us believe. Lincoln clearly stated in his August 21, 1858 Ottawa, Illinois debate with Stephen Douglas, for example, that:

    I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.

In the same debate, Lincoln also stated that any notion that he was in favor of “perfect social and political equality with the Negro is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse.” On the topic of emancipation, in the same speech, he said: “Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this . . . . We cannot, then, make them equals.”

In his July 6, 1852 eulogy to Henry Clay Lincoln announced that in his opinion slavery could not be eradicated “without producing a greater evil, even to the cause of human liberty itself.” And for his entire political career he advocated deporting black people out of the country, to Haiti, Central America, or Africa. “There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children,” Lincoln said in the Clay Eulogy. Deportation would supposedly mean “the ultimate redemption of the African race,” he continued, and in his December 1, 1862 Message to Congress, Lincoln said: “I cannot make it better known than it already is, that I strongly favor colonization.”

For many years he was an active member of the American Colonization Society and in 1857 he urged the Illinois legislature to appropriate money to be used to deport the free blacks out of the state (see Eugene Berwanger, The Frontier Against Slavery, p. 4). Lincoln also supported the Illinois Black Codes, which deprived black people of any semblance of genuine citizenship.

As Joe Sobran has written, Lincoln’s position was that black people could be equal all right, as long as it wasn’t here in the U.S. Some champion of racial equality and natural rights. These are some of the reasons why Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett, Jr. so harshly denounces the “Lincoln Myth” in his book, Forced into Glory.

The Claremontistas and their fellow Straussian neocons go berserk whenever anyone brings these facts to light. Richard Ferrier, for example, recently labeled me a “delusional idiot” on the FreeRepublic website for stating that Lincoln opposed racial equality. To Ferrier and the Claremontistas, Lincoln’s statement that [I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races” means “I DO have the purpose of introducing political and social equality between the white and black races.”

To Ferrier and Krannawitter, Lincoln’s statement that “we cannot, then, make them equals” means “We CAN, then, make them equals.” You be the judge of who is, and is not, delusional here.

When backed into a corner the Claremontistas frequently repeat Harry Jaffa’s disingenuous charge that the “White Citizens Councils” of the 1950s also pointed out Lincoln’s white supremacist views, implying that anyone else who quotes them must agree with white racists. The silly thing about this feeble-minded charge, however, is that Lincoln himself agreed with the “White Citizens Councils,” as just shown. I bring these statements up in my book as an illustration of how generations of Americans have been lied to about the real Lincoln by the likes of Thomas Krannawitter.

Yet another fabrication is Krannawitter’s statement that I completely ignore the natural rights foundation of American government—which I do not. I argue that in light of Lincoln’s outspoken opposition to racial equality, his promise upon being elected to support a constitutional amendment to protect Southern slavery, his promise in the First Inaugural to not interfere with Southern slavery, and his evisceration of constitutional liberties in the North during the war, the claim that Lincoln was a great champion of natural rights is dubious, if not preposterous. I quote one of the preeminent natural rights theorists of the day, the Massachusetts abolitionist Lysander Spooner, along with the great historian of liberty Lord Acton, as supporting my position. The claim that I ignore natural rights arguments is yet another lie.

Krannawitter slanders Edgar Lee Masters, author of Lincoln the Man, by referring to the book as a compilation of “slanders” against Lincoln without offering a single example. He then plays the guilt-by-association game by noting that I quote the book “approvingly.” The implication is that I repeat the alleged “slanders” by Masters, an Illinois native who was Clarence Darrow’s law partner and a famous playwright in the first half of the twentieth century. In reality, I quote only one passage from Lincoln the Man, and it is about Henry Clay, not Lincoln. It is a perfect description of the corrupt, mercantilist economic agenda (protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare for the railroad and road-building industries, and inflationism through central banking) that Clay championed and which was adopted by Lincoln. Masters described that system as one which “doles favors to the strong in order to win and to keep their adherence to the government,” a system which “offered shelter to devious schemes and corrupt enterprises” and “a people taxed to make profits for enterprises that cannot stand alone.” Exactly.

I discuss in The Real Lincoln how Lincoln devoted a 28-year political career prior to becoming president to this economic agenda, and how it was all finally put into place in the first eighteen months of his administration. Krannawitter is not interested in any of this, however, for his objective is to mislead, not enlighten his readers about the contents of my book.

Krannawitter is as ignorant of public choice or political economy as he is of international economics. At one point he criticizes me for supposedly not understanding that “all economics is political economics.” In fact, my entire book is an exercise in political economy, with a major theme being how the Hamilton/Clay/Lincoln agenda of mercantilism was battled over in American politics for some seventy years before finally prevailing during Lincoln’s reign.

In the very next sentence after ludicrously claiming that I am unaware of political economy Krannawitter identifies me as a public choice economist, a “sin” to which I plead guilty, having been a student at VPI of Nobel laureate James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Krannawitter is obviously ignorant of the fact that public choice is precisely the way in which the study of political economy was resurrected in the economics profession some forty years ago. He is in a fog here and is grasping at straws.

Krannawitter ridiculously asserts that John C. Calhoun invented the doctrine of legal secession out of thin air in order to divorce the idea of states’ rights from natural rights. But as I discuss in my book, the New England Federalists believed in a legal right of secession and they attempted to have the New England states secede from the Union for over a decade after Jefferson’s election. No one at the time argued that a legal right of secession did not exist, only that it may not have been a wise course to take.

Northern abolitionists also argued for a legal right of secession, wisely understanding that if the Northern states were to secede the Fugitive Slave Clause, which subsidized the institution of slavery, would have become defunct.

There were scholars such as the Pennsylvania abolitionist William Rawle, a close personal friend of George Washington’s, who believed in a constitutional right of secession as well. Rawle’s book, A View of the Constitution, argued this and was the one text on the Constitution that was used at West Point before the war.

And before Fort Sumter, as I show in my book, dozens of Northern newspapers editorialized in favor of a constitutional or legal right of secession on behalf of the Southern states. These Northern newspapers were not acolytes of John C. Calhoun; they believed that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that whenever a political community no longer consented then it had a right to seced from the contract. Newspapers throughout the Northern states expressed this view.

Krannawitter is extremely patronizing toward Walter Williams, who wrote the Foreword to The Real Lincoln. He calls it “shameful” that Walter would endorse a book that Krannawitter says “celebrates” John C. Calhoun. Of course, the book does no such thing, and Walter is fully aware that there were Southerners like Calhoun who defended slavery. What is shameful is the assertion that Walter, who could run intellectual rings around Krannawitter, is somehow unaware of such things.

Having read my book, Walter is also aware that Northerners treated the few blacks who were permitted to liv among them as worse than second-class citizens; that Lincoln spoke out of both sides of his mouth with regard to racial equality; that he advocated deporting black people out of the country; that the Emancipation Proclamation specifically exempted all those areas of the South and the border states where slaves could have actually been freed; that dozens of countries around the world, including the British and Spanish empires, ended slavery peacefully during the first half of the nineteenth century; that Lincoln trashed constitutional liberties in the North and waged war on innocent civilians; and many other facts that he (or anyone else) would never know of if he were to rely on the biased and distorted history that comes from the Claremont Institute.

Krannawitter concludes his tirade in a most buffoonish way, by claiming that it takes “a real man” (no women, presumably) like himself to engage in the kind of analysis of Lincoln that he and his fellow Claremontistas perform, compared to that of a mere “boy” like myself. He then partakes in a spasm of puerile name calling that suggests there is a need for some adult supervision at the Claremont Institute.


Thomas J. DiLorenzo is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, and Professor of Economics at Loyola College in Maryland.







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