Oh, By The Way … On DiLorenzo’s Lincoln Unmasked

Yesterday readers of this blog as well as myself were entertained by a series of comments from a reader who went by the name of “Frank” and who seemed rather all too well schooled in some of the arguments offered by Thomas DiLorenzo, especially in his characterizations of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  As soon as another poster commented upon the background of several of DiLorenzo’s favorite antiLincoln scholars (my, but such terminology sounds like a cheerleading exercise, not scholarship), “Frank” started complaining about the SPLC and offered me suggestions on how to manage my comments section.  I should note that the people “Frank” attacked did not ask me to manage my comments section in response to “Frank.”

One of “Frank’s” lines of argument was that DiLorenzo had somehow been led down a certain path by interviewer Brian Lamb to talk about historians and personalities instead of Lincoln.  He wanted me to address DiLorenzo’s books instead and set aside the interview.  That comment suggests that “Frank” is not terribly familiar with DiLorenzo’s own writings, especially his columns on LewRockwell.com and his second book, Lincoln Unmasked, as well as several talks available on YouTube in which he spends a great deal of time talking about the cult of Lincoln and sundry other matters.  What DiLorenzo said to Lamb is by no means unrepresentative of what he says elsewhere (indeed, if you read DiLorenzo’s books and columns, you’ll see that he likes to repeat his claims, regardless of whether they are grounded in actual evidence).

But don’t take my word for it: read what Publisher’s Weekly said in a review of Lincoln Unmasked:

In this laughable screed, a senior fellow at the libertarian/free market Ludwig von Mises Institute charges that most scholars of the Civil War are part of a “Lincoln cult” and determined to fool the American public into thinking that our 16th president was a hero. At the root of the author’s loathing of Lincoln is an ideological commitment to states’ sovereignty, a doctrine largely undone by the Civil War. DiLorenzo believes that the centralized nation-state that emerged after the war is incompatible with true democracy. His supposed revelations–-that Northerners owned slaves into the 19th century; that Lincoln advocated the relocation of black Americans to Liberia; that Lincoln did not, at the outset of the war, aim to end slavery—are well known to anyone who has read one of the many recent books on Lincoln. But Lincoln is not DiLorenzo’s real target; he saves his most vitriolic bombast for the scholars who dominate American universities (most notably Eric Foner) and who, he charges, are “cover-up artists” and “propagandists.” DiLorenzo accuses them of using their Lincoln mythology to advocate big government and other “imperialistic” and “totalitarian” policies. DiLorenzo accuses the “cultists” of having a political agenda. He may well be hoisted by his own petard.

In short, dealing with DiLorenzo’s work involves dealing with his characterization of other scholars and his portrayal of Lincoln scholarship.  Not to address those issues would leave people with but a partial impression of the man’s work on Lincoln, and I would not want to be unfair to DiLorenzo or ignore his arguments, as “Frank” wanted me to do.

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