Thomas DiLorenzo, Fraud?

Thomas DiLorenzo is upset.  No, it’s not because Barack Obama won reelection (although who knows what he may think about that).  It’s because of Abraham Lincoln … or, more specifically, the release of a new movie on Lincoln directed by Stephen Spielberg, which is now in general release.  If anything, DiLorenzo is more bitter than I’ve ever seen him, although his material is getting old.

First, DiLorenzo reminds us of the work of Lerone Bennett, especially Forced Into Glory (2000). Nothing new here. DiLorenzo is incorrect that Bennett’s work was “mostly ignored” by what he calls “the Lincoln cult”; indeed, Bennett and I shared the platform (along with Allen Guelzo) at the Abraham Lincoln Association Symposium in Springfield, Illinois, in 2002. But DiLorenzo has never allowed facts to interfere with his ranting, so why should he change now?  He seems utterly unaware of the passing of David Donald, but he’s not unwilling to misrepresent what Donald had to say about Lincoln’s involvement in the passage by Congress of the Thirteenth Amendment.  “Not since 1862, when he tried hard to persuade border-state congressmen to support his gradual emancipation plan, had the president been so deeply involved in the legislative process,” Donald wrote in his 1995 biography, Lincoln (page 554). Donald simply questioned the claims of some historians who said that Lincoln went so far as to engage in some clever and perhaps even unsavory dealings with several Democrats to secure passage of the amendment.  As DiLorenzo says that Donald was (well, he says “is”) “the preeminent Lincoln scholar of our day,” one wonders why he failed to read what Donald had to say. Is DiLorenzo ignorant, or does he prefer willful distortion?

The remainder of DiLorenzo’s first outburst simply echoes Bennett’s argument. I was hoping for something a little more original.

DiLorenzo’s second rant chides Lincoln for not ending slavery on his own. He’s wonderfully oblivious to the fact that Lincoln understood that he was constrained by the Constitution in his efforts to end slavery, and that only the actions of the Confederates (who showed no interest in cooperating with emancipation) opened up the opportunity to Lincoln to act. Once more he revives Donald, only to distort what Donald said; once more he accepts Bennett at his word as an excuse to avoid doing any research on his own.  My undergraduates know that they have to do better than that, but then DiLorenzo’s trained in economics, not history. DiLorenzo declares that in acting to end slavery Lincoln did “something he refused to do for fifty-four of his fifty-six years”; one wonders why Lincoln as an infant, child, or teenager didn’t act sooner, since DiLorenzo thinks he should have acted from the cradle.

But DiLorenzo’s not finished. After trashing Doris Kearns Goodwin (one of his favorite targets), DiLorenzo wanders back into saying that if Lincoln had really wanted to end slavery, he would have done so peacefully. Apparently he overlooks the fact that there was a war brought on by people who wanted to preserve and protect slavery and who saw in Lincoln a threat to that very institution  If only they had listened to Thomas DiLorenzo, they would have learned that they had nothing to worry about on that score.

I’m sure that those people who deplore the Lincoln movie or anything else about the sixteenth president will cite DiLorenzo as the ultimate authority on such matters. Maybe some of them are signing on to those secession petitions as we speak (one wonders whether DiLorenzo realizes that this is his moment to shine). For the rest of us, however, one is left to wonder whether DiLorenzo knows what he’s talking about or whether in his desperation to make a point he’s not above distorting the historical record. As I’ve argued before, he’s capable of either act, having committed both in the past.

229 thoughts on “Thomas DiLorenzo, Fraud?

  1. Al Mackey November 16, 2012 / 12:36 pm

    I personally believe he prefers distortion. I don’t know anyone who is knowledgeable about Lincoln who takes DiLorenzo’s viewpoint seriously. From what I’ve seen, the people who take his rants as credible know very little about actual history.

  2. wgdavis November 16, 2012 / 12:47 pm

    Why am I not surprised? There is history and there is DiLorenzo history. What has always stumped me is how a legitimate University can retain someone like him on their faculty.

    • John Foskett November 16, 2012 / 3:57 pm

      Hence his apparent distaste for endnotes/footnotes. Of course, it’s an insurmountable challenge to the use of notes if (1) your sources don’t exist; (2) your sources don’t support the assertion; or (3) your sources are facially unreliable.

  3. Louis Burklow November 16, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    Ah, yes, the Lincoln was an incompetent/lazy/racist school of revisionism strikes again. It has a close cousin in the 20th century, that the Holocaust was caused by FDR’s incompetence/anti-Semitism, not by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. I guess it sells books or it wouldn’t keep happening.

  4. chrislrob November 16, 2012 / 12:59 pm

    I greatly enjoyed the movie though, like all movies, it had its problems. and anything that makes DiLorenzo unhappy is probably good for the country. As for Dr. Bennett, we live in the same neighborhood. I’ve seen him at the grocery store a couple of times and the brother seems nice enough. But Forced Into Glory was just…garbage. It just seemed like he was cashing in to me. I really want to ask him about it, but I’m afraid he’ll ask *me* about it…

  5. John Foskett November 16, 2012 / 1:23 pm

    Not much to add, except that the fact that DiLorenzo is “trained in economics” doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows what he’s talking about in that realm, either. I certainly haven’t seen much in the way of evidence on that point….

  6. Michael Confoy November 16, 2012 / 1:26 pm

    Well much of what he quotes is true about Lincoln. However, he conveniently does not tell the whole story. I just happened to finish reading Foner’s “The Fiery Trial, Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” which has the same things about Lincoln in the book. Where he leaves off though is that in Lincoln’s annual message to Congress in December of 1864, Lincoln said “the voice of the people had been heard in favor of ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.” “Since the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not, may we not agree that the sooner the better?” Foner states that Lincoln “threw his support to the endeavor, (passage of the Thirteenth Amendment), intervening more directly in the legislative process than at any other point in his presidency. He pressured border Unionists, most of whom had opposed the amendment in June, to change their position.”

    At the end of the book, Foner quotes the abolitionist Lydia Maria Child — “With all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continuously; and considering how slavery has weakened and perverted the moral sense of the whole country, it was great good luck to have the people elect a man who was willing to grow.” Foner states that Lincoln’s capacity for growth was the essence of his greatness.

  7. Bummer November 16, 2012 / 1:47 pm

    DiLorenzo is a fraud. Folks like him always take the contrarian view to attract the socially disenfranchised and disillusioned. Exploiting Lerone Bennett, Jr. for his own warped gain is typical of this border line sociopath. DiLorenzo’s posturing reminds Bummer of many of the white extremists that use similar propaganda to increase their following among the poor and uneducated. His economics follow another vein of Neo and it isn’t confederate.


    • John Foskett November 16, 2012 / 4:00 pm

      Bennett’s book was suitable for housebreaking the dog, although it smelled better afterwards than before.

  8. Mark November 16, 2012 / 2:03 pm

    >> Maybe some of them are signing on to those secession petitions as we speak . . .

    Sigh. the Obama administration released the We The People petitioning platform last year (2011). This platform enables anyone to petition the Obama administration online through a website, ensuring that crazy ideas will get aired that have no real support. It is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. And there’s nothing to stop people from voting as many times as they wish.

    Here is the comical “history of petitions” text from

    “The right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Throughout our history, Americans have used petitions to organize around issues they care about from ending slavery, to guaranteeing women’s right to vote, to the civil rights movement.”

    These aren’t real petitions folks. They are the foolish actions of an unserious president.

    • M.D. Blough November 16, 2012 / 3:37 pm

      Mark-The First Amendment’s protections include the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. It doesn’t give government the right to determine the seriousness or merit of the ideas in them before they can be filed. I find the impeachment petitions repugnant, not trivial, and the secessionist ones the cries of sore losers but the White House giving a platform to all ideas is not foolish. It is in the great tradition of American government.

      • Mark November 16, 2012 / 6:09 pm

        It is foolish to allow a medium that can’t be checked for fraud, and it is very foolish not to at least point out that the bar has been lowered drastically for petitions before drawing conclusions about them.

        • M.D. Blough November 16, 2012 / 11:57 pm

          Mark-That’s where other parts of the First Amendment come into play. It’s not a matter of setting a bar, because that creates the easily abused issues of where is it set and who enforces the bar. It’s a matter of others using their First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and speech and, yes, petition to point out the flaws in any given petition.

          • Mark November 17, 2012 / 1:53 pm

            M.D. with all due respect, to pose this as a free speech matter is ridiculous. The absurdity of the federal government managing petitions is extreme. It makes no sense. It is fairly obvious that petitions should be directed to the right place, and that petitioners that even a little bit serious should have some plan for action baked into it. I’ve never signed a petition that didn’t have these elements, and I can’t imagine why anyone would think anything else would be effective. The “We the People” petitions aren’t really any different from hitting the “like” button on a website. It is just a comment, and it is hilarious that the administration guarantees a “response” if there are enough votes. Wow, a response. It is comical. And if there were a petition with enough votes to stop soliciting these petitions what do you think the response would be? It’s stupid.

  9. M.D. Blough November 16, 2012 / 3:32 pm

    Classic DiLorenzo. I wonder if Lerone Bennett realizes that he’s become the “good” (fill in the blank) for the DiLorenzo’s of the world. DiLorenzo has never grasped that the reason that Lincoln didn’t do much of what he (and Bennett) chastise him for is that Lincoln was never the dictator DiLorenzo accuses him of being. Until it was effectively repealed by the 13th Amendment, the Fugitive Slave clause was in the Constitution and there was very little dispute that there was no Constitutional way, in peacetime, of the Federal government doing any thing about slavery where it already was. The predominant belief, until attacked by Dred Scott, was that Congress could do something about expansion of slavery under Congress’s constitutional power over territories and over admission of states to the Union. There was some fear that a free state dominated Congress might try to use the Commerce Clause against the massive interstate slave trade but this was a long time before the expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause.

    So DiLorenzo believes that Lincoln could have talked the same people into peacefully ending slavery who brought us the Gag Rule, destruction of abolitionist literature by US postmasters, the attack on free states for not ruthlessly suppressing abolitionist groups, lionizing a Congressman who nearly beat a much older Senator to death on the floor of the US Senate? During the war, Lincoln got Congress to commit to financial assistance to loyal slave states which ended slavery and these states still turned him down. Secession began as soon as the election results were final. Lincoln couldn’t have done anything to incur such wrath. He didn’t become president for another 4 months.

  10. Patrick Young November 16, 2012 / 4:03 pm

    I’ve written a little about this movie and the only negative responses are cut and pastes of DiLorenzo.

    The film is great. I caught it this morning in Westbury NY at a little after 9am. Don’t tell my boss!

  11. Jerry Desko November 16, 2012 / 5:03 pm

    I watched a portion of Mr. DiLorenzo’s diatribe once on CSPAN and I finally turned it off. He was so off base and historically inaccurate that I seriously wonder why CSPAN gave him air space.

    Several years ago The Lincoln Forum invited Mr. Bennett to speak in our annual meeting in Gettysburg. The whole group listened to Mr. Bennett politely on what he had to say. Several members then questioned him on his assertions. Mr. Bennett had no factual answers to anyone’s questions. He just kept repeating his incorrect and slanted opinions as answers.

    I think Mr. DiLorenzo and Mr. Bennett are birds of a feather and many learned people have wasted their time taking them on. There are ignorant birds of a feather and at this stage of the discussion on Lincoln and slavery, they should be ignored.

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 17, 2012 / 2:08 am

      I draw a distinction between the two men. As much as I have questions about many of Bennett’s arguments, there are some points he makes that are worth considering. One can’t say that about DiLorenzo. His ideology shapes his scholarship, and the like-minded accept his “work” uncritically because they really aren’t interested in history, either.

      • John Foskett November 17, 2012 / 9:09 am

        I think that’s a legitimate distinction, Brooks. That said, I found Bennett’s book to be riddled with assumptions and argument, rendering it historical junk from a “big picture” perspedctive. If he had marketed it as what it really is, i might think differently. Bottom line – he and DiLorenzo both should steer well wide of history because they confuse argument and polemic with facts. For contrast, I would trot out Dimitri as only one example. Particularly as it concerns our friend the Little Napoleon, I disagree with some of the “ultimate conclusions” to which he seems to want to steer us. But for the most part I cannot question his “closer look” at long-held assumptions or the accuracy of details which he uncovers and puts out for debate. In short, he raises legitimate points for discussion based on facts and contributes to a better historical understanding. Neither Bennett nor DiLorenzo do that, and the latter frankly doesn’t care because he’s little more than a polemist driven by zealotry. Economics can be a good hiding place for a zealot because one can couch everything in monetary theory, etc. History is about facts.

        • Brooks D. Simpson November 17, 2012 / 9:23 am

          On the whole, I find Forced into Glory a deeply flawed book. I’d suggest that its main value was in countering a popular image of Lincoln that circulates in some places in which Lincoln’s role as the Great Emancipator is overemphasized at the expense of a more careful consideration of his views on race, slavery, and emancipation. Does it go too far in the other direction? Sure. I’ve also found him fairly reasonable in person, although he struggles when challenged. I know that after my talk he leaned over and whispered that he agreed with a great deal of what I had said. I don’t envision sharing a podium with DiLorenzo, and I don’t imagine him making such a comment to me.

          • John Foskett November 17, 2012 / 9:28 am

            He might if you were wearing a Ludwig von Mises mask (LOL)

  12. rcocean November 17, 2012 / 6:55 pm

    DiLorenzo is a polemicist – just like Foner and a couple others I could name. A plague on all their houses.

    • Michael Confoy November 18, 2012 / 12:24 am

      Would you like to back your slurs about Foner with some facts?

  13. Alan Fleischer November 27, 2012 / 9:33 am

    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.” [Dishonest Abe]

    Doesn’t sound like he cared a whit about blacks to me….

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 27, 2012 / 9:57 am

      Especially if you leave out the ending of the letter.

      I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

      I don’t think it’s Abe who’s being dishonest. I think it is someone who deliberately omits this who is being dishonest.

      • Alan Fleischer December 17, 2012 / 12:32 pm

        I agree that leaving out that paragraph is somewhat disingenuous. However, DiLorenzo’s writings are usually in the mode of a prosecutor’s brief; he feels no need to provide contrary evidence. Additionally, it could be argued that the paragraph is merely a last-second afterthought. Furthermore, Lincoln might have indeed wanted all people to be free, but the record shows that he wanted blacks to be free in Liberia, not in the USA.

        Also, Lincoln worked for the passage of the 13th amendment in 1861. That 13th amendment would have banned the federal government from interfering with states that permitted slavery if it has been ratified.

        Lerone Bennett, Jr., executive editor of Ebony magazine for several decades quotes Lincoln as saying in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa, Illinois, for example, that he denied “to set the niggers and white people to marrying together” (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 3, p. 20).

        In his book “Forced into Glory,” Bennett shows that Lincoln rather compulsively used the N-word; was a huge fan of “black face” minstrel shows; was famous for his racist jokes; and that many of his White House appointees were shocked at his racist language.

        Bennett documents that Lincoln stated publicly that “America was made for the White people and not for the Negroes” (p. 211), and “at least twenty-one times, he said publicly that he was opposed to equal rights for Blacks.” “What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races,” said Lincoln (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, p. 521).

        • Andy Hall December 17, 2012 / 12:51 pm

          “Lincoln might have indeed wanted all people to be free, but the record shows that he wanted blacks to be free in Liberia, not in the USA.”

          The record shows that in the last public speech of his life, Lincoln proposed giving voting rights to at least some freedmen. Did you miss that one?

        • Brooks D. Simpson December 17, 2012 / 12:53 pm

          Lincoln had no objection to the Corwin Amendment, but to say that he worked for its passage is misleading (especially as it made its way through Congress prior to his becoming president). His only direct contact was in transmitting the proposed amendment to the states.

          DiLorenzo posits a common mindset among Lincoln scholars where there is none. I’ve written freely about Lincoln’s commitment to colonization. I ensured that Lerone Bennett spoke at the Abraham Lincoln Association’s Annual Symposium in 2002, and shared the platform with him. No one denies that Bennett, like DiLorenzo, offers a prosecutor’s brief, one that leaves out contrary evidence or fails to offer the whole picture. That job is left to historians. We all know that Lincoln’s views changed over time, especially when it came to race, so what’s the point?

          • M.D. Blough December 17, 2012 / 10:34 pm

            Brooks-Deliberately leaving out a portion of a citation in a brief in such a way as to substantively change the meaning of the citation is not a prosecutor’s brief. It’s unethical. As Comment 4 to Rule 3.3 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Conduct (for attorneys) (based on the ABA Model Rules which is the basis for Codes of Ethics regarding attorneys in many states) states: “Legal argument based on a knowingly false representation of law constitutes dishonesty toward the tribunal. A lawyer is not required to make a disinterested exposition of the law, but must recognize the existence of pertinent legal authorities. Furthermore, as stated in paragraph (a)(2), an advocate has a duty to disclose directly adverse authority in the controlling jurisdiction that has not been disclosed by the opposing party. The underlying concept is that legal argument is a discussion seeking to determine the legal premises properly applicable to the case.”

          • Brooks D. Simpson December 17, 2012 / 10:45 pm

            Oh, I’m perfectly willing to believe that some people are stupid and incompetent instead of evil. In either case, the failure to deal with other evidence is a sign of poor scholarship. So I’m glad to see that someone was willing to make the admission that DiLorenzo was a poor scholar. Whether he’s also unethical I leave to others to decide.

          • M.D. Blough December 17, 2012 / 11:32 pm

            Brooks-If you were grading a student’s paper, would you accept that as an excuse when the source material is one of the most famous items that the subject of the paper ever wrote and when the entire letter is readily available? I believe Bennett did something similar with the December 1860 Lincoln-Alexander Stephens letters.

          • Brooks D. Simpson December 17, 2012 / 11:36 pm

            Fortunately for them, neither man was one of my students.

          • fallenrepublic July 5, 2013 / 4:07 pm

            Brooks cannot see the racism inherent in Lincoln’s words. All that matters to Brooks is that slaves were freed under Lincoln’s rule. It matters not to what lengths the man went to put down the southern half of the union, and he fails to see any other reason for such great efforts other than the total emancipation of those he publicly stated he wished to deport. Shoddy journalism indeed.

          • Murray Man December 11, 2013 / 10:38 am

            Lawyers have ethics? Hardy, har, har!

          • Brooks D. Simpson December 11, 2013 / 5:18 pm

            So says a poster with a fake screen name. 🙂

            How’s life in California?

        • John Foskett December 17, 2012 / 1:02 pm

          Read more. For example, read Brian Dirck’s excellent new book. As Brooks states, Bennett wrote as somebody making an argument, rather than as a historian evaluating all of the facts objectively. I’ll give Bennett this much, however – he at least pointed to sources for his assertions. That’s a very sporadic practice by the other guy.

        • NIck December 20, 2013 / 10:49 pm

          OMG! You mean a guy who has been need for nearly 150 years now had some views on race that today in the 21st century would be considered unacceptable and outside of the mainstream? I’m shocked, absolutely shocked! In all seriousness though, it does crack me up how you loons seem to think that some guy who lived so long ago should be excoriated because his views on race, while being mainstream views during his day, aren’t today. It’s like you nutcases want to castigate him for not being 200 yrs or so ahead of his time in regards to his views on race.

        • NIck December 20, 2013 / 10:52 pm

          OMG! You mean a guy who has been dead for nearly 150 years now had some views on race that today in the 21st century would be considered unacceptable and outside of the mainstream? I’m shocked, absolutely shocked! In all seriousness though, it does crack me up how some seem to think that some guy who lived so long ago should be excoriated because his views on race, while being mainstream views during his day, aren’t today. It’s like you want to castigate him for not being 200 yrs or so ahead of his time in regards to his views on race.

    • M.D. Blough November 27, 2012 / 10:17 am

      Alan-When Lincoln issued the letter, it had already been a month since Lincoln had presented the draft Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet as a fait accompli. He did accept Secretary of State Seward’s advice that it would be better to wait until after a Union victory (in short supply at that point) so that it did not look like a desperation move. It would not be until Antietam, in September, that the opportunity presented itself. The preliminary EP was issued as the crucial Congressional/gubernatorial elections of 1862-1863 were beginning and the Republican Party paid a price for it. Lincoln was not letting Greeley force him into acting prematurely.

      BTW, this represented the first instance in which Lincoln publicly raised ending slavery in any way as a Union war objective. What you see as anti-black was much more likely preparing the public for the EP when it was issued. As for saving the Union as a paramount objective, if it were not saved then the US would lose any say over the fate of millions of enslaved people. Saving the Union was essential to any chance of ending slavery in all but a few loyal slave states and DC.

  14. Gary Gilbert December 3, 2012 / 1:25 pm

    ……the best thing lovers of true history …and of Lincoln’s greatness can do…is what I do ; if you see DiLorenzo’s TRASH in a bookstore or a library …put it where it belongs….buried in the trash in the fiction section….or ..just in the trash….When I see his venomous garbage …in the “discount” or “blowout” bins…for 99 cents or so….I buy it….and put it in the nearest dumpster….I hate giving the scumbag the financial support…but at least it will keep it out of the hands of others…especially our youth …who need Lincoln’s example and lessons more then ever……

  15. Dennis W. Brandt March 18, 2013 / 7:12 am

    For greater detail on just how off base DiLorenzo is, read my book Shattering the Truth: The Slandering of Abraham Lincoln. It’s available everywhere online (although it is not an e-book).

  16. fallenrepublic July 5, 2013 / 10:16 am

    To say that Lincoln was “constrained” by the same Constitution he arbitrarily suspended reveals the complete and utter ignorance of 99% of those who have posted here.

    “Apparently he overlooks the fact that there was a war brought on by people who wanted to preserve and protect slavery and who saw in Lincoln a threat to that very institution”

    What a croc. The war was fought because the union was lead by a tyrant who ended up suspending Habeus Corpus, and the south wanted no part of it. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have cared less about slavery, and those who would argue that point cannot read.

    Liberal cultists, the lot of you.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 5, 2013 / 2:02 pm

      I am sure you believe what you say. Let others judge just how persuasive it is.

    • NIck December 20, 2013 / 11:02 pm

      I think it’s funny how you blather on about the constitution but seem to be ignorant of the fact that habeas corpus can be suspended under certain situations. “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” In case you missed it there was a rebellion going on. Jefferson Davis did no different in regards to habeas corpus, yet I some how imagine you wouldn’t be so harsh on him.

  17. Reed July 5, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    Is Doris Kearns Goodwin a fraud? Certainly. Is Joseph Ellis a fraud? Most definitely. DiLorenzo merely had the misfortune to publish and popularize damaging and devastating truths abouth Americ’a’s most ruthless, tyrannical, dictatorial, and lawless President.

      • fallenrepublic July 5, 2013 / 3:47 pm

        Taking up a contrary position without offering a single fact is akin to saying “nah-uh”, which is the typical response of those who have the truth in front of them in bold type but whose petulance prevents them from acknowledging it.

        If several dozen totally racist quotes (which are totally documented and verifiable) cannot convince you of the man’s MO, and the FACT that he was the only president in history to suspend Habeus Corpus leaves you unfazed, perhaps it’s better that you will not, or cannot, form an opinion.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 5, 2013 / 7:30 pm


          Since it is terribly obvious that you haven’t read what I’ve written, I see no reason to waste time dealing with you. Those who have read what I’ve written understand that you have no idea what you are talking about, but please don’t let that stop you from demonstrating that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt.

          • fallenrepublicfallenrepublic July 5, 2013 / 8:56 pm

            Oh. So, he didn’t suspend Habeus Corpus, then? Those who read what you have written understand only what their high school textbooks have pounded into their heads, that Lincoln waged a war to free the slaves. To ignore SO much evidence to the contrary, in such a cavalier fashion, makes you neither a journalist nor a historian. It just makes you look like another entrenched ideologue. I’m sure your readers are indeed beyond a shadow of doubt on many things, a dangerous modality where things like history and science are concerned. But don’t let that stop you from reinforcing the textbook notion of “Lincoln-as-hero”. Your own crowd really seems to love it!

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 6, 2013 / 4:32 am

            Thank you for continuing to display your ignorance of my scholarship even as you attribute to me views you fail to document. I’m sure that the readers of this blog will give your views the attention they deserve, especially since you are so brave as to fail to identify yourself. We’ve enjoyed your visits, and we wish you well.

          • fallenrepublic July 6, 2013 / 4:56 am

            Sorry, Brooks. I wasn’t aware that compulsory identification of an individual was the rule here. See, on the net, most simply use an alternate name with an avatar. You’ll get the hang of this whole net thing, I’m sure.

            I didn’t acknowledge your scholarship because I don’t respect it, as the fact
            you seek to besmirch any data which doesn’t fall into the Great Emancipator paradigm is less worthy of it than Dilorenzo’s and Bennett’s exploration of very telling and damning words from the man himself.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2013 / 12:55 pm

            Thanks for explaining why you don’t have the courage to identify yourself, which sheds much-needed light on why issues of respect and integrity have no place in your world. After all, if you are afraid to stand behind what you have said, we can conclude that even you know that what you say isn’t worth much.

            That admission makes me smile, as is your claim that you don’t respect what you evidently have not read. Rarely does someone make such a clean breast of their ignorance and lack of intellectual acumen. What we are left with is your tepid plagiarism and recycling of DiLorenzo’s already discredited interpretations, with critics highlighting his open distortion and misuse of evidence. You apparently lack the ability to respond to those criticisms, but, after all, that’s because your contribution to date has been a fairly limp mimicry of DiLorenzo’s argument, and even he struggles to respond to critics as he seeks the comfort of audiences with lemming-like characteristics. Doubtless you would feel at home in such a place, and so I suggest that you seek out a seat where you can nod your head in silent assent. Alas, that place is not here. Feel free to continue your intellectual theft elsewhere on a blog of your own creation … it is petty theft, after all.

      • M.D. Blough July 5, 2013 / 3:51 pm

        I love how the DiLorenzo cultists manage to disregard some salient points:

        1) The Confederates opened fire on Ft. Sumter at a point where Congress could not act because there was no Congress. The 35th Congress had adjourned finally in March and, in the normal course of business, the 36th Congress would have met, for the first time in December 1861. In fact, a few states were still holding Congressional elections in the Spring of 1861. Furthermore, secessionists had severed rail service to DC which was not fully restored, via Annapolis, until the end of April and until May in Baltimore.

        2) Lincoln’s call for troops conformed to the requirements of the Militia Act of 1795 and concluded with “Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at twelve o’clock, on Thursday, the fourth day of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.” Other than the obvious symbolism of July 4 and the need to allow adequate time for Congressmen and Senators to safely get to DC, another factor on when to schedule it was this provision of the Militia Act of 1795, “use of militia shall so to be called forth may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days of the then next session of Congress”

        3) Congress later explicitly ratified much of Lincoln did during the first month of the war.

        4) In the Prize Cases, the Supreme Court, which was still led by Roger Tawney (in the dissent in the Prize Cases), upheld the legality of Lincoln’s declaration of a blockade before Congress met, noting that, if the US had been invaded by a foreign power in the same time frame, the President would be expected to defend the country, under his powers as Commander in Chief, and not delay until Congress could meet and this was also true when he was responding to an internal rebellion instead of an invasion by a foreign power.

        5) During the entire Civil War, Congress met, Congressional elections were held, the courts met, and a hotly contested presidential election was held. Congress was no rubber stamp as anyone who has read any of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War can attest and George McClellan was a very serious candidate for the presidency in 1864.

  18. Reed July 5, 2013 / 5:14 pm

    Still, it seems very odd that, on the subject of fraud, there is absolutely no criticism of Goodwin, who clearly is a fraud, while there is bitter and severe obloquy directed at Dilorenzo, who is just as clearly not a fraud. Could it be that the explanation for this appalling hypocrisy is that Goodwin is a Lincoln admirer and Dilorenzo is a critic of Lincoln? Could it be that there are those who let their ideology inform their scholarship?

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 5, 2013 / 7:37 pm

      If you think Goodwin did not come under serious criticism concerning accusations of plagiarism, I can only note that you aren’t well acquainted with the facts. DiLorenzo’s problems have been detailed in this blog: now that you know that, you won’t be able to use ignorance of that fact as a defense. That you appear unable to address criticism of DiLorenzo suggests that perhaps you might be blinded by your ideological preferences … but I won’t wait for you to admit it.

      • Dennis W. Brandt July 6, 2013 / 4:48 am

        I am not sure how I received these back-and-forths between Mr. Simpson and the DiLorenzo advocate, but I recommend reading Shattering the Truth: The Slandering of Abraham Lincoln. It takes a deep, well documented look at DiLorenzo’s failure to use anything resembling adequate historical research methods. (Indeed, he says of himself, “I am no historian – thank goodness.”) Yes, I am recommending it in part because I wrote it and want to sell books. I lived with Mr. DiLorenzo for a long time – virtually speaking – and did not like what I saw. You can buy it on

  19. Reed July 5, 2013 / 9:41 pm

    Gotta love how the Lincoln cultists ignore the plain truths and historical facts:

    1. The President is obviously empowered to convene the Congress under extraordinary circumstances.Lincoln was both negligent and treasonous by failing to convene Congress until nearly three full months after the event. Utterly inexcusable.

    2. By failing to order, as Commander-in-Chief, the removal of his armed and hostile forces from within the territorial limits of the Confederate States of America, Lincoln committed an overt act of war, without a congressional declaration, against a foreign country.

    3. Congress cannot “ratify” illegal an unconstitutional acts. Suspending habeas corpus and declaring war are legislative functions, not executive functions.

    4. The Prize Cases emphatically confirmed the international character of the war and the belligerent rights of the CSA under customary international law.

    5. During The War for Southern Independence, Lincoln illegally suspended habeas corpus, commenced war, dissolved legislatures, imprisoned innocent citizens, imposed martial law, closed newspapers, expelled citizens, confiscated private property and generally treated the constitution the way an infant treats a diaper.

    • M.D. Blough July 6, 2013 / 6:43 am

      You have amply demonstrated not only your lack of understanding of constitutional (for example, in the Prize cases, not only was the constitutionality of Lincoln’s actions regarding the blockade upheld but so was the principle that Congress could and did ratify those action, if any ratification was needed) and international (belligerency is not international recognition of independence; it is a practical recognition that a rebellion has achieved a certain size and mass that, for instance, established nations either take sides or invoke neutrality) laws but of the sheer practical realities of convening Congress in the middle of the 19th century. Suspending habeas corpus is provided for both in the US and Confederate constitutions. CSA did not instantly become an independent nation no matter how often and how vehemently you say so. NO president of the United States has ever recognized secession as being legal and both Madison and Jackson were prepared to use force to suppress attempts at secession but did not have to. Even President Buchanan, as passive as he was, did not recognize the CSA and not only refused to surrender Ft. Sumter or Ft. Pickens but sent an unsuccessful expedition to relieve Ft. Sumter. You also might want to read Mark Neely’s works on civil liberties under both the US government AND the rebels (you want brutal suppression of dissent and expulsion of a dissident, try East Tennessee).

      Until you’re willing to give your full name, as is the practice here, that’s all.

  20. Reed July 6, 2013 / 4:48 pm

    It’s genuinely unfortunate, but some of the complexities of both constitutional and international law elude you entirely. What you overlooked, astonishingly enough, is that a nation does not blockade its own ports; it closes them. By announcing a blockade, Lincoln, the dolt, instantly and irrevocably advised the entire international and diplomatic community that the war was of an international character. It also left the Court no choice but to acknowledge the international nature of the war ( as if the huge armies and immense fleets hadn’t already demonstrated that). And nice try, but one one ever claimed that belligerent status is a recognition of independent status. However, and for your further edification, you should know that international recognition is by no means required to achieve political independence.

    Now then, as far as the point on the practicality of convening Congress is concerned, utterly ridiculous. Are you really trying to say that Lincoln can call for 75,000 volunteers, arm them, equip them, train them, and put them into the field within 3 months, but Congress can’t convene in 2 and three quarters months? As I said, ridiculous.

    Additionally, and I am pretty sure this has already been explained, but the President has absolutely NO say on the constitutionality of secession, and it is inexplicable that you think he does. You also might want to read Taney’s decision in Ex Parte Merryman for a more complete insight into suspending habeas corpus. Oh, and you should also read ” A View of the Constitution”, by William Rawle. He’ll explain both the politics and constitutionality of secession for you.

    • Jimmy Dick July 7, 2013 / 5:51 am

      You can blather on all you want about how secession should be legal. It doesn’t matter. The point is that it is considered illegal. No amount of whining changes that position. Your opinion has been judged and found wanting by better people than you.
      What you are doing is repeating the same old crap over and over again.

    • Patrick Young July 7, 2013 / 7:53 am

      Reed, do you consider William Rawle, whom just about no one reading your comment has heard of, an important authority on Constitutional interpretation?

      • Reed July 7, 2013 / 1:35 pm

        Patrick, I think the that an accomplished practicing attorney, esteemed author, and constitutional scholar whose text is used at prestigious institutions of higher learning, has made important contributions to the field of Constitutional Law.

        • Patrick Young July 7, 2013 / 4:25 pm

          There are a lot of accomplished lawyers whose opinions on the Constitution are anything but authoritative. I believe Rawle’s thought that slavery was unconstitutional, but Justice Taney proved him wrong. In his encounters with actual rebellion, he stayed within British lines during the Revolution because his family (though not he) were Tories and as U.S. Attorney in Philly he charged those engaged in the Whiskey Rebellion with High Treason.Not sure how sympathetic he would have been to a slaveholders rebellion. BTW, it has been a long time since I went to law school. Back then we studied the Federalist Papers, Madison’s Notes, Jefferson, Hamilton, etc. Where is Rawle’s writing currently assigned as a text? Also, what “important contributions” to the field of Constitutional law has he made?

          I am not trying to disparage Rawle, even though he waited until he was in his 20s and the war was over to finally come back to America from England. He was a decent and respected lawyer, but he was neither a Founder nor a Framer and his books are pretty obscure today.

          • Patrick Young July 7, 2013 / 5:53 pm

            Reed, I know William Rawle is often presented by pro-secession folks as an extremely prominent figure in the early republic. Oddly there does not seem to be any major biography of him. What little biographical info about him comes primarily from the law firm he founded. I looked at the indexes to a dozen standard works on the early republic, including bios of Washington, Madison, Monroe, etc and could not find a single mention of his name. I am sure he had a following and was a decent lawyer, he received a couple of honorary degrees, but I confess my ignorance of his import as a Constitutional authority.

          • Patrick Young July 7, 2013 / 6:25 pm

            So I looked in the indexes to the Oxford Companion to American Law and the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court and neither of them have a mention of William Rawle. I also looked at Lawrence Friedman’s extremely standard History of American Law and Rawle escapes his notice as well.

          • Patrick Young July 7, 2013 / 6:58 pm

            Reed, since I was only aware of Rawlse as the man who led the legal effort to hang the Whiskey Rebels and the man who prosecuted Benjamin Franklin’s grandson Benny Bache for seditious libel for criticizing the government, I took your advice and read Rawle’s book in pertinent part. In it he says that states governments do not have an inherent right to secede unless such is explicitly allowed in their Constitutions. He noted that no state Constitutions allowed for secession. He warns that even if done according to his legal strictures:

            “Evils more alarming may readily be perceived. The destruction of the common hand would be unavoidably attended with more serious consequences than the mere disunion of the parts.

            Separation would produce jealousies and discord, which in time would ripen into mutual hostilities, and while our country would be weakened by internal war, foreign enemies would be encouraged to invade with the flattering prospect of subduing in detail, those whom, collectively, they would dread to encounter.”

          • Reed July 8, 2013 / 5:42 pm

            Patrick, No one claimed that the State Governments could exercise the right of secession without a constitutional provision allowing for this; that right is reserved to the people. To that end, you will notice that the Ordinances of Secession which were promulgated by the respective Confederate States, were promulgated in the name of the people “in Convention Assembled”. So it is clear that each and every secession was perfectly lawful. And the beauty of Rawle (who seems to have the same effect on Unionists that Holy Water has on Lucifer), is that not he not only carries impeccable credentials, but he was also Northerner, he wrote well before the secession crisis (even before the crisis of 1828), and his work was fully endorsed by the United States Federal Government. Now then, it is certainly possible to offer other scholars, who also fully supported the right of secession, such as St. George Tucker and John Calhoun, but the Northerners howl in protest that they were Southerners(even though Tucker advocated the right of secession as early as 1803).

          • Patrick Young July 8, 2013 / 6:56 pm

            Reed, can you point to the Federal statute in which Rawle’s book “was fully endorsed by the United States Federal Government?” Also, I am less familiar with the slaveholding states’ constitutions than you are. Can you tell me which of them had constitutions allowing for secession?

          • Reed July 8, 2013 / 10:28 pm

            More to the point, can you please show me where the U.S. Constitution prohibits secession? (hint-Article I, sec 10 enumerates all the powers which are prohibited to the states-check and see if the power to secede is among those prohibited)

          • M.D. Blough July 8, 2013 / 7:12 pm

            Did Rawle explain where this alleged right of states to define their relationship to the Union via their state constitutions come from?

          • fallenrepublic July 9, 2013 / 1:03 pm

            He didn’t need to. It is called “inalienable”. Why should a state be forced to endure worse tyrannies than those imposed by King George? If you were a logical and fair man, your question would be “why was it OK for the colonists, but not for those living in the 1800’s?”

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2013 / 1:21 pm

            The colonies were not states: they were subordinate parts of an empire. The revolutionaries rebelled, accepting the consequence that they would be treated as traitors if the movement for independence was defeated by the empire.

            Now that we have that straightened out, the southern states in 1860-61 had the “natural” (not constitutional) right to rebel (whatever they might have termed it) and seek to establish their own nation explicitly devoted to the preservation, protection, and promotion of slavery (one that offered no safeguards for secession as a process). Supporters of secession had no respect for minority rights, even when that minority was a majority: they denied the right of enslaved people to rebel to seek their freedom and had no problems suppressing such rebellions by force. They treated white southern unionists the same way. In acting as they did, white southerners had no problem expanding government power and abridging individual rights (see the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850), and the Confederacy carried on this tradition. Indeed, slaveholders had no problem ignoring “inalienable” when it came to the rights of black people, as well as those of mixed racial descent where they themselves might well be among the people contributing to that population mix. It would seem to me that slavery is a far worse tyranny than a protective tariff.

            Your protests about white southerners being deprived of freedom ring hollow, my friend, and they drip with hypocrisy. That you aren’t able to present a more forceful or persuasive argument stems from the fact that you can’t do more than mouth the ideas of others, and even then you stumble and mumble. I deem it a favor to Professor DiLorenzo to see that his ideas are presented by people far more able than yourself.

          • E.A. Mayer July 8, 2013 / 6:34 pm

            I wonder who should be considered more of an expert on the Constitution, Rawle or a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court? You would think recent decisions of the court would be as much a topic for teaching the Constitution at West Point as would be an opinion book written by a private lawyer.

            “The people made the constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will. But this supreme and irresistible power to make or to unmake, resides only in the whole body of the people; not in any sub-division of them. The attempt of any of the parts to exercise it is usurpation, and ought to be repelled by those to whom the people have delegated their power of repelling it.” [US Supreme Court, Cohens v. Virginia, 19 US 264] 1821

            And we know Rawle knew about the case when the book was written for he mentions the case but only says he “dissents” from the opinion, (or part of it rather) but presents no real rebuttal and seems to only make an emotional appeal. (Rawle p296)

            I just don’t find Rawle very compelling or really authoritative in his argument either, especially when compared to a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court. Perhaps that’s why it was briefly brought in informally by a single instructor; as a poor contrast.

        • M.D. Blough July 8, 2013 / 7:15 pm

          I don’t know of any law school that has Rawle on its reading list for its courses on Constitutional law.

    • M.D. Blough July 7, 2013 / 9:14 am

      It was an unfortunate choice of terms, as was recognized at the time, but the international community certainly knew that it was not a recognition of Confederate independence as did the Supreme Court in the Prize cases and the rebels themselves. The fact was that, with those ports in the hands of the rebels, the physical realities were those of a blockading navy, not of simply closing ports. Also, the rebels would not have had to strive so desperately for recognition if independence was a fait accompli or if recognition of independence by existing nations was not critical to attaining and maintaining nation-state status. As for no one claiming that being accorded the status of a belligerent was recognition of the Confederacy as an independent nation, they certainly have. Nevertheless,rebellion having international impact does not, per se, transform it into anything more than a rebellion. The American Revolution had international implications but it was still a rebellion. it just was a successful one. The issue of before the court was the legality of the seizures of the foreign ships involved and Justice Grier, writing the opinion of the Court, is very clear that, regardless of the terms the President used, it was a civil war and the rebels were not another country.

      Your comparison of calling up troops and calling Congress into session is invalid. The realities that some states were still holding Congressional elections and of getting Congress safely into place in the District of Columbia from across the country are entirely different from getting troops called up . Or have you forgotten that one of the first volunteer units was attacked by an armed mob in Baltimore when all it was doing was changing trains on its way to the defense of DC or that Lincoln himself had to be smuggled through Baltimore in the dead of night on the way to his inauguration because of a credible assassination plot. Bridges were being burned, Telegraph lines were being cut. Until Butler established a roundabout way of getting to DC via Annapolis, DC was cut off with Virginia on one side and the pro-slavery Eastern part of Maryland on the other. The main rail transfer center in the area was Baltimore and order was not restored, by the army, until May. Further, under the Militia Act of 1795 calling Congress into session started the clock running on the validity of the initial call for troops. Finally, you act as if everything was put in place on troop training and that they were actually ready to put into the field. Have you actually ever read about what happened when those troops were put in the field on at First Manassas July 21, 1861, 2 1/2 weeks AFTER the special session was convened?

      You believe that what Lincoln was constitutionally required to do was so clear as to render him a lawless tyrant for not doing it but reject the positions of two other presidents who faced the possibility of the same decisions as Lincoln as irrelevant.

      I have read Merryman, which, BTW, has no precedential authority save, perhaps, in the district in which it was decided (or its successor) Taney’s decision, in the first place, was the equivalent of a district court opinion today. It was not a decision of the US Supreme Court. His decision rested on a rigid insistence that, if Congress was not in session to suspend habeas corpus, it could not be suspended. Taney never said and never would have said that habeas corpus could not be suspended under the Constitution since the Constitution expressly provides for it.

      Ah, yes, Rawle. You discount the positions of presidents of the United States, including one who was one of its primary authors, but rest on one author on constitutional law. BTW, research has confirmed that while Rawle was certainly discussed at West Point, it can only be confirmed as being a textbook used as part of the government mandated course of study for one year after which it was displaced by Kent’s “Commentaries” as Jefferson Davis himself confirmed. As the author of the study, which was very thorough, alsowrote:

      >>While holding to the abstract right of the people of a State to withdraw from the Union in this work, “A View on the Constitution of the United States of America,” he [Rawle] earnestly discourages it in forcible language as disastrous and parricidal. He says:

      The consequences of an absolute secession cannot be mistaken, and they would be serious and afflicting. . . . Separation would produce jealousies and discord, which in time would ripen into mutual hostilities, and while our country would be weakened by internal war, foreign enemies would be encouraged to invade with the flattering prospect of subduing in detail those whom, collectively, they would dread to encounter. P. 299.

      In every aspect therefore which this great subject presents, we feel the deepest impression of a sacred obligation to preserve the union of our country; we feel our glory, our safety, and our happiness, involved in it; we unite the interests of those who coldly calculate advantages with those who glow with what is little short of filial affection; and we must resist the attempt of its own citizens to destroy it, with the same feelings that we should avert the dagger of the parricide. P. 301.<<*.html. (BTW, the author, Col. Edgar S. Dudley was then the judge-advocate of the US Army)

    • John Foskett July 7, 2013 / 1:10 pm

      Tell me about Taney’s order in that case and the capacity in which he wrote it. And then there’s the good old Rawle canard. Odd how it (and it alone) always shows up as the handy “legal expert” opinion on secession. Unfortunately, several other equally eminent legal minds have disagreed with Mr. rawle.

      • Jimmy Dick July 7, 2013 / 2:23 pm

        It would behoove everyone to know that Mr. Rawle wrote that work in 1825 and that he was also the president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. He died in 1836 at the age of 76. While he did have an opinion, it was only an opinion, not the leading interpretation of secession. Citing Mr. Rawle as the authority on secession does not make it the one and only true opinion of secession. Obviously plenty of people disagreed with his opinion. You can read the book here at this link.

        Oh but wait! Rawle may have had an opinion on the theory of secession, but he said some other things about it that should be brought up such as it was a bad thing to consider and would be ruinous to the state that tried to secede. He also stated that states should seek redress of their issues in a legal way through the courts.

        Let’s see, one other thing about Rawle…oh yeah, he wanted to end slavery. Make sure you include that point when addressing the secession issue. Don’t gloss over the facts, Reed.

  21. Reed July 7, 2013 / 1:12 pm

    Didn’t you say you were through?

  22. Bob Huddleston July 7, 2013 / 6:40 pm

    The Rawle myth came from the imperfect (to be polite!) Lost Cause memories of Confederate general and West Point graduate Dabney Maury. Maury’s reliability can be demonstrated by his forgetting to resign in 1861: he deserted and went south. After the War, he spent a good deal of time trying to prove that the Adjutant General’s office had lost his resignation, but the AG reminded him that no officer is considered out of the service until his resignation has been accepted by the War Department and he has received the accepted resignation back. And Maury could not provide even a letter copy of any letter of resignation.

    In 1909, the then-judge advocate, Col. Edgar Dudley, examined the records of West Point and even bothered to read what Rawles wrote and found that Rawles was used as a textbook for only one year, 1826, and was then replaced by Kent’s _Commentary_ used until after the war. And Dudley also noted Rawles on secession:

    The consequences of an absolute secession cannot be mistaken, and they would be serious and afflicting. . Separation would produce jealousies and discord, which in time would ripen into mutual hostilities, and while our country would be weakened by internal war, foreign enemies would be encouraged to invade with the flattering prospect of subduing in detail those whom, collectively, they would dread to encounter p.299.

    In every aspect therefore which this great subject presents, we feel the deepest impression of a sacred obligation to preserve the union of our country; we feel our glory, our safety, and our happiness, involved in it; we unite the interests of those who coldly calculate advantages with those who glow with what is little short of filial affection; and we must resist the attempt of its own citizens to destroy it, with the same feelings that we should avert the dagger of the parricide. p.301

    Dudley published his study in the August 1909 issue of the Century, the same magazine that created _Battle & Leaders_. It is on line at,+WAS+%E2%80%9CSECESSION%E2%80%9D+TAUGHT+AT+WEST+POINT&source=bl&ots=YLUlxWnEao&sig=yEjjDUl5XazmjQRdCEpoNZzJBBc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tBTaUde1KIrXyAGBz4CgAQ&ved=0CGMQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Dudley%2C%20WAS%20%E2%80%9CSECESSION%E2%80%9D%20TAUGHT%20AT%20WEST%20POINT&f=false

    BTW, even if Rawle’s (or any one else, for that matter) was used at West Point, and someone *did* teach secession, it was not very effective teaching! Barely half of the graduates on active duty in 1860, who were from secessionist states resigned. Almost half remained loyal. People with names like George Thomas and Grimes Davis. OTOH, those officers appointed from civilian life from a secessionist state, with one exception, left the army to join the Confederacy. The exception was Winfield Scott.

    What ever was taught at the Academy would appear to have been more nationalistic than states rights! :>)

  23. rcocean July 8, 2013 / 1:56 pm

    Lost Causers need to face facts. The Confederacy from the very beginning was willing to use force and violence to take over US facilities and expel foreigners (aka American citizens who didn’t want to be Confederates). Davis knew firing on Sumter was an act of war, and welcomed it, because (1) he thought he would win the war and (2) it would force the upper south to join the Confederacy. He was also looking forward to Kentucky and Mo joining up. NM and Arz would be added as territories.

    • Reed July 8, 2013 / 5:50 pm

      American citizens who didn’t want to be Confederates? Tell me, does this concept also apply to American Revolutionaries who were willing to use violence against loyal British citizens who didn’t want to commit treason against their King and Country? And Lincoln knew that illegally occupying the territory of a foreign country was an act of war, and he welcomed it because he could claim he was only trying to “feed hungry soldiers”. Lincolnites need to face facts.

      • Patrick Young July 8, 2013 / 7:04 pm

        Ummm Reed, Li-ncoln was in office for 38 days when rebellious forces attacked Sumter. No country ever recognized the states in rebellion as an independent nation.

        • Reed July 8, 2013 / 10:06 pm

          Ummmm Patrick, Lincoln was not even in office when the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis as President, introduced itself to the world as a sovereign state. But that changes nothing; he was the Commander-in-Chief of hostile armed forces illegally occupying a foreign country, who was diplomatically asked, then ordered, to remove them. And you really should brush up on your international law, particularly 19th century international law. Recognition was most certainly not a requirement for political independence. Nevertheless, none other than Abraham Lincoln himself gave de facto recognition to the CSA. And though this was mentioned earlier, it is very much worth repeating. A nation does not blockade its own ports, it closes them. So when Lincoln stupidly announced a blockade of Confederate ports, he, to repeat, gave de facto international recognition to the CSA and acknowldged it to be a FOREIGN state. Sorry, no way in the world around that one.

          • SF Walker July 9, 2013 / 6:00 am

            If Lincoln had been able to simply close the Southern ports, he would have–how was he supposed to do this with pro-Confederate port authorities and militia controlling the cities?

            The fact remains that no nation in the world saw Lincoln’s blockade as recognition of the Confederacy’s nationhood. They officially regarded the Confederacy as nothing more than a belligerent faction in a civil war. Had they thought otherwise, Great Britain and France would at least have been willing to test the blockade– and they never did.

          • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2013 / 7:06 am

            Once again that lie of yours has been wiped out. Can’t you come up with something new? I see in an earlier comment you say the Constitution doesn’t forbid secession. It doesn’t allow it either because it doesn’t mention it. Old arguments constantly.
            I think all you are is the same person changing account names and presenting the same old steaming pile of Lost Cause horse dung over and over. It makes you feel good to empty your bowels but the results are just the same. Pure horse dung that reeks.

          • M.D. Blough July 9, 2013 / 12:19 pm

            As a very wise fact-finder I knew once asked a party in a hearing who was insisting that an ill-chosen word by a representative of the other side ended the inquiry: “If I call a giraffe an elephant often enough, does it make it an elephant.” As his decision in the case made clear, the answer was no.

            Neither Buchanan, who could have pulled the rug out from Lincoln, nor Lincoln ever recognized the Confederacy as an independent country. No other nation took any action by either president as doing so, de facto or otherwise. The British declaration of neutrality, which occurred after not only the declaration of the blockade but of its extension to North Carolina and Virginia, as quoted by the US Supreme Court in the Prize cases stated, “Recognizing hostilities as existing between the Government of the United States of American and certain States styling themselves the Confederate States of America.” Normally, there would have been no need for governments to debate, as the British and French governments did, whether or not to recognize a rebellious section of a larger nation as an independent nation in its own right once the original government has done so. The US Supreme Court which was dealing expressly with the blockade in the Prize Cases made it clear that it was dealing with a civil war, not a war between two nations.

      • Jimmy Dick July 8, 2013 / 8:22 pm

        Nice try. The states that attempted secession did not form an independent country. They were in a state of illegal rebellion and not foreign territory at any point. Lincoln had every right to send in multiple armies to restore the legal government of the United States of America over those states and he did.

      • M.D. Blough July 8, 2013 / 9:28 pm

        The American revolutionaries were perfectly well aware of what they were doing and the implications of it, including what would happen if they failed. There were Americans still alive who were old enough to remember the aftermath of the defeat of the Second Jacobite Rebellion.

        President Lincoln did not regard not did the Supreme Court of the United States regard the rebel states as an independent country or foreign soil. The Confederates chose to precipitate a crisis by cutting off supplies to Ft. Sumter and then firing on it. Other than an affront to the acutely sensitive Southern sense of honor, Ft. Sumter was no threat to them. They controlled Charleston Harbor and Ft. Sumter did not even fire when secessionist batteries repelled the first relief expedition, the Star of the West, sent by President Buchanan. They could have safely let Ft. Sumter get food from Charleston itself, denying the US government a justification for intervening, but they didn’t. Ft. Sumter was never South Carolina territory. It was a man-made island built by the US Government of rock and granite brought mainly from the north. The rebels escalated the crisis because the Upper South, particularly Virginia, was hanging on the fence and the rebels needed Virginia to have any chance of survival.

  24. rcocean July 8, 2013 / 9:16 pm

    Last time I looked the US in 1860 was a democracy and if the South wanted to secede all they had to do was convince a majority to let them go. The American colonies had no such redress. We weren’t represented in Parliament, and the King and the House of Lords were unelected. SC was not a foreign country, it was part of the USA. It was a state that under the Constitution had no power to wage war. Further, if VA had the right to secede than the counties in WV had the right to secede from VA and stay in Union. Of course, the Confederates didn’t agree, and were perfectly willing to kill any “traitors” that disagreed.

    If the Confederacy was some sort of “People’s crusade” against Yankee tyranny, there should have been no need to draft 18 year old boys and 49 year old men, invade Kentucky and Mo or refuse to hold elections. When did the people of VA or Tennessee ever vote for Jeff Davis? Simply pointing to the American Revolution is BS.

    • Jimmy Dick July 8, 2013 / 9:38 pm

      It’s just the typical Lost Cause mentality to create anything that might look good for their fantasy. The facts are pretty simple and have been explained to them over and over again, but they ignore the facts because that conflicts with the fantasy.

      Same old stuff. They don’t trot out anything new. Black Confederates has been their latest fantasy and even that is over a decade old and completely debunked.

  25. Reed July 8, 2013 / 10:39 pm

    It really is disturbing to see William Rawle treated so shabbily here, and all because he advocates the right of self-determination in the manner of our Founders. Anyway, the United States Senate feels differently about this eminent scholar and great Patriotic American:

    “…110th CONGRESS
    2d Session
    S. RES. 451
    Honoring the achievements of Rawle and Henderson LLP, on its 225th anniversary and on being recognized as the oldest law firm in continuous practice in the United States.

    February 13, 2008
    Mr. SPECTER (for himself and Mr. CASEY) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

    Honoring the achievements of Rawle and Henderson LLP, on its 225th anniversary and on being recognized as the oldest law firm in continuous practice in the United States.

    Whereas the law firm of Rawle and Henderson LLP has established and maintained a firm of national distinction whose reputation is based upon the notable accomplishments of its founders and its commitment to providing quality legal services to its clients;

    Whereas Rawle and Henderson LLP celebrates 225 years of legal service in 2008, initiated by 5 generations of a family and expanded to over 100 attorneys in 8 offices and 5 states;

    Whereas Rawle and Henderson attorneys throughout the last 225 years have served both the civic and legal community in the capacity of elected officials, as well as appointed and elected judges on the Federal and State benches;

    Whereas William Rawle, who founded his practice in Philadelphia in 1783, was inspired by the innovation of the Revolutionary era and his notable contemporaries, such as Benjamin Franklin;

    Whereas William Rawle actively participated in the ideological revolution as well, serving as chancellor of the Associated Members of the Bar of Philadelphia, and was elected to the American Philosophical Society and helped found the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts;

    Whereas William Rawle was made a Trustee by the University of Pennsylvania in 1796, a position he served with `zeal and punctuality’;

    The man whose law firm, and whose individual accomplishments, the United States Senate is honoring, said this:

    “… It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine how they will be governed…The secession of a state from the Union depends on the will of the people of such state. The people alone as we have already seen, bold the power to alter their constitution.,..But in any manner by which a secession is to take place, nothing is more certain than that the act should be deliberate, clear, and unequivocal. The perspicuity and solemnity of the original obligation require correspondent qualities in its dissolution..”

    • Patrick Young July 9, 2013 / 4:40 am


      So your proof that Rawle’s book “was fully endorsed by the United States Federal Government” is a fatuous resolution by the Senate in 2008 “honoring” his law firm. These nonsensical resolutions are passed every day by empty chambers. They are hardly based on careful research and great deliberation. This resolution is no different than others hailing a Girl Scout troop for selling cookies. There is no debate, no roll call vote on these bits of piffle. .

      The fact that the resolution connects Rawle to Benjamin Franklin shows its lack of connection to reality. Rawle famously charged Franklin’s grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache with Seditious Libel and tried to close the family newspaper The Philadelphia Aroura. I’m guessing that the text of the resolution came from the law firm itself. Proof might lie in the resolution referring to some of the firm’s partners as “Super Lawyers”.

      I note that while you claim to be quoting the Senate Resolution, your last paragraph is not to be found in the actual Senate Resolution. The paragraph on secession is nowhere contained in the resolution.

      You also did not quote this paragraph: “Whereas Colonel William Brooke Rawle, nephew of William Henry, served his country with distinction during the Civil War, entering the Union Army as Second Lieutenant, Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, was commended by his cousin Francis Rawle for his service, and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1866 and to join the family firm a year later, remaining the head of the office until his death in 1915;”

      Reed, you make a lot of claims for Constitutional authority on the part of a man who spent the Revolution behind British lines, who in fact moved from Philadelphia to New York to stay within the British lines and who then moved to England during the last years of the Revolution. You say that this fairly obscure man’s book “is used at prestigious institutions of higher learning”, but you are non-responsive when I ask you to name these institutions.

      You claim that a country can exist under 19th Century international law without any other country ever recognizing it. You don’t provide any citations for this nor do you give any examples of other countries that were never recognized but which still were countries under law. Obviously philosophically a country comes into existence at some point prior to its recognition. There may be a period of days or months or even years (Haiti) before formal recognition is offered, But is there any case in the 19th Century under international where a country was held to both exist and yet was never recognized?

      By the way Reed, I find it odd that you make any number of claims, then, when asked for citations, you change the subject.

      Reed, I am a Catholic and I bless myself with Holy Water every time I go to church. I’m afraid that Rawle provides even less protection for secessionists than that spinkle of H2O provides my endangered soul against the temptations of the Devil.

      • Reed July 9, 2013 / 11:25 am

        That Senate Resolution is pretty powerful stuff, huh? I would guess no one here has had their work so honored. I notice Patrick, that when asked for specifics to back up a claim you have made, you instantly change the subject. For example, can you please show me where the constitution prohibits secession? Also, please advise me which specific countries were required to recognize another country in order for that country to achieve political independence. Was recognition required of one country, of two countries, 37 countries or 11 countries? The truth is, diplomatic regocnition is given quite voluntarily, and there was absolutely no requirement for any one country to grant recognition to another. So I repeat, diplomatic recognition and political independence are entirely seperate phenomena.

        As for my “proof” that Rawle’s work was fully endorsed by the United States Federal Government, you need look no further than the federal budget for fiscal 1826. That is the year “A View of the Constitution” was used at West Point, and the appropriations for the USMA will do quite nicely for the federal legislation you requested. Oh yeah, Rawle’s work was also used at Harvard and Dartmouth, and Joseph Story praised him effusively. The USMA is singled out because its use there, as mentioned, means the United States Federal Government fully endorsed the book.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2013 / 12:06 pm

          Your reasoning is badly flawed. Let’s take the endorsement issue in terms of textbook adoption. Rawle’s text was adopted. It was then dropped. Thus, if adoption constitutes endorsement, dropping constitutes repudiation.

          Many textbooks are used without the user endorsing all the contents therein. What you want people to believe is that adoption of a text constitutes a binding endorsement for perpetuity of its entire contents. That’s funny. Since the book was dropped, we can assume that, according to your logic, it was found wanting. End of discussion.

          Let’s see Justice Story’s embrace of the constitutional right of secession, period.

          As for the resolutions, they mean very little, as any student of the types of resolutions you highlight knows. Simply ask Congress to endorse a resolution supporting the constitutionality of secession, and see how far that gets you.

          As for the base question of the constitutionality of secession, your argument breaks no new ground and we’ve had people respond on that issue before. You attempt to pass by those arguments.

          Now, I’ve given you more than an ample forum to express your views, which come off as more of the same old stuff. I see nothing new here, and so I think it’s time to move on. You are always free to erect your own forum to continue making your case. Thank you.

          UPDATE: The commenter’s response to this was to engage in a tirade of name-calling, thus revealing that he had no way to contest the merits of my post. His response confirms my sense that he is no longer able to engage in constructive conversation or to respond to criticisms of his arguments (many of which are but weak rip-offs of other people’s work, which might help explain why he’s unable to think on his own). And so we now move on. 🙂

          • fallenrepublic July 9, 2013 / 12:54 pm

            Wrong, Brooks. Although adopting a textbook does constitute an endorsement, dropping it indicates nothing but a racket in which the student is forced to buy new materials every year. Any and every student will tell you about this racket.

            Once again, you are dancing around the obvious so you can besmirch an opposing viewpoint.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 9, 2013 / 12:57 pm

            You just keep telling yourself that. Take care.

          • Patrick Young July 9, 2013 / 1:09 pm

            I believe that students at West Point were supplied with books at government expense.

        • Patrick Young July 9, 2013 / 1:06 pm

          A few points on what you wrote Reed:

          1. Reed, you wrote: “I notice Patrick, that when asked for specifics to back up a claim you have made, you instantly change the subject. For example, can you please show me where the constitution prohibits secession?”

          Actually, you noticed nothing of the sort since I never claimed that there was a clause in the Constitution on secession. I think you are confusing different posters here. I am the one poking you about Rawle, not someone arguing with you about whether the Constitution has a provision on secession.

          2. You wrote in response to my query about whether a combatant in a rebellion which was recognized by no other country as an independent nation could, as you claimed, still be considered a country under 19th Century international law. You wrote: “Also, please advise me which specific countries were required to recognize another country in order for that country to achieve political independence. Was recognition required of one country, of two countries, 37 countries or 11 countries?” My question for you was an honest one in response to your asserted superior knowledge of 19th Century international law. Unlike you, I claim no particular expertise in it beyond the area of humanitarian law which I sometimes teach at Hofstra University School of Law as an aspect of a larger course on the protection of non-combatants in internal conflicts.

          3. On Rawle, you wrote on July 7 that he was a “constitutional scholar whose text is used at prestigious institutions of higher learning,” You said his book “is used at prestigious institutions.”
          “Is” implies that the book is being used now. Yet your evidence that it “is’ being used is a citation to the 1826 Federal budget? The USMA must have bought an awful lot of copies of the book if it is still being assigned today.

          Unless you are writing to me from an alternative reality in which the year “is” 1826, then you have offered no evidence that Ramle’s “text is used” in any prestigious academic institutions.

          4. I note that the book in question was published in 1825 and purchased in 1826 by the USMA. It was soon after taken off the assigned reading list. In other words, it was assigned not as an esteemed volume, but was more of a flash in the pan.

          5. Have you ever attended a college? If so, you know that the assigning of a book does not mean that a college or even a professor endorses the book. It certainly does not mean that the Federal government endorses the views in the book just because tax dollars paid for it. I was assigned The Communist Manifesto at my Catholic school. This did not imply that the Pope endorsed the dialectical materialism of Marx. I assign readings by Samuel Huntington in my doctrinal course on immigration law. After we discuss them, if a student asks my opinion, I’m happy to tell him or her that I think Huntington is wrong but interesting. I note that West Point had a course in the literature of war in recent years and that several distinctly anti-war novels, like “The Things they Carried” by Tim O’Brien, were read. I did not take that reading list to mean that the Federal Government, let alone the USMA, had “fully endorsed” the books or an anti-war stance, merely that they found them useful for opening a discussion.

          That is how education works.

          6. Sometimes when I was younger I would read a book from the past which sounded like something I would have written. I could then fall prey to developing an exaggerated sense of the book’s importance, valuing it not because it was influential but because I agreed with it. Your antiquarian interests are commendable but a broader perspective is required.

    • John Foskett July 9, 2013 / 6:58 am

      Guess what – none of that means that he got this point right. He made the assertion as a statement without any explication or analysis and without citing any authority. Awfully unlawyerlike but, hey, everybody makes a mistake now and then. Deal with it.

    • Jimmy Dick July 9, 2013 / 6:59 am

      The Senate shoved in the bullcrap from the hogwash entitled “The Price They Paid” at one point too. Sam Rayburn had it inserted into the official journal if I recall correctly. The thing is pure propaganda and about 90% of it is one lie after another.
      It just shows that a good historian could have prevented erroneous garbage from being presented as factual information which is what we do with the Lost Cause lie.

  26. Rymsha December 4, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    I am, quite obviously, a novice on the American Civil War. What was Lincoln’s motive for going to war with the Confederacy?

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 4, 2013 / 8:54 pm

      To preserve the Union and the principles of representative government … he was very up front about that. Of course, one might ask why the Confederacy chose war, since Confederate forces fired the first shot.

      • Murray Man December 11, 2013 / 10:51 am

        Mr. Simpson: It was that simple? Really? The Confederates simply woke up one morning and decided to blast away? Nothing better to do that day? They simply said “hey, let’s shake things up a little”? Aren’t YOU being disingenuous here?

        • Brooks D. Simpson December 11, 2013 / 5:17 pm

          Nope. But you are in trying to play games with words, putting them in my mouth, and then asking me why I said them. Is this the best you can do? Perhaps it is … otherwise you’re being disingenuous.

          Just say what you’ve said before:

          “Lincoln was a crony capitalist and master politician (i.e., lying scum) who wanted to prohibit the southern states from leaving the Union. That was his main objective. He may have disliked slavery, but he clearly considered blacks inferior to whites and his overarching purpose was to “save the Union” — and to continue bleeding the south dry economically while protecting northern interests. At *best*, Lincoln supporters could say he had a bug up his ass about saving the Union, and that was a noble goal. IMHO, however, he may have saved the Union geographically, but he destroyed it philosophically, along with a terrible cost in lives. The worst president we ever had.”

          Talk about being a bit too simple and disingenuous …

          • Murray Man December 24, 2013 / 8:52 am

            You claimed the Confederacy “chose war.” That’s simply untrue. Lincoln chose to invade the south, which had every right to secede.

          • Brooks D. Simpson December 24, 2013 / 9:49 am

            Thank you for sharing your opinion, Mr. Fleischer.

  27. Rymsha December 5, 2013 / 1:43 pm

    Brooks – Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I am not a history buff but I am interested in history on the level that I read a few books now or then. Ususally I am more interested in the politics behind history rather than the wars etc. As I interpret your answer to my question Lincoln went to war due to the fact that the Southern states tried to seceed from the Union. What were his incentives for doing that? What did he/the Union risk in losing or stand to gain by going to war? What I mean is that going to war is expensive both financially and humanely – he must have weighed the pros and cons of either letting the seceeding states go vs taking the fight. Are there historical records of the pros and cons that resulted in Lincoln choosing to take up the fight?

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 5, 2013 / 4:57 pm

      He weighed the costs and the benefits very carefully. Allow states to secede, not because of any violation of the Constitution, but simply because they don’t like the outcome of an election means the end of representative democracy (after all, the Confederacy was not very nice when it came to internal dissent). It would have been hard in 1861 to have foreseen what the cost of the war would be … but in the minds of the people whose freedom came as a result of that war, one might want to consider positive as well as negative consequences. After all, it did not seem that the Confederates calculated very well when they chose to go to war to preserve an institution that the war destroyed. Lincoln’s own writings contain his thinking on the matter, so I suggest you start there.

  28. mrdavishistory June 4, 2014 / 2:02 pm

    Anybody who has ever listened to, or read anything else from, Professor DiLorenzo would understand that his main grievances against the cult (and, it is a cult) of Lincoln are borne from Dishonest Abe’s trampling of the U.S. Constitution. To give Lincoln a free pass on attacking the Confederacy is to ignore what would have been the paramount issue of the day: the right of secession. In DiLorenzo’s eyes, Lincoln was a warmonger because, well, he chose to wage war rather than let the Confederacy pull out of the Union. Instead, he basically invaded the South to achieve his ultimate goals: centralization of the government, along with passage and solidification of the main tenets of his big government philosophy. Despite your reluctance to tolerate DiLorenzo’s bias, his copious references to Lincoln’s worship of Henry Clay (when the former was a young Whig in Illinois) are quite revealing. As DiLorenzo notes, Lincoln, in fact, needed to crush Southern opposition to revive old Whig (new Republican) policies, such as the national bank, high tariffs and subsidies for industries. I’m not sure how that doesn’t qualify as “historical enough”–unless you, too, have fallen victim to the ubiquitous “cult of Lincoln.”

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 4, 2014 / 4:36 pm

      It might just be that the research in question is open to criticism. To counter that by proclaiming that someone is the follower of some imagined cult is shoddy reasoning, just as it would be poor scholarship to dismiss DiLorenzo’s finings because of his political beliefs, a practice your comment seems to legitimize.

      • mrdavishistory June 4, 2014 / 9:27 pm

        Any research (including that done by the usual gang of “court historians”) should be open to questioning, but that is not the main issue here. Do you really doubt that presidents–and Lincoln, in particular–has been deified by the American populace at large? Seriously? If DiLorenzo’s critics are honest, what rankles them the most is not his revisionism, per se (because all good history is revisionist); it is, rather, that he has powerfully taken on (from an economic perspective, which is what most historians haven’t the skill to do) an American sacred cow. In doing so, he exposed a nerve and an inherent rottenness in the American political system. Oh, not that he was the first to do so; other libertarians certainly effectively challenged the burning of incense to Lincoln long before DiLorenzo. But, because his writing reached large audiences and connected historical cause and effect with basic economic motivations, he laid bare the naked truth that the Lincoln we are were taught about in grade school was, more or less, a statist myth. Stated plainly: most criticisms of this revisionism seem to confuse poor scholarship with iconoclasm. If historical scholarship is genuinely based on searching for the so-called truth, which is to be believed–the trite American exceptionalism dogma (in which Lincoln’s ends justify his Machiavellian means), or a theory (like DiLorenzo’s) that sheds light on very disturbing, yet typical, motives of political economy?

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 5, 2014 / 5:56 am

          What you believe is the main issue may not be the main issue. It really doesn’t matter what Professor DiLorenzo’s objective may be: the question is whether his research is sound. That’s open to question, and his defenders have failed to counter those criticisms, preferring (like you) to shift the argument to another area because you can’t defend his research methods and handling of evidence. You embrace him for his politics, as your comment makes clear.

          • Ken Noe June 5, 2014 / 8:24 am

            “Dishonest Abe,” “Lincoln cult,” “court historians,” “statist myth”–quoting DiLorenzo to defend DiLorenzo is a logical fallacy

        • Jimmy Dick June 5, 2014 / 7:52 am

          Ever hear of Charles Beard? The economic interpretation was derived a long time ago. The problem was that it by itself did not stand the test of time. Historical scholarship involves a multifaceted approach to the subject. DiLorenzo’s approach if far from being a multifaceted approach. That’s the problem. It is significantly flawed.

        • John Foskett June 5, 2014 / 12:23 pm

          See our host’s response. Case in point: Some years back DiLorenzo authored a (one source note) article spouting theories about Lincoln and in particular his alleged “big government” agenda. As proof he pointed to the Republicans’ 1860 platform. Here’s the problem – if he actually read the other parties’ 1860 platforms, he found support for some of the same “boondoggles”, meaning that Lincoln hardly differed from Douglas and Breckenridge, at least. Disclosing that would obviously have turned his “cannon shot” into dribblings from a water pistol.. So one of three things apparently happened: (1) he didn’t read the others; (2) he did and missed that fact; or (3) he did and failed to disclose it. Take your pick. He also failed to mention the plank in the Republican platform which vehemently called for an end to Government waste. If you think that’s all solid historical work, have a party.

  29. mrdavishistory June 5, 2014 / 4:49 pm

    The point being missed in all of this is: DiLorenzo’s alleged “amateurishness” is actually a strength. While a run-of-the-mill historian will scour even the most trivial minutiae, economists (especially those trained in public choice theory) tend to cut through patriotic platitudes. The aforementioned point about identical party platforms of 1860 is irrelevant and, therefore, does not undermine ANY part of DiLorenzo’s arguments. Historians are nit-picking, because that is what so-called scholarship is all about, I suppose; but, this man has never leveled criticisms strictly along party lines (for a good sampling of this, listen to the audio lecture, “Theory of Political Entrepreneurship”). From his libertarian point of view, all politicians favor pork and power, despite what their rhetoric states. And you pick out “court historians”, “statist myth” and “big government” to cherry pick lines that don’t adhere to some sort of rigorous professional standards. But here’s the rub: the only reason Lincoln is such an object of fascination is primarily because he’s supposed to represent some sort of paradigm of what a “great” president is (a la Allan Nevins). Thus, we may question what he said, when he said it, was he a racist, blah, blah, blah–but to question the efficacy of the system itself? God forbid! It is clear from preceding reactions that any mention of Lincoln that lumps him as just another centralizing politician elicits elitist diatribes defending the polite historical community. But I would wager that most writers mentioned as “real” historians adhere to either the “right” or “left”; nor are they well-versed in any genuine study of economics. And so, we’re mostly stuck with predictable historical narratives that revel in Lincoln’s (or some other typical, dictatorial president) “expanding” of executive power for the greater good. But this is “scholarship”, I suppose. As to my descriptions that seem to you a mere parroting of DiLorenzo….why in the world would I think that the government would prefer historians that write admiringly of centralizers? Or that absolve politicians of the sin of depriving citizens of constitutional rights? Why, golly gee, I must be a conspiracy theorist to believe all of that!

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 5, 2014 / 6:43 pm

      Somehow, you just don’t want to measure DiLorenzo’s scholarship as scholarship. You offer all these distractions and characterizations, but in the end you just can’t defend him when it comes to his use of evidence or questions about his interpretation. I just can’t take you seriously.

    • John Foskett June 6, 2014 / 7:33 am

      You don’t even understand the concept of scholarship. What does his “libertarian point of view” have to do with “scholarship”? Competent research and objective analysis of facts have nothing to do with one’s philosophical “point of view”. You’ve stated the DiLorenzo problem better than i could have. He’s not a “scholar” or a “historian”. He’s a polemecist.

      • jfepperson June 6, 2014 / 10:27 am

        I’ll go further: There are so many errors and distortions of evidence in his original Lincoln book that, if I had been on the faculty of his school, I would have submitted his name to the committee responsible for policing academic fraud. The issue is not his conclusions about Lincoln or anything else—the issue is his abuse of facts and the process of scholarship.

        • Brooks D. Simpson June 6, 2014 / 10:31 am

          You’ll notice that there has been not a single substantial criticism to the material I’ve put forth about DiLorenzo’s work … just some true believers claiming that their icon is objective while everyone else is a member of a cult, as if that’s sufficient. I think we know who the real cultists are. 🙂

        • John Foskett June 6, 2014 / 2:29 pm

          You’d have to take that book seriously in the first place before applying an academic code. No harm, no foul. It’s probably more a consumer protection issue.

  30. mrdavishistory June 5, 2014 / 8:52 pm

    A feeling which I heartily reciprocate. But “distractions” and “characterizations”? Have you read the beginning of this thread? Likening DiLorenzo’s claims to Holocaust revisionism? Any refutation of this man’s claims rests on his detractors’ ability to refute the following: 1. Lincoln was a nurturer of crony capitalism who used Southern secession to wage war and fully revive the “American System” of Hamilton and (later) Clay; 2. He was also a master manipulator who blatantly sought to greatly raise tariff rates so as to benefit favored groups while gouging the South (see #1); 3. He steadfastly followed a policy of expanding the power of the state through encouraging the growth of oppressive government machinery (Internal Revenue Act, Income Tax, etc.; 4. In unison with #3, he was an egregious violator of civil liberties. Ultimately, it is much easier for a rather insular community of mainstream scholars to mock DiLorenzo–as long as it’s done on their terms, alone; however, none of the previous attempts at “fixing” his “errors”, or the snobbish derision, actually proves this economic historian to be wrong.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 5, 2014 / 9:26 pm

      I’m sure you believe that. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • Jimmy Dick June 6, 2014 / 10:59 am

      I like number two. I am impressed that Lincoln, while being nothing more than a failed candidate for Senate and having no connection to the US House of Representatives and not even a thought on the political horizon managed to convince all those representatives to vote for the Morrill Tariff in 1859. The fact that there is no shred of evidence to support that idea of course is not to be considered because that would just confuse people and detract from the DiLorenzo idea. So obviously Lincoln was not behind the Morrill Tariff.

      I also love the tariff nuts because they do not use any facts to support their beliefs. They just want to blame Lincoln so they have someone to bash for their free trade ideals. They conveniently ignore anything that would conflict from their economic philosophy which is at the heart of anything DiLorenzo writes.

      See, what DiLorenzo does is write history to support the philosophy of Austrian Economics. That’s what everybody does at the Mises Institute. History is to be written based off of what one learns. That is what a true scholar of history does. When one writes history to support the philosophy of Austrian economics, one is writing a polemic history.

      • John Foskett June 6, 2014 / 2:26 pm

        That’s the fundamental problem. He makes assertions which fit his philosophy and simply ignores documented facts which don’t fit it. Hence he fingers the Morrill Tariff as the “cause” of secession and thence the ACW, not slavery – yet all of the documentary evidence regarding the Secession Conventions and the correspondence and speeches of the secession commissioners from the lower South show exactly the opposite. Only a very few focused on the Tariff at all and there were secessionists from the upper South who actually favored higher tariffs. I’ve also apparently missed his explanation about the salutary effects of the lowered tariffs as they relate to the Panic of 1857.

        • Jimmy Dick June 7, 2014 / 1:52 pm

          Since the Morrill Tariff had zero chance of becoming law until AFTER the Lower South seceded, I’d love to know how it caused the Civil War. I’m amused by the DiLorenzo followers who want to believe something that wasn’t possible without secession was responsible for secession.

      • Christopher Shelley June 9, 2014 / 3:17 pm

        Yes. If he were a judge, we’d would describe his conclusions as “result-oriented jurisprudence”–he gets the results he wants, regardless of what the facts in their context show.

  31. mrdavishistory June 6, 2014 / 2:59 pm

    You’re right–mainstream historians are not polemicists, at all. There is no way any of these folks present tidy narratives of “heroic” politicians to foist their own agendas; that’s just silly, right? There is a great story from a certain free-market historian (yes, historian) auditing a class taught by Professor Alan Brinkley. As the story goes, the good professor is offering several theories about causes of the stock market crash of 1929. The free-market gentleman I mentioned politely references Hayek’s theory as an alternative to the options offered up to this point by Brinkley. At this point, Brinkley says (I’m paraphrasing) he can’t really be sure because (even though Hayek was a Nobel winner in economics) he can’t really speak on matters of economics. So, in other words, the Austrian theory (which you obviously deride) more or less explained much of what caused the crash; but, by Brinkley’s own admission, this particular theory did not neatly fit into his political ideology–therefore, it must be excluded or poo-pooed. Frankly, the language used above to describe historians would leave one to think we’re talking about “hard” science, rather than a field which deals, more or less, with human nature. And since the previous writer mentioned it: do you really think that many historians don’t write history to support other economic philosophies? In all likelihood, they refuse to give credence to DiLorenzo’s beliefs because he is awfully cynical; and to submit to such realities would crush much of the fantasy that our system can all be explained by this oh-so-important “handling of evidence.”

    • John Foskett June 7, 2014 / 11:06 am

      Five posts and hundreds of words, yet not one sentence addressing Dilorenzo’s errors and omissions regarding simple, objective facts. Crickets.

    • jfepperson June 7, 2014 / 11:07 am

      Your anecdote says much less than you seem to think it does. Based on your account, Brinkley does not dismiss Hayek’s theory, he admits only that he cannot speak to it because he is not an economist. He excluded nothing, “pooh-poohed” nothing. He let your acquaintance state his case. He said I’m not an expert on these matters. Now, it might be a good thing for historians to have a better grounding in economics, but that is another issue entirely. But regardless of your anecdote, DiLorenzo’s historical writings are fraudulent.

  32. mrdavishistory June 7, 2014 / 10:20 pm

    Actually, when understood, that anecdote is very revealing–especially since one of the posters claimed that history is “writing about what one learns”. Mainstream academe interprets human action as a complex tapestry of chaotic events, some of which are good, bad and ugly. In this context, history unfolds as politicians deal with problems of colleagues and constituents; but the American story is, mostly, one in which certain heroic politicians make “tough” decisions (but, of course, they’re often forced into really gut-wrenching ones). Sounds innocuous, right? But actually such a view is steeped in ideology because, again, the allegedly “objective” historian is examining “evidence” already convinced that public servants are merely responding to the needs of circumstances and people. The Rothbard strain of thought is brutally honest regarding people’s self-interest, and to claim that a well-respected historian’s admitted ignorance about economic theory is not important is a gross understatement–might we assume that Brinkley’s statement is fairly representative of the history community at-large? If so, what is fraudulent: writings that rehash well-trod ground (about a president that people are already convinced was “great”)? Or, examination by an outsider which argues that this same president was precisely the neo-mercantilist statist every one of his actions proved him to be?

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 7, 2014 / 11:27 pm

      Well, I guess it’s time to say that we’ve enjoyed your commentary, but as you haven’t been able to offer any evidence in support of your idol’s propositions, it’s time to bid you a fond farewell.

      • John Foskett June 8, 2014 / 8:29 am

        But not before he got through six posts without a single sentence answering the question. Could stand as the Crossroads record. “Neo-mercantilist statist?” The Rev. Jim Jones and David Koresh had nothing on this crowd.

        • Jimmy Dick June 8, 2014 / 9:48 am

          I am still waiting for Austrian economics to work. The only people it seems to work for are the wealthy. A viable economic system has to work for everyone, not just the privileged few. So when DiLorenzo and the Mises Institute write history to promote Austrian economics I really have to laugh because they’re distorting it pretty badly. At least Charles and Mary Beard had a real bona fide interpretation to work with was objective even if it was flawed. They were acting within the emerging historical method. DiLorenzo and the Mises Institute are operating outside the historical method. It is really interesting to see who buys into DiLorenzo’s stuff. Psychologists love this stuff when they see a bunch of conspiracy people gather around DiLorenzo. They get to write books on the subject and make money too.

  33. Mike April 8, 2015 / 12:32 am

    After Fort Sumter Lincoln wrote to his naval commander Gustavus Fox thanking him for his assistance in drawing the first shot “You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country [i.e., a civil war] would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result.” It was a war of aggression, no one died at Fort Sumter, and Lincoln launched a bloody invasion that killed between 650,000-850,000 people. Lincoln needed the south to stay in the union for the tariff revenue. Over 90% of the federal government revenue came from the tariff, 80% which came from the south.
    Article 3 section 3. defines treason as “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Lincoln committed treason by waging war against the states, and in doing so destroyed the voluntary union of the founders. Case closed Lincoln cultists.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 8, 2015 / 12:33 am

      Good try. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Just don’t mistake it for fact. Case closed.

    • John Foskett April 8, 2015 / 10:18 am

      “The Grape Kool-Aid is Now Available at Booth 6.” Party up….

    • Jimmy Dick April 8, 2015 / 10:20 am

      Lincoln did not say civil war. You did. You are taking what he said out of context to suit what you want it to mean.

      Southern tariff revenue? Please provide facts. The numbers show what you state to be total and complete male bovine manure.

      Treason? Yes, Jefferson Davis and the other leaders of the CSA committed treason.

      There is this concept known as factually based history. You might want to discover it. You also might want to learn why the US was established and how. Then you might learn something instead of repeating the same old lies.

      • Brooks D. Simpson April 8, 2015 / 11:31 am

        It is remarkable that DiLorenzo’s defenders are speechless when it comes to evidence that their hero mangles, misrepresents, or simply doesn’t understand evidence. Then again, they don’t like to say who they are. I guess they don’t really stand by their man.

        • John Foskett April 8, 2015 / 12:29 pm

          The guy really does have a cult following who are completely blind to his demonstrated inadequacies as an amateur “historian” (which is what he is with his Ph.D. in Economics). It reminds me of the Flintstones episode where all of the Fred robots descend out of the flying saucer mindlessly chanting “yabba dabba doo”.

    • SF Walker April 9, 2015 / 1:36 pm

      How then, do you explain the fact that the Northern economy did not collapse after secession, but grew? As Mr. DiLorenzo is an economist by trade, I’d like to hear his answer to that as well.

  34. mrdavishistory April 8, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    Funny how, when Lincoln detractors point out his malevolence–even with his own words–Abe’s idolators won’t acknowledge such things as facts; but when occurrences suit their purposes, Lincoln’s fan club is very quick to pull out the “scholarship” card. How very objective.

    • Jimmy Dick April 8, 2015 / 4:17 pm

      Bring the facts to the table and don’t forget the context.

    • Andy Hall April 9, 2015 / 8:30 am

      DiLorenzo uses his academic credentials to lend gravitas and authority to his historical writing. (The author blurb on the back of The Real Lincoln begins, “Thomas J. DiLorenzo is a professor of economics. . . .”) So it’s entirely appropriate — indeed, objective — to assess his work by that standard. If he wants to be viewed as a serious academic, his work should be judged in the same way other senior academic writers are.

  35. mrdavishistory April 9, 2015 / 6:28 am

    In all seriousness, I am just curious why Lincoln seems to get a free pass in how he conducted the war. Conventional rankings of presidents seem to indicate that, when it comes to Lincoln, the general consensus is that the end justifies the means. Why is that belief not also applicable to LBJ, for example? Was the slaughter of 60 thousand somehow immorally motivated (in fighting communism) while the death of almost 1 million (in “freeing the slaves”) just?

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 9, 2015 / 7:43 am

      if you believe that Lincoln gets a free pass from scholars, you haven’t read this blog or my work.

    • Christopher Shelley April 9, 2015 / 9:09 am

      In all seriousness…

      Well, please do. We’ve been waiting for some seriousness on your part for several post replies here. Apparently we wait in vain. When you approach history from an ideological point of view, Mr. Davis, you’re all sound and fury–and we know what that signifies.

  36. mrdavishistory April 9, 2015 / 9:07 am

    I certainly don’t mean to downplay your work,necessarily. I would like to read it in depth. However, there seems to be a lot of animosity directed at libertarian historians/economists in general. Why do you think that is?

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 9, 2015 / 9:16 am

      I don’t think it’s because of their ideology. Ask Jeff Hummel. I helped him with his book. I think that in Dr. DiLorenzo’s case, it’s not his ideology that’s in question … it is his scholarship.

    • Jimmy Dick April 9, 2015 / 9:35 am

      I think it has to do with the approach to history. Is history to be written about from the standpoint of what happened or what we want to have happened? Do we make our interpretations based on what occurred in the past as we learn them from primary sources or do we make interpretations based on our beliefs?

      When you examine the libertarian perspective on history and the scholarship, it tends to reflect a past that they want to have happened. It doesn’t mesh with the facts. They seem to write history to support their economic ideology and everything is judged through that lens. We all have a lens we see history through. We have to be aware of it and work to make our interpretations as we perceive the past to be to reflect what really happened in the past rather than how we want it to have been.

      In DiLorenzo’s case, his scholarship was to be blunt about it pretty poor. His interpretation left a lot to be desired. It just failed the peer review process completely. When you then examine his politics, his ideology, his beliefs, and his activities, it is pretty apparent that he wrote an interpretation that reflected that instead of the actual past. Historians have a problem with that kind of work.

  37. mrdavishistory April 9, 2015 / 9:30 am

    Thanks for your reply, Mr. Simpson; at least it was civil. Mr. Shelley: I guess you have resorted to some sort of snooty irony. How original. Your remark about ideology betrays an attitude of exclusion on the part of the history establishment. Drop the point, already, about how only “other” people (i.e. Austrian economists, libertarians, etc) approach history with an ideological bent. That is nonsense. As for “sound and fury” fair is fair. I am still waiting for someone to answer my question regarding the odd disparity in the rankings (and interpretation) of Lincoln when compared to other, less deadly presidents. Mr. Hall: do you really believe DiLorenzo’s critics are truly looking honestly at the economic aspects of Lincoln’s motives which he points out? Or are they writing them off as “conspiratorial” (because, you know, those kooky Austrians always look at economic motives….)

    • Jimmy Dick April 9, 2015 / 9:46 am

      Consider the incorrect version of American government that libertarians have. That is all about ideology and that beyond a shadow of a doubt is the lens they view history through. So yes, ideology is exactly what is involved here.

      Take secession. Libertarians seem to think secession is constitutional when it is not. So right there we see a very quick difference in how the civil war is seen. Lincoln did not cause secession nor did he start a war. Those facts get overlooked by libertarians because of their ideology. They look for economic reasons and go to the tariff. Unfortunately for them, the facts do not support their claims about the tariff either.

      So as the libertarians go about building the rest of their interpretation, they’ve already started constructing it upon a foundation of error. The rest of it falls apart as a result.

      • Christopher Shelley April 9, 2015 / 10:32 am

        Exactly, Jimmy.

        The “disparity in rankings” comes because the vast majority of historians recognize that Lincoln’s job as president–his skill in managing the war, recognizing that the destruction of slavery was essential to winning the war, sticking to emancipation as a war aim, describing the “great task” of racial equality to his countrymen–was simply the most difficult task faced by any American president, and Lincoln did it with consummate skill. This is not to say he didn’t make mistakes, or is above criticism. He did and he isn’t. But, taken as a whole, I think Frederick Douglass said it best:

        Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined….[T]aking him for all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, and surveying the end from the beginning, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.

        But as a historian, I have come to this conclusion because I’ve actually read the sources!, not because I had a predetermined notion of how I want the story to turn out. One cannot say the same about DiLorenzo, who’s misuse of sources and abuse of context can really only be described as lying.

        And if you think my last reply was snotty, clearly you don’t know me very well.

        Oh! And Happy Appomattox Day!

      • M.D. Blough April 9, 2015 / 5:07 pm

        Lincoln didn’t even have the chance to do anything. Secession began nearly three months BEFORE Lincoln took the oath of office.

    • John Foskett April 9, 2015 / 1:36 pm

      You’re simply dodging the point. It doesn’t matter what DiLorenzo’s philosophy is. What matters is the scholarship. One need not have any preconceptions as to whether Lincoln was a “good” President, a “bad” one, or “mediocre”. There are scholars who are critical of various aspects of Lincoln’s presidency and whose work reflects thorough research and objective analysis of the sources. DiLorenzo’s does not. He consistently makes assertions which he fails to back up with source notes, for example – in most instances because the sources do not exist. His publications on Lincoln are largely opinion and assertion – not solid history. That’s fine except that he – and especially his adherents – market them as history. Your apparent devotion to DiLorenzo is getting in the way of an objective assessment as to whether DiLorenzo’s work is up to professional standards of research and analysis. He may know economics but he has a lot to learn about the historical method.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 9, 2015 / 5:25 pm

      I’m curious. I’ve offered a series of posts in which I point our where Dr. DiLorenzo is in error. Somehow his advocates have failed to prove that I was wrong … yet my posts highlighted issues of scholarly error, not ideology. Could you explain why Dr. DiLorenzo’s advocates have failed to contest these corrections?

  38. James F. Epperson April 9, 2015 / 9:57 am

    OK, I’ll take at your word—Here are my responses to a pair of allegations made (by someone else) up-thread:

    1. It was not a war of aggression. A United States garrison was fired upon—the fact that nobody was killed is simple good fortune. Nations are allowed to shoot back when somebody shoots at them. If you don’t want to be shot at, don’t shoot first.

    2. The South’s contribution to the tariff was minor. The North had the much larger economy, capable of buying much more imported material.

  39. mrdavishistory April 9, 2015 / 12:00 pm

    The aforementioned opinions are precisely that–opinions. So, the belief about secession doesn’t reveal any kind of statist or nationalist bias when contrasted with a Jeffersonian belief about the Constitution? It’s simplistic to say “case closed” about secession more than a century after Lincoln dropped the military hammer upon the south. As for the rankings? His “skill” in managing the war? These opinions, too, are subjective–not factual. You or any other establishment historian can not legitimately claim that Lincoln (or FDR, for example) should rank higher than Warren Harding or Grover Cleveland, unless you have a preconceived notion as to what you believe–ideologically–presidents should do.

    • James F. Epperson April 9, 2015 / 12:33 pm

      “It’s simplistic to say “case closed” about secession more than a century after Lincoln dropped the military hammer upon the south.”

      Except that no less a figure than James Madison was of the view that secession was unconstitutional. See his 1836 letter to Nicholas Trist.

    • Jimmy Dick April 9, 2015 / 12:43 pm

      I’ve been looking for Jefferson’s signature on the Constitution for a long time. I haven’t seen it on the document yet. I did see James Madison’s and I did read what he had to say about Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation of the Constitution. It wasn’t a ringing endorsement. His letter to Nicholas Trist can be found here where Madison flat out rejects secession as a constitutional act.

      In the same document he rejects nullification as well. He also rejects nullification in this letter

      You can keep repeating the secession garbage all day long, but in the end secession was not nor is constitutional without the consent of the federal government. Lincoln’s actions were justified and constitutional. The seceding states and the actions of the secessionists were not.

    • Christopher Shelley April 9, 2015 / 1:28 pm

      As a citizen, I believe in the ideas of many of the Founders–especially Madison. So yes, I am predisposed to agree with Lincoln that secession was (and remains) illegal, because Lincoln’s interpretation of the Constitution was the same as the guy who drafted it.

      So my “opinion” that Lincoln is our greatest president is based on how well he did his job. I think by any measurement, he had the toughest job (only FDR comes close). And since I value the preservation of democracy; and since I value on human equality, I am indeed predisposed to admire Lincoln.

      No one has ever called me an “establishment historian” before. I suppose I should be flattered–I’ve hit the big time! Libertarian epithets just crack me up. (“You statist, you!”)

      I can only suspect that DiLorenzo is as crappy an economist as he is a “historian,” since he has clearly failed to address or take into consideration the many new studies on the economics of slavery, that it was growing, not fading, as the DiL thesis holds. That a libertarian could support a slave society–and support a nation explicitly dedicated to protecting and expanding slavery–simply astounds me.

      If want to read what a truly principled (and smart) libertarian has to say about the Civil War, I recommend Timothy Sandefur’s blog:

      • M.D. Blough April 9, 2015 / 10:45 pm

        Excellent article. Thanks for the link!

  40. mrdavishistory April 9, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    So, again, in referencing Lincoln and FDR (“preserving democracy”?? Try reading John Flynn or Jim Powell, or Murray Rothbard for that matter; those are stale cliches) your reading of presidential greatness is based upon the assumption that presidents must be “great” men. Says who? And, for the record, Lincoln’s signature was not on the constitution either, by the way. And despite Madison’s obviously great stature, his was not the last word. The states ratified the document a decade or so after they had seceded from the British Empire. It’s seems that it’s just easier to ignore all the heated arguments about secession and stick to the nationalistic reading of American history.

    • M.D. Blough April 9, 2015 / 5:22 pm

      And the fact that you seem to be evading is that it was NEVER generally accepted that a state could unilaterally withdraw from the Union after it ratified the US Constitution. Certainly both US presidents who dealt with the possibility of secession before Lincoln, James Madison and Andrew Jackson, both Southerners and both slaveowners, were prepared to use military force to suppress secession if threats of rebellion became reality.

      Madison may not be the last word, but I think one needs to more than dismiss him with that phrase. He was one of the leaders of the drive to have the Constitutional Convention in the first place. He kept a record of the proceedings. He was on the Committee of Style that revised the initial draft of the Constitution. He led the successful pro-ratification forces at the bitterly contested Virginia Ratification Convention. He was one of the two primary authors of The Federalist Papers which were a major influence during the also critical and bitterly contested New York State Ratification Convention. His letters during the late 1820s, early 1830s were meant to influence opinion during the Nullification Crisis.

    • Christopher Shelley April 9, 2015 / 6:38 pm

      Rothbard is a misogynist joke. What’s his fascination with Progressive-era “spinster Yankees” and “lesbians”, anyway? In his article at the Mises site ( he mentions lesbians 15 times in a bogus attempt to discredit Jane Addams and other women Progessives. A little creepy, if you ask me, and very sad. Why send homophobic economist to do a historian’s job?

      But you have not managed to actually refute–with actual evidence–any of the points made here by anyone. “Says you” is about the best you can manage. And now that you’ve got MD involved on Constitutional history, you are well and truly toast! But thanks for playing. I haven’t had this much fun here for months.

    • Jimmy Dick April 9, 2015 / 7:13 pm

      Seceded from the British Empire? Keep on talking the lost cause trash and ignoring actual history. You have failed to advance anything to support your claims. We show facts. You show your ass. No wonder you like DiLorenzo. You use the same type of scholarship…which is none at all.

      You show the same grasp of history as most libertarians. When the facts don’t support your ideology just state your opinion over and over.

    • John Foskett April 10, 2015 / 1:19 pm

      “Try reading” DiLorenzo’s gems on Lincoln. Then report back on the scholarship – not the opinions, but the research-based analysis and use of sources.

    • SF Walker April 10, 2015 / 1:59 pm

      What is the point of debating the legality of secession? I’m not opposed to the concept of secession by principle, but whether I’d support it or not depends upon why it’s being done. If secession is carried out unilaterally by the landed elite in the name of preserving slavery, which was indisputably the case with the Confederate States, you can count me on the side of the Union, regardless of anything in the Constitution or historical or legal precedent.

      In any case, our revolt against the British Empire was another matter entirely from the Confederacy. We were not equal partners in that empire; we had no representation in Parliament–the colonists, George Washington included, largely considered themselves to be fighting for their rights as Englishmen. By contrast, the Southern states basically controlled the US government until the 1850s, when the growing population of the North began to tell in the House of Representatives and Northern hostility to slavery increased. Also, because of the 3/5 Clause, the Southern states were not only equal partners in the nation’s government, but actually had MORE representatives in Congress than they should have had.

  41. mrdavishistory April 27, 2015 / 8:13 am

    Since this is a historical community, I would like to pose a question pertaining to some of what has thus far only barely been discussed. Regarding “rankings” of presidents, part of what has drawn the ire of revisionists (including but not limited to Mr. DiLorenzo, of course) has been Lincoln’s consistent placement atop such assessments despite his atrocious record on civil liberties and his broad expansion of executive power. As Ivan Eland and others have pointed out, while President Harding may not have been “the brightest bulb in the lamp” why not rank him (and other presidents) more in accordance with their ability to maintain peace, prosperity and liberty–rather than setting the stage for the Carlyle-esque “great man” to make sweeping changes…? Historians, please clarify.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 27, 2015 / 11:40 am

      Presidential rankings tend to involve a set of balancing acts, with people placing more or less weight on various aspects of a president’s performance over time as opinions and interpretations change. I find fairly consistent the notions that “strong” presidents who use the powers of the office vigorously and even expand them are often given a positive nod … unless, of course, the policies they pursued with that power are now questioned (see Andrew Jackson and Native American policy … Jackson was once much more popular among historians, as was James K. Polk). Political and philosophical preferences also sometimes shape these rankings (thus Harding and especially Coolidge are more liked by scholars of a conservative bent). Sometimes new scholarship reassessing someone reshapes rankings (Andrew Johnson down, Ulysses S. Grant up), as does reassessments of the period understudy (Grant again, this time concerning Reconstruction). The nature of the office has changed over time as well: what was not possible in the 19th century is now seen as fairly easy to do.

      So much depends on what people think makes for a good or a bad president, as well as how much they actually know about a president, so I take these rankings with a grain of salt … well, more like a shaker.

  42. mrdavishistory April 28, 2015 / 5:24 am

    Good points. But while historiography shapes these assessments to a degree, would you agree that the presidents most consistently atop such lists are those who greatly expanded presidential power? That fact, I believe, also speaks to what Americans are conditioned to expect from executives (and government, in general, perhaps?)

    • Jimmy Dick April 28, 2015 / 1:10 pm

      While you may consider them as expanding presidential power, you should also realize they were dealing with major crises which required them to use additional power to accomplish their jobs. Lincoln, FDR, TR, Jefferson, Washington; all of these men are usually in the top five positions and all five expanded presidential power to some degree although I would say it is a stretch to say Washington did so as he had to create the powers of the office to begin with or more properly define them.

      This is something that is often overlooked when talking about the expansion of presidential powers. They could not just expand them on a whim. They had to expand them in order to meet the challenges of their terms of office. That says a lot about the Constitution. It is a framework, not a concrete set of rules set in stone. It is elastic. I personally say living, but that is my opinion. These men had to meet their challenges and did so. The ones who did not meet the challenges are down at the bottom of the rankings.

      • John Foskett April 29, 2015 / 12:38 pm

        Excellent analysis. The folks who come at this with a political agenda (anti-“big government”) rather than from a fact-discerning perspective invariably get the horse and the cart in the wrong order. In most cases the “expanders” confronted significant crises which forced their hands. It’s hard to imagine that in those cases sitting on the same hands was anything other than a recipe for disaster. For example, there’s little doubt that FDR may have fallen too much in love with his programs by, say, 1937. But in 1933 the country was likely headed to internal implosion. Hoover’s imitation of a mannikin was almost certainly going to turn that into reality. As for Lincoln, I eagerly await the DiLorenzo explanation for fighting and winning a Civil War without taking the expansive measures Lincoln took. I suppose Abe could have prevailed simply by getting the Tariff repealed.

        • M.D. Blough April 29, 2015 / 5:33 pm

          There are also the measures the Confederacy itself took in relation to war needs, including the draft which was put into effect before the Union did.

        • Jimmy Dick April 29, 2015 / 8:31 pm

          The DiLorenzo interpretation seems to deal with a belief that Lincoln started the Civil War. He did not. He responded to the attack on a Federal installation in accordance with the Constitution. Had Jefferson Davis not ordered the attack on Ft. Sumter and neither side instigate a way, it is highly likely the entire affair would have ended with a bloodless reunification. But that is speculation. DiLorenzo’s beliefs reject that idea because he thinks the South would never have come back into the Union which is nothing more than a belief. The indications were that since the Upper South did not secede, they were never going to without provocation. The Lower South could not survive without the Upper South.

          So much for DiLorenzo and his beliefs. From that point on all the rest of his concepts are rooted in something that is false. The very foundation of his thesis is rooted in a false assumption. In fact, they’re rooted in more than one false assumption. The Morrill Tariff could only pass with secession. It passed as the direct result of secession so any attempt to portray it as causing secession is without merit.

          So back again to Lincoln’s expansion of government powers. He only expanded powers after the attack on Ft. Sumter. He responded to a crisis caused by southern secession over slavery. He had two choices. Let the confederacy secede in violation of the Constitution after a direct military assault on federal troops as well as theft of federal property in the Lower South or respond to a domestic insurrection in accordance with the Constitution. That is why he expanded the government’s powers: As a direct consequence of the military assault on federal troops in a domestic insurrection.

          DiLorenzo ignores the facts in favor of his beliefs. The result is a waste of good paper.

          • John Foskett April 30, 2015 / 7:54 am

            Some years back DiLorenzo published an article (with one – that’s right, one) source note which pushed his “Big Government” theory about Lincoln by emphasizing, among other things, the 1860 Republican platform. Had he done any reading or research, of course, he would have learned that the platforms of the Douglas and Breckenridge wings of the Democratic Party supported similar “boondoggles”, notably the trans-continehtal railroad with massive federal support. I submitted a letter to the publication pointing out this deficit in the Professor’s “research”.

  43. mrdavishistory April 29, 2015 / 7:14 am

    Notice, though, that the bias is in favor of such “expansion.” This speaks volumes about how governments use crises to their advantage. While I’m not denying that extraordinary times require extraordinary responses, why do such “emergency” measures rarely (if ever) go away when the crisis passes? If the Constitution is, in fact, “living” then presidents can redefine what is “constitutional” however they want. And on a nonpartisan note, it is curious how many detractors of Bush (whose record on civil liberties is atrocious) come to the defense of FDR and Truman; these presidents usually appear as “great” or “near-great” despite their willingness to build highly militarized states at the expense of the liberty and earnings of the populace.

    • John Foskett April 29, 2015 / 12:42 pm

      Which of our Presidents since 1933 hasn’t indulged in “build[ing] a highly militarized state”? Eisenhower at least criticized some of that but everybody else has been well on board to one degree or another. Of course, we had WWII, Korea, and the Cold War with all of its accoutrements for a good part of that era.

    • Jimmy Dick April 29, 2015 / 1:38 pm

      FDR only built the military up to meet the needs of WWII. He did next to nothing for his entire first term on military spending and only when it became apparent that the US would possibly be pulled into the European war did the US start to really arm itself. If you look at the military maneuvers that took place in 1940 you would be appalled at how poor the US military was. It really gets lost just how fast the US built its military up and engaged in a two front war. Without the US industrial complex and the pretty extreme measures put into place to produce armaments the US would not have been able to win the war when it did.

      As for Truman, his administration cut the military to the bone after WWII. What is almost as bad as the poor state of the US military in 1939 was the poor state it was in by 1950. When the Korean War broke out Congress made changes in the US military. It was not Truman on his own. It was a majority view regarding the emerging Cold War that resulted in the massive military expenditures. Plus Truman left office in 1953 and Eisenhower replaced him. Ike keep a much stronger military after Korea than we had ever seen, but even then Congress played a substantial role in that.

      Presidents cannot define the Constitution on their own. The Supreme Court has the final say on the matter. If he crosses the line, then the Court is going to rule against him (or her. We should start getting used to saying that pretty soon). Personally, I would like to see a smaller military, because I think a bigger one allows presidents (all parties) too much of a temptation to use it. The ability to fight a fast unilateral war across oceans should not exist. We have the ability to enlarge the force as needed for specific purposes, but a smaller force would give pause to actions that would best be met through diplomacy or coalitions.

      • James F. Epperson April 30, 2015 / 7:50 am

        ‘Notice, though, that the bias is in favor of such “expansion.” ‘

        But, almost by definition, a national crisis of an apparently existential nature will involve some degree of power which must be matched in order for the polity to survive. You aren’t going to defeat an armed rebellion, or a multi-national fascist military alliance, with flowers and water balloons. And, as has been pointed out, the expansions do shrink quite a bit when the crisis ends. In fact, that shrinkage contributed a lot to the failure of Reconstruction.

      • John Foskett April 30, 2015 / 7:59 am

        A lot of these folks point to Harding as their hero, because he established the budget process and slashed spending – both being acts which one could afford to do in the post-war, boom-fueled early ’20’s while Warren diddled, played cards, and violated the Volstead Act with his corrupt cronies. Of course, the seeds of Depression were already being sown in agriculture and the unregulated casino called Wall Street. Harding’s approach would, like Hoover’s, have been ill-advised along about 1931.

  44. mrdavishistory April 30, 2015 / 9:50 am

    Well, isn’t the Big Man Theory of government ball rolling, now? Harding and Hoover were not similar. Hoover the “mannequin”? That’s a riot. Hoover was a Progressive, through and through, who intervened right away (keeping wages the same, etc.) He was a huge proponent of government management of the economy due to the dominant progressive belief in “efficiency”. The narrative you repeat is merely an echo chamber for the fact that he did not “do enough”; he was not the “do nothing” laissez-faire leader of mainstream historiography. Claiming that Truman pared the military down is also laughable. There was the minor dropping of not one, but two!, atom bombs, thereby propelling us into the “balance of terror” (Churchill). It was Truman, too, that knew he needed to “scare …. out of people” to get his military buildup. Without the anti-Soviet propaganda, he could never have gotten his monumental NSC-68, which is the true crux of the modern militarized state.
    I’m still slightly dumbfounded by the Harding comment. He violated the Volstead Act? This is a big complaint? But FDR’s “solution” to unemployment (drafting millions to die) is somehow legitimate? I now why much of the mainstream ignores Robert Higgs; his economic critique of some of the aforementioned (Hoover and FDR, included) refutes some of the uninformed adulation of America’s infatuation with Depression-era and wartime mythology.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 30, 2015 / 10:07 am

      This is an interesting discussion. However, I am puzzled by something. The series that sparked all these comment detailed serious problems with Dr. DiLorenzo’s research methods and handling of evidence. Not a single supporter of his has contested my specific claims … none of them … and demonstrated where I was incorrect in my criticisms. Rather, the discussion always moves elsewhere. Why is this?

    • Jimmy Dick April 30, 2015 / 10:15 am

      My advice would be to read some actual history because you just made a few statements that are flat out wrong. Truman did cut the military back significantly after WWII. Plus you’re championing more of the crap from the Mises Institute where history is written to support the erroneous Austrian School of Economics. This institute is notable for its support of the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War, unworkable economic beliefs, and paranoid conspiracy theories.

      Basically, you are ignoring facts in favor of an interpretation that is comical.

    • John Foskett April 30, 2015 / 10:28 am

      Not surprisingly, your capacity for humor makes a shot glass resemble the Ngorongoro Crater. Yeah, Gamaliel violated the Volstead Act – unless I missed the exemption for former yokel newspaper editors. By the way, care to list for me all of the “Big Government” interventions Hoov initiated as President (not as Secretary of Commerce, the Belgian Food Commissar, etc.)?. There’s a reason he’s perceived as he is – and it’s not some big conspiracy (as the Mises crowd might fantasize).

  45. charlie April 30, 2015 / 12:53 pm

    There is a reason why they don’t contest your claims because your claims are spot on. They also don’t contest DiLorenzo because it would be blasphemous of them to go against the cult they subscribe too. This cult consists of pseudo- libertarians, Ron Paul fans, Ayn Rand devotees, and the Mises Institute. You have to hate Lincoln, call everybody who disagrees with you a statist, and want to return us to a land where laissez faire rules the day.

  46. mrdavishistory April 30, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    Well, since you did throw out the “crap” word….I’m pretty sure the collective brain power of those who contribute to Mises is not exactly 2nd-rate. Higgs? Gottfried? And Tom Woods? You’re right–no credentials to speak of there.
    As for my “claims” about Hoover: he doubled federal spending in 4 years; propped up wages; raised taxes; and FDR’s coterie, upon entering office, admitted that the beginnings of the New Deal were already put in place by Hoover himself. But I guess facts are only “facts” when they support American mythology.

    • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2015 / 7:29 am

      Tom Woods is a joke. His books are polemic pieces of popular trash that I reject as academic sources. The Mises crew butchers history in order to defend their economic beliefs. Charles and Mary Beard at least viewed history through economic terms in the way that it happened. These chumps at Mises change history to fit their views. So no, Mises has no history credentials.

    • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2015 / 7:34 am

      Let’s look at what a first rate historian said earlier about DiLorenzo (one of the Mises’ chumps) and his work. When are you going to address that? You want to bring up history, but only to support your views. When the facts contradict your views you try to make claims about the facts that historians have rejected. The facts remain whether you like them or not. The issue is in your interpretation and that of the Mises’ chumps. The facts do not support what you want to believe.

      Now address what Brooks said about DiLorenzo. If you want to promote the Mises interpretation you had better be able to defend DiLorenzo and his trash because it is all the same stinking pile of crap.

      • Christopher Shelley May 1, 2015 / 1:54 pm

        I find it alarming that MRDAVISHISTORY claims to teach American government, yet lacks a basic understanding of its history and evolution.

        • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2015 / 2:56 pm

          I would say he does not teach it. If he does, he mangles it. I like how he makes statements and can’t back them up with facts. Note last year’s tariff discussion which is of course a mainstay of DiLorenzo and Mises’ chumps belief structure.

    • John Foskett May 1, 2015 / 8:13 am

      Hoover strenuously resisted funding relief programs. His approach was all about “cooperation”, not active or forceful government, intervention. Hence, for example, the reason banks were in such great shape by March, 1933. But keep pushing Herb as a “Big Government Activist”. You’re the guy who’s locked into a “mythology”.

    • Christopher Shelley May 1, 2015 / 1:39 pm

      “Higgs? Gottfried?”

      What, did you abandon Rothbard already? I’m still waiting for you to explain why he isn’t a misogynist and homophobic joke.

  47. James F. Epperson May 1, 2015 / 6:58 am

    Still no response to the many criticisms of DiLorenzo’s work.

  48. charlie May 1, 2015 / 7:12 am

    I’m still waiting for MRDAVISHISTORY to address Dr. DiLorenzo’s research methods and handling of evidence…………..

    • John Foskett May 1, 2015 / 10:51 am

      He understandably hasn’t got anything to say about it. But he “agrees” with the Professor, so there is that….

  49. mrdavishistory May 1, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    I have diverted from the original topic only to make a broader claim, so I’ll fess up to that. However, all the name-calling in the world doesn’t change the facts of Hoover’s interventionism as a progressive-minded politician. So, you can call it mythology, but historical record shows otherwise. Just out of curiosity, which historians refute that “Herb” did what I stated?

    • John Foskett May 1, 2015 / 12:39 pm

      Which historians refute that “Herb” did/didn’t do what i stated?

    • Jimmy Dick May 1, 2015 / 2:52 pm

      How about David M. Kennedy in Freedom From Fear, the book with which he won the Pulitzer Prize?

  50. mrdavishistory May 1, 2015 / 3:54 pm

    Much like you’re “waiting” for refutations about DiLorenzo’s scholarship, I’m waiting for specific criticisms about Rothbard and Woods. Tell me specifically where they’re wrong; and don’t just say they’re “Mises” people because, with respect to scholarly research and breadth of content, I’ll wager they’ve published way more than anyone in this particular forum.

    • Jimmy Dick May 2, 2015 / 7:37 am

      Um, no. Rothbard only wrote 15 books according to his bio while he was alive. The rest are compilations and reprints of other works. So he was a pretty poor and lazy economist compared to Paul Krugman who already has 16 books out and a lot of other articles. Note that Krugman is still writing, his works are peer reviewed, he has a Pulitzer Prize, and is far more widely read than Rothbard was, is, or will be. That’s what happens when your economics work.

  51. mrdavishistory May 2, 2015 / 9:43 am

    Ahhh, when you disagree, it’s best to revert to the mantra: “Keynes, Keynes, Keynes…” Rothbard was a “pretty poor and lazy economist”. Proof that you’ve unlikely read anything he wrote. The breadth of his work covered so many more topics (philosophically, historically, economically) than Krugman ever has or ever will. You can’t prove empirically that Keynesianism works, but since Krugman is “widely read” I guess that’s proof enough.

    • Christopher Shelley May 2, 2015 / 11:50 am

      Rothbard’s misogyny and overt homophobia discredit any sort of historical observations he may make. Somehow, you can’t account for this. Do you support his weird anti-lesbian fetish? I have no opinion on his economic analyses, although I expect it’s colored in the same sort of revulsion his historical “analysis” is.

    • Jimmy Dick May 2, 2015 / 12:27 pm

      Let’s see, Keynesian economics did work just fine. The Austrian concepts failed. Those damn facts keep tripping you up don’t they? If you studied history you would understand that, but since all you do is read the made up version of history by Mises you can’t possible learn anything.

      Rothbard….thought police torture was acceptable. Was a homophobe. Was a racist. Was against equality of race and sex. Favored a police state.

      No wonder you like him so much. He was a modern day Republican asshole.

    • Jimmy Dick May 2, 2015 / 12:28 pm

      Also, please answer the original challenges issued by Brooks unless of course you are “skeered.”

  52. mrdavishistory May 3, 2015 / 8:11 am

    “Keynesian economics did work just fine”; the sky is blue; water is wet–these are all rock-solid arguments!

    I was assuming this conversation was civil, but your need for profanity proves me otherwise.

    Anyway…Rothbard at one point aligned with the antiwar movement of the New Left, and was against the military-industrial establishment. Those are not “modern” Republican platforms.

    I’ve already cited “facts” supporting why Hoover was an advocate of state power; and for the record, Kennedy himself mentions this in the very same book you referenced.

    • John Foskett May 3, 2015 / 11:14 am

      Since civility and decorum are in order, how about wandering back to the topic – the criticism of DiLorenzo’s use of the historical method, including research. I assume that you’d agree that if he’s going to pose as an historian he should be held to appropriate standards.

      • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2015 / 1:40 pm

        The Mises chumps do not believe in academic standards. Do a search for Mises Institute and peer review. You come up with a lot of articles from Mises chumps on why peer review is wrong. What they are trying to do is persuade people that using facts and having quality standards for ones work is not important. In other words the Mises chumps want people to ignore their lack of factual evidence so they can continue to mislead everyone with their manufactured history written to support their economic fantasies.

    • Jimmy Dick May 3, 2015 / 11:23 am

      Hoover did not go far enough in advancing the use of state power. He refused to do so and cautioned FDR against it which is what Kennedy says. You seem to think that is not the case and that Hoover was all about advancing state power. He was opposed to it.

      Back to Brooks’ challenge on DiLorenzo which you ignore so well.

      • John Foskett May 3, 2015 / 12:22 pm

        Exactly. thus his vigorous opposition to any federal finding of relief programs or to forcing banks to submit to regulation. Anybody who lumps Hoover and FDR into the same “Big Government” lunch pail is reading Mises comic books.

  53. mrdavishistory May 3, 2015 / 2:58 pm

    “Hoover did not go far enough…” Opinion–no more, no less. I’ve already given you examples of his expansion of state power, but it just doesn’t fit the narrative you prefer (sort of cultlike, eh?)

    Curious obsession with the word, “chumps” but at least you typed several paragraphs without cursing at me. Congrats.

    Since you are “waiting” for me regarding DiLorenzo, I’ll go ahead and wait for your follow-up to the ridiculous association of modern Republicans with Rothbard.

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 3, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      In short, you have nothing to refute my claims.


      For those of you who desire to continue this discussion about 20th century economists, I’m sure Mr. Davis will make his blog available for discussion, just as I have. However, as Mr. Davis appears unwilling to address the shortcomings in Dr. DiLorenzo’s scholarship concerning Lincoln, I see no reason to host this discussion any further. Thank you.

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