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“Sic Semper Tyrannis”

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The government run schools in America were founded with the goal of indoctrinating the masses to become good citizens of the state. In the 1800s it was the new immigrants to America that needed socializing in republicanism. In the latter half of the Twentieth Century, the public schools have done an exemplary job of brainwashing Americans about the virtues of big government. Generations have been taught to revere such leviathan builders as Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln in particular has been deified as the noble republican (small r) who rose from economic squalor to unify a torn nation, free the slaves, and in the end heroically give his life for his country like Jesus gave his for his followers.

According to Thomas J. Dilorenzo in his book, Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe, the above characterization of the poor rail splitter could not be farther from the truth. In his book, Dilorenzo smashes the Lincoln myth that has been fed to schoolchildren as gospel for many generations. In fact, after reading it one realizes that Honest Abe was probably the most anti-constitution, undemocratic, and anti-free market presidents of all time.

First of all, Dilorenzo argues rightly that the States were viewed by the Founders as sovereign entities that joined the union voluntarily and could secede voluntarily as well. The fact that the States elect presidents through the Electoral College and ratify amendments through their legislatures or conventions instead of directly by the voters was/is indicative of the fact that States were/are sovereign institutions independent from the national confederation. Additionally, the meaning of the term “State” is different today from what it was in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Then it meant a nation. Today, we use it to describe the political jurisdiction over a definite territory.

Thus, Lincoln invaded sovereign States and perpetrated a war that killed over 600,000 Americans. The southern States that seceded were only guilty of having the temerity to secede. But even then, before they broke away Confederate peace commissioners along with Napoleon III of France attempted to broker a peace deal. Lincoln would have none of it.

Of course what is taught in our schools is that the justification for the Civil War was the freeing of the slaves. And we are taught that on this issue Lincoln was not willing to negotiate. But, according to Dilorenzo Lincoln’s actions do not justify this claim. Before he became president he favored a constitutional amendment that would have restricted the North from regulating slavery further.

It is true that he was the first president to meet with freed slaves but it was not a goodwill gesture but an effort to persuade them to emigrate to Liberia because he felt the two races (white and black) would be better off if they lived apart. It is also true that Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the western states but as Dilorenzo makes clear it was for political purposes not humanitarian goals. He and the new Republican Party wanted to maintain their numeric advantage in the Congress and allowing any new States to be admitted as slave states would have bolstered the cause of the Democrats.

And this was the true Lincoln that was depicted by Dilorenzo — a political animal. Dilorenzo dispels the myth that he was poor and pious. Lincoln married into an affluent Kentucky family that owned slaves. As for himself, he made a very good living as a railroad lawyer and lobbyist. Coming out of the defunct Whig party, Lincoln was politically well-connected statewide in Illinois. He favored a strong centralized government, protective tariffs, a national (central) banking system, and perpetual public spending and debt to build a national infrastructure of roads, bridges, canals, and especially rail lines.

In essence Lincoln and his Whig cronies, now calling themselves Republicans, sought to provide federal largess to their buddies in industry in an effort to preserve their party’s control of Washington for generations. Given that for the most part Republicans were the dominant national party from the Civil War until the Great Depression the plan worked. Of course, FDR’s New Deal turned the tide and made the Democrats the majority party for more than a half century afterwards. Make no mistake about it the economic policies and the political domination of his party were Lincoln’s justification for the Civil War. It had nothing to do with freeing any slaves.

Besides depriving the southern States of their constitutional right to secede and directly causing the deaths of over 600,000 Americans what else did Lincoln do that was so awful? The answer: plenty. According to Dilorenzo, he censored telegraph communications, rigged northern elections, shut down over three hundred opposition newspapers, used the military in the North to jail thousands of northern critics without due process, unconstitutionally suspended the writ of habeas corpus, imprisoned several and even deported one elected northern official due to opposition to the war, created West Virginia illegally, and set General Sherman lose on southern civilians.

Remember these things were not done to free the slaves but to impose on the whole nation Lincoln’s economic and political philosophy. If you are having a hard time comprehending this I understand. You probably attended public schools.

But, that is the very purpose of the skewed account of Lincoln we are taught in the schools – to make us ridicule any other accounts of him we may hear. After all, how can any of this be true when they built that huge monument to him in Washington, D.C.? It is true.

Thomas J. Dilorenzo’s book is a good survey of Lincoln’s transgressions against the Constitution, the free market, and the American people. It is a work that will make any open minded American reconsider the meaning of John Wilkes Booth’s words “Sic semper tyrannis” (Thus always to tyrants).

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About Kenn Jacobine

  • Kenn, Wright’s infamous ‘damn America’ speech is entirely defensible since it made a number of valid points.

    And Lincoln’s position on ‘the races’ isn’t exactly a secret. And while his views as expressed in that excerpt are reprehensible from a modern viewpoint, they are entirely consistent with the views of most white Americans of that period, whether northern or southern.

    Where Lincoln differs from the prevailing opinion in the South is in that last sentence:

    “I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.” [my emphasis]

  • Kenn Jacobine

    And how about this quote from the Great Emancipator? Defending this speech is like defending Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s.

    “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.” The Collected

    Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois” (September 18, 1858), pp. 145-146.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    You are absolutely right. The public school’s do not teach civics, Americans have no idea what the Constitution says or how their government should work – then they grow up and watch the nightly news for their information and have a totally distorted view of it all. This all fits together. Plus, most teachers I encountered and encounter today as an educator are statists. This rubs off in their teaching of personalities, events, and issues. The public schools and our universities are generally pro-state.

    Of course Lincoln’s personal lifestyle is not germane to this discussion. We are talking about his tyranny – I couldn’t care less about his personal choices.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    You seem to be real good at close-minded insults but bring little else to the table – I am wondering how you got your name?

  • In the latter half of the Twentieth Century, the public schools have done an exemplary job of brainwashing Americans about the virtues of big government.

    OK, I want some of the weed you’re smoking. The public schools across America have done a horrific job in teaching civics, personal responsibility and government. Go out and ask a High Schooler or college kid about the mechanics of government. I spoke with a poll taker last week from the University of New Hampshire who was doing a poll on the MA Senate race. After a few minutes, I ended up giving this kid a lecture on how important it was for him to get involved in the political process. He was African-American, 21 years old. This kid said he could not run for Congress because he wasn’t a lawyer! I told him that one need not be a member of the bar to be elected to office! This kid was about to graduate from college.

    The way I see it, the education system in this country retards our young from the concept of self-rule and governance.

    Was there one thing in the book written about Lincoln that was not true?

    How about the sin of omission? Isn’t Lincoln’s purported personal lifestyle something that’s open for discussion?

  • Kenn would be better off claiming that this is an interesting, provocative book that is worth starting discussions/arguments about.

    Instead he continues to claim this way-out-there book is 100% right and all previous historians are 100% delusional.

    It’s just wack. But I’m glad it’s allowing Mr. J to show his true colors. His anti-Obama articles were just about as ridiculous as this one, but they have always drawn a crowd of assenting Obama-haters [and of course Paultards].

  • Kenn, you’re perfectly entitled to your ideal of the US as a more loosely-configured confederation, but your argument that Lincoln somehow stole that from you is not only pointless but, as Dave points out, flies in the face of historical evidence.

    Of course Lincoln was no saint – what politician is? And everyone with more than a perfunctory knowledge of history is well aware that his overriding concern was not the abolition of slavery but the preservation of the Union. (I did attend public schools, BTW – but in the UK, not the US. The quality of education I received was by all accounts far superior to what I would have got here.)

    Dave doesn’t have to disprove the charges against Lincoln. Dilorenzo – and you – are the ones making the extraordinary claims. The burden of proof is yours.

    And it strikes me that what the pair of you are doing is a bit like judging Nelson Mandela solely on the basis of the actions which landed him on Robben Island, and ignoring his crucial role in South Africa’s peaceful transition out of apartheid.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    “A political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one government, whatever may be the form of the government.”

    This does not refute my point about the definition of a State in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Even today at times “the State” is used as a substitute for people saying the government. My current country of residence is officially The State of Qatar.

    Besides that point, the Articles of Confederation were ineffective because they gave no power to the central authority to declare war or raise taxes for the purpose of supporting a military. The Constitution was not meant to be a document that placed all power in Washington – it was a document meant to “provide for a more perfect union.” That is a system of federalism and checks and balances.

    The States joined the union voluntarily. What if Delaware never ratified the Constitution? Would it have been right for Washington to take it over forcibly? In the Constitution there is no power granted to Congress or the Executive to prevent secession, therefore I would assume it is a power granted to the states or the people under the 10th Amendment.

    You go on to state what the south did to deserve Lincoln’s actions. This is just pure neo-con crap. It’s like us invading Iraq because we don’t like what Saddam Hussein was doing to his own people and then abusing the Iraqis in our prison camps there. Two wrongs do not make a right. Whatever, the south did still gave Lincoln no right to be a tyrant.

    Your defense of Lincoln is pure partisanship. You do not prove he didn’t do any of the actions Dilorenzo wrote he did. You simply blame the other side for his transgressions.

  • Kenn, I can’t cover it all right now, but I can start with at least a couple of errors in your article.

    You write:
    the meaning of the term “State” is different today from what it was in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Then it meant a nation. Today, we use it to describe the political jurisdiction over a definite territory.

    Which is incorrect. The 1828 Websters Dictionary provides these two relevant definitions of a State:

    “A political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one government, whatever may be the form of the government.”

    “The bodies that constitute the legislature of a country; as the states general.”

    Both of which fit with our current definition of the term, and the second one in particular with the exact use of the term as defining a constituent state of a larger body politic.

    Further, the reason the Constitution was written was to replace the Articles of Confederation which created the kind of loose alliance of sovereign states you describe. It had not functioned well and the Constitution was expressly written with the intent of dividing powers and making the states subordinate to a central federal authority, and as I pointed out before it definitely does not include a right of seession in its text. Look for it. Good luck.

    You also write:
    Lincoln invaded sovereign States

    Which is also untrue. The first shots of the war were fired by southerners on union forces at Ft. Sumter who had been ordered not to fire back and were ultimately evacuated without firing a shot.

    You also ignore — as DiLorenzo also does — the fact that the southern Democrats had been in control of the government for most of the prior 32 years and during that time they had engaged in practices which were highly provocative to northerners and made multiple attempts to extend slavery and to restrict the rights of free labor and northern businesses as well. They were responsible for the reprehensible Fugitive Slave Law and for the Dred Scott Decision and the other unpalatable provisions of the Compromise of 1850. In that period they had also passed laws outlawing manumission, writing or even speaking about abolition, and teaching slaves to read in some of the southern states. They even invaded foreign countries like Nicaragua to try to expand the territory where they could impose slavery. The south was reall jam-packed with reprehensible political leaders who made Lincoln look like an angel.

    Pfaugh. It’s late. I can bring more commentary tomorrow if you like.


  • Kenn Jacobine

    So what about Lincoln from my article is inaccurate?

  • Not one minute of public school education here, Kenn. Plus a god number of years in schools in other countries.

    And there are plenty of myths about Lincoln, just as there are about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Mad Anthony Wayne.

    But there are also something called “facts” and they do kind of stand up over the years, because in the 1850s we had things like books and newspapers which recorded most everything which happened.


  • Kenn Jacobine

    How many of you Lincoln lovers attended the public schools in America?

    Was there one thing in the book written about Lincoln that was not true?

  • LOL, John Brown — secret pawn of the British Empire and psychotic terrorist mass murderer. I’m sure Kenn would love him.


  • Right on, Brother Kenn. Lincoln was pretty much satan incarnate.

    Long live the true anti-slavery hero, John Brown.

  • zingzing

    handy, it’s more like a regurgitation than a review.

  • One would think an “international educator teaching History” [with a capital H, no less], would show more perspective in reviewing a questionable book. Instead he implies that all the more conventional and favorable views of Lincoln are 100% bogus.

    And the next question is: have his numerous unpleasant articles about the current president been written with any more regard for fairness and accuracy than this one?

  • zingzing

    kenn: “National hero? He has the blood of over 600,000 Americans on his hands at a time when other countries were abolishing slavery peacefully. He is a fraud.”

    damn. way to ignore about 25 years of stalemate and increasing violence that lead up to the civil war.

  • Deano

    What would have been so bad about secession?

    Nothing…provided you were white.

    OMG! I’m in agreement with Dave again…it’s definately a Monday.

  • Handy, it’s a case of “garbage in, garbage out” — his conclusions drawn from the book are only as good as the extremely shoddy scholarship in the book itself.

    DiLorenzo is an economist, not a Historian, and he is an ideologue to boot. He’s pushing a particular anti-government, anti-bank agenda in this book as he does in all of his work.

    This book has been ripped to shreds in peer review. Thomas Krannawitter who is a conservative and a constitutionalist, shreds it in an article from the Claremont Review of Books, calling DiLorenzo “a giddy, careless, half-educated boy” — which about sums him up.

    There was another review by another conservative, Ken Masugi in National Review which also rips DiLorenzo a new one, but I can’t find it at the moment.

    Both make good points about DiLorenzo’s generally ahistorical approach to his subject and tendency to project modern interpretations onto actions from 150 years ago, not to mention his general ignorance of historical fact.


  • And in other news, new research reveals that Mother Teresa was a secret crack addict who frequented lesbian brothels, Mahatma Gandhi ate babies, and Nancy Kerrigan framed Tonya Harding.

    Man, I could make a fortune writing this stuff!

  • Ruvy


    I’m forced to agree with both Dave and Handyguy. You are writing on emotion alone here, banging on the table. There is nothing wrong with that. Except that when you have your facts as wrong as you do, you do yourself more damage than anything else. Lincoln is dead, he has his monument, he has his five-dollar bill, and he is on every damned penny minted since 1909 – and he is on Mt. Rushmore. All you have is a few hundred words of condemnation.

  • Kenn’s earlier articles had a veneer of reasonability [although they were often quite shaky on facts and on reasoning]. This one, however, is pure extremist bilge, a deliberate distortion of facts for propagandistic ends.

  • Kenn, you’re taking this revisionist stuff way too seriously. Lincoln reversed much of what he was forced to do by the war and wanted to run reconstruction in the most equitable and unoppressive kind of way. It was the aftermath of the war, after he was dead, which led to the beginnings of many of the evils you’re so concerned about.

    On your specific concerns, Ben Franklin pioneered public schools in the 1750s and they really caught on in the 1830s, well before Lincoln. The War of 1812 was an “unjust” war by any definition — not that the concept of a “just” war makes any sense at all. Andrew Jackson liked to tap-dance on the Constitution well before Lincoln. And corporatism was well along before the Civil War, when Vanderbilt had the Navy build him his own warship so he could bombard Nicaragua. The Federal Reserve was 50 years after Lincoln died, and we had a national bank 50 years before he became President.

    Face it, you’ve bought a pack of goods. Lincoln had his flaws, but trying to lay all of this stuff on him is just ludicrous.


  • Kenn Jacobine

    I think what is missing here is the realization that Lincoln was the president that sent us on our road to leviathan – which in my humble opinion is why we are in the mess we are in today – endless unjust wars, violation of civil liberties, endless unconstitutional actions by Washington, corporatism, huge debt! Come on people, Lincoln was a tyrant who’s divinity has been spoon fed to us by the same bastards that are currently ruining our country – government, public schools, Federal Reserve, in general the statists.

    National hero? He has the blood of over 600,000 Americans on his hands at a time when other countries were abolishing slavery peacefully. He is a fraud.

  • On a lighter note, yet not relevant, I saw Lincoln (honest Abe) on “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”. He was great on there! lol

  • zingzing

    the real lincoln locked himself up in the white house and spent his time masturbating and doing endless lines of cocaine.

    kenn, you’ve just read the albert goldman of political writing. someone wanted to sell a book, so he took a shit on someone and wrote it up.

  • Apparently Lincoln suppressed the conclusion of your comment, Kenn.

    I think calling him a dictator is going rather far. Most of his actions were backed fully by congress and he was certainly popular.

    While secession may be appealing, it’s not necessarily justifiable under the Constitution. And from your perspective, the civil war actually helped contribute to the overgrown government, because secession discredited states rights and small government and the confederate government was such a mess that it convinced a lot of people that a strong central government was better.


  • Kenn Jacobine

    What would have been so bad about secession? Instead we have this mammoth government in Washington today because of the seeds planted by Lincoln’s “good intentions”. He was a dictator anyway you slice it. If there were

  • Kenn,

    Just because some writer craps all over a national hero doesn’t make him right.

    The United States had an open question in 1860 – was a member state so sovereign that it had the right to secede?

    The inaction of President Buchanan (whom Obama seems to be modeling himself after in many ways), and the election of Lincoln were such nasty stimuli that the state of South Carolina decided to defy precedent and secede.

    Had the southern states been allowed to secede, the entire North American continent would have become a British protectorate. I will not go further in that analysis because nobody is paying me to write an alternate history.

  • To be fair, Dilorenzo’s view of Lincoln and the early Republican party is just as skewed in the other direction as the public school version is in a positive direction.

    Lincoln’s views on slavery in 1856 and his views on slavery by 1860 were not at all the same. They evolved and matured. And certainly the Republican party was loaded with genuine opponents of slavery as well as advocates of free labor and free trade.

    Yes, Lincoln used the sectional crisis to enact all sorts of draconian measures, but they were intended as temporary and he did rescind most of them eventually and those he didn’t were rescinded by Congress after his death.

    And it should also be pointed out that in the prior secession crisis in 1832 Democrat president Andrew Jackson fully intended to go to war to prevent states from seceding, so Lincoln was hardly alone in the belief that the union was paramount. It was a view held by many of the most admirable politicians of the time including Daniel Webster, Sam Houston and Stephen Douglas.

    DiLorenzo’s biggest sin is oversimplification and looking for every negative he can find on Lincoln while ignoring the many positives and Lincoln’s good intentions.

    It’s very fashionable to demonize Lincoln these days, but to do so requires a willingness to ignore the truly egregious behavior of his political opponents and to ignore many of the realities of history.