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560 of 673 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hackle-raiser for sure!
If there are any sacred cows in America, the one at the head of the herd has got to be Abraham Lincoln. Our culture gleefully villifies almost everyone. Psycho-biographies, in which the darkest interior rooms of the subject are exposed to light, are the rage these days. But somehow Lincoln for the most part has managed to escape all this. He's still the great American...
Published on March 26, 2002 by Kerry Walters

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148 of 193 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Attack, Weak Defense
I must confess I came to this book with a profound bias against its central argument -- that Lincoln, far from being the "Great Emancipator" of the schoolbooks, was a duplicitous politician who intentionally sought Civil War as a means of promoting big government by unconstitutional means. By the time I put the book down I was largely persuaded of this view -- though not...
Published on May 5, 2003 by Thomas Lakeman


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560 of 673 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hackle-raiser for sure!, March 26, 2002
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
If there are any sacred cows in America, the one at the head of the herd has got to be Abraham Lincoln. Our culture gleefully villifies almost everyone. Psycho-biographies, in which the darkest interior rooms of the subject are exposed to light, are the rage these days. But somehow Lincoln for the most part has managed to escape all this. He's still the great American hero, venerated by layperson and scholar alike, sometimes to the point of embarrassing hagiography. (I once knew a history professor, for example, who insisted that students refer to Lincoln, both in class discussions and in term papers, as "MR. Lincoln." His class could just as well have been offered by the theology department.)
Thomas DiLorenzo refuses to genuflect before Lincoln's altar. In *The Real Lincoln*, a book that's guaranteed to infuriate a wide audience, ranging from Civil War buffs to Lincoln scholars to African-Americans to political liberals to history traditionalists, DiLorenzo claims that Lincoln's real historical legacy is the strong centralized state that characterizes the American political system today. From first to last, claims DiLorenzo, Lincoln's political vision was the creation of a Whiggish empire of protectionist tariffs, government subsidized railroads, and nationalization of the money supply. In the first year and a half of his administration, he pushed through much of this agenda. The average tariff rate tripled, railroads began raking in government money (a "war necessity"), and the National Currency Acts monopolized the money supply.
So far none of this is terribly alarming. Even admirers of Lincoln will admit much of what DiLorenzo says about Lincoln's economic dream and Whig leanings. But where DiLorenzo begins to stir up a storm is when he claims (1) that Lincoln basically allowed an unnecessary and horribly bloody war to occur in order to further his political vision of a strong state; (2) Lincoln was a "constitutional dictator"; and (3) Lincoln was never terribly concerned with slavery as a moral injustice.
In reference to the first point, DiLorenzo points out that the right to secession was simply taken for granted by most Americans prior to Lincoln's administration because they saw the country as a voluntary association of states. Lincoln didn't "save" the Union so much as he destroyed it as a voluntary association. In reference to the second point, DiLorenzo provides example after example of Lincoln's disregard--supposedly in the interests of the state--for the Constitution: launching a military invasion without Congressional consent; suspension of habeas corpus; censorship of newspapers; meddling with elections; confiscating private property; and so on. Finally, in reference to the last point--which is probably the book's most inflammatory one--DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln rarely mentioned the issue of slavery in political speeches until it became politically expedient to begin doing so. His opposition to slavery was always based on what he feared was its economic dangers, not on moral principle. As his contemporaries accurately noted, Lincoln the "Great Emancipator" was never an abolitionist. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, he was willing to tolerate slaveholding in nonsecessionist states. His ultimate solution--one that infuriated abolitionists such as Horace Greeley--was to colonize American blacks "back" to Africa or the Caribbean.
Much of DiLorenzo's claims about Lincoln's activities will be familiar. What's new about the book is the overall unfavorable portrait of Lincoln that emerges as DiLorenzo discusses them. It may be the case that DiLorenzo has swung too far in the opposite direction from conventional Lincoln hagiography. But it may also be the case that his book will encourage more moderate and accurate portrayals of Lincoln in the future. One can admire Lincoln without worshipping him.
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427 of 534 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When a book is controversial - check its critics, October 16, 2006
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DiLorenzo's book challenged virtually everything I thought I knew about Lincoln, so I did the logical thing - I looked into what points his critics cited in panning his book. I was surprised by what I found. Most critics challenged his "right" to be a historian, slamming him for citing the wrong edition of a book (right page, wrong edition), or citing to the wrong page of a book. Other criticisms were conclusory and not fact-based. When the smoke had cleared, it seemed that the major criticisms were nits picked by those adored Lincoln. None confronted DiLorenzo's facts. (This is a far cry from, for example, the Michael A. Bellesiles book, "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture", whose critics shredded the book on a factual basis.)

So I read the book.

And was blown away.

Here is the explanation for how America went from the land of the free to the land of the government-dominated. Here is a thorough explanation how the Federal Government went from a minimalist government with scant intrusion into the lives of its people, to the modern day Leviathan which consumes 1/3 of every dollar we earn and gives us endless regulation and grief. Here is the seed of the welfare state, the precursor to Roosevelt's "New Deal" and Johnson's "Great Society" - and the beginning of the end of the Constitution.

Lincoln locked up thousands of those who disagreed with him. He cared not at all about slavery as a moral issue. He created the sort of Federal spending on programs that were previously successful private ventures, and which, as government programs, have put us trillions of dollars in debt. He destroyed the sovereignty of the states and laid the groundwork for George Bush to imprison people without charges, without access to counsel, without the right to confront accusers and ultimately without right to trial.

Dilorenzo's book helped me to see Lincoln in a new light. Lincoln: Responsible for more American deaths than any other president (nearly as many were killed in Lincoln's conquest of the Southern states than in all other wars combined). Lincoln: A war criminal who sent armies to attack the civilians of the South (not just Sherman, but all his generals). Lincoln: Consolidating government power over the people though the use of gun and bayonet.

Lincoln: America's Joe Stalin.

Read this book.
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387 of 496 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blowing away the fog of myth and lies, March 29, 2002
William Manchester used the phrase 'American Caesar' to describe General Douglas MacArthur, but it applies much more fittingly to Abraham Lincoln, America's first (and God willing only) full-fledged military dictator. The gravedigger of the U.S. Constitution, Lincoln buried the founders' Union as completely as Lenin buried the Romanovs. And like Lenin, Lincoln built an empire on bayonets, brutality, and centralized power. As historian Richard Bensel (quoted by Thomas DiLorenzo in the introduction to this book) wrote, any student of the American state should begin his reading with 1865. Whatever happened before then no longer has any relevance.
DiLorenzo's little book began rocking conservative and libertarian circles even before its publication, proving what someone once said, that the way to tell the difference between the two schools of thought is to ask them what they think about Lincoln. To the outrage of the fans of centralized government, DiLorenzo is not only an excellent writer but a skilled researcher too. Votaries of Saint Abraham's iconic image have an awful lot of 'splainin' to do. In fact, as DiLorenzo notes, much of the writing on Lincoln over the decades has been exactly this: historians rationalizing Lincoln's decidedly un-godlike words and deeds. Whether a reader is willing to see through this fog depends on how open she is to challenging established 'truths.'
Lincoln's defenders often employ the slander that criticizing the Great Emancipator is the moral equivalent of defending slavery.
But history shows that slavery ended around the world during that era, and no place required the bloody war Lincoln waged. DiLorenzo proves that throughout his life, up to and including the War, Lincoln's driving force was his devotion to Henry Clay's 'American System' of internal improvement, nationalized banking, and a powerful central government. As DiLorenzo shows, a confederacy of states exercising their (previously unquestioned) right to secession would have been an intolerable obstacle to Lincoln's driving ambition.
DiLorenzo also catalogues Lincoln's wartime offenses against the Constitution, the people (North and South alike), the Southern states, and the very 'Union' he was allegedly trying to save. If for no other reason than Lincoln's deliberate strategy of waging war against civilians -- DiLorenzo shows that the policy came straight from Lincoln's own hand -- it's hard to deny historian Lee Kennett's conclusion (quoted on page 197-198) that a victorious Confederacy would have been entirely justified in executing Abraham Lincoln for crimes against humanity.
Most damning to the modern myth of Lincoln as a man tormented by America's original sin of slavery, DiLorenzo shows that the Great Emancipator never in his life accepted the fundamental equality of all persons. Until his death, he denied that free African-Americans could be assimilated into the US population. His solution was to 'return' all blacks, even native-born ones, to their 'homeland' of west Africa, or exile them to the Caribbean or Central America.
Like the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Abraham Lincoln's towering reputation stands on feet of clay, propped up by generations of myth-making, political opportunism, and -- yes -- lies. But nothing so fundamentally flawed can long endure. Toppling the Lincoln of myth is essential not only for recovering the promise of America's founding, but also for healing the social fractures spreading since his death. Thomas DiLorenzo has not only written an excellent book, but has performed a valuable and necessary service.
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65 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ouch...looks like Abe wasn't so honest after all, May 29, 2004
By 
Wheelchair Assassin (The Great Concavity) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Paperback)
In my 25 years I've read exactly one book in a single day, and that book was "The Real Lincoln." In a clear and concise writing style, Tom DiLorenzo has rendered a devastating revisionist critique of this country's "greatest" president. Those who have been subjected to endless Lincoln worship from grade school on will surely be surprised by this in-depth look at ol' Honest Abe and the agenda he hid behind all his lofty rhetoric. As DiLorenzo stresses numerous times, Lincoln was a great politician and lawyer, but left much to be desired as a statesman.
In the book's early chapters, DiLorenzo sets about debunking the image of Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator." In reality, as proved by numerous quotes, Lincoln was a committed white supremacist who supported Illinois's ultra-harsh Black Codes designed to protect the state's white work force from black competition. He repeatedly stated that he had no intentions of disturbing the institution of slavery where it existed, and actually favored either the continued oppression or deportation of the country's black population. The Emancipation Proclamation, far from being some sort of principled stand against slavery, was a military measure stemming from the North's desperate military situation at the time. As Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, noted sardonically, "We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set the free."
Although DiLorenzo succeeds in thoroughly destroying the "Great Emancipator" myth, he does substitute a new and more accurate label for Lincoln: The Great Centralizer. DiLorenzo presents the reader with a Lincoln whose real agenda was the devastation of states' rights and constitutional government in order to pave the way for the Whig/Republican agenda he had favored his entire political life: high protective tariffs to benefit Northern business, government subsidies for internal improvements, and a nationalized banking system. As DiLorenzo convincingly demonstrates, Lincoln's real aim was to eliminate the right of the states to secede, which had been taken for granted up to that point in American history. With the defeat of the South, the last check on Washington's authority was removed, and the path was cleared for increasingly greater intrusions of federal power.
And as if that's not bad enough, DiLorenzo discusses some of the shadier aspects of the conduct of the war itself. Lincoln, he writes, has done more to turn the U.S. Constitution into a dead document than anyone else. Arbitrary arrest, the suspension of habeas corpus, massive restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, and even the deportation of the Peace Democrat Clement Vallandigham were all part of the Lincoln's systematic campaign to silence any dissent the war generated in the North. In imposing such restrictions on basic freedoms, Lincoln helped to establish a precedent for every totalitarian regime that followed. Perhaps even worse, the Civil War helped inaugurate the concept of total war, evidenced by the by the shameful treatment of Southern civilians by Northern soldiers (many of whom were foreign criminals sent here when the prisons in their native countries were emptied). Sherman's and Sheridan's armies left a trail of destruction and destitution in their wakes, and since Lincoln was known to micromanage the war effort, DiLorenzo claims it's all but impossible that these activities occurred without his consent.
Now, in all fairness, it should be pointed out that DiLorenzo is a free-market economist, not a historian, and this book is more a polemic than a true biography. At the same time, though, DiLorenzo's background in economics enables him to launch into a discussion of just what Lincoln's centralization scheme has given us: high taxes, protectionist tariffs that benefit preferred businesses at the expense of consumers, an activist Supreme Court, and staggering levels of government waste. This book is more proof that a little historical revision can be a good thing every now and then. With "The Real Lincoln," DiLorenzo hasn't just laid waste to an icon, he's made a convincing case for liberty (and not the fake kind George Bush talks about endlessly either).
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Shadow of Two Presidents: A Southerner's View of "The Real Lincoln", March 4, 2010
By 
Doc Arnett (Missouri Frontier, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Paperback)
I grew up literally in view of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Monument in western Kentucky and less than a hundred miles from Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, also in western Kentucky. Even as a young child, I had a keen awareness of sharing a native state with the presidents of both sides in the Civil War. Yet, I always had greater interest, greater admiration and greater appreciation for Abraham Lincoln. Other than Jesus Christ himself, there was no historical figure I admired more. That continued throughout my growing up, my teaching career and earning my PhD at Ohio State University.

One book has changed that.

I still regard Lincoln as a man of great courage and determination. But Prof. DiLorenzo's abundant use of historical documents, rhetorical analysis and clear presentation of rational persuasion provides something way beyond southern resentment in this review of the actual actions in a historical context often ignored. He provides copious documentation of the racism of the northern states, the extensive support of the right of secession, also in the north, and probes the rejected alternatives open to Lincoln and the Union forces, both in regard to the issue of emancipation and of the way in which the war was conducted in violation of long accepted principles of "civilized warfare," an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Having seen first hand how assassination completely altered the perception and analysis of John F. Kennedy, I should have been suspicious that some of that same phenomenon had colored historical treatment of Mr. Lincoln. Conspicously absent from the history books of my public schooling, even throughout college, are any mentions of the sixteenth president's suspension of civil liberty, imprisonments without habeus corpus, suppression of dissenting views and measured contradiction of nearly a century of constitutional interpretation. DiLorenzo points out that slavery was ended peacefully in nearly every other nation on the face of the planet and that the war was not about slavery, anyway. This, I already knew. I already knew about the increasing economic disadvantage various tariffs had worked against the South and to the advantage of the North. I knew that Lincoln by his own very clear statements subjected emancipation to the greater goal of federal supremacy, "If freeing the slaves would preserve the Union, I would free every one of them. If keeping them slaves would preserve the Union, I would not free a one of them." In fact, one of his own powerful allies stated, regarding the Emancipation Proclamation, "We have declared the slaves free in the areas where we have no capacity to make them free and have kept them slaves in every place where we have the power to make them free." I did not know about several of the other key points, and strangely, knowing that Lincoln maintained very close management of the war effort, I had never connected his obvious approval for Sherman's approach to war nor how Lincoln must have also condoned the same barbaric management of the extermination of the Plains Indians.

I highly recommend this book for anyone having the courage to look beneath the burial shroud of perhaps the most revered individual in the history of our nation. If we believe that "the truth shall make you free," perhaps it is time that our nation began to emancipate itself from one of the strongest and most persistent delusions of interpreting its own past.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes reality hurts, April 15, 2010
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This review is from: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Paperback)
Growing up, Lincoln was my favorite president. This book isn't the first information I've come across in the last few years that have changed my attitude toward Mr. Lincoln. He was a remarkable man, no doubt, but thanks to him we have a federal government that can overpower states and individuals for the sake of "The Union". This is not what our Founding Fathers intended. The Civil War really started over state's rights. Today we see the same argument rearing its head over the health care bill with several states challenging the legality of the federal government again dictating policy to states who would rather decide for themselves. A good read.
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148 of 193 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Attack, Weak Defense, May 5, 2003
By 
Thomas Lakeman (Fairhope, Alabama United States) - See all my reviews
I must confess I came to this book with a profound bias against its central argument -- that Lincoln, far from being the "Great Emancipator" of the schoolbooks, was a duplicitous politician who intentionally sought Civil War as a means of promoting big government by unconstitutional means. By the time I put the book down I was largely persuaded of this view -- though not without serious reservations. DiLorenzo makes a compelling attack on Lincoln's suspension of Habeus Corpus, silencing of opposition, rigged elections, and aggressive warfare -- actions that sound all too reminiscent of our current leadership's expansionist, pro-business, anti-human rights agenda. However, the author goes too far in defending the southern Confederacy as an embodiment of the Jeffersonian ideal of decentralized government. I am a fourth-generation southerner, and I honor my ancestors who fought for the South -- but DiLorenzo is wrong. The Confederacy was, by the open admission of its own leaders, created in defense of slavery, plantation oligarchy, and white supremacy -- hardly a model for a democratic society. They deserve at least an equal share of the blame in instigating and prolonging the war. The southern states favored government intervention so long as it put them in a commanding position (Fugitive Slave Act, Three-fifths compromise, Kansas-Nebraska Act). The moment they began to lose this dominant position, they seceded. Further, while entire chapters are justly devoted to Northern atrocities such as Sherman's march, barely a line is given to southern outrages (Andersonville, Ft. Pillow, the Quantrill reign of terror in Missouri). This lack of balance amounts to neo-Confederate whitewash. If DiLorenzo has succeeded in breaking down Lincoln's stone edifice, he has done little in my opinion to erect anything substantial in its place.
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52 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baffled by the criticism of this book, April 5, 2008
This review is from: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Paperback)
I read this book after seeing a few libertarian critiques of Lincoln, thinking they made sense, and hearing this was a good summary of the libertarian arguments against Lincoln. I found the book very compelling, and would ask critics of the book and Lincoln to stop focusing on the trees and look at the forest of Lincoln:

-Why did habeas corpus have to be suspended?
-If slavery was the reason for going to war, why was the Emancipation Proclamation not issued until the war was over a year old, and why did it explicitly keep slaves in border states enslaved?
-Why did Lincoln imprison thousands of Americans and shut down tens if not hundreds of newspapers?

Even if you think the author selectively picks and chooses quotes of various people to make his points, it's hard to read this book, think about what actually happened from 1861-1865, and not have a much different opinion of Lincoln than what most of the United States currently does.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, May 12, 2012
By 
groundhog (salt lake city,ut) - See all my reviews
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I found this book interesting and educating about the Real Lincoln.
The book did drag at times due to the authors repetition. Many chapters repeated similar or same facts and even entire sentences.Otherwise the pace is fine and even entertaining in parts,but the book could have been 20-35 pages shorter without hurting the content
Content was 5 stars and has led me to other books/sites to verify things the author claims.
Even if only half of what Mr.Dilorenzo states is true then the real crime is how our educational system is brainwashing us and how our own ignorance towards our founders and the intent of our republic is leading us down a tyrannical slope.
Little known facts shed new light and facts hidden from consumption lead our deifying and calling him the greatest or top 3 presidents ever,however viewed from this book he would certainly not be on the $5.00 bill let alone Mount Rushmore.
If not for the repetitive drag of some chapters this is a 5 star book.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should be much better than this, June 14, 2012
This review is from: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (Paperback)
As the most popular review of this book notes, there are few sacred cows in American history that are as sacred as Lincoln, "The Great Emancipator". In this book, Dr. Thomas J DiLorenzo sets about to fully examine President Lincoln and presents an argument which one will usually not find in a US history course. Rather than see Lincoln as the great statesman who saved the Union, DiLorenzo argues he was, in fact, a tyrant who had little regard for the constitution and instead was intent on remaking America into the nation Alexander Hamilton wanted to create in the 1780's and 90's.

The Good: I like the way DiLorenzo sets up the book. He has chapters on "Lincoln's Opposition to Racial Equality","Was Lincoln a Dictator","Reconstructing America: Lincoln's Political Legacy" and others. Several of these chapters could easily be turned into a separate volume. For example, one could easily write an entire book on Lincoln's disregard for the constitution and his suspension of habeas corpus is simply one example. In general, this book has some good ideas about hot to look at Lincoln from a different angle and it certainly does present plenty of ideas to discuss the 16th President.

The Bad: Personally, I think DiLorenzo's tone shows his bias. While I realize we are all biased, I think his tone does his argument damage. Rather than coming across calm and collected, simply going where the evidence leads him, I feel DiLorenzo has set out to prove something he already believed. While this is fine when your name is Howard Zinn and you have the entire liberal academic establishment to defend you, it really is not fine when you are fighting against that system. Personally I think his argument would be stronger if he sounded more neutral.

The Ugly: The endnotes, or a lack thereof. Honestly, as an academic, Dr. DiLorenzo could have done a better job on this. There are numerous places just in the first few pages, where I would have cited my sources if I were writing this book. While the layman may not care, it shows sloppiness in the research and opens up DiLorenzo to criticism from the establishment as being a shoddy researcher. Considering the fact he was going to attack the be all and end all of sacred cows, one would think DiLorenzo would be more careful than this.

All in all the book is an easy read and does present some interesting points. However, because of the above noted flaws I can only, in good conscience, give it 3 stars.
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