- Hardcover: 652 pages
- Publisher: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (February 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0874850851
- ISBN-13: 978-0874850857
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream Hardcover – February 1, 2000
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This book must be taken seriously. Bennett gets some things right.... But Bennett gets more wrong than he gets right. -- The New York Times Book Review, James M. McPherson
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The book's one flaw, but a major one, is that Bennett cannot resist beating a dead horse yet again--it provides him too much personal satisfaction. Thus, instead of looking forward to the next new chapter, one starts to cringe at having to suffer through the same narrative once again with a few more new details and so many of those already given. An editor with courage should have forced the author to tell the magnificent true tale that he has to tell in 350 pages instead of the 650+ he was provided to ramble and indulge himself. Even one of the great authors who wrote a promotional blurb for the cover said that after reading 5 chapters, he could highly recommend the book. One suspects that he stopped reading it there because, alas, after 5 chapters one starts to hear the looping.
Although there were few Blacks in state of Illinois...747 slaves and 1,637 free Blacks in 1830, Illinois Whites seemed to be obsessed by the subject of race. They adopted a comprehensive Black Code in 1819; and the Illinois legislature returned to the subject in 1825, 1831, 1833, 1841, and 1845.
These Black Codes or Laws would not be repealed until 1865. Blacks had no legal rights; it was a crime for them to settle in Illinois unless they could prove their freedom and post a $1,000 bond. Blacks found without a certificate of freedom was considered a runaway slave and could be apprehended by any White and auctioned off by the sheriff to pay the cost of his confinement. If a Black had a certificate, he and his family were required to meet reporting and registration procedures. The head of household had to register all family members and provide detailed descriptions to the supervisor of the poor, who could expel the whole family at any moment.
By the 1850s, especially after passage of the Compromise of 1850, which Lincoln voted for, kidnapping of Negroes with the aid and support of the state and White population, had become a profitable business.
Most trades and occupations were closed to Blacks. Real Estate was difficult to obtain. A law on the apprenticeship of children said "that the master or mistress to whom such child shall be bound as aforesaid shall cause such child to be taught to read and write and the ground rules of arithmetic...except when such apprentice is a negro or mulatto."
The state also taxed Blacks to support public schools that were closed by law, and by the vote of Lincoln, to Black children.
They could not play percussion instruments, could be apprehended for "riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, trespasses and seditious speeches." It was a crime for any person to permit "any slave or slaves, servant or servants of color, to the number of three or more, to assemble in his, her or their house, out house, yard or shed for the purpose of dancing or revelling, either by night or by day..."
A revised Illinois constitution in 1848, denied Blacks the right to vote and to serve in the state militia. The Negro Exclusion Law forbid slaves and free Negroes from settling in the state.
And where was Lincoln in all this? Silent. Lincoln was no emancipationist; he was scared to death of emancipation. He was scared of Black economic competition, Black and White voters and officeholders, and Black and White sex....I'm quoting Abraham Lincoln, and if you don't believe me, read pages 405, 407-409, and 541 of Volume 2; and pages 146, 234-5 of "The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln."
The Emancipation Proclamation, if you have never read the document, along with the other proposed Congressional acts, including the Confiscation Act, you will find that it did not do what everyone thinks it did. They were not freed until the 13th Amendment. Lerone Bennett, Jr.'s book, "Forced into Glory" outlines precisely what it was and was not.
Lincoln didn't free the slaves. If it had been left up to him, Blacks would have remained in slavery to 1900 or longer. If he had had his way, millions of 20th Century Whites would have been in "Gone With the Wind," instead of watching it.
It was a limited document with devious aims. The men around Lincoln who knew him best, tell us, almost without exception, that the document was the incidental, accidental effort of a man who did everything he possibly could to avoid it.
As Professors Richard Current and Ralph Korngold have discovered, the Proclamation had as it's purpose and effect the checking of the Radical congressional program; that is to say, the program of immediate emancipation. Lincoln wanted to gain time to work on his own plan to free Blacks gradually, and to ship them out of the country in a colonization program. Part of his program included the payment of funds to slaveholders in exchange for their slaves, who would be shipped off to colonies away from the United States. He even proposed a Constitutional Amendment that would provide for the funding!
Put another way, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln re-enslaved and/or condemned to extended slavery more Blacks than he ever freed.
Consider Lincoln's "slow-walking" emancipation in the District of Columbia. (In 1863, there was still a slave market within 1 block of the White House).
In the Spring of 1862, he sat on the bill for 2 nights. Why? Believe it or not, it is because he had promised an old Kentucky friend that he wouldn't sign the bill until the friend could leave town with two of his slaves. In a startling and revealing statement, Lincoln said he regretted that District of Columbia slaves had been freed at once, "that it should have been for gradual emancipation," and "that now families would at once be deprived of cooks, stable boys etc. and they of their protectors without any provision for them."
Bennett presents Lincoln 'warts and all' holding nothing back. He tells us in explicit and documented detail Lincoln's own proposed Amendments to the Constitution. Lincoln's official plan for a new, all-White America, unfolded in his State of the Union message, on Monday, December 1, 1862. It included 3 Constitutional Amendments, which he asked the Congress to pass "as permanent constitutional law" one month before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In brief these are they:
The first amendment, Lincoln's proposed 13th Amendment, called for the ending of slavery, not on January 1, 1863, but by January 1, 1900.
"Every State, wherein slavery now exists, which shall abolish the same therein, at any time, or times, before the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand and nine hundred, shall receive compensation from the United States..."
The Second Amendment, Lincoln's proposed 14th Amendment, discussed actual freedom and the compensation to loyal slaveowners.
"All slaves who shall have enjoyed actual freedom by the chances of war, at any time before the end of the rebellion, shall be forever free; but all owners of such who shall not have been disloyal, shall be compensated for them..."
The 3rd Amendment, Lincoln's proposed 15th Amendment, called for the ethnic cleansing of the United States of America.
"Congress may appropriate money, and otherwise provide, for colonizing free colored persons, with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States."
And what would happen if Congress refused to accept Lincoln's God-ordained way, "peaceful, generous, just," of buying slaves over a 37 year period and deporting them to a place "without the United States" in "congenial climes, and with people of their own blood and race?"
We shall lose, Lincoln said, "the last best, hope of earth." What did Lincoln mean by that phrase that everybody praises and nobody questions? The "last best hope of earth" was a Union of White people purified and brought together by the deportation of Blacks.
This book ought to be required reading by every University course on the Civil War. It is well-written and researched. My highest recommendation.
Other top Lincoln historians have warned about similar problems. Eric Foner called the book a "one-dimensional" portrayal. Allen Guelzo called it an "infamous screed." George Fredrickson said the book was extreme and driven by ideology.
I had to write a critique of Bennett's book as a key part of a master's thesis. I spent a good deal of time going back to the sources Bennett cites and reading those sources in the originals, and I found that McPherson, if anything, understated the case about Bennett's misrepresentation of sources. I could cite many examples of such distortions. Here is one:
Bennett makes it appear that at one point Lincoln supported forcible deportation of the African American population to Texas. Bennett tells his readers that according to L.E. Chittenden, who was Register of the Treasury during the Lincoln administration, the president came to Chittenden’s office and asked if Chittenden knew anyone with the competence to move the whole black population of the slave States into Texas. (Forced into Glory, pp. 512-513) What Bennett does NOT mention to his readers is that Chittenden’s own account states
1) that the Texas plan was not Lincoln’s, but Senator Pomeroy’s;
2) that the contractor who discussed it with Lincoln, though afterwards hopeful the president might take it up, believed it doubtful the president approved of the plan;
3) that Chittenden himself said the plan was soon abandoned; and
4) that Chittenden expressed doubt Lincoln was ever seriously interested in it!
(for the above four points in Chittenden's book, Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891), see pp. 338–340.
Another example of a grotesque distortion by Bennett: He repeatedly gives his readers the impression that Lincoln was planning the forced deportation of blacks out of the U.S. What Bennett does not tell his readers is
1) every plan and piece of legislation Lincoln supported made very clear that any colonization of blacks had to be VOLUNTARY;
2) this was verified not only by the clear language of all relevant legislation, but also, for example, by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles’ diary entry for September 26, 1862. That entry notes that Attorney General Edward Bates at a cabinet meeting (which took place a day after the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation) supported compulsory deportation of blacks, but “the President," Welles wrote, "objected unequivocally to compulsion. Their emigration must be voluntary and without expense to themselves”;
3) Bennett quotes Lincoln's rare use of the word "deportation" a great deal, but Bennett never informs his readers that in the few cases where Lincoln used the word, the immediate context of the use made it clear that only VOLUNTARY colonization was intended; and
4) A look at dictionaries from 1850, 1860, and 1870, shows that "deportation" in those decades had not yet developed the exclusively involuntary and compulsory associations it came to have in the twentieth century after two horrific and barbaric world wars. In the middle of the 1800s, "deportation" could refer to a voluntary departure. Bennett does not tell his readers that, and probably did not know it himself. In this context, one should also note something about Welles' reference to Lincoln's rejection of "compulsory deportation." If "deportation" at that time always meant something compulsory, then Welles' expression "compulsory deportation" would have been redundant. But Welles' expression was not redundant, because at that time "deportation" was not necessarily compulsory.
My point in noting the above examples of Bennett's grotesquely misleading distortions of the record -- and the book is really full of them -- is not to say that Lincoln was perfect or that Bennett's attacks on Lincoln have absolutely NO merit. That's why I gave this book three stars instead of one. Three stars is really too generous. In any case, while top historians have criticized Bennett's work as misleading, unbalanced, etc., they have also credited it with forcing historians to pay more attention to questions about Lincoln and race. That said, it remains the case that most of the claims in Bennett's book are disinformation dependent on quotations out of context and sometimes quotations altered from the originals. Even his strongest claims are, say, 10% correct and 90% exaggeration and propaganda, not history.
If you want a broad range of honest perspectives on Lincoln, I suggest the following three brilliant books by top-ranked, scholarly historians, though there are many other excellent books that could be suggested:
1) George Fredrickson: Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race (Of the three books, this one puts Lincoln's views and actions on race and emancipation in the least complimentary light.)
2) Eric Foner: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (This one might be considered a "centrist" scholarly perspective: Lincoln is seen as having been to some partial degree a racist to begin with but as having grown out of it to become a genuinely great emancipator.)
3) Richard Striner: Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery (Compared to the two books just named, this one puts Lincoln in a more unequivocally positive light and is not without brilliance in analyzing the apparently racist or supremacist statements of Lincoln as spoken not because he was racist but for admirable strategic political reasons. Specifically, Striner argues that Lincoln sometimes spoke in a way that could be interpreted as racist but that Lincoln did so only because he needed the support of racist whites if he was to have any chance of destroying slavery.)
As someone who has looked very closely at Bennett's frequent misrepresentation of his sources, I advise against taking Forced into Glory except with a grain, no, an ocean's worth of salt.