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Daily Bell: You write about Lincoln from an economic perspective. Shouldn't more history be written this way? It seems a natural marriage.
Thomas DiLorenzo: Most historians generally know nothing at all about economics, but that doesn't stop them from writing book after book on economic topics, including the economics of the Civil War. There are a lot of books out there in university libraries that contain the facts about Lincoln, but these facts rarely make it into the textbooks that American children use. Education is dominated by the state, after all, and the state only criticizes past politicians who were not sufficiently statist (like Warren Harding, for instance). Being an economist and a libertarian gives one a very different lens with which to look at this information. Historians simply don't understand the importance of how the American political economy was transformed by the Lincoln regime, and most of them are rather buffoonish, excuse-making court historians when it comes to Lincoln who is, after all, the face and image of the American empire.
Daily Bell: Was it difficult to write a revisionist history about Lincoln?
Thomas DiLorenzo: As a libertarian, I saw it as my duty to spread the truth about what a horrific tyrant Lincoln was, with his illegal suspension of Habeas Corpus and the imprisonment of tens of thousands of political dissenters in the North; his shutting down of over 300 opposition newspapers; his deportation of the leader of the congressional opposition, Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio; and his purposeful waging of total war on civilians. He destroyed the voluntary union of the founding fathers and destroyed the system of federalism that was the hallmark of the original constitution by using military force to "prove" that nullification and secession were illegal. Might makes right. Unlike England, Spain, France, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and other countries that ended slavery peacefully in the nineteenth century, Lincoln used the slaves as political pawns in a war that both he and the U.S. Congress declared to the world in 1861 was being waged for one reason only: to "save the union." But as I said, he really destroyed the voluntary union of the founders.
Daily Bell: Was the Civil War popular in the North? What did people think of Lincoln in his day?
Thomas DiLorenzo: Lincoln was immensely unpopular during his time. How could he not have been, with having imprisoned tens of thousands of people in the North without any due process, shutting down hundreds of newspapers, handing thousands of Northern men death sentences in the form of military conscription, and generally ruling as a tyrant. Even with the South out of the union he only won the 1864 election with 55% of the vote, and that was after federal troops were used to rig the elections by intimidating Democratic voters at the polling places.
The Civil War was immensely unpopular in the North. That's why Lincoln had to imprison so many dissenters and shut down most of the opposition press. It's also why he resorted to the slavery of military conscription. There were draft riots in New York City and elsewhere. In the July, 1863 New York City draft riots Lincoln sent 15,000 troops who fired into the crowds, killing hundreds in the streets. Entire regiments of Union Army soldiers deserted on the eve of battle again and again, and tens of thousands – probably more – deserted.
Slavery could have been ended peacefully as all other nations did – and as the Northern states did – in the nineteenth century. There were still slaves in New York City as late as 1853. The real purpose of the war was to end once and for all the ability of American citizens to control the federal government by possessing the powers given to them by the Tenth Amendment, including the power of nullifying unconstitutional federal laws, and secession or the threat of secession. Thomas Jefferson believed that the Tenth Amendment was the cornerstone of the Constitution. Lincoln, who was the political son of Jefferson's nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, removed that cornerstone by orchestrating the murder of some 350,000 fellow American citizens, including more than 50,000 civilians according to historian James McPherson.
Jefferson's dream of an "empire of liberty" was ended once and for all, and America was on the road to becoming just another corrupt, mercantilist empire like the British and Spanish empires.
Daily Bell: We notice that municipal corruption began right after the Civil War. Were eruptions such as Tammany Hall mere coincidences or a symptom of something deeper?