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Thomas DiLorenzo: It was no mere coincidence that the post-war Grant administration became notorious for political corruption associated with the government subsidization of the transcontinental railroads. American politicians had debated the constitutionality of granting taxpayer-financed subsidies to corporations ever since 1789. The biggest opposition to the subsidies came from the South: presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and Tyler all opposed them, or insisted that the Constitution be amended first to permit them. Northern politicians were always the biggest supporters of corporate welfare.
Daily Bell: Did the Civil War mark the end of the US as a republic and the beginning of the US as an empire?
Thomas DiLorenzo: In The Real Lincoln I quote the historian Leonard P. Curry as saying that after the war there were no longer any "constitutional scruples" about squandering taxpayers' money on corporate boondoggles. The railroads were only the beginning of what is on display today with multi-trillion dollar bailouts of Wall Street, General Motors and Chrysler, and even now the Greek banks (which Wall Street must be heavily invested in).
Daily Bell: Did British and European bankers secretly back the North during the Civil War even though the perception was that Britain was sympathetic to the South?
Thomas DiLorenzo: There was no secret conspiracy of British bankers to support the Lincoln regime. The Lincoln administration financed the war with tax revenue, the printing of "Greenbacks" (which created massive inflation), and borrowing, including borrowing from European bankers. It was all out in the open. This is how governments always finance wars.
Daily Bell: Why didn't the South just stand down? There's a theory that if the South had simply declared its independence and walked away that there would not have been much the North could do. Why did the South willingly embark on a shooing war?
Thomas DiLorenzo: The South did not "embark on a shooting war'" Lincoln did. The states were sovereign, and therefore had a right to secede, as they do today. Article 7 of the Constitution proves this by stating that the Constitution is to be ratified by political conventions of the states. No human being was harmed, let alone killed during the bombing of Fort Sumter. South Carolinians considered the fort to be their property, paid for with their tax dollars, and erected for their protection. Lincoln responded to Fort Sumter with a full-scale invasion of all the Southern states that ended up killing some 350,000 Southerners. For this he is hailed as "a great statesman" by our court historians.
Daily Bell: Still, there are those who believe it was a mistake for the South to have initiated hostilities at all.
Thomas DiLorenzo: Lincoln had sent warships to Charleston Harbor, and successfully duped the South Carolinians into foolishly firing on the fort. Afterwards, Lincoln wrote a letter of thanks and congratulation to his naval commander Gustavus Fox for assisting him in getting the war started in this way. It was the biggest political miscalculation in American history: Lincoln (and many other Northerners) believed the war would be relatively bloodless and last only a few weeks or months.
Daily Bell: It was a terrible tragedy and still evokes strong emotions today. Have you brought anyone in mainstream academia over to your side?
Thomas DiLorenzo: There are many American academics who have thanked me for writing my books on Lincoln, and they are using them in their classrooms. But the "Lincoln Cult," as I call it, is a lost cause. These are people whose human capital is entirely wrapped up in the spinning of fairy tales and myths about Lincoln; revealing the truth about the real Lincoln destroys their life's work, so I am not the least bit concerned about persuading any of them. My books are written for the general public, students, and open-minded academics who don't have a financial stake in maintaining the false Lincoln myths.
Daily Bell: Has American academia become at least a little more evenhanded as a result of your exposes?
Thomas DiLorenzo: The Lincoln myth has deified not only Lincoln but the American presidency in general. The poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren once wrote that the war gave the North a "treasury of virtue" because of all the myths that were fabricated after the war. In war, the victors always write the history. This false virtue has been used ever since to portray American foreign policy as benevolent, selfless, and saintly. Thus, there are many people with careers, income and wealth dependent upon the propping up of the American foreign policy establishment with the myth of "American exceptionalism." Anything "we" do is right and just, simply because it is "we" who are doing it.
Daily Bell: Why was Lincoln assassinated? Did he break with the monetary backers of the Civil War in your opinion?
Thomas DiLorenzo: As for why Lincoln was assassinated, I suspect it was simply an act of revenge for having micromanaged the murder of hundreds of thousands of fellow American citizens from the Southern states; burning many of their cities and towns to the ground; and plundering tens of millions of dollars of private property. Southerners also knew that Lincoln had attempted to have their president, Jefferson Davis, assassinated by Union Army soldiers. (Look up "The Dahlgren Raid" on the Web).
Daily Bell: Is the US really several nations? Do states have the right to secede today?
Thomas DiLorenzo: I think secession is not only possible but necessary if any part of America is every to be considered "the land of the free" in any meaningful sense. As Thomas Jefferson said late in life, if the country becomes several different republics, "they will all be our children." He meant that they would all still be Americans, and he wished them all well. His view of secession was the exact opposite of Lincoln's tyrannical "pay up or die" declaration from his first inaugural address.
Daily Bell: Has the Internet helped publicize your work? Would your work have received as much attention without the Internet?
Thomas DiLorenzo: One only has to look at the Web site of the Mises Institute (http://www.mises.org/) to see that there is a great deal of research and publication going on by scholars who are educated in Austrian economics and who consider themselves to be defenders of a free society. My friend Thomas E. Woods has published two New York Times bestsellers (The Politically-Incorrect Guide to American History, and Meltdown), and a survey of mises.org will introduce readers to such authors as Robert Higgs, Robert Murphy, and free-market/libertarian "revisionist" historians. What is being "revised" are the lies and misconceptions that plague the obsessively politically-correct history profession. Much of the writing of authors like these is on the Web, which has revolutionized the world of scholarship whereby the politically-correct "gatekeepers" of the Official Truth are routinely ignored and openly ridiculed.
Daily Bell: What other books and resources would you recommend to our readers?
Thomas DiLorenzo: My latest book project is tentatively entitled "False Virtue: The Myths that Transformed America From A Republic to an Empire." It will be about what the federal government did with all that "virtue" after the Civil War, such as its war of extermination against the Plains Indians, subsidies to the transcontinental railroads, so-called "reconstruction," the Spanish-American War, etc.
Daily Bell: Thank you for speaking with us. It has been most informative