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Posts tagged Thomas DiLorenzo

From the enemies of my enemies

Shorter DiLorenzo: Don’t vote for Alan Keyes because he used to hang out with a bunch of fags.

DiLorenzo may be the single most embarrassing figure associated with radical libertarianism today. If he were a covert agent trying to rehabilitate disgusting politicians by deliberately making their critics look foolish, then he couldn’t act like any more of a perfect ass than he already does.

Lincoln scholarship scholarship

Let’s compare and contrast.

Here’s Tom DiLorenzo at LewRockwell.com Blog

George Mason University Ph.D. candidate (public policy program) Phil Magness has had this terrific article published in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. It shows that, until his dying day, Dishonest Abe was hard at work trying to organize the colonization (i.e., deportation) of all the freed slaves.

— Tom DiLorenzo, LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-04-08): The Latest Scholarship on Lincoln’s Colonization Fetish

Here’s George Mason University Ph.D. candidate (public policy program) Phil Magness, in this terrific article published in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association:

Constrained by the limitations of written evidence, inquiry into Butler’s account becomes necessarily speculative. Given the general’s probable exaggerations, one conceivable scenario involves the conversation turning to the subjects of racial conflict and colonization, with Lincoln indicating his willingness to receive Butler’s suggestions. Such a conversation would fall short of the specific project Butler describes or Lincoln’s choice of Butler to complete the task, though it indicates the possibility, and perhaps even likelihood, that Lincoln still entertained colonization ideas. Many unlikely parts of the conversation appear in Butler’s quotations of himself, rather than those attributed to Lincoln. The use of black troops to establish a colony, the canal component, and the policy itself are all expressed as ideas of Butler, which I will suggest to you, Mr. President. Lincoln’s only reaction, there is meat in that, General Butler, is far from espousal of the plan’s particulars, though it would indicate a more likely scenario in which Lincoln patiently received and considered Butler’s suggestions.

The present inquiry set out to provide a firmer basis for evaluating Butler’s colonization anecdote by resolving the issue of its reported timeline. Though established in date, the anecdote leaves many additional questions unanswered and provides room for further examination of an underexplored area of Lincoln’s presidency. As the full conversation between Butler and Lincoln was known only to its participants, one of them assassinated only three days later and the other writing of it twice several decades after the fact, a comprehensive and unbiased record of its events is unlikely ever to emerge. What is certain is that a private meeting in 1865 between Butler and Lincoln occurred. The details of this meeting, as conveyed by Butler, exhibit duly acknowledged signs of embellishment and the distorting effects of their distance from the event itself. Beginning with the meeting’s known date though, the two Butler accounts deserve greater attention than they have received. Sufficient evidence exists to merit additional consideration of Lincoln’s colonization views later in life, and tends to caution against the conclusiveness that many scholars have previously attached to the view that Lincoln fully abandoned this position. The Butler anecdote remains an imperfect example, yet some of its more plausible details may indicate that Lincoln retained an interest in colonization, even if limited, as late as 1865.

— Phil Magness, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 29.1 (Winter 2008): Benjamin Butler’s Colonization Testimony Reevaluated

Magness’s article shows nothing like what DiLorenzo claims it to show. Nor does it claim to show anything like what DiLorenzo claims it to show. What it shows (with a great deal of care and interesting detail) is that a common argument, based on problems with Butler’s timeline, for decisively rejecting a particular piece of evidence for the claim that Lincoln continued to advocate deportation and colonization of free blacks after 1863, is ill-founded, because, while Butler could not have met with Lincoln at the time he claimed in his memoirs (published decades after the fact), he did meet privately with Lincoln not long after, and a little-known second account that Butler gave of his meeting with Lincoln helps clarify which parts of the anecdote are more trustworthy and which parts are less trustworthy. Magness says that the evidence leaves open the possibility that Butler is telling the truth, although encrusted with misremembering and possibly deliberate exaggeration. Unfortunately, the facts being what they are, the anecdote leaves many questions about Lincoln’s final views unanswered, and many questions that it may be impossible ever to answer. But it remains possible that Lincoln was still interested in, though apparently not actively working on, small-scale colonization schemes near the end of his life. Scholars who reject the possibility, and Butler’s testimony, out of hand need to reconsider their views, and Butler’s two accounts of the meeting deserve closer attention.

DiLorenzo would have us believe an entirely different claim — that this article decisively demonstrates that not that a particular piece of evidence should not be rejected out of hand, but rather that a particular conclusion on Lincoln’s views must be accepted, and that it decisively demonstrates not merely that it’s possible that Lincoln idly believed in colonization and patiently received and considered plans for small-scale projects while doing nothing to further them, but that he was actively pursuing colonization schemes up to the end of his life. None of these claims are anywhere to be found in the article.

There are already plenty of certain reasons to condemn Abraham Lincoln as a shameless opportunist, a dictatorial warlord, and, yes, a white supremacist and segregationist. There is no need to jump on any and every opportunity to manufacture new reasons, or to distort scholars’ claims so as to depict the case as being much stronger than the facts warrant, not to mention much stronger than the scholar in question ever claimed it to be. This mad-dog polemical style and partisan misrepresentation of arguments serve nobody.

Further reading:

Lost Causes

image: Confederate soldiers in front of the second flag of the Confederacy

DiLorenzo and the LewRockwell.com Fact-Checking Team unwind after a hard day of defending free markets and individual rights against the warfare State.

Tom DiLorenzo has made a pretty steady gig for himself in lodging criticisms — mostly just ones — against the federal government’s conduct in the Civil War and against Abraham Lincoln in particular. But the tenor of his comments and his comments about similar crimes by leading lights of the Confederacy has led to some accusations that he seems to be motivated by a dishonestly-supported fetish for Dixie at least as much by concerns about the historical Lincoln. Lately he decided to prove these charges wrong, once and for all, with the following modest proposal:

re: Greatest Americans

Perhaps we should start a list of politically incorrect greatest Americans. I’ll begin by nominating Robert E. Lee, who brilliantly led the Army of Northern Virginia in its war of secession against the empire.

Virginia originally voted to stay in the union, after the lower south seceded, and re-voted (by popular vote as well as by its legislature) only after Lincoln began his invasion of the southern states. Lee turned down command of the Union Army, which was offered to him, to defend his home country against foreign invaders. He also personally liberated the slaves his wife had inherited, something Ulysses S. Grant did not get around to until he was forced to do so by the 13th Amendment in 1866.

(This should cause the politically-correct liberventinists to start cackling like a flock of hens).

Now, my opinions about Robert E. Lee may be different from Tom DiLorenzo’s. (If I were going to make a list of politically incorrect greatest Virginians, I would suggest Gabriel Prosser or Nat Turner long before the pro-slavery, anti-secession, statist warrior Lee.) But whatever our differences may be, what I want to remark on here is that DiLorenzo’s description of Lee contains a documented factual error. I know about it, and he knows about it; I know that he knows about it because I wrote him about it a week ago:

To: Thomas DiLorenzo
Subject: Like a flock of hens, indeed.
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005

In “re: Greatest Americans”, you recently claimed:

Perhaps we should start a list of politically incorrect greatest Americans. I’ll begin by nominating Robert E. Lee, who brilliantly led the Army of Northern Virginia in its war of secession against the empire. … He also personally liberated the slaves his wife had inherited, …

But this is not true. Lee’s wife did not inherit any slaves and Lee did not “liberate” them. Lee did gain temporary control over 63 slaves after the death of his father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis, but Custis freed the slaves in his will and Lee was legally obligated to process the manumission papers within five years of his death. (You can find a copy of the will at [1].) In fact, after hiring the slaves out to other plantations for the five years he finally released the slaves in the winter of 1862 and formally filed the manumission papers on December 29, 1862 [2], five years, two months, and nineteen days after his father-in-law’s death.

To suggest that Lee deserves any credit for the emancipation when the terms of the will legally mandated it, and when he held the slaves in bondage for his own profit as long as he was legally able to do so, is either misinformation or disinformation; in either case it should not have been printed and ought to be publicly corrected.

Charles Johnson

DiLorenzo didn’t mention this point in his later posts to the LRC Blog, exactly, but he did go on to prove his objectivity by explaining that Lee could not be blamed by anti-state, anti-war, pro-market libertarians for his role in the imperial war against Mexico because doing the right thing would have been personally costly and possibly dangerous, and to suggest Jefferson Davis as the candidate for the state of Mississippi.

Still, it is important that these facts see the light of day. I wrote yesterday in praise of direct action over lobbying, and since DiLorenzo’s public correction doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, I suppose that I will have to take matters into my own hands.

Lee did not free a single one of the slaves that he gained control of after his father-in-law’s death. Custis emancipated them in his will; Lee just enacted the terms of Custis’s will, as he was legally obligated to do as its sole executor. Lee also happened to keep control over those 63 slaves for as long as he could legally get away with it and sent them, for his own profit, to be forced to work on neighboring plantations and in eastern Virginia. To credit Lee with liberating enslaved people, when it was his father-in-law who freed them, and Lee who kept them in bondage as long as he felt that he could, is disingenuous, and the statement ought to be retracted.

Further reading:

The Hand of DiLorenzo?

Pictured: a detail from a History Book Club advertisement, with three portraits in the left margin: a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, a photograph of Adolf Hitler, and an illustration of Napoleon Bonaparte Here’s a detail from a piece of marketing flotsam that I found recently attached to the advertising section of some magazine or another: an insert hawking the History Book Club‘s three books / three bucks promotion. And look whose portraits are juxtaposed in the left margin…

Is a devotee of The Real Lincoln slaving away somewhere for the History Book Club, taking some compensation for his meagre salary by producing subversive ad copy for a national audience? Or do history buffs really just put out things like this with a complete lack of self-consciousness?

Whatever the case may be, I think it should serve as an excellent reminder: the subjects of so-called Great Man history are almost never great; they are usually just large. And when you try retelling history through the deeds of Great Men, you usually just end up telling the stories of huge assholes.

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