Imagine that one day everything that you were taught as a child comes out to be a mirage of the truth. What would you do? American children in public schools, including myself, are taught that honest Abe was a great man. He freed the slaves and united a nation, right? But what if it wasn’t so black and white? What if history overlooks a lot of the ills of Abraham Lincoln?
That is what Thomas J. DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College, tries (and does) answer in his book “Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know About Dishonest Abe.” DiLorenzo does an excellent job of taking Lincoln piece by piece and dismantling the myths of Lincoln with chapters titled “The Great Railroad Lobbyist, The Great Protectionist, & The Great Inflationist.” When most people think of Lincoln they don’t think of his monetary and trade policies. But they should.
For example, most people do not know that pre-Civil War, there was no clear central monetary system in the United States. Andrew Jackson had just finished dismantling it and Lincoln was an strong supporter of a central bank and a national currency. This, of course, would hardly interest a 3rd grader learning about honest Abe, but is it very important in thinking about the way the country as a whole raises funds. With an unlimited central bank with a national currency that was backed in nothing, government spending could go hog-wild and it did.
Another interesting tidbit about the book was the state of slavery at the start of the war and how much wheeling and dealing the so-called “Great Emancipator” did to not free slaves. DiLorenzo points out that early in the Civil War Lincoln made it clear that he did not want to ban slavery he just wanted to centralize the government and keep the states together. This is shown with evidence through his agreement to allow border states to keep slavery as long as they stayed in the Union. Along with the fact that Lincoln actually was more supportive of a deportation of former slaves then to keep them here.
The last major point to take away from this book is the destruction of states rights and federalism. When looking back one might think that it was a slow demise but DiLorenzo suggests that Lincoln murders it outright. This is an important point to debate because federalism and decentralized government is good for the nation and at some point demised. And the reader must ask themselves, is it okay for a state to leave the union peacefully? And what role does that play in keeping the federal government in check? Though this might be one of the hardest concepts for an average American reader to grasp because with the sense of patriotism that has been indoctrinated it would be hard for them to imagine the United States without 50 states.
The only negative that this book has is that it is so short and a quick read. I am sure that this was Dr. DiLorenzo’s intention to have an easy read to spread the ideas to the masses but it left the reader wanting more. It also does such an efficient job at telling the story and illustrating the point that an average American reader may reject it thinking that they found the answer too easily and will not take the time to do the research themselves.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to all who want the other side of the story and love history.