The Real Lincoln

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The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
The Real Lincoln cover art.jpg
Author Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Country United States
Subject Biography, Politics, American Civil War
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Prima Publishing
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages xiii, 333 p.
ISBN 9780761536413
OCLC 48817846
Followed by Lincoln Unmasked

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War is a biography of Abraham Lincoln written by Thomas DiLorenzo in 2002. Unlike most books on the subject, DiLorenzo's presents a severely critical view of Lincoln's presidency.

In discussing Lincoln's legacy, DiLorenzo cites the suspension of habeas corpus, violations of the First Amendment, war crimes committed by generals in the American Civil War, and the expansion of government power. DiLorenzo argues that Lincoln's views on race exhibited forms of bigotry that are commonly overlooked today[specify](See Abraham Lincoln on slavery). DiLorenzo also argues that Lincoln instigated the American Civil War not over slavery but rather to centralize power and to enforce the strongly protectionist Morrill Tariff; similarly, he criticizes Lincoln for his strong support of Henry Clay's American System.[citation needed]

In the Foreword to DiLorenzo's book, Walter E. Williams, a syndicated columnist and professor of economics at George Mason University, backs DiLorenzo's case by claiming that "Abraham Lincoln’s direct statements indicated his support for slavery," and adds that he "defended slave owners’ right to own their property" by supporting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.[1]

Reception and Criticisms[edit]

Reviewing for The Independent Review, Professor Richard M. Gamble noted that DiLorenzo’s book "manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions" and that it "exposes Lincoln’s embarrassing views on race, his ambition for economic nationalism, his rewriting of the history of the founding of the nation, his cavalier violation of constitutional limits on the presidency, and his willingness to wage a barbaric total war to achieve his ends". However Gamble also notes that The Real Lincoln "is seriously compromised by careless errors of fact, misuse of sources, and faulty documentation" which taken all together "constitute a near-fatal threat to DiLorenzo’s credibility as a historian."[2]

Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute in National Review wrote that "DiLorenzo frequently distorts the meaning of the primary sources he cites, Lincoln most of all." Masugi provides the following example:

Consider this inflammatory assertion: "Eliminating every last black person from American soil, Lincoln proclaimed, would be 'a glorious consummation.'" Compare the nuances and qualifications in what Lincoln actually said: "If as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means, succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery; and, at the same time, in restoring a captive people to their long-lost father-land, with bright prospects for the future; and this too, so gradually, that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation." One need not be a Lincoln admirer to recognize that DiLorenzo is making an unfair characterization. DiLorenzo actually gets so overwrought that at one point he attributes to Lincoln racist views Lincoln was attacking.

Masugi further asserts that DiLorenzo failed to recognize "a disunited America might have become prey for the designs of European imperial powers, which would have put an end to the experiment in self-government." Masugi himself, however, fails to offer evidence that Lincoln feared any such consequence of the South's secession, which would have been seen, by its logistics alone, as a military absurdity.[3]

According to DiLorenzo, Masugi is selective in his presentation about Lincoln and "relies entirely on a few of Lincoln’s prettier speeches, ignoring his less attractive ones as well as his actual behavior." One of DiLorenzo's core conclusions, in fact, is that Lincoln used his considerable skills at weaving rhetoric to camouflage his true intentions and mask his actual behavior.[4] He further retorted that "Harry Jaffa and his followers at the Claremont Institute and elsewhere" had responded to the publication of The Real Lincoln by "screeching and carrying on like a colony of baboons that has just spotted a panther".[4]


  1. ^ Williams, Walter E. (2003). "Foreword". In DiLorenzo, Thomas J. The real Lincoln: a new look at Abraham Lincoln, his agenda, and an unnecessary war. Roseville, California: Prima. pp. ix–xiii. ISBN 978-0-7615-2646-9. 
  2. ^ Gamble, Richard M. "The Real Lincoln: Book review" The Independent Review [1].
  3. ^ Masugi, Ken (14 October 2002). "The Unreal Lincoln". National Review. 
  4. ^ a b "Claremont’s Court Historians". Retrieved 2006-07-30. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Feller, Daniel (2004). "Libertarians in the Attic, or A Tale of Two Narratives". Reviews in American History 32 (2): 184–95. doi:10.1353/rah.2004.0025. JSTOR 30031836. 
  • Dirck, Brian (2009). "Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery, and: Act of Justice: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War, and: Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment (review)". Civil War History 55 (3): 382–5. doi:10.1353/cwh.0.0090. 
  • Uhlmann, Michael M., Krannawitter, Thomas L. "Father Abraham Under Fire Again". May 20, 2002. Claremont Institute. 
  • Krannawitter, Thomas L. "Dishonest About Abe". January 31, 2009. Claremont Institute. "A review of The Real Lincoln" 

External links[edit]