The Truth About Lincoln
Thomas Krannawitter's "review" of my book, The Real Lincoln (Spring 2002), is filled with misstatements of my position, straw-man arguments, and fabrications (i.e., lies). Thus, it is quite appropriate that his "review" is titled "Dishonest About Abe."
For example, I never say that Lincoln "did not care a whit" about slavery, as Krannawitter absurdly states. These words do not appear in my book, nor do I insinuate it. And I say in my book that Lincoln advocated the Whig economic agenda "over and over again," not the pursuit of empire, per se. Nor do I ever say that Lincoln wanted to talk of the Dred Scott decision "only as an avenue for championing the nationalization of money." This is also a lie.
Krannawitter is certainly aware that I admitted in print two months before his "review" was published that I repeated the mistake of the "Siamese Twins" quote from a secondary source and promised to correct the mistake in the next printing, which I have done. It is dishonest of him to make such a big deal of this in full knowledge that I have admitted the mistake and have fixed it.
He is also wrong in his sneering comment that I supposedly have no knowledge that Calhoun advocated the protective tariff in 1816. My discussion in The Real Lincoln of the New England secession movement after Jefferson's election acknowledges that the Jeffersonians felt guilty that their embargo did such economic damage to New England and so they supported a tariff. Calhoun did change his position after abandoning his nationalism, however.
Krannawitter also contradicts himself when he says that I do not understand that all economics "is political economics" and then, in the very next sentence, identifies me as a public-choice economist. I am in fact a student of Nobel Laureate James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, the inventors of public choice economics, or the economics of politics. Krannawitter is obviously in a fog and grasping at straws here. Krannawitter seems just as ignorant of international economics as he is of public choice. His statement that "tariffs were in the service of free trade" is an Orwellian absurdity.
I do not portray Calhoun as "a great defender of freedom" or "celebrate" him, as Krannawitter says. I merely quote him several times with regard to specific economic issues that he was deeply involved in. This is another of Krannawitter's straw-man arguments. The notion that Calhoun "invented the doctrine of legal or constitutional secession" is ridiculous. There were many voices in support of the right of secession prior to Calhoun's theorizing, including the New England Federalists and such figures as the Pennsylvania abolitionist William Rawle whose book, A View of the Constitution, was used at West Point and argued that there was a constitutional right of secession. Krannawitter ignores all of this because he wants to associate secession only with Calhoun's defense of slavery. This is dishonest and misleading scholarship.
Krannawitter selectively quotes Southeners like Calhoun and Alexander Stephens when they support his argument, but ignores all others, in another wool-over-your-eyes literary gimmick. He makes no mention of my chapter on Lincoln's evisceration of constitutional liberty in the North, my chapter that makes the case for the right of secession, the one on how Lincoln micromanaged the waging of war on civilians in violation of international law, how Reconstruction achieved little more than establishing a monopoly of power for the Republican Party, and how all of Lincoln's economic agenda was put into place in the first eighteen months of his administration. This is all embarrassing to Krannawitter, so he just ignores it and resorts instead to juvenile name-calling.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Thomas Krannawitter replies:
Thomas DiLorenzo complains that I have misrepresented him. But one cannot get through two paragraphs of his letter without encountering the same kind of fraud that plagues his book. DiLorenzo denies writing that Lincoln advocated "the pursuit of empire." Nor, he pleads, did he say that Lincoln used the Dred Scott case to champion the nationalization of money.
On page 263 of his book, however, he writes: "Lincoln and the Republicans certainly had a cause: the cause of centralized government and the pursuit of empire. They said it over and over again…." On page 68, DiLorenzo asserts that "when commenting on the Dred Scott decision," and "in virtually every one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates," Lincoln "made it a point to champion the nationalization of money…." Apparently DiLorenzo not only has a problem recalling Lincoln's words, he cannot remember what he himself wrote! I was unaware that DiLorenzo had confessed the "Siamese Twins" to be a misquotation. Even when he admits mistakes, however, he can't help committing another. He writes that he "repeated the mistake of the 'Siamese Twins' quote from a secondary source," but in his book he does not cite a secondary source; he cites Roy Basler's one-volume collection of Lincoln's works (Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings). One wonders if DiLorenzo is congenitally careless or deliberately mendacious.
That all economics is political economics is simply another way of saying that economics is ultimately a means for achieving political ends. An example is the application of economic pressure, such as tariffs, in the effort to move a slave society, such as the antebellum South, toward the political goal of free society. DiLorenzo and many other "public choice economists" reverse this understanding by trying to reduce all political questions to economic ones. But this "capitalist" theory of economic determinism is as false as the Communist version.
As for the putative right of secession, DiLorenzo, like many disunionists before him, stubbornly confuses it with what the founders called the right of revolution. Far from defending a state's constitutional right to secede from the Union—that is, a right of a minority to reject the results of a free constitutional election—the founders affirmed a natural right of revolution that can be invoked only when the equal natural rights of men are violated by the government under which they live. But it is precisely the idea of equal natural rights that the South rejected in the Calhounian doctrine that some human beings can rightfully enslave other human beings, based on the color of their skin.
This is the ugly truth of the American South at the brink of the Civil War, though its ugliness makes it no less true. By rejecting the idea of human equality, Calhoun and later Southern secessionists were not defending the principles of the founders, they were overturning them—as they publicly and repeatedly stated. Abraham Lincoln understood this, which is why, on the eve of the Civil War, he wrote to his friend Alexander Stephens, then the Vice President of the Confederacy, that "the only substantial difference between us" is that "you think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it wrong and ought to be restricted."
I heartily concur with Thomas Krannawitter's review of DiLorenzo's pathetic book. Chapter 7, on Lincoln's alleged atrocities against Southern civilians, was of special interest to me because I teach a course in the laws of war at George Washington University Law School. While there are a number of factual and other problems, one stands out for comment. DiLorenzo begins the chapter by describing certain specific rules on treatment of civilians and civilian property in war, supposedly adopted by governments at an international conference in 1863. At the end of the chapter he again refers to the 1863 conference and its rules, and lambastes the U.S. government for violating them during the Civil War.
The 1863 conference is a fiction, as are the rules it allegedly adopted. No such conference ever took place. There was a conference on the law of war in Geneva in 1864, but it only concerned medical activities and wounded soldiers, not civilians (and anyway the United States did not attend). The first conference to adopt a treaty dealing with civilians and civilian property was held at The Hague in 1899, more than 30 years after Lincoln's death.
Burrus M. Carnahan
George Washington University Law School
It was good to read Larry P. Arnn's review, "Winston Is Back," in your spring issue, and I thank him for his complimentary remarks about my book. I much enjoyed the first and third parts of the review, but have a few comments to make on its middle part, the part headed "India."
The lessons or suggestions Arnn draws from British imperial experience to guide policy towards uncongenial neighbours in our global society may or may not be wise ones—I leave aside that tempting field of controversy!—but I have to say that he has too genial and generous an idea of Churchill the imperialist. His idea of the Empire and, when it came into being, the Commonwealth was of an organization whose primary purpose was to support the 'mother country' and to reflect its values. The "white dominions" could easily do this; India and the colonies, much less surely. The great man's rhetoric about "helping the Indian people along the road to self-government," insofar as it was not just conventional claptrap, was literally misleading, inasmuch as his idea of self-govenment for the Indians included—no, insisted upon!—the preservation of the Princely States.
Beyond that, like many fellow conservatives, he had a visceral inability to imagine Indians in the very highest offices of state; self-government, however genuine or not at the lower levels, ended at the doors of the Vice-Regal Palace. And I stick by what I wrote about Churchill's general ignorance about the cultures of the Empire's non-white populations. He was ignorant and prejudiced about them, and positively avoided meeting members of them, on the rare occasions when he might have done so. Clement Attlee rightly judged, that no matter how up-to-date and insightful Churchill was when he looked across the Atlantic and the English Channel, when he thought about India he was still the cavalry subaltern of 1897. (And, by the way, the fanatic who assassinated Gandhi was not a Muslim, as Arnn implies, but a Hindu.)
Strange and wonderful, is it not, that some of the very many parts of this diverse and brilliant man should have been so unregenerate?
St. Antony's College
Larry P. Arnn replies::
Thanking Geoffrey Best for his reply, I differ with him on the question of Churchill and India. Best says that Churchill "had a visceral inability to imagine Indians in the various highest offices of the state...." But Churchill says over and over that the policy should be to "entrust able, educated Indians, with whom alone the government of India can be conducted, with an ever broader share of responsibility in the administration..." (House of Commons, March 29, 1933). He voted for that more than once in his career.
Best objects that Churchill wished to preserve the Princely States, and in the same breath he objects that Churchill wished India to "reflect the values" of the mother country. The Princely States were traditional to India, not Britain, and Churchill supported them partly for that reason. He supported them within the context of continued British authority in India. He argued that they would be less likely to offend the well-being of the Indian people than a national party working for the expulsion of Britain. Perhaps Churchill is false in this argument, but that takes proving.
Best says that Churchill "positively avoided meeting" members of the Empire's nonwhite populations. He should read in Sir Martin Gilbert's fifth volume the account of Churchill's meeting with Mr. G.D. Birla, an emissary of Gandhi. Birla writes to Gandhi: "Curiously enough one of my most pleasant experiences was meeting Mr. Winston Churchill, the strongest opponent of the bill...yet I found him no fire-eater. He asked me to lunch at Chartwell, his country home." (Birla does write to Gandhi that Churchill is poorly informed about India.) Later in 1935 Birla cables to Churchill that he hopes Churchill will be added to the British Cabinet.
I repeat that this is a good book. There is more and better to say on the subject of Churchill and India than it says.
Steinbeck, Churchill, and the War
Christopher Flannery has beautifully crafted his review of a new edition of nonfiction by John Steinbeck ("Steinbeck in Good Conscience," Spring 2002). I wish to add a word to his discussion of the political effects of the March 1942 novel, The Moon is Down.
Winston Churchill was desperately interested in ways to burn and blast the Axis during the long build-up to an Allied invasion of the European continent. There were few options. Strategic bombing was one. Guerrilla war was another, and in mid-1940 he set up the Special Operations Executive to "set Europe ablaze." When Steinbeck's Moon appeared, the Prime Minister was excited; he admired the book and later screened the movie at Chequers. Churchill prodded the minister directing SOE to air-drop small explosions and sabotage materials to occupied countries, in line with Steinbeck's ideas. But the gentleman, Lord Selbourne, had recently decided that sabotage by civilians would bring unacceptable Nazi reprisals, so he stood opposed. Still, Churchill's interests in partisan warfare and in "direct action" by experts and military personnel never diminished, and he continued to promote them through 1945.
Christopher C. Harmon
Marine Corps University