Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe, by Thomas DiLorenzo.
In this sequel to his 2002 diatribe, The Real Lincoln, Loyola College economist Thomas DiLorenzo continues his assault on America's 16th president. In some minor ways, Lincoln Unmasked is better than The Real Lincoln. In the first book, Lincoln was barely allowed to speak a full sentence, but this time he speaks in sentences on at least five separate pages. Moreover, unlike the earlier book, most of the quotations in Lincoln Unmasked appear to be authentic and are not attributed to the wrong authors.
Otherwise, DiLorenzo serves up more of the same bombast, repeatedly denouncing all scholars who attempt to understand Lincoln sympathetically as "court historians," part of a "Lincoln Cult," whose writings are "myth, fantasy, and idolatry." He almost never engages them in actual argumentation, however. More importantly, he refuses to abandon his oversimplified economic analysis, which is woefully inadequate to explain the legal, political, philosophic, religious, and cultural forces that erupted in the Civil War. For instance, DiLorenzo never explains the nature of abolitionism and its effects on Southern opinion, nor does he even acknowledge such momentous antebellum transformations as the positive-good theory of slavery, the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, or the schism in the Democratic Party's 1860 presidential convention.
DiLorenzo's flawed economic view of history causes him to see only what he likes in the South, while unfairly demonizing the North. He complains, for example, that "Yankees never shied away from using the coercive powers of government to compel others to be remade in their image." Yet on the eve of the war Southerners were demanding federal protection for slavery in all the territories-what, at that time, would have amounted to the greatest increase in the federal government's power in American history.
Professor DiLorenzo writes about Lincoln because he says he wants to recover limited, constitutional government. But his methods are simply not up to the task his subject demands.
—Thomas L. Krannawitter
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This article appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of the Claremont Review of Books