Lincoln, the Movie and the Glorified Racist Despot

Every time Abe is deified, government grows, Freedom suffers and the individual citizen is deeply hurt

February, 2013 by Sergio Alberich

So, last night I went to the movies and after almost 3 hours watching Spielberg’s latest work I left the room felling very uncomfortable about the screenplay. I hear the critics are in love with the motion picture that has been nominated to 12 Oscar Awards categories. I think its narrative was too slow and no more than 2 hours were needed to tell the story portrayed there. Sally Field and her kid are quite annoying and some of the characters mumble all the time. Anyways, that is not what I want to discuss, and liking or not the movie is up to everyone’s own subjective and undisputed valuations. What I would like to point out is how inaccurate the movie is. How much it beatifies Lincoln and praises the Federal Government.

Let’s start with the author of the book the movie is based on. Do a quick research online and in a matter of minutes you will find out that Doris Kearns-Goodwin is a confessed plagiarist who was kicked out of the Pulitzer Board. She has written books on many famous Americans; FDR, The Kennedys (the plagiarism case), Lyndon Johnson (she was an intern over his presidency), and has always maintained a close relation with the Federal Government. In her Lyndon’s biography introduction, she makes reference to the late president joining her in bed early in the morning, telling her that she reminded him of his dead mother. A little weird, right? Well, at the end, the question is; given that Lincoln is perhaps the most studied American President ever, with lots of renowned scholars centering their careers on him, was her book the best choice to base the movie on?

“Armies of scholars, meticulously investigating every aspect of [Lincoln’s] life, have failed to find a single act of racial bigotry on his part.”

Doris Kearns-Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . . . I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Abraham Lincoln, First Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Ottawa, Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln

Both Quotes were previously displayed by Thomas DiLorenzo in his articles on Lincoln

Now comes Lincoln, the War, the Union and Slavery. The movie depicts Abraham Lincoln as the father of the American Abolition, the man who freed the slaves, and it is hard to think about something more out of sync with reality than that. Well, his supporters claim his actions prior to the Secession War (and prior to his eventual role in ending slavery) should not be taken into account. After all, he did what he had to do to get to the presidency, and that is what a “political genius”, as the title of Kearns-Goodwin books says, does. Also, they say that some time before the War he was hit by some revelation that made him conscious that putting an end on slavery was the right thing to do. Such inexplicable change of mind goes against the thoughts he embraced most of his life.

“Who freed the slaves? To the extent that they were ever ‘freed,’ they were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, which was authored and pressured into existence not by Lincoln but by the great emancipators nobody knows, the abolitionists and congressional leaders who created the climate and generated the pressure that goaded, prodded, drove, forced Lincoln into glory by associating him with a policy that he adamantly opposed for at least fifty-four of his fifty-six years of his life.”

Lerone Bennett, Jr., former editor of Ebony Magazine and author of “Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’ s White Dream”

Bennett points out: “There is a pleasant fiction that Lincoln . . . became a flaming advocate of the amendment and used the power of his office to buy votes to ensure its passage. There is no evidence, as David H. Donald has noted, to support that fiction . . .” To the extent that Lincoln did finally and hesitatingly support the amendment, Bennett argues that it was he who was literally forced into it by other politicians, not the other way around as portrayed in the Spielberg film. (David Donald, by the way, is the preeminent Lincoln scholar of our day and Pulitzer prize-winning Lincoln biographer).

Thomas DiLorenzo, “Lincoln the Racist”

It is worth mentioning that while in Illinois, Mr. Lincoln supported laws forbidden black people to live in that State. He was against inter-racial marriage and said that blacks could be equal, but not in the USA. At its very end, the movie shows a president very dedicated to the cause of giving voting rights to black people, but fails to illustrate his biggest project at that time. In the last months of his life, the well-known micromanager president, was very devoted to his Liberia project. His goal was to ship as many blacks as possible out of the country, back to Africa, in Liberia. He often wondered if they had enough ships to do it. Well, it doesn’t seem as the actions of a man who had received some divine revelation and had changed his views on racial issues.

Bennett documents that Lincoln stated publicly that “America was made for the White people and not for the Negroes” (p. 211), and “at least twenty-one times, he said publicly that he was opposed to equal rights for Blacks.” “What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races,” said Lincoln (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, p. 521).

Thomas Dilorenzo, at “Lincoln the Racist”

The Republican Party at the time, his Party, had a strong and growing abolitionist faction that constantly pushed for it. It was not until the opportunity to make War, and use it as a pretext, that President Lincoln finally aligned with the abolitionists. As a matter of fact, in his inaugural speech, the new president stated his support for amendments to the Constitution saying that slavery was not a subject in charge of the Federal Government, but a subject of discussion for the States.

If not an abolitionist, why the War? It was always to maintain and to increase the power of the Union over the individual States. The end of slavery was simply the official justification, and a needed favor in exchange for political support. Pure and simple like that! Besides, it is important to mention that throughout the 19th century, most countries ended the evil institution of slavery peacefully. Even where some violent conflicts were found, their magnitudes are drops in the ocean when compared to Lincoln’s bloodshed. New England and Ohio had already done it peacefully! So, why the USA could not do it?

The war lasted over 4 years, killed somewhere between 650,000 to 850,000 people (which in today’s figures, given the size of the population then and now, would be around 10 times more. 8.5 million deaths!), destroyed families and racked the economy for a long time. Even in absolute numbers, that is by far the biggest number of casualties the USA suffered in any War. Actually, it is more than the sum of all other Wars together! And only the WW II comes with figures in the same ballpark.

Independence War
25,000 deaths
+- 0.9 % of Population
Secession War
650,000 to 850,000
+-2% to3%
+- 0.1%
+- 0.3%
Korea War
+- 0.02%
+- 0.03%
War on Terror
+- 0.003%

More, going through newspapers from that age one can find constant attacks from the press and political adversaries calling Lincoln a dictator. In many ways, he acted like one. During the Secession War he suspended Habeas Corpus, arrested thousands of people who opposed the War or defended the right to secession and shut down over 300 newspapers. So much for the respect of the first amendment! It is hard to understand how reputed intellectuals find silly excuses for his attacks on liberty. Many of those supporters rightly oppose similar outbreaks on the War on Terror, but they give the sanctified Lincoln a glorious exit.

Machiavellian pragmatism is the most often excuse given to such assaults, but another one in particular, very present in the movie, has to be highlighted here. At the very end, Spielberg directs a scene where the President horse rides through the rests of battle field. The photography is amazing and you can really feel the pain emanating from Daniel Day-Lewis’ body. The next scene, if my memory is not failing me, the President talks to General Ulysses S. Grant about the end of the War. Still hurt from what he had just seen, he shows benevolence towards the treatment of the Confederate soldiers and officers. After that, he talks about the brutal images he had just seen. At that moment I had no other option than thinking about the frequent argument given by Lincoln enthusiasts that he was not aware of the offensive against freedom and the civilian massacres of the War.

One of Abraham Lincoln’s glorified characteristics was his micromanagement skills and his fixation over it. He is known for working on tiny details of much less important topics and, still, one is pushed to believe that Abe was not directly involved and aware of such atrocities? Means justifying the Ends is already a bad excuse, but playing dumb and saying he didn’t know about such actions is beyond ridiculous.

The point is that Lincoln saw in the War, in its free the slaves’ alleged reason, the opportunity of making the Federal Government bigger and stronger. He saw the possibility of sequestering the powers originally assigned to the States. At one moment he was so eager to start the combat, that, in writing, he congratulates his Naval Commander for forcing North Carolina to take the first shot of the War.

It is true the States in the South wanted to keep slavery, but it was not the first topic on their agenda. The Southern Region was the one that was hurt the most from the high tariffs imposed by the Federal Government. Additional violations of the States’ sovereignty, including but not restricted to the case of slavery, were other ongoing issues. On the other hand, Lincoln’s aggression was always evident. In the same inaugural speech that Lincoln says he has no problem with the Southern slavery institution and that it is not a matter for the Federal Power, he makes a bellicose threat towards the South in matters related to tax collection. The North, and Lincoln, feared a seceded South and its free-trade practices would steal business from the Union. Hence, the desire for the consolidation of the Federal Power, very present among Lincoln’s supporters, found a perfect ally in the abolitionists to fight against the separatist South: “if the south were allowed to secede and establish free trade, foreign commerce would be massively diverted from Northern ports to Southern ones, as merchants sought out the South’s low-tariff or free-trade regime. `Let the South adopt the free-trade system ́, warned the Daily Chicago Times, and the North’s `commerce must be reduced to less than half what it is now ́”

Tom Woods, “The politically incorrect guide to American history”

“Throughout most of our history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859. What “responsible” politician would let that much revenue go?”

Walter Willians, on his article “Abraham Lincoln”

At the end, a natural check on the growth of the Federal Government was removed. Up to this moment the Union was seen as voluntary, like the way it was constituted. The States came before and voluntarily granted powers to the Union. Powers that if abused could be rapidly withdraw by the simple threat, or the actual exit of the unpleased State from the Union. It kept the Federal Government on its toes all the time and prevented its unstoppable growth. The three powers, judiciary, legislative and executive are not enough to hold back the enlargement of this one organization all three make part of, the Federal Government. When citizens can vote with the biggest democracy of them all, with their feet, and the sub- organizations (the States and Cities) can decide when to join or to leave the larger one, Freedom is better protected. Unfortunately, after 1865, the notion of a voluntary Union was buried and with it the discussion of secession became an offensive crime to the eyes of many.

In Germany, Hitler promised that the Nazis “would totally eliminate states’ rights altogether: Since for us the state as such is only a form, but the essential is its content, the nation, the people, it is clear that everything else must be subordinated to its sovereign interests. In particular we cannot grant to any individual state within the nation and the state representing it state sovereignty and sovereignty in point of political power.” Thus the “mischief of individual federated states…must cease and will some day cease…. National Socialism as a matter of principle must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries.”

Tom Woods, quoting a passage from Hitler’s Mein Kampf that was shown in Thomas DiLorenzo’s “Unmasked Lincoln”

Lincoln should be praised and acknowledged as a self-educated man who had no more than one year of formal education, managed to become one of the top lawyers in the US and eventually climbed all the steps of the political life to become the US President. But from there to be seeing as a saint, it is difficult to understand.

Putting his war atrocities aside and forgetting the fact that he was not the abolitionist he is worshiped for, it is still hard to admire the rest of his body of work. For years he was a lobbyist for railroads and when in charge of choosing the Federal Railroad routes, his lands where right there in the middle. It seems kind of wrong, but never mind, I am sure there is a multitude of explanations for such a curious coincidence. Also, over his almost 30 years of political life prior to his presidency, he was a fearful mercantilist enthusiast. High tariffs on imports and high subsides on specific industries were the core of his work. The return of the Central Bank, previously extinguished by Andrew Jackson, was another one of the topics he advocated over those years.

Thomas DiLorenzo has a theory for what he calls the Lincoln Cult. He says his deification, from both Democrats and Republicans, and even from the communist Party, is the glorification of the American Presidency and the Federal Government. So, anyone who believes in a big and fat Federal Government, anyone who needs to find excuses for assaults on civil liberties or anyone who wants to tell people how they should live their lives, ends up praising him. Actually, in my own and personal view, it is hard to think of others politicians who did so much harm to the institution of Freedom during the 1800’s, and had so much negative impact over the happenings of the following century (except, maybe, for Abraham’s European brother Bismarck).

Appropriately, DiLorenzo sees that such adoration has been turned into a curse, the Lincoln Curse. Over the past 150 years, Abe’s figure has been serving as a justification for the continuous reinterpretation of the Declaration of Independence and of the US Constitution at one’s wills. Unfortunately, such disrespect has intensely and continuously hurt the foundations of Liberty in almost every single aspect of the American life. Putting an end of Abraham Lincoln’s veneration is an important step towards the restoration of the Land of the Free.


Well, since it is not an academic work, but simply an article expressing my view and knowledge on Lincoln and his adoration, I suggest the following Articles, Books and Videos for anyone interested in deepening the reading about the subject,:


– DiLorenzo, Thomas,

“Lincoln the Racist”;
“Spielberg’s Upside-Down History: The Myth of Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment”;
“Spielberg’s Sovietization of U.S. History: The Bait-and-Switch Game of ‘Historical Docudrama’”;

– Williams, Walter,
“DiLorenzo Is Right About Lincoln”; o “Abraham Lincoln”;

– McClanahan, Brion,

“The five most overrated American Presidents”;

“Solidifying the Lincoln Cult, Penny wise”

–  Woods, Tom,

“Lincon Unmasked”;

–  On Doris Kearns-Goodwin:

Kirpatrick, David, 2002 New York Times “Author Goodwin Resigns from Pulitzer Board”;

Kaus, Mickey, 2002 commenting on a L.A. Times article “Why isn’t DKG toast?”;


“The Real Lincoln” ;

“Lincoln Unmasked”;

– Bennett Jr., Lerone,

“Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’ s White Dream” sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Lerone+Bennett%2C+Jr.%2C+Forced+into+Glory%3A+Abraham+Lincoln%E2%80%9 9+s+White+Dream ;

– Tom Wood’s by Brion McClanahan;;;

– Thomas DiLorenzo on Spielberg’s Lincoln



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