Conservative economist DiLorenzo (How Capitalism Saved America, 2004) continues his diatribe about the causes of the Civil War that he began in The Real Lincoln (not reviewed).
Indeed, the author repeats many of the arguments made in his previous book, published in 2002. His contention that Abraham Lincoln was a white supremacist whose primary motivation for fighting the Civil War was a desire to maintain a system of tariffs that greatly benefited northern states has enough evidence behind it to at least be compelling. But his unrelenting vitriol toward an American icon, perhaps the foremost American icon, will undoubtedly rankle many and may position him as a publicity-hungry academic peddling controversy. DiLorenzo (Economics/Loyola Coll.) contends that a “Lincoln cult” seeks to perpetuate his image as a near-perfect president for the purpose of promoting big government, weakening states’ rights and justifying the controversial actions of later chief executives. As an example, the author points to neo-conservative Michelle Malkin’s In Defense of Internment (2004), which tried to rationalize FDR’s treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, an act that mirrored Lincoln’s imprisonment of northerners who protested his use of force to keep the South in the Union. Historians from the left and the right are members of the Lincoln cult, DiLorenzo states, seeking to use some facet of his legacy to bolster their own agendas. The author’s arguments that the South had a legal right to secede and the Founding Fathers themselves would have supported that choice are convincing, as is his assertion that the war erupted from economic issues, not slavery. However, his unceasing attacks on Lincoln put readers on the defensive, and when he obsessively hounds a single Lincoln scholar throughout an entire chapter, he seems to be pursuing an academic vendetta rather than any greater understanding.
Intriguing, but the author lacks the tact needed to sway the masses.