Sic Semper Tyrannis

Abraham Lincoln remains the central historical figure in modern America; the only others who can compete with him in their influence on the present and the degree of adulation accorded them are Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Rev. “Dr.” Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lincoln is praised for having accomplished two things: preserving the Union and freeing the slaves.  The more sophisticated of Lincoln’s defenders claim that he also “refounded” the Union.  True, but on what set of principles?  Neoconservative defenders of Lincoln have performed philosophical somersaults, maintaining that Lincoln was simultaneously a conservative and a progressive, that he preserved the Union even while transforming it, and that he had to violate the Constitution in order to save it.  Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s outstanding new book exposes these paradoxes as the ridiculous rationalizations they always were.  He does so by concentrating on Lincoln’s actions rather than his words.  DiLorenzo’s main theme is that Lincoln represented a militant and extreme incarnation of a certain statist tradition in American history.  Lincoln’s political centralism, disregard for constitutional limitations, and mercantilism were Hamiltonian.  Lincoln differed from his predecessor chiefly because he succeeded in transforming the republic along these lines.

On what principles, then,...

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