The Problem with Lincoln

in Books

The Problem with Lincoln by Thomas J DiLorenzo

Abraham Lincoln
Photo: Alexander Gardner

People who have delved deeply enough into Abraham Lincoln – or have at least read the works of those who have – can appreciate that there are two Abrahams Lincoln.

One being the almost saintly abolitionist who was the champion of the founding principles of the US and the rights of those who were unjustly enslaved or downtrodden, who defended the United States as intended by our founders. The master statesman who we can only wish had served during better times.

The second being the racist, oligarchical, and duplicitous monster who actually existed.

The Problem with Lincoln is Thomas J DiLorenzo’s third book explaining this in painstakingly sourced detail.

In The Real Lincoln, DiLorenzo made his case against the widely accepted beliefs about who Lincoln was and what he actually stood for. If you want a general overview of Lincoln’s evils, start with this one.

In Lincoln Unmasked, DiLorenzo expanded on this and added information about areas where Lincoln was even worse than he had understood him to be when he wrote the first volume.

In this book, DiLorenzo focuses on three things: a number of specific and hard-to-dismiss sources, the political mindset that Lincoln emerged from, and the effort to posthumously beautify him as the only superficially recognizable figure we’re taught about in public schools and countless worshipful and dogmatic biographies.

Some of the documents that DiLorenzo focused on include Lincoln’s first inaugural addresses, the Corwin Amendment, and the Emancipation Proclamation – with the exact text of ten selected and important documents included in appendices to eliminate any inconvenience for the reader checking these documents personally. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln stakes out his neutral to favorable stance on slavery and states the exact conditions under which there won’t be bloodshed and violence. Despite denying knowledge of the exact language of the Corwin Amendment in that address, DiLorenzo outs Lincoln as the architect and probably author of this amendment to prevent constitutional amendments to ever eliminate slavery (we’d be stuck with such provisions to this day if Lincoln had his way). In the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln went out of his way to NOT free even one slave in any areas under Union control, to the point of enumerating twelve Louisiana parishes and New Orleans as places where Slavery would continue.

DiLorenzo documents that Lincoln built on the views and writings of many. He presents Lincoln as the de facto successor to Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay and their so-called American System that flew in the face of what the colonies fought for against the crown. A system that centered around spending large amounts of public money on what we would call corporatism. This is why tariffs were so important to Lincoln that he would launch one of the bloodiest wars of the 19th Century to protect them. For his day job, Lincoln was an attorney and the preeminent lobbyist for the railroads. If this sounds like a recipe for dubious to corrupt actions and policies it only means that you’re paying attention.

Just as we have major pushes today for states of mass conformity that would be rightfully seen as horrific at any other time, Lincoln’s assassination was the trigger for such an event – specifically a massive retcon of what anyone was allowed to openly acknowledge as historical fact about Lincoln. DiLorenzo documents the steps of this, but it seems clear that to do it proper justice an entire book on this topic alone will be needed.

Sprinkled throughout are references to other books that may be of interest for further reading by those seeking an antidote to Lincoln worship. These include Lincoln’s Wrath by Jeffrey Manber and Neil Dahlstrom, Lincoln’ Critics: The Copperheads of the North by Frank L Klement, and Forced into Glory by Lerone Bennett Jr.

If you’ve read the first two books, you do not need a review to tell you that you will want to read the third.

If you’re looking for which one to read first, that depends. In the case where you just want to get started on all three, start with The Real Lincoln and consider the other two books to be additional material. The fact that you’re reading Libertarian Vanguard implies a good chance that you aren’t too married to established, widespread narratives.

If you may be either skeptical to rejecting of the anti-Lincoln case for any reason or are in need of arguments to present to such people, start with The Problem with Lincoln. It’s the most bulletproof indictment of Lincoln. You could then follow up with The Real Lincoln and then Lincoln Unmasked.


The Problem with Lincoln, 2020, Thomas J DiLorenzo, Regnery History 2020 ISBN 978-1-68451-018-4