Lincoln the Tyrant
There is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as one of the great American presidents. The general public, when asked about Lincoln, will often tell the tale of a great man. Holding their head high, they will embark on the journey of a benevolent leader, praising the man who envisioned a new America: a great country of racial equality, and the pillar of human liberty. There are some, however, who have quite the opposite view.
In his work, The Real Lincoln, economic historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo tells quite the different tale. Daring to criticize this beloved president, DiLorenzo defends his antithetical statements with several key points: Lincoln was more similar to a dictator than an American President. Arguing that the War Between the States was wholly unconstitutional, DiLorenzo corrects the popular misconception that Lincoln’s war was one of abolition. War was not necessary to end slavery, but it was necessary to fulfill Lincoln’s true agenda – to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession.1
During the civil war, Lincoln blatantly disregarded the U.S. Constitution and adapted his own form of government. His first step was to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. With such rights thrown away, Lincoln arbitrarily imprisoned those who publicly disagreed with his principles.
American citizens accused of crimes have a constitutional right to a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with witnesses against them, to bring witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of legal counsel. On April 27, 1861, Lincoln decided that such constitutional freedoms were no longer necessary and ordered the military to enforce his suspension of them. This suspension remained in effect for Lincoln’s entire administration.2
With his newfound power, Lincoln’s next step was to eliminate any public anti-war sentiment. In May of 1861 the Journal of Commerce published a list of more than a hundred Northern newspapers which had editorialized against going to war. 3 Lincoln’s administration ordered the postmaster general to cease the deliveries of said newspapers, thus removing them from circulation. Disallowing free speech, many newspaper editors were arrested and sent to Fort Lafayette, which became known as the “American Bastille.”
Upon arriving there, they were crowded into cells with iron beds and mattresses made of straw or moss. The food was horrendous: Breakfast consisted of some discolored beverage, dignified by the name of coffee, a piece of fat pork, sometimes raw and sometimes half cooked, and coarse bread cut in large thick slices. Some days the water that was served at meals would contain a dozen tadpoles from one-quarter to one-half inch long.4
He suppressed free elections by such imprisonments as well. At the legislative elections in November 1861,...