Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Forced Into Glory


Tom DiLorenzo is a well-known author for, among other things, his work regarding Abraham Lincoln. I have read and can highly recommend his two books regarding Lincoln, “The Real Lincoln” and “Lincoln Unmasked.”

This review is about neither of those fine books.  The first book I read on the real Lincoln was written by Lerone Bennett, Jr., entitled “Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream.”

Lerone Bennett, Jr. (born 17 October 1928) is an African-American scholar, author and social historian, known for his revisionist analysis of race relations in the United States. His best-known works include Before the Mayflower and Forced into Glory.

He is most notable for his decades as executive editor for Ebony Magazine, to which he was promoted in 1958. It has served as his base for the publication of a steady stream of articles on African-American history, some of them collected into books.

Whereas DiLorenzo looks at a very broad view of Lincoln – issues regarding the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s purpose for the war, his views toward the slaves, violations of numerous Constitutional provisions, etc. – Bennett focuses on a small subset of these issues, primarily regarding Lincoln’s actions regarding the slaves.  I will cover two of these: that of the Emancipation Proclamation, and that of Lincoln’s dream to deport the former slaves to a colony somewhere well away from the United States.

I was a child in whitest Mississippi, reading for my life, when I discovered that everything I had been told about Abraham Lincoln was a lie….for I discovered that I lived in an Orwellian world where scholars with all the degrees the schools could give could say in all seriousness that a separatist was an integrationist and that a White supremacist was the ultimate symbol of race relations and the American Dream.

Lincoln or somebody said once that you can’t fool all of the people all the time.  By turning a racist who wanted to deport all Blacks into a national symbol of integration and brotherhood, the Lincoln mythmakers have managed to prove Lincoln or whoever said it wrong.  This is the story of how they fooled all of the people all the time and why.

These excerpts from the preface to the original version give some idea of the passion that Bennett brings to this subject.  It is not a blind passion, as he has provided footnotes and cited dozens of works as support for his positions.

The Most Famous Act in U.S. History Never Happened

This is how Bennett introduces his readers to the Emancipation Proclamation.  He describes the “mythology” of this act.

The testimony of sixteen thousand books and monographs to the contrary notwithstanding, Lincoln did not emancipate the slave, greatly or otherwise….  John Hume, the Missouri anti-slavery leader…said the Proclamation “did not…whatever it may have otherwise accomplished at the time it was issued, liberate a single slave.”

…Lincoln himself knew that his most famous act would not of itself free a single Negro.  The second and most damaging point is that “the great emancipator” did not intend for it to free a single Negro, for he carefully, deliberately, studiously excluded all Negroes within “our military reach.”

What Lincoln did – and it was so clever that we ought to stop calling him honest Abe – was to “free” slaves in Confederate-held territory where he couldn’t free them and to leave them in slavery in Union-held territory where he could have freed them.

Bennett points out that the wording and intent of the proclamation was crafted to keep as many slaves as possible in slavery until he could mobilize support for his plan to ship Blacks out of the country.  The Proclamation wasn’t the end, but the means to an end – that of freeing the United States of the Negro.

Lincoln’s proclamation did not go as far as the Second Confiscation Act, passed by Congress in July, 1862 – several months before the famous proclamation.  One day before Congress’s Act was to go into effect, Lincoln signed the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, effectively nullifying Congress’s Act.

In the spring of 1862, Lincoln sat on the District of Columbia emancipation bill for two nights, in order that his friend would have time to leave town with two of his slaves.  Lincoln lamented the emancipation of District slaves, at it would deprive families of cooks and stable boys.

Such were the actions of the great emancipator.

Linconia:  The Fantasy Plan for Banishing Blacks

In five major policy declarations, including two State of the Union addresses and the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the sixteenth president of the United States publicly and officially called for the deportation of Blacks….it was, in fact, the only racial solution he ever had….

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles recounts the pressure Lincoln brought from the beginning of his Administration regarding developing plans to deport the to-be-freed slaves: “Almost from the beginning of this administration the subject of deporting the colored race has been discussed.” 

In his first State of the Union Message, Lincoln didn’t mention emancipation, but he mentioned Negro removal and urged that steps be taken for colonizing Blacks freed by Congress or acts of war “at some place, or places, in a climate congenial to them.”

Bennett demonstrates where Lincoln’s priorities were regarding the question of Blacks and slaves in the United States.  Additionally, it should be noted that Lincoln believed Blacks had to live only in tropical climates….

Welles was pressured to enter into a coal contract to mine coal in the Panamanian Isthmus – a contract that would provide work for the Negroes Lincoln hoped to deport.

We all know of the Thirteenth Amendment, officially outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude.  Bennett recounts two earlier Thirteenth amendments, both supported by Lincoln, neither of which (obviously) successfully amended the Constitution.

The first of these was passed by Congress and sent to the states – ratified by Ohio and Maryland before the process was short-circuited by the firing at Fort Sumter.  This amendment would have permanently made America half slave and half free.

I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution….has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government, shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the states, including that of persons held to service….  I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The second Thirteenth amendment, proposed by Lincoln but never approved by Congress, was the first of three amendments Lincoln proposed for buying and deporting native-born African-Americans.

Bennett provides so much more in this book of over 600 pages – all of it focused on exploding the myth that Lincoln was the friend of the slave, the great emancipator, and the champion of equal rights.  It is difficult to read Bennett’s volume and not come away feeling that Bennett was successful in his task.

6 comments:

  1. Bionic:

    Look up the "Make Money, Not War" review at:
    http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/?issueID=70

    It may be encouraging.

    Bud Wood

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  2. Great article! I always appreciate more facts about the Lincoln myth. Would it be possible to link to Lincoln's State of the Union addresses?

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    1. http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/historicspeeches/lincoln/stateoftheunion1861.html

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  3. Dear Mr. Mosquito:

    Regarding this: "We all know of the Thirteenth Amendment, officially outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude."

    You should read it a little bit more carefully, while realizing at the same time that the private prison industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in this really, really robust (LOL) economy of ours.

    I like the article very much, however.

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  4. In order to correctly understand history, one must attempt to understand the environment of the time. Twenty first century thinking is very different than nineteenth century thinking. Now it is easy to understand why enslaving others is tyrannical. Not so for people of 1860. They grew up with slaves, and the institution of slavery was thousands of years old, so at the time it did not seem so horrible to them as it does to us. Indeed most slave masters did not beat their slaves on a regular basis. That does not make it right, but to get a proper understanding put slavery in proper context of the times. The same goes with racism. Everyone was a racist in those days. Whites, Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, French, Irish, and on and on.

    Lincoln was indeed a friend of the slave. He believed it would end in "God's own good time" if not allowed to further expand. He considered himself a 'slave of sorts' until he was 21 as he had to give all his earnings to his father under the custom of 'Home Rule." Thomas put an axe in Abe's hand at an early age and hired him out regularly until he was 21. When Abe was 19, he piloted a raft down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers selling wares along the way, and then he walked back to Indiana and gave all his earnings to his father. Those times were very different times.

    "The Republican party, on the contrary, hold that this government was instituted to secure the blessings of freedom, and that slavery is an unqualified evil to the negro, to the white man, to the soil, and to the State. Regarding it an evil, they will not molest it in the States where it exists; they will not overlook the constitutional guards which our forefathers have placed around it; they will do nothing which can give proper offence to those who hold slaves by legal sanction; but they will use every constitutional method to prevent the evil from becoming larger and involving more negroes, more white men, more soil, and more States in its deplorable consequences. They will, if possible, place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate peaceable extinction, in God's own good time." - Abraham Lincoln - September 11, 1858

    He simply believed that the rule of law was more important and that individual States had the right to make their own laws regarding slavery.

    Colonization was a voluntary program. It is true that Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and many others supported colonization. We understand how wrong that is today but again they lived in another time. One of the others who supported colonization was Edward Coles.

    Edward Coles was himself a great emancipator. He inherited twenty three slaves in 1808 and had to move to Illinois to set them free because Virginia law required freed slaves to move out of the state. Edward Coles became the second Governor of Illinois and was instrumental in making Illinois a free state.

    http://www.lib.niu.edu/2005/iht1210502.html

    Lincoln's thinking evolved to a point near the end of his life when he supported some black's voting rights. To condemn Lincoln for living in his time is not ethical as he was ahead of his time and a leader of emancipation.

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    1. BJ: Everyone was a racist in those days. Whites, Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, French, Irish, and on and on.

      BM: While I can agree that in many ways Lincoln’s attitudes were a reflection of the times, it is not appropriate to suggest everyone was a racist. At the same time, considering his attitudes (not to mention actions and inactions toward slaves), it is also not appropriate to speak of Lincoln as if he was Jesus Christ. I do not suggest you have done so, but it is in this context that one might consider Bennett’s work.

      BJ: Lincoln was indeed a friend of the slave.

      BM: Lincoln had many opportunities where he could have directed the nation’s energy into demonstrating friendship toward slaves as opposed to wasting that energy on war. He did not do this. He had enough power to plunge a continent into war, yet did nothing for his friends? Really?

      As to statements Lincoln may have made opposed to slavery, there are just as many examples if not more where he said the opposite. Actions (and inactions) speak louder than words.

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