The Deification of Lincoln (and of the American State), by Thomas DiLorenzo

There may be no historical figure in America more deified than Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has worked harder to bring the truth to light about Lincoln than Thomas DiLorenzo. From DiLorenzo at

“The violence of the criticism aimed at Lincoln by the great men of his time on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line is startling.  The breadth and depth of the spectacular prejudice against him is often shocking for its cruelty, intensity, and unrelenting vigor.  The plain truth is that Mr. Lincoln was deeply reviled by many who knew him personally, and by hundreds of thousands who only knew of him.”

–Larry Tagg, The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President

In his book, The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln, historian Larry Tagg, a native of Lincoln, Illinois, constructs a powerful case that Abraham Lincoln was by far the most hated and reviled of all American presidents, North and South, during his lifetime.  For example, in May of 1864 the New York Times labeled Lincoln “a perjurer, a usurper, a tyrant, a subverter of the Constitution, a destroyer of the liberties of this country, a reckless desperado, a heartless trifler . . .  there is no circle in Dante’s Inferno full enough of torment to expiate his iniquities.” [But see Alex Kassel comment and SLL reply below.]

The Lacrosse, Wisconsin Democrat newspaper warned in November of 1864 that should Lincoln be reelected, “we hope that a bold hand will be found to plunge the dagger into the tyrant’s heart . . .”  Such views were commonplace in the North.

This all changed after Lincoln’s death, as the Republican Party recruited (and probably paid quite handsomely) the New England clergy to capitalize on the assassination for political propaganda purposes.  Professor Tagg explains this in a chapter entitled “The Sudden Saint.”  After viciously vilifying him for four years as an infidel, and worse, “pastors across America rewrote their Easter sermons” after Lincoln’s death on Good Friday, “to include a new, exalted view of Lincoln as an American Moses, a leader out of slavery, a national savior who was not allowed to cross over into the Promised Land.”  The Republican Party, with the help of a highly-politicized clergy, saw that “all their political enemies would fall before the sword that Lincoln’s death had put into their hands” in the post-war world.

To continue reading: The Deification of Lincoln (and of the American State)


4 responses to “The Deification of Lincoln (and of the American State), by Thomas DiLorenzo

  1. The New York Times, however long its catalog of journalistic outrages, did NOT “label” Lincoln as anything. The article cited was summarizing Lincoln’s opponents’ calumnies against him. You could look it up in the archived text of the 1864 article:


    • Mr. Kassel is correct. Here is the full quote from the NY Times article in question, which restores valuable context:

      This irresistible popular sentiment is the more extraordinary in view of the unexampled abuse which has been poured upon the Administration for the last two years. No living man was ever charged with political crimes of such multiplicity and such enormity as ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He has been denounced without end as a perjurer, a usurper, a tyrant, a subverter of the Constitution, a destroyer of the liberties of his country, a reckless desperado, a heartless trifler over the last agonies of an expiring nation. Had that which has been said of him been true there is no circle in DANTE’s Inferno full enough of torment to expiate his iniquities. Yet the American people are to confer upon him an honor which this generation has not before witnessed. Their answer to all this horrible stream of blackest crimination will be his reelevation to the highest office in their gift; and that, too, by a majority never before known to our political history.

      Thank you, Mr. Kassel.


  2. Reblogged this on The way I see things … and commented:
    The founding fathers never argued that Americans were so morally exceptional that they therefore had a right to become the bullies of the world and attempt to remake the entire planet in their image. That is the Lincoln legacy. Actually, the idea emanates from the New England “yankees” and their Mid-Western compatriots like Lincoln. See Clyde Wilson’s “The Yankee Problem in America.” Lincoln’s own political rhetoric, which has been faithfully repeated by generations of court historians, is what the late Professor Mel Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.” Others call it the rhetoric of “American exceptionalism.”


  3. Thomas DiLorenzo has no commitment to the truth. He and a small but vocal contingent of second-rate historians with a radically conservative agenda seek to alter history to serve their purposes in the present.

    And the condemnation of Lincoln on this page stands in contrast to a massive body of Lincoln scholarship that gets at the truth of the man without any political axe to grind.


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