Hey! Randy

Forced into Glory Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream

Posted by heyrandy on March 10, 2008

Forced into Glory Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett Jr. Johnson Publishing: Chicago, 2000. 652 pages, index, bibliography.

The story of Abraham Lincoln is a familiar one. It is taught in our schools, memorialized on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and counted out with every penny. You know the story: Honest Abe freed the slaves with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and delivered the Gettysburg address extolling government of, by, and for the people.

The only problem Bennett can find with the story is that it is all false, a myth carefully crafted by the court historians to perpetuate the myth of the greatness of Lincoln. Bennett exposes the lies about Lincoln by quoting the words of the man himself. The collected works of Lincoln form the basis of Bennett’s case against both Lincoln himself and the professional historians who have not dared to write against the America’s great president.

Bennett has an advantage over the professional (read tenured university professor) historians in that he is not a historian by profession but a journalist. He is an editor of Ebony magazine. This book grew out of a 1968 article he wrote for Ebony. The article caused a real controversy. The book, however, is being largely ignored. This is the standard tactic the history establishment uses to silence anything that threatens their near monopoly hold on history teaching.

This book should not be ignored. It should be read in every civil war history class. The book not only demolishes the myth surrounding Lincoln, it also exposed the clique of historians that should know, do know, but won’t tell the truth about Lincoln and his policies. Too many careers at stake? You don’t get the promotion, tenure, research grants, etc. if you go against the received truth.

Lincoln deserves to be exposed as the bigot and racist he was. Lincoln never had any intention of freeing the slaves. He only did what he did as a cynical political ploys to relieve the pressure he was feeling from the abolitionists. Bennett points out that during his tenure as a Illinois state legislator, Lincoln did nothing about the state’s “Black Code”, some of the most repressive such laws in the country. Lincoln constantly expressed his view that blacks were inferior to whites and were only good for menial tasks. When forced to consider emancipation, Lincoln worried about the effect upon the owners when deprived of their servants. Lincoln’s repeatedly proposed a gradual emancipation, one that would take 20 to 50 years! This was not a man that could be rightly called the friend of the slave.

Bennett’s analysis of the two major documents of the Lincoln administration, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, shows that they are really empty shells. The former did not free any slaves, and the latter did not apply to non-white people. The Myth continues.

But Lincoln was more than just empty talk. He was also empty action. When one of his generals issued an order to not return runaway slaves to their masters., Lincoln countermanded it. Lincoln refused to use freed slaves as soldiers in the Union Army. In the Union controlled city of New Orleans, the Army used freed slaves as forced labor. When blacks were finally organized into Union regiments, they were paid less than their white counter parts. The commander-in-chief did noting to rectify these injustices.

Lincoln was not without compassion. He actually proposed that the slaves be deported to an Asian or South American country, with suitable climate, that would take them. Lincoln had his State Department ask countries to take them, but there were no takers to be found. Lincoln was finally dissuaded when he was told that even using the entire U.S. Navy and all merchant ships, the freed slaves could not be deported faster than those slaves remaining in the U.S. would give birth to new people to deport.

Forced into Glory is not without its flaws. Bennett’s tone is sometimes angry, sometimes caustic. He uses the phrase “lily-White” so often that it becomes trite as well as being racist. He tends to be repetitive in some areas.

Bennett also does not deal with any of the legal issues regarding Lincoln’s handling of slavery. There is no discussion about the legal legitimacy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln, Bennett says, regarded the edict as a temporary measure that would become void once the war was settled. Nor is there any discussion about the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. It sound great to oppose slavery, but the President is bound to uphold the law, whether or not he likes it. If he can’t do this he, should not be President. If he doesn’t do this, he is subject to impeachment and removal from office. It is, of course, not Bennett’s purpose to raise these issues, but they are factors in the larger discussion, and the omission of a discussion of how Lincoln could have worked within the Constitution to further the cause of abolition is a weakness of the book.

Bennett does, however, note that there were a lot of thing Lincoln could have tried to do to change the existing laws but made no attempt to do them. Bennett totally rejects the excuse proffered by Lincoln apologists that Lincoln had to consider the possibility of session by the four border states slave states, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky. Bennett is right. What help the border states might to give to the Confederacy was already being given. There was not much to lose. Here Lincoln failed.

The constitutionality of session is not raised by Bennett. Bennett fails to realize that slavery, as vile and evil as it was, was a constitutionally protected right. Yes, the Constitution was a “White man’s” document, but it is the only basis upon which to act. Remembering this makes Lincoln’s idea of buying the slaves a much better proposal, unworkable unless the slave owner agreed to sell, than Bennett thinks.

But the book is worth the efforts of the author and will reward the reader with new understanding of Lincoln’s history and the historians who write Lincoln apologetics disguised as history.


One Response to “Forced into Glory Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream”

  1. Sharleenli said

    thanks much, guy

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