tv The Presidency CSPAN January 24, 2015 12:00pm-1:07pm EST
he says in order to understand why lincoln is revered, it is important to understand the criticisms of his detractors. including the charge that he exceeded the powers of the presidency granted by constitution. the lincoln group of the district of columbia hosted this one hour 20 minute event. >> good evening. i am former vice president of the lincoln group and the district of columbia. it is my honor and privilege to invite tonight's speaker, john mckee barr, a professor of history at lone star college kingwood, for the past seven years, teaching among other things a class on darwin and lincoln, who were born on the same day. that is a pregnant historical coincidence. before that, he was a high school teacher in the houston public school system. that is good preparation for the kind of flack he has to put up nowadays.
"loathing lincoln" is his first book, and he has started a blog. he updates weekly. i highly recommend it. it is very lively. it is loathinglincoln.com. i highly recommend that to all of you. the book has received a lot of good attention, a lot of praise. i want to read you a couple summaries of what the book must be about. one is by our old friend marco. he said, paradoxically america's most revered president has also been its most reviled. as john mckee barr shows in his meticulous survey, detractors of the rail splitter have been a variegated crowd of strange bedfellows. libertarians, neoconservatives white supremacists, black panthers. states rights advocates, and anti-imperialist, among others. the arguments that have
overlooked the confederacy's central aim -- the right to own, exploit, and rape african-americans and their descendents forever. here is another comment i find particularly amusing, from an unnamed critic. from bitter, defeated critics after appomattox, and academics in our own time, the 16th president has become an historical man for all seasons with each group having its own swing at the abe piñata. for uniquely different reasons. it is amazing how some and he -- how many sharply opposed groups ideologically can hold a mirror up to this unique figure in american history and find the same monster staring back at them. john mickey barr. -- mckee barr. [applause] >> thank you for having me here this evening.
coming up on this rainy evening it is nice to hear those , comments. michael was very kind to me at various points. that was nice when he gave a blurb. i was also lucky that my father-in-law grew up in a family of eight children, so i was able to go all over the u.s. for free while i did research. this is my wife's uncle, peter gutierrez. i am staying with him in baltimore yesterday, today, and tomorrow. i want to recognize peter and his family for all they have done for me. [applause] the title of my talk is understanding why he was hated in order to understand why he was loved. loathing lincoln and why it matters today. that is a paraphrase of a quote by william f buckley junior said -- the founder of the modern
conservative movement. he said it late in his life, around 2002. he said, we can't really understand why lincoln was loved without understanding why he was hated. that is the premise of my book to look at lincoln's critics and examine, what did they hate him for? even lincoln's critics, if you think about jerome bennett thomas lorenzo junior, they believe what we think about lincoln is very important as a country. on that point, we agree. what i would like to talk about this evening is, i would like to tell you a story about this ongoing argument about who we are as a country, regarding abraham lincoln and his critics. the reasons people hate lincoln, they change over time. they never stay the same in any one particular era. none of the criticisms go away entirely. some are emphasized more in some
eras than in others. but the way we think about lincoln and the way his critics think about him changes as our cultural anxiety changes. i would like to focus on the postwar years, 1865 to the present day. although my book starts in 1858 with the lincoln-douglas debates. because that is where he really came to national attention. then, i will conclude with why i think this matters. i will then take questions you might have for me this evening. after the war is over, and lincoln has been assassinated, initially, i think, there is this idea of course in the country that this great man -- we have lost this great man. that wasn't entirely true. there were critics, even within
the south, that viewed lincoln not as the savior of the union but as the destroyer of the union. that this old union that had existed before he came along had been destroyed by him. there were a couple criticisms that his critics in postwar years, oddly enough some of them were aided by his law partner. there were a couple major criticisms. one, he was the destroyer of the union. another criticism -- and i noticed this in my research -- they called him the great infidel. when we think of infidelity in our era, that means something to do with sex. but in that era, the 19th century, that meant lincoln was an atheist, or a free thinker. it was herndan who launched the tradition. there were those in the immediate aftermath of lincoln's death who said he had been a wonderful christian. herndon did not agree with that and he said so. herndon, then wardhill, and a book published in 1873, talked about lincoln as not believing
in god. that really did bother people. especially, you have just been through this bloodletting of 700,000 americans being killed in a war, and the idea that the man who had led the country through the war might not be a believer, that was troubling to people. so there was a sense that he had destroyed the old union. there was a sense that he was an infidel. and then another thing i noticed that crops up is, this is how cultural anxiety shifts. we really admire his background. in our era, students today are inspired by this man who was born into dire conditions, really, and his mother died at a very young age. he manages to become a successful lawyer. and later, the president. that is inspiring. it was inspiring to lincoln's generation as well.
however, some of his critics found his background what they called disgusting and vulgar. i noticed this cap cropping -- kept cropping up in phrase after phrase that i have read in my research. his most vociferous critic was a former friend albert bledsoe who had worked with lincoln in week -- whig politics in the 1840's, who later moved south and did research for jefferson davis during the war. after the war, bledsoe published a defense of jefferson davis. it was called," is jefferson davis a traitor." what i want to do is read excerpts from the book. here is something that bledsoe said in a review, a 40-page review of a life of lincoln in 1873. he published it in the southern review, a journal that he edited that had 3000 subscribers. it is fair to say that it probably reached some people in
the south, probably some influential people. here is what bledsoe said in 1873. we think, on the whole, mr. lincoln was the right man in the right place. no man better than he to represent the northern demos or as wendell phillips has it the party of the north against the party of the south. if, as we believe, that was the cause of brute force, blind passion, fanatical hate, lust of power and the greed of gain against the cause of constitutional law and human rights, then who was better fitted to represent it then the -- than the talented, but low, ignorant, and vulgar rail splitter of illinois? or if, as we all believe, it was the cause of infidelity and atheism, and against principles and the spirit of the christian religion, who better to let them
slip with the fury of the pit than the low-bred infidel of pigeon creek? in whose eyes the savior of the world was an illegitimate child. and the holy mother as they says his own. -- as base as his own. he could write. he could definitely write. there, you see these things, you hear the word vulgar, you hear the words that there is no morality to what the union did in the war, it was simply brute force, while the southern cause was about constitutional law and human rights. give that a thought. bledsoe was a very important critic. you heard the word vulgar in that description. that is something that even lincoln's critics conceded, his background as being something that was less than savory.
a jurist, later homer plessy's lawyer, and he loved lincoln -- even he called him the great uncouth. that lasted until the 1890's. what happens in america and 1890's? the country begins to expand overseas. now the criticism, while those criticism i mentioned that lincoln was vulgar and an atheist, those criticisms remain, there is a new one. this idea that he was the first imperialist. he is the great imperialist because he had invaded the south. just like the united states had invaded the philippines or things of that nature. but something else begins to happen around the turn of the century as well. this is where you begin to see the first african-american criticisms of lincoln. why is that? what is happening around the
turn-of-the-century regarding race relations in america? the united states has retreated from the egalitarian promises of reconstruction. in the early part of the 20th century, you get thousands of african-americans lynched in the country. there are african-american thinkers who begin to wonder what did we really gain from the war? are we really emancipated if we can be lynched at will? and so i noticed, for example, one figure, archibald grimke who was a nephew of the abolitionist grimke sisters and a former american diplomat, said this in 1900 about lincoln. "it seems to me that it is high time for colored americans to
look at abraham lincoln from their own standpoint, instead of from that of their fellow white citizens. we have a point of view equally with them for the study of this great man's public life, wherein it touched and influenced our history." and so, this other quote, we can publicly begin to work on intellectual emancipation than with abraham lincoln the emancipator. this idea among grimke and other african-american thinkers i will read you from in a second, thinkers, that we need to think about lincoln for ourselves, as an african-american community. here is what hubert harrison -- he was a radical, associated with marcus garvey's "the world" in the early part of the century. he wrote a series of lectures that he gave about lincoln. he was an important figure in the african-american community and he said this in one of his lectures. i shall endeavor to show that
lincoln was not an abolitionist, that he had no special love for the negro, that he opposed the abolition of the domestic slave trade and he opposed citizenship -- favor the fugitive slave law that he opposed citizenship for negroes, that he favored making slavery perpetual in 1851, that he denied officially that the war was fought to free the slaves. he did not pay african-american soldiers in cold wages. without these soldiers, he could not have won the war. that the emancipation proclamation was issued, not for the slave trade, but solely as an act to cripple the army of the south. and finally, that it did not abolish slavery and did not intend to. this is what i will prove in regard to lincoln and the members of his party. or to the man of his party. excuse me. i am puzzled over this. i thought, how can you have this meeting of what may -- what next
ex- confederates are saying and what african-americans are saying? i dug into it more deeply. even harrison and grimke, and later w.e.b. dubois, for -- said that lincoln was the greatest president of the century. for harrison, the greatest resident america -- president america had ever had. harrison, the bar was not set high. those were things he would hear bledsoe say, or a diehard confederate say. it struck me that this is not loathing. this is disappointment. it is disappointment with the way things had turned out. i think that is an important distinction. a colleague of mine, after she finished my book, she said, it seems to me that if i tell my child that i am disappointed in
them, that is one thing. if i tell my child i loathe them, that is something else entirely. i think what you see is, you see criticism by the african-american community that it is criticism borne out of disappointment that the war did not fulfill the promises. the country did not live up to its better ideals after 1877. i think there is a key distinction there that i wanted to make in the book. i hope i made the distinction well. you will have to be the judge of that. of course, right? i noticed, after world war i concluded, there is this new thing that crops up in lincoln hatred. but it is kind of not a new thing, it is connected to criticism of lincoln as an atheist. it is really this association of lincoln with the people who criticize him, they also hate modernity. so i want to read you a quote from lincoln.
i am sure you are familiar with it. but i do want to read it to you. it will set the stage for this. we can set -- there it is. -- lincoln said -- there it is. lincoln said, i hold that if the almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all the brunt of the work, he would have made them with mouths only and no hands. if he had ever made another class that he intended to do all the work and none of the eating, he would have made them without mouths and all hands. i think this illustrates something important about lincoln. he has this deep and strong sense that no one position in life should ever be fixed at birth. i think, lincoln -- even the idea in his speeches that the slaves had interests is a
profoundly egalitarian concept if you think about it. in 19 century america, to say that the slaves in the south they had feelings, they were not hogs and horses, they knew they were wronged, that was profoundly egalitarian. and you do get people in between the wars -- remember, there are lots of changes going on in america after 1919. changes intellectually -- the theory of relativity, the arrival of freud in america the automobile is introduced america is more urban than rural. these changes are very unsettling. to some of lincoln's critics. there is also a book published in the 1920's by bruce barton. he, i believe, is the father of
william barton, who was a lincoln -- if i am not mistaken. is that correct? -- a scholar of lincoln's youth. he published a book called "the man nobody knows." he compares lincoln to jesus in the book. this absolutely drove lincoln's critics nuts. one thing that happened, also, and i will pass this picture around to you now, there was also a statue of lincoln put in the cathedral of saint john the divine in new york city. i took pictures there this summer, my wife took those pictures, there is a statue of lincoln in the cathedral. a united daughter of the confederacy member named mary carter, related to the lee family by marriage, she actually writes these public letters in the southern church magazine an official organ of the
it is couple -- episcopal church out of virginia, and i found these at the virginia historical society, these big letters editorials on the backs of these church newspapers. she writes the bishop of washington, d.c., and listen to the language. this is published. as you are aware, she writes there is a very serious religious crisis in this country. the young are drifting away from the home and the churches and into criminal currents. the conclusion is inescapable that one of the major causes of is the absence of christian qualities in the clergy, they fail to attract the young because their character lacks the discriminating and compelling christian virtues. as illustrating this lack, abraham lincoln is the only american who to my knowledge ever wrote a book to disprove
the bible and the divinity of christ, and called the redeemer of mankind an illegitimate child. yet, he is the only person in this country who has been universally singled out by clergy to be classed with the christ. eulogized from our pulpits sabbath after sabbath. there must be something radically wrong with the spiritual perception of our clergy when a man of this type is selected for this placing and honor. what a spectacle. this man selected by the minister of christ as the equal of christ. one thing you noticed, and it probably struck many of you, if you are knowledgeable about lincoln at all and i know you are -- he went through a period of time when he was skeptical about religion. this is very common to lincoln's critics. they will freeze something he said at one point in time and not balance it out with things
he said at another point in time. you see mary carter pointing out his infidelity, and ignoring -- karen brought it up, his second inaugural. if you are talking about the second inaugural, you are talking about god's punishment on the country for slavery. i don't think i ever read or heard a criticism where i do not hear lincoln's words quoted back to me from charleston in 1858. i am not now, nor ever have been, in favor of equality between blacks and whites. i am paraphrasing. but then you never hear the balancing idea that he signed the confiscation act, that he believed that the slaves had interests. he said, let us quit quibbling about this race or that race. or, he says how the declaration of independence applies to all
people everywhere, forever. you get this imbalance, which is the criticism of lincoln. i think that was something i wanted to bring out in the book. another critic of lincoln that is important in the 1930's, is also from illinois. that is something else i think begins to shift in the 1930's. largely, prior to the 1930's, the lincoln criticism had been a regional phenomenon. that is understandable in a way, if you think about it. but in the 1930's, edgar lee masters publishes a book called "lincoln, the man." he was from illinois. masters had been upset by carl sandburg's hagiography, biography of lincoln, so masters published a deeply critical book of lincoln. i should say, this line was from masters's book. it stuck with me. he said in one of the lines in
the book, that the imperialism of mckinley is not one bit different than the imperialism of lincoln. i think that is the basic thrust of it, anyway. he writes this book, and living in texas, i was fortunate, because edgar lee masters's papers are in the university of texas in austin. there are hundreds of letters from people all over the country telling masters, thank you for what you have done in criticizing this man. then got for this. -- thank god for this. letters from seattle to san diego to el paso, texas, to alabama to new york city. i think i read at least 150 letters, most of them positive but many quite negative.
i thought you would like to hear one or two, if you wouldn't mind. elizabeth polk from tennessee, i am gratified, lincoln was tricky, sly, a poor white all the way through. tulsa, oklahoma, ok? he told masters, be ready for considerable unfavorable comment, because the united states is a nation of hero worship and hypocritical stamina. one man -- where is he -- from mobile, alabama, i am delighted you have the current to show lincoln in his true light. i always felt him to be a vulgar, common, cold man, to call him a friend of the south is too absurd or discussion. -- a discussion. and so on. those sorts of things. in fact, masters's book was
banned in places like boston from being sold. it wasn't as though censorship did not exist. there was truth in what they were saying. this view of lincoln as a symbol of modernity is something you see between the wars. after the wars, there is something that happens that is really profoundly important after world war ii. of course, what is the huge event of the postwar era domestically in the united states? the civil rights movement. i will get back to that in a moment. and why that matters. but in 1959, there is a book published by a political philosopher named harry jaffa, called "crisis of the house divided." the lincoln douglas debates. it is the first book that looks as lincoln as a thinker, not just as a politician scheming for power, that lincoln has very particular ideas of what kind of country america ought to be, and that actually, jaffa argues, the
civil war was not a war we blundered into. you will still hear that today for example. the civil war was not something that happened for no reason. there were very real interests at stake. jaffa was, and remains, a conservative. jaffa was the author, if i'm not mistaken, barry goldwater's famous line in 1964 in san francisco, that extremism in defence of liberty is no vice. this book caused a firestorm
within the conservative community, because, for the most part, criticism of lincoln -- and not entirely, but criticism of lincoln had been located in kind of a conservative political area. jaffa is saying, you cannot have any justice in the country of there is not some amount of reciprocity or equality between people. there is -- to william f buckley's credit, he allows jaffa and others to go back and forth in the pages of "national review" over, how should conservatives think about abraham lincoln? i think, in the long run, jaffa wins the debate within the conservative community over lincoln. but, not without cause. -- some costs. i want to mention this, because i think this is interesting. one of jaffa's antagonists was a texan by the name of mel bradford, a well-known far nurse -- faulkner scholar at the university of dallas.
they conducted a decades long argument in various journals about lincoln's role in american life. in 1981, reagan nominated bradford to be the chair of the national endowment for the humanities. we know how this works -- you probably know better than i do living in washington. if you have written a lot on a topic and you get nominated for something, that may cause you problems. bradford had written quite a bit about lincoln, and he had compared lincoln to lenin and bismarck and hitler. this is dug up. this is dug up by other conservatives. i should say that jaffa actually favored bradford getting the nomination. at least according to my research, he did. but in the end, reagan did not nominate bradford to the chair of the national endowment for
the humanities. he nominated a man named william bennett from the university of texas, instead. i am sure you have heard of william bennett. this really cause -- i think i am right about this. this was something that really caused a significant split within the conservative movement over abraham lincoln, between what might be called the neoconservatives, of which jaffa might be labeled a member, and the paleo conservatives, of which bradford was a member. what happens is, criticism of lincoln gets driven underground by the conservative movement. as george will said, a party that want to win power cannot mock its noble past. you do, i think, even today, we see this split.
in 1989, what happens? the cold war ends. 1991, soviet union breaks apart. there is a serious re-examination, even within the conservative movement, about are borders, are nations permanent? think about what we saw in scotland with the vote on secession. there is a new criticism of lincoln that develops out of what i would call anarcho-capitalist or libertarians, championed by murray rothbart. he added that "national review -- he edited at "national
review." but rothbard broke with "national review" over what he thought was there international stance, with regard to the cold war. buckley, i think, was a cold warrior and argued that the united states was going to have to fight that and use the state to fight that war. rothbard disagreed with that entirely, and thought the united states had at least as much responsibility as anyone else did, as the russians did, for the cold war. so rothbard became a leader of this criticism of lincoln that stems from this libertarian community. to read you a quote, he says this, and this was not long after the soviet union broke up. didn't lincoln use force and violence, and on a massive scale, on behalf of the sacred union to prevent the south from seceding? indeed he did. and on the foundation of mass
murder and opression, lincoln crushed the south and outlawed the very notion of secession. based on the highly plausible ground that separate states voluntarily enter the union, they should be allowed to leave. not only that. lincoln created a monstrous unitary nation-state from which local and individual liberties have never recovered. the power of the federal judiciary, supreme court, and army, the overthrowing of the right of habeus corpos, the establishment of martial rule, the suppression of freedom of the press, and the largely permanent establishment of conscription, income tax, taxes against liquor and tobacco, the corrupt partnership of government and industry, constituting massive subsidies
to transcontinental railroads and the protective tariff, the establishment of money inflation through the greenbacks and getting off the gold standard, and the nationalizations of banking systems through the national banking act of 1863 and 1864. if you have read, for example, if you have read books about lincoln, you recognize those criticisms. delorenzo, it is fair to say, is a disciple, if you will, of rothbard, and that rothbard tradition. what is going on here, rothbard also says, one point right after the soviet union broke apart he said, with the inspiration of the death of the soviet union before us, we know that it can be done. what? what can be done? we shall break the clock of social democracy and the great society and the welfare state. we shall break the clock of the new deal. we shall break the clock of woodrow wilson's new freedom and
perpetual war. we shall repeal the 20th century. he could write, too. rothbard is wonderful to read. very interesting figure. i think that is the view of lincoln criticism that is most prevalent today. when the civil rights movement was going on in the 1960's, there was an african-american critic, an editor at ebony magazine, lerone bennett junior, that published an essay on the heels of the vietnam war and riots in major cities, people were wondering what lincoln would do about these crisis. -- problems. it was bennett -- excuse me.
bennett argued that lincoln is not the solution to our problems, he is the problem because he was a white supremacist. he was a racist. for example, in 1968, that famous essay, he said lincoln had profound doubts about the possibility of realizing the rhetoric of the declaration of independence and gettysburg address on this soil. he believed until his death that black people and white people would be better off separated. preferably with the atlantic ocean or some other large and deep body of water between them. he went on to say, in the final analysis, lincoln must be seen as the embodiment, not the transcendence, of the american tradition. which is a racist tradition. lincoln, often called the
noblest of americans, holds up a flawed mirror to today. one honors him today not by gazing at a flawed image, but by seeing oneself in the reflected ambivalence is of his life which calls us to transcend it not imitation. bennett, 30 years later, wrote a 600 page book about abraham lincoln, in which he leveled every criticism he could at abraham lincoln. i gave this some thought as i was getting into the writing of the last chapter of this book. as i was writing the last chapter, around the time that a man named senator barack obama was running for the presidency right about the time he was elected to the presidency, it struck me at the time, it was like, how influential is lerone bennett if the most well-known
-- powerful african-american politician in the history of the world is using lincoln's image to further his cause? you also have conservatives, african-americans or libertarian african-americans such as thomas of the hoover institution. wrote vigorous defenses of lincoln upon publishing of other lincoln books. one thing my book does is say i don't really -- i do think there is criticism of lincoln on the left. i think it exists. i asked one left wing political theorist corey robin, i said what do you think the status of lincoln's on the left? he said, i think it is ambivalently positive. there was a biography, "the
fiery trial," in 2011. i think, right now where you see the political influence, it comes from this libertarian movement within the family of conservatism. i think you see, and it is one of the things that was pointed out to me by larry arnehart, a political philosopher who is conservative at northern illinois university, criticisms -- critical defenses of lincoln have come from conservatives. rich lowery, editor of national review, published the book "lincoln unbound." just this week, a writer at "national review" has published his biography of lincoln "founders' son."
that is where my book leaves off, that there is an ambivalently positive view of lincoln on the left. there is criticism but i am not sure how influential the left is in america, to tell you the truth. i think there is this argument going on within the family of conservatism. i know that some libertarians would dispute the day are -- that they are conservatives, and fair enough, but ron paul did run as a republican, right? he did. pat buchanan, a lincoln critic ran as a republican in the 1990's. so it is there. what i would like to do to close this evening, and thank you for your patience, is read to you from the book. and why i think this matters. because i think if we loathe lincoln in some essential ways we loathe our country. and we lose something essential about ourselves. i think it is what an essayist
once said -- we squander a part of our democratic inheritance if we do not realize the cost that that came -- that came with achieving a greater democratic inheritance. americans need to remind themselves that lincoln's principled stand against the monstrous injustice of slavery and slaveholders advocacy for its perpetuation in all future times -- that is a phrase from the texas declaration of secession -- combined with his belief that recurrent elections, as opposed to secession, was the best method for solving political disagreements, were the hallmarks of democratic politics, and essential aspects of the better parts of our nature. lincoln's aim in asking americans to fight a war to
preserve a relatively democratic union cleansed of slavery was courageous and noble, perhaps even necessary. the country remains indebted to those who fought to ensure that the nation did not split. lincoln was neither a god nor a saint. obviously, he was neither. he would have been the first to scoff at either notion. nor was the president a demon the progenitor of all of america's ills. he was a complex man dedicated to ending slavery in america. in fact, there is no shame in saying that he was a gifted politician who, with the help of millions of anti-slavery americans, including the slaves themselves, explained why the united states should attempt to fulfill the better ideals of its founders.
because of the war, those ideals were, for a time, realized. the new birth of freedom, of which lincoln expectantly spoke at gettysburg, occurred. as african americans became citizens in the new nation born from the conflict with ratification of the 14th amendment to the constitution, in this instance, federal power brought rather than diminished freedom. it became another of the war's heartbreaking tragedies in addition to its hundreds of thousands of casualties that human liberty shrank at the nation's commitment to a more pluralistic democracy withered in the face of state and local resistance to the postwar era's egalitarian possibilities. the consequences persisted for far too long. they were thankfully impermanent, because americans especially african-americans realized they were inconsistent with the commitment to equality. as they have in the past, so
will americans in the future continue to grapple with the civil war and the president to led the nation through that conflict. but to loathe abraham lincoln would be to lose, or loathe, an essential part of the nation. he wanted us to have an open field and a fair chance for industry, enterprise, and intelligence. one that would give americans "equal privileges in the race of life." a country lincoln hoped would become, as he said in his last written words, a union of heart and hand as well as of state. thank you very much. [applause] i will be glad to take any questions, if anyone has them.
>> i am so glad you read that last paragraph. i was getting very depressed. [laughter] >> me too. >> the thing about lincoln anytime i read anything about him, i get depressed because i how it ends. he gets shot. i also know how the country that happened after, the fact that if yet lived, if he had lived, his view of what society could have been, slavery ending and what free blacks could have been, the country today would be so different. i wonder if you could comment on that, too. >> so what would have happened if lincoln had lived? that's the question. good, an easy one. [laughter] ok, it is fun to speculate. first of all, i do not think that you would ever have had that break you had with johnson
and the republican party after the war. that would never have happened. jim oakes has done us all a favor. he gave me the title for the book. he was on my dissertation committee and he said i think this would be a good title. i said, i think so too. thank you jim. i don't think there would've ever been that break. jim oakes has done a wonderful service in reminding us that lincoln is a republican, part of a movement to end slavery. he would have listened and worked with this party that was dedicated to what happened afterwards. with greater freedoms for african-americans. that being said, he would have left office in 1869. i don't think he would have run for a third term.
the war nearly killed him physically, not to mention psychologically. the same things that existed in 1869 when grant took office, after johnson left, would have existed if lincoln had lived and grant had taken office. that is simply, that you had enormous resistance to even the idea of equality across large areas of the country. that is not simply a southern problem. it was certainly more violent there. so i don't know. i don't know if it would have been any different. the resistance would not have been -- i think about that a lot. i really do. i just don't know how to answer it, but it is a great question.
>> if stewart had won in 1860, would there have been a book called "loathing stewart"? >> it might have been written by the republican party in the 1860's. that is an interesting question. i just finished a chapter in the forthcoming companion book on the secession, the five months between the day lincoln was elected and the day he took office. i think one of the things that struck me in researching this is that there were republicans that would have compromised in 1860 and 1861. seward might have. i don't know that he would have, but we know that lincoln didn't. this is another criticism that comes up among his critics.
if lincoln did not save the union, he saved republican party. in a sense, they are right, but they do not know that they are saying more than the mean, because what was the republican party dedicated to? non-extension of slavery and its ultimate extinction. you can say, he is trying to save the party, and then say, he doesn't care about ending slavery. if he is a republican, he would -- he does. i think the answer to your question is kind of, what would seward have done? i don't know. if seward had been president and hadn't compromised would he have been able to steer the country through the war in the same way, with the same -- holding those different elements of the country together the way
lincoln did? i am just not sure. karen? >> the review in the wall street journal, where the republicans are embracing lincoln as their president, they say in the article that lincoln believed in small government, yet lincoln was the one who started the railroad act, he did the homestead act, all of these things that were there to expand the nation. he realized the infrastructure was a necessity in order to get the economy growing in the country. and the working-class person, to give them those rights. it is troubling that they choose to misinform to defend. >> i think there is something to that approach, that conservative appropriation of lincoln. obviously, he is trying to preserve the union, the country. most conservatives, i would say
today, love abraham lincoln. look at the claremont review of books. it is very pro-lincoln. but there is also the emphasis within the conservative movement today of lincoln as the man of work and opportunity. and i think that is what lowery's book emphasizes, lincoln is a man who believed in opportunity, equal opportunity. and of course, lincoln is also a guy who is talking about the declaration of independence as applying to all people at all times everywhere. this idea of timeless truth. so i do think there is something to the conservative appropriation and admiration of lincoln. that is one thing that we will always still have. he appeals to both liberals and conservatives, right? in a way. that is interesting to me.
regarding the -- i don't know that conservatives would say that lincoln was a man of small government. i think they would say he is a man that believed in limited or constitutionally prudent government. i think that would be the argument. but even when you get into -- i think that would be the argument. if you are asking me my opinion, that is a different story. we would get into tricky problems. i do think -- in the book a little bit -- people believe in equal opportunity. most americans believe in that. the trick becomes, what does equal opportunity mean? what role does the government have in providing equal opportunity? lincoln believed the government had a role to play in that. a pretty big one, in some areas. and you don't really sense a lot of disdain for american government in lincoln's writings and his speeches.
i don't know if i -- that's a long-winded answer to your question, but i think -- i understand that. that conservative appropriation. yes. >> have you had a conversation with modern african-american academics who demean lincoln's role in the extinction of slavery? >> no, i have not. >> in a panel discussion at the national archives, there are substantial academics who believe that he did not get much done. >> go ahead.
>> i overheard african-american academics at a recent panel discussion demean lincoln's role in the extinction of slavery saying that he had a limited role in eliminating slavery. that is a cause of concern today. they want to knock down the reputation of the emancipator because they view him as slow to the game, too little, too late. >> certainly, that view has been around for a long time. one of the things that i was trying to do with the book is to understand what the criticisms are, but also to look at the issue of influence. i think that view has influence. i have a friend who is at the new york historical society with in the last couple of years, and he overheard a tour guide pooh-pooh'ing lincoln's role. or a docent. it struck him that, wow, that is unusual.
but, you know -- you know, i -- i mean, i -- i understand that criticism. but in some ways, it strikes me as simplistic. the civil war was the most incredibly complex time in american history. and, you know -- i don't know what else to say to you. >> the thing is, african-americans did more to for themselves than lincoln did. that is a powerful argument. nonetheless, i -- >> no, i think there is a confluence to those events. that is one of those things where there is, like, is that really and either-or question? do we have to say that lincoln was 60% responsible, and african-americans were 40% responsible for freeing the slaves? or vice versa?
why can't everyone have had a role? and i think that is one of the things -- and i think oaks influenced me on this, it is an entire movement dedicated to ending slavery. and i think that we cannot ever forget that, in a way. yes, you had a question. >> i think we have to be very careful when we talk about african-americans who are not politicians making statements about politicians, because politicians are wired differently, and they have to deal with different issues. [laughter] if you are a non-politician or academic, you can say whatever you want. because it may or may not be true, but a politician has to deal with what he has to deal with. if that makes a difference as you look at what a politician
says, versus what an academic says. that's all i wanted to say. >> i think that that is exactly right. i think that if we lose sight of lincoln as a politician, we lose sight of something that is important. he is not only trying to fight a war, but it is not like the north was unified during the civil war. he said, i would like to have god on my side, but i must have kentucky on my side. if kentucky becomes part of the confederacy, it is the second largest state in the confederacy. you have lost all those troops. they go over to the confederacy. yes, ma'am. >> there are a couple things here. it happens often. people will judge lincoln by the standards of 2014, and in the
1860's, he was very forward thinking. if you think of eleanor roosevelt, she was a pioneer in her day. some people say she did not go far enough. she resigned from the d.r. and facilitated marion anderson's concert at the lincoln memorial, but those may have said she should have been there. lincoln -- it was frederick douglass who agitated to get blacks in uniform. but lincoln had to be the one to sign off on it. when you say that blacks did it,
one could not happen without the other. >> that is a great point about -- i agree with you completely. another example of this is, you will hear the 1858 charleston quote, but you will never hear lincoln on the last speech of his life saying he wants blacks to get the right to vote. which in 19th-century america, that was a radical idea, right? i mean, actually, that was a radical idea for the next 100 years. [laughter] you know, in theis country. or, you will often hear people quote the greeley letters, if i could save the country without freeing slaves, i would do it. they never quote that lincoln said, if i could save the union and free all the slaves, i would do it. it is a libertarian timothy sanford, who pointed this out to
me. that is language no president has used before, universal emancipation. my students struggle with this. you have to go over it again and again. you can't look at 19th century you can't look at 19th century america through the eyes of 2014 -- i was at kingwood high school for 18 years. we read an essay on martin luther king, junior. in the course of this essay, his marital infidelities came up. my students were really bothered by that. one of the girls in my class stood up and said i think this makes me admire dr. king even more. everybody thought, ok, why is that? what she meant by that is, she said, because he's flawed. knowing that he made these mistakes and he still achieved what he did, that tells me i can do something with my life.
i think that was one of the things i gained from reading lincoln's critics. we don't need lincoln the god. we need lincoln the politician and the man. "need" is maybe not the right word. you get my drift about that. yes, sir. >> i don't know how you treated the issue of lincoln and the american colonization society, and how that was used by both sides. would you address that? >> well, certainly he took a lot of criticism for it. it comes up with critics from 1865 onwards. bennett especially use that criticism that he wanted to send them away to africa.
on that topic of colonization, we are never going to know that with certainty. we do know that he had $700,000 appropriated to spend and he spent $30,000 of it. if he was considering sending african americans overseas in 1865, why is he talking about suffrage in the last speech of his life? he would have been influenced by frederick douglass. he would've been influenced by others within the republican party. i do mention this in the book. he cites the sources that agree with the idea lincoln was thinking about that late in his life. he does not clearly cite the sources that disagree with that idea. it is that lack of balance, if you will, that you see oftentimes. he's an extraordinarily complex guy.
did that answer your question? >> yes. >> anyone else? well, i did put a card at your table. you've got my website, www.loathinglincoln.com. you can contact me through that website. i do blog on these issues occasionally. try to keep it up once a week, sometimes twice a week. and please contact me about anything at any time. lsu has left you some flyers to get a discount on the book. if you want to get a book signed, contact me. i will somehow figure out a way to get your book signed. i will. >> your website, loathing lincoln, how often do people come to your website thinking you will be a cheerleader? >> not anymore. i'm not getting it anymore, i don't think. not really.
that's not happening. not anymore. kind of worried about it at first. that's the title of the book, so what can you say? yes, sir. >> as a matter of practicality will your book be available in mainstream bookstores? i have seen it in some. i wish it were in more. i have seen it in some barnes & nobles. you can purchase it through my website or get the discount and get it through lsu. it is out there. some of the stores carry it and some don't. that is probably the most important thing you can do to advance lincoln's reputation is purchase this book. [laughter] [applause] thank you. i would love to meet each of you. come up and say hello.
>> from 1960 to 1962 the u.s. , government aided cuban parents in sending their children to the u.s. in order to escape the rise of the castro regime. next on american history tv, author and professor anita casavantes bradford discusses the legacy of the mission known as operation pedro pan. she explains the differing interpretations of the children's exodus to the u.s. from cuba and how the 2000 custody battle over elian gonzalez reignited debate over operation pedro pan. after her talk, several audience members who came to the u.s. as part of the operation took part in the discussion. florida international university hosted this 45-minute event. [applause] >> thank you so much. before i begin, i would like to ask if there are any pedro panists in the room.
a special thank-you for coming. i want to acknowledge pedro pan is not strictly or even primarily a topic for academic analysis and that you are the experts in this history. it is with that recognition that i will share a few thoughts with you today, but i do so with humility and appreciation for the opportunity to be with you today. between the fall of 1960 and october of 1962, the parents of more than 14,000 cuban children made the heartbreaking decision to send their children alone to the united states where they were cared for by friends, relatives, foster parents, as well as in camps and orphanages. the reasons why parents did this were varied. many feared for the spiritual well-being of their catholic children after an increasingly radicalized cuban revolution began to oppress religious