Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Ad Hominem

From Lew

More ad hominem


Posted: February 26, 2002

1:00 am Eastern

By Thomas J. DiLorenzo

© 2010

Once again, a spokesman from something called the "Declaration Foundation," David Quackenbush, has chosen personal insult and ad hominem arguments in response to my comments on Lincoln. He begins his Feb. 22 piece, "Apparent Inaccuracies," not by criticizing anything that I actually said, but saying that I argue "as if," in his opinion, I value free trade more than the abolition of slavery. He thereby underhandedly accuses me of sympathizing with slavery. This is a complete distortion of my position, and a straw man argument.

It is apparently the policy of the Declaration Foundation that anyone who criticizes Lincoln is slandered by the likes of Mr. Quackenbush as somehow being in favor of slavery. And he has the gall to conclude his article with the claim that he is not making ad hominem arguments.

Quackenbush asserts that "there is no legal right to secession," but this issue was never decided in any other way but Lincoln's use of military violence. In the first half of the 19th century, every cadet at West Point was taught constitutional law by the Pennsylvania abolitionist William Rawle, whose book on the Constitution argued that there was indeed a constitutional right to secession.

Most Americans – North and South – believed this as of 1860, as judged by the 1,000 Northern newspaper articles surveyed by historian Howard Cecil Perkins in his book, "Northern Editorials on Secession." Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island explicitly stated in their articles of ratification of the Constitution that they reserved the right to secede if the federal government ever became destructive of their liberties, giving the lie to Quackenbush's assertion that no state ever had a right to leave the Union under any circumstances. The Declaration Foundation is apparently in the business of either ignoring or rewriting history.

Quackenbush takes Lincoln's comments on central banking out of context to accuse me of inaccuracies. As I show in my book, "The Real Lincoln," Lincoln was devoted for 30 years to the Whig agenda of the federal government's monopolization of the money supply – so much so that he even had to bring it up in his comment on the Dred Scott decision, as Quackenbush admits. He was a passionate supporter of centralized government through money monopolization for his entire political career.

Quackenbush is unequivocally wrong when he says that he cannot find "a single word in any of the [Lincoln-Douglas] debates, that refers in any way, to an economic agenda." To be charitable, I will assume that, despite his claims of being a world champion Lincoln expert, Quackenbush never got around to reading the July 17, 1858, speech of Lincoln's in response to Douglas in Springfield, Ill., in which Lincoln says: "You remember we once had a national bank … the Supreme Court decided that the bank was constitutional. The whole Democratic party revolted against that decision. General [Andrew] Jackson himself asserted that he, as president, would not be bound to hold a national bank to be constitutional, even though the court had decided it to be so. He fell in precisely with the view of Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson, and acted upon it under official oath, in vetoing a charter for a national bank."

Yes, Lincoln is also discussing slavery in this speech, but it is relevant that he made it a point to insert his career-long animosity toward the Democratic Party's opposition to central banking as well, and to devote considerable space to it. This sounds like an economic agenda to me, despite Quackenbush's refusal to acknowledge it.

Quackenbush opens his article with a thinly veiled, and absurd accusation that I must somehow be unconcerned about the horrors of slavery. Then he claims something to be true that is not – that there is no economic agenda of any kind mentioned in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And he has the chutzpah to conclude with an appeal to discuss only the "actual statesmanship of the actual Lincoln" and not any unpleasant facts that I or anyone else might bring up, which he dismisses with more ad hominem as "wild imaginings." The man just can't help himself with the personal smears. Charming.


Thomas J. DiLorenzo is author of "The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War" (Forum/Random House) and professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.

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