Apparently, the world has not yet had enough of junk historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Beyond being the official keeper of the FDR shrine, she had a long career at Harvard, and appeared on TV countless times as the Left’s favorite historian. That was before she got caught in a massive plagiarism scandal involving her 1987 book the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. Her first tactic was denial, which soon degenerated into whining self-pity, in that she just made a few clerical errors.
Meanwhile her defenders tried to show that there were merely trivial instances of this admitted plagiarism, compared to the bulk of the book, but that tactic also failed. A settlement was reached with the author she stole from, she was kicked off the Pulitzer board, and I honestly thought that we were finally rid of this miserable phony.
No such luck, I’m afraid.
Dizzy Doris is back with her hagiographic Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
We might start by asking Doris exactly how Lincoln was a political genius, beyond putting together, in her sole opinion, such a distinguished cabinet, including some men who did not like him, or each other. Rather, judge them by their fruits! If they were so great, why did they not prevent the war?
Lincoln’s victory in 1860 only occurred because the Democrats had split between the North and South, and more Southern votes were siphoned off by the Constitutional Union party. Considering that the Republicans’ platform of being antislavery in the North and in the territories, but supporting it in the South was all things for all men, the only wonder is that Lincoln did not fare better than he did.
The 1864 election, of course, was a joke since 11 states did not even participate. Moreover, Lincoln did not carry New Jersey, and barely won New York. He carried Pennsylvania by a scant three points, won Connecticut by less than that, and lost Delaware. This, in the face of success on the battlefield just before the election and an estimated 80 percent of the Union Army vote.
Far from preventing the Civil War, a failure that history condemns in at least two of his predecessors, he waged it with astonishing alacrity. Finally, he died before he could supervise Reconstruction, yet the policies he favored were pursued by his successor, who was impeached.
Still, the best of the worst of Doris is yet to come:
Interviewed by Candace Floyd in American Profile magazine, Goodwin is asked what influenced Lincoln’s thinking about abolition leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. She replies, in part…
“It was only when he came up with the understanding that emancipating the slaves was a military necessity that he could legitimately author the Proclamation. He understood that the slaves were helping the Southern cause—by tending the fields so that the soldiers could go to battle, by working in the trenches, by being cooks—so that if he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and turned some of those slaves into free men, they might leave the Army and leave the Confederacy, and that would help the Northern cause.”
How many things are wrong with this outrageous statement?
First of all, the entire war was fought because the South seceded, and was in rebellion, according to the Union. On the other hand, the War was prosecuted by the North as if the South were a separate country, since noncombatants were brutally treated, and vast areas of the South were destroyed, as might befit the invasion of a foreign nation. For the Proclamation to have any meaning, the South would have had to recognize Lincoln as their leader, which they obviously did not do. As difficult as it may be to comprehend in this age of the Federal Leviathan, most people—North and South—had few strong feelings about the national government, and the majority of what they did think was decidedly negative.
Indeed, they were far more likely to identify with their state, thus, and ironically so, the naming of Civil War military units on both sides, by their state affiliation!
Any way you slice it, then, the Proclamation had absolutely no effect in the South, and Lincoln, “genius” that he was, surely knew this. Most real historians agree that the Proclamation was set forth to curry favor with European powers, and put a sudden antislavery patina on the Union effort. The slaves were not freed by this Proclamation, or by Lincoln. They were freed by the 13th amendment (1865).
Slaves were helping the Confederate cause, all right, with tens of thousands of them in the Confederate Army. Many Confederate commanders freed these men during and after their service, and Robert E. Lee himself advocated arming them, and freeing them afterward. As to their impact on the Southern home front, do the math. At no time did more than 15 percent of Southerners own slaves. The fields were tended, as in the North, by older men, women, children, and those who could avoid conscription.
As to the slaves leaving the Confederacy, not only did this hardly ever occur, those that did succeed in leaving were not exactly met with open arms in the North. Certainly, as the fabric of the South weakened, more could escape, but many stayed put. Where could they go, and how would they get there? Or does Doris forget that the so-called Great Migration of Blacks to the North did not occur until after 1910?
But, Doris is back on the bestseller lists with this one, along with national embarrassment Jimmy Carter.
We are reminded of this quote from H. L. Mencken, as maligned in death as Lincoln is built up…
“No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”