“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.”
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.
Such were the origins of the Lincoln Myth, a much bigger rewriting of history than anything the Soviets or any other totalitarian regime ever attempted, for it has been going on now for more than 150 years.
Abraham Lincoln, the man who, in his first inaugural address, pledged his support for a constitutional amendment that would have enshrined slavery explicitly in the Constitution (the Corwin Amendment). The man who made dozens of speeches in favor of deporting all the black people out of America and worked on plans to accomplish it to his dying day. The man who threatened “invasion” and “bloodshed” in his first inaugural address in any state that refused to collect the newly-doubled federal tariff tax. The man who waged total war for four years on his own countrymen, causing as many as 850,000 deaths according to the latest research, with about double that number maimed for life. The man who illegally suspended Habeas Corpus and mass arrested tens of thousands of political critics, including local elected officials, newspapers editors and a congressman. The man who shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers and imprisoned their editors and owners. The man who rewarded generals like Grant, Sherman and Sheridan for mass murdering Southern citizens and plundering tens millions of dollars of private property. The man who said nothing while entire regiments of soldiers gang raped Southern women. The lifelong crony capitalist who spent his entire career shilling for the big business interests of the North who sought to plunder their fellow citizens with protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare, and a national bank run by politicians to fund it all. The man who showered the railroad corporations who got him elected with millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies. The man who destroyed the voluntary union of the American founding fathers and along with it the system of federalism that was its hallmark and replaced it with a Soviet-style, centralized, bureaucratic, compulsory union held together at gunpoint. The man who obsessively experimented with bigger and bigger weapons of mass destruction to be used on his fellow American citizens, including women and children. The atheist who peppered his speeches with religious rhetoric to fool the public he looked down on as ignorant fools.