Lincoln’s Leftist Associates–Part Two

by Al Benson Jr.

In 2009 Adam Max Tuchinsky, associate professor at the University of Southern Maine, wrote an informative book called Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune: Civil War Era Socialism and the Crisis of Free Labor. Tuchinsky noted that Greeley’s paper had, among its contributors, Charles Dana, Albert Brisbane, George Ripley, and the ever-present Karl Marx–all socialists.  It seems that the leftist intelligentsia in this country all had a working relationship with “Friend Greeley.” I never read any of this in my public school “history” books. Did anyone else?

Dana eventually went to Europe, where he could witness the convulsions caused by the 1848 socialist revolts firsthand. He felt those revolts were a “historical turning point.” Unfortunately, he was correct, more correct than even he could know. While in Europe, Dana spent time scrounging around for “alternative strains of socialist thought” and ended up in Cologne. At this juncture, a friend of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ferdinand Freiligrath, worked for a leftist periodical whose editor had lately co-authored a pamphlet called Das Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei. One of its co-authors, the editor, was a deadbeat hack of a writer whose name did not even appear on the first edition–because the ideas in it were not totally his. He was hired by a group called The League of the Just to author the pamphlet and its content was more theirs than his.

And so socialist Charles Dana met socialist Karl Marx. Socialist Carl Schurz had once met Marx and in our book Lincoln’s Marxists, Walter Kennedy and I commented on that. We noted that, according to Carl Schurz, Karl Marx had an ego as big as the plant Pluto and was constantly berating and insulting those that dared to disagree with his exalted pronouncements. So typical for those on the left! They love it when you totally agree with them, but dare to disagree with them on anything and you become chopped liver in their estimation. Somehow, in spite of all the leftist vitriol, Marx and Dana seemed to hit it off. So much so that Dana got Marx probably the only real job he ever had in his life as a columnist for Horace Greeley’s left-leaning paper.

By the time Lincoln and Greeley both left Congress in 1849, Lincoln had developed a close circle of friends which eventually included a batch of the socialist Forty-eighters, and they were working at turning the states of Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois into seething points of agitation. So what we had, in effect, was almost constant socialist agitation in the upper Midwest in the very late 1840s and 1850s. Again, did you ever see any of this in your “history” books in public school? I never did. This is all “memory hole” material we are never supposed to be aware of. Oh, I recall reading about the Kansas-Missouri problems, but that was mostly blamed on Southerners. No mention of Lincoln’s socialist friends stirring the pot at all. In fact, I often wonder how much of this kind of history appears even in home school history studies. I saw very little when we were home schooling our kids, and I’ve seen several history books from Christian schools and none of this was mentioned in any of them. Why not? Wouldn’t our young folks have a much better grasp of our real history if this aspect of it were noted in their history books? Maybe that’s why it’s not there.

John Nichols, in his article in the International Socialist Review has noted, quite accurately, that: “While studies of Lincoln place appropriate focus on his domestic engagements, there has been far too little attention paid to his global interests, especially during the period ‘in the wilderness’ between the end of his congressional term and his return to the political stage. Yet there can be no doubt that the future president was conscious of and highly engaged with developments in foreign lands–thanks no doubt to his close reading of the Tribune…Lincoln invoked the struggles of the European revolutionaries and denounced ‘oppression in any of its forms…'” The invader and destroyer of the South denounces oppression–how touching!

As he got ready for the presidential race in 1860 (he was hardly a reluctant candidate) Lincoln took the time and trouble to align himself with those whose position is “…that labor is the superior–greatly the superior–of capital.” That’s part of the old Marxist line and it comes off sounding somewhat hypocritical from the man who was a lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad. You don’t get much more “capitalist” than the railroad people. And Thomas DiLorenzo, in his excellent and informative book The Real Lincoln noted that “…Lincoln was a devoted protectionist over his entire political career. He and other Whigs took this position because it created a stream of economic benefits for a wealthy and powerful constituency group…Having the government dispense special privileges to the wealthy and influential was always the core of the Whig political program to which Lincoln devoted his political career.”  Sounds like the sainted Mr. Lincoln was only opposed to capitalism and capital if they were Southern. He didn’t seem to have all that much problem with Northern capitalism–in fact he profited from it. Interesting that the socialist and communists that fled the failed 1848 socialist revolts in Europe, when they came to this country, ended up joining or allying themselves with the Republican Party–the party of corporate fascism and big government. And they did this because they knew that the party of big government would help them get what they wanted–power and control. The supposed leftist concern for the “poor and oppressed” is nothing more than a self-serving sham.

To be continued.

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