This morning, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) hosted his first hearing as chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank. Paul wants to look at the institution’s impact on job creation and the unemployment rate. Paul, a vicious opponent of the Fed, in the past has called for its abolition.
One of the witnesses invited to testify was Thomas DiLorenzo, a longtime activist in the neo-Confederate hate group, League of the South (LOS). The LOS advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by “Anglo-Celts” – that is, white people. LOS leaders have called slavery “God-ordained” and described segregation as necessary to the racial “integrity” of black and white alike. DiLorenzo also is an economics professor at Baltimore’s Loyola College.
According to the Washington Post, “when Paul opened up the hearing to questions from committee members, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) directly took on DiLorenzo for his membership in the League of the South,” pointing to the designation of the LOS as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Clay also cited DiLorenzo’s many revisionist works about the Civil War and Lincoln, including “More Lies about the Civil War,” “In Defense of Sedition,” and “The First Dictator-President,” which examines “how Lincoln’s myth has corrupted America.”
“After reviewing your work and the so-called methods you employ, I still cannot understand you being invited to testify today on the unemployment crisis, but I do know that I have no questions for you,” Clay concluded.
DiLorenzo has a long history with the LOS. His essays have appeared in the group’s publications, and he was identified as a member in a 2000 issue of its Southern Events. DiLorenzo spoke at the LOS’ 2002 conference and that year’s Southern Heritage Conference, hosted by longtime LOS leader Steve Wilkins. DiLorenzo was listed for years, up until at least late 2009, as an “affiliated scholar” at the League’s Institute for the Study of Southern Culture, dedicated to ending any furtherance of the idea “that the commercial value of slavery was the cause of the war.”
DiLorenzo has other extremist connections. He has spoken at events that included other hate group members, and has been published by neo-Confederate outfits. In 1995, he wrote an essay entitled “A Defense of the Confederate Cause” published in the Journal for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial publication. It argues that “slavery was not one of the rationales” for the Civil War. “Since the battle flag represents a fight against high taxes and centralized government, every freedom-loving American should honor it,” DiLorenzo’s essay concludes.
Though trained as an economist, DiLorenzo’s life work appears to be rewriting the history of the Civil War and Lincoln’s role in it. DiLorenzo argues Lincoln was a paragon of wickedness, whose secret intent was to destroy states’ rights and build a massive federal government. “It was not to end slavery that Lincoln initiated an invasion of the South,” DiLorenzo writes in his 2002 attack on the 16th president, entitled, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. “A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession.”
In addition to his position at Loyola, DiLorenzo is a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a hard-right libertarian foundation in Auburn, Ala. In 2003, LewRockwell.com, a Web site run by Von Mises Institute President Llewellyn Rockwell that at the time included a “King Lincoln” section, hosted a “Lincoln Reconsidered” conference in Richmond, Va., starring DiLorenzo. The conference became a bit of a road show, reappearing around the South and headlined by DiLorenzo.
Ron Paul has connections to von Mises as well. When several of Paul’s newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s were found to include bigoted rhetoric about African Americans and gays, Paul claimed not to know who wrote them. But in 2008, Reason Magazine fingered the culprit: Paul’s chief ghostwriter was none other than von Mises founder Rockwell, who had earlier served as Paul’s chief of staff. To this day, the institute runs Paul’s commentaries and, according to Reason, “Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul.”
Update: This morning DiLorenzo posted an angry screed in which he described Congressman Clay as “sleazy” and claimed he had “lied about my non-existent working relationship with the League of the South.” DiLorenzo says that his last interaction with the League was 13 years ago. So it is somewhat ironic, or perhaps hypocritical, that the League has DiLorenzo listed as a speaker at a 2009 League of the South Summer Institute on what is a favored topic of DiLorenzo’s, “Lincoln Reconsidered.”