RICHMOND (AP) — A conference in the former capital of the Confederacy painted a different picture of Abraham Lincoln. It portrayed the 16th president as a poor father, a duplicitous leader and a teller of impolite tales.
The Saturday conference was one of several attacks on Lincoln’s reputation since a nonprofit group announced plans to unveil a bronze statue of the former president and his son, Tad, on April 5 to mark Lincoln’s visit to Richmond at the close of the Civil War.
The audience, estimated by organizers at nearly 300 people, broke into applause when one speaker suggested an alternative to the "cutesy, fabricated" image of Lincoln and his son.
"Let’s have in Richmond something far more appropriate — a statue of Jefferson Davis and little Joe," said Clyde Wilson, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina.
Davis, the Confederate president, lost his son, Joseph, in an accidental fall at the Confederate White House.
The conference, called "Lincoln Reconsidered," featured seven speakers over seven hours and was sponsored by LewRockwell.com, which touts itself as "the premier anti-state/pro-market site on the net." The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond plans to hold its own forum at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow on Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation.
The Saturday conference covered a range of topics, including Lincoln’s "real views on race and slavery" as well as his role in the deadly New York Draft Riots of 1863. John Chodes, who spoke about the riots, offered another name: "Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War Against New York."
Tim Manning, of Stokesdale, N.C., attended the conference with his 14-year-old son, Chris. Mr. Manning welcomed the opportunity to re-examine Lincoln.
"The history we teach our children is not a myth. It’s a lie," Mr. Manning said.
Mr. Wilson used his time at the microphone to challenge popular notions of Lincoln. In truth, said Mr. Wilson, Lincoln was not a martyred saint but an agnostic, cunning politician motivated solely by his own ambition.
Lincoln, known as "the great emancipator" of slaves, actually had no affection for blacks, he said.
Lincoln also was portrayed as having a stormy marriage, and being an inattentive father and teller of bawdy stories. "It was said when Lincoln came to town, you had to put the women, children and preachers to bed early," Mr. Wilson said.
"His death gave an opportunity to use him as a martyr," he said.
"There is this great Lincoln mythology that has dominated American thinking. It’s self-righteous, and it’s not even close to the facts."
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