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30 Days of Abraham Lincoln – Day 19

With malice toward none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. — 1865

My Take – I sometimes wonder how different our history would be if Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated.  Would he have been able to rein in the Radical Republicans who made Reconstruction so harsh?  Would his “let them up easy” plan for the South have headed off generations of bad blood?

You’ll notice that he didn’t say that the country should only care for Union veterans, widows, and orphans, but seemed to include those who had been harmed on the Confederate side as well.  Lincoln didn’t seem to be looking to punish the South for the war, and I think one of the worst mistakes made in our history was for the North to get its pound of flesh from the South once the fighting had stopped.

In much the same way, when we win a fight or an argument, we should be generous and polite in victory.  Once the opponent has agreed that the fight is over and that they have lost, there is nothing to be gained by rubbing their noses in it, and much to lose when their anger motivates them to rekindle the fight.  We may never fully convert those who disagree with us, but neither should we encourage their antipathy.

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  1. Interesting question… and no good answer here…


  2. When you win, let your enemy save some face. Let him breathe a little, and if he wants to bad mouth you and say you were just lucky, let him. Be generous and offer a little friendship. Tell him there are no hard feelings on your part.

    All that being the case, I don’t think there is anything Lincoln could have done to assuage Southern feelings once the war began, and certainly not after it ended. My reasoning being that the same people who started the war were around when it ended, and both sides remembered Sherman marching through the South. Had Lincoln assembled a larger cadre of followers in the House and Senate and asserted himself once the arguments became heated, he might have been able to avert the war. For instance, in the South appearance, good family and polite manners are everything. In the North, not so much. The South had no industry, which could have been corrected. Finally, with their wealth the North could have bought the slaves and freed them, which would given the South a solution they could have lived with. And, should a little pressure have been needed, Lincoln would have had extra time to organize a better army and loyal generals.

    But none of this happened.


    • I’m not sure if there could have been even a temporary compromise that could have delayed the war by the time that Lincoln took office. By that time, both sides had pretty much put all their cards on the table. Even the last minute Crittenden amendments, which would have extended slavery, re-inforced the fugitive slave laws, and a bunch of other things to keep the South in the Union failed dramatically. Your idea of the North just providing the funds to buy all of the slaves in the South as compensation for emancipation might have worked, but I think that by 1861, the North wasn’t interested in something like that, and the South might have turned it down just to spite the North. They were already peeling off of the Union, so there was really no incentive for them to compromise unless they got exactly what they wanted. If both sides had put peace and the Union ahead of everything else, then there might have been a chance, but men are not angels, and something tells me that 1860 and 1861 saw a lot of men being led by their anger.


      • Buying the slaves openly would have worked to one extent or another – think in terms of paying top dollar for beat to death government mules that are headed for the glue factory. Others could have been bought up quietly, and still others could have been assisted in an escape to the North.

        All that said, Lincoln would have needed cooperation from all the Northern States, and that would be difficult.

        I still think the civil war could have been averted if the North had not invaded the South, AND if the North could have made the South understand just how much the war would devastate the entire nation, how much harm would be done and still hasn’t been forgotten.

        The North could have also allowed the South to secede the Union and put a sunset clause on it. At the end of, say, five years we’ll see how we’re doing.

        I don’t know. It’s a moot point, but it doesn’t appear that our Federal government has ever learned anything from history.


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