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Requriments: Name and describe three (3) main differences between Reconstruction policies outlined by Lincoln in his Second Inaugural and those carried out by his successors. If Lincoln had lived, would the South have been treated differently? Explain.
Reconstruction Policies by Lincoln
Reconstruction Policies by Lincoln
No legend of the Civil War is more persistent than the belief that, if Lincoln had lived, the years of reconstruction that followed would have been different: that the magnanimous Lincoln, the great humanitarian, would not only have restored the "proper practical relations" between the Southern states and the Federal government, but also would have effected an emotional reconciliation between the members of the momentarily estranged American family. The legend rests in part upon wishful thinking, in part upon a realization that Lincoln's policy was pragmatic and realistic and relatively unaffected by the epidemic of hate-psychosis that paralyzed the reasoning powers of many national leaders of the Northern Republican party. Perhaps, in the first months after Appomattox the Southern people wanted most to have their sins forgiven, to be welcomed back into the arms of the family and be acknowledged as equals in settling the difficulties that had divided them. Disappointed in this hope, they gave credence to the father image of a Lincoln who, if only he had lived, would have forgiven the prodigals and set out a feast, complete with fatted calf, to celebrate their return.
Reconstruction might indeed have been different had Lincoln lived, and reconciliation might conceivably have come quicker and more completely, but any speculation about the probable course that it would have taken must rest upon an appraisal of Lincoln's policy and of the direction in which reconstruction was already going, when insane John Wilkes Booth's bullet brought new actors upon the scene. The processes of reconstruction were already far advanced when, a few hours after Lincoln's death, Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Joseph Eggleston Johnston met in North Carolina and agreed upon terms that would end the war. Reconstruction had long been uppermost in the minds of Northern leaders, Republicans and Democrats, social reformers and economic planners, practical politicians and tinkering theorists alike.
Reconstruction was, in fact, the basic issue of the Civil War. The desire to re-make the South, to reorganize its social system, to bring its divergent economy into the main stream of American life, to impose peculiar concepts of government and of constitutional interpretation upon the Southern states had been the reason for beginning the war and for prosecuting it with vigor, despite tremendous losses in human life and costs in national wealth. In the fullest sense, secession was the South's effort to avoid the reconstruction which Southern political astrologers foresaw in the rising star of Republican control of the Federal government. Mississippi's convention carefully pointed to the prospect that "in pursuance of their hostility to us" they had determined that "the powers of this Government are to be used for the dishonor and overthrow of the Southern section of this great Confederacy." 1 South Carolina, whose politicians had long surveyed the skies and found omens in the adverse conjunctions, hysterically pointed out that "the guarantees of the Constitution will then no longer exist" after Lincoln's inauguration. "The equal rights of the states will be lost. The Slave-holding states will no longer have the power of self government, or self protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation; and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that the public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief." 2
The discussions brought out vigorous opposition to compromises from men who favored a social reconstruction of the South. For long years the Abolitionists had agitated against the "sin" of slavery, and in time politicians seeking to make a solid North had taken up their indignant moral crusade against the peculiar institution and used it to consolidate their sectional position. Now, in the secession crisis the social reformers took an intransigent position. "No union with slaveholders" had been an ancient demand. As the slaveholders departed from the Union, Charles Sumner steadily voted against all compromises with slavery. When Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, who had done as much as any man to focus Northern attention on the political aspects of Abolitionism, voted to organize New Mexico Territory with the slavery question left to the decision of the inhabitants, Sumner ceased all social intercourse with him. "Let the slave powers extort from our fears one sacrifice of the principles on which we fought," he told Abolitionist John Jay, "and our humiliation will be complete." From the beginning Sumner preferred war to compromise and demanded that the war end slavery and force a social reconstruction upon the South. Like Sumner, others who shared the trustee tradition in America --believing themselves specially elect as stewards of the Lord to reorder and regulate society for the greater glory of God--rejected the Southern proposals for duality and looked forward to war as a means of reorganizing society. Even though some peace societies passed resolutions asserting that any concession was preferable to civil war and national ruin, pacifist leaders made a compromise with their principles and endorsed an unyielding stand against the Secessionists. Amasa Walker, long an active pacifist leader, was more deeply incensed against slavery than he was against war, and he rationalized his apostasy by the convenient theory that the coming civil war was only the proper maintenance of law and order by the properly constituted authorities. He too looked forward to social reconstruction.
But the primary consideration in the rejection of reconstruction through compromise was the interests of the newly victorious Republican party. Douglas Democrats and Bell and Everett Constitutional Union men favored compromise. "All history and the lives of all persons," declared the Detroit Free Press, December 27, 1860, "are made up of concessions and compromises." But " Mr. Lincoln and his party" would "yield nothing, concede nothing, compromise nothing. And so the Union must go on to destruction." It was, stated the Albany Argus, December 15, only justice to give the South equality in the territories. The Republicans in Congress could give "instant and permanent peace" to the country, "and become saviors instead of destroyers of the nation." But Horace Greeley replied in the New York Tribune, December 2 and 31, that the South demanded "a naked and absolute surrender of our cherished principles." The editor trusted that Crittenden's compromise would not be adopted "by the aid of Republican votes." 3 Any compromise, bluntly warned papers in Minnesota, would undermine the future of the Republican party.
On the last day of his life Abraham Lincoln discussed reconstruction again with his cabinet, but no new plan came from the meeting. Three weeks later Andrew Johnson announced his plan of reconstruction and in the controversy that followed he alleged that he was carrying out Lincoln's plan. But Johnson's plan bore more resemblance to Henry Winter Davis' bill than to Lincoln's schemes. Perhaps, indeed, Lincoln might have come to that point, but Johnson's inflexible adherence to his own program was far removed from Lincoln's experimental, pragmatic approach to the problem. It is more likely that John Wilkes Booth's bullet found Abraham Lincoln without a plan of reconstruction.
Charles Sumner gave his attention to Lincoln's informal remarks on the White House portico. "The President's speech and other things," he remarked, "augur confusion and uncertainty in the future with hot controversy. Alas! Alas!" 5
It was indeed "Alas!" From the hot controversy that followed there grew the myth of Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction as a plan which, had he but lived, would have healed the nation's wounds with love and forgiveness. Not a week had passed before the editor of a religious paper, who had been a consistent opponent of the war, struck the new note. "To the general interests of the people, South and North, the prolonged life of Abraham Lincoln has assumed, within the fortnight before his assassination, a value it had lacked up to that period." Grant, said the editor, had treated Lee with magnimity, "and since President Lincoln had shown the disposition to sustain General Grant, in offering the Confederates terms they could accept without utter degredation, there was a disposition growing among wise and honest men to stand by him and support him." 4 This early formulation of the myth found many an elaboration while the "hot controversy" raged, and long after the Radical plans for remoulding and reconstructing the South, tried for a dozen years, proved as great failures as Lincoln's war-time efforts, the belief grew strong that Lincoln would have brought a different result. In the shock of Lincoln's death men remembered only his last words and forgot that for one or another reason, each of his plans of reconstruction had failed.