Abraham Lincoln Healed a Divided Nation. We Should Heed His Words Today.

tags: Abraham Lincoln, presidential history, division

Achorn is the author of Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, which will be published by Atlantic Monthly Press on March 3.

Abraham Lincoln repeatedly tops polls as our greatest and most revered president. But few people thought so on March 4, 1865, when he took the oath of office for the second time.

On that day, America was still mired in the terrible war that the Republicans had been determined to wage. The refusal of Southern states to accept his election in 1860—and Lincoln’s stubborn insistence that they do so, lest the American system of representative government fall apart—had cost some 750,000 lives by early 1865. Those who think the ferocity of today’s partisanship is unprecedented would find the record of history sobering.

Lincoln had survived reelection in November 1864, but in early 1865, even as the North steadily dismantled the South’s ability to fight, Lincoln was getting it from all sides.

Many liberal Republicans found Lincoln weak and vacillating, too prone to calibrate his actions to the faltering pace of public opinion. They feared that this tendency would work against punishing the South’s establishment and risk not extending full civil rights to African-Americans, which they saw as the ultimate purpose of the war.

Read entire article at Time

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