What if Abraham Lincoln was not assasinated?

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Dana Sindell

Feb 27, 2002, 1:58:46 PM2/27/02
I would love to read some opinions of what if...
President Lincoln had NOT been killed- but lived out
his term of office as president. Would any of
the Post-Civil War reconstruction be different?


mike stone

Feb 27, 2002, 2:52:32 PM2/27/02
>From: da...@aristotle.net (Dana Sindell)

From "A Brief History of the United States", a high school history text
published 1973

"- - - When concern was expressed that his clemency might lead to further
attempts, Lincoln firmly replied "No more martyrs! If those people had dealt
with old John Brown as I am dealing with Booth, who knows how much we all might
have been spared. Whatever my imperfections, I hope that I can at least be
wiser than they" A similar attitude governed his treatment of Jefferson Davis,
whom he offered to release on parole following his capture in Georgia on May
10. When Davis refused to give a parole as long as any faithful Confederates
still resisted, Lincoln ordered him detained as a prisoner of war until the
last CS forces had laid down their arms. Following the June 23 surrender of
General Stand Watie and his Cherokee forces in the Indian Territory, Davis was
unconditionally released. After a period of exile in England, he returned to
Mississippi and spent his remaining years writing a series of memoirs
justifying the Confederate cause and defending his administration from the
criticism of fellow southerners who blamed him for the loss of the war. He died
in 1889 - - -

Lincoln continued after the war the middle course that he had pursued during
it, resisting on the one hand those who called for immediate pardon of all
ex-Rebels, and those who called for the disfranchisement of the latter, whilst
simultaneously granting the ballot to the newly freed slaves. His order of May
1865 for the "Reconstruction" of North Carolina barred former CS officers and
officials from standing in the first post-war election, though leaving it to a
State convention (elected only by those who had not voluntarily borne arms
against the Union) to determine who should be allowed to vote or seek office in
future ballots. At he same time, the President specifically forbade "Federal
officers not citizens of N Carolina" to seek election either to the State
Convention, or in the simultaneous contests for the House of Representatives.
More controversially, he also instructed General Schofield, the Union Military
commander in NC, to enroll as voters all "loyal citizens of NC, irrespective of
race or colour" who had served in the Union Army, owned $250 worth of property,
or could read and write the Constitution of the United States. Between them,
these categories enfranchised most NC negroes who had been free before the war,
and a significant number of ex-slaves.

One or two feathers, north as well as south, were ruffled by the President's
further instructions regarding who was or was not to be regarded as "white".
Lincoln set the threshold at "not more that 25% African descent" but added, in
response to a query from General Sickles, that "The United States Army is not a
genealogical society. . . If the prospective voter has the appearance of a
white man, you may accept him as such. A daguerrotype of his grandmother need
not be produced." After a conversation between the President and Senator
Reverdy Johnson of Maryland, who was unhappy about this ruling, Lincoln
observed tartly to John Hay that "Of course, the problem would not arise if
those people had respected the modesty of their female slaves. It is a pity
that their much-vaunted reverence for southern womanhood apparently does not
include being faithful to their wives"

The Democrats screamed in protest at even this limited grant of black suffrage,
which their 1864 candidate, General McClellan, called "the most blatant and
arbitrary exercise of monarchical power since the days of George III" - - -
Similar orders were issued in respect of the other Southern states, except
those already being reconstructed under the "ten per cent plan", over the next
few months [1]

These latter, in fact, proved the chief "hold-outs" against Lincoln's policy.
Despite repeated hints from the White House, they all refused to adopt even the
limited Black suffrage which he had imposed on the other southern states. His
opportunity came when the Louisiana legislature debated a "Vagrancy Bill"
which would have allowed the virtual re-enslavement of any negro who (in the
opinion of the local sheriff) lacked "visible means of support". Though the
measure failed (Several conservative legislators, fearful of his likely
reaction, had discovered urgent business back in their districts) Lincoln
instructed General Banks that those who had supported it were "plainly seeking
to evade the clear intent of the loyalty oaths - not to interfere with the
working of federal statutes - - as to slavery" and should not be permitted to
retain their seats. When the legislature reconvened, its members found a squad
of Union troops waiting at the entrance, and the bill's supporters were not
permitted to enter. The "purged" legislature passed a resolution adopting negro
suffrage on the same qualifications as in North Carolina. Virginia, Tennessee
and Arkansas followed suit, though the Arkansas legislature did so only
"insofar as it be constitutional" to do so. The reservation was ignored and the
new franchise went into effect there as elsewhere. - - -

The Democrats were not the only ones unhappy with the Presidential scheme . The
Radical wing of the Republican Party was already aiming at the enfranchisement
of _all_ freedmen, which, they hoped, in conjunction with the disfranchisement
of large blocks of southern whites, would enable the Republican Party to gain
permanent control of the country. Senator Ben Wade of Ohio criticised the
Presidential scheme as "niggardly" towards the former slaves, and was seconded
in this by many of the blacks' own spokesmen. Frederick Douglass commented
frostily that "It is you white men who are Abraham Lincoln's children. We
Blacks will only ever be, at best, his stepchildren"

The Radicals were also disgruntled by Lincoln's appointment of the Kentucky
Attorney-General, John Marshall Harlan, to the Supreme Court in May 1865.
Harlan was a firm Union Whig turned Republican, but came from a slaveholding
family and had briefly owned slaves himself, which, despite his impeccably
loyal war record, made him unacceptable to many Senators. When his appointment
came to a vote in 1866, it squeaked though by a grudging 28-25. Ironically,
during his 46 years on the Court, Harlan turned out to be one of the few
post-war Justices to show the slightest interest in Negro rights. [2]

Lincoln's opponents also tried to whip up public opinion against him over the
case of Major Henry Wirz, commandant of the notorious Andersonville prison, who
had been sentenced to death by a military tribunal for mistreatment of Union
prisoners of war. . Whether because he believed that many of the deaths had
been due to factors beyond Wirz' control, or from uneasy awareness of the fact
that medicines which might have saved them had been declared "Contraband of
war" and denied to the South by the Union blockade, or perhaps that conditions
in some northern camps were nothing to be proud of, Lincoln had commuted Wirz'
sentence to twelve years in a military prison. Pardoned by Grant in 1872, Wirz
moved to New Orleans, where after some unsuccessful business ventures he died
in 1880

- - - aware that there was considerable uneasiness in Congress at the
possibility of ex-Confederates regaining control of the South, which would now
have an increased representation with the ending of the "three-fifths" rule,
the President approached Congressional leaders to discuss a possible
Constitutional Amendment, laying down that the South, if it continued to
disfranchise all or most of its Blacks, should not be permitted to count them
for the purpose of Congressional representation. This amendment (the 14th) was
submitted to the States in 1866. It also included clauses declaring Blacks (as
"persons born - - in the United States - -" to be US Citizens, and giving
Congress the power to legislate to protect their "privileges or immunities"
Privately Lincoln was sceptical about the willingness of white Americans, north
or south, to do any such thing, but he nonetheless supported the provision, as
he had already supported the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights Acts which
Congress had passed earlier in the year. He observed to General Grant "Not much
will come of it in your time or mine. But at least it puts down a marker for
the future". And when Vice President Johnson observed that "of course" it would
be many generations before the negro was truly ready for equal citizenship, the
President responded dryly "You need not trouble yourself on that. The negro
will be ready to receive it long before the white man is ready to grant it"

The amendment almost came to grief over a clause providing that an honourable
discharge from the armed forces of the United States should automatically
confer (from age 21) the right to vote in all US and state elections. Opposed
by a united Democratic Party, this also came under attack from Radical
Republicans who feared, correctly, that it would satisfy enough Republican
moderates to prevent the wider enfranchisement at which they aimed. It was
perhaps fortunate for Lincoln that the Radicals' delaying tactics meant that
the Amendment was not voted on until the lame-duck session, following the
mid-term polls of 1866. Though the Democrats gained only 22 House seats, little
more than half of their 1864 losses, it was clear that Republican disunity was
beginning to irritate the voters. It also did not go unnoticed that 14 of the
defeated Republicans had been opponents of the Lincoln policy, as against four
of his supporters and four fence-sitters. Enough wavering Republicans rallied
to him for the Amendment to pass by 130-61, with the "soldier vote" clause
still in place

Lincoln was less happy about another section of the Amendment. The Radicals
demanded a provision that all former officeholders and army officers who had
supported the Confederacy should be barred from ever holding public office - in
other words, they wished the temporary ban which Lincoln had imposed for the
first elections to be made permanent. Lincoln at first resisted this, but
finally agreed to a compromise by which the ban was extended until 1876, unless
Congress lifted it sooner (in the event this happened in 1873) [3]. However,
since the men affected by it were already excluded from the new Southern
legislatures, this clause did not prevent the latter from speedily ratifying
it, and the Amendment took effect in June 1867 [4]

Soon afterwards, Congress acquiesced in the re-admission of the Southern
states, and their Senators and representatives, kept waiting at Congress' door
since December 1865, despite being for the most part impeccably Unionist,
finally took their seats. Before this could happen, though, Representative
Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles Sumner tried to push through another
Amendment, explicitly granting freedmen the right to vote. Lincoln resisted the
notion, observing that "If the South hate negro voting so much that they'll
give up a third of their House seats rather than accept it, then we most likely
won't be able to enforce it anyhow." His view prevailed, and the proposed
"Fifteenth Amendment", did not achieve the necessary two-thirds vote in the
Senate, and was never voted on by the House. [5] In the event, the South proved
far more obdurate on this point than Lincoln had hoped, and seven Southern
states continued to restrict the franchise to whites until the 23rd Amendment
was adopted in 1964. Even the "soldier vote" requirement would be blatantly
violated, with the Federal government making little attempt to enforce it, in
the years after World War I.

Another proposal of Stevens' to confiscate the plantations of leading rebels,
and divide them amongst the freed slaves, had an even more ignominious fate,
receiving only 35 votes [6] Lincoln did, however, rule that those Blacks
already settled on abandoned land, notably in the Sea Islands of Georgia,
should remain in possession, with the former owners, when pardoned, being
required to accept compensation instead. (Even this experiment, however, turned
out disappointingly, with Congress proving reluctant to pay out compensation to
former Rebels, and their own lack of money forcing many of the negroes to
mortgage their farms, nearly always to whites. By 1880, two-thirds of the land
concerned was back in white ownership, though frequently not the same whites as
had owned it before) This was the last point of dispute, and when the new
Congress met in December 1867, the southern states were admitted to it.

The remainder of Lincoln's term was something of an anti-climax, the only
excitement being with regard to the choice of his successor. The Radicals had
made repeated attempts to court General Grant, by far the strongest contender
for 1868, but he had remained stubbornly loyal to Lincoln. Accordingly, some
Radicals attempted to promote General Butler as a possible alternative
candidate, but this too was thwarted in 1867 when Butler received a job offer
from Lincoln. He accepted, and Thaddeus Stevens' sour remark "There goes the
rascal to get his pay" did not stop Butler going off to begin 25 controversial
years as the "Stormy Petrel" of the US Supreme Court. Nor did Chief Justice
Chase's remark that "In this appointment, I feel I detect the working of the
presidential sense of humor". When one opponent of the nomination protested
that Butler was "stark raving mad", Lincoln blithely responded "Who knows? A
touch of outright lunacy may enliven or even improve the bench"

In March 1869 Lincoln was able to hand over to General Grant as President of a
fully restored Union, and go home to a well deserved retirement. As it proved,
though, his public career was not quite over. In 1872, after three quiet years
practising law in Illinois, Lincoln accepted a request from President Grant to
use his influence to help solve the "Mormon problem", and in May of that year
he set out to Salt Lake City for a face to face meeting with Brigham Young,

What passed between the two men will probably never be known, as neither kept
any written record of what was said, and were unwilling to discuss it after.
Carl Sandberg credited Lincoln with having won over the Mormon leader to the
"Compromise of 1872", by which the Saints prohibited plural marriage for the
future, in return for early statehood and the promise that existing polygamous
families would be left unmolested. By contrast, the Mormon historian Brigham H
Roberts maintained that the initiative for this came from _Young_, and that
Lincoln's part consisted mainly of dissuading Grant from reneging on the deal,
as he was under pressure to do from corrupt Territorial officials, who feared
for their perquisites in a self-governing Utah. Be that as it may, the
agreement went ahead, and the Enabling bill was passed in May 1873, just weeks
before Abraham Lincoln's death on (appropriately) the fourth of July.

- - - whilst it is unprofitable to dwell upon the ifs and might-have-beens of
history, it is impossible not to wonder what might have been the consequences
of a successful assassination in 1865. Had the presidency devolved upon Andrew
Johnson, with his vindictive attitude to "traitors" whom he declared must be
"made odious" and "impoverished", the South would almost certainly have faced a
far harder reconstruction program. There would surely have been reprisals
against the southern leaders, who would have been blamed for the assassination
regardless of lack of evidence or protestations of innocence. Jefferson Davis,
at least, would have faced certain execution , and even General Lee and others
might well have gone to the scaffold, to live in memory as countless Irish
rebels have done.

The new president's harsher temperament, together with a public opinion
inflamed by his predecessor's murder, would in all probability have quickly led
him into alliance with the Radicals. It is instructive to recall how some of
these reacted to initial false reports that Lincoln was indeed dead. Ben Wade
of Ohio, noting that Lincoln had "too much milk of human kindness in him", felt
that under Johnson "The rebels will be dealt with according to their deserts"
whilst George W Julian of Indiana declared "Johnson, we have faith in you.
There will be no trouble now in running this government" Indeed, Johnson's
demand that Rebels be "impoverished" suggests that, despite his low opinion of
negroes, he might well have fallen in with Thaddeus Steven's plan for wholesale
confiscation of southern land, and its division amongst the freedmen - all
enforced by an indefinite period of military rule. All the evidence suggests
that Johnson would have imposed a draconian regime akin to that in Ireland,
which might well have permanently alienated the South from the rest of the
nation, as Ireland was alienated from Great Britain. All in all, we feel safe
in affirming that the misfire of Booth's gun savde this country from a possibly
irreparable disaster.

John Wilkes Booth died in 1878, in the insane asylum to which he had been
committed following Lincoln's commutation of his death sentence"

* * * *

[1] Andrew Johnson issued similar orders, but made little or no attempt to
prevent the participation of ex-Confederates. This resulted in
a) the election of many high-ranking rebels (including the former CS
Vice-President) to the Senate and HoR. Unsurprisingly, Congress refused to seat

b) Failure to repudiate the Ordinances of Secession or the CS public debt.
Several states agreed to repeal their secession ordinances but without
admitting that these had been illegal, thus suggesting to northern opinion that
they did not really accept the outcome of the war

c) Appointment of judges who agreed to hear lawsuits against Union officers and
soldiers for damage to property etc during the War. This was particularly
foolish as it deeply offended General Grant, and probably did much to push him
towards the Radical camp. As he was the predestined next US President, Grant's
attitude was absolutely crucial. Radical Reconstruction would have been
stillborn without his support

d) passage of "Black Codes" which came as near as they dared to re-enslavement
of the newly freed Blacks. On top of the other measures, these reinforced the
northern impression that the South intended to undo the Union victory as soon
as the north's back was turned, and fatally undermined opposition to the
Radicals in Congress

The limited negro suffrage which I envisage is the one proposed OTL by Andrew
Johnson, in a letter to Provisional Governor Sharkey of Mississippi in June
1865. However. none of the Southern states accepted Johnson's advice, and he
was, despite his rock-ribbed Unionism, too much of an old-fashioned
States-Rights Democrat to accept that a State's franchise laws could be
determined by any power other than the State itself. I have assumed that
Lincoln, an ex-Whig and more of a pragmatist, would not have allowed such
niceties to sabotage his policy. From him, the suggestion was quickly turned
into an order

[2] OTL, Harlan joined the Court in 1877, appointed by Rutherford B Hayes. He
served until 1911, and was the lone dissenter in the 1883 "Civil Rights Cases"
and 1896 "Plessy v Ferguson" I have no idea whether Lincoln ever considered him
for such an appointment, but had he done so, Harlan's 46-year tenure would have
been easily the longest in American history, exceeding by a decade the 36-year
service of the present record-holder, William O Douglas.

[3]OTL this ban was imposed indefinitely (sect 3, 14th Amt) but was lifted by
Congress from virtually all ex-Rebels in 1872

[4] OTL, of course, the Southern legislatures _did_ include large numbers of
ex-rebels who would find themselves barred from office by this provision. Hence
all the Southern states except Tennessee _rejected_ the 14th Amt, thus clearing
the way for Radical Republicans to push through more drastic measures. The 14th
Amt finally came into effect in 1868

[5] OTL the 15th Amt was passed by both houses in 1868, and ratified in 1870

[6] According to Barrington Moore, ("Social Origins of Dictatorship and
Democracy" Ch3 Sect 4) Stevens tried OTL to introduce such a clause into a
Reconstruction Act (he doesn't specify which one, but probably the third).
According to Moore (who cites Current "Old Thad Stevens") it received 37 votes
in the House, barely one-fourth of the Republican membership there, and
presumably never came to a vote in the Senate

Mike Stone - Peterborough England

Last words of King Edward II.

"I always said that Roger Mortimer was a pain in the - - - AAARGHH!!!"

Mark Taylor

Mar 2, 2002, 6:00:07 PM3/2/02
Ever read the famous book "If It Had Happened Otherwise"by
J.CSquire?There's a chapter"If Booth Had Missed Lincoln",which shows
him having the same trouble as Johnson.

wst...@aol.com (mike stone) wrote in message news:<20020227145232...@mb-dd.aol.com>...

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