The assassination of President Lincoln remains to this day as one of the darkest moments of this country’s history.
President Lincoln fought to ensure the country lived-up to its promises entailed in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, Lincoln believed the Declaration to be the “Apples of Gold” of a picture, while the Constitution served as “Silver Framing” to preserve the fidelity of the portrait.. Liberty for “ALL” is what held America unique from the rest of the world.
Like the violent deaths of many other political leaders, we find ourselves always asking the “what if” questions.
If Lincoln had lived, would the primary goals of the Reconstruction been fully realized? Would voting rights for newly freed blacks succeeded? Would some of the Confederacy’s former leadership have been held to account for their traitorous ways? And would Lincoln had continued his push to further strengthen the power and reach of the federal government?
I always chuckle whenever I hear or read President Obama’s critics charge that he tries to run this country as a dictatorship. It’s a good thing these same people weren’t around for the Lincoln administration!
Fox News headlines would’ve blinked in alarming flashes on the screen, “President To Suspend Habeas Corpus!” Can you imagine a Lincoln presidency dealing with the 24-hour news cycle?
Whenever I hear today’s politicians spout the “States Rights!” slogan, I wonder if they understand the magnitude to which they disagree with Lincoln’s vision.
Don’t forget, Lincoln did impose the first federal income tax to help pay for the war. Lincoln, thereby, paved the way for the 16th Amendment!
President Lincoln’s death proved to be a watershed moment for the country. Without his guidance overseeing the Reconstruction, we’ll never know if he single-handily could have prevented Jim Crowe–which crippled generations of African-Americans.
Think about it. If Lincoln had survived the assassination attempt 150 years ago, would Jim Crowe have become a nasty reality? With Lincoln’s death, sadly, Jim Crowe replaced slavery, and the South was able to otherwise keep doing business as usual for another century.
Of course, we’ll never know how fervently Lincoln would continue his fight for a strong central government, although thanks to Lincoln, subsequent presidents like FDR, LBJ, and even George W. Bush used the expanded powers of the federal government Lincoln provided them.
Lastly, while Lincoln held negative views on slavery, he initially wanted to preserve the union without war. But he, like many others around him, would come to understand that the South was willing to tear the country apart in order to keep a certain group of people in chains. That’s why he chose the last known Constitutional solution he had at his disposal: The military.
The year 1865 does seem like a long time ago, but we’re still living with the repercussions of the events that took place that fateful April evening in that small Washington, D.C. theater to this very day.
And that explains why Abraham Lincoln remains this country’s best and most consequential president.
Please read Allen Guelzo’s piece in The Washington Post on a post-Civil War America with Abraham Lincoln at the helm.