Healing the Nation’s Wounds
Anticipating the South's political and individual hostilities toward the North at the end of the Civil War, Lincoln encouraged leniency toward the South. He opposed the punitive measures advocated by congressional radicals, and he told victorious Union generals “to let the enemy up easy.” He continued to believe, as he had throughout the war, that the rebel states had never really been out of the Union. Thus, in the face of considerable public and congressional opposition, he advocated early elections by loyal minorities to reconstitute the governments of the Southern states.
If Lincoln had completed his second presidential term, it is hard to imagine that he could have deflected the retribution inflicted on the South. He was more successful in his attempts to reach out to Union veterans and the widows and orphans of the fallen. However, many Southerners were well aware that the assassination of President Lincoln was a loss for the entire nation.
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