What if Lincoln Had Lived?

Let me begin by saying that the title of this post is one of the most-asked questions about the Civil War/Reconstruction era.  Let me add that the answers usually tell me far more about the perspectives and opinions of the person asking the question than about Lincoln.

First, having stipulated that the real answer is “We don’t know,” let’s set that aside.  Instead, let’s recall that Lincoln himself wasn’t sure.  He said as much during his last cabinet meeting, in which he recognized that with the war coming to an end (like others, he saw Lee’s surrender to Grant as marking that transition), the policies he had framed in response to wartime priorities might no longer be best suited to coming circumstances.  Thus it would be a mistake to project wartime policies on the postwar situation, because Lincoln recognized the need for change.

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