Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Lincoln’s Perspective

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Lincoln’s Perspective

In this ongoing discussion regarding Confederate leaders, some important facts have not been considered through ignorance or agenda.

First, at Appomattox, General Grant greeted General Lee with civility and courtesy. He permitted the Confederate officers to retain their side arms and the enlisted men their personal horses and mules. Both were allowed to keep their personal possessions. General Grant also provided General Lee's soldiers, who had few rations remaining, with 25,000 rations. No sign of vengeance or vindictiveness was in evidence.

Second, President Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan, while not condoning their actions, called for amnesty, with few exceptions, to all Confederates, military and civilian, who would take a prescribed loyalty oath to the United States. State governments where 10 percent of the 1860 population had taken the oath and agreed to emancipation would once again be recognized as states of the Union. Lincoln's position from the beginning of secession was that the Union was indissoluble. The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed Lincoln's position in 1869.

Upon Lincoln's assassination, President Andrew Johnson, in spite of much opposition in Congress, implemented Lincoln's plan for amnesty and reuniting the Union. Virtually all of the military and civilian Confederate leadership were pardoned by President Johnson. Fortunately today's climate did not exist, for the nation might still not be united.

Among those exemplifying the current efforts to "purify" the past is a U. S. senator who has long been in politics and served as a governor. I do not recall him calling for the removal of statues, portraits, plaques, place names, etc. until recently. Also, I am sure that past generations of Christ Church congregations are applauding its recent actions, not realizing how much their worship was being so distracted and that future members will find their service greatly enhanced.

One more point is interesting to consider. Slavery was legal in the United States before the Civil War. It is not unlikely that some current Virginians supporting the "purification" effort, had they lived then, would have owned slaves.

There are many things from the past that we may disagree with which should be learned from and not erased. Who are we to look back through the wrong end of the "telescope" and question the judgments of our then nation's leaders, who had personally experienced the total horrors of the Civil War, President Lincoln and President Johnson.

Charles Fellows