The Other American Revolution

From The New Republic:Free_3

Midway through his new book on emancipation and Reconstruction, Eric Foner remarks on how “unanticipated events” — in this case, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — “profoundly shaped” the course of the era. Foner finds it “inconceivable” that Lincoln, had he lived, “would have so alienated Congress” as to have faced impeachment, and speculates that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans in Congress would likely have fashioned a Reconstruction plan “more attuned to protecting the rights of the former slaves than the one [Andrew] Johnson envisioned, but less radical than the one Congress eventually adopted.” Such a plan, Foner acknowledges, might well have united the North and gained greater acceptance in the white South, thus smoothing the process of sectional reunification and avoiding the struggles and political violence that left bloody and painful scars on the nation for generations to follow. But, he asks, would such an alternative, however appealing in some regards, “have served the nation’s interests, and especially those of the former slaves?”

Foner’s question defies the reconciliationist narrative that has long focused popular opinion on the importance of healing the nation’s wounds —

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