It is not worth while to discuss much the merits or demerits of President Lincoln’s schemes for reconstruction. They had been only roughly and imperfectly blocked out at the time of his death; and in presenting them he repeatedly stated that he did not desire to rule out other schemes which might be suggested; on the contrary, he distinctly stated his approval of the scheme developed in the bill introduced by Senator Davis and passed by Congress. Reconstruction, as it was actually conducted later on, was wretchedly bungled, and was marked chiefly by bitterness in disputation and by clumsiness in practical arrangements, which culminated in that miserable disgrace known as the regime of the “carpet-baggers.” How far Lincoln would have succeeded in saving the country from these humiliating processes, no one can say; but that he would have strenuously disapproved much that was done is not open to reasonable doubt. On the other hand, it is by no means certain that his theories, at least so far as they had been developed up to the time of his death, either could have been, or ought to have been carried out. This seems to be generally agreed. Perhaps they were too liberal; perhaps he confided too much in a sudden change of heart, an immediate growth of loyalty, among persons of whom nearly all were still embittered, still believed that it was in a righteous cause that they had suffered a cruel defeat.
But if the feasibility of Mr. Lincoln’s plan is matter of fruitless disputation, having to do only with fancied probabilities, and having never been put to the proof of trial, at least no one will deny that it was creditable to his nature. A strange freak of destiny arranged that one of the most obstinate, sanguinary wars of history should be conducted by one of the most humane men who ever lived, and that blood should run in rivers at the order of a ruler to whom bloodshed was repugnant, and to whom the European idol of military glory seemed a symbol of barbarism. During the war Lincoln’s chief purpose was the restoration of national unity, and his day-dream was that it should be achieved as a sincere and hearty reunion in feeling as well as in fact. As he dwelt with much earnest aspiration upon this consummation, he perhaps came to imagine a possibility of its instant accomplishment, which did not really exist. His longing for a genuinely reunited country was not a pious form of expression, but an intense sentiment, and an end which he definitely expected to bring to pass. Not improbably this frame of mind induced him to advance too fast and too far, in order to meet with welcoming hand persons who were by no means in such a condition of feeling that they could grasp that hand in good faith, or could fulfill at once the obligations which such a reconciliation would have imposed upon them, as matter of honor, in all their civil and political relations. The reaction involved in passing from a state of hostilities to a state of peace, the deep gratification of seeing so mortal