Saving Mr. Lincoln
Hannah Quandt, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s2d2

A loud bang filled the theater, then screams. Abraham Lincoln was shot. The assassination of President Lincoln on April 15, 1865, was a moment that many people wish they could reverse, myself included. I would alter this by traveling back to warn the president. I would do so because of my admiration for Lincoln and what he could have positively changed with the continuation of his presidency.

I believe the best way to prevent this tragedy would be to alert the president. Being the first presidential assassination, there was no protocol for protection. I would go back and warn him about the assassination plans and adjure him against attending the theater. I believe that had he known, he would have more prudently protected himself, thus living out his full term.

I would make these changes to save Abraham Lincoln’s life because I respect him as a person. Firstly, I commend his persistence in the face of obstacles. Lincoln’s disadvantages started with his lack of formal education. As a child, he worked to support his family, only completing less than a year of official school. His response to this handicap was to progress in reading and teaching himself at home. Continuing in this discipline, Lincoln went on to teach himself law, passing the bar exam in 1836. His struggles were not over, however. Abraham Lincoln tried politics, yet only served one term in the House of Representatives before losing popularity. He ran for the Senate in 1855 and lost. However, despite all of these obstacles, he never gave up. Lincoln’s persistence eventually paid off when he won the Presidential elections in 1860. However, this was not the end of his struggles: the greatest challenge would be the wisdom required to be president during the U.S. Civil War. These show the perseverance in him that I so revere. Secondly, I admire Abraham Lincoln’s strength. It takes strength to do what one knows is right, even in the face of extreme opposition and hatred. This defines most of Lincoln’s presidency. He lived in a time filled with the acceptance of racism. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to the spread of slavery and discrimination made him unpopular among many voters and politicians. He stood strong and never tried to hide his beliefs during his elections. He held countless debates with Stephen Douglas arguing against the abomination of slavery. Abraham Lincoln was so scorned in the South for these beliefs that his election as president was a large motive for secession. It took infinite fortitude to assume the call to unify the U.S., win the war, and end slavery. I admire his strength to stand up for the mistreated even when it was unpopular to do so. I believe that if history could be changed to spare Lincoln, he could teach the world more about perseverance and strength in the face of adversity.

Additionally, I would alter history because I ponder all that Abraham Lincoln could have done with the remainder of his life, and its impact on this country today. If he had lived and his plans for reconstruction had been played out, the tension and racism in the South could have been greatly diminished. Lincoln understood something that politicians would not discover until the beginning of World War II: harsh punishment to a losing side is ineffective. Generations after Lincoln, the rise of Adolf Hitler ensued amidst the harsh punishment of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. Lincoln discerned that, like Germany, severity on the South would only cause hatred and disunity. Based on this philosophy, Lincoln’s plan was to be forgiving to the South, starting with his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in 1863. This proclamation allowed any seceded state in which 10 percent of voters proclaimed Union loyalty to rejoin the United States. All people, except high-ranking officers, were also pardoned with this proclamation. His intention was to allow reconstruction to be a self-sufficient action by the states themselves, not by Washington. He also intended to let Southern whites maintain their private property, but not their slaves. Lincoln wanted freed slaves to be gently integrated and accepted into society. His reconstruction plan can be summarized with the words forgiveness and unification.

However, history would not allow this to be. Upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, his vice president, Andrew Johnson, led the Reconstruction period. Johnson took a different approach that caused unneeded tension in the South. He only allowed pardons for those who had taken a loyalty oath, were not high-ranking officers, and had land worth less than $20,000. Johnson also sent Union troops to the South to enforce Reconstruction, heightening the North-South tension. Despite being harsh on the South in these ways and stirring up hatred among the rich whites, Johnson actually was a racist himself. He vetoed the Freedmen’s Bureau bill and the Civil Rights bill, which would have assisted in the integration of Southern freed slaves. He also personally discouraged the Southern states from ratifying the 14th Amendment, which ensures all people born in the U.S., no matter the color, to have citizenship and subsequent rights. With this racist encouragement, the rich whites’ anger turned from the government toward the former slaves. This led to an accepted pattern of racism, disunity, and segregation in the South. This infamous cycle of discrimination, still found today, could have been abated if Abraham Lincoln had lived long enough to perform his reconstruction plan. Therefore, I believe that in changing history to prevent the assassination, the world of racism that we know today could have weakened.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln was a historical event that I would reverse because of my admiration for him and how the world would be different with the continuation of his life and presidency. However, although we can dream about changing the past, it is the present and future that we truly can transform. We can learn from the mistakes that have been made in history and use them to bring about unity and peace in our present world.
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