On April 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln went to Richmond, Va.
With the Civil War all but won, the president wanted to tour the rebel capital. There, he met a Union general who asked how the conquered city should be treated. “If I were in your place, I’d let ’em up easy,’ ” said Lincoln. “Let ’em up easy.”
This was in concordance with his desire to, as he had said in his second inaugural address, “bind up the nation’s wounds.”
That magnanimity was not reciprocated, though. Ten days later, one of those Lincoln wished to let up easy shot him in the head.
But his generosity of spirit toward the traitors outlived him. The commanding general of the rebel army was never imprisoned or tried. The “president” of the rebel states did spend two years in prison, but then was released. He, too, was never tried.
Meantime, the rebels themselves never stopped seeking to win as a practical matter what they had lost on the battlefield — the right to subjugate African American people.