Friday, September 27, 2019

Mercy Triumphs over Justice

     By the Spring of 1865, the Civil War was winding down to its inevitable conclusion.  The South would lose the War. The Union would prevail, but victory had come at a terrible price.  The economy on both sides had been damaged, much more in the South, where towns, factories, and farms lay in ruins across all the Southern states.   However, the North had incurred terrible debt to finance its immense war machine.  And then, there was the cost in lives, with well over six hundred thousand men who would never see their families again.  Needless to say, there was intense anger and resentment on both sides.  Yet, the losing side no longer possessed the power to carry out any vengeance, but the North did.  As the ancient proverb says, "To the victor belongs the spoils."

Reconstruction and Reuniting a divided Nation was now the heated topic of discussion in Washington.  When the war finally ends, who should pay for the War?  When should the Rebel States be allowed to to rejoin the Union?
What should the punishment be for the Confederate generals, officers, and soldiers who took up arms against the North?  In the hearts of many Northern politicians and lawmakers, the answers to those questions were obvious, punish all the rebels harshly.  Make them pay so severely, and humble them so completely, till the North's cry for revenge is satisfied, then and only then, will they be accepted grudgingly back into the Union.

Lincoln's plan for reunification and reconstruction was much more lenient.  The Rebel soldiers would be required to disband and would not be taken as prisoners, then would immediately return back to their homes and families.  If just 10 percent of each former Confederate States' white male population, would swear alliance again to the Union and accept the rights of the now freed slaves, that state would be fully welcomed back into the Union.  Many in Congress were outraged at Lincoln's generous offer to the South.  This was the President's answer back to those who were pushing for harsher measures.  "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." 
I cannot help but believe that Lincoln's regular reading of the Bible planted those seeds that later blossomed into his policies on what would best heal the Nation.  That generous, forgiving spirit was not only a formula to heal a Nation, it was the path to the healing and reuniting of human hearts.
"So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy, mercy triumphs over judgment."  James 2:12, 13
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."  1 Peter 4:8
"... it is kindness that leads to repentance."  Romans 2:4

Lincoln's plan may not have been perfect, but it prepared the ground for a quicker, richer harvest in becoming again, "One Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."


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