One week before this day, April 14, in 1865, Robert Lincoln brought a photograph of Confederate General Robert E. Lee over to his father, President Abraham Lincoln, as he ate breakfast.
The President gazed at the old warrior’s image and said, “It is a good face…the face of a noble, noble, man. I am glad that the war is over.”
In his second Inaugural Address, President Lincoln had promised to bind up the nation’s wounds. The last part of his speech began with these famous words:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all…”
That night, the President and Mrs. Lincoln would attend a performance of my Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater. President Lincoln was assassinated that night before he could fully implement his moderate Reconstruction plan designed to bring the South back into the Union as quickly as possible.
Lee also preached unity after the war. When he heard a lady speak bitterly toward the government, Lee gently corrected her. “Madame, don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government,” the General said. “Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans.”
We are again a nation divided, brother against brother, sister against sister. Perhaps more so than at any other time since our great Civil War. Today we’re shooting each other with hate-filled words. (Thank God it’s not with bullets.) All too often our discourse is diminished to sniping, disrespect, and half-truths.
America has always been a melting pot of people and a land that accommodates a diversity of ideas. May it always be!
But along the way, we’d do well to remember the words of history.
Let’s hold malice toward none and abandon our animosities.