Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lincoln's Prerogative

On this day in 1864, President Lincoln exercised his executive prerogative and suspended the death sentences of five soldiers found guilty of desertion.

Naturally, this act and others like it annoyed his generals to no end. They saw them, perhaps justifiably, as a slackening of military discipline.

These suspensions were part of the Lincoln we know. Mercy and magnanimity were key parts of his personality. After a defeat in one of his elections, he went to the winner's victory party. After the capture of Richmond, he gave the famous advice about how to treat the defeated Southerners,"I'd go easy on 'em."

These commutations were in sync with his character.

I think Lincoln would have agreed with Churchill's four-part maxim about war and its aftermath.

"In war-resolution, in defeat-defiance, in victory-magnanimity, in peace-goodwill."
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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