THE time has come when justice should be done to Andrew Johnson. Abraham Lincoln, had he lived, would have been crucified by the Radicals in Congress. Andrew Johnson suffered that crucifixion for him.
Physical martyrdom is ofttimes an historical advantage to the martyr. It is true, although a paradox, that the bloody hands of Booth did much for Lincoln. Men are still living who saw Lincoln face to face and yet already he has become a legendary, almost a mystic figure. And yet while he lived, Lincoln was traduced and ridiculed as few men ever were. Now all the slander of his enemies is forgotten, especially that surrounding his purpose to achieve and his plan to accomplish a reconstruction of justice, of mercy and of profound statesmanship. The Radicals of Congress opposed him at every step of the way; he stood between them and their malignant hopes. They saw an opportunity to treat the Southern states as conquered provinces and thereby to exploit the South. They were dreaming of the carpet-bag régime. Lincoln envisioned a Union reunited,--united not by force alone, but by a reciprocity of justice and fair dealing. He had determined to "bind up the nation's wounds." The Radicals of Congress planned to keep them open.
The conflict between these divergent purposes was not foreshadowed only, but actually was raging long before Lee even dreamed of Appomattox. When the larger flames of war were quenched, the lesser fires of this controversy between Lincoln and the Radicals burst forth into a veritable conflagration. Lincoln was not seared because Booth's bullet found its mark. Andrew Johnson took his place and became the seventeenth President of the United States.
Johnson took not only Lincoln's place, but his plan of reconstruction also. Animated by a love of the Union as profound as