By all accounts, President Abraham Lincoln was a Christian man full of mercy and compassion.
Several anecdotes from Lincoln’s life reveal a genuine love for his fellow man, even his enemies, including the ability to forgive and pardon those who personally wronged him.
Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, once surmised a lack of discipline within Union troops was due to the soldiers’ knowledge that President Lincoln often pardoned soldiers who deserted the army. In fact, Lincoln would spend the last week of his life granting hundreds of pardons to both Confederates and Union soldiers, sparing many from a death sentence.
But Lincoln could also be tough as steel in his leadership decisions.
For example, word reached President Lincoln that the Confederate States of America had issued orders that any black Union soldier captured in Confederate Territory was to be executed instead of taken as a prisoner.
The Confederate leadership was furious with Lincoln’sproclamation on January 1, 1863, called “The Emancipation Proclamation.” Due to the President’s “emancipating black slaves,” black men flocked to sign up as soldiers within the Union army.
Upon hearing of the CSA’s orders to execute black prisoners of war, President Lincoln issued his July 30, 1863 Order of Retaliation which stated in part:
“The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession. It is therefore ordered that for every [Black] soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed.
It seems to me that principles of justice demand that when people full of grace are faced with the prospect of the weak and defenseless being unjustly harmed, the only appropriate response is an “eye for eye” approach to the abuser.
That kind of tactic is not easy.
It requires both moral discipline and strong leadership.
When people don’t know their leader personally, as was the case with most regarding President Lincoln, they will often base their opinions of the leader on his public writings alone. This would have led to a false impression.
Being misunderstood is one of the costs of leadership. It is also a sign of weak leadership when one is constantly trying to correct false perceptions of himself (or herself).
I consider President Lincoln one of the finest leaders our nation has ever seen.
In 2022, remember that tough measures are often required to stop immoral violations of the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.