Even if you're not a fan of either Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals or Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, you may find this interesting. Tony Kushner, the Lincoln screenwriter, said the following in an NPR interview:
I think that what Lincoln was doing at the end of war was a very, very smart thing. And it is maybe one of the great tragedies of American history that people didn't take him literally after he was murdered. The inability to forgive and to reconcile with the South in a really decent and humane way, without any question, was one of the causes of the kind of resentment and perpetuation of alienation and bitterness that led to the quote-unquote 'noble cause,' and the rise of the Klan and Southern self-protection societies.
There is no daylight between John Wilkes Booth and Jefferson Davis, save that Booth, in the name of white supremacy, was willingness to countenance the killing of one man, and Davis the killing of 600,000. What followed the murder of Abraham Lincoln was not repression and inhumanity. Andrew Johnson offered terms more generous, not less.
Kushner has now responded. In part:
The specific instance of a failure of compassion toward the defeated Confederacy to which I was attempting to allude in the interview was Congress's decision, in 1866, to fund a massive effort to locate and bury the bodies of fallen Northern soldiers across the battlefields of the Civil War, and not to do the same for the Confederate dead. The government's refusal to help the South in this regard led to the formation of private Southern burial societies. Some of the earliest formulations of Lost and Noble Cause Confederate nostalgia and bitterness can be traced to these groups.
Lincoln's insistence on magnanimity toward the armies of the defeated Confederacy, elevated in the final paragraph of his second Inaugural Address to a universal principle governing human conduct in the face of the unknowability of God's will, strikes me as an idea radical for its time and radical today.I'm not willing to dismiss the discomfiting possibility that the North's failure to pursue Lincoln's charitable vision of reconstruction after his assassination may have made political solutions more difficult, although of course, we will never know, and that is, perhaps, a subject for another debate. I believe that Lincoln was a moral visionary as well as a peerless politician.