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In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln’s reelection was still up in the air, so politically it might have made sense to pocket veto the Wade-Davis bill to impose a harsher Reconstruction policy upon the South. But Lincoln had one fatal error in his presidency, which was believing in southern unionism. That error made him slow to believe that the majority of whites in the Confederacy wanted to secede, slow to emancipate the slaves, and open to Andrew Johnson as vice-president, his greatest error of all. Pocket vetoing Wade-Davis meant that when Lincoln was assassinated, he was clearly still waffling on what to actually do on Reconstruction and thus his incredibly weak 10% Plan was still his only public statement. But the 10% Plan was far too lenient to the Confederacy and again reflected Lincoln’s belief the Union could be easily put back together again if the reasonable white men of the South bought in.

No one is perfect and that includes Lincoln.

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