What if Booth's Bullet Had Missed Abraham Lincoln Part 2

About what might have happened if John Wilkes Booth bullet had missed Abraham Lincoln, an alternate history of the United States.

WHAT IF . . . ?

What If Booth's Bullet Had Missed Lincoln?

Lincoln's posture of conciliation toward the South collided head-on with the general mood of the North, which called for retribution and retaliation. Strong opposition grew up within the Republican party, and as a result, throughout 1866 Lincoln was involved in an endless tug-of-war with Congress. He vetoed a steady stream of congressional bills which he deemed too harsh and repressive toward the South. But Congress was adamant in its desire to put through its legislation and managed to override Lincoln's veto time and again. Lincoln responded by putting pressure on public officials--most of whom owed their jobs to him--to negate the effects of the new legislation. Meanwhile, conditions throughout the country were deteriorating. Poverty, illness, and rioting plagued all major cities, while men on both sides of each major issue resorted to fistfights to support their points of view.

Finally, a major crisis occurred when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton went over the President's head and chastised General Sherman, commander of the Dept. of the West, for complaining about unscrupulous practices of Northern carpetbaggers in his territory. Lincoln felt compelled to demand Stanton's resignation. Party regulars, represented by Thaddeus Stevens and Ben Wade, threatened Lincoln with impeachment proceedings if he continued to thwart the desires of the Republican majority. Lincoln accepted the challenge, and the struggle came to focus on the composition of Congress after the forthcoming elections. Would it be supportive of Lincoln, or would it be in favor of impeachment?

Lincoln--confident that the American people on the whole sided with him--toured the country extensively in the six weeks prior to the election. In the West he was met by cheering crowds. In Illinois, a group of over 1,000 supporters vowed to march on Washington if impeachment threats were carried out. But in the East he faced derision and open hostility. He was attacked for allowing Jefferson Davis to escape to Canada and for failing to prosecute Lee for his role in the war. Opponents questioned his morality and labeled him a drunkard, a blasphemer, and a seducer. As the pressure mounted, his health deteriorated, but even when seriously ill he continued to campaign.

Events climaxed during his appearance at Cooper Institute in New York. In the midst of a speech pleading for national unity, he staggered and collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital, where he hovered on the verge of death for weeks. At last, doctors concluded that even if he did live, he would never again be able to function normally. When Congress received this news, it passed the Disabling Act, which removed Lincoln from office and elevated Vice-Pres. Andrew Johnson to the presidency.

Lincoln survived for a few more months, confined to bed in a house on the outskirts of Washington, where Mrs. Lincoln tended to his needs. Although he supported Johnson's ill-fated attempts to carry out his predecessor's policies, Lincoln seemed to lose interest in politics. Instead, he spent his last days absorbed in writing poetry. On Mar. 4, 1867--the sixth anniversary of his inauguration--Lincoln died. Remarked Secretary Stanton, formerly one of his most vicious critics, "Now he belongs to the ages."

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