Saturday, September 21, 2013

History Nerd Fun: If You Could Mess With History ...

If you had a time machine and could go back in history to rescue someone, whom would you save?   Pericles?  Julius Caesar?  Lincoln?  Gandhi?


Eric said...

As an American, I would save Lincoln to find out how he would have managed the post-war of the Civil War.

The post-war is often an after-thought, but while winning a war is the necessary origin point, the historical relevance of a war is mostly determined by the construction of the peace after the war.

We screwed up the post-war of the Civil War. I believe the failure of Reconstruction (ie, the nation-building project to simultaneously integrate the freed slaves and the radically altered post-war South) has had a far greater long-term - and mostly negative effect - on the course of our nation than the Civil War itself.

Andrew Johnson eventually decided to wash his hands of the difficult long-term project by cutting expedient political deals, reminiscent of Obama short-sightedly truncating the long-term project to liberalize the Middle East that Bush started in response to 9/11.

Maybe Lincoln would have been boxed in by the same post-war political pressures and eventually reacted the same way towards post-war Reconstruction as his Vice-President. Or maybe Lincoln, like Bush, would have understood that some Presidential decisions have permanent downstream consequences and are worth sacrificing present-day political cache. Or like Bush, Lincoln would have governed by his long-term vision only to have the project unraveled by a short-sighted, demagogic successor.

Anyway, we know Johnson screwed up *the* pivotal project of America 2.0 and thereby set us on a misdirected course that America has not recovered from. I like to think Lincoln would have done it better.

Steve D said...