The relevance of a doctrine's being

Ilya Somin isomin at
Mon Mar 22 21:11:31 PST 2004

Hamlin was, if I recall correctly, dropped from the 1864 ticket because
Johnson was more likely to attract "War Democrat" support for Lincoln in
the election. A Hamlin presidency would, in my view, have had much better
results for Reconstruction than the Johnson Administration did, though of
course such counterfactuals cannot be definitively proven!

My analysis above also implicitly assumes that Lincoln would still have
been assassinated had Hamlin stayed on as Veep for a second term. Possibly
Booth & Co. would have held back at the prospect of a Hamlin presidency. I
don't enough about how sophisticated they were, so I can't address that.
Still, Lincoln's decision to substitute Johnson for Hamlin must rank as
one of the great tragedies in American political history, given that in
retrospect it is clear that Lincoln would have won the election anyway
(McLellan got only 21 electoral votes), even if by a closer margin.

Ilya Somin

On Mon, 22 Mar 2004, Michael Zimmer wrote:

> Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln's first VP and a fierce abolitionist Senator from
> Maine, was described by Lincoln in a joke as his insurance policy against
> assassination. Once it was clear that he would not be on the ticket for the
> second term, Hamlin left Washington for Maine where he joined the Maine
> Coast Guard.  So he was VP of the USA and a private in the Maine Coast
> Guard.  Five weeks after Johnson became VP, Lincoln was dead.  Had Lincoln
> kept his insurance policy, perhaps, the course of events would have been
> much different.
> Michael J. Zimmer
> Professor of Law
> Seton Hall Law School
> One Newark Center
> Newark, NJ 07102
> 973.642.8833
> 973.642.8194 fax
>                       Ilya Somin
>                       <isomin at fas.harva        To:       Mark Graber <mgraber at>
>             >                  cc:       hendersl at, zimmermi at, conlawprof at
>                                                Subject:  Re: RE: The relevance of a doctrine's being
>                       03/22/04 06:35 PM
> Well, many of the Radical Republicans wanted to go well beyond "hanging
> 50 people" and instead wanted to 1) use federal troops to enforce the
> rights of southern blacks (actually done to a certain extent by Grant), 2)
> redistribute some of the slaveowners' property to the former slaves, and
> 3) use federal patronage to build political coalitions between blacks and
> unionist southern whites. We can't know for sure whether a more aggressive
> pursuit of 1-3 would have changed the course of history, but we certainly
> can't dismiss the possibility out of hand. In particularly, having a
> president sympathetic to this agenda in the 3 years immediately following
> the Civil War might have made it easier to carry out than it was under the
> hostile Andrew Johnson. It's hard to say how far Lincoln would have gone
> in supporting 1-3 above, but he was certainly more sympathetic than
> Johnson, a Democrat who had been put on the 1864 ticket for
> ticket-balancing reasons.
> Ilya SOmin
> On Mon, 22 Mar 2004, Mark Graber wrote:
> > How much would malice toward the leaders of the Confederacy matter.  The
> > Republican theory was that secession was sponsored by a few hotheads,
> > and that lots of southern whites were really nascent Republicans.  If
> > this was right, then maybe stringing up a few leaders would have worked.
> >  But isn't it the case that a) you didn;t need to string up a few
> > leaders to prevent a secession reprise, since that was settled at
> > appomattox (spelling approximate), and b) you would need more like a
> > KILLING FIELDS scenario to promote racial equality in the south, given
> > how deeply entrenched and popular white supremacy was in that region.
> > Alternatively, and more seriously than stringing up a few people, the
> > better strategy might have been to disarm all Confederates, arm all
> > former slaves and put them completely in control for a generation or so.
> >  But hang the 50 people of your choice, and I don't think history is
> > much different.
> >
> > Mark A. Graber
> > _______________________________________________
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