From Lincoln to Obama, the Value of Peace Talks

tags: Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln



James B. Conroy is an attorney, former congressional aide and author of Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865.

(CNN) -- As negotiations with Iran are about to resume in Vienna, some of President Obama's friends, not to mention his enemies, are appalled by the very idea of what they consider a deal with the devil.

One congressman called November's interim agreement a betrayal "worse than Munich" before he had even seen it. Incapable of joining forces on anything else, some Democrats, Republicans and Iranian hardliners refuse to give peace a chance. A century and a half ago, a recalcitrant alliance of the same improbable ilk caused literally fatal consequences.

On February 5, 1865, Abraham Lincoln designed a simple compromise to end the Civil War. It would have saved thousands of lives, abolished slavery and enticed the departed states to disarm and return voluntarily in exchange for fair concessions. It never made it out of the White House. The purists in his Cabinet rejected it, and the moderates would not cross them.

A few days earlier, Lincoln and his secretary of state, William Seward, a liberal former senator and a defeated candidate for president, had welcomed a rebel peace delegation to the presidential steamboat River Queen, the Air Force One of her day....



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