One of the Costs of Real Leadership Is Being Misunderstood and Misperceived
However, Lincoln could also be tough as steel. Word reached President Lincoln that the Confederate States of America had issued orders that any black Union soldier captured in Confederate Territory was to be executed instead of taken as a prisoner. The Confederates were furious with the January 1, 1863 implementation of Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" and the resultant recruitment and deployment of black soldiers within the Union army. Upon hearing of the CSA's orders to execute black prisoners of war, President Lincoln issued his July 1863 "Order of Retaliation" which stated in part:
"The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.
It is therefore ordered that for every [Black] soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for everyone enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war."
It seems to me that principles of justice demand that when people full of grace are faced with the prospect of the weak and defenseless being unjustly harmed, the only appropriate response is an "eye for eye" approach to the abuser. That kind of tactic is not easy. It requires both moral discipline and strong leadership. In addition, when people don't know their leader personally, as was the case with most regarding President Lincoln, they will often base their opinions of the leader on his public writings alone. This would have led to a false impression. But being misunderstood is one of the costs of leadership. Those who lead should know this. It is also a sign of weak leadership when one is constantly trying to correct false perceptions of himself (or herself).
I consider President Lincoln one of the best leaders our nation has ever seen.