The war still looms in the background -- a blood bath that has sliced the nation apart and consumed its youth, a terrible, deeply unpopular conflict. The economy is in shambles. The incumbent president has alienated his constituency and is powerless to rule.
With a national election a year away, the idea begins to percolate: What about … a man of color? One of the most prominent of his race in the United States, a magical orator whose ability to stir the hearts of whites and blacks alike is legendary. His theme is human dignity; his goal, universal education. He is frequently attacked by bigots.
And what about … a woman? One destined to become the most famous feminist in America, popularly known by only her first name. One whose fight for rights encompasses not only those of her own sex but of other minorities as well -- an acknowledged leader known as "the general," with no fear of confrontation. She is ridiculed regularly by her enemies, but growing legions of women and men give her emotional and financial support. She speaks her mind and frequently shocks society.
What's more, these two have often worked together for their causes, which have frequently been one and the same. Yes, they will fight over differences but ultimately reconcile and proclaim their deep, mutual friendship.
Could it be?
An editorial writer for a local newspaper dares to put it into print.
"Susan B. Anthony and Fred. Douglas have more brains than the majority of radical leaders who, being less honest, figure higher. When universal suffrage and Negro equality render this country the paradise proposed, we shall expect to see Mr. Douglass President and Miss Anthony Vice President of the United States. They would make a strong ticket."
The anonymous writer with the Rochester Union and Advertiser is ahead of his time. It is 1865, and neither Frederick Douglass, the distinguished former slave and statesman, nor suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony has the right to vote, let alone run for office. It will take black men another five years and all women until 1920. In the presidential election of 1868, the Republican, a war hero, will sweep the nation.
It is, of course, only a dream.
ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr is writing a play about Susan B. Anthony.