The day Lincoln was shot
an excellent made-for-tv movie (made four years ago, and rented from the New York Public Library), “The Day Lincoln Was Shot,” based on the Jim Bishop book. With just a couple of ahistorical lapses, and none of the PC clichés that mar most Hollywood productions, the movie stays very close to the historical events and personalities and you feel “as if you were there.” It gives a fair picture of the anguish over his lost civilization, as well as the personal instability, that drove John Wilkes Booth to the murder.
Lincoln, though joyous and relieved at the conclusion of the war, is seen as utterly fatalistic, disregarding numerous threats against his life and dismissing repeated urgings by his subordinates to have better security. As staggering as it is, Lincoln had only one police guard with him at Ford’s Theater, and that guard was a drinker who left his post outside Lincoln’s box and sat elsewhere during the performance.
Most people don’t realize that Booth and his henchmen (all very realistically portrayed) were attempting to kill not just Lincoln but, simultaneously, Secretary of State Seward (whose whole family was horribly attacked in his home where he was recuperating from a serious injury sustained in a fall from a carriage) and Vice President Johnson. As we watched it, it was like September 11th, a multipronged attack on the United States aimed at crippling the country.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 21, 2002 12:46 PM | Send
Ah, ‘Honest’ Abe. Lots of conservatives don’t care much for Lincoln: I’m one of them. He was a notorious liar and hypocrite. He jailed political opponents by the thousands and more than any European monarch advanced the depravity of total war where civilians become THE target. He centralized government like no other and made Roosevelt and his ilk possible. In short, he was a proto-Lenin. The only thing wrong with the Booth conspiracy is that it came 4 years too late. Surf over to Joe Sobran’s for a demolition of Saint Abraham.
The hatred of Lincoln among some people is such that even when they come across a description of a historical movie that has nothing to do with any of the contentious ideological issues of the Civil War, but is simply a factual, dramatic retelling of Lincoln’s assassination, one of the most famous events in American history, the anti-Lincolnians feel constrained to launch an attack on Lincoln’s “lies,” his “usurpation of the Constitution,” his “killing of 600,000 men,” and so on. It’s odd that Mr. Eubanks does not notice that I said approvingly of the movie that it offers a sympathetic portrayal of Booth’s anguish over the destroyed South. No, the fact that I said anything about Lincoln that was not utterly condemnatory—worse, that I actually showed sympathetic interest in Lincoln as a historical figure—was enough to set off Mr. Eubank’s diatribe, in which, among other things, he supported the assassination of a president of the United States and equated that president with a Communist dictator and mass killer. This is what discourse has come to in certain parts of the American right.
The way such a mentality operates, if I had commented, say, on Lincoln’s dealings with his cabinet or his reaction to his son’s death, or any other area of Lincoln’s life and career, someone would immediately leap forward and say that “Saint Abraham was a liar and a hypocrite, a mass killer, a proto-Lenin, the most evil man in American history.” The message is that one is allowed to have no intellectual interest in Lincoln, other than the one dictated by his haters.
One runs into exactly the same type of response on the anti-American left. If one is with lefties and makes any passing, factual comment about American history, they will jump in and say something negative about America. They not only do not allow any positive statement about America to pass unchallenged, they don’t allow any neutral statement about America to pass unchallenged. ONLY negative statements are allowed.
I admit my statements were hyperbolic. My comments weren’t really directed at you or your supposed sympathetic treatment of Lincoln. I do take issue with drawing parallels with the Booth conspirators and Al-Qaeda. Booth conspirators did what they did because they hated certain government officials who they deemed responsible for the subjugation of the South. There was no realistic hope that in doing so the South would become an independent state. Its political content didn’t extend much beyond simple revenge. I don’t see an “attack on America” here unless you think America means government officials. Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda act because they think America is engaged in a conspiracy, with Israel, to utterly destroy Islam.
As far as my last comment goes, if Lincoln was murderous war criminal then does holding the presidency of the United States confer on him some special immunity from the laws of war? Is the president of the United States a sacred figure like the Pharoh? To my mind the assassination of Lincoln in let’s say 1863 would have been a justifiable homicide.
After admitting that his previous statements were hyperbolic, Mr. Eubanks proceeds to inform us: (1) that an attempt to murder all the top officials of the United States government is not an attack on the United States; (2) that Lincoln in his attempt to save the Union was a murderous war criminal; and (3) that therefore murdering Lincoln prior to 1865 would have been justifiable homicide. It’s gratifying to see how my earlier retort to Mr. Eubanks has persuaded him to moderate his position.
While this is not the time to get into a lengthy discussion about the phenomenon of Lincoln hatred, one thing needs to be said. The unrestrained, self-indulgent demonizing of Lincoln by certain leading paleocon and paleo-libertarian intellectuals in recent years has planted in many young and intelligent minds the seeds of a nihilism that will be with us for a long time to come. Ideas have consequences.
1) The Booth conspirators were crazed revenge seekers that were neither revolutionary nor foreign. What were the conspirators trying to accomplish specifically? Revenge is the only possible motive and such killings happen all the time. The fact that their targets were high government officials is incedental, they would have do so even if Lincoln was out of office. Mr. Auster posits a political motive that they simply did not hold. Is the Hinkley shooting now an attack on America? Speaking of attacks on America, what about Sherman’s vicious and depraved “March to the Sea”?
2) Mr. Auster believes that Lincoln was justified in committing war crimes in his effort to maintain northern suzerainty over the South. We’ll ignore for the moment that Lincoln had jailed a congressman, a sizable number of Maryland legislators, newspaper editors and copperheads for the entirety of the war (and excecuted a few). If Lincoln had only obeyed the precepts of morality then my only objection to Lincoln would be his bizarre claim the Union preceded its founding. Whether the South won or lost. However, the unpleasant fact remains that Lincoln militarily targeted civilians for vindictive political purposes. Yes, the South had their fair share of war criminals like Quantrill but criminality wasn’t systemic to their prosecution of the war.
3) To the extent that an assassination would have prevented Lincoln’s numerous war crimes, then yes I would have supported his assassination. However, no thinking man enorses the notion that traditionalists should take to the streets and gun down government officials at their pleasure. There would need to be a sustained effort by the official to kill and brutalize substantial populations of Americans. Mr. Lincoln fits this description; modern presidents arn’t even close. If Mr. Auster has qualms about extrajudicial killings then let him rethink his support of Lincoln.
I am beginning to think the dispute between Mr. Auster and myself is more of a disagreement over the correctness of sucession in a federalist system. If one thinks it wrong then one cannot help but to view Lincoln as a just man. However, if one holds the opposite then Lincoln becomes a damnable and intolerable tyrant. The following quote summerizes the sucessionist position nicely:
“I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I believed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.” - Lord Acton in a letter to Robert E. Lee.
Mr. Auster is correct to state that ideas have consequences and Lincoln’s and his posthumous sycophants are no exception to this rule.
I could write a long essay on the factors that lead people into Lincoln hatred, Holocaust denial, and other paranoid belief systems that are so common today, and maybe at some point I will. But for the present I’ll just say this. Anyone who announces that he supports (or would have supported, had it been done at the “right” time) the assassination of President Lincoln has put himself outside the bounds of civilized discussion as far as I’m concerned, and does not deserve a reply.
John Wilkes Booth was the sole mastermind in the plot to murder Abraham Lincoln. His stooges were awestruck from his personna and felt that their partiscipation in the murdering of the President would place them all in historic remembrance as true patriots who avenged the nation for its bloodbath in the four years of franticide. Each of them were duped in this deranged idea of liberating the masses from the one man who, they believed, was responsible for an unnecessary war. Why then are there so many false theories concerning the assassination events? The proof lies here for all to glean: Abraham Lincoln had been an easy target for many months while stationed in Washington. On many occassions he left the White HOuse unescorted and by way of horseback. He travelled much in this manner when visiting the Soldier’s Home. Even Booth knew of this. Why did not the assassins take advantage of the easier route to kill the President? The reason most people suspect a conspiracy is due to certain incidents which unfortunately played out the wrong way. Parker, a guard, was drunk at his duties. Earlier invitations to join with the President and his wife were refused for various reasons. Lincoln ignored all advise to protect himself that night. Supposen he decided to comply with those concerns affecting his life? Then Booth would have failed to complete his dastardly mission. So you see, my friends, there is nothing more to this than what really happened that fateful evening and anything beyond that is mere speculation. Thank you for the opportunity to relay my views.
Re: Lincoln Assassination
What compelled John Wilkes Booth to decide to murder the President? To understand the answer to this question, we must first look inside the mind of the assassin. What troubled John the most? It was his brother, Edwin, who then ranked as the leading Shakespearian actor in both the United States and abroad. Jon was jealous of Edwin. Severely so. Then one day, while contemplating the conditions of the country at war, he had this thought: I will kill the king! Yea, I will slay him and bring him down to dust. I alone will bear the fruit of my deeds! Pride overwhelmed his poor soul as he now pictured himself in center stage with all the South applauding his fine work. The obcession to do it was strong. But he needed simple-minded bodies to assist him in this cowardly task. He would enlist the support of those litle people who simply swooned in his shadow. And thus began the unfolding of a plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. The seed to do this was planted before his time. Ye shall be as gods, said the Serpent to our Edenic parents. Fall down and worship me and I shall give you the kingdoms, said Satan to the Christ of God. Man is born unto trouble even as the sparks fly upward! It was not the South or slavery or anything else of concern to John Wilkes Booth. It was his brother, Edwin.
An emergent revisionist, I began searching Lincoln’s murder a week ago. The above clash is invigorating, e.g. “Lincoln hatred, Holocaust denial,” almost sensible, given our brains are so bamboozled by un-hanged media managers. That reference must be to the YooKnowWhose influence, which implies puppet Lincoln leading foreign financed, industrialising, robber-baron North against the sleepy South to protect the unity needed by the unmentionable power to subject the entire country to the rapacious exploitation we see triumphant today. That is reason to hate him. But, written out of history is his record of determined financial and industrial natonalism described at http://members.tripod.com/~american_almanac/lincoln1.htm. Qui bono? Kidnapping the president was a non-motive as pointless as blowing up parliament. So who cares if Booth, who did have “black op” connections, did pull the trigger? However, assassinating him who chose to pay the army in U.S. treasury “Greenbacks” certainly would benefit “those respectable scoundrels,” the radical Eastern loan sharks whose postwar usurpation kept the South unindustrialized. But I have yet to research the line and verse of that little number.