Casey warns country against jumping to conclusions about Booth’s motives
City of Washington, April 28, 1865
In an incomprehensible act of violence that stunned the nation, the successful, Maryland-born actor John Wilkes Booth of the famed Booth theatrical family assassinated President Lincoln in his box at Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, then leapt to the stage, waved a bloody dagger and, according to a hundred audience members, shouted, “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Thus always to tyrants) and “The South shall be free!”
Then he fled the theater before anyone could stop him. After he was surrounded and shot dead by federal soldiers at Garrett’s farm in Maryland on April 26, in Booth’s diary was found an entry he had written about Lincoln’s death, “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.”
As of this evening, General of the Army George Casey, in charge of the investigation, has not released his findings as to what could have motivated Booth, and he again warned newspapers and the public, as he has since the day of Lincoln’s death, against jumping to conclusions. Dismissing suggestions that Booth strongly supported the Southern cause and saw Lincoln as a tyrant for making war on the South, Casey says that he and his staff are attaching more weight to recent psychological stresses that Booth was dealing with. Here are some of the lines of investigation they are pursuing:
1. Was Booth bitter because he didn’t get the role of the tipsy butler in “Our American Cousin”?
2. Was he being driven crazy by crank telegrams asking, “Is there a John in your house?”
3. Did he have an obsessive fear that stereopticon cards would replace live theater?
4. Was he enraged that he had to wear tights for Shakespearean roles?
5. Did he, while jingling pocket change, accidentally pull the trigger on his derringer and shoot the president; then thought that shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!” would help break the tension?
General Casey continues to stress that the country should avoid jumping to conclusions. He says that he and his staff will strive ceaselessly to ferret out all the evidence until a fair determination as to Booth’s motives can be reached, however long the investigation may take.