Published on February 18, 2014
Presented by Greg Caggiano
Narrator of the American Civil War?
Born in 1838 to an acting family that included his father Junius Brutus and brother Edwin Quickly became the most famous actor in America, next to his brother Second most photographed man in America Heartthrob and matinee idol of the 1860’s Known for an incredible memory and ability to recite his lines
Never enlisted to fight for the Confederacy and regretted it with every performance Fellow actors convinced him to stay the theater was his true calling, not fighting Was strongly in favor of slavery but did not own slaves himself Did not hate the Union so much as he despised Abraham Lincoln, calling him a tyrant
Was arrested in St. Louis for making “treasonous remarks”, after saying, “I wish the President and the whole damned government would go to hell.” Released after paying a fine and taking oath of allegiance Had many argument with his brother, who refused to act down south Was involved in Lincoln kidnapping plot in 1864
Booth can be seen as a narrator or “Greek Chorus” of the American Civil War Many performance matched up with or foreshadowed certain events Performed many Shakespearean regicides
On September 17, 1862, Booth was performing Hamlet in Chicago. Earlier that day, the battle of Antietam was fought, the bloodiest single day of fighting in American history “Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that fortune, death and danger dare, Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw When honor's at the stake. How stand I then, That have a father killed, a mother stained, Excitements of my reason and my blood, And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see The imminent death of twenty thousand men, That, for a fantasy and trick of fame, Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, Which is not tomb enough and continent To hide the slain? O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”
His transformation ironically begins after his performance on the night of Antietam, because days later, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would be announced He now knows Lincoln is the ultimate tyrant and his thoughts literally begin to “be bloody”
In Washington in 1863, the President and Mary Todd went to see Booth perform in Macbeth. After witnessing such an exhilarating performance, they asked to meet him. When the stage-hand informed him of this, he denied the request and left the theater. Locked eyes with Lincoln while holding a dagger
The final foreshadowing was when Booth played as Brutus in Julius Caesar. He gets to stick the final sword thrust into the emperor as Cassius yells, “Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!” This begs the question, was Booth inspired by his own performances?
Savior or tyrant?
Born in 1809 in Kentucky Lawyer in Illinois from 1847-1849 “Prairie lawyer” Was very tall for his time (6ft, 4in) and had a very large, yet lanky frame Voice was very high-pitched, a backwoodsy, country twang. Initially caught people off guard but was described as very soothing
Called for troops to essentially invade his own country after Fort Sumter Suspended habeas corpus so he could arrest pro-secession politicians and hold them without trial Example: Maryland
Views on the issue were divided his entire life Originally opposed BOTH slavery AND abolition: "The Institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.“ (1837) By the time he was running for president, he was still not against slavery, he was just against its expansion
"I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race." (Debate at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858)
"A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation but as an immediate separation is impossible the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas. That is at least one selfevident truth." ...... "Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colonization; and no political party, as such, is now doing anything directly for colonization. Party operations at present only favor or retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise is a difficult one; but “when there is a will there is a way;” and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be. The children of Israel, to such numbers as to include four hundred thousand fighting men, went out of Egyptian bondage in a body." (Speech on the Dred Scott Decision, June 26, 1857)
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
This lukewarm approach to slavery confused many southerners and led them to believe he was out to end slavery entirely Southern politicians built up propaganda, while he faced his own share of opposition in the north
Most misunderstood document in American history Textbooks have long given it credit for “freeing the slaves”, which technically it did not Only freed the slaves in rebellious southern states, which he currently had no power over Could not free slaves in border states for fear of them seceding
"I have urged the colonization of the negroes, and shall continue. My Emancipation Proclamation was linked with this plan. There is no room for two distinct races of Whites and blacks in America. I can think of no greater calamity than the assimilation of the negro into our social and political life as our equal. Within twenty years we can peacefully colonize the negro..under conditions in which he can rise to the full measure of manhood. This he can never do here. We can never attain the ideal union our fathers dreamed with millions of an alien, inferior race living among us, whose assimilation is neither possible nor desirable." (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 1953, v5, p371-5)
Copperhead anti-war movement Opposed Lincoln, supported slavery Made up of democrats (the conservatives of the time) Was widespread in New York and New Jersey Wanted as quick an end to the war as possible, by either a truce or Confederate victory (Union victory seemed out of the question) Strongest in 1862/early 1863
Union Army has been embarrassed with many major blunders and losses in the east Disasters at Bull Run (twice), Seven Days Battles, Peninsula Campaign, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and a stalemate at Antietam have led people to finally realize that the north could actually end up losing the war Copperheads were popular to some, but called traitors and “snakes” by others
After a major victory at Gettysburg and the capture of Vicksburg in the West, public opinion again began to shift Union Army was now more popular with Grant in charge, and the end of the war was in sight for the first time
November 18, 1863 Was not even the featured speaker Asked to make “a few appropriate remarks” Did not think highly of his own speech
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. "
March 4, 1865 Offered hope that the war would soon be over Was very accepting and peaceful towards the south “With malice toward none, and charity for all” Lincoln photographed with assassin
With the end of the war in sight, an official ending of slavery was seen as a way to put the final nail in the south’s coffin Hope to break their spirit and their hopes Faced severe opposition and many people believe he had people paid off to vote for the amendment Key to passing: The idea that the war could not end without it!!!
Did Lincoln know he was going to die?
In 1864, Booth and a few associates had planned to kidnap the president and hold him hostage, either by exchanging him for all Confederate prisoners or by forcing a truce to end the war Lincoln was no good to them dead at this point in the war Plot eventually fell through after Lincoln changed his travel plans at the last minute when attending a play near Booth’s residence
With the amendment passed and Lee surrendering in early April, the war was almost officially over, and Lincoln could finally relax Had many dreams that he would be assassinated, including one where he saw his own body laying in state
With the war over, Booth let his anger get the best of him He and his co-conspirators, some of whom were involved in the kidnapping plot, looked to send America into chaos and inspire the other Confederate soldiers who had not surrendered yet Plotted in the home of Mary Surratt
While Booth was to kill Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, Lewis Powell was supposed to kill Secretary of State William Seward and George Atzerodt was to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson Only Booth succeeded The play was Our American Cousin, which he knew well. He also knew the layout of the theater, and timed his movements and final gunshot with when the audience would be laughing.
Not Booth’s finest moment as he shouts this phrase before leaping off the balcony, and breaking his leg His cover was blown, and now everybody knew who he was Expected to be treated as a hero in the south and receive protection as he fled, but southerners were almost more enraged at the assassination than northerners
1) The Lincoln Conspiracy written in 1977 purported that the assassination was plotted by Edwin Stanton for his anger over Lincoln not wanting to punish the south after the war While Stanton and Lincoln did indeed disagree over reconstruction, there is no evidence of a conspiracy involving Stanton 2) Did John Wilkes Booth really die at Garrett’s Farm? His family doesn’t think so.
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