Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth onApril 14, 1865. And questions surrounding the assassinationarose immediately. Was Booth solely responsiblefor the assassination? Or was he simply a tool in a muchlarger conspiracy?The vice president’s role in the whole mystery is unclearto say the least. About seven hours before the assassinationof the president, Booth stopped at the Washington hotel, residenceof Andrew Johnson, the vice president. Learning thatneither Johnson nor his private secretary were present,Booth wrote the following note: “Don’t wish to disturb you.Are you at home? J. Wilkes Booth.” Johnson’s private secretarytestified to the fact that he found the note later in the afternoon.So from this can we assume that Johnson andBooth knew each other?Many people thought that Johnson was involved withthe assassination, and a special Assassination Committeewas established to investigate any evidence linking him toLincoln’s death. Nothing suspicious was ever found by thecommittee, yet a belief that he was in some way involvedcontinued for many years. It certainly seems suspicious that Booth should have sought him out so shortly beforethe assassination.Of course, rather than having been controlled by someoneelse, Booth himself could have been in control of anumber of coconspirators who were then either hanged orimprisoned at Ft. Jefferson. Booth could have been defendingSouthern values of slavery and racism. The assassinationcould have been a rather more dramatic solution thanwas initially intended. Booth may have intended merely tokidnap the president and to demand pr isoners of war in return.The assassination could have been a simple step furtherwhen the kidnapping plans fell through.It would appear, according to a series of letters found inBooth’s possession, that he knew of a plot to blow up theWhite House. Certainly if this was the case, if the plot haddisintegrated, more daring and radical planning wouldhave been necessary in order to carry out the original objectivesof the conspirators. In this sense, perhaps the originalplot was far smaller in scale and the whole thing was areckless afterthought when original plans went wrong.Lincoln had made himself a considerable number ofenemies as a result of his financial policies. His Civil Warefforts had eaten into his financial resources but he had declinedhigh-interest offers of loans from European bankersled by the Rothschilds and had found other ways to fundthe war. More importantly, the British bankers opposedLincoln’s protectionist policies. Some Englishmen in the1860s believed that “British free trade, industrial monopolyand human slavery travel together.” Lincoln was thusviewed as a threat to the established order of things andwas possibly assassinated as a result.