Thursday, May 12, 2011



Brian Redman
Tue, 2 Mar 1999 17:53:34 -0500
-Caveat Lector-

(CNNS, 03/02/99) -- Author William Hanchett, in  his  book,  "The
Lincoln  Murder  Conspiracies"  (Urbana:   University of Illinois
Press,  1983.   ISBN:   0-252-01046-9),  offers  a  scholarly and
somewhat fair rebuttal to the panoply of books and articles which
claim  a  high-level  conspiracy  behind  the  death  of  Abraham

Unlike most  supposed  debunkers  of  conspiracy  theories  (e.g.
Gerald  Posner  on JFK; *60 Minutes* on Vince Foster), Hanchett's
attempts to  refute  various  Lincoln  conspiracy  ideas are well
argued (for the most part) and show that Hanchett  has  done  his
homework on the subject before writing about it.

This  editor,  although  grateful to Hanchett for separating fact
from fiction  (in  some  cases),  remains  unconvinced  that John
Wilkes Booth and a limited number of Booth associates were  alone
the  perpetrators  of  the April 14, 1865 tragedy.  What Hanchett
does show convincingly  is  that,  in  the  words  of Robert Todd
Lincoln, his father's death has been "a peg on which to hang many
things."  Unscrupulous persons, having their personal politics to
peddle,  have  used  the  Lincoln  assassination  for  their  own

But which are the unscrupulous persons?  The various claims as to
who was really behind Lincoln's murder are a hall of mirrors,  in
which  only  one  image  can possibly be real.  Did the Catholics
cause Lincoln's  death?   Was  it  the  Rothschilds?   Was it the
Confederacy?  Did "Copperheads" play a role?   Or  were  "Radical
Republicans,"   members   of  Lincoln's  own  party,  behind  the

One good thing about Hanchett's  book  is, as stated, that he has
done his homework on the subject.   This  means  that  Hanchett's
bibliography  is  a  gold  mine  of  references,  some previously
unknown to this editor. For example:

** (Book) "Rome's Responsibility for the Assassination of Abraham
Lincoln,"  by  Thomas  M.  Harris.   (Harris,  a  Union Brigadier
General, belonged to the  1865 military commission presiding over
the trial of Booth's co-conspirators.)

** (Book) "Crimes of the Civil War," by Henry Clay  Dean.   (Says
that  Lincoln  was  a tyrant who threatened the U.S. Constitution
and that Booth was a hero.)

** (Book) "The  Man  Who  Killed  Lincoln,"  by  Philip Van Doren
Stern.  (Claims that Booth hated his father and  transfered  that
rage onto Lincoln.)

**  (Book)  "Washington in the Lap of Rome," by Justin D. Fulton.
(Catholic   Church    has    suppressed    details   of   Lincoln

** (Book) "An Inquiry Into the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln,"
by Emmett McLoughlin.  (Catholic Church  a  "silent  partner"  in
assassination of Lincoln.)

**  (Book)  "This  One Mad Act," by Izola Forrester.  (Subtitled,
"The Unknown Story of John  Wilkes Booth and his Family."  Author
claims to be Booth's grand-daughter.)

** (Book) "The Reincarnation  of  John  Wilkes  Booth,"  by  Dell
Leonardi.   (Hypnotist regresses farm boy in 1970s; learns he was
Booth in past life; "Booth" tells all.)

Debunker  Hanchett  misses in some areas, for example he does not
convincingly explain the  oddity  of  John Parker, Lincoln's only
bodyguard on the fatal evening.  Parker left his post.  Hardliner
Edwin  Stanton,  secretary  of  war,   who'd   sanctioned   harsh
punishment  of  Union sentries who'd fallen asleep on guard duty,
did not punish Parker  at  all.   Hanchett misses on the evidence
that Booth  did  not  die  at  Garrett's  farm:   Hanchett  gives
incidental  mention  to  the  claim,  lumping  it in with various
locales in which  the  surviving  Booth  is  said to have quietly
lived out his remaining days.   In  his  excellent  bibliography,
Hanchett  does  include  Finis Bates convincing book, "Escape and
Suicide of John Wilkes  Booth."   But,  like for example with the
credible Debra von Trapp's appearance  on  NBC's  "Dateline,"  he
throws  in  assorted odd claims with Finis Bates' solid evidence,
thereby invoking "lunacy by association."

In other  areas,  Hanchett's  obvious  expertise  on  the subject
matter leaves the amateur in disarray.  So, for example, Hanchett
casts doubt on books and articles by the late  Otto  Eisenschiml,
conveniently  at  a  time  when  the  brilliant Eisenschmil is no
longer available to challenge Hanchett's assertions.

The overall  background  atmosphere,  as  it  existed  during the
American Civil War, is a worthwhile element in  Hanchett's  book.
He   actually   uses   the  term  "Lincoln  haters"  to  describe
widespread, disaffected elements  of  the  U.S. population, North
and South.  In this a parallel exists with our own times,  filled
with  so-called "Clinton haters."  In fact, Hanchett's background
atmosphere is uncanny, suggesting  that  1990s America itself has
got its own bubbling civil war, not yet  extremely  violent,  yet
passionate just the same.

The  issue  of  States  Rights,  alive  and  strong  in 1860, has
resurfaced with  a  vengeance.   Since  the  Southern  states had
voluntarily entered the Union, and since there was no explicit or
implicit contract that  their  entry  was  irrevocable,  passions
notwithstanding it seems that the Confederates did have the right
to  secede.   We  are  now  in  our own Civil War Part Two, whose
passions  are  temporarily   allayed   by  easy  credit,  massive
repression, and an influx of economic refugees.   But  the  Civil
War  Part  Two cannot be cosmetically contained indefinitely.  An
old prophecy has it  that,  "The  South  shall rise again."  This
does  not  mean  a  return  to  the  evils  of  slavery  --   the
resurrection  of  the still unfinished business of 1865 will take
some other form.