Well, it’s the end of 2010. Happy new year everyone! I’d like to end the year with an admonition from myself to all: “Don’t believe everything you hear about the Lincoln story!” I’ve said this many times in the past. Twice this week I was approached by aquaintances who asked me “Did you know it wasn’t Booth captured in the barn?” They both stated this in a way that seemed to convey some underlying pleasure in “knowing” this “truth” and revealing it to me.
Whenever I get a question like this I almost roll my eyes as if to say: “Here we go again.” But I behaved- and did not show an outward reaction of disgust, distain, or impatience. The truth is-questions like this are always popping up and seem to flow from whatever the latest trend is “out there” in the public at large. For years I’ve had to deal with the “Was Lincoln gay?” question. That one seems to have died down now.
Apparently, there was some documentary on the Lincoln assassination on TV in the last week. It sounds like it was stating that it wasn’t Booth in the barn -and even if he was -he wasn’t captured there. I didn’t see the program. Hence, the question about Booth came my way. How did I answer them? As simply and quick as I can. Like everyone, my time is very limited-so I cut to the chase. Here’s basically what I told them:
1) The notion that Booth was not captured in the barn is not a new idea. It has been in circulation since the event occurred.
2)The evidence is overwhelming that the man shot in the barn was John Wilkes Booth. It takes greater faith to think it wasn’t Booth-against a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
3)Conspiracy theories abound regarding major events like the Lincoln assassination-and the Lincoln story is no different.
4)Sometimes ideas like “it wasn’t Booth” are built around a bizarre twist in the story and just get “a life” from there on. It happens-not everything in the story is as solid as we would like it to be. However, applying basic principles of scholarship should win the day. “Don’t be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.”-if you know what I mean.
5)Study the matter for yourself. Don’t believe such a thing without examining the record. Read books. Do your homework!
They walk away. They probably won’t take my advice. They’d rather believe something as titilating as “It wasn’t Booth in the barn.” They’ll be back when the next “big item” makes its way into popular media. Here’s a good one: “Lincoln didn’t really die. He was captured by aliens and has now been dropped back to earth in 2011.” Oh boy, I can’t wait for the questions…Mail this post