By Judy Berman
“The man with fourteen days to live is himself witnessing death.”
This is the opening line of “Killing Lincoln,” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Within six weeks after Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office for his second term, shortly before the close of the Civil War, he was the first U.S. president to be assassinated in office.
Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” focuses on efforts to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. The book has a different focus. It reads like a thriller that counts down the remaining days of Lincoln’s presidency.
Some deride those who now want to secede from the United States, following the re-election of President Barack Obama. Such talk is no laughing matter. During Lincoln’s presidency, when our country was deeply divided, some – perhaps connected to the highest ranks in our government – attempted drastic and violent measures to alter the direction of our country.
Five days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, Lincoln was gunned down on April 14, 1865, by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died early the next morning.
Lincoln was not Booth’s only target. Booth and his conspirators also plotted to kill Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lincoln’s general-in-chief of the Union army.
“Rather than just kill Lincoln and Grant, he now plans to do nothing less than undertake a top-down destruction of the government of the United States of America,” the authors write in “Killing Lincoln.”
Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward also are on the hit list.
“There are rumors that General Grant will be in town. If he attends the theater with Lincoln … Booth can kill the two most prominent architects of the South’s demise within seconds,” according to “Killing Lincoln.”
Booth also despises Vice President Johnson. He “views the Tennessee politician as a turncoat for siding with Lincoln.” Secretary of State William H. Seward also has angered Confederate sympathizers for his “oppressive policies toward the South.”
Lincoln had opposition from all sides – Radical Republicans and War Democrats – as he tried to reunite the country and bring an end to slavery. He wanted the reconciliation with the South to be one of compromise and understanding.
Secessionists, who wanted to break away from the U.S. government, plotted Lincoln’s death. Booth killed Lincoln. But the other intended victims eluded death and the conspirators were eventually caught.
The book and the movie on Lincoln’s death serve as a reminder that we must be vigilant in order to protect our country. Tommy Lee Jones, who played Sen. Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican abolitionist, in “Lincoln,” said the movie “gives you an opportunity to think about the fact that politics is still dirty. And that great things are done by people, working hard.”
We’re a diverse nation and we’ve weathered difficult times before. When we work together, we can achieve great things.
Official full movie trailer (2:21 min.)
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Main Photo: President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan in the general’s tent at Antietam, Maryland, October 3, 1862. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lincoln_and_McClellan_1862-10-03.jpg
Photo: President Abraham Lincoln – 1862 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lincoln_O-60_by_Brady,_1862.jpg
Lincoln’s final days http://www.history.com/topics/abraham-lincoln-assassination