John Wilkes Booth was a die hard American. His sympathy was with the Southern cause. Slavery was only a side line to the many who opposed the Union in the years leading up to the Civil War. The real issue was the rights of individual states to conduct their business under the umbrella of a national government. To many people in the early and mid-1800s, the feeling was that the Government in Washington D. C. was interfering way too much in the individual States’ governments. Lincoln ran on the platform that the Federal Government had the final right to decide what was best for the nation and all the state governments must comply with what the Federal position was at any time the United States’ Congress and government acted. In effect, that position greatly curtailed the separate states to conduct its own affairs as each one saw fit to so due.
When the Southern states rose up and invoked the Constitution of their right to secede from the union and go their own way, the Civil War began in earnest. Many, like Booth, believed that Lincoln was wrong, that he was a despot, a dictator and that he was acting contrary to the Constitution. Booth saw one way out to save his beloved South and indeed the entire nation and that was to kill Mr. Lincoln.
Booth was popular, a good actor, smart, articulate and bold. When he finally reached his infamous decision, he felt that once he killed the President, that America-both North and South-would claim him as a hero. He would be instantly recognized as the savior of the South and the entire Union, once the land recognized that his bold action liberated this land from a despot. He was sure his name would live on in history and be regarded on a par with Washington, Jefferson and the rest of the Founding Fathers.
He was completely mystified when during the twelve days he was on the run from the officials that he was not being bandied as a hero but instead as a villain. He became angry, sullen and hateful because he was misunderstood by all of his beloved land. Today, his name is associated with one of the most nefarious deeds ever perpetrated in America and far from regarding Booth as a hero-he is now seen as he really was, a self-deceived, hypocritical man whose name is not highly regarded, but is held in contempt.
He and Judas share much of the same sad and sordid lifetime experiences. Both thought they were doing something good and history would honor them-both were sadly mistaken.