Abraham Lincoln’s: John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot President Abraham Lincoln in the head while attending a play in Washington D.C on April 14, 1865 (Woodbury 24). His assassination occurred only a few days after the surrender of General Lee and Confederates soldiers to Union soldiers at Appomattox Court House, Virginia signaling the end of the American Civil War. The primary reason for the president’s assassination was his support for the abolishment of slavery in the country (Woodbury 24). Lincoln’s death plunged the U.S. into despair and uncertainty as it was the first ever assassination on an American president.
Booth was a white supremacist, and thus a Confederate sympathizer. Notably, despite the Civil War, he remained in the North to pursue his flourishing acting career. Nevertheless, towards the end of the war, Booth along with several associates planned to hold President Lincoln hostage at the Confederates capital in Richmond. However, their planned abduction failed to materialize as President Lincoln did not appear at the location where Booth and his colleagues waited for him (Millard 72). Coincidentally, the Confederates were defeated by the Union army almost two weeks after the failed kidnapping. Subsequently, Booth hatched a plan to assassinate President Lincoln in a bid to save the Confederacy. In this regard, he shot him on the head on April 14, 1865, and he died the following morning while undergoing treatment. In addition, on the same day, Booth’s associates unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate both the Vice President and William H. Seward, the then Secretary of State (Millard 72). Although Booth was killed days later, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln remains one of the events that helped shape the American history.
President Lincoln’s assassination significantly influenced American history. His death impacted on the reconstruction process as the country was recovering from the effects of the Civil War. Lincoln’s death resulted in the ascendancy of Vice President Andrew Johnson into power. He did not have good leadership skills as Lincoln, and so he managed the reconstruction process poorly. As a result, he condemned the South to a century of underdevelopment, poverty, and racism. Notably, most of the fighting during the American Civil War took place in the South. During the war, the daily lives of most people from the South were disrupted as the fighting occurred near their towns and communities. The economy of the Southern states that depended on agriculture also came to a halt during the war. In this regard, the assassination of Lincoln immediately after the end of the Civil War was a blow to the Southern states as preceding presidents did not take much interest in developing the region. President Lincoln was a true believer of the unity of the American people and had an elaborate plan on how to unite the Southern and Northern states before his death (Levinson 313). Therefore, his death was a significant blow to the reconstruction process and led to a series of unfortunate events (Levinson 313). Subsequently, the underdevelopment of the Southern States compared to those in the North even the in modern-day America can be attributed to the failure of President Lincoln’s successors.
The death of President Lincoln marked the beginning of another period of racism, segregation, discrimination, and hatred among people from the Northern and Southern states. Before his death, Lincoln had unveiled the reconstruction plan as a way to unite all Americans. Nevertheless, his assassination resulted in the control of the Congress by a group known as the “Radical Republicans.” However, Radical Republicans planned to teach the South a lesson and punish them for their role in the Civil War. More so, the group hated Johnson, the new president, since he was from the south. In 1866, the Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill which proposed reconstruction measures that seemed to support oppression of the Southern states. Soon the U.S. witnessed the passing of several bills and laws that were mainly used as a superiority battle between citizens and leaders from Northern and Southern states. Some of the laws include “the black codes” by Southern states and Civil Rights Act of 1866, among others. The discord in the country was heightened by the Congress decision to impeach President Johnson in 1868 because he had violated the “Tenure of Office Act” which outlawed the president from firing a cabinet member (Perkins 9). Although he was not convicted his tenure was characterized by a lame and duck presidency which was different from President’s Lincoln’s tenure.
In this regard, the death of President Lincoln affected the recovery of the country from the effects of the Civil War due to the ineffectiveness and lack of leadership skills by his successor, President Johnson. It is without a doubt that the assassination of President Lincoln was a huge blow to the development of the Southern states and to the unity of the American people during that time. Subsequently, the assassination played a massive role in shaping the American history and changing the events in the country.
Levinson, Sanford. “The Ten Year War: What If Lincoln Had Not Exited after Four Years.” Tulsa L. Rev. 51 (2015): 313.
Millard, E. “Political Assassinations and Attempts in US History: The Lasting Effects of Gun Violence against American Political Leaders.” (2018): 72-75.
Perkins, Nicole. “Andrew Johnson: The Uniting or Dividing Factor of Reconstruction.” Line by Line: A Journal of Beginning Student Writing 4.1 (2017): 9.
Woodbury, Ariel. “Lincoln’s Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever.” Children’s Book and Media Review 38.7 (2017): 24.