Negative Effects of the Lincoln Assassination

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Logan Flanagan
22 March 2013
Negative Effects of the Lincoln Assassination
Soon after President Abraham Lincoln died on Good Friday, April 15, 1865, the fatal bullet with which he was murdered was removed. Dr. Curtis, one of the doctors who performed the procedure, later wrote, “‘There it [the bullet] lay upon the white china, a little black mass no bigger than the end of my finger—dull, motionless and harmless, yet the cause of such mighty changes in the world’s history as we may perhaps never realize’” (Swanson 135). The doctor was correct in his statement that Lincoln’s death would have substantial and far-reaching effects. The assassination of the sixteenth president of the United States of America had many negative results that affected people all over the country. Although John Wilkes Booth thought he was helping the South, his assassination of President Lincoln brought hardship to the entire nation. The Lincoln assassination brought ignominy to Lincoln’s family. The family had experienced deaths of two loved ones before, when Lincoln’s sons Eddie and Willie died in 1850 and 1862, respectively. The death of Lincoln himself seemingly brought a curse on his family. The most noticeable effect was on his wife, Mary. Author James Swanson lists several ways in which Mary was put to shame after his death: During the months after Mary left Washington, there were rumors that she had plundered the White House of valuables; and in 1867, a scheme she hatched with Elizabeth Keckly to exhibit her dresses for money [. . .] made her a national laughingstock. [. . .] Mary continued to live as an unsettled wanderer, spending much of her time in Europe. Irrationally, she believed herself destitute. She made mad, vicious accusations of dishonesty and theft against her son Robert, which led him to have her committed to a sanitarium for four months in 1875. [. . .] She finally returned to Springfield and moved into the home of her sister, Elizabeth Todd Edwards. It was the house she and Abraham had been married in. As she had after the assassination, Mary spent much time in seclusion in her room, longing for death. She died on July 16, 1882, surviving her husband by seventeen unhappy years. The nation did not mourn her passing. (389-390) The Lincoln family was in the public eye after the assassination, and because of this, the family members’ flaws were highlighted. Mary Lincoln’s emotional instability, which had been a problem even during the lifetime of her husband, made her the subject of much ridicule after his death. Swanson mentions that other members of the Lincoln family were impacted as well: Tad, the president’s constant companion after Willie’s death, died of tuberculosis in 1871, having survived his father by just six years. [. . .] Robert Todd Lincoln became a prominent attorney, businessman, and government official, but after his death in 1926, the Lincoln line died out within two generations. Today there are no direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln. (389-390) The curse that affected Mary’s psychological state also affected the rest of the family. Tad, another son of Lincoln who had been very close to him, died shortly after Lincoln’s death, and though Robert Todd Lincoln made a name for himself, his death marked the end of the Lincoln lineage. These deaths merely reaffirmed the melancholy effects of Lincoln’s death on his own kin. As the family of the murder victim, Lincoln’s family was most directly affected by the assassination. In addition to Lincoln’s family, Booth’s family and those associated with the assassin were negatively affected by the death of Lincoln. Booth’s family members were naturally hated and blamed for the tragedy. Author Nora Titone states, “Poison-pen letters came to [Booth’s brother] Edwin’s house. ‘Revolvers are already loaded with which to shoot you down,’ one warned. ‘We hate the name of Booth’” (367). Also, three of Booth’s siblings, two friends, and others were jailed...