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If you keep making jokes like that, somebody is going to shoot you, father… Mary Todd Lincoln

The problem with most political assassinations is that the list of people with motive, means and opportunity is almost endless. Just because certain aspects of a theory may be proven or disproven does not mean that the entire theory is either true or false – only that discrete parts of it are. As more scholarship unveils more primary sources there will be more conjecture. We may never know the truth but that does not mean we should dismiss our ongoing search for it!

The Lincoln murder conspiracies    Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c 1983 William Hanchett Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Assassination Hardcover. 303 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Bibliography: p. [281]-296. Includes Index. Being an account of the hatred felt by many Americans for President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and the first complete examination and refutation of the many theories, hypotheses, and speculations put forward since 1865 concerning those presumed to have aided, abetted, controlled, or directed the murderous act of John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theater the night of April 14. Clean, tight and strong binding with  clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

“Believers in conspiracy are not discouraged by the lack of evidence, because they can easily convince themselves that the evidence has been destroyed by conspirators seeking to protect themselves or others.”

As William Hanchett suggests, believers in conspiracies are a determined and passionate lot. For more than a century now, they have been especially diligent in devising conspiracy theories to explain Lincoln’s assassination.

Unchecked and ignored by serious historians, they have produced hundreds of books and articles on the subject, yet have only succeeded in keeping the American public misinformed. Hanchett unravels their tangle of misconceptions and false ideas to present Lincoln’s murder as the political finale to the Civil War.

The assassination has seldom been considered a serious topic for historians and has never been treated with the objectivity and thoroughness Hanchett brings to bear on the subject. Allured by the confusion and mystery which have enshrouded the assassination from the beginning, other more adventurous writers have leaped into the breach with both plausible and farfetched conspiracy theories involving Confederate leaders and anti-war Democrats, Andrew Johnson or Edwin M. Stanton and the Radical Republicans, or even the leaders of a church.

These authors – most notably Otto Eisenschiml whose Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (1937) inspired an entire generation of popularizers – have created theories by jumping to conclusions, presenting assumptions as facts, and “proving” hypotheses by distorting or manufacturing evidence. Hanchett with precision and humor puts these theories top rest and sets the record straight.


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