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Author Topic: Was Booth a coward?  (Read 5387 times)
Jenny
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« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2012, 08:32:50 AM »

I'm enjoying reading this discussion! Everyone has great thoughts and valid opinions. That said, my own opinion is that Booth was not a coward. And I certainly can't say that I wish Booth had never been born... but that's drifting off into spiritual territory and has no place here so I won't go any further.
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2012, 09:10:56 AM »

Actually, Jenny, unless you just don't want to go there, I would be interested in knowing why you don't think it would be better if Booth hadn't been born.

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Rob
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jonathan
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« Reply #32 on: February 03, 2012, 09:56:42 AM »

I think it's important to keep in mind that it's difficult to simply to declare someone a "coward" or "courageous". How many of us have done things that would fall into each category? I certainly have. So does that make us cowards or heroes? I think it simply makes us human beings. We are all imperfect, and depending on the day, we can fall on either side of the line. Booth was no different, it's just that his decisions were on a huge scale and happened at a time in the history of our country unlike any other. His actions and inactions have been magnified because of the stage and 150 years of hindsight. Yes, it can be seen as cowardly to not fight in the war, to shoot an unarmed President in the back of the head. But to actually go through with it must surely have taken great courage. He was an actor, performing on stages in front of packed audiences. This alone would terrify many, if not most, people. In the end, Booth did have the courage to act on his convictions, however convoluted they may have been. He was also still a fairly young man, and obviously had not yet acquired the wisdom that might have caused him to reconsider. I think Booth was just a person, with all the imperfections we all have. He went overboard and as a result, lives forever in infamy.
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #33 on: February 03, 2012, 10:21:19 AM »

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But to actually go through with it must surely have taken great courage.

So, do you believe courage to be morally-neutral? In other words, despite the action, one can claim the mantle of courage as long as one follows through with their plan?

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Rob
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jonathan
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« Reply #34 on: February 03, 2012, 11:23:41 AM »

Yeah, I guess I do believe that courage is morally neutral. I also believe, as you pointed out, that acts of bravery often happen in the spur of the moment, when there isn't time to think. Courage comes when we're fully aware of the danger and consequences, and carry through anyway. But in the case of shooting Lincoln, Booth did know the danger and consequences. It was premeditated, the only real question is how far in advance he planned it. He had time to think it through, weigh the pros and cons if he chose to, and back out if he didn't think he could do it. And still he walked into a crowded theatre, into the vestibule where he could still back out, into the box, and pulled the trigger. To me, this took courage, though most people would agree that it's a morally reprehensible act. But I will agree that if he was drunk or simply mentally unstable, that would likely change my opinion. I just don't think we're ever going to have enough information to draw any conclusions on that one, so we have to form our own opinions. As I said before, I think it's difficult to label someone as "courageous" or "cowardly". With most, we can only look at the full body of their actions and see which way they leaned.
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #35 on: February 03, 2012, 11:41:29 AM »

Jonathan, if one accepts that courage is morally-neutral, doesn't it follow that any act, by any actor, is worthy of being labeled brave as long as they follow through? Wouldn't that include Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden or just about anyone in the time of history who accomplished their goals in the face of overwhelming antagonism?

I just can't accept that.

Bravery and courage are actions we hope people will emulate. My belief that Booth was a coward comes because regardless of whatever he had to overcome, very few would believe his actions were something we would hope our children would look up to and want to follow through with. Determination does not always equate with courage, in my opinion.

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Rob
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2012, 11:53:32 AM »

Most, Laurie, would call it murder.

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Rob
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jonathan
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« Reply #37 on: February 03, 2012, 12:28:48 PM »

Rob, I can see where you're coming from and I respect that completely. That's why I said earlier that I think this kind of question may simply come down to personal opinions and definitions of what courage or cowardice actually are. I  think those are words that don't have one-size-fits-all definitions. I see exactly what you're saying, it just doesn't fit with the way I look at it.
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« Reply #38 on: February 03, 2012, 12:31:10 PM »

     Randal - in the first quote you quoted, I was referring to Booth's actions at Ford's. I believe he had to have expected some form of challenge may have come between 10th. street and the back alley but he forged ahead with his plans, determined to address threats as they occurred. Sorry for the confusion, there.

     Rob - I don't think we are going to reach common ground on this issue or the issue of fear. Coward is not a handle I apply frequently or easily. I think it's the worst handle you can pin on a man. That comes from my own experiences of having worked with a few. Sometimes, when faced with a potentially deadly situation, the way a man reacts is a product of what is ingrained in him through his experiences and his intestinal fortitude. I  think that can be conjured up to meet a particular situation only in rare occurrences.

     As far as Booth and a successful insanity defense, being that defense was, to the best of my knowledge, not used as it is today (Stanton was the first to use it, no?), while I feel Booth had mental issues I don't think if we apply the standard that they prevented him from knowing right from wrong, he would qualify. His calculations and planning show a level of thinking that would place him outside the insanity category. While I think he was a total screwball, I don't think it effected his day to day life.

     I don't see much safety for Booth at Garrett's behind the barn wall. I see a desperate, cornered man. If he wasn't as vocal and defiant and reacted any other way than how he did, I might see some cowardice there, but again, I don't see it. I think being all his attempts to direct how things were going to play out failed, he took his own life rather than give the degenerate people he spoke of the satisfaction of seeing him on the end of a rope. I share your beliefs about Conger and Baker. They were certainly at a disadvantage and they forged ahead with their plans as well. Their actions were truly courageous.

     I just can't see any cowardice in Booth's actions. I feel his shooting of Lincoln was in his mind a wartime act, just as a sniper might take out an enemy from a distance behind the safety of cover.

     I, sir, think we are at an impasse. Again, my thanks for a very interesting, spirited discussion.  

              
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Jenny
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« Reply #39 on: February 03, 2012, 12:39:55 PM »

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Actually, Jenny, unless you just don't want to go there, I would be interested in knowing why you don't think it would be better if Booth hadn't been born.

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Rob

Well Rob, I really hate to get into what I'm leaning towards on historical forums so I generally don't go there and I don't think I will go any further than to just say that I believe everyone is born for a reason and everything happens for a reason. That kind of thing.  Wink Religious type stuff.

Carry on, ladies and gentlemen!  Smiley
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"In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls"
- Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
Rob Wick
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« Reply #40 on: February 03, 2012, 12:47:30 PM »

Joe, regarding the impasse, you're probably right. Thanks to you for an enlightening and agreeable discussion.

Jenny and Jonathan, fair enough. Smiley

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Rob
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jonathan
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« Reply #41 on: February 03, 2012, 12:53:09 PM »

Joe, thanks for that quick insanity defense analysis. I was thinking exactly the same thing, but there's only just so much I can stand to type out on my phone at one time. Wink
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #42 on: February 03, 2012, 12:57:39 PM »

No, Laurie,  Booth was not a soldier. Booth was a cold-blooded killer who snuck up behind a defenseless man and put a bullet in his head. He employed another cold-blooded killer to attack an invalid in his bed. Last time I checked, neither VMI nor West Point taught those tactics.

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Rob
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #43 on: February 03, 2012, 02:07:07 PM »

Betty,

With all due respect to your views on Powell, the only thing that kept him from being a cold-blooded killer is that Seward survived. Plus, I never said a word about Mosby, but since you brought him up, there is a difference in attacking other soldiers who know that such an attack could take place and sneaking into a presidential box and shooting someone in the back of the head or entering an invalid's bed chamber and stabbing him mercilessly. A soldier has a weapon with which he could defend himself. Neither Lincoln nor Seward enjoyed that luxury.

The Lieber Code of 1863 recognized in Section IV, Article 81 the following. Partisans are soldiers armed and wearing the uniform of their army, but belonging to a corps which acts detached from the main body for the purpose of making inroads into the territory occupied by the enemy. If captured they are entitled to all the privileges of the prisoner of war.

When Powell was in uniform, he was a soldier employed by the Confederate government. When he attacked Seward, he was an assassin employed by Booth.

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Rob
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #44 on: February 03, 2012, 02:29:12 PM »

Powell was hung as someone who attempted murder and who knew about, but didn't stop, another from happening. To call him a spy is to degrade the word "spy," although I'll agree to the word traitor.

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Rob
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