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Author Topic: Was Booth a coward?  (Read 5157 times)
RogerM
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« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2012, 05:33:11 PM »

What Booth did probably did take some courage on his part.  However, I still wish he had never been born.
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Randal
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« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2012, 05:35:21 PM »

Quote
Madman, drunk, egomaniac - maybe. Coward? Not in my opinion.  

I have to agree with Joe and the rest here.  Booth a coward?  Not in my estimation.  I don't think any of the conspirators were - no, not even Atzerodt.  We've gone over that before; Ol' George had to have courage in order to run the river as he did.  Herold was somewhat fool hardy.  JWB may have been simply a glory seeker or misguided "patriot" as was Powell, but coward?  No.


Betty, interesting point about Atzerodt. I've kind of had the opinion that he didn't really have much courage, but you make a good point that he must have had. I still don't think he was ever a serious threat to kill Johnson though.

Not after he poo-pooed the suggestion from Booth at their meeting prior to the assassination. Wink
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Randal
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« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2012, 05:36:59 PM »

What Booth did probably did take some courage on his part.  However, I still wish he had never been born.

Think about this Roger..if he wasn't born, we all wouldn't be here on this website discussing out hobby and having great friends to talk with! Wink
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jonathan
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« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2012, 05:57:14 PM »


[/quote]


Betty, interesting point about Atzerodt. I've kind of had the opinion that he didn't really have much courage, but you make a good point that he must have had. I still don't think he was ever a serious threat to kill Johnson though.
[/quote]

Not after he poo-pooed the suggestion from Booth at their meeting prior to the assassination. Wink
[/quote]

lol, no doubt Randal, if it all happened that way the way George claimed. Even before that though, Booth had to know there was a good chance Atzerodt wouldn't go through with it. I guess his options were limited and it came down to Atzerodt or Herald, maybe Booth just flipped a coin. ha.
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Randal
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« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2012, 06:21:36 PM »

I have to agree with you guys....No I don't think Atzerodt was that much of a coward - probably the only one with common sense enough to back out!  Davey was fool hardy, Lew was young and too eager to "do his duty", JWB - no, he wasn't a coward - a glory hound, but not a coward....and Roger, you are 100% correct!

If it weren't for those guys, we wouldn't be here on this forum, would we?  And we wouldn't have these wonderful discussions and friendships -

ahem...I think you mean Randal Wink
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2012, 06:53:35 PM »

OK, now that others have chimed in, here goes.

First, from a philosophical standpoint, one has to, as Jonathon pointed out, define the terms. But I don't try to define cowardice as much as courage. If one defines courage as simply overcoming personal fear to achieve an act, that is a morally-neutral position, as it doesn't provide a moral background to the decision made. No one would doubt that a bystander who disarms a gunman in front of a daycare would be considered brave or courageous, but I think an argument could equally be made that the gunman (unless he/she was a sociopath) had to overcome a level of fear before opening fire. But no one would consider him/her brave or courageous for overcoming that fear. We ascribe a certain amount of our own gut-feeling and prejudices as to whether the action was considered brave or not.

It is intellectually impossible to separate the act from the actor. If Booth's act was cowardly, then Booth was as well. Whether Booth believed himself to be following the dictates of his conscience or believed what he was doing was politically justifiable does not matter. If one made an allowance for that, one would also have to make an allowance for the German guard at Auschwitz who believed Jews to be sub-human and who deserved their fate.

As to his actions at Garrett's Farm, I believe that the country's reaction to Booth's actions had brought him to the point of suicidal despair. After all, if he was serious about fighting the entire squadron of soldiers and detectives, then he was delusional if he believed he could have escaped. He wanted the squadron to kill him because he couldn't do it himself. While I don't think committing suicide is a sign of bravery (quite the opposite), I do think that if he had any sense of courage, he would have given himself up and faced trial. Instead, he forced the troops to kill him.

His reasoning for not serving as a soldier also doesn't wash with me. There were plenty of soldier's mothers on both sides of the equation who asked their sons not to go. If Booth believed in the Southern cause so strongly, he should have been one of the first to enlist. Yet he stayed behind.

For those reasons, I believe Conger was wrong. Booth died as he had lived--like a coward.

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Rob
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jonathan
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« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2012, 07:03:50 PM »

Rob, I agree about the weak excuse for not serving as a soldier. Booth lived quite a privileged life, I think he just didn't want to give that up. One would think if he was so hell bent on helping the South win the war, he would have enlisted, regardless of what his mother wanted.  Though I suppose he could have thought he might be more of a help in the role of Confederate Agent rather than Confederate Soldier.
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Randal
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« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2012, 07:11:38 PM »

Sorry, but I disagree Rob. Shocked
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Deb54
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« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2012, 08:51:57 PM »

Me too.
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2012, 09:10:27 PM »

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Sorry, but I disagree Rob.

That's fine, but why?

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Rob
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RogerM
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« Reply #25 on: February 02, 2012, 09:33:06 PM »

I expressed my opinion of John Wilkes Booth earlier in this thread.  However, if we say that he should have been willing to fight for the Confederacy and his cause, should we also say that his brother, Edwin, should have been willing to fight for the Union and its cause?
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Randal
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« Reply #26 on: February 02, 2012, 09:35:00 PM »

Emotion=cowardice
Courage=adrenalin

Booth had adrenalin, he KNEW what he was going to pull off, he was willing to take the chance, he knew someone else was in the box, he knew he would have to deal with them. That, equals courage. IMO. You should have saved this question for the Sunday Survey.  Roll Eyes
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BoothBuff
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« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2012, 02:57:33 AM »

     Ditto on the Sunday Survey, Randal. This would have been a great one. Why didn't I come up with this last Sunday? Huh  

     Rob - I respect your opinion as your own, which you are absolutely entitled to and I respect it as a personal one, no matter how you've formed it. This is an issue that is based on personal opinion and we all have our own, formed by our own beliefs and experiences. Your analogy about a by-stander disarming a gunman about to open fire at a daycare is a two sided one. If someone disarms the offender, I believe they would have had to have the intestinal fortitude to do so. A lot of people would react with shock and run away. In our society, there are sheep and there are sheep dogs. I believe that those qualities are ingrained and detached from our emotions. I think the analogy that the shooter would have to overcome an initial fear to carry it out is off base as far as this discussion goes. That's my opinion and I'm sure you will respect that.  

     In that scenario, which I believe echoes the one at Ford's, you have someone who is detached and determined to commit a violent crime. I think in situations like this, many people who get to that point are usually driven by emotion and/or rage and are not thinking clearly, which would exclude any rational thoughts. Fear is rational and doesn't really figure in here.

     As far as separating the act from the actor, I don't think it's that simple. If we're talking about rational people, that may apply. Booth was filled with rage and hatred and his booze addled mind fueled these emotions. I believe he had mental issues and in my opinion, was an alcoholic. These issues would clearly cloud his thinking and make rational judgments something he was not capable of. I reiterate my feelings that Booth had to expect he would be challenged and forged ahead anyway. Cowardice would require fear and I think he was beyond that due to his mental state.

     His actions at Garrett's were arrogant, antagonistic and confrontational. I don't see cowardly in there and I believe he killed himself, although I will stipulate I am in the minority there. I don't think his pride would have let him surrender and die like a criminal. His own words attest to that.

     While I feel that Booth is an immensely interesting historical figure, I also feel, to use his words again, he was a common cutthroat.  

     I have always enjoyed your posts here and you've always conducted yourself as a gentleman. I have tried to do the same. I think we can both agree to disagree here.

     Thank you for one of the most spirited discussions that we've had here in a while.

     Best
     Joe  

              
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 04:06:46 AM by BoothBuff » Logged
Randal
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« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2012, 05:57:58 AM »

Joe,
Let me see if I got this right, and if I didn't, I apologize in advance.

In one statement, you say "I reiterate my feelings that Booth had to expect he would be challenged and forged ahead anyway."

To me, that's the defintion of SBC.

In another, "and I believe he killed himself, although I will stipulate I am in the minority there."

Huh?

Randal
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Rob Wick
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« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2012, 08:08:12 AM »

Joe,

You are absolutely right in that this is a matter of opinion, and, of course, I respect yours as well. One of the hallmarks of any discussion is how people choose to disagree and I echo your kind comments that you have also conducted yourself as a gentleman, as you always do.

The thing about fear being rational, though, is one I must take issue with. Fear is an emotion and emotion, by its very definition, is irrational. I also can't agree that one had to have intestinal fortitude in order to stop a gunman from firing at children. I believe there are many people who have no idea what they would do until confronted with a situation, and then they would often surprise themselves at their actions. As I see it,  courage comes in doing something which a rational person would run away from if they had an opportunity to think about it. In most situations where bravery has been exhibited, it comes quickly and without time to think. Even the  most brave among us would likely think twice if given the opportunity. My point about the gunman overcoming his/her own fear was made to show that it depends on the context of the situation as to whether we call it brave.

No question that Booth's brain was addled by booze, but I believe he was thinking as clearly on April 14, 1865 as he was on any other day in his life. Let me ask you this. If Booth had lived and been put on trial, are you saying that a good defense attorney (provided a trial had been held in civil court) could have used an insanity defense and expected success?

As for his actions at Garrett's Farm, Booth was issuing challenges behind the safety of a barn wall where he could see his pursuers, but they could not see him. In fact, he told Byron Baker that he had several opportunities to shoot him, but chose not to do so. Byron Baker is not one of my favorite people, but I think he exhibited more bravery that night than Booth ever showed. Conger did the same when he set the barn on fire. Booth could have easily swung around and started firing in the direction of the flames, and given Conger's war wounds, it would have been impossible for him to move out of the way quickly, so he likely would have been wounded or killed. That, in my estimation, is bravery.

One other point I'd like to throw out. Booth is often compared to Brutus. However, Brutus approached Julius Caesar from the front. Et tu, Brute?

RogerM, I would agree that a case could be made that anyone who shows strong support for whatever cause should be willing to fight for it if necessary. However, I would also agree that someone who had a moral objection to war or to violence (which JWB never had) should be able to follow the dictates of their own conscience.

Randal, I thought about waiting until Sunday, but usually when something enters my mind, it's necessary to spring it forward at the time or I tend to forget about it.

I also am enjoying this discussion. Thanks for all who are participating.

Best
Rob
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 08:15:24 AM by Rob Wick » Logged

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