The not-so-secret connection between Brutus and John Wilkes Booth

After searching for a thought-provoking read on the Ides of March in the topic of political science, I found an interesting book titled Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism by James Piereson. The book delves into topics such as tyranny, assassination mindsets, and martyrs; one such topic in the book is titled “Martyr: Lincoln” that delves into John Wilkes Booth’s mindset behind the assassination of Lincoln. Piereson says “Booth thought that after assassinating Lincoln he would be welcomed as a hero in the dying Confederacy. As Michael W. Kaufmann writes in his fine study of Lincoln’s assassin, “Booth had hoped to kill Lincoln on the Ides and highlight his resemblance to Caesar; but instead he shot him on Good Friday, and the world compared him to Christ.”” (Piereson 73). The quote that Piereson references, in addition to his own words, gives the viewer the point of view of Booth’s assassination attempt. Booth attempted to assassinate Lincoln on the “Ides of March” to portray himself as the Brutus of the Confederacy, but when he made his attempt on Good Friday, he got the opposite of what he hoped for; he became the villain of his own “heroic” story he hoped to create when he attempted to the end the life of the “Jesus-like” figure that people admired instead the “Caesar-like” figure that the Confederacy loathed. Piereson refers to the Ides of March because of it’s importance to Booth’s mindset in the assassination attempt. In the previous and following pargaraphs, Piereson delves into how he worked alongside Lewis Powell and how Powell’s attack on the Secretary of State represents a vital relationship to the Ides of March; he explains how Booth saw William Seward, the secretary of state, “as Lincoln’s great ally, akin to Caesar’s Marc Antony” (Piereson 72). He further exaplains how some viewed Booth as a Brutus wannabe, wanting to secure a place in history as he aims to assainate the person he believes to be the nation’s traitor. Piereson’s usage of the quote expects the reader to comprehend how Booth views his conspiracy; the reader should know the background behind the figures and dates presented and the outline the quote drafts tells the audience that Booth’s plan ultimately made himself become the villain of his own making of history he didn’t expect. After re-reading the account of the Ides of March in Cassisus Dio, I found an quote that stuck out in retrospect to Booth’s planning, which said: “For, though they had planned to kill both him and Lepidus, they feared they might be maligned as a result of the number they destroyed, on the ground that they had slain Caesar to gain supreme power and not to set free the city, as they pretended; and therefore they did not wish Antony even to be present at the slaying.” (Cassius Dio, 19-2). While Brutus and Trebonius were discussing their plan and arising problems, they had a much more strategized and carefully thought-out plan in comparison to Booth’s plan. In preparation for Caesar’s assassination, the attempt was thought-out with several co-conspirators and when a new problem arises, they figure out a solution. In Lincoln’s assassination, Booth has few co-conspirators (namely Lewis Powell) and did not have a carefully thought-out executed plan. Though John Wilkes Booth made it his mission to make it into history for assassinating the “traitorous” Lincoln by taking inspiration from Brutus’s assassination of Julius Caesar, he didn’t fully take notes from Brutus; in the end, though Booth fulfilled his mission to assassinate the “modern Caesar”, he ultimately killed the “modern Jesus”, the opposite of what Booth sought to achieve.

Citations:

Piereson, James. Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism, Encounter Books, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/brooklyn-ebooks/detail.action?docID+1574708

Cassius Dio, Book 44. 19, https://pastinpresenttense.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/readings-on-the-imperators.pdf

-A.C. Bowman, Team Saturn

 

 

2 thoughts on “The not-so-secret connection between Brutus and John Wilkes Booth

  1. Interesting read, I never would have thought about the assassination of Lincoln being connected to the ides of March, I liked your in-depth perception, nice job.

    Like

  2. Such a wonderful blog, I would’ve never thought to connect these two people because they are so far apart in history. I wonder if Booth was inspired by the story of Caesar!

    Like

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