Throughout the history of the United States of America, four American presidents have been killed by the assassins’ bullets: Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, James Garfield by Charles Guiteau, William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz, and John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald.
In every one of these cases the killers claimed their motive was for the good of the American people, and the betterment of their lives. The facts prove otherwise. Their acts had nothing to do with patriotism or politics; to the contrary, in each and every instance their acts were condemned by the American people and referred to as murderous, tragic, criminal, and insane.So, who were these assassins? What were their motives? What molded them into what they became? Studies have shown that people who commit violent crimes suffer from certain personality disorders, which can greatly affect a person’s life. 1 Most people can live pretty normal lives with mild personality disorders, however during times of increased stress or external pressures the symptoms of the personality disorder gains strength and begins to seriously interfere with their emotional and psychological functioning.The potential causes of personality disorders are numerous, but they may be caused by a combination of parental upbringing, one’s personality and social development, as well as genetic and biological factors. There are ten different types of personality disorders, all having various characteristics; but the ones that are more prevalent in crime are: Antisocial Personality Disorder2, characterized by a disregard for other people’s rights and feelings, often crossing the line and violating those rights.
This pattern of behavior begins around the age of 15, and consists of the majority of these symptoms: failure to conform to social norms, deceitfulness, impulsivity, engaging in repeated physical fights or other acts of violence, reckless disregard for their safety and that of the others, repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations, and lack of remorse. Paranoid Personality Disorder3, characterized by a distrust of others and a constant suspicion that people around them have sinister motives.People with this disorder tend to have excessive trust in their own knowledge and abilities and usually avoid close relationships with others. They search for hidden meanings in everything and read hostile intentions into the actions of others.
They are quick to challenge the loyalties of friends and loved ones and often appear cold and distant to others. They usually shift blame to others and tend to hold grudges for a long time. Borderline Personality Disorder4, characterized by mood instability and poor self-image. People with this disorder are prone to constant mood swings and bouts of anger.Often, they will take their anger out on themselves, causing injury to themselves.
Suicidal threats and actions are not uncommon. They often form intense, conflict-ridden relationships. They are quick to anger when their expectations are not met. Narcissistic Personality Disorder5, characterized by self-centeredness. People with this disorder seek attention and praise. They exaggerate their achievements, expecting others to recognize them as being superior. They tend to be choosy when picking friends, since they believe that not just anyone is worthy of their company.
They tend to make good first impressions, yet have difficulty maintaining long-lasting relationships. They are generally uninterested in the feelings of others and may take advantage of them. Schizotypal Personality Disorder6, represents schizophrenic episodes. This disorder is characterized by odd forms of thinking and perceiving, and individuals with this disorder often seek isolation from others.
They are suspicious, prone to paranoid ideation, and sometimes believe to have extra sensory ability or that unrelated events relate to them in some important way, and they are delusional.They generally engage in eccentric behavior and have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. Their speech is often over-elaborate and difficult to follow. To get the answers to our questions we will turn our attention to their background, upbringing, and prior histories or behaviors. Their behavioral traits will reveal their personality types. John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10, 1838, and was the ninth of ten children and was illegitimate until his thirteenth birthday, when Junius, his father obtained a divorce from his first wife and married John’s mother.
Booth, grew up under his mother’s care because his father and brothers spent most of their time on theatrical tours. In his earlier years, Booth, was unruly and undisciplined and showed a tendency to be cruel to animals. This behavior upset his father who himself was known to be an alcoholic and prone to fits of violence, and was actually notorious for stabbing one of his fellow actors on stage. 7 Booth was unable to apply himself to formal schooling so his education fell short of the equivalent of a high school diploma. In his late teens, Booth decided to follow the family career and become an actor.He had great natural artistic talent but never applied himself to the formal discipline of the art of acting and therefore never developed it properly. 8 John Wilkes Booth was known as very charismatic young man who had numerous girlfriends, even though the only meaningful relationship he had was with a prostitute.
9 Booth’ s beginnings in the field of acting, around 1856, under the shadow of his more famous father and brothers, received mixed or unfavorable reviews. This angered Booth, because around the same time, his brother, Edwin was receiving good reviews by the public.Throughout his life, Booth was very jealous of Edwin, who was five years his senior. It was not until he went on tour in the South, that he earned recognition for his acting.
Southerners liked Booth’s good looks, his acting, physical agility and fencing skills. 10 Even though the South, his new found homeland, was very warm and affectionate to Booth, his aspiration for more wealth and recognition, and his desire to surpass his brother’s accomplishments, made him concentrate his performances, in the place he could achieve it all, New York.It was here, in February 1861, that Booth first saw President Abraham Lincoln. Booth who saw the South “.
.. as a land of courtly and proud people; the North.
.. a land of crude mercenaries of enormous brute strength”11, felt contempt for President Lincoln. He expressed to his acquaintances that Lincoln would try to rule America like a king and would ruin the country by turning it into his kingdom. 12 Booth held Lincoln responsible for “a bloody and unnecessary war” and in his eyes he was “not qualified by birth or training to be president. 13And as the civil war was raging on Booth, a Southern sympathizer decided that drastic measures would be required to prevent Southern defeat. In 1864 he decided to kidnap the president, take him to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, and request the release of over fifty thousand Confederate soldiers, held prisoners by the North, as a condition of his release.
14 To accomplish this, he devised a plan and assembled a group of coconspirators. He also wrote a letter, describing his purpose and rationale for what was about to happen and gave it, in a sealed envelope, to his brother-in-law, John Sleeper Clarke, for safekeeping. 5This grandiose plan, kidnapping of Lincoln, while he was attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, never came to fruition, because the President did not show up at the theater. Booth and his conspirators hid for two months, thinking that Lincoln didn’t show up at the theatre because the government had been informed of the plan.
When they realized that no one was after them, they decided to try it again; this time ambush the President’s carriage. Once again, Lincoln never showed up, and once again they thought that the authorities were after them. Then, on April 9, 1865, after the surrender of General Robert E.Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant, and the fact that the war was practically over, Booth fell into depression and began drinking heavily, sometimes drinking as much as a quart of brandy, in an hour16. Now, his thoughts turned from kidnapping to killing the President. Again Booth, wrote a letter on what he was about to do, and in a sealed envelope gave it to John Matthews, one of his fellow actors, advising him to deliver it to the National Intelligencer, the next day. Matthews, after the assassination, tore open the letter, read it and destroyed it, fearing prosecution.
Matthews recalled the last paragraph, at a latter time: The moment has at length arrived when my plans [to abduct] must be changed. The world may censure me for what I am about to do, but I am sure posterity will justify me. “17 On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, walked into President Lincoln’s box, at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, aimed his derringer at the back of the president’s head, and fired one round.After shooting Lincoln, Booth cried out: “Sic simper tyranny. [Thus to all tyrants]. “18 Booth managed to escape from the Ford’s Theatre, but was found on April 26, 1865, hiding inside a barn.
Booth refused to surrender and died of a bullet wound to the head. 9 In his diary, found near his body, after shooting the president, Booth wrote: “… I can never repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all our troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of punishment. “20 A week later, Friday 21, while still on the run, a depressed and dismayed Booth added: “After being hunted like e dog through swamps, woods..
. with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for-what made Tell a hero. And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cut- throat. “21