The 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s murder is one more reminder from the past of a distinctive feature of the American system. This is that some American presidents reach office by assassination, not by election. More importantly, when this happens, a lot of facts are usually going to be left at best unexplained, and often covered up.
Few Americans know, for example, that in 1991 the body of President Zachary Taylor, who died in 1841 after a year in office, was exhumed and found to contain suspicious amounts of arsenic. But the New York Times announced that further analysis showed the amounts of arsenic were no more than what is normally found in the body, confirming that Taylor died a natural death.
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Wikipedia claims that this is proven by Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, citing an article on the Lab website that is forbidden to the public. Wikipedia does not mention that NAA analysis on the same Isotope Reactor was used four decades ago to “prove” that the bullet killing Kennedy was fired from Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle; this “proof” has been so decisively discredited by other US government experts at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory that NAA is no longer used (as it was for a short period) to prosecute homicide cases.
Even more mysteries surround the assistance provided Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. In a recent article, the Washington Post described Booth as “embittered,” the term used by Psychology Today to “analyze” Lee Harvey Oswald. Other more scholarly studies have argued that Booth was originally plotting not the murder but the abduction of Lincoln, Vice-President Johnson, and Secretary of State Seward. This was part of a coherent strategy to throw the determination of the next president into the hands of the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Roger The Kennedy Autopsy Check Amazon for Pricing. Taney had already shown in the Dred Scott case that he was pro-slavery and sympathetic to the South.
Speculation of a cover-up about Booth has abounded since the time that four of his associates in the crime were swiftly hanged. A benign explanation for the cover-up would be the desire to avoid dealing with the possibility that Booth had been guided or at least assisted in his plotting by the Confederate Secret Service. This was suspected almost immediately when a Vigenère Cipher table (a code used by the South) was discovered among Booth’s effects. At that time a strong need to restore unity to a divided nation would have been an ample motive to present Booth, like Oswald a century later, as an embittered loner.
It is now pretty well established, by historian Thomas Goodrich and others, that Booth had traveled widely to Canada and elsewhere as a spy and courier for the Confederate Secret Service. Other historians have concluded, in the words of David Herbert Donald, that “at least at the lower levels of the Southern secret service, the abduction of the Union President was under consideration.”
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