Book Reviewer PHILIP C. STONE

Orthodoxy [was] restated in Lloyd Lewis's The Assassination of Lincoln: History and Myth. Lewis confirmed that Booth killed Lincoln; that he was not insane; that he was killed at the Garrett farm; that neither the Confederates nor Stanton (notwithstanding his harsh criticisms of the latter) had anything to do with the assassination. As to Mrs. Surratt, who had generated so much sympathy, Lewis believed that she both knew of the plot and approved. Lewis characterized the conspirators other than Booth and Dr. Mudd as dull and stupid. He was not impressed with the evidence against Mudd. Basically, Lewis restated the orthodox interpretation of the events.

In 1937 Otto Eisenschiml came out with a bombshell. In Why Was Lincoln Murdered?, he contended that Booth was the agent of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who supported the assassination of Lincoln and covered up his role by controlling all of the military, judicial, and investigatory procedures following the murder of Lincoln. Stanton, he claimed, was determined to thwart Lincoln's charitable intentions toward the defeated South.

George Bryan restated the orthodox interpretation in 1940 in Great American Myth, in which he debunked the Eisenschiml thesis, but the door to perverse interpretations had clearly been opened. As William Hanchett observed in his own restatement of orthodoxy and his thorough dissembling of the Eisenschiml thesis: "The trouble is that since 1937 a kind of Gresham's law has operated in the field of Lincoln's assassination: the bad books, the sensational books, drive away the good books and dominate public opinion."

A movie, television programs, and renewed assertions of Stanton's culpability have kept alive the suspicions that "higher-ups" were involved in the plot. This muddying of the water has made necessary a fresh look at the Lincoln assassination. Hence, the importance of these two books [one by Kauffman, the other by Steers -- see full review, URL above] in clarifying and strengthening the orthodox case and refuting the conspiracy claims made over the past 70 years.

-- SOURCE: Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Volume 27.1, Winter 2006