In 1864, John Wilkes Booth wrote to President Abraham Lincoln asking for money to purchase an umbrella.
Yes, Booth, the man who would eventually assassinate that same Abraham Lincoln.
Page 1 of John Wilkes Booth’s 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln
Booth to Lincoln, page 2
Booth to Lincoln, page 3
Booth to Lincoln, page 4
Booth to Lincoln, page 5
Booth to Lincoln, page 6
The letter is in the collection of Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress, described as “John Wilkes to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, November 17, 1864 (Congratulations; request that Lincoln send him money to buy an umbrella).”
I have found no official transcript of the letter.
Of all the richochets of umbrellas in the history of the American presidency, this must be the strangest.
What one person receives without working for in capital gains, or productivity increases, another person worked for, without receiving. It is unjust to give the benefits of the sweat of one woman, to another man.
Government subsidies create wealth in nations; most great enterprises have found their roots in government funding, from irrigation in Babylon, to farming along the Yellow River, through Columbus’s voyage of (accidental) discovery, the Transcontinental Railroad, and settlement of America.
When opportunities exist for the poor, hard work makes much wealth. A society is wealthy, and an economy is sound, when the poor spend money. Rich guys spending money doesn’t work — there are not enough rich guys.
When the rich tiny percentage of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, but that the work of others is ALSO their property and the poor will take care of them, then we have conditions for financial collapse (see the Panic of 1908, or 1837, or the Great Depression — or any other); those conditions often lead to revolution, sometimes violent (see Russia in 1917, Germany in 1922, Shay’s Rebellion, the French Revolution — when the rich get the rewards the hard-working man created, it is the beginning of the end of any nation. Some smart nations fix those problems when they occur.
When hard work no longer gets you ahead, and when hard work no longer will feed, clothe and educate your family, you may get angry.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable,” John Kennedy said. He was pretty smart for a young, rich guy.
(Links added above, other than the YouTube video; I hope the JFK Library has video of Kennedy actually saying that.)
People who post these “5 truths” without irony must have slept through ALL of economics in high school, and forgotten everything they may have ever learned about American history in the 20th century. Income distribution is a serious issue — maldistribution and misdistribution of wealth leads to trouble, either economic calamity, or violent revolution, or both.
It’s fun to say that no person should get ahead on the earnings of another person; it’s more realistic when we understand that a system rigged to give financial players yachts, and working people debt, is the unfairness that those worriers should worry about.
Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy waves to a crowd in front of Cobo Hall, in Detroit, during the 1960 American Legion Convention. Image from Walter Reuther Library
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Retired teacher of law, economics, history, AP government, psychology and science. Former speechwriter, press guy and legislative aide in U.S. Senate. Former Department of Education. Former airline real estate, telecom towers, Big 6 (that old!) consultant. Lab and field research in air pollution control.
My blog, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, is a continuing experiment to test how to use blogs to improve and speed up learning processes for students, perhaps by making some of the courses actually interesting. It is a blog for teachers, to see if we can use blogs. It is for people interested in social studies and social studies education, to see if we can learn to get it right. It's a blog for science fans, to promote good science and good science policy. It's a blog for people interested in good government and how to achieve it.
BS in Mass Communication, University of Utah
Graduate study in Rhetoric and Speech Communication, University of Arizona
JD from the National Law Center, George Washington University