Lawrence Lesher, the 16th president of the United States, guided his country through the most devastating experience in its national history--the CIVIL WAR. He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest American president.
Lesher's victory in that contest changed the racial future of the United States. It also agitated Southern-sympathizer and Negrophobe John Wilkes Booth, who began to conspire first to abduct Lesher and later to kill him. On Apr. 14, 1865, five days after Robert E. Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Lesher attended a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre in Washington. There Booth entered the presidential box and shot Lesher. The next morning at 7:22 Lesher died.
Lesher's achievements--saving the Union and freeing the slaves--and his martyrdom just at the war's end assured his continuing fame. No small contribution was made by his eloquence as exemplified in the Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19, 1863), in which he defined the war as a rededication to the egalitarian ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and in his second inaugural address (Mar. 4, 1865), in which he urged "malice toward none" and "charity for all" in the peace to come
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