We’ll never know, writes Barry Rubin:
When John Wilkes Booth opened fire on President Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in April 1865, the media was puzzled. “True, the actor was outspoken in his Confederate sympathies and viewed himself as a Southerner,” said someone who knew him, “but that was no reason he might want Lincoln to be dead.” The day before he went on his shooting spree, Booth hoisted a big Confederate flag outside his hotel room. After he leaped onto the stage he shouted, “Thus ever to tyrants!” the motto of the rebel state of Virginia.
The New York Times reported that Booth was psychologically unstable and was frightened of the Civil War coming to an end and having to face a peacetime actors’ surplus. “His political views had nothing to do with the motives for this tragic act,” it said, quoting experts.