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The First Presidential Assassination Attempt

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

As any student of U.S. or presidential history knows, there have been four assassinations of U.S. presidents. Two were very famous, two not as well-known.

The first assassination of a president is both well-known and well-documented. On April 14, 1865, actor and southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot our 16th president Abraham Lincoln at Ford's theater. Lincoln died from his wounds the next day.

Less well-known was the next assassination of a Commander-in-Chief. On July 2, 1881, 20th U.S. President James Garfield was assassinated by a ne'er-do-well named Charles J. Guiteau.

Garfield survived his gunshot wounds for 79 days. He finally succumbed on September 19, 1881. This was by far the longest time a president survived his assassination wounds before death.

The next assassination of a president was also slightly less or not as well-known. Our 25th president, William McKinley, was shot in the pancreas by anarchist Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. McKinley died from gangrene caused by the bullet wounds a week later, on September 14, 1901.

On November 22, 1963, 35th president John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald. J.F.K. died shortly thereafter. This was to be the only assassination of a president captured on film, albeit a home movie.

The Kennedy assassination has created the most controversy, at least in the sense of questioning “Who really did it?" Where the first three were clear-cut and the perpetrator was unquestioned, Kennedy's assassination still carries a bit of a mystery aura, lo, this half-a-century later.

Although Lincoln's assassination was the first, it was not the first presidential assassination attempt.

On January 30, 1835, Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, was attending a funeral for Congressman Warren R. Davis. This was just outside the U.S. capitol.

As he filed past the casket, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, drew a pistol and fired point blank at the president. The bullet failed to discharge from the gun barrel.

Jackson charged his would-be killer with complete abandon. Lifting his cane above his head, the 67-year-old Jackson lunged at his assailant. Before he could reach him, Lawrence drew a second pistol and fired again. Incredibly, this pistol also failed to fire.

After the second attempt, Jackson reportedly went about his business as if nothing had happened. (Some historians believe Jackson violently attacked his would-be assassin with his cane.)

Vice-president Martin Van Buren looked on as both attempts took place. He was completely breathless and stunned. He looked on, along with most of the crowd, frozen and horrified.

Davy Crockett was among the men present who grabbed and restrained Lawrence.

Lawrence spent the rest of his life in Washington's government hospital for the insane. Many believe the humidity that day caused Lawrence's two pistols to misfire. Because of public curiosity, the two pistols were tested under similar circumstances. During these tests, both pistols worked and fired fine.

This caused much of the American public to believe in President Jackson's divine providence, as well as the providence of the United States of America.

How unbelievable that the second gun did not fire either. And the guts for the prez to go after him like that. It sure was a different time back then. Unless our president was Clint Eastwood or Steven Segal, I don't think you'll ever see it happen again. Great article Eddie.
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