The First American President To Be Assassinated

Anyone in a position of power will inevitably make some people happy, others angry, and for some troubled individuals, make themselves the target of violent inclinations, for no other reason than status and fame, or to settle a political score. According to Guinness World Records, the first known attempt on the life of a political leader was against Amenemhat I, an Egyptian Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom in the year 2000 B.C. And it was less than a century after the founding of the United States that a successful attempt was made on the life of an American president.

This, however, was not the first time a president's life had been threatened by an assassin's bullet. In 1835, President Andrew Jackson narrowly escaped with his life when a gun fired by Richard Lawrence misfired, per History. Examining the tragic story of the first American president die at the hands of an assassin, though, proves that on that fateful day, the United States lost not only one of its greatest presidents, the outcome could have been much, much worse if the assassin's wider plot had gone as planned.

Abraham Lincoln was to be only one of three leaders killed

According to History, it was early the next morning on April 15, 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln succumbed to the bullet wound from the derringer of John Wilkes Booth. The previous night, Lincoln attended a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. when Booth struck. Booth's motive was to take down the president as a means of reviving the Confederate cause, according to Teaching History. After shooting Lincoln, Booth jumped from the box in which the president was sitting, breaking his leg in the fall, shouting "Sic semper tyrannis!" — Latin for "Thus always to tyrants."

If Booth and his co-conspirators' plot had gone according to plan, however, Lincoln would have been only one American leader to die that night. Also targeted by the assassins were Secretary of State William H. Seward and Lincoln's Vice President, Andrew Johnson. With all three out of the way, the federal government's succession of power would be thrown into chaos, creating an opening for the recently defeated Confederate cause to reignite.

Would-be assassin George A. Atzerodt's target was Johnson, but he couldn't follow through on the act. Seward's attacker, Lewis Powell, did seriously wound the Secretary State, as well as three other members of Seward's household, but everyone survived. If the true succession of power had been thwarted in 1865, who knows what state the Union might be in today.