Like Father, Like Son

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson.  Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed.  The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances.  However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol.  I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk.  De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy.  Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men.  De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson.  In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson.  De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung.  Go here for the details of the piracy trial.

And what happened to Booth?  Nothing apparently.  I assume that Jackson probably laughed off the letter, assuming that his friend was drunk when he wrote it, and in any case threatening to assassinate the president was not a crime in 1835.  One fervently wishes that Booth’s son, John Wilkes Booth had merely written a letter threatening to assassinate Lincoln.

The letter was long thought to be a hoax, but it recently has been verified as a letter sent by Junius Brutus Booth.  Go here to watch an episode of History Detectives detailing how the letter was found to be authentic.

Published in: on March 3, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Like Father, Like Son  
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