Today, May 10th, 2013, marks the 175th anniversary of John Wilkes Booth’s birth. Before becoming the cause of such a great national tragedy, John Wilkes was merely an infant who entered the world in the presence of his father Junius Brutus Booth, a rare occasion for the traveling theatrical star. Like the man he would later assassinate, Booth was born into a log cabin on the family’s farm near Bel Air, MD in 1838. At the age of six months, Mary Ann Holmes, holding young John Wilkes in her arms, prayed to know what future lay in store for her then youngest child. An answer to her prayer appeared before her in the form of a vision. Years later, Asia Booth would translate the experience into a poem as a birthday gift to her mother:
“The Mother’s Vision
Written 1854, June 2nd, by A[sia] B[ooth], Harford Co., Md
‘Tween the passing night and the coming day
When all the house in slumber lay,
A patient mother sat low near the fire,
With that strength even nature cannot tire,
Nursing her fretful babe to sleep –
Only the angels these records keep
Of mysterious Love!
One little confiding hand lay spread
Like a white-oped lily, on that soft far bed,
The mother’s bosom, drawing strength
And contentment warm –
The fleecy head rests on her circling arm.
In her eager worship, her fearful care, Riseth to heaven a wild, mute prayer
Of Foreboding Love!
Tiny, innocent white baby-hand,
What force, what power is at your command,
For evil, or good? Be slow or be sure,
Firm to resist, to pursue, to endure –
My God, let me see what this hand shall do
In the silent years we are tending to;
In my hungering Love,
I implore to know on this ghostly night
Whether ‘twill labour for wrong, or right,
For – or against Thee?
The flame up-leapt
Like a wave of blood, an avenging arm crept
Into shape; and Country shown out in the flame,
Which fading resolved to her boy’s own name!
God had answered Love –
175 years ago, a boy named John Wilkes Booth was born. And, as noted by his mother’s vision, our Country feels the ramifications of his existence even today.
John Wilkes Booth: A Sister’s Memoir by Asia Booth Clarke