The Lincoln Conspiracy Summary and Reviews

The Lincoln Conspiracy

The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President--and Why It Failed

by Brad Meltzer, John Mensch

The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer, John Mensch X
The Lincoln Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer, John Mensch
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

The bestselling authors of The First Conspiracy, which covers the secret plot against George Washington, now turn their attention to a little-known, but true story about a failed assassination attempt on President Lincoln.

Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865, but few are aware of the original conspiracy to kill him four years earlier in 1861, literally on his way to Washington, D.C., for his first inauguration. The conspirators were part of a pro-Southern secret society that didn't want an antislavery President in the White House. They planned an elaborate scheme to assassinate the brand new President in Baltimore as Lincoln's inauguration train passed through en route to the Capitol. The plot was investigated by famed detective Allan Pinkerton, who infiltrated the group with undercover agents, including one of the first female private detectives in America. Had the assassination succeeded, there would have been no Lincoln Presidency, and the course of the Civil War and American history would have forever been altered.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. In 1856 Congressman Preston Brooks nearly beats Senator Charles Sumner to death on the floor of the United States Congress. The authors maintain this level of violence "serves to illustrate…the United States [was] a deeply divided nation." Some would argue the United States is currently deeply divided as well. Do you think the country is as split as it was in the 19th century? In what ways is the current situation similar to the pre-Civil War era, and in what ways is it different, in your opinion?
  2. The authors state, "In the nineteen century, countywide and statewide political races are huge affairs, generating enormous local interest, turning out big crowds, and dominating newspaper coverage." Do you think modern political races ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Lincoln Conspiracy:

Before leaving his hometown, Lincoln says he leaves with "a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington." Do you think this is true? Could Lincoln have done anything to prevent the Civil War?
I don't think that statement is true. Washington faced an enormous physical challenge in that he had brave, determined people all backing him up, but lacked funding and the establishment of a string military and smooth-running government. ... - Molly Mae

Did some of Lincoln's wartime actions surprise you? Do you feel they were necessary? Under what circumstances do you feel such actions could be taken today?
I agree with some statements(s) from each of the comments above, and disagree with other statement(s) in each of the statements above, but unfortunately like BuffaloGirl "I am not enough of a historical, political, or legal ... - MariontheLibrarian

Did you learn anything new about Lincoln in the book? Did your opinion of him change?
This book gave me great empathy for Lincoln. It is hard to imagine being in his shoes, wanting to unite the nation and do the right thing, while knowing that almost half of the country wants to see me dead. The book didn't change my opinion of... - Molly Mae

Did you learn anything new about the time period covered in the book? Did anything surprise you? Is there anything you wished the authors had talked more about?
The train system and train stations confounded me. How could there be such inefficieny? Then I remembered my home town. We, too, had two train systems and two stations, one serving a north and south line and the other serving an east and west ... - MariontheLibrarian

Do you believe Lincoln would have eventually issued the Emancipation Proclamation if the South hadn't seceded from the United States?
I agree with those who say NO. Lincoln was forced by the circumstances of the war to emancipate the slaves so that they could become soldiers for the Union army. But I believe he eventually became an abolitionist (of sorts) because he ... - jimt

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

"In short, energetic chapters, Meltzer and a brisk political thriller centered on a nefarious plot to murder Lincoln before his inauguration...A sharply drawn episode from a regrettable part of America's past." - Kirkus Reviews

"Meltzer and Mensch maintain suspense despite the known outcome of the story, and convincingly counter claims that Pinkerton made the whole thing up for publicity purposes. Readers new to the 'Baltimore Plot' will appreciate this comprehensive and well-written overview." - Publishers Weekly

"A delightful addition to popular literature on the Civil War era." - Booklist

"Takes a little-known true story about the FIRST plot to kill Abraham Lincoln and turns it into a first-rate nonfiction thriller. Filled with amazing American history, secret societies, incredible research, and a shocking conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln at the dawn of his presidency. A brilliant combination of edge-of-your-seat history and superb storytelling." - James L. Swanson, bestselling author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

"Think you know everything about Abraham Lincoln? Well, think again. The Lincoln Conspiracy not only revitalizes history, it transforms it, turning its principal player into a flesh and blood defender of everything the republic stands for, and the target of a malevolent cabal that went awry long before the ill-fated night at Ford's Theatre. Fantastic. You'll never look at Abraham Lincoln the same way again." - Les Standiford, bestselling author of Last Train to Paradise and Meet You in Hell

"Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch have found and rescued the harrowing story of Abraham Lincoln under assault by lurking would-be assassins (long before John Wilkes Booth). Every page is mesmerizing and eye-opening. A must-read!" - Douglas Brinkley, the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University and author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race

"Abraham Lincoln. Secret Societies. A deadly plot. And it all really happened! You won't be getting any sleep tonight. This book is dynamite. Meltzer does it again. History at its very best." - Brian Kilmeade, bestselling author of Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers

This information about The Lincoln Conspiracy was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Katherine Pond

Incredible What If in US History
Meltzer and Mensch do it again-- they have produced an interesting, exciting and thoroughly researched report on a significant period in American history. Their writing and the use of short chapters made covering almost 400 pages of intrigue and chaos almost easy.

Imagine, if you will, Lincoln's assassination in Baltimore Md on his way to his first inauguration. Traveling from Springfield, Ill to Washington DC on a carefully planned route that covers the border States into the Northeast and then South through Maryland, rife with Southern sympathizers AFTER South Carolina has seceded, a plot to kill him becomes known to Allan Pinkerton and his agents.

Now, somehow, Lincoln must get through Baltimore safely but he has speaking obligations and ceremonies he is unwilling to vacate. How the development of the plot occurs, the investigation steps taken that reveals it and the tactics taken to avert it keeps the reader rapt until the moment of the inaugural speech. But, the authors don't stop there, though reader and they take a breath, before finishing up with the aftermath that leads to the actual assassination in Ford's theatre almost 4 1/2 years later.

Arya Velayudhan

The Lincoln Conspiracy
In short, energetic chapters, Meltzer and Mensch, who collaborated on The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot To Kill George Washington (2019), fashion a brisk political thriller centered on a nefarious plot to murder Lincoln before his inauguration. Lincoln, who won a slim majority of the popular vote, was deeply hated by the slaveholding South. Six weeks after the election, South Carolina became the first state to secede; five others soon followed, and Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy. But secession did not satisfy a group of conspirators who gathered to devise a plan to seize the city of Washington and prevent the inauguration and even to kill Lincoln on his way to the capital, “and thus inaugurate a revolution.” The authors speculate that the conspirators were likely members of the Knights of the Golden Circle and National Volunteers, groups composed of pro-slavery white supremacists that grew in virulence after Lincoln’s election and likely were precursors of the Ku Klux Klan. They were thwarted largely through the efforts of pioneering private detective Allen Pinkerton, who was called in to investigate, and foil, the plot. The authors create an admiring portrait of Pinkerton and his staff, which included the first female detective, the sly, unflappable Kate Warne. In addition, a secret “Committee of Five,” convened by Secretary of State William Seward, gathered in Washington to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. Pinkerton was charged with logistics, which meant studying the train route for Lincoln’s convoluted inaugural journey, planning for every contingency, and eventually masterminding a plan that involved smuggling Lincoln, in disguise, onto a train days before he was expected. In addition to revealing the conspiracy, the authors vividly convey the virulent racism endemic in the South.

Surumi sulaiman

A fascinating narrative of a conspiracy to kill President-elect Abraham Lincoln days before his inauguration. Although it reads like a piece of fiction, it's all true! Secret societies are involved - Knight of the Golden Circle.
Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner Circle, The Book of Fate, and nine other bestselling thrillers including The Tenth Justice, The First Counsel, The Millionaires, and The President’s Shadow. His newest book, The Escape Artist, debuted at #1 on the bestseller list.
In addition to his fiction, Brad is one of the only authors to ever have books on the bestseller list for Non-Fiction (History Decoded), Advice (Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter), Children’s Books (I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln) and even comic books (Justice League of America), for which he won the prestigious Eisner Award. His newest thriller, The Escape Artist, introduces Nola and Zig, brand new characters in a setting that will blow your mind (you won't believe where the government let Brad go). For now, we'll say this: Nola is dead. Everyone says she's dead. But Jim "Zig" Zigarowski just found out the truth: Nola is alive. And on the run. Together, Nola and Zig will reveal a centuries old secret that traces back the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini.
Raised in Brooklyn and Miami, Brad is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School. The Tenth Justice was his first published work and became an instant New York Times bestseller. Dead Even followed a year later and also hit the New York Times bestseller list, as have all eight of his novels. The First Counsel came next, which was about a White House lawyer dating the President’s daughter, then The Millionaires, which was about two brothers who steal money and go on the run. The Zero Game is about two Congressional staffers who are – literally – gambling on Congress. The Book of Fate, is about a young presidential aide, a crazed assassin, and the 200 year-old code created by Thomas Jefferson that ties them together. For authenticity, The Book of Fate, was researched with the help of former Presidents Clinton and Bush. The Book of Lies, is about the missing murder weapon that Cain used to kill Abel, as well as the unsolved murder of Superman creator Jerry Siegel’s father. Brad is one of the only people to interview Jerry Siegel’s family about the murder. His book The Inner Circle (and its sequels, The Fifth Assassin and The President’s Shadow) is based the idea that George Washington’s personal spy ring still exists today. A young archivist in the National Archives finds out the spy ring is still around. He doesn’t know who they work for — but the greatest secret of the Presidency is about to be revealed. While researching the book, former President George HW Bush also gave Brad, for the very first time, the secret letter he left for Bill Clinton in the Oval Office desk. Oh, and yes, Brad was recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to brainstorm different ways that terrorists might attack the US. His books have spent over a year on the bestseller lists, and have been translated into over 25 languages, from Hebrew to Bulgarian.
Brad has played himself as an extra in Woody Allen’s Celebrity, co-wrote the swearing in oath for AmeriCorps, the national service program, and earned credit from Columbia Law School for writing his first book, which became The Tenth Justice. Before all of that, he got 24 rejection letters for his true first novel, which still sits on his shelf, published by Kinko’s.
Brad currently lives in Florida with his wife, who’s also an attorney.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Brad Meltzer, John Mensch Author Biography

See also Brad Meltzer

Josh Mensch is the coauthor of three critically acclaimed books about American history: the New York Times #2 nonfiction bestseller The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington; the New York Times #6 nonfiction bestseller The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President—and Why it Failed; and The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill. All three were cowritten with award-winning author Brad Meltzer.

In addition to writing books, Josh has been a documentary television showrunner, writer, director, and producer. He has created a wide variety of historical, cultural, and journalistic programming for nonfiction networks including the History Channel, PBS, National Geographic, ...

... Full Biography
Link to Brad Meltzer, John Mensch's Website

Other books by Brad Meltzer, John Mensch at BookBrowse
  • The Nazi Conspiracy jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more history, current affairs and religion...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

BookBrowse Sale!

Join BookBrowse and discover exceptional books for just $3/mth!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Fraud
    The Fraud
    by Zadie Smith
    In a recent article for The New Yorker, Zadie Smith joked that she moved away from London, her ...
  • Book Jacket: Wasteland
    by Oliver Franklin-Wallis
    Globally, we generate more than 2 billion tons of household waste every year. That annual total ...
  • Book Jacket: Disobedient
    by Elizabeth Fremantle
    Born in Rome in 1593, Artemisia Gentileschi led a successful career as an artist throughout the ...
  • Book Jacket: Valiant Women
    Valiant Women
    by Lena S. Andrews
    When Peggy Carter first appeared on the screen in Marvel's Captain America, my reaction was, "Oh, ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    All You Have to Do Is Call
    by Kerri Maher

    An inspiring novel based on the true story of the Jane Collective and the brave women who fought for our right to choose.

  • Book Jacket

    The September House
    by Carissa Orlando

    A dream home becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.