Blogging for an audience with many Americans in it, this got me thinking about political assassination. Obviously they happen under all sorts of political systems. But I've often speculated that republics or republican movements, founded on the principle of anti-monarchism, have produced more intensely ideological justifications for regicide or tyrannicide. So, are there books out there which explore the history not of assassinations, but of the political and intellectual foundations for justifying it? Are there continuities in republican thought that link the likes of Brutus, Booth, or Cromwell (who authorised one at least)?
I think David is confusing two separate, but related, things here. The first is the genuine political assassination, as with Brutus or Booth. The second is the political show trial followed by execution, the fate of Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France. However, I also wonder if by identifying these movements with republicanism he is missing out of another factor present in all three examples he mentions, and is also present in the one I mention: revolution.
The Rome in which Caesar was murdered was a Rome undergoing a monarchical revolution. Abraham Lincoln, for all his apparent ambivalence, had overseen a dramatic revoluation called the ending of Slavery, and had just led the USA through to victory in the civil war his election sparked. Cromwell and Robespierre (though to be fair to both they did not act alone) were revolutionaries themselves who had, for the moment, won.
There is a necessary difference. Both Brutus and Booth belonged to effectively defeated parties at the time of their deeds, both Cromwell and Roespierre belonged to victorious parties at the time of the executions of Charles I and Louis XVI. To demonstrate the point a little further it useful to remember the most famous assassination of the French Revoluation: that of Jean-Paul Marat at the hand of royalist Charlotte Corday. Someone from the losing side engaging in a lone assassination attempt.
Let us look for a moment at the victorious side's position. They have emerged dominant from a struggle, and have overthrown the previous order. They have usurped power, and in the process may have plunged, or are plunging, the country in some kind of civil war. The object of their ire is in their possession. Usurpers are always weak, and so it is natural to try and prove that your revolution was justified (though not always followed through). Also, the captured ruler is a figurehead for opposition, so it natural to seek to remove that figurehead. Of course, in the process all that often is achieved is the creation of martyr or a myth, and can often spark even more trouble (look at what happened to France in 1793).
The position from the 'losing' side is harder. Obviously the opportunity for the show trial does not exist, and so I think revenge must enter greatly into these actions. Revolutions are intense times, with intense themes. I do not find it difficult to understand that individuals could become consumed by those times, aiming to strike that one final blow at a great figure, hoping to turn the tide.
Is there a link with republics? I think only in so far as republics are often born of revolution. Of the examples discussed here it should be remembered that Corday was a royalist; the Dictator Caesar was the revolutionary in his day, not to republican Brutus; and that the Southern Succession was in many ways a counter-revolution (and by extension Booth).
Of course this a just a tiny number of incidents to base an idea, and I have strictly kept to areas I know at least a little about. It is also very general, so general as to be full of holes, However I hope there is enough there to see what I am trying to say.