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Rare Book Video – The Trial of Richard Lawrence for his Assassination Attempt on President Andrew Jackson

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The latest installment in our Rare Book Video series features the trial of Richard Lawrence for his assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson. Lawrence believed that he was King Richard III and Jackson’s veto of the bill to reauthorize the charter of the Second Bank of the United States had deprived him of a dispensation owed to him by Congress. To exact his revenge, Lawrence waited for Jackson as he exited a funeral at the United States Capitol Building. To learn what happened next, watch the video below.


  1. Lawrence was clearly mentally ill but he was also suffering from lead poisoning from the paints he used. He was a house painter by training but also painted landscapes as a hobby. Paint was lead based back then. Water pipes were soldered with lead solder and some water containers were made of lead at that time. Tin food cans were being made in 1830 and these were lead soldered together. So naturally the lead leached into the food. Lawrence melted lead to mold bullets for his pistols and he “shot at marks” (target practiced) with these guns often. He frequently fired pistols out of the window at night. Probably to clear damp charges or old loads of black powder. Lawrence was noticed as having a “peculiar gait” when he walked and this is a symptom of lead poisoning. He complained to his sister of pain in his stomach. This was known as “painter’s colic” yet another symptom of lead poison. He may also have been suffering from mercury poisoning. He was seen in the company of a prostitute on several occasions and may have contracted a STD. Common treatment for this was liquid mercury. This would have produced brain damage, hallucinations, etc.

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