Stanton the Federal Dictator

by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

In scrounging around on the internet I came across a book I had never heard of before called They Wanted Lincoln Dead. It was written by a Troy Cowan. I’d not heard of him before either. But then, he’s probably never heard of me either. The book has kind of a light blue cover on it, with a picture of Edwin Stanton and Andrew Johnson. It’s available from Amazon and it’s a paperback for $12.99.

On a separate sort of a blog spot Mr. Cowan made some comments about his book. He said: “Edwin Stanton was the Secretary of War. Stanton planned Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s theater on April 14. He got away with the crime. The government has immense power to manipulate evidence. Everything we know about Lincoln’s killing comes from Stanton or his subordinates. You have to understand why Lincoln was assassinated. Lincoln was our first Republican president. The Radical Republicans were willing to do anything to stay in power, including murder. Edwin Stanton was a brilliant man. He was Lincoln’s Secretary of War and Stanton wanted the immensely evil south punished with a harsh, long-lasting hatred.” I pretty much agree with him–except the part about the “immensely evil south.” On that, we part company. The South was no more evil than was the North–in fact it was probably not as evil as the North. The South had resisted anti-Christian apostasy whereas the North had long ago caved in to it. So it depends on how you define evil, and Mr. Cowan and I don’t seem to quite do that the same way. If he was referring to the evil of slavery, well, the North shared in that particular evil also. It wasn’t particularly “Southern.” I know the cultural Marxists say it was, but they are known liars.

As I said, I have not read Mr. Cowan’s book, but it might be worth getting to see what he does have to say overall.

Theodore Roscoe’s book The Web of Conspiracy  which I have been going through again, takes note of how Stanton’s dictatorial proclivities come shining through.

In referring to the Lincoln conspirators, Roscoe notes, on page 266 that “The punishment dealt these prisoners stands as a classic example of what happens when raw dictatorship turns police work into an auto-da-f”e. All of the victims in this case were civilians. None of them had been tried. Not one as yet had been officially indicted. They had merely been accused and thrown into prison to await trial. But an auto-da-f’e punishes first and tries afterward.” In other words, these people are presumed guilty going in and treated accordingly. The “rule of law” is what Stanton says it is.

Stanton’s dictatorial mindset was perfectly displayed in the actions of Stanton’s chief henchman, Lafayette Curry Baker, Stanton’s chief of detectives. Roscoe observed: “He (Baker) dealt with every accused person in the same manner; with a reputable citizen as with a deserter or petty thief. He did not require the formality of a written charge; it was quite sufficient for any person to suggest to Baker that a citizen might be doing something that was against the law. He was immediately arrested, handcuffed, and brought to Baker’s office, at that time in the basement of the Treasury. There he was subjected to a brow-beating examination…Men were kept in his rooms for weeks, without warrant, affidavit or other semblance of authority…Hasty dockets were scribbled on these individuals. Preliminary charges ranged from ‘implicated in assassination’ and ‘accessory’ to ‘suspicious conduct,’ ‘Secession sympathizer’ and ‘disloyal utterances’. Terms were as loose as ashes, and the effort to sift these charges produced many meaningless clinkers that jammed the screen…If the accused took any measures for his own protection, he was hurried into the Old Capitol Prison, where he was beyond the reach of the civil authorities.” In other words, try to hire a lawyer to protect you legally and you got automatic jail time! And “disloyal utterances”? So much for the First Amendment! All it took to get you arrested was a letter or verbal complaint from someone who may have been ticked off at you for some reason and Baker’s stooges hauled you in! Justice in Amerika in 1865!

And Roscoe noted also that: “If Stanton did not promote the witch hunt for subversives, at least he gave it his blessing and backed it with the forces of the War Department. Baker’s Secret Service agents took a leading hand in the game. As has been noted, Baker’s initial move was to distribute a handbill which described a featureless and unidentifiable Booth who could have been almost any stranger on Main Street. And while the nation’s police agencies were set to arresting such nobodies, Baker launched a roundup of suspected disloyalists…This door-to-door search for ‘disloyalists’ touched off an epidemic of neighborhood spying and counter-spying unrivaled in the nation’s previous history.”

However, there were some people, then, as today, who were strangely exempt from all this. One of them was John Wilkes Booth’s mistress, Ella Turner. In fact Roscoe noted that “Nobody was sent to arrest Booth’s mistress.” Why not? They arrested all manner of women from the Surratt house, but Booth’s mistress, well, she didn’t have those problems. The investigating authorities somehow managed to avoid her. And that was even after someone complained about her! Roscoe noted, on page 323 that “One of the singular incongruities of the Lincoln murder case was the Government’s reluctance to lay a glove on a single one of Booth’s known inamoratas.”

Why was Stanton so reluctant to talk to any of these ladies? Was he afraid he or Baker would find out something they were not supposed to know. Or were they merely running a little cover for Booth so that too much was not learned about him too soon?

It seems that the more we learn about the Lincoln assassination the less we really “know.” Lots of stuff about this assassination that’s far from kosher and what we have been told is just enough to satisfy the ignorant and naive who will never ask any questions anyway.

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