by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
Recently I borrowed a book from the local library by David O. Stewart called The Lincoln Deception. It was historical fiction about the circumstances involving the Lincoln assassination and I thought it might be interesting reading. I enjoy good historical fiction once in awhile as long as it stays relatively close to the historical facts.
Well, Stewart’s book did that, for the most part, but it was still a disappointment. It ended up being yet another of those “blame the Confederacy for Lincoln’s assassination” books.
Stewart usually writes historical books. I don’t always agree with his take on some of them, but maybe he should stick to history. I have his book Impeached which is the story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial and subsequent acquittal, and while I don’t think it’s great, it’s not too bad either.
Stewart notes that he got his idea for the Lincoln Deception book from one of his footnotes in Impeached. In chapter 4, beginning on page 36, Stewart notes, in a note on John Bingham, taken from page 40 (the footnote is on page 357 at the back of the book) that: “…Bingham had a complex relationship with the Lincoln assassination. On his deathbed, the Ohio congressman claimed he experienced a vision, as Lincoln was being shot, of the tragic event. Also, while on his deathbed, Bingham supposedly told his doctor that Mrs. Mary Surratt–one of the executed conspirators–had revealed to him and Secretary of War Stanton certain information ‘so shocking that its publication would threaten the Republic.’ Bingham and Stanton agreed it should not be disclosed, and Stanton on his own deathbed made Bingham swear to preserve the confidence. Bingham took the secret to his grave with him, saying, ‘The truth must remain sealed’.”
To the best of my knowledge no one has ever discovered what the secret that “would threaten the Republic” was. Whatever it might have been, it may have been potent enough that it sealed Mrs. Surratt’s fate for good and all. Supposedly this was taken from a book by Erving E. Beauregard, Bingham of the Hills: Politician and Diplomat Extraordinary, published in 1989. I had never even heard of this book, much less seen it.
It seems hard to believe that Mrs. Surratt would have had such a secret that she would have shared with both Bingham and Stanton. Of course Stewart posits that the secret may have been that the Confederate government really planned Lincoln’s assassination. I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that that is where Stewart came from. This is the establishment’s favorite pipe dream–the way they really wish it was and, knowing how the establishment works, they will find ways to promote this falsehood even though it is a falsehood.
No real evidence to promote this has ever turned up. In fact I have written about some of this over the years. It’s on about the same level as the attempt to prove Jeff Davis was guilty of treason when even some of the Deep State Republicans of his day noted that it would be next to impossible to convict him of treason. That’s the reason they finally turned him loose. Davis wanted a trial and they knew if they gave him one and he won in court, their whole entire rationale for having fought the War of Northern Aggression would be open to questions and so rather than have the public begin to question their omnipotence, they just shoved Davis out the back door and told him to go home.
Davis. to his credit, never sought a pardon for anything he did, even though some Union officials hinted that one would be forthcoming should he only request it. Why ask for a pardon when you have committed no crime?
So why Mrs. Surratt’s “secret”? Did she really know who was responsible for Lincoln’s assassination and it wasn’t the Confederate government? Did she really, somehow, know that those who wanted Lincoln dead were Northerners, some of them in Lincoln’s own administration? That alone would make sure she hung. Dead women tell no tales. Bingham didn’t die until sometime around 1900. Was Mrs. Surratt’s “secret” so potent that, even at that late date, it would have threatened the republic? Or rather, would it have threatened the reputations of some of those in Lincoln’s own administration? To me, that seems much more likely.
The same holds true in our day for the Kennedy assassinations. Do you think we will ever see the real evidence of what happened in Dallas on that November day in 1963? There will always be some “compelling” reason why the public is not allowed to see this stuff. Will the truth threaten the “republic’? That’s long gone anyway. It might, however, threaten the reputations of some very highly placed politicians, even though many of them are now dead–and the history books would have to be rewritten–someday–probably later than sooner. Same with the Lincoln assassination!