The Lincoln Affair (Scarlet Threads – Part Forty-Four)

Bob Faulkner asked:

The Lincoln Affair. A.D. 1865.

From Mirari Vos, encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI in 1832:

Experience has proved from earliest times that states distinguished for wealth, for power, for glory, have perished from this single evil, unrestrained freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and the love of novelties. To this is related that deadly freedom, never adequately to be execrated and detested, the liberty of the press.”

Plots. In the case of one Abraham Lincoln, for example, a quick trip to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry will expose one to a newspaper clipping dated April 15, 1864, the day after Lincoln’s assassination, describing how already people were talking about a “plot.”

History either “happens” or it is planned. In the case of Lincoln, no serious investigator rules out the conspiracy. There are many variations on the theme, but a conspiracy did take place. For what reasons and by whom I will leave with you…after I have shared a few lesser-known facts.

Did you realize that on the same night Lincoln was shot, Secretary of State Seward was likewise attacked, while on his sick bed? Others, like General Grant, had also been targeted. These are matters of commonly known but not often reported history. No secrets here. The complete overthrow of the United States Government was on the agenda.

And who was involved in this comprehensive plan to overthrow the government? Surely you will recognize the name of John Wilkes Booth. Most know he was an actor, and that he spoke some dramatic words as he pulled the trigger. Yes, those words were in Latin. But jump to no conclusions yet.

A much smaller group of Americans have heard the name Surratt. Few have heard of Mary Surratt, and fewer still know of her son John. Now, Mary’s name can still be found in a couple of encyclopedias, John’s I could not find.

Mary Surratt was a well-known lady of her day. We will say for now that it is only incidental that she was a Roman Catholic. Her home was frequented by quite a mix of people, including Catholic priests, and others implicated in the assassination plot, such as John Wilkes Booth. After Lincoln’s death, the evidence brought against her and other conspirators was so convincing that all were hung. Did you know that?

After the fact, it is fair to say that many felt the trials were rushed, that the evidence for Mrs. Surratt’s guilty sentence was not strong enough. Miscarriages of justice do occur.

So a Roman Catholic was involved in killing the President? If a fact,it is still not terribly conclusive by itself. To my mind, the intriguing thing about that horrid evening is the presence, flight, and especially the route, of her son, John. In an out-of-print book by Burke McCarty called The Suppressed Truth About the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, John Surratt is named as the master mind of the whole event.

Once more to be fair to subsequent discoveries, witnesses at John’s trial “prove” he was in Elmira, New York, on the night of the asassination. Other witnesses swear they saw him outside the theater where Lincoln was shot. But of his flight route, there is no question. And the reason for his flight? Though some say he is not guilty, it is maintained that he fled because of his association with John Wilkes Booth (a very real association, I might add).

All witnesses and evidence can trace John’s flight first to Canada, then to England, in both of which places he is housed by Catholic clergy. Then, lo and behold, John turns up in Vatican City, where he is personally received by the Pope! Shortly thereafter we see him dressed in Papal costume, a part of the Pope’s military operations, a light infantry corps known as the Zouaves.

All of this is traceable fact.

The United States, after a long and costly, not to mention contested, delay, finally requests that the Vatican release Surratt. Outward compliance is immediate.

But wouldn’t you know it! He “escapes” from the ones who are bringing him on one leg of the journey home. Later he is caught and brought to trial.

Brought to trial, I say, but you must decide whether he was brought to justice. The records of the trial are available for perusal. Due to one of the many loopholes in America’s legal system,the “hung jury”,and a later decision to drop the case, Surratt is released, and many years later dies in America, a successful businessman.

Let’s back up a bit. After staying in Montreal awhile, and supposedly being ordered by the bishop there not to return to Washington where his mother is about to be hanged (since there is no justice in Washington), Surratt is shipped off to England. But the ship’s doctor, one L.J. McMillan, supposedly seeking the reward being offered for Surratt’s capture, befriends John.

Surratt becomes wary, gets off the ship in Londonderry, Ireland, and finds his own way to Liverpool. Meanwhile, McMillan has reported to the vice-consul, Wilding, of his finding. Wilding contacts Washington:

Sir: yesterday, information was given to me that Surratt, one of the persons implicated in the conspiracy to murder Mr. Lincoln, was in Liverpool, or expected there within a day or two. I took the affidavit of the person who gave me the information…

No response. Let’s try again.

Sir: Since my dispatch no. 538, the supposed Surratt has arrived in Liverpool, and is now staying at the oratory of the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Cross. According to reports Mrs. Surratt was a devout Catholic, and I learn that clergymen of that persuasion on their way to and from America frequently lodge at the Oratory…

If it be Surratt, such a wretch ought not to escape… Wilding”

Finally the reply. Note it well. Five months has changed the mood of Washington:

Sir: Your dispatches…have been received. In reply to your No. 539 I have to inform you that, upon a consultation with the Secretary of War, and the Judge Advocate General, it is thought advisable that no action be taken in regard to the arrest of the supposed John Surratt at present…

W. Hunter

Acting Secretary

Something fishy here? Later, at the Surratt Trial, Judge Pierrepont is forced to say these words:

“Is it possible that it has come to this, that in the City of Washington, where the President has been murdered, that when under the form of law, and before a court and jury of twelve men, an investigation is made, to ascertain whether the prisoner is guilty of this great crime, that the government is to be charged as seeking his blood, and its officers as lapping their tongues in the blood of the innocent? I quote the language exactly. It is a shocking thing to hear. What is the purpose of a government? What is the business of a government?

“According to the gentleman’s notion, when a murder is committed the government should not do anything towards ascertaining who perpetrated the murder, and if the government did undertake to investigate the matter and endeavor to find out whether the man charged with the crime is guilty or not…the government and all connected with it, must expect to be assailed as ‘bloodhounds of the law, ‘ and as seeking to ‘lap their tongues in the blood of the innocent.’ What is government for? It is constituted for your protection…What would you do without it?”

McCarty summarizes the trial proceedings:

“There were eighty-five witnesses and ninety-six in rebuttal…the hearing began June 17th, 1867, and closed July 26th, 1867…the case went to the jury August 7th. The jury brought in a report that they stood about even for conviction and acquittal, with no prospect of reaching an agreement. Surratt was remanded to jail.

“His attorneys asked that he be released on bail which was refused by the court. The following September…he was indicted on the charge of engaging in rebellion. He was admitted to bail on this charge in the amount of $20,000, which still stands.

“A second indictment was found against him, but the district attorney entered anolle prosequi on this. The prisoner was finally released and permitted to go free on a technicality- an omission of the three words in the indictment, viz.: ‘was a fugitive.’ “

So that’s why he’s not in the encyclopedias. An amazing story. But the Secretary of War and a host of others disagree with the dissenting jurors, the various judges, the whole legal system.

There are other opinions, but the agreed-upon facts are these: There was a conspiracy. The Surratts were involved in it,and were close to John Wilkes Booth. Catholic priests protected and helped to escape, one whom they knew to be charged with conspiracy to murder the President of the United States. He was placed in a military position by the Pope of Rome following his escape. At the end of his life, John Surratt burned all the records involving this matter.

What do you make of it? Pure coincidence? An all-out plot by the Vatican to destroy America? A plot used and approved of by Rome? Something to think about.
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