John Armor Bingham.

Trial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle online

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Online LibraryJohn Armor BinghamTrial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle → online text (page 10 of 14)
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mony that he did not at that time mention the name of this man to


his friend, Mr. King ; because it appears from his testimony and
there is none to question the truthfulness of his statement that at
that timo he did not know his name. Neither does it take from the
force of this testimony, that Mr. Norton did not, in communicating
this matter to Mr. King, make mention of Booth's name ; because
there was nothing in the transaction, at. the time, he being ignorant
of the name of Mudd, and equally ignorant of the conspiracy between
Muddand Booth, to give the least occasion for any mention of Booth
or of the transaction further than as he detailed it. With such cor-
roboration, who can doubt the fact that Mudd did enter the 'room of
Mr. Norton, and was followed by him, on the 3d of March last? Can
he be mistaken in the man ? Whoever looks at the prisoner care-
fully once will be sure to recognize him again.

For the present I pass from the consideration of the testimony
showing Dr. Mudd' 8 connection with Booth in this conspiracy, with
the remark that it is in evidence, and I think established, both by the
testimony adduced by the prosecution and that by the prisoner,
that since the commencement of this rebellion John H. Surratt vis-
ited the prisoner's house ; that he concealed Surratt and other rebels
and traitors in the woods near his house, where for several days ho
furnished them with food and bedding; that the shelter of the woods
by night and by day was the only shelter that the prisoner dare furnish
these friends of his; that in November Booth visited him and remained
overnight; that he accompanied Booth at that time to Gardner's,
from whom he purchased one of the horses used on the night of the
assassination to aid the escape of one of his confederates; that the
prisoner had secret interviews with Booth and Surratt, as sworn to by
the witness Weichmann, in the National Hotel, whether on the 23d
of December or in January is a matter of entire indiiference; that he
rushed into Mr. Norton's room on the 3d of March in search of Booth;
and that he was here again on the 10th of April, four days before the
murder of the President. Of his conduct after the assassination of
the President, which is confirmatory of all this his conspiring with
Booth and his sheltering, concealing, and aiding the flight of his co-con-
spirator, this felon assassin I shall speak hereafter, leaving him for the
present with the remark that the attempt to prove his character has
resulted in showing him in sympathy with the rebellion, so cruel that
he shot one of his slaves and declared his purpose to send several of
them to work on the rebel batteries in Richmond.

What others, besides Samuel A. Mudd and John H. Surratt and
Lewis Payne, did Booth, after his return from Canada, induce to join


him in this conspiracy to murder the President, the Vice President,
the Secretary of State, and the Lieutenant General, with the intent
thereby to aid the rebellion and overthrow the government and laws
of the United States ?

On the 10th of February the prisoners Arnold and O'Laughlin came
to Washington and took rooms in the house of Mrs. Vantyne; were
armed; were there visited frequently by John Wilkes Booth, and
alone; were occasionally absent when Booth called, who seemed
anxious for their return would sometimes leave notes for them, and
sometimes a request that when they came in they should be told to
come to the stable. On the 18th of March last, when Booth played
in "The Apostate," the witness, Mrs. Vantyne, received from,
O'Laughlin complimentary tickets. These persons remained there
until the 20th of March. They were visited, so far as the witness
knows, during their stay at her house only by Booth, save that on a
single occasion an unknown man came to see them, and remained
with them over night. They told the witness the) 7 were in the "oil
business. ' J With Mudd, the guilty purpose was sought to be con-
cealed by declaring that he was in the "land business;" with
O'Laughlin and Arnold it was attempted to be concealed by the pre-
tence that they were in the " oil business." Booth, it is proved,
had closed up all connexion with oil business last September. There
is not a word of testimony to show that the accused, O'Laughlin and
Arnold, ever invested or sought to invest, in any way or to any
amount, in the oil business; their silly words betray them; they
forgot when they uttered that false statement that truth is strong,
next to the Almighty, and that their crime, must find them out was
the irrevocable and irresistible law of nature and of nature's God.

One of their co-conspirators, known as yet only to the guilty par-
ties to this damnable plot and to the Infinite, who will unmask and
avenge all blood-guiltiness, comes to bear witness, unwittingly, against
them. This unknown conspirator, who dates his letter at South
Branch Bridge, April G, 18G5, mailed and postmarked Cumberland,
Maryland, and addressed to John Wilkes Booth, by his initials,
" J. W. B., National Hotel, Washington, D. 0.," was also in the "oil
speculation." In that letter he says :

"FniEXD WILKES : I received yours of March 12th, and reply as soon as prac-
ticable. I saw French, Brady, and others about the oil speculation. The sub-
scription to the stock amounts to eight thousand dollars, and I add one thousand
myself, which is about all I can stand. Now, when you sink your well, go
deep enough; don't fall ; everything depends upon you and your helpers.


If you cannot get through on your trip after you strike oil, strike through
Thornton gap and across by Capon, Romney, and down the Branch. I can
keep you safe, from all hardships for a year. I am clear of all surveillance now
that infernal Purdy is beat. * * *

" I send this by Tom, and if he don't get drunk you will get it the 9th. At
all events, it cannot be understood if lost. * * *

"No more, only Jake will be at Green's toith the funds. (Signed) LON."

That this letter is not a fabrication is made apparent by the testi-
mony of Purdy, whose name occurs in the letter. He testified that
he had been a detective in the government service, and that he had
been falsely accused, as the letter recites, and put under arrest ; that
there was a noted rebel by the name of Green living at Thornton
gap; that there was a servant, who drank, known as "Tom," in the
neighborhood of South Branch Bridge ; that there is an obscure route
through the gap, and as described in the letter ; and that a man com-
monly called "Lon" lives at South Branch Bridge. If the court are
satisfied and it is for them to judge that this letter was written
before the assassination, as it purports to have been, and on the day
of its date, there can be no question with any one who reads it that the
writer was in the conspiracy, and knew that the time of its execution
drew nigh. If a conspirator, every word of its contents is evidence
against every other party to this conspiracy.

Who can fail to understand this letter? His words, "go deep
enough," "don't fail," "everything depends on you and your
helpers," "if you can't get through on your trip after you strike oil,
strike through Thornton gap," &c., and "I can keep you safe from
all hardships for a year, " necessarily imply that when he "strikes
oil" there will be an occasion for a flight ; that a trip, or route, has
already been determined upon; that he may not be able to go through
by that route; in which event he is to strike for Thornton gap, and
across by Capon and Romney, and down the branch, for the shelter
which his co-conspirator offers him. "I am clear of all surveillance
now" does any one doubt that the man who wrote those words
wished to assure Booth that he was no longer watched, and that
Booth could safely hide with him from his pursuers ? Does any one
doubt, from the further expression in this letter, "Jake will be at
Green's with the funds," that this was a part of the price of blood,
or that the eight thousand dollars subscribed by others, and the one
thousand additional, subscribed by the writer, were also a part of the
price to be paid ?

"The oil business," which was the declared business of O'Laughlin


and Arnold, was the declared business of the infamous writer of
this letter; was the declared business of John H. Surratt; was the
declared business of Booth himself, as explained to Chester and
Payne; was " the business" referred to in his telegrams to 0' Laugh-
lin, and meant the murder of the President, of his cabinet, and of
General Grant. The first of these telegrams is dated Washington,
13th March, and is addressed to M. O'Laughlin, No. 57 North Exeter
street, Baltimore, Maryland, arid is as follows: "Don't you fear to
neglect your business ; you had better come on at once. J. Booth."
The telegraphic operator, Hoffman, who sent this despatch from
Washington, swears that John Wilkes Booth delivered it to him in
person on the day of its. date; and tho handwriting of the original
telegram is established beyond question to be that of Booth. The
other telegram is dated Washington, March 27, addressed "M.
O'Laughlin, Esq., 57 North Exeter street, Baltimore, Maryland,' 7 and
is as follows : "Get word to Sam. Come on with or without him
on Wednesday morning. We sell that day sure ; don't fail. J.
Wilkes Booth. 7 ' The original of this telegram is also proved to be in
the handwriting of Booth. The sale referred to in this last telegram
was doubtless the murder of the President and others the "oil
speculation," in which the writer of the letter from South Branch
Bridge, dated April G, had taken a thousand dollars, and in which
Booth said there was money, and Sanders said there was money,
and Atzerodt said there was money. The words of this telegram,
" get word to Sam," mean Samuel Arnold, his co-conspirator, who
had been with him during all his stay in Washington, at Mrs. Van-
tyne's. These parties to this conspiracy, after they had gone to
Baltimore, had additional correspondence with Booth, which the
court must infer had relation to carrying out the purposes of their
confederation and agreement. The colored witness, Williams, testifies
that John Wilkes Booth handed him a letter for Michael O'Laughlin,
and another for Samuel Arnold, in Baltimore, some time in March
last; one of which he delivered to O'Laughlin at the theatre in Balti-
more, and the other to a lady at the door where Arnold boarded in

Their agreement and co-operation in the common object having
been thus established, the letter written to Booth by the prisoner
Arnold, dated March 27, 1865, the handwriting of which is proved
before the court, and which was found in Booth's possession after the
assassination, becomes testimony against O'Laughlin, as well as


against the writer Arnold, because it is an act done in furtherance
of their combination. That letter is as follows:

" DEAU JOHN : Wns business so important that you could not remain in
Baltimore till I saw you ? I came in as soon as I could, but found you had
gone to Washington. I called also to see Mike, but learned from his mother
he had gone out with you and had not returned. I concluded, therefore, he
had gone with you. How * inconsiderate you have been! When I left you,
you stated that we would not meet in a month or so, and therefore I made appli-
cation for employment, an answer to which I shall receive during the week. I
told my parents I had ceased with you. Can I then, under existing circum-
stances, act as you request? You know full well that the government suspi-
cions something is going on there, therefore the undertaking is becoming more
complicated. Why not, for the present, desist] for various reasons, which, if
you look into, you can readily see without my making any mention thereof.
You nor any one can censure me for my present course. You have been its
cause, for how can I now come after telling them I had left you ? Suspicion
rests upon me now from my whole family, and even parties in the country. I
will be compelled to leave home any how, and how soon I care not. None, no,
not one, were more in favor of the enterprise than myself, and to-day would be
there had you not done as you have. By this, I mean manner of proceeding.
I am, as you well know, innced. I am, you may say, in rags, whereas, to-day, I
ought to be well clothed. I do not feel right stalking about with means, and
more from appearances a beggar. I feel my dependence. But, even all this
would have been, and was, forgotten, for I one with you. Time more pro-
mtious will arrive yet. Do not act rashly or in haste. I would prefer your
first query, ' Go and see how it will be taken in llichmond,' and ere long I
shall be better prepared to again be with you. I dislike writing. Would
sooner verbally make known my views. Yet your now waiting causes me thus
to proceed. Do not in anger peruse this. Weigh all I have said, and, as a ra-
tional man and a friend, you cannot censure or upbraid my conduct. I sin-
cerely trust this, nor aught else that shall or may occur, will ever be an obsta-
cle to obliterate our former friendship and attachment. Write me to Baltimore,
as I expect to be in about Wednesday or Thursday; or, if you can possibly
come on, I will Tuesdiiy meet you at Baltimore at B.
" Ever, I subscribe myself, your friend,


Here is the confession of the prisoner Arnold, that he was one with
Booth in this conspiracy; the further confession that they are suspected
by the government of their country, and the acknowledgment that since
they parted Booth had communicated, among other things, a suggestion
which leads to the remark in this letter, "I would prefer your first
query, ' Go and see how it will be taken at Richmond, ' and ere long


I shall be better prepared to again be with you." This is a declara-
tion that affects Arnold, Booth, and O'Laughlin alike, if the court
are satisfied, and it is difficult to see how they can have doubt on the
subject, that the matter to be referred to Richmond is the matter of
the assassination of the President and others, to effect which these
parties had previously agreed and conspired together. It is a matter
in testimony, by the declaration of John H. Surratt, who is as clearly
proved to have been in this conspiracy and murder as Booth himself,
that about the very date of this letter, the 27th of March, upon the
suggestion of Booth, and with his knowledge and consent, he went
to Richmond, not only to see "how it would be taken there," but to
get funds with which to carry out the enterprise, as Booth had already
declared to Chester in one of his last interviews, when he said that he
or "some one of the party" would be constrained to go to Richmond
for funds to carry out the conspiracy. Surratt returned from Rich-
mond, bringing with him some part of the money for which he went,
and was then going to Canada, and, as the testimony discloses, bring-
ing with him the despatches from Jefferson Davis to his chief agents
in Canada, which, as Thompson declared to Conover, made the pro-
posed assassination "all right." Surratt, after seeing the parties
here, left immediately for Canada and delivered his despatches to
Jacob Thompson, the agent of Jefferson Davis. This was done by
Surratt upon the suggestion, or in exact accordance with the sugges-
tion, of Arnold, made on the 27th of March in his letter to Booth just
read, and yet you are gravely told that four weeks before the 27th of
March Arnold had abandoned the conspiracy.

Surratt reached Canada with these despatches, as we have seen,
about the 6th or 7th of April last, when the witness Conover saw
them delivered to Jacob Thompson and heard their contents stated
by Thompson, and the declaration from him that these despatches
made it "all right." That Surratt was at that time in Canada is not
only established by the testimony of Conover, but it is also in evi-
dence that he told Weichmann on the 3d of April that he was going
to Canada, and on that day left for Canada, and afterwards, two let-
ters addressed by. Surratt over the fictitious signature of John Har-
rison, to his mother and to Miss Ward, dated at Montreal, were re-
ceived by them on the 14th of April, as testified by Weichmann and
by Miss Ward, a witness called for the defence. Thus it appears
that the condition named by Arnold in his Jotter had been complied
with. Booth had "gone to Richmond," in the person of Surratt,
"to see how it would be taken." The rebel authorities at Rich-


mond had approved it, the agent had returned, and Arnold was, in his
own words, thereby the better prepared to rejoin Booth in the prose-
cution of this conspiracy.

To this end Arnold went to Fortress Monroe. As his letter ex-
pressly declares, Booth said when they parted, "we would not
meet in a month or so, and therefore I made application for employ-
ment an answer to which I shall receive during the week." He
did receive the answer that week from Fortress Monroe, and went
thereto await the "more propitious time," bearing with him the
weapon of death which Booth had provided and ready to obey his
call, as the act had been approved at Richmond and been made " all
right." Acting upon the same fact that the conspiracy had been ap-
proved in Richmond and the funds provided, O'Laughlin came to
Washington to identify General Grant, the person who was to be-
come the victim of his violence in the final consummation of this
crime General Grant, whom, as is averred in the specification, it
had become the part of O'Laughlin by his agreement in this conspir-
acy to kill and murder. On the evening preceding the assassination
the 13th of April by the testimony of three reputable witnesses,
against whose truthfulness not one word is uttered here or elsewhere,
O'Laughlin went into the house of the Secretary of War, where Gen-
eral Grant then was, and placed himself in position in the hall where he
could see him, having declared before he reached that point to one
of these witnesses that he wished to see General Grant. The house
was brilliantly illuminated at the time; two at least of the witnesses'
conversed with the accused and the other stood very near to him,
took special notice of his conduct, called attention to it, and suggested
that he be put out of the house, and he was accordingly put out by
one of the witnesses. These witnesses are confident, and have no
doubt, and so swear upon their oaths, that Michael O'Laughlin is the
man who was present on that occasion. There is no denial on the
part of the accused that he was in Washington during the day and
during the night of April 13, and also during the day and during the
night of the J4th; and yet, to get rid of this testimony, recourse is
had to that common device an alibi', a device never, I may say,
more frequently resorted to than in this trial. But what an alibi I
Nobody is called to prove it, save some men who, by their own
testimony, were engaged in a drunken debauch through the evening.
A reasonable man who reads their evidence can hardly be expected
to allow it to outweigh the united testimony of three unimpeached

and unimpeachable witnesses who were clear in their statements,
who entertain no doubt of the truth of what they say, whose oppor-
tunities to know were full and complete, and who were constrained to
take special notice of the prisoner by reason of his extraordinary

These witnesses describe accurately the appearance, stature, and
complexion of the accused, but because they describe his clothing as
dark or black, it is urged that as part of his clothing, although dark,
was not black, the witnesses are mistaken. O'Laughlin and his
drunken companions (one of whom swears that he drank ten times
that evening) were strolling in the streets and in the direction
of the house of the Secretary of War, up the Avenue; but you
are asked to believe that these witnesses could not be mistaken
in saying they were not off the Avenue above 7th street, or on K
street. I venture to say that no man who reads their testimony can
determine satisfactorily all the places that were visited by O'Laugh-
lin and his drunken associates that evening from 7 to 11 o'clock
p. m. All this time, from 7 to 11 o'clock p. m., must be accounted for
satisfactorily before the alibi can be established. Laughlan does not
account for all the time, for he left O'Laughlin after 7 o'clock,
and rejoined him, as he says, "I suppose about 8 o'clock." Grill et
did not meet him until half-past ten, and then only casually saw him
in passing the hotel. May not Grillet have been mistaken as to the
fact, although he did meet O'Laughlin after 11 o'clock the same
evening, as he swears?

Purdy swears to seeing him in the bar with Grillet about half-past
10, but, as we have seen by Grillet' s testimony, it must have been
after 11 o'clock. Murphy contradicts, as to time, both Grillet and
Purdy, for he says it was half-past 11 or 12 o'clock when he and
O'Laughlin returned to Rullman's from Platz's, and Early swears the
accused went from Rullman's to 2d street to a dance about a quarter-
past 11 o'clock, when O'Laughlin took the lead in the dance and stayed
about one hour. I follow these witnesses no further. They contra-
dict each other, and do not account for O'Laughlin all the time from
7 to 11 o'clock. I repeat that no man can read their testimony with-
out finding contradictions most material as to time, and coming to the
conviction that they utterly fail to account for O'Laughlin' s wherea-
bouts on that evening. To establish an alibi the witnesses must know
{he fact and testify to it. Laughlan, Grillet, Purdy, Murphy, and
Early utterly fail to prove it, and only succeed in showing that they
did not know where O'Laughlin was all this time, and that some of


them were grossly mistaken in what they testified, both as to time and
place. The testimony of James B. Henderson is equally unsatisfac-
tory. He is contradicted by other testimony of the accused as to
place. He says O'Laughlin went up the Avenue above 7th street, but
that he did not go to 9th street. The other witnesses swear he went
to 9th street. He swears h*e went to Canterbury about 9 o'clock,
after going back from 7th street to Rullman's. Laughlan swears that
O'Laughlin was with him at the corner of the Avenue and 9th street
at 9 o'clock, and went from there to Canterbury, while Early
swears that O'Laughlin went up as far as llth street, and returned
with him and took supper at Welcker's about 8 o'clock. If these
witnesses prove an alibi, it is really against each other. ' It is folly
to pretend that they prove facts which make it impossible that
O'Laughlin could have been at the house of Secretary Stantou, as
three witnesses swear he was, on the evening of the 13th of April,
looking for General Grant.

Has it not, by the testimony thus reviewed, been established prima
facie that in the months of February, March, and April, 0' Laughlin
had combined, confederated, and agreed with John Wilkes Booth and
Samuel Arnold to kill and murder Abraham Lincoln, "William H.
Seward, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant? Is it not estab-
lished, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Booth had so conspired with
the rebel agents in Canada as early as October last; that he was in
search of agents to do the work on pay, in the interests of the re-
bellion, and that in this speculation Arnold and O'Laughlin had joined
as early as February ; that then, and after, with Booth and Surratt,
they were in the "oil business," which was the business of assassina-
tion by contract as a speculation ? If this conspiracy on the part of
O'Laughlin with Arnold is established even prima facie, the declara-
tions and acts of Arnold and Booth, the other conspirators, in fur-
therance of the common design, is evidence against O'Laughlin as
well as against Arnold himself or the other parties. The rule of law
is, that the act or declaration of one conspirator, done in pursuance or
furtherance of the common design, is the act or declaration of all
the conspirators. (1 Wharton, 706.)

The letter, therefore, of his co-conspirator, Arnold, is evidence
against O'Laughlin, because it is an act in the prosecution of the com-
mon conspiracy, suggesting what should be done in order to make it
effective, and which suggestion, as has been stated, was followed
out. The defence has attempted to avoid the force of this letter by
reciting the statement of Arnold, made to Homer at the time he


was arrested, in which he declared, among other things, that the
purpose was to abduct President Lincoln and take him south ; that

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Online LibraryJohn Armor BinghamTrial of the conspirators, for the assassination of President Lincoln, &c. : argument of John A. Bingham, special judge advocate, in reply to the arguments of the several counsel for Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangle → online text (page 10 of 14)