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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 11 of 14)
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it was to be done at the theatre by throwing the President out of the
box upon the floor of the stage, when the accused was to catch him.
The very announcement of this testimony excited derision that such
a tragedy meant only to take the President and carry him gently
away ! This pigmy to catch the giant as the assassins hurled him to
the floor from an elevation of twelve feet ! The court has viewed the
theatre, and must be satisfied that Booth, in leaping from the Presi-
dent's box, broke his limb. The court cannot fail to conclude that
this statement of Arnold was but another silly device, like that of
"the oil business," which, for the time being, he employed to hide
from the knowledge of his captor the fact that the purpose was to
murder the President. No man can, for a moment, believe that any
one of these conspirators hoped or desired, by such a proceeding as
that stated by this prisoner, to take the President alive in the pres-
ence of thousands assembled in the theatre after he had been thus
thrown upon the floor of the stage, much less to carry him through
the city, through the lines of your army, and deliver him into the
hands of the rebels. No such purpose was expressed or hinted by
the conspirators in Canada, who commissioned Booth to let these as-
sassinations on contract. I shall waste not a moment more in combat-
ting such an absurdity.

Arnold does confess that he was a conspirator with Booth in this
purposed murder ; that Booth had a letter of introduction to Dr.
Mudd ; that Booth, O'Laughlin, Atzerodt, Surratt, a man with an
alias, "Mosby," and another whom he does not know, and himself,
were parties to this conspiracy, and that Booth had furnished them
all with arms. He concludes this remarkable statement to Homer
with the declaration that at that time, to wit, the first week of
March, or four weeks before he went to Fortress Monroe, he left the
conspiracy, and that Booth told him to sell his arms if he chose.
This is sufficiently answered by the fact that, four weeks afterwards,
he wrote his letter to Booth, whicli was found in Booth's possession
after the assassination, suggesting to him what to do in order to make
the conspiracy a success, and by the further fact that at the very
moment he uttered these declarations, part of his arms were found
upon his person, and the rest not disposed of, but at his father's

A party to a treasonable and murderous conspiracy against the
government of his country cannot be held to have abandoned it be-


cause he makes such a declaration as this, when he is in the hands of
the officer of the law. arrested for his crime, and especially when his
declaration is in conflict with and expressly contradicted by his
written acts, and unsupported by any conduct of his which becomes
a citizen and a man.

If he abandoned the conspiracy, why did he not make known the
fact to Abraham Lincoln and his constitutional advisers tjhat these
men, armed with the weapons of assassination, were daily lying in
wait for their lives? To pretend that a man who thus conducts him-
self for weeks after the pretended abandonment, volunteering advice
for the successful prosecution of the conspiracy, the evidence of which
is in writing, and about which there can be no mistake, has, in fact,
abandoned it, is to insult the common understanding of men.
O'Laughlin having conspired with Arnold to do this murder, is,
therefore, as much concluded by the letter of Arnold of the 27th of
March as is Arnold himself. The further testimony touching 0' Laughlin,
that of Streett, establishes the fact that about the 1st of April he
saw him in confidential conversation with J. Wilkes Booth, in this city,
on the Avenue. Another man, whom the witness does not know, was in
conversation. O'Laughlin called Streett to one side, and told him Booth
was busily 'engaged with his friend was talking privately to his friend.
This remark of O'Laughlin is attempted to be accounted for, but the
attempt failed ; his counsel taking the pains to ask what induced
O'Laughlin to make the remark, received the fit reply : "I did not
see the interior of Mr. 0' Laughlin' s mind ; I cannot tell." It is the
province of this court to infer why that remark was made, and what
it signified.

That John H. Surratt, George A. Atzerodt, Mary E. Surratt, David
E.Herold, and Louis Payne, entered into this conspiracy with Booth,
is so very clear upon the testimony, that little time need be occu-
pied in bringing again before the court the evidence which establishes
it. By the testimony of Weichmann we find Atzerodt in February at
the house of the prisoner, Mrs. Surratt. He inquired for her or for
John when he came and remained over night. After this and before
the assassination he visited there frequently, and at that house bore
the name of "Port Tobacco," the name by which he was known in
Canada among the conspirators there. The same witness testifies
that he met him on the street, when he said he was going to visit
Payne at the Herndon House, and also accompanied him, along with
Herold and John H. Surratt, to the theatre in March to hear Booth
play in the Apostate. At the Pennsylvania House, one or two weeks


previous to the assassination, Atzerodt made the statement to Lieuten-
ant Keim, when asking for his knife which he had left in his room, a
knife corresponding in size with the one exhibited in court, " I want
that; if one fails I want the other," wearing at the same time his
revolver at his belt. He also stated to Greenawalt, of the Pennsyl-
vania House, in March, that he was nearly broke, but had friends
enough to give him as much money as would see him through, adding,
"I am going away some of these days, but will return with as much
gold as will keep me all my lifetime." Mr. Greenawalt also says
that Booth had frequent interviews with Atzerodt, sometimes in the
room, and at other times Booth would walk in and immediately go
out, Atzerodt following.

John M. Lloyd testifies that some six weeks before the assassina-
tion, Herold, Atzerodt, and John H. Surratt came to his house at Sur-
rattsville, bringing with them two Spencer carbines with ammuni-
tion, also a rope and wrench. Surratt asked the witness to take
care of them, and to conceal the carbines. Surratt took him into a
room in the house, it being his mother's house, and showed the wit-
ness where to put the carbines, between the joists on the second floor.
The carbines were put there according to his directions, and con-
cealed. Marcus P. Norton saw Atzerodt in conversation with Booth
at the National Hotel about the 2d or 3d of March ; the conversa-
tion was confidential, and the witness accidentally heard them talking
in regard to President Johnson, and say that "the class-of witnesses
would be of that character that there could be little proven by them."
This conversation may throw some light on the fact that Atzerodt
was found in possession of Booth's bank book !

Colonel Nevens testifies that on the 12th of April last he saw At-
zerodt at the Kirkwood House; that Atzerodt there asked him, a
stranger, if he knew where Vice President Johnson was, and where
Mr. Johnson's room was. Colonel Nevens showed him where the room
of the Vice President was, and told him that the Vice President was
then at dinner. Atzerodt then looked into the dining-room, where
Vice President Johnson was dining alone. Robert R. Jones, the
clerk at the Kirkwood House, states that on the 14th, the day of
the murder, two days after this, Atzerodt registered his name at the
hotel, G. A. Atzerodt, and took No. 126, retaining the room that
day, and carrying away the key. In this room, after the assassina-
tion, were found the knife and revolver with which he intended to
murder the Vice President.

The testimony of all these witnesses leaves no doubt that the


prisoner George A. Atzerodt entered into this conspiracy with Booth ;
that he expected to receive a large compensation for the service that
he would render in its execution ; that he had undertaken the assassi-
nation of the Vice President for a price ; that he, with Surratt and
Herold, rendered the important service of depositing the arms and
ammunition to be used by Booth and his confederates as a protection
in their flight after the conspiracy had been executed ; and that he
was careful to have his intended victim pointed out to him, and the
room he occupied in the hotel, so that when he came to perfdrm his
horrid work he would know precisely where to go and whom to

I take no further notice now of the preparation which this prisoner
made for the successful execution of this part of the traitorous and mur-
derous design. The question is, did he enter into this conspiracy ?
His language overheard by Mr. Norton excludes every other con-
clusion. Vice President Johnson's name was mentioned in that
secret conversation with Booth, and the very suggestive expression
was made between them that "little could be proved by the wit-
nesses." His confession in his defence is conclusive of his guilt.

That Payne was in this conspiracy is confessed in the defence
made by his counsel, and is also evident from the facts proved, that
when the conspiracy was being organized in Canada by Thompson,
Sanders, Tucker, Cleary, and Clay, this man Payne stood at the
door of Thompson ; was recommended and indorsed by Clay with the
words, " We trust him ;" that after coming hither he first reported
himself at the house of Mrs. Mary E. Surratt, inquired for her and for
John H. Surratt, remained there for four days, having conversation
with both of them ; having provided himself with means of disguise,
was also supplied with pistols and a knife, such as he afterwards
used, and spurs, preparatory to his flight ; was seen with John H.
Surratt, practicing with knives such as those employed in this deed
of assassination, and now before the court ; was afterwards provided
with lodging at the Herndon House, at the instance of Surratt ; was
visited there by Atzerodt, and attended Booth and Surratt to Ford's
theatre, occupying with those parties the box, as I believe and which
we may readily infer, in which the President was afterwards mur-

If further testimony be wanting that he had entered into the con-
spiracy, it may be found in the fact sworn to by Weichmann, whose
testimony 110 candid man will discredit, that about the 20th of March
Mrs. Surratt, in great excitement, and weeping, said that her son


John had gone away not to return, when about three hours subse-
quently, in the afternoon of the same day, John H. Surratt re-
appeared, came rushing in a state of frenzy into the room, in his
mother's house, armed, declaring he would shoot whoever came into
the room, and proclaiming that his prospects were blasted and his
hopes gone ; that soon Payne came into the same room, also armed
and under great excitement, and was immediately followed by
Booth, with his riding-whip in his hand, who walked rapidly across
the floor from side to side, so much excited that for some time he did
not notice the presence of the witness. Observing Weichmann the
parties then withdrew, upon a suggestion from Booth, to an upper
room, and there had a private interview. From all that transpired
Qn that occasion, it is apparent that when these parties left the house
that day, it was with the full purpose of completing some act esseji-
tial to the final execution of the work of assassination, in conformity
with their previous confederation and agreement. They returned
foiled from what cause is unknown dejected, angry, and covered
with confusion.

It is almost imposing upon the patience of the court to consume
time in demonstrating the fact, which none conversant with the testi-
mony of this case can for a moment doubt, that John H. Surratt
and Mary E. Surratt were as surely in the conspiracy to murder the
President as was John Wilkes Booth himself. You have the frequent
interviews between John H. Surratt and Booth, his intimate relations
with Payne, his visits from Atzerodt and Herold, his deposit of the
arms to cover their flight after the conspiracy should have been exe-
cuted ; his own declared visit to Richmond to do what Booth himself
said to Chester must be done, to wit, that he or some of the party
rnustgo to Richmond in order to get funds to carry out the conspiracy ;
that he brought back with him gold, the price of blood, confessing
himself that he was there ; that he immediately went to Canada,
delivered despatches in cipher to Jacob Thompson from Jefferson
Davis, which were interpreted and read by Thompson in the presence
of the witness Conover, and in which the conspiracy was approved,
and, in the language of Thompson, the proposed assassination was
"made all right."

One other fact, if any other fact be needed, and I have done with
the evidence which proves that John H. Surratt entered into this
combination; that is, that it appears by the testimony of the witness,
the cashier of the Ontario Bank, Montreal, that Jacob Thompson,
about the day that these despatches were delivered, and while Sur-

; . 99

ratt was then present in Canada, drew from that bank of the rebel
funds there on deposit the sum of one hundred and eighty thousand
dollars. This being done, Surratt finding it safer, doubtless, to go
to Canada for the great bulk of funds which were to be distributed
amongst these hired assassins than to attempt to carry it through
our lines direct from Richmond, immediately returned to Washing-
ton and was present in this city, as is proven by the testimony of
Mr. Reid, on the afternoon of the \kth of April, the day of the assassi-
nation, booted and spurred, ready for the flight whenever the fatal
blow should have been struck. If he was not a conspirator and a
party to this great crime, how comes it that from that hour to. this
no man has seen him in the capital, nor has he been reported. any-
where outside of Canada, haying arrived at Montreal, as the testi-
mony shows, on the 18th of April, four days after the murder?
Nothing but his conscious coward guilt could possibly induce him to
absent himself from his mother, as he does, upon her trial. Being
one of these conspirators, as charged, every act of hia in the prosecu-
tion of this crime is evidence against the other parties to the con-

That Mary E. Surratt is as guilty as her son of having thus con-
spired, combined, and confederated to do this murder, in aid of this
rebellion, is clear. First, her house was the headquarters of
Booth, John H. Surratt, Atzerodt, Payne, and Herold. She is in-
quired for by Atzerodt ; she is inquired for by Payne ; and she is
visited by Booth, and holds private conversations with him. His
picture, together with that of the chief conspirator, Jefferson Davis,
is found in her house. She sends to Booth for a carriage to take her,
on the llth of April, to Surrattsville for the purpose of perfecting
the arrangement deemed necessary to the successful execution of the
conspiracy, and especially to facilitate and protect the conspirators
in their escape from justice. On that occasion Booth, having dis-
posed of his carriage, gives to the agent she employed ten dollars
with which to hire a conveyance for that purpose. And yet the pre-
tence is made that Mrs. Surratt went on the llth to Surrattsville ex-
clusively upon her own private and lawful business. Can any one
tell, if that be so, how it comes that she should apply to Booth for a
conveyance, and how it comes that he, of his own accord, having no
conveyance to furnish her, should send her ten dollars with which' to
procure it? There is not the slightest indication that Booth was
under any obligation to her, or that she had any claim upon him,
either for a conveyance or for the means with which to procure one,


except that he was bound to contribute, being the agent of the con-
spirators in Canada and Richmond, whatever money might be neces-
sary to the consummation of this infernal plot. On that day, the llth
of April, John H. Surratt had not returned from Canada with the
funds furnished by Thompson !

Upon that journey of the llth the accused, Mary E. Surratt,
met the witness John M. Lloyd at Uniontown. She called him;
he got out of his carriage and came to her, and she whispered to
him in so low a tone that her attendant could not hear her words,
though Lloyd, to whom they were spoken, did distinctly hear
them, and testifies that she told him he should have those ' ' shoot-
ing-irons" ready, meaning the carbines which her son and Herold
and Atzerodt had deposited with him, and added the reason,
"for they would soon be called for." On the day of the assas-
sination she again sent for Booth, had an interview with him in
her own house, and immediately went again to Surrattsville, and
then, at about six o' clock in the afternoon, she delivered to Lloyd a
field-glass and told him "to have two bottles of whiskey and the
carbines ready, as they would be called for that night." Having
thus perfected the arrangement she returned to Washington to her
own house, at about half-past eight o'clock in the evening, to await
the final result. How could this woman anticipate on Friday after-
noon, at six o'clock, that these arms would be called for and would
be needed that night unless she was in the conspiracy and knew the
blow was to be struck, and the flight of the assassins attempted and
by that route ? Was not the private conversation which Booth held
with her in her parlor on the afternoon of the 14th of April, just
before she left on this business, in relation to the orders she should
give to have the arms ready ?

An endeavor is made to impeach Lloyd. But the court will
observe that no witness has been called who contradicts Lloyd's
statement in any material matter; neither has his general character
for truth been assailed. How, then, is he impeached ? Is it claimed
that his testimony shows that he was a party to the conspiracy ?
Then it is conceded by those who set up any such pretence that
there was a conspiracy. A conspiracy between whom ? There can
be no conspiracy without the co-operation or agreement of two or
more persons. Who were the other parties to it? Was it Mary E.
Surratt? Was it John H. Surratt, George A. Atzerodt, David E.
Herold ? Those are the only persons, so far as his own testimony or
the testimony of any other witness discloses, with whom he had any


communication whatever on any subject immediately or remotely
touching this conspiracy before the assassination. His receipt and
concealment of the arms are, unexplained, evidence that he was in
the conspiracy.

The explanation is that he was dependent upon Mary E. Surratt;
was her tenant; and his declaration, given in evidence by the accused
herself, is that "she had ruined him, and brought this trouble upon
him." But because he was weak enough, or wicked enough, to be-
come the guilty depositary of these arms, and to deliver them on the
order of Mary E . Surratt to the assassins, it does not follow that he
is not to be believed on oath. It is said that he concealed the facts that
the arms had been left and called for. He so testifies himself, but he
gives the reason that he did it only from apprehension of danger to
his life. If he were in the conspiracy, his general credit being
unchallenged, his testimony being uncontradicted in any material
matter, he is to be believed, and cannot be disbelieved if his testi-
mony is substantially corroborated by other reliable witnesses. Is
he not corroborated touching the deposit of arms by the fact that the
arms are produced in court one of which was found upon the
person of Booth at the time he was overtaken and slain, and which is
identified as the same which had been left with Lloyd by Herold,
Surratt, and Atzerodt ? Is he not corroborated in the fact of the first
interview with Mrs. Surratt by the joint testimony of Mrs. Offut and
Lewis J. Weichmann, each of whom testified, (and they are contra-
dicted by no one,) that on Tuesday, the llth day of April, at Un'on-
town, Mrs. Surratt called Mr. Lloyd to come to her, which he did,
and she held a secret conversation with him ? Is he not corroborated
as to the last conversation on the 14th of April by the testimony of
Mrs. Offut, who swears that upon the evening of the 14th of April
she saw the prisoner, Mary E. Surratt, at Lloyd's house, approach
and hold conversation with him ? Is he not corroborated in the fact,
to which he swears, that Mrs. Surratt delivered to him at that time
the field-glass wrapped in paper, by the sworn statement of Weich-
mann that Mrs. Surratt took with her on that occasion two packages,
both of which were wrapped in paper, and one of which he describes
'as a small package about six inches in diameter? The attempt was
made by calling Mrs. Offut to prove that no such package was de-
livered, but it failed; she merely states that Mrs. Surratt delivered
a package wrapped in paper to her after her arrival there, and before
Lloyd came in, which was laid down in the room. But whether it
was the package about which Lloyd testifies, or the other package of

the two about which Weichmann testifies, as having been carried
there that day by Mrs. Surratt, does not appear. Neither does this
witness pretend to say that Mrs. Surratt, after she had delivered it
to her, and the witness had laid it down in the room, did not again
take it up, if it were the same, and put it in the hands of Lloyd.
She only knows that she did not see that done; but she did see Lloyd
with a package like the one she received in the room before Mrs.
Surratt left. How it came into his possession she is not able to state;
nor what the package was that .Mrs. Surratt first handed her; nor
which of the packages it was she afterwards saw in the hands of
Lloyd .

But there is one other fact in this case that puts forever at reot the
question of the guilty participation of the prisoner Mrs. Surratt in
this conspiracy and murder; and that is that Payne, who had lodged
four days in her house who during all that time had sat at her table,
and who had often conversed with her when the guilt of his great
crime was upon him, and he knew not where else he could so safely
go to find a co-conspirator, arid he could trust none that was not like
himself, guilty, with even the knowledge of his presence under
cover of darkness, after wandering for three days and nights, skulk-
ing before the pursuing officers of justice, at the hour of midnight,
found his way to the door of Mrs. Surratt, rang the bell, was admit-
ted, and upon being asked, "Whom do you want to see," replied,
" Mrs. Surratt." He was then asked by the officer Morgan, what he
came at that time of night for? to which he replied, ' ; to dig a gutter
in the morning; Mrs. Surratt had sent for him." Afterwards he said
"Mrs. Surratt knew he was a poor man and came to him." Being
asked where he last worked ? he replied, " sometimes on T street;"
and where he boarded? he replied, "he had no boarding-house, and
was a poor man who got his living with the pick," which he bore
upon his shoulder, having stolen it from the intrenchments of the
capital. Upon being pressed again why he came there at that time
of night to go to work, he answered that he simply called to see what
time he should go to work in the morning. Upon being told by the
officer who fortunately had preceded him to this house that he would
have to go to the provost marshal's office, he moved and did not
answer, whereupon Mrs. Surratt was asked to step into the hall and
state whether she knew this man. Raising her right hand she ex-
claimed, "Before God, sir, I have not seen that man before; I have
not hired him; I do not know anything about him." The hall was
brilliantly lighted.


If not one word had been said, the mere act of Payne in flying
to her house for shelter would have borne witness against her, strong
as proofs from Holy Writ. But when she denies, after hearing his
declarations, that she had sent for him, or that she had gone to him
and hired him, and calls her God to witness that she had never seen
him, and knew nothing of him, when, in point of fact, she had seen
him for four successive days in her own house, in the same clothing
which he then wore, who can resist for a moment the conclusion that
these parties were alike guilty ?

The testimony of Spangler' s complicity is conclusive and brief. It
was impossible to hope for escape after assassinating the President,
and such others as might attend him in Ford's theatre, without ar-
rangements being first made to aid the flight of the assassin and to

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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 11 of 14)
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