« COVID defeats free speech and the national anthemm (Update) | Main | Listen to the Codgers: Tushnet and Seidman on 50 Years in the Legal Academy »

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Booth Conspiracy and the Transfer of Power

Here's an interesting point that I hadn't thought about until the riot at the Capitol. When the Government tried the conspirators to President Lincoln's assassination before a military commission, here was part of the charge:

"[B]y the killing and murder of the said Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulyssus S. Grant, and William Seward, as aforesaid, to deprive the Army and Navy of the United States of a constitutional Commander-In-Chief; and to deprive the Armies of the United States of their lawful commander, and to prevent a lawful election of President and Vice-President of the United States aforesaid; and by means aforesaid to aid and comfort the insurgents engaged in armed rebellion against the said United States, as aforesaid, and thereby to aid in the subversion and overthrow of the Constitution . . ."

The charge explained that the Secretary of State alone was given the duty by law "upon the death of said President and Vice President of the United States aforesaid to cause an election to be held for electors of President of the United States." By killing Seward as well, John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices were seeking to prevent such a special election from being called.   

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on February 25, 2021 at 02:23 PM | Permalink


"John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices were seeking to prevent such a special election from being called."

Wait. If Andrew Johnson was murdered, a special election (called by Seward) could have been called? When?

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2021 12:48:10 PM

Interesting. I have read other explanations for trial before military commission (if that was the issue the author of the post, meant to deal with).

Here I quote what said the Secretary of War at the time (Edwin Stanton):

" it was intention that the criminals should be tried and executed before President Lincoln was buried."

And other reason offered by the opinion of Speed (Attorney general):

"Speed reasoned that an attack on the commander-in-chief before the full cessation of the rebellion constituted an act of war against the United States, making the War Department the appropriate body to control the proceedings."




Posted by: El roam | Feb 25, 2021 3:06:48 PM

Post a comment