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[314]

The evidence in the “Bureau of Military Justice,” upon which this accusation was brought against persons, some of whom had occupied high positions under the Federal Government, and all of whom through. life had enjoyed the confidence of their fellow-citizens, and unblemished reputations as private gentlemen, was carefully withheld from the public by the Bureau of Military Justice, thereby depriving the accused of the opportunity of at once exposing the equally extraordinary and improbable perjuries by which the President was deceived into the issuance of the Proclamation; while, meantime, the exalted source from which this indictment issued, and the morbid excitement of the public mind, gave color enough to the accusation to subject the accused to an ignominy scarcely less than should have ensued upon full proof of guilt.

The fact subsequently transpired, in spite of official vigilance to conceal it, that the “evidence in the Bureau of Military Justice,” was obtained from three witnesses secretly examined before the Military Commission which condemned Mrs. Surratt to the gallows. Their names, real or assumed, are Sandford Conover, Richard Montgomery and James B. Merritt. Their testimony, withheld from the public by the Government, found its way into the newspapers, and was commonly known at the time as “the suppressed testimony.” The publication of it enabled some of the parties assailed to expose its falsehood and the characters of the witnesses. Filed with this paper and as a part, but too long to read here, is the “evidence” in full, as reported by the Bureau of Military Justice upon which the proclamation issued, together with the facts, testimony and documents whereby the “.evidence” is shown to be from first to last a congeries of miserable falsehoods. That President Johnson was betrayed by an undeserved confidence in the information furnished from the Bureau of Military Justice; that the charge of the proclamation was made upon manifestly false testimony, in an hour of public excitement, is now universally accepted truth; nevertheless, I have thought it not out of place to put in the archives of the Southern Historical Association a brief review of this evidence, the necessity for any detailed exposition of which arises chiefly from the very effrontery of falsehoods, which the accused, had they been present, could have exposed in the most summary manner on the spot, but which from the extraordinary and contra-legal method in which they were received, impose the necessity of tedious detail and repetition of rebutting testimony to overthrow so preposterous and stupidly contrived falsehoods.

Sandford Conover, examined by Judge Advocate Bingham, swore

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Sandford Conover (2)
John H. Surratt (1)
Richard Montgomery (1)
James B. Merritt (1)
Andrew Johnson (1)
Bingham (1)
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