Stanton, Torture, and Military Prisons — Setting the Precedent, PART II

by Al Benson Jr.

Author Nathaniel Weyl has agreed with Otto Eisenschilm’s view of what Edwin M. Stanton and company were all about. In The Battle Against Disloyalty he wrote: "In the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, the United States War Department bore some traces of resemblance to the Soviet secret police. It’s leaders were zealots who believed that, if the end didn’t justify the means, nothing else could."

Colonel Baker, head of the National Detectives has been described by Weyl as "An enormously vain and unscrupulous person, Baker was also a congenital liar, intriguer, and twister." Sounds like just about the right qualifications for an agent in the Lincoln administration. His boss, the venerable Stanton has been pictured as "A rude, rough, vigorous Oliver Cromwell sort of man, incapable of generosity to a prostrate foe, arbitrary, bad tempered and impulsive, double-faced, tyrannical, with an inordinate desire for office." I wonder if those were his good points. Again, sterling qualities for a Lincoln administration member! In mentioning the Lincoln assassins (at least those we’ve been told about) Weyl observed that their trial "served as an opening move in deeply calculated positional play for something akin to a military dictatorship." Something else our "history" books never bother to deal with.

In regard to the conspirators Weyl told us that Eisenschiml pointed out that torture was used on them, not to obtain confessions, but rather to keep them quiet. And the conclusion that Eisenschiml drew was that "…War Secretary Stanton not only knew of the murder plans and allowed them to mature, but may have been in guilty communication with Booth…Certainly as far as the radicals were concerned, Lincoln’s political usefulness ceased the moment the war was won. His clashes with Stanton on policy matters were becoming more and more frequent. Since he had the support of the people, there was no legal means of removing him." Weyl also pointed out that there were some problems with this theory.

Stanton was quite anxious to lay the blame for the assassination upon Richmond. Yet his only two links there were Booth, who we have been told was killed, and John Surrat, who had gotten away to Canada, and eventually to Europe. It was felt that those arrested for the assassination would have denied any conspiratorial connections with the Confederacy, should they have been allowed to talk freely, and so Weyl stated: "It was therefore essential to the grand political design that they be silenced–by torture if necessary. To prove the great conspiracy, Stanton relied on his crony, Judge Advocate General Holt, and on his creature, General LaFayette Baker. The latter bustled off to Canada where he collected the most preposterous herd of witnesses ever for a political trial…Meanwhile Judge Holt ran a school for perjury in Washington."

Stanton wasn’t about to do this on the up and up. So much for justice in Amerika in 1865! Is it any better now?

Even establishment historians had to admit that there was a torture policy in Yankeedom (though they officially denied it and hid behind the Lieber Code). In mentioning torture, Mark Neely Jr. in The Fate of Liberty has told us that the likeliest torture victims were not even Southerners, "They were Northerners suspected of deserting from the United States Army." Neely also noted that military authorities often arrested some suspects who turned out not to be deserters but were, in fact, innocent of anything. He told us of six men who were arrested as Union Army deserters in 1864 who, were, in fact, innocent because they were British subjects. And he said: "In 1864 the complaints of these prisoners to British authorities in the United States began to include descriptions of torture." When even establishment historians have to fess up to the fact that torture was employed by the Yankees, you have to realise it was probably a lot worse than they have told us it was.

In updating what is essentially the identical situation columnist Charley Reese has said: "Who would have guessed that George W. Bush, who seemed to be a genial good old boy, would turn out to be a tyrant, launching wars of aggression, arresting and confining people without charges or access to a lawyer, condoning torture and lying to the American people? A government that can without trial destroy you by simply putting your name on a list or the name of an organization with which you are associated is a tyranny." As with Lincoln, so with Bush. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. And all of this from those "conservative, small-government Republicans". It should make people begin to sit up and wonder what the deal is. Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Copyright © 2006-2008 Al Benson, Jr

On The Web: