The American Film Co. - Discussion Comments Feed - Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? The American Film Co. - Discussion Comments Feed - Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? en-us Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:10:00 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? After reading MANHUNT and ASSASSINATION VACATION, I cannot think of Edwin Stanton as anything other than a hero. Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:06:43 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? I find Stanton to be a very interesting historical individual who, like Mary Surrat, was vilified through exaggeration and misunderstanding. Was Mary Surrat guilty as charged? Did Stanton truly hate the South and force a reign of terror? Does either one deserve to be vilified or exonerated according to the evidence and prejudice history has left behind? The truth is we'll never actually know the truth because history is about facts and stories and not what someone was thinking at a moment when they couldn't write it down. Personally, I think that Stanton did go too far with the military tribunal and suspension of personal freedom, however Lincoln did the same in a time of war. Stanton stacked the deck against the conspirators, but he should have been satisfied with the tribunal's judgement of life in prison for Mrs. Surrat. I think his grief and anger fueled his thirst for revenge and I think he and others did take some advantage of the situation (like Bush did after 9/11) to create an atmosphere of fear, but I think he truly did want to see justice done, but his justice was not true justice. He may have seen the constitution as a hindrance or a guideline rather than the law. I don't think anyone is truly good or evil and I think that personal experiences and prejudices guide one's actions in a time of stress and uncertainty more than a societal norm or an inborn moral compass. Wed, 05 Sep 2012 17:09:54 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? I'm from the North and after living in the 50th state for almost 26 years, I'm in the North again. I can't agree with some of the arguments I've heard people pro-Union have made. There was an apartheid system in the South and even places in the North after emancipation (sp?); it may not have been officially US policy, but in practice it was definitely apartheid, so the Civil War didn't save the US from that. I have to admit that the Southern viewpoint has some very good points, states willing to join a union, and then deciding to rescind that choice at a later time, is that treason? How can forcing a federal government on states that wanted to secede be considered democratic? For all the talk in the North about preserving the Union, mostly it was, and would be today, economic interests that prevailed over the true principles of democracy. I'm not saying I'm completely in agreement with the Southern viewpoint, but I've read some good arguments that I haven't seriously entertained before. Mon, 18 Jun 2012 10:06:20 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? In the film The Conspirator Stanton stated that it did not matter to him if Mrs. Surratt was actually innocent. If he could not have the son, the mother would do just as well. Obviously, he was interested only in what appeared to be true and to appease the lust for revenge in a populous being whipped to near mass hysteria as to who devised the assassination plot of President Lincoln. Finding the truth would take a lot more time than what the populous and the military wanted to spend for justice to be done. The falibility of the humans on all sides of Mrs. Surratt ended up creating a pathway leading to her ultimate death. She should have reported the kidnapping plot, but Stanton doesn't seem to be the type of individual who would have looked for her innocence in trying to stop a crime. He changed her life in prison to a death sentence. In the end I think he was ultimately thwarted. A year later, wasn't it, all citizens, whether in times of war or peace are entitled to a trial with a jury of their peers. It came too late for her but not for us. Mon, 26 Sep 2011 00:09:14 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Edwin Stanton is by no means a hero and by no means a villian. He is a carefully blended mixture of both. Stanton would be considered, in my view, a "dark knight". I person who may and should be hated, but who's presence is necessary for survival and success. It is obvious to any historian that studies the Civil War that Stanton was corrupted and very aggresive when it came to saving the Union. Stanton did not uphold the Constitution and cared simply about preserving the Union at any cost. Although these are not positive comments one would hope to see about one's self, he did preserve the Union. By being the "dark knight", Stanton was able to take a more practical approach to running our great nation in its most trying hour. Without Stanton's unconstitutional deeds, our nation may have plummeted into chaos and ceased to exist. To answer the question I must quote Commissoner Gordon from Batman The Dark Knight, "Batman is the hero Gotham deserves. Because he's not a hero. He's a single guardian, a watchful protector. The Dark Knight". Just replace Batman with the name Edwin Stanton and Gotham with America and I think one effectively describes Stanton's role in the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination. Sun, 04 Sep 2011 21:09:35 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? I generally avoid these types of discussions since if you believe the South was right and I believe that Lincoln was correct in trying to maintain federal authority then the dialogue goes down hill pretty quickly. I guess I would ask however if you really would have preferred the United States divided into three or four small republics for that would have been the ultimate result of successful Southern secession. While slavery would undoutedkly have eventually ended the South would probably have maintained an apartheid system like South Africa's. I don't see any upside to all of this unless I'm missing something. Also, it was the supposedly peaceful Confederacy that attacked Union forces at Fort Sumter thereby precipitating the Civil War. (As a historian I do concede that there is debate about Lincoln's actions during the Sumter crisis.) Thu, 25 Aug 2011 13:08:58 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Many have indicated that Lincoln "saved the Union". I have often wondered what in the world that means. Does it count if most of the people that he forced into the "union" did not want that privilege? We make a big deal about self determination and freedom, yet when it comes to the South trying to peacefully establish a country of their own, then they ard accursed of trying to destroy the "union". In order to preserve the union, the US destroyed much of the wealth, homes, businesses of the South. They forced at the point of a bayonet the repatriation of the people. This is a good thing? This is something to be proud of? Mon, 22 Aug 2011 16:08:08 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? For me, two words apllied to Edwin Stanton: brilliant and driven. He had an incredibly astute legal mind and always seemed to be one step ahead of his opponents. Few people realize that he was one the first attorneys to successfully argue a temporary insanity defense. But he was also very driven and someone for whom any means was justified to achieve an end, especially if it was a end he personally desired. I have long felt that Stanton was also someone whose moral compass tended to be flawed in that, so long as it was something he desired, then any course to achive it was moral. Tue, 14 Jun 2011 14:06:33 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Part of the problem with evaluating Lincoln's wartime actions as "constitutional" or "unconstitutional" is that the Constitution as it existed in 1860 was a totally different document from what we have today. Lincoln's Constitution accepted slavery as legal, gave additional political power to slave owners under the 3/5ths rule, and required the return of runaway slaves. According to the Supreme Court in its infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Constitution of 1787 was for white people only -- even free African Americans had no rights under the Constitution and could never be citizens. So it was very much a flawed document and, while Lincoln acknowledged that he had sworn to protect, preserve and defend it, he also understood that the Constitution could not stand in the way of his doing what was necessary and proper to preserve the Union. That said, Lincoln always insisted that his actions as Chief Magistrate were lawful and constitutional, including suspending the writ of habeas corpus. Sat, 07 May 2011 16:05:22 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Michael C. After almost a half century of research and study of the American Civil War, I am of the belief that the words and actions of both Lincoln and Stanton, when it came to the country were similar, if not the same, pursuant to "the most cited legal scholar of all time", Richard Allen Posner: “Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts during the Civil War show that even legality must sometimes be sacrificed for other values. We are a nation under law, but first we are a nation”. Sun, 24 Apr 2011 13:04:35 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Michael C: I think you try to draw too much of a distinction between Stanton and Lincoln. For a long time historians castigated Lincoln for suspending the writ of habeas corpus, trying civilians before military commissions, shutting down newspapers, and other civil rights violations. In fact they argued that in this area Davis had a better record than Lincoln. While Mark Neeley provided an excellent corrective to the older anecdotal evidence about Lincoln and civil liberties in his Pulitzer Prize winning work "The Fate of Liberty," demonstrating that most arrests were in the border areas and involved people doing things against the government rather than saying things, Lincoln's record is still hotly debated. Stanton is remembered for one famous case, that of the assassination conspirators, but the Lincoln administration tried over 4000 civilians before military courts over the course of the Civil War. I agree that Lincoln didn't see such extraordinary actions as permanent; they would go away when peace was restored. Nonetheless Lincoln made it clear he would do what he had to in order to save the Union and he seems to have had very few regrets about any such action that he had to take. Sat, 23 Apr 2011 18:04:06 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Who can disagree? Everyone who believes that the Constitution trumps the impulses of someone like Stanton or, more recently, General Haig -- people more than willing to suspend the Constitution for what they regard as the greater good. Can you imagine Lincoln himself behaving as Stanton did? Certainly not, and for good reason. Lincoln cared for the whole country, Stanton was obsessed with domination. Fri, 22 Apr 2011 21:04:33 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? A few years ago I researched Edwin McMaster Stanton to learn about the man himself. As a result, I learned some surprising personal things about him, which no doubt had a profound effect upon his public persona. Hopefully, it helps to know Mars Stanton a little bit better than before. For example, he had a preoccupation, a morbid mania if you will, with the dead and death in general. On one hand he dreaded the dead, on the other he was obsessed over the dead. It seemed to have started in his late teens. He was working in an Ohio book store to help support his family – his father had died when Stanton, a chronic asthma sufferer, was age 13. It was soon after he that began to suffer from migraine headaches as well. In 1833, at age 19, his landlady’s daughter suddenly died of cholera. Stanton refused to accept the fact that the girl was dead. So he returned to the cemetery and exhumed her body to confirm the death. As Shakespeare wrote: “the past is prologue”, it was in Stanton’s life. In 1836 Stanton married May Lamson and they had two children; Lucy Lamson Stanton and Edwin Lamson Stanton They built a house in Cadiz, Ohio, and he began to practice law. All seemed fine for the Stanton until his daughter Lucy died in 1841. Stanton was so overcome with grief that he had her coffin exhumed and kept in a spare room in his home for two years before he relented and returned it to the ground. Then his wife Mary abruptly died 1844 and Stanton became comatose and depressed. He seemed on the verge of recovery when his brother Darwin suddenly committed suicide in 1846 [he slit his own throat causing blood splatter across the ceiling]. At the funeral Stanton became so distraught he had to be forcibly restrained by other mourners. The four deaths in a dozen years changed Stanton for the rest of his own short life [he’d die at only age 55]. Moving to Pittsburgh, He became a crude and rude man, which perfectly fit both his profession and personality – a litigator akin to an alligator. In June 1856, after another twelve years of misery, Stanton married his second wife Ellen Hutchinson, a member of a prominent Pennsylvania family. They had four children, Eleanor Adams Stanton, James Hutchinson Stanton, Lewis Hutchinson Stanton and Bessie Stanton. Rich and successful, Stanton had four servants taking care of his household, when in 1862 William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase successfully lobbied Abraham Lincoln to name Stanton, a Democrat, as his new Secretary of War. The two men, working side by side, hit it off and bonded. Stanton’s biographers, B.P. Thomas & H.M. Hyman put the odd pairing in proper perspective as follows: “The President, heartsick over the failures that had attended the Union cause thus far, and weary of the ineptitude and incapacity of many of those who served him, saw in Stanton the man he needed. Almost immediately a deep intimacy began to grow up between these two disparate personalities. Lincoln never referred to the abuse he had suffered at Stanton's hands in earlier years, or to the epithets Stanton had used against him more recently. Stanton had found a man to follow” But maybe perhaps it was deeper than even that. Due to the war, death was all around them. As fathers, both men loved their children. As fathers, they both lost children as well. When Willie Lincoln died in February of 1862 to be followed by James Hutchinson Stanton in July of 1862, the President and his Secretary of War would be there for each other, when their wives weren’t. In other words, they shared both the work and the worry. For Lincoln and Stanton, keeping busy was the best medicine there was. During the research and development of Dixie Reckoning, I discovered a document that put it all together for me regarding Stanton: [Congressional Medal of Honor recipient] Nineveh Shaw McKeen, one of the fifteen original diggers of the “Little Tunnel” party, would escape from Libby Prison with one hundred and eight other Union officers during the night of February 9, 1864. Paired with Captain William S.B. Randall of the 2nd Ohio Infantry, McKeen and Randall would manage miraculously to make it through the lines until they literally ran into the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry who escorted them to a hero’s welcome in Washington and a private audience with Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton. Randall would recall both their extraordinary escape and an exceptional exchange with Stanton as well: “At 7:30 p.m. on the evening of the 9th of Feb., 1864, we started out…We went only two at a time…My working partner, and my partner all through, was Lieut. N.S. McKeen, of the 21st Ill. (Gen. Grant’s old regiment) We locked arms and walked right up through central Richmond with but little real trouble; but we had many ‘hair-breadth’ escapes. We got though their fortifications and picket lines, making a circuitous route first north, then northeast, and then east…when we waded the Chickahominy, and the green briars and hedges and thickets robbed us of nearly all of our scanty clothing…we almost perished with hunger. We often found ourselves in the midst of our enemies, but somehow we managed to escape them. They trailed us with bloodhounds, but we broke their trail with cayenne pepper…We finally came in sight of what we supposed to be rebel cavalry dressed in our uniform…We watched them for a long time…they were a detachment of the 11th Pa. Cav….We were sent to Washington, where we met the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War. I shall never forget his look when we came into his presence; it was a mingled look of pity, grief, and hatred. Every kindness was shown us after we reached our lines, and we felt our sufferings had not been in vain. We felt as though we had been tried by fire, and our love for our country and devotion to the old flag was a thousand times stronger than before our capture”. National Tribune. Published: Thursday March 27, 1890. Libby Prison Experience. Reprint of Letter dated December 21, 1889 from W.S.B. Randall to Hon. H.L. Morey. Nineveh Shaw McKeen [1837-1890] McKeen would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor on June 23, 1890 with the following citation: “Conspicuous in the charge at Stones River, Tenn., where he was three times wounded. At Liberty Gap, Tenn., captured colors of 8th Arkansas Infantry (C.S.A.)”. The Edwardsville Intelligencer reported his death six months later on December 24, 1890: “N.S. McKeen, aged 53 years, after an illness of three weeks, died at his home on Church Street, Sunday night, December 22, 1890, of congestion of the brain…” Wed, 20 Apr 2011 22:04:06 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? One correction. Arnold was released but O'Laughlen died of yellow fever at Fort Jefferson. Sat, 16 Apr 2011 15:04:59 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? chsteine: I have little doubt that Mary Surratt was aware of the kidnapping plot. "The Conspirator" is accurate when it portrays her in this manner. Joan Chaconas discovered George Atzerodt's so-called confession in the papers of his lawyer where Atzeodt says that Booth sent Mary to tell Loyd to have the guns ready. As Ed Steers and others have written, the kidnapping was a joint venture with the possibility that things might go wrong and Lincoln could be injured or killed. If kidnapping turned to murder then all could be charged with that crime. However Arnold and O'Laughlen who were clearly in on the kidnapping avoided the death penalty and were released several years later. If you wan't to examine the view that Mary Surratt might even have been involved in the murder plans read Kate Larson's book "The Assassin's Accomplice.' Even Kate admits that you cannot prove her involvement in the president's death with 100% certainty and historians seemed destined to continue the debate about the degree of her involvement. I am hesitant to generate a debate about the death penalty but as a historian who has studied this case and others such as Sacco and Vanzetti I oppose the death penalty. There is no doubt that innocent people have been executed in American history and I believe life without parole would allow injustices to be corrected if new evidence casts doubt about the original verdicts. Otherwise controversial cases are left to the court of history. Sat, 16 Apr 2011 13:04:53 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Professor Turner, Do you yourself believe that Mary Surrat was a conspirator? Thu, 14 Apr 2011 22:04:09 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? A sidenote on Stanton:. . .I photographed Stanton's grave in Georgetown last year [along with the graves of Generals Jesse Reno and Cadmus Wilcox and a dozen other ACW era notables] and noticed that a large tree is growing out of the center of his grave . .other than whatever symbolism may be there, I found it odd that this was allowed to happen to the burial site of such a personage. . .It is a beautiful cemetery, maintained magnificently . .and then . . there is the 'tree' . . .anyway . .nuff said . . Mon, 04 Apr 2011 12:04:50 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? I would not suggest that there can never be conspiracy involved in assassinations but the burden of proof falls on those who argue sensational conspiracy theories. Since conspiracies are seen behind many American assassinations it is all too easy to believe the wildest tales, which can often be easily disproven. I mentioned "The Lincoln Conspiracy" under "books related to this subject" as an example of a book (and movie) that proposes Stanton's involvement in Lincoln's death. In this scenario the Radicals replace Booth who is a bungler at kidnapping Lincoln with James Ward Boyd, a former Confederate soldier. An angry Booth, however, will not be warned off of the plot and just as Boyd is about to kidnap the president Booth shoots him. Through a series of events Boyd ends up dying in Garrett's Barn and Booth gets away. Of course the Radicals conceal this because of their own involvement. While this may sound plausible to some, convincing evidence shows that Boyd died in January of 1866 (not April 1865), meaning that "The Lincoln Conspiracy" is based on fraudulent documentation. With this in mind I want a lot of proof before I will rewrite history. I do agree with one point that austinmanix makes about the dangers of a violent political climate. Reconstruction witnessed high assassination levels and the assassinations of the 1960's and early 1970's occurred during the Vietnam War. Heated rhetotic and random violence don't guarantee assassinations will happen but they can create a dangerous climate. Tue, 15 Mar 2011 19:03:58 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? It is hard to study the assassination of a president or other political leader and not wonder if their (the assassinated or injured) own party was behind it. Look at those who benefited from the deaths of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. I have to agree with Eisenschiml that the Radicals believed that Lincoln was too tenderhearted. We'll never know the real reasons behind the assassinations of any of our presidents. Unfortunately, we're lied to on a daily basis by our leaders. It almost as if they are wanting to create another civil war. I hear people on the news calling Obama a dictator, Hitler, and Mussolini among other things. The pot is being stirred and I believe that it will come down to Americans once again having to pick sides. It's sad. Sun, 13 Mar 2011 21:03:58 -0400 Edwin Stanton: Hero, Villain, or Something Else? Tom,This is very intriguing and it could be an open "hornets"nest.You have raised an excellent point.Who knows and what can be proven? Sat, 12 Mar 2011 15:03:49 -0500