Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'The Nation' on Acting Attorney General John Milton Binckley, August 15, 1867

From The Nation, Vol. V, No. 111, page [121]. Thursday, August 15, 1867. 

Perhaps the funniest episode of the week was the revelations made on Saturday by the Acting Attorney-General, Mr. Binckley, of attempts made on the virtue of Charles A. Dunham, alias Sandford Conover, by Messrs. Ashley and Butler, the impeachers. Dunham, it may not be generally known, is one of the most distinguished perjurers of whom history makes any note, and swore right and left before courts-martial during the investigations consequent on Mr. Lincoln's death, in a way which makes Titus Oates seem a very insignificant personage. He was found out, however, convicted, and sentenced to the penitentiary for a practically interminable period. Being naturally desirous, however, of avoiding serving out his sentence, he got up a story that Mr. Ashley and General Butler, of all men in the world, had endeavored to induce him to furnish evidence that Mr. Johnson had been guilty of complicity in Mr. Lincoln's assassination, and for this little service they were to procure his pardon. The proof furnished by Dunham of this extraordinary performance on the part of these gentlemen is, that Mr. Ashley did sign a petition for his (Dunham's) pardon, and that he did write him four short notes, in one of which he says he is going to Philadelphia, and presses Dunham to send him his “statement,” in another, he acknowledges the receipt of the “statement;” in the third he advises Dunham to have his counsel act “as he (the counsel) deems best, taking advantage of every legal point that may be presented;” in the fourth, Mr. Ashley says he has just seen Mrs. Dunham, and he does not believe the “false, stupid reports” against Mr. Dunham, and that if this gentleman would send him “the originals,” they should be carefully preserved. So much for the evidence against Mr. Ashley. Of proof against General Butler there is not a scintilla, except the assertion of C. A. Dunham, Esq., himself. One does not need to have a very high opinion of either Mr. Ashley or General Butler to have a hearty laugh over this story, although “the Acting Attorney-General” writes it out with much solemnity, and appends to it moral reflections which we all may read with profit. All we can say is, that for twenty five dollars and a promise of indemnity three or more gentlemen connected with the administration of criminal justice in this city may be produced to prove on oath offences of the most startling character, not against Ashley and Butler only, but against any of the leading Radicals whom Mr. Johnson may desire to have brought to shame, commencing with their early Sunday-school larcenies, and running on through burglary, forgery, horse stealing, and murder in the first degree.

[This matter was referenced in a letter from Mary Louisa Mitchell Binckley (1838-1930) to John Milton Binckley (1821-1878), August 14, 1867, here.

Johnson = President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), who strangely enough had no Vice President]. 

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