On July 7, 1865, the lives of three men and a frail and almost unconscious woman were deliberately ended by the hangman’s noose operating from a hastily built quadruple scaffold near the north wall of what is now Fort Lesley McNair in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Thus ended the life of the Maryland widow who was accused, convicted, and condemned for having a part in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Her death did not end the case, and this book is the last of a long procession dedicated either to the task of justifying the conviction and punishment, or to the mission of denouncing the trial as a travesty upon justice. It is safe to say it will not be the last to deal with the subject.
The book’s purpose is to determine the question of whether Mary E. Surratt was “guilty or innocent.” For the lawyer the question might have been better put in terms of whether the evidence demonstrated her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Whatever test is chosen, preponderance or beyond a reasonable doubt, the author’s conclusion is unqualified. To Guy Moore Mrs. Surratt was “as innocent of any part in the assassination . . . as anything can be which is not subject to absolute proof.” Whether such a conclusion will strike a favorable note in those who read the book will not be answered one way or the other with unanimity.
James A. Lake,
Book Review: The Case of Mrs. Surratt,
34 Neb. L. Rev. 157
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol34/iss1/20