Wolfe: What factors motivated you to revisit the events you have covered?
Griffin: Over the years Eisenschiml's words echoed and re-echoed in my mind, and as the years passed I became increasingly convinced that he was right. Then, in my research, I came across an article in The Civil War Times [of 1961] that he did not have access to, and that article convinced me that he was right.
Wolfe: There have been many previous articles and books advancing the idea of a conspiracy in lieu of the story that Booth acted on his own out of his own impulses [in the shooting of Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865, at the Ford Theatre]. What critical aspects of the conspiracy alternative did you construe as missing and/or mistaken?
Griffin: See Chapter Two of my book concerning a discovery by Ray Neff, a New Jersy chemist, which he published in 1959. It was considered a bombshell at the time, though it is apparently little remembered today. It was a document, written in code, which named [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton and [Vice President Andrew] Johnson as the prime movers behind the conspiracy to murder Lincoln. It was written by Lafayette Baker, Stanton's Chief of the Secret Service (National Detective Agency). Back in 1959 the Main Stream historians in America were in a dither to contradict the article discovered by Ray Neff. These Main Liners never disagree with the Official Party Line out of Washington. They build and maintain their careers by being official Washington's little lap dogs. Believe me, whatever else these people may or may not be, they are inevitably "politically correct." The same people defend the Warren Commission's findings with their very lives! "Oh, yes, of course," they say, "both Lincoln and Kennedy were killed by lone nut gunmen." Let me also point out that the day following the murder, Washington was all abuzz with the rumor that Stanton and Johnson were behind the conspiracy. So that supposition was not new with Eisenschiml, nor with John Griffin. In fact, within a few days following the murder, that rumor was being shouted in the halls of the U. S. Senate. Indeed, during the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1867, Senator Ben "The Beast" Butler shouted, "Who? I ask you who? Who benefited from the murder of the President of the United States?" Then he pointed at Johnson. "That is the man, gentlemen."
Wolfe: Do I assume correctly that you view "conspiracy" more or less in the same light as the term is defined in law, as a meeting of the minds rather than strictly as a plot hatched by the participants in a physical meeting wherein they initiated a common plan? I ask this because you have delineated different motives on the part of individuals who were not otherwise in agreement with each other and who, one would think, were unlikely to meet with each other to formulate a common plan.
Griffin: I see your point, and it is a good one. But I maintain that Stanton and Johnson were motivated by Lincoln's new and revised Reconstruction policy for the South. Heretofore he had preached a very harsh Reconsturction policy. The South would be punished; they would have no Constitutional rights; they would be robbed and pillaged at every turn; everyone in the North would become an overnight millionaire at the South's expense. Which was what the Radical Republicans in
Congress wanted to hear. Ah, but now, now that Lee had just surrendered to Grant, Lincoln did a 180-degree flip-flop on Reconstruction. Now he began telling everyone that there would be no Reconstruction for the South. They would be welcomed back into the Union with open arms, just
as though they had never been away, with all their constitutional rights restored. There would be no robbery or pillage; there would be no overnight millionaires in the North. And this is not what the Radical Republicans wanted to hear. And this was the kiss of death for Abe Lincoln. He must be terminated and the old South hater, Andrew Johnson, installed as President. Lincoln, by the way,was not motivated by any Golden Rule. No, he had his eye on the Presidential election of 1868 and trying to win support from Southern political leaders. And he could get that support by promising them no Reconstruction. Death disrupted his plans.
Wolfe: How long did you spend on research and how long on the writing of the book?
Griffin: I research and write at the same time. Tomorrow I write up what I learned from research today. All in all, I believe it took less than a year to get the book ready for publication. I did the entire book on my computer (the PageMaker program), including photos, put it on disk, then sent the disk to the publisher.
Wolfe: Did you have any trouble finding a publisher? Was there resistance? If so, how many solicitations did it take to find a publisher?
Griffin: I'm not aware of any resistence. At least not at this point. Later, if the book continues to do well, I might run into some problems from some of the Main Liners who are dedicated to protecting the Official Party Line. Pelican was the first publisher I approached. It took them forever to respond (about six months), but then they sent me a contract. I've always had a very good relationship with Pelican.
Wolfe: Was the book agented, and if so who was the agent?
Griffin: I had no agent. Still don't, though I wish now I did, for I've just completed writing a mystery novel. And finding a publisher for fiction is a whole new ball game.
Wolfe: Who was the editor with whom you worked, and was that editor's enthusiasm for the book what decided its acceptance?
Griffin: Noni Kooij (the name is Dutch and pronounced "Coy") is the Chief Editor at Pelican. And I believe she made the decision to publish the book, though I'm not certain about that.
Wolfe: In view of what amounts to an attack by you on Lincoln, both in regard to his character and motives, I would imagine that you have been subjected somewhere along the line to the criticism that you, as a southerner, harbor a grudge and bias. If in fact you have been subjected to that criticism, from what source has it emanated, and how have you dealt with it?
Griffin: There is the factual Lincoln, then there is the Lincoln we learned about in the public schools. The factual Lincoln, one of the most unscrupulous scoundrels ever to hold political office, is a matter
of public record. One has only to look it up. And in fact I did not go into this book with a grudge or a bias, but with a determination to go wherever the facts led me. For example, he [Lincoln] was President of the American Resettlement Society, dedicated to grabbing up freed slaves and shipping them back to Africa (Liberia); and he suspended the writ of habeas corpus and then jailed thousands of Northern citiziens and burned down dozens of Northern newspapers simply because they criticized him or the war. The list goes on and on. My conclusions concerning Lincoln are easily proven, so perhaps that's why I've not been attacked as anti-Lincooln.
Wolfe: Has any reputable scholar challenged any of your facts, analyses, and/or conclusions, and if so which scholar or scholars, and how have you responded?
Griffin: Not to my knowledge. If they did, I'd grab my musket and go hunting for them.
The above interview was contributed by: Burton H. Wolfe: Burton is an award winning journalist and the author of hundreds of published articles and of books such The Hippies (New American Library), Hitler and the Nazis (Putnam), and Pileup on Death Row (Doubleday). Wolfe publishes an occasional newsletter called "Burton Wolfe's Internet Rag" and maintains a web site.
To read Burton's Review CLICK HERE