The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details
By I. Windslow Ayer

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Chap. XXI.


The evidence in the case before the military commission at Cincinnati, having closed, the counsel who represented the prisoners made their addresses–they cannot be called arguments–and the court adjourned to Tuesday, April 18. As lawyers who have no valid defence, observe it as a policy to attack the Government witnesses with great fury, so Messrs. Hervey and Wilson, true to the ethics of their profession, made a grand assault upon the principal witnesses. Counsellor Hervey, in his harangue, used the following language, which illustrates the line of “argument” for defence:

“Some two hundred years ago,” said the learned counsel, “there was a man in England who swore away the lives of his fellow citizens by wholesale. His name was Dr. Titus Oates–the man who got up what was called the Popish plot, and by perjury and villainy, consigned many an innocent head to the scaffold. He was assisted by a man who has, as no other judge has, disgraced the ermine–Jeffries, who drank himself to death in the tower, when his co-worker in iniquities and evil deeds with dreadful and condign punishment followed him. The effort of nature to produce so great a monster was so terrible that it required a resting spell of two hundred years before she could produce another such monster in the shape of Dr. I. Winslow Ayer.”

We forgive him, for he was obliged to seem to do or say something to earn his “fee.” There being no arguments for defence, but only such pathetic appeals as only a lawyer, without the least hope, would make, feeling that his clients would expect something, we need not take our space to report their remarks.

On Tuesday April 18, Judge Advocate Burnet made his closing argument for the Government. It was truly a master-piece, complete in every part. It was such an effort as might have been expected, of one who has, during this long tedious trial, shown himself a gentleman, a profound counsellor, a true patriot and an advocate of justice, whose only aim has been to elicit truth, and be the better enabled to serve the true interests of the country. We would gladly present every argument and address he has made, during the trial, but space will not admit, and we therefore invite careful attention to the following sketch of his address:

The Judge Advocate, in referring to the accused, said:

There are two sides to this case; two sides for the manifestation of sympathy. While here is an old, white-haired man before you, whose every thing is at stake; while here is a father, a generous, open-hearted, and impulsive man, whose all is at stake; and here is a soldier, who has fought in every clime, and who has taken up his sword to destroy life in every cause, whose everything is also at stake, yet there is, on the other side, your Government at stake. If these men be guilty, justice to the nation demands of you this day that you should convict them, and you must not waver. In the consideration of this case, you must bring to your aid a power, that may be a little more than is ordinarily given to human nature. You must, for the time, sink all hatred, malice, even human sympathy; and rise, God-like, to determine the truth and adjust the punishment.

That these accused would enter upon the commission of so heinous a crime, I can scarcely permit myself to believe. They have made a strong appeal to your sympathies. Each counsel has advocated the cause of his client with an earnestness and an eloquence that does him honor; I shall always respect them, and bear them in kindly recollection.

But there seems to have been something, during these four years of the nation’s trial, that has appeared to paralyze the native instincts of the American heart. This phantom, this siren of secession, with her enticing song, seems to have lulled to sleep the better part of human nature. At the sound of her voice, and the flash of her eye, men have sprung to arms, to grapple with the life of the nation, because it was free! They have followed, at the beck of the siren, over desolated homes; they have trampled over the dead corpses of murdered brothers, and innocent women and children. They have blackened the land with desolation, and made it the abode of moaning and woe. She has blinded, while she has demoralized them. Old men, forgetting their white hairs, have joined in the conspiracy at the beck of this phantom, who has taken out of the human heart its heaven-born instincts, to plant there those of vengeance, and the thirst for blood.

My tongue falters as I look over this country and see bereaved widows and orphans, the white-haired patriots that mourn for the first-born, that shall ne’er greet them, and those who sit at the desolate hearth, with hands upraised, waiting for the knock that will be but the death-knell of all their hopes; and think that the phantom of secession has caused all this!

Men who were kind fathers, kind husbands and noble patriots, have forgotten it all in a day, and have become traitors, and inculcated doctrines that have, by the hands of fiends, stricken down that patriotic and noble leader of the human race. There is something in it which no man can comprehend. The doctrines which they inculcate harden the heart, and nerve the arm to crime, enabling them to commit robbery, arson and murder, for all is in her category; and as they commit those crimes, the appeal to God for the justness of their cause. That is what has deceived these men; it is this accursed phantom of secession that has blinded their eyes; that has cooled their hearts and filled them with vengeance. It is this that has changed and perverted the human instincts, that should have ruled in their breasts.

Of this man Walsh, I have simply this to say: The evidence is as you have seen it. I have briefly sketched it; I will not dwell upon much that ought to be said; I can not. The testimony is voluminous, filling 2,000 or 2,500 pages. I have had but a few days to scan through it; I have given you only the leading points, and you must judge. I would not say one word that would take from this family their father; but if this man was guilty of this crime, or has aided and abetted this conspiracy, you have but one duty to perform. You must know no man, be influenced by no bias, betray no sympathy, but must be firm in the performance of your stern duty. There are thirty millions of suffering people in this land, and against these, one man’s life, if guilty, weighs little in the scale of justice. We have, unhappily, in the history of this war, frequently seen sympathy manifested for criminals, rebels and traitors–those who have brought this great injustice upon the true and the loyal. It is not mercy to acquit those guilty of cruelty to a people who are struggling for their very existence; it would be cruelty to our brave soldiers, and to those who have been left widows and orphans.

As to Judge Morris–for his white hair and old age, I have only respect. For all that is worthy in him as a citizen, I do him reverence; but if this white-haired old man has engaged in a conspiracy against my nation and my country, I turn to the other side, and see white-haired patriots who mourn in sadness because such as he have done these evil deeds,–and I remember Justice!

As to this man Grenfel, I confess I have no sympathy with him; no sympathy for the foreigner who lands in our country when this nation is engaged in the struggle for human right and human liberty, and who takes part in the quarrel against us, and arrays himself on the side of those who are trying to establish tyranny and slavery. I have no sympathy for the man whose sword is unsheathed for hire and not for principle; for whom slavery and despotism have more charms than freedom and liberty. The motive of such a one does not rise even to the dignity of vengeance. As has been said by his counsel, his sword has gleamed in every sun, and has been employed on the side of almost every nationality, and after this he engages in our struggle, and, as testified to by Colonel Moore, desires to raise the black flag against our prisoners; and after men have yielded as prisoners of war, he rides up to one, and stabs him, coward like, in the back.

But he is not true to the cause he espouses. When in Washington he went to the Secretary of War and betrays the very people with whom he had been fighting; tells all he knows of the strength, position and designs of the Confederates. He said he proposed to leave immediately for England, but he breaks his faith, proceeds to Canada, and is found among the conspirators, and is now here, charged with these crimes to-day. There is no throb of my heart that beats in unison with such conduct as this. He was a fit instrument to be used in this enterprise. What to him would be the wail of women and little ones? What to him would be the pleadings of old men and unarmed citizens?

The delivery of Judge Burnett’s argument occupied three and a half hours, after which the Commission adjourned to meet at four o’clock P.M., to deliberate on the findings and sentence. They accordingly met at the hour appointed, and, after mature deliberation, finally recorded their verdict.

General Hooker issued General Orders No. 30, April 22, in which he promulgates the finding of the military commission which, for three months past, has been engaged in the trial of the alleged Chicago conspirators. The commission have acquitted Buckner S. Morris and Vincent Marmaduke, and they are to be discharged upon their taking the oath of allegiance. They find Charles Walsh and Richard T. Semmes guilty of all the charges and specifications, and sentence the former to five years’ imprisonment at hard labor from the 7th of November last, and the latter to three years’ imprisonment at hard labor from the same date, at such place as the commanding general may direct. Gen. Hooker has named the State penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio.

Cantrill’s trial has been continued; Anderson committed suicide, and Charles Travis Daniels escaped. The commission found a verdict against Daniels, but it has not yet been promulgated. The findings against G. St. Leger Grenfell have not yet been announced officially; but it is death, at such time and place as Gen. Hooker shall designate. The commission has been dissolved.

The Chicago Tribune, in speaking of the sentence, says:

The trial of the Chicago conspirators has ended, the sentences have been pronounced and approved, and the court has adjourned. Buckner S. Morris and Vincent Marmaduke are acquitted and Charles Walsh and Richard T. Semmes were found guilty of the entire charges and specifications, to wit: of conspiracy for the relief of the prisoners at Camp Douglas, and of conspiring to “lay waste and destroy” the city of Chicago. Walsh is sentenced to imprisonment for five years from November 7th, 1864, and Semmes to imprisonment at hard labor for three years from the date of sentence. The findings against G. St. Leger Grenfell have not been officially promulgated, but it is stated that he is found guilty and sentenced to death, at such time and place as Gen. Hooker shall designate. The penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio, is designated as the place of confinement of Walsh and Semmes. The trial has been long, mainly by reason of the course pursued by the defense, whose aim has been to protract it, so as to tire out the perseverance of the prosecution and the patience of the court and people. The court have performed their arduous duties with great ability and fairness. The result will doubtless be satisfactory to the people. It is proved that this great crime was in all its naked deformity and depravity actually committed. It follows that the Copperhead statement, published in the rebel organ in this city, charging that the entire plot and arrest of these Copperhead traitors and assassins were invented by the Union Republicans of Chicago as an electioneering trick, was the subterfuge of conscious guilt trying to cover up its tracks and to rub out the stains of its own attempted crimes. The same organ now impugns the “competency” of the Court. It may consider itself fortunate that it has not had an opportunity to argue the question of jurisdiction on its own behalf before a similar tribunal. Its opposition to such courts originates in a feeling of uneasiness about its own safety. For

“Thief ne’er felt the halter draw
 With good opinion of the law.”


At a public meeting held in Chicago, after the announcement of the assassination, Rev. Dr. Tiffany, in an able and eloquent address said:

“God alone is great. At rare intervals he sends us a man beyond the limit of our measure. Our attention has been directed to the excellences of the character which belonged to our late President, and to the spirit of the system which gave strength to the blow of the assassin. A more terrible topic is now to be discussed–our relation to that spirit–our responsibility for that blow.

We have been accustomed to say, “slavery is sectional, and freedom national,” let those who elect slavery take the results of slavery to themselves; let them suffer, if their choice brings suffering; but as for us, we wash our hands in innocency, and hold ourselves guiltless of blood.” And so we have been going on ever since the outbreak of slavery in the form of armed rebellion. “They are the guilty parties, let them suffer.” But has all this been right? Have we had no responsibility? Is no guilt ours? We may not have owned slaves, but we may have made a common cause with men owners–may have brought condemnation upon ourselves by our tolerance, by our compromises.

Sad and almost disgraceful is the record which exhibits our complicity with this sin. We began by making free States wait at the door of the Union until slavery had a counterpoise, or balance adjusted in the form of slave State, to preserve the balance against freedom in the National Senate. We compromised the territories west of the Mississippi, by tolerating slaves there, and as one demand after another was made it was granted, till we even allowed slave rule in free States, by submitting to the Fugitive Slave law–these things could not have been done without our votes. When they threatened and blustered we fawned and cringed, until they knew and avowed their belief that the crack of a slave whip would bring the north to its knees. All they asked we granted, more than they demanded we offered. We held out our wrists for manacles. When we elected the great good man, who embodied our idea of nationality and freedom; and even after official announcement had been made of the position slavery occupied in their proposed nationalism, we guarded their slaves, and kept them secure to labor for the support of the masters who were fighting against us. When these slaves, acting on an intuition of freedom, came fleeing to us, we sent them back to chains and bondage. In all this we showed our complicity with the sin which struck the blow which killed our good President.

And after the slaughter of thousands in battle, and the death of as many more in hospitals, of fever, starvation and wounds, still was our hatred of the sin which caused them not deep enough. We talked of amnesty and non-humiliation, and God has permitted the sad cup to come to each lip in bitterness. Each one mourns to-day as if personally bereaved. The blackness of darkness is in our homes, and the whole nation mourns its first-born–its first-loved. May not–does not–a measure of responsibility rest upon us for this last sad event? Have we not been tolerant of the treason which has wrought this crime? Have we not been apologists for infamy under the name of different political opinions? Have we not spared when we should have punished–been merciful when mercy was but cruelty? We seem to have believed that because there were more serpents away from our homes, the few left here had no venom. We felt secure because the loyalists were more numerous than the traitors. But of the few who were here, and tolerated here, some plotted the escape of rebel prisoners, some the burning of our city, some the conflagration of New York, and some the murder of the Cabinet, while one has killed the good President. Had they all been driven out, or put under strict surveillance, there would have been none of these things from them. We have lost our President by tolerating traitors in our streets.

Who was the assassin of the President? Not an armed rebel, clothed with belligerent rights; not a political refugee, who had skulked into our lines for rapine and for plunder; but the citizen of a free State, who could visit and send his cards to the Vice-President with a flippant familiarity, which his aristocratic slave-holding associates presume to use,–a man allowed to go about the streets of Washington, breathing treason and blaspheming God, without rebuke. He could command attention from proprietors of houses and saloons, from owners of blooded stock, from men who were called loyal, and the toleration of this killed our good President.

He was a wretch, of whom a press said, but yesterday, that he was sincere in thinking he should rid the earth of a tyrant, by slaying the President, this sincerity must place him on a level with John Brown. [Hisses and cries of The Times.] This was said yesterday, and read by thousands, and I know of no steps taken to prevent the utterance of similar insult and outrage to-morrow. For this tolerance we are responsible, and tolerance like this killed the good President. When a far-seeing military commandant ordered the suppression of published treason, there were men in high places, and men all over the land, who outraged the loyal masses by interfering to prevent the execution of that order, on the ground of disturbing the freedom of the press; but when our ministers went into Richmond they were muzzled, and the result has been that treason has been littered, the good man called an imbecile–the generous man a tyrant– the restraint of traitors has been referred to as, usurpation of power, and prisons have been called Bastiles. All this has been, and we have tolerated it. This has given aid and comfort to treason in the South, and traitors in the North, and this has killed the good President.

The measure of our responsibility is the amount of our connivance at these things. No man is free from guilt who has winked at this wrong, who has interfered to prevent the punishment of wrong-doers, who has apologies for treason, who has not done all in his power to rebuke, denounce and punish the foes of the nation, at home and abroad. We stand, to-day, as though in the presence of the nation’s dead, and here, on the tomb of our chieftain, let us swear eternal enmity to treason and to traitors. Nor let us, when the assassin shall be arrested and punished–oh! let us not then think we have done our duty. I had rather the profane wretch who has done this deed were never taken, than that his execution should relieve our minds from one thought of our personal responsibility. No; rather let the wretch be a fugitive and vagabond, with the mark of Cain upon him. Let none slay him, for we ourselves are not guiltless. And as he flies from men, with hate in his eyes and hell in his heart, let every home be an asylum from which he shall be barred, and every honest, loyal heart a sanctuary where no thought of complicity with him, or sympathy for him may enter. Let us bow before God to-day in humble penitence; let us ask of Him forgiveness– Father forgive us, for we knew not what we did–that His hand be stayed, and the measure of our responsibility be canceled.”

In this connection, we may with propriety, introduce the following extract from President Johnson’s recent speech to the Indiana delegation:

“We are living at a time when the public mind had almost become oblivious of what treason is. The time has arrived, my countrymen, when the American people should be educated and taught what crime is, and that treason is crime, and the highest crime known to the law and the Constitution. Yes, treason against a State, treason against all the States, treason against the Government of the United States, is the highest crime that can be committed, and those engaged in it should suffer all the penalties. It is not promulgating anything that I have not heretofore said, to say that traitors must be made odious; that treason must be made odious; that traitors must be punished and imprisoned. [Applause.] They must not only be punished, but their social power must be destroyed. If not, they will still maintain an ascendency, and may again become numerous and powerful; for, in the words of a former senator of the United States, when traitors become numerous enough, treason becomes respectable. And I say that, after making treason odious, every Union man and the Government, should be remunerated out of the pockets of those who have inflicted the great suffering upon the country. [Applause.] But do not understand me as saying this in a spirit of anger; for, if I understand my own heart, the reverse is the case; and, while I say that the penalties of the law, in a stern and inflexible manner, should be executed upon conscious, intelligent, and influential traitors,–the leaders who have deceived thousands upon thousands of laboring men, who have been drawn into the rebellion; and while I say, as to leaders, punishment, I also say leniency, conciliation, and amnesty, to the thousands whom they have misled and deceived, and, in relation to this, as I have remarked, I might have adopted your speech as my own.”


List of Prominent Members of the “Sons of Liberty” in Illinois.

List of names of prominent members of the “Sons of Liberty” in the several counties of the State of Illinois, as reported by Col. J.B. Sweet.
James W. Singleton Adams.
Thomas P. Bond Bond.
Harry WiltonBond.
Thos. HunterBond.
Martin BrooksBrown.
C.H. AtwoodBrown.
Fred Rearick Cass.
Allen J. HillCass.
David EplerCass.
James A. DickCass.
Samuel ChristeyCass.
T.J. ClarkChampaigne.
James Morrow Champaigne.
H.M. VandeveerChristian.
J.H. ClarkChristian.
S.S. WhitehedClark.
H.H. PeytonClark.
Phillip DoughertyClark.
A.M. ChristianClay.
Stephen B. MooreColes.
Dr. Wickersham Cook.
G.S. KimberlyCook.
S. Corning JuddFulton.
Charles Sweeny Fulton.
L. WalkerHamilton.
M. CouchmanHancock.
M.M. MorrowHancock.
J.M. FinchHancock.
Dennis SmithHancock.
J.S. RainsdellHenderson.
A. JohnsonHenderson.
Ira R. WillsHenry.
Chas. DurhamHenry.
Morrison FrancisHenry.
J.B. CarpenterHenry.
J. OsbornJackson.
G.W. JeffriesJasper.
G.H. VarnellJefferson.
Wm. DoddsJefferson.
J.M. PaceJefferson.
James SampleJersey.
O.W. PowellJersey.
M.Y. JohnsonJo Davies.
David SheanJo Davies.
M. SimmonsJo Davies.
Louis ShislerJo Davies.
Thomas McKee Knox.
J.F. WorrellMcLean.
E.D. WrightMenard.
Edward Lanning Menard.
Robert Halloway Mercer.
Robert DavisMontgomery.
Thomas GreyMontgomery.
W.J. LathamMorgan.
J.O. S. HaysMorgan.
J.W. McMillenMorgan.
D. Patterson Moultrie.
Dr. KellarMoultrie.
G.D. Read Ogle.
W.W. O’BrienPeoria.
Peter SweatPeoria.
Jacob GalePeoria.
P.W. DunnePeoria.
John FullerPeoria.
John FrancisPeoria.
C.H. Wright Peoria.
John OugPutnam.
M. RichardsonShelby.
M. ShallenbergerStark.
J.B. SmithStevenson.
J.L. CarrVermillion.
John DonlarVermillion.
Wm. S. MooreChristian.
B.S. MorrisCook.
W.C. WilsonCrawford.
L.W. OnellCrawford.
Dickins Cumberland.
J.C. Armstrong Dewitt.
C.H. PalmerDewitt.
B.T. WilliamsDouglas.
Amos GreenEdgar.
R.M. BishopEdgar.
W.D. LatshawEdwards.
Levi EckelsFayette.
Dr. BassettFayette.
T. GreathouseFayette.
Chas. T. SmithFayette.
N. SimmonsFord.



Introduction.  •  Chap. I.  •  Chap. II.  •  Chap. III.  •  Chap. IV.  •  Chap. V.  •  Chap. VI.  •  Chap. VII.  •  Chap. VIII.  •  Chap. IX  •  Chap. X  •  Chap. XI.  •  Chap. XII.  •  Chap. XIII.  •  Chap. XIV.  •  Chap. XV.  •  Chap. XVI  •  Chap. XVII.  •  Chap. XVIII.  •  Chap. XIX.  •  Chap. XX.  •  Chap. XXI.  • 

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