Momma and I watched the moving picture "The Conspirator" last night and I've been thinking about it since.
Mary Surrat's tale is an unhappy one but was well told. However, what caught my attention was her attorney, Frederick Aiken.
Aiken, a Civil War veteran, is best known for his defense of Surratt who was accused of conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln. His speech in her defense was included in the The World's Best Orations in 1899.
After his untimely death the Washington Weekly Post wrote on Dec. 24, 1878:
"Aiken was one of the most active workers in the Democratic cause, and his brilliant pen and eloquent voice were incessantly employed. When that unfortunate victim of Republican fury, Mrs. Mary Surratt, was dragged from her bed at midnight by the brutal minions of Stanton, and hurried before a court-martial organized to convict, Col. Aiken was one of the gallant few in the District that dared to lift his voice in behalf of justice and right at the imminent risk of his life and nobly undertook to conduct her defense. His defense of Mrs. Surratt is one of the . . . most praiseworty efforts on record. Col Aiken's memorable speech on that occasion will be long remembered as fulfilled prophecy, everyone now believing her to have been innocent. After this trial, Col. Aiken was called on . . . to assist in the defense of Jefferson Davis, and prepared some of the preliminary papers in that case.
"In 1865 he was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States and practiced in that and the District courts with such esteem until 1868, when he gave up law for his former and most loved . . . journalism. He had previously, during the war and after, assisted Col. Tom Florence in editing the 'Constitutional Union,' and in 1869 became the editor of the 'Sunday Gazette.' The 'Herald' of Washington remembered the brilliant success which attended Col. Aiken's management of this journal. In 1871 he became the dramatic editor of the 'National Republican.' In 1876 he was attacked with a heavy fit of sickness which consigned him to the verge of the grave, and from the affects of which he never totally recovered.
"In the winter of 1877, Col. Aiken started with the 'Post' at its city editor position, which he held until the time of his death, he being the first of its staff that has died. He died at twenty minutes past twelve o'clock Sunday night after only three day's sickness that his friends felt but little anxiety for his condition."
Talk about a thankless job. I am thankful for people like Aiken who speak for those who are given no voice.