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    Joseph Holt Group of Five Autograph Letters Signed. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt insists he recommended mercy for Mrs. Surratt. Jurist appointed by Lincoln to be Judge Advocate General of the Army September 1862, in 1864 he was made a brigadier general and made head of the Bureau of Military Justice. In was in this capacity that he prosecuted the conspirators in the assassination. His handling of the trial originally brought him great popularity but the subsequent disclosure of perjury by some government witnesses and the charge that he had suppressed evidence favorable to Mrs. Surratt brought him into disfavor. Holt maintained that he had recommended clemency for Mrs. Surratt but President Johnson nevertheless ordered her execution. In 1887 James Speed, Attorney General at the time of the trials, made public correspondence related to the episode and Holt, a lifelong friend of Speed, expected to be vindicated. In this he was disappointed. As related in D.A.B., "A few years before (Speed's) death, he became an unwilling party to a controversy with Joseph Holt on the question of President Johnson having received the recommendation for mercy in the Mary Surratt case. Against the almost frantic appeals of Holt to Speed to say publicly that Johnson saw the recommendations, Speed resolutely refused on the ground of the rule against divulging Cabinet proceedings." Three (3) ALSs and two (2) LSs, consisting of eighteen (18) pages octavo, Washington, 1888-1893, to Mrs. Gouveneur. The correspondence was initiated by Gouveneur who had examined Speed's writing on the matter and her sending Holt a summary of her conclusions apparently favorable to the embittered Holt. In his first letter, 26 August 1888, Holt thanks her for "so thorough an examination of the Speed correspondence . . . you have a head which, obeying the inspirations of your heart, enables you to discern and appreciate the truth and extricate it from the entanglements of chicanery and fraud . . . I have been working for years . . to remove my name from the obloquy of an accusation, than which nothing falser . . . ever fell from the lips of man or Devil. It was a severe shock for my faith in human nature when Gen. Speed, with who I have maintained relations . . . for some fifty years suddenly allowed himself to become a compliant coadjutor of Andrew Johnson in his diabolical plot to destroy me during all that time he knew me innocent." In later letters he continues "how can I sufficiently thank you for your generous interests in the trouble of mine - what has been a thorn in my side for so many years . . . I have had (many indications) of the subtle and widespread circulation given to the Johnson-Speed calumny . . . it seems to me that the poison is beyond the reach of any human antidote and that I must look to God alone for shelter from it." A fine collection recalling an oft controversial chapter in American history. To this day historians still question whether or not President Johnson ever saw the appeal, much less bothered to read it. (As a rabid abolitionist, it is doubtful that Holt would have had any great sympathy for Surratt and may have never extorted himself on the matter.) Three letters have paperclip imprint at top; all are toned and fine.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th Thursday
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