The Martyrdom of Mary Surratt

If you went to high school in the 1980s as I did, you probably were not taught who Mary Surratt was in history class. That’s because Mary Surratt was an innocent woman executed by the United States government as part of the “conspiracy” to assassinate president Lincoln. Mary Surratt holds the unsought title as the first woman executed by the United States government, too. Why, then, are we discussing this today? Because there is an adage that states: “History repeats itself”. And this is certainly true. But with the United States government, history repeating itself is a matter of government policy which cannot be changed, altered, or deviated from no matter the consequences for failing to do so.

If you were given the government’s side of the story in high school history class, you were told John Wilkes Booth crept up behind President Lincoln and, bang, he shot him. End of story. Now, on to the Transcontinental Railroad and see the shoe on the other foot: Bang, we shot them, on a grander scale in dealing with Native American insurgents and unlawful enemy combatants. However, the reason the government leaves off the entire assassination conspiracy is because they executed an innocent woman. Mary Surratt’s “crime”, as it were, happened to be owning a boarding house that the Lincoln assassination “conspirators” rented rooms in. She was promptly seized in the federal sweep-and-clear operation to find the assassins, even if they really weren’t. Anyone with Southern heritage would do. The Yankee Problem: An... Dr. Clyde N. Wilson Best Price: $9.99 Buy New $14.95 (as of 12:50 EDT - Details)

Here’s the way it went down: Mary Surratt was to stand trial before a military tribunal, even though she was a civilian. This was a federal government kangaroo court show trial because a guilty verdict was already demanded by the Secretary of War, for one. But they needed to have a sham trial so it didn’t look like they railroaded this woman into an execution without a trial. The government produced false witnesses, doctored evidence, and refused to allow Mary to testify on her own behalf. Nor was secret government evidence against her allowed to be made public. Probably because it didn’t exist in the first place. So, where have we heard of this type of thing before? The trial and execution of Jesus Christ and the current policy for using drones by the United States government.

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Look here, Mary Surratt was sentenced to death with no appeal possible. Her lawyer managed to obtain a writ to stay her execution and give her a retrial in a civilian court. But—get this—the President of the United States overruled the writ and sent Mary to the gallows. Seems they were in rather a hurry to murder the woman so they wouldn’t appear to have made a mistake. Or, perhaps, to justify themselves as absolute authority. Mary was executed to make sure the government was not embarrassed. People say, “Hey, we were at war! The president had been assassinated! People were scared!” And so that is an acceptable reason to murder an innocent woman? That’s a good reason to refuse the honor the Constitution that supposedly was the highest law of the land? People will say, “Well, that was the past! We’ve learned from that mistake!” Have we?

Tell me how we have learned from that mistake when the president can order the summary, on-the-spot execution of an American citizen or any other human being without a trial? See, now they don’t even need the pretense of a kangaroo court and a show trial. They can just order a drone to carry out the execution and no legal document need be presented, nor any evidence, nor any witnesses to the alleged crime. The government has already stated they will not and do not need to produce any reasons publicly except “He was a terrorist…” And Mary Surratt, she was a terrorist, too, am I correct? We’ve learned from that mistake, then? Have we?

Someone can be picked up in a current government sweep-and-clear and carted off to a secret prison (also known as a concentration camp) where they can be held literally forever without a trial. No evidence need be entered, no counsel, nor do they have any rights. Because “unlawful enemy combatants” exist in a Bermuda Triangle of legality neither here nor there and the government says they don’t enjoy any legal protections. But what we cannot dispute is that these are human beings and every human being has rights. The government denies this, of course. Just like they denied that Mary Surratt was entitled to legal protections under the law and literally murdered the woman. So we’ve learned from that mistake, have we? Do tell.

Our government has tortured human beings and claims we had to do this. In other words, the government said protecting itself came before protecting the concept of humanity. No one has ever gone to trial for this, despite the selfsame government having tried and convicted Japanese war criminals after World War Two for the very same torture methods. The government says it does not torture people now. How can they be believed when they define what is or is not “torture”? That’s how they got away with waterboarding. They said it wasn’t torture. Having been caught, they claim they aren’t doing it right now. How do we know they haven’t simply moved on to a different method of torture which they don’t call torture? This is a government that knowingly sent an innocent woman to death on flimsy evidence they couldn’t have gotten a shoplifting conviction from anywhere else but their own rigged tribunal. We’ve learned from that, have we?

No, our government has not learned anything except better methods of getting away with it. They’ve upstaged Stalin. Stalin had show trials to lend some type of legitimacy to his executions. Our government doesn’t need a show trial. They just need a secret piece of paper ordering the execution and a drone takes off from some secret airbase and carries it out. Then the government gloats about it in the news. The American people might be uncomfortable, but hey, we’ve learned from the mistake we made with Mary Surratt, right? The government gloated about that execution, too. As if some poor woman posed a threat to the collective war machine that had just laid waste an entire swath of the nation.

All that has changed are the names. We’ve gone from “Mary Surratt” to names that are very conveniently foreign so we don’t have to face up to the murders of human beings. We tend to forget that names like “Ibrahim” and “Yousef” are simply “Abraham” and “Joseph” in Arabic. Because if we admitted that, and admitted to ourselves that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, we might have to admit our government is a murderer. Because when you are so unsure of your case that you cannot have a trial, then the subsequent execution is a murder. My word, you haven’t even done so much as produce a false witness bold enough to lie in a court of law! We have learned from Mary Surratt. We’ve learned that the mistake was having a trial in the first place, even if it was a rigged sham trial.

And this won’t affect you? It will only affect “them”, you know, those Middle Eastern people and North Africans? How, then, was Mary Surratt frog-marched to the hangman’s noose on the evidence so flimsy, the president had to step in and make sure another trial didn’t happen where sane people could see this evidence? You think this can’t happen again? You think this can’t happen here? Wake up. It already has. It is happening now as we speak. Yes, we have learned from the mistake made with Mary Surratt. But all the wrong lessons were taken from it.