Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXXIV
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DEFENSE

AFTER Curtis concluded with his opening, General Thomas was called as the first witness for the defense.1 The witness-stand is an exposed position always; to Lorenzo Thomas it was denuding. The old arm-chair General was clay in Butler's hands. Garrulous and vain, confused and uncertain, he possessed every qualification to make him one of the poorest witnesses who had ever testified. Despite Butler's interruptions, objections, arguments and comments, under the quiet and skillful handling of Stanbery, Thomas somehow got through the direct examination. He described his instructions from the President and his call on Stanton, the arrest which followed and his second interview in the War Department, the masquerade ball and all that happened there.2 Somehow he made it plain, too, that at no time had the President authorized him to use force or threats.3

Punctuated by the frequent laughter of the Senators, who enjoyed the methods of the chief manager, Butler plunged into the cross-examination, handling Thomas as in former days he had dealt with the good housewives of Lowell. He forced Thomas to admit that when he told Wilkeson that he meant to call on Grant for a military force, it was mere "rhodomontade, boast and brag."4 Thomas had dropped his voice. "How was that?" shouted Butler. "Speak as loud as you did when you began." "I suppose so," Thomas answered feebly.5 So confused was Thomas, that on the following day he found it necessary to correct his testimony as to dates. Butler again assailed him. "Did anybody talk with you about your testimony since you left the stand?" he demanded. "Since I left the stand?" rejoined Thomas feebly. "Yes," sneered Butler. "Since yesterday?""I saw the counsel for the President and told him I wished to make corrections," Thomas finally man

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