JOHNSON AIDS THE PRISONERS' WIVES
JUDGE-Advocate-General Holt was a Kentuckian. Early in life he had migrated into Mississippi. He announced to Jefferson Davis and to Clement Clay when his adopted state seceded that he would espouse the Southern cause. He became in ardent Union man. " Joseph Holt of Kentucky, did you say, sir? I tell you, by Heaven! there is no such man as Joseph Holt of Kentucky!" exclaimed the venerable Crittenden.1
Holt was a remorseless prosecutor, the blind patron of notorious informers. His dealings with Sanford Conover make it difficult to believe that Holt was not wilfully blind. Rhodes speaks of him as one "whose credulity for a man of legal training was astonishing," 2--it was at least that. Anyone who would believe Conover could believe anything. There was no lie so black but that Conover on a moment's notice could produce witnesses to substantiate. Two of Conover's rascals,--Campbell and Snevel--asserted that they were actually present with John A. Surratt in Richmond in the spring of 1865, and personally had heard an interview between Jefferson Davis and Judah Benjamin in which the murder of Lincoln was considered and approved.3
Such were the "facts" on which Holt, with Stanton's aid, had induced the President to sign the proclamation of May, 1865, charging Clement Clay and Davis with complicity in Lincoln's murder, and offering a reward for their arrest.4 Holt and Stanton had been fellow members of Buchanan's Cabinet.5 They had worked together then,--they were working together now.
Long before Conover's exposure as a suborner of perjury, Johnson had learned to distrust Holt. When on February 1st, 1866, it was suggested that Raphael Semmes should be tried before a military commission, Johnson refused, declaring that he wished