ON April 16, the Washington National Intelligencer wrote: "We can state on the highest authority that it has been ascertained that there was a regular conspiracy to assassinate every member of the Cabinet, together with the Vice President." Considering the fact that Secretary of State Seward had been assaulted and badly wounded, this statement seemed probable enough. No traces of a plot against the lives of the other secretaries have ever been found, but the government prosecuted Michael O'Laughlin for attempted assassination of General Grant, and George Atzerodt for planning the murder of Vice President Johnson. It was claimed that, but for a lucky stroke of fate, Stanton also would have fallen victim to a murderous assault; he generously abstained from pressing the case, however. He was the moving spirit of the prosecution; to have taken such an action -- as his supporters were eager to point out -- would have placed him in a delicate position.
Practically every writer on Lincoln's death has subscribed to the story that the lives of Grant, Stanton and Johnson actually were threatened on the night of the tragedy. Nevertheless, a careful examination of the evidence leaves some doubt about the soundness of this assumption.
It was Michael O'Laughlin's task, according to his indictment, to "lie in wait [during the nights of April 13 and 14] for Ulysses S. Grant . . . with intent, then and there, to kill and murder the said Ulysses S. Grant."1 The evidence against____________________