FROM the very first it was apparently Stanton's intention to saddle the guilt for Lincoln's assassination on Jefferson Davis and other Southern leaders. What his motives were, there is no certain way of knowing; what their effect was, soon became evident. The eyes of the public were diverted from many events that would not have stood close scrutiny, events that were intimately connected with the mishandling of the news dispatches during the night of the murder, the inadequate pursuit and other curious activities and derelictions of the War Department. Incidentally, all hopes of establishing a friendly reunion of the South and the North were frustrated. By accusing the erstwhile Confederate Chief of having caused Lincoln's death, the hatreds of war were to be continued ad infinitum.
Stanton's first message to General Dix, as has been pointed out before, contained a germ of mischief. To emphasize Lincoln's kindly feelings toward Lee and others of the Confederacy was strange, to say the least, especially as the Secretary himself did not share these sentiments and never had made any pretense of doing so. In his third telegram the germ began to sprout:
THE MURDER WAS PLANNED BEFORE THE 4TH OF
MARCH, BUT FELL THROUGH THEN BECAUSE THE AC-
COMPLICE BACKED OUT UNTIL "RICHMOND COULD BE
In his letter to the United States minister at London, Stanton was still more outspoken: "evidence [has been] obtained, that these horrible crimes were committed in execution of a conspiracy deliberately planned and set on foot by rebels, under pretense of avenging the South and aiding the rebel cause."