The Conspirator

I’m a bit of a history buff so this movie was on my to watch list.  Okay yes Norman Reedus is in it too.  Yesterday I noticed that it was on Netflix so I got my chance to watch it.

It is based on a historical incident, the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and it looks like it stayed pretty close to what actually happened.  The plot actually focuses on Mary Surratt, the first woman hanged by the Federal Government.  The Actual conspiracy is more in the background.

If you know your history, Mary Surratt owned a boarding house in which the Lincoln assassination was hatched by by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators, including Mary’s son John.  Mary along with several others who may or may not have been guilty and one that was definitely guilty; was arrested, tried and convicted by a military tribunal.   Three other conspirators were hanged along with Surratt.

The movie focuses on the actions of the Federal government in conducting what was basically a kangaroo court, culminating in the hangings.  We know from history that Booth is clearly guilty of assassinating the President, he did it in a crowded theater.  We also know that Louis Payne is guilty of attempted assassination in the case of Secretary of State William Sewell, he attacked Sewell in his home with several witnesses present.  The guilt of the others may not be  so clear.

Questionable witnesses, denial of a trial by a jury of their peers and government tampering with the panel judging the conspirators show the lengths the government will go to.  There is clear crossing of constitutional boundaries including the meddling of President Andrew Johnson in vacating a writ that would have saved Mary from the gallows and granted her a new trial in a civilian court.

3 responses to “The Conspirator

  1. Enjoy it. I personally think that all of them got shafted. I don’t think the outcome would have been any different for Payne though. But had the trial been fairly conducted, then you could say that justice was served. In this case it wasn’t justice it was revenge.

    I personally think that Payne deserved the death penalty, he did attack the Secretary of State in front of witnesses. But his trial should have been fairly conducted. It’s pretty clear in the movie that the entire trial is not about justice but about making an example of the conspirators, guilty or not.

    It doesn’t matter if you like a group of people or not. When people stand by and allow something like this to happen they need to understand that the same can happen to them too.

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