Johnson himself was also to be a victim in the plot.
George W. Gayle was the U.S. Attorney in Alabama during the Van Buren administration. Afterwards, he was an ardent states rights Democrat and Confederate partisan, writing frequent political editorials in various ante-bellum and war-era Alabama newspapers. By late 1864, he felt that the best hope for the South lay in getting rid...
George W. Gayle was the U.S. Attorney in Alabama during the Van Buren administration. Afterwards, he was an ardent states rights Democrat and Confederate partisan, writing frequent political editorials in various ante-bellum and war-era Alabama newspapers. By late 1864, he felt that the best hope for the South lay in getting rid of the Northern leaders. He ran an ad in the Selma Dispatch on December 1, 1864 which read – “$1,000,000. Wanted – To Have Peace by the first of March. If the citizens of the Southern Confederacy will furnish me with the cash, or good security, for the sum of $1,000,000, I will cause the lives of Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward and Andrew Johnson to be taken by the 1st of March next. This will give us peace, and satisfy the world that cruel tyrants cannot live in a ‘land of liberty’. If this is not accomplished, nothing will be claimed beyond the sum of $50,000. in advance, which is supposed to be necessary to reach and slaughter the three villains. I will give, myself, $1000 toward this patriotic purpose. Everyone willing to contribute will address Box X, Cahawba, Alabama.”
After the war, although Gayle claimed the ad was a joke, Federal officials did not see the humor in it. He was arrested for complicity in the murder of President Lincoln and taken to prison under guard, two sentinels constantly sitting over him with muskets. In October 1865, U.S. officials decided he had nothing to do with Lincoln’s death and released him. But that did not mean all was forgiven, as it was not until two years after the war ended that Johnson came around to issuing Gayle a pardon.
That pardon was granted, and to make it official, Johnson executed the following warrant.
Document Signed as President, Washington, April 29, 1867. “I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to a warrant for the pardon of George W. Gayle…” That Johnson ever agreed to sign this document is a sign that the passions and rancor of the war had already abated enough by 1867 that even men who had threatened his life were no longer seen as worth punishing.
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