Let me be the first to admit there’s no evidence of anything unworthy or unseemly concerning Lord Richard Bikerton Pemell Lyons, 1st Viscount etc., and I don’t expect to find any, but if rumors of His Majesties Secret Service helping foment the Civil War are true, he’d be a key player in the game, having arrived two years before the outbreak of hostilities, just enough time to stoke the fires.
After all my years of spook study, I give credit to the English. They are the masters of the craft. Not only did they write the book on James Bond, they wrote the book on Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Knights of the Round Table. When you put these elements together, spooks plus magic, you get amazing results. Plus their idea of oligarchy is so much more transparent, with a clear chain-of-command, not anything like the murky and conspiratorial oligarchy of North America.
If Lyons is talking to Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, the key person in the Lincoln assassination plot around whom all others orbit, it’s likely being done in whispers in the Grand Lodge of the Scottish Rite on Tuesday night or at some private 5-star restaurant afterwards. People have the illusion these major conspiracies involve people meeting in large groups, but in reality, the opposite is true. It’s one-on-one and done very quietly.
Someone put up a lot of money for the Lincoln hit, and Stanton easily could have handled that himself. Or maybe it was Clement Vallandigham, Jay Gould, Salmon Chase, or even Thaddeus Stevens, Fernando Wood, Jacob Astor, or just a combination of the above plus others unnamed. Any one of those people could have easily raised enough on a day’s graft at the office. (Things haven’t changed much, the budget on 9/11 was supposed to be $150,000 wired to Atta from a Pakistan ISI agent.)
The most significant moment early on in the Civil War concerned the Trent Affair, when two Confederate envoys were seized off a British ship to prevent them from seeking aid in Europe. This threatened to blow up into an international incident and force England to enter the war on the side of the South to preserve its honor, which would have led to an easy Southern victory. Wall Street would have relocated to Richmond or New Orleans. The North would have been returned to England officially and not just in the banking realms. The Union Jack could have flown from the White House. Lyons got the envoys released, which saved the day for Wall Street and the North, so we know what side he was working for. England had spawned and funded the abolitionist movement, and even though its economy depended on cheap cotton from the South, it’s trade with the North must have been far more important.
There’s only one person I know who consorted socially with Lyons, Booth and Stanton, and that’s Simon Wolf, young head of B’nai B’rith, someone active in the support of Jewish merchants caught in the middle of the war (and doing some narco-dollars-type profiteering, I might add). Notice British banking and intelligence employs many assets in these realms? That’s not by accident I assure you, and I know why.
When dealing with matters of intense sensitivity, it’s advisable to step outside your cultural realm and enlist agents from another social universe. The reason I suspect Wolf could have been the courier between Stanton and Booth is because he was very ambitious and very close with Stanton. I don’t know if Wolf managed to get close to Lyons, but he aggressively courted his approval. Wolf became a masterful social climber and rose to the top of Washington social circles and stayed there until he died. And he told a lie about meeting with John Wilkes Booth the day of the assassination, and when people tell lies, they are often covering something up.
I’d assume Booth was not told he was dealing with Stanton when he accepted the bag of money, whoever handed it to him. Booth would have been working for expenses only, anyway. He was a patriot, not a mercenary, and that’s what he’s was trying to make clear in his final messages, however corrupted and distorted they became through selective editing and negative mythologizing. If Wolf handed him a bag, the source could have been some anonymous benefactor inside the Union who admired his efforts. The first rule of spook craft is “need to know,” and a professional spook respects that rule religiously because it can save your life. You don’t want to be the man who knew too much because that’s how you get whacked during the final clean-up. And you don’t want to be haunted by the likes of a ghost as powerful as Mary Surratt.
One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence in this case is a letter from Booth sent to Stanton postmarked from Canada shortly after the assassination. This letter was designed to convince the War Department that Booth had escaped into Canada, which would have taken heat off his escape through the south. This was certainly a deft ploy and showed tremendous foresight and is evidence of Booth’s super-heightened spook craft. No doubt John Surratt hand carried and posted the letter before departing for Ireland. Many think Booth’s plan was to flee to Mexico because he left a map of that route at Garrett’s farm, although the map was probably just another ploy to throw off pursuers. England would have been a more likely designation since that’s where his boss in the Confederate Secret Service landed. The more I study Booth, the more impressed I am with his craft.
Louis Weichmann was kept several degrees from Stanton, although he was the War Department’s double agent placed in Booth’s cabal. But before the trial, Weichmann had a long, private meeting with Stanton, the details of which were never recorded, and the only time Stanton directly participated in the trial was to cross examine Weichmann, a man whose testimony was obviously sculpted to frame and hang two innocent people. Any examination of Weichmann could have veered into dangerous waters, which is why Stanton took the unprecedented step of doing it all by himself.
It’s amazing how Weichmann provided all sorts of minute and trivial information about Booth and Surratt, but was never once questioned about having been reporting their activities to the War Department for weeks. Many of his statements were fabrications and he’d later admit that Mary Surratt was innocent, and that nobody expected she’d be hanged. No one except Stanton, who was determined to make it happen, as she was his stand-in, sheep-dipped as the mastermind of the assassination.
But the murder of designated-scapegoat Mary Surratt became the flaw in the plan (to quote Harry Potter) that led to Stanton’s demise.