William Seward was the front-runner for the Presidency and had garnered many more votes than the relatively unknown Abraham Lincoln on the first ballot, but Lincoln ended up becoming the compromise candidate the newly formed Republican party settled on. Yet, after Lincoln won the nomination, he appointed Seward his Secretary of State and the two obviously had tremendous respect for each other, and Seward supported Lincoln’s second term, even though party founder Salmon Chase and his Radical Republican cohorts did not. During the war, Seward managed a vast network of spies throughout Europe to thwart the South’s attempts to draw any foreign powers into the conflict on their side.
John Bigelow was one of Seward’s spies in France and in March he began sending Seward alarming letters involving an assassination plot against Seward, who many in Europe considered the real power in Washington and defacto President. Bigelow had penetrated the pro-slavery Sons of Liberty secret society and discovered a Texan named Johnston had been dispatched from France by steamer on an assassination mission. Seward took the warning letters to the War Department and showed them to Edwin Stanton. Lincoln was in Richmond at the time, which had just fallen, and dangerously walking the streets without protection. Seward wanted Stanton to alert Lincoln of the assassination plot and have him put under constant guard.
However, Seward was seriously injured in a carriage accident that next afternoon, and Stanton never shared the warnings with Lincoln after the President returned from Richmond to check on Seward’s condition. Considering the amount of detail in Bigelow’s three letters, it seems inexplicable Seward and Lincoln were not put under round-the-clock protection. In a few days, Lincoln would be assassinated, and Seward would only survive thanks to a metal brace that had been installed to hold his shattered jaw in place.
The failure of the War Department to act on these very specific warnings is evidence Lincoln’s assassination was an inside job, sanctioned by Stanton, Wade and Stevens, who were resisting Lincoln and Seward’s plans to forgive the South. They wanted to allow the Confederates to retake their seats in Congress, something that would have pushed Wade and Stevens out of their perch of power.