In 1867, a congressional “Assassination Committee” probed for any connections between President Andrew Johnson and John Wilkes Booth. The shifty Colonel Lafayette Baker, wartime head of the Union’s Secret Service, had let slip that Booth had kept a diary. The diary was reluctantly handed over to the committee by Edwin Stanton, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War. But 18 pages of the diary had been neatly cut out! “Who spoliated that book?” Benjamin “Spoons” Butler demanded to know.
In the opinion of Ersjdamoo’s Blog, it was the hand of Edwin Stanton which “spoliated” (censored) the Booth diary.
After 1867, news about the spoliated book languished. It was not until 1977 that an eruption about the Booth diary again occurred. Jack Anderson, an investigative journalist, revealed that year that the apparent missing 18 pages, along with the Booth diary itself, had been given to the FBI for investigation. On August 6, 1977 the Associated Press reported, “Long-missing parts of a diary may prove that top government officials plotted to kill President Abraham Lincoln, a Massachusetts dealer in historical artifacts says.” (Sentinel and Enterprise (Fitchburg, MA), AP report, Aug. 6, 1977. “Lincoln Death Plot Uncovered”)
The “dealer in historical artifacts” was one Joseph Lynch. He had found “the neatly cut-out pages while looking through artifacts belonging to heirs of Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s secretary of war.” (Ibid.)
FBI experts began an examination of the purported Booth diary itself, which had been on display at Ford’s Theater, where Old Abe had been assassinated on April 14, 1865. As for the 18 neatly cut-out pages, AP reported the FBI was examining them also. (Ibid.)
The FBI has a fine web site, called “The Vault”, where many declassified documents are available. Included amongst these is a John Wilkes Booth pdf file. Therein is contained a partial copy of the Jack Anderson newspaper report. Published in the Washington Post of August 3, 1977, “FBI Probes Lincoln Assassination” is credited to Jack Anderson, Les Whitten, and/or “Charles Rodri…” (it is a partial copy and this last name is incomplete).
The Jack Anderson column acknowledges that 18 pages had “mysteriously disappeared from Booth’s diary.” Joseph Lynch, the dealer in historical artifacts, had found the alleged 18 pages “locked in a box in the attic” of Edwin Stanton’s heirs. “The heirs had never opened the box; in fact, they had no key.”
In the alleged missing pages, Booth wrote in part, “I swear that I shall lay the body of this tyrant dead upon the altar of Mars.” The “tyrant” seems to have been Lincoln; after all, Booth had shouted “Sic semper tyrannis (Ever thus to tyrants) at Ford’s Theater after he committed his evil deed. But what does “altar of Mars” mean? The Jack Anderson column guesses that since Mars is the god of war, this “could have been a code name for Stanton.”
“The FBI’s findings may establish whether the 18 newly discovered pages are authentic,” the Jack Anderson column surmised. That was in 1977. So what happened? Were the 18 pages torn from the spoliated book in fact verified by the FBI? Stay tuned.