Why are you drawn to historical and political stories?

I think it’s important to be true to your artistic soul and I find these types of stories personally very interesting.  They are filled with great character drama. The challenge and excitement for me is to entertain and be thought-provoking at the same time.

With films like “The Candidate” or “All the President’s Men” or “Three Days of the Condor,” those all had political foundations, but they ask the same types of questions. The tricky part is creating entertainment and giving the audience something to think about without being didactic.

Robert Redford

About Robert Redford

Director Robert Redford offers his insight into the talent, themes, and making of The Conspirator, now in theaters (April 15).
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58 Responses to Why are you drawn to historical and political stories?

  1. Lloyd Daniels says:

    A couple of observations. Since Mary Surratt was a woman, I suspect the movie will say she was innocent. You may want to refer to Lewis Weichmann’s “True History of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.” Among other indications of her guilt, she was sitting fully clothed in her darkened house when two soldiers strolled by from the direction of Ford’s theatre. She asked them what’s going on downtown? Unfortunately for her, she and Lewis Payne strangled at the end of their ropes while Herold and Atzerodt had their necks broken. I hope you flick doesn’t obscure history for some politically correct point, but I’m not hopeful.
    L. Daniels
    p.s. Pro-slavery democrats didn’t think she was guilty either.

    • Laurie Verge says:

      Mr. Daniels,

      You will be pleasantly surprised by the way the writer, director, and cast handled the question of her guilt/innocence. I am the director of the Surratt House Museum in Maryland, and I would not have handled it any differently. I have my own opinion as to the lady’s guilt or innocence based on over 50 years of being a Lincoln assassination addict.

      Also, you are only half right as to the manner in which the four died at the end of their ropes. Mrs. Surratt and Atzerodt died instantly. It was Powell and Herold who had to strangle to death, and it took several minutes.

    • Jean Lima says:

      From what I have learned about the hanging of Mary Surratt, I believe that General Winfield Scott Hancock who gave the ok for the drop, didn’t believe she was quilty either.

  2. Rick Stelnick says:

    Mr. Redford

    As a fan of your “reality check” motion pictures, I remind you of the quote by the late great Billy Wilder: “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty”; and in honor of your new film “The Conspirator” I present to you the following article written on the occasion of the movie’s much anticipated theatrical release.


    The dictionary definition of hindsight is stated simply as “understanding after fact”. The truth is understanding after fact by its very sound, when spoken aloud, speaks to a historical helplessness and/or a historical hopelessness. As such, I present to you seven surprising stories which were supplemental to the slaying of the sixteenth United States president, seven samples, if you will, of hindsight; to see if it hopefully helps understanding after fact of what it was like to live in Lincoln’s land, lifetime and later.

    Imagine, for a moment Lincoln’s life as a measuring stick to be dipped into the inkwell of the past to determine its depth. Abraham Lincoln’s lot in life was to lead a carved up country in the course of an uncivil war – “the late unpleasantness” it was contemptuously called then and when it had concluded. As schoolchildren we learn of Lincoln’s legend and legacy. As adults we struggle to survive and succeed like he did, and after all is said and done at the end of the day, we still lob a Lincoln penny into miniature manmade lakes at local malls for luck. I wonder what he would have thought about that. And I pause to ponder the homespun homilies he’d come up with, and the lessons to be learnt, from the seven short stories which follow.

    Poor Henry: On August 7, 1891 the royal Prussian physician made an official visit to the asylum in Hildesheim, Germany. His purpose was to evaluate a wealthy American who was an inmate. The patient was a former U.S. Army Colonel and ex-Consul to Germany who once was a member of Washington D.C. high society. He had exclusive quarters in the 800-year-old complex, where he had been confined by the German courts. Doctor Anton Julius Friedrich Rosenbach [of Rosenbach’s Disease fame] found Henry Reed Rathbone, at 53 years old, thin and graying, with a height of 5-foot-11 and a weight of 140 pounds. The physician noted how polite and earnest the patient was with one exception. He refused to talk about his mental condition. However, his records spelled it out. Henry suffered from hallucinations, persecutory delusions and even claimed there was an apparatus in the wall spewing “injurious vapors” into his head, causing headaches. He also believed he heard people sneaking about outside his suite. The doctor noted two other things: Rathbone declined to discuss his late wife Clara, who he had murdered in 1883, or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, which he, of course, was an eyewitness to, having attended the play Our American Cousin with his fiancée and stepsister, the daughter of his stepfather N.Y. Senator Ira Harris, as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. His family and friends were convinced the two events were connected. After the exam, which was part of Henry’s application for continuance of his military pension, Rosenbach wrote a report per the official request of the U.S. government: While “the cause of his disease is not known” his “delusions of persecution” are “an incurable condition”.

    As a result of Rosenbach’s report, Rathbone received pension benefits up until the day he died in 1911. However, it wasn’t until 1917, Anton Rosenbach told a startling tale to a young doctor, Otto Monkmoller, who’d soon become head physician at the Hildesheim Hospital. Rosenbach informed Monkmoller that Rathbone in 1892, while under hypnosis and within a trance state, had muttered “Ich bringe Segen für ihre Union!” [I bring blessings to your Union!] not “Sic Semper Tyrannis” and “Freiheit!” [Freedom!] not “The South is avenged” as the actual words uttered by John Wilkes Booth, before and after, the shot which slayed the sixteenth U.S. President.

    What Is Past Is Prologue: In NYC on February 27, 1861 it was reported that an unsettling incident occurred. A threat had been made against President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s life while he attended a performance of a new opera; Un Ballo In Maschera by Giuseppe Verdi at the Academy of Music. It was deemed serious enough by NYC’s police department, that he was escorted out of the theatre in advance of the climactic scene in which a political figure is assassinated at a masked ball: “It is stated that the police received notice Lincoln was to be assassinated at the same moment that the tenor falls by the hand of the baritone [at the same time the onstage murder of the public official is carried out by conspirators] but some leaky vessel informed the police, and the president left the Academy precipitously”.

    Students of Lincoln’s slaying shall note the striking similarity of the February 26, 1861 assassination attempt, creatively speaking and stunt-wise, to Booth’s actual act in April of 1865; in that both sought to take advantage, artistically at least, of the two plays’ key scripted scenes onstage. Booth, of course, waited for the line from Our American Cousin to be delivered by fellow actor Harry Hawk which always brought the loudest laughter ["Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you sockdologizing old man-trap..."] to cover up the sound of the gunshot within Ford’s Theatre.

    The Baltimore Quick Step: In 19th century Washington City, three bridges had been built across the Anacostia River or Eastern Branch of the Potomac River. The lower one was known as the Navy Yard Bridge, [the one upon which John Wilkes Booth and David Edgar Herold made good their Avenues] a middle bridge that before it burnt down in 1814 was located at the termini of Kentucky and Pennsylvania Avenues] and the upper one named Benning’s Bridge which was accessed by Tennessee and Maryland avenues, due north of present-day Lincoln Square. It was in the vicinity of this last bridge that an incident was reported to have occurred near the encampment of tents east of the Capitol known by the moniker Lincoln Hospital. Soon after the attacks on Lincoln and Seward on Good Friday, Federal pickets on patrol were confronted by unidentified horsemen. Heavily armed with revolvers and rifles, the riders refused to obey orders to halt which was followed by a hail of gunfire that left at least one of the combatants within the ranks of soldiers wounded. The unknown men then made their getaway over the Benning’s Bridge towards Baltimore.

    Wat The Heck? In December of 1864 and January of 1865, the following notorious notice appeared in newspapers across the divided nation:

    “$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 wishing to contribute will address Box X, Cahawba, Alabama”. [I trust the significance of the names of the intended victims was not be lost on readers]

    It wasn’t until after the assassination, however, that an arrest was made. Arrested in June of 1865 “for conspiracy with the assassination of President Lincoln” was former U.S. Attorney for Alabama, an appointee of former President Martin Van Buren back in January of 1838, George Washington “Wat” Gayle, an ardent States’ Rights activist. It was the allegation of John Cantlin, owner of the Selma Dispatch that Wat Gayle of Cahawba, Alabama had paid for and placed the infamous ad on behalf of Joseph Ryan Waldrop, Confederate Colonel and Congressman & Ku Klux Klan Wizard of Escatawba, Alabama. Then it wasn’t until October of 1865 when “Wat” Gayle was finally freed, without going to trial, after retaining Reverdy Johnson and Jas. T. Brady as his defense attorneys.

    The Other Woman: On April 29, 1865 national newspapers carried the following story: “On the morning of the murder Booth breakfasted with Miss Carrie Bean, the daughter of a merchant and a very respectable young lady, at the National Hotel. He arose from the table at say, eleven o’clock. During the breakfast, those who watched him say that he was lively, piquant, and self-possessed as ever in his life”. On May 6, 1865 during her Conspiracy Trial testimony prosecution witness Mary Jane Anderson [“colored”] attested as follows: “I know J. Wilkes Booth……On the day of the President’s murder, I saw him down by his stable about midday. Two or three hours later I saw him standing in the small back door of the theatre [Ford’s Tenth Street] talking to a pretty young lady who had on a black silk coat and dress and white bonnet. They were engaged in earnest conversation. He seemed to be pointing up and down the Alley [Baptist] & to the right & left as if explaining to her something about the locality.” Also in the same month Edwin Stanton received a letter from Walter Smart dated May 20, 1865 about a Jewish merchant named Bean [of “Bean, Hasbruck, Franklin, & Punassa, Mason” of whom Smart stated: “This mean [unintelligible] Jew Bean ….has prospered by his rascality and violating his oath…” Smart said Bean was a rebel of the worst kind who somehow had got contracts for “engraving” and “paraffin gunlock oil” for the Confederacy. Additionally, the Bean name, of course, had already come up in the April 21 & 22, 1865 statements of Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd: “I think he [Herold] said he knew Bean, who kept store here” [in Beantown or Bryantown, Maryland] and “I purchased at Mr. Bean’s some calico & some pepper” [which when used then was a trick to throw dogs off the trails of desperados they were tracking].

    It wasn’t until then in April of 1891when a memorable murder mystery occurred that the Bean name appeared again in the nation’s newspapers. Carrie Bean Brown [formerly married to Captain James Brown of Salem, Massachusetts in 1866] was well known to the citizens and cops of the 4th Ward in NYC by two notable nicknames; “Shakespeare” [because of “her habit of quoting passage after passage of the works of the Bard”] and “Jeff Davis” [due to “her persistency in arguing for the lost cause". She was reported to be a "highly-educated woman and something of a writer" who came to NYC in 1876 from Washington, D.C. as a well-to-do widow with a small fortune. However, "drink was her ruin" and she was "celebrated among the dives" as a lady of the evening. She met her brutal end at the hands of a butcher in a hotel commonly known through the years as Fourth Ward Hotel, East River Hotel, and Cambridge Hotel [the stigma of the savagery of her slaying finally forced the hotel in February, 1894 to shut its doors forever]. Back in 1891, Acting Police Superintendent Thomas Byrnes had famously put forth the theory that “Jack the Ripper was a likely suspect”.

    The Curious Case Of “Captain C”: Surely one of the strangest suspects ever came to the American public’s attention once again on July 11, 1865 four days after the execution of Mary Surratt; “On Monday, John Celestine, the well-known Cuban, who flourished much horseflesh in our avenues last summer, but who was imprisoned as one of the ‘suspects’ immediately after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln was liberated from the Old Capitol prison by order of the Secretary of War, upon condition that he leave the District of Columbia and depart from the United States within ten days, not to return without permission of the President. Celestine will be remembered as a person who was once imprisoned for participation in the slave trade, but after getting released, rode and drove about our streets in grand style, scattering much gold about him”. No stranger to danger and daring, John Celestine, apparently used a number of aliases, among them, Joao Celestino, had first come to the attention of the United States government on April 14, 1864 [a year to the day of Lincoln’s assassination] when he aboard his British registered schooner Indian was captured by the Union gunboat U.S.S. Vicksburg on suspicion of being a “slaver’ ship. Then again in April 1865 it would prove to be no different. “A few detainees got a great deal of attention even though nothing was proven against them. Joao Celestino, Portuguese sea captain, was one such person. Celestino was known for his rabid political views, and government informants considered him perfectly capable of plotting against the president. But after his highly publicized arrest, detectives failed to connect him with Booth, and no charges were filed”. However, as we are all well aware of, appearances can be deceiving.

    For, in the fall of 1865, as if the story wasn’t strange enough, at the behest of Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador and the Honorable De Figaniere, the Portuguese Ambassador, and on behalf of Celestino, a New York City attorney named James D. Stevenson wrote a letter dated November 2, 1865 to then President Andrew Johnson and closed it with a comment both cryptic and curious: “The case is a peculiar one and we only ask that you would appoint some good person to take the evidence and say what compensation Mr. Celestino is entitled to and to order the same paid out of the Secret Service fund”. The last known whereabouts of Captain C and another man of mystery who would often also be associated with the Lincoln assassination, James W. Boyd, were mere “whispers on the wind” that they’d left the country to live out their lives alongside other Southern sympathizers in the Confederados settlement in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    A Bullet With Booth’s Name On It: Then there’s the death of John Wilkes Booth within the Garrett family’s tobacco barn at their Locust Hill Farm. The generally recognized rendering of he, the actor turned assassin, meeting his own maker has him felled by the hand of the mad as a hatter [former] and God’s hand-picked avenger Sergeant Thomas “Boston” Corbett; in a yesteryears’ version of today’s suicide by cop vignette. There is and was, however, another doable theory therein the Pursuit and Death of John Wilkes Booth originally published in The Century January of 1890 issue. Prior to its publication, the proofs of the article were personally read and revised in November of 1889 by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, Major M.B. Ruggles, Captain Edward P. Doherty, and Lieutenant A.R. Bainbridge. Most conspicuously, are the cultured comments contained within Major Ruggles’ chronicle: “He [Booth] said, in substance, that the plot had been to capture Mr. Lincoln …..as the South could dictate terms with such a hostage….. Soon after my long conversation with Booth…Knowing the barn well, and judging from all the circumstances connected with the burning of it, I feel convinced that Sergeant Boston Corbett has a reputation undeserved as the slayer of Mr. Lincoln’s assassin. From the spot where Sergeant Corbett was he could not have seen Booth where he stood, and certainly could not have been able to shoot him in the back of the head. Having asked Captain Doherty to fall back fifty paces with his men and give him a chance to come out, and very properly and naturally being refused his request by that gallant officer, deserted by Herold, the barn on fire, and seeing that he must perish in the flames or be taken to Washington and hanged, Booth, hopeless, alone, and at bay, placed his pistol to the back of his head, and took his own life. No one saw Corbett fire, and one chamber of Booth’s revolver held in his hand was empty and I am by no means alone in the belief that he killed himself”.

    Now, I know CSI fans are saying to themselves the controversy could be cleaned up by comparing the bullet that was recovered within Mr. Booth with yet another one of the bullets in Boston Corbett’s revolver. Well, unfortunately, that was and is much easier said than done. For soon after Boston shot Booth, God only knows where the proverbial smoking gun went. Lost or stolen somewhere between the valleys of Virginia, the marshes of Maryland and the halls of justice in Washington City; it neither has been found nor seen again.

    Hindsight (c) Rick Stelnick 2011

    The author of “Dixie Reckoning: A Reassessment of the Lincoln Assassination and Lost Confederate Treasury” [Progressive Press 2011], Rick Stelnick is a former executive officer; with links and ties to Washington, D.C., New York City, Moscow, London, and Istanbul. He’s an alumnus of Brooklyn Technical High School and City College and University of New York. A life member of the Surratt Society, Rick also belongs to one of the largest minority groups in the U.S.: people with disabilities. His previous works are “The Confederate Veteran: A New Southern Man?” (1974) and “Skill Sets Of U.S. Grant” (1999). Rick is currently working as co-author with fellow crime historian and Surratt Society member, William L. Richter, on writing “Deo Vindice: The Trial of John Wilkes Booth”, in observation of the Civil War Sesquicentennial and the 150th Anniversary of the 1865 assassination of Lincoln by Booth.

  3. Laurie Verge says:

    OMG, Rick – You have outdone yourself this time.

    • Rick Stelnick says:

      Just doing my part to promote Mr. Redford’s new film and bring attention to why it matters. Which reminds me to ask him if John Wilkes Booth being a famous actor of his time gave any additional allure to Mary Surratt’s story?

      • Timothy McGivern says:

        Wait a minute, Rick! You say that Corbett’s gun has been lost to the ages (I remember it was mentioned in the book “Manhunt–the Search for J.W. Booth”), but what about the gun that was recovered with Booth? Is that accounted for? If it is–couldn’t the bullet be compared to one test-fired from it? Or would modern ballistics even apply? Didn’t even the revolvers from the civil war era all use cap & ball technology and miniballs (sp?)? Would ballistics analysis even work on them? (I obviously don’t know much about firearms.)

        • Laurie Verge says:


          Contact me at Surratt House, laurie.verge@pgparks.com. We have a member who is an arms expert and is working on a project related to all of the weapons related to the Lincoln assassination. I will put him in touch with you.

        • Rick Stelnick says:


          The empty chamber in his revolver is just one of the mysteries which still linger to this day. Another one has to do with Booth’s broken leg – did the break happen when he jumped from the box to the stage at Fords or did it occur when his horse fell upon him at Soper’s Hill? There’s the matter of what, when and where did he shout out? And of course whether or not it’s Booth’s body in the grave at Green Mount Cemetery? [In 1995 distant relatives went to court in Baltimore to exhume his body but Circuit Court Judge Kaplan ruled against it and Chief Judge Wilner along with two other members of the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis in 1996 denied the appeal]. All that being said, however, fellow Surratt Society member Bill Richter and I agree with Ruggles’ assessment that Booth himself took his own life in the Garrett’s Barn at Locust Hill Farm, instead of and rather than suicide by cop.

  4. vanessa autrey says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie!! I love history in any form,and movies such as these make people aware of events that otherwise they wouldn’t have known existed. Im so glad there are people like you who are trying to maintain our historical culture,whither its right,wrong,good or bad. My thanks to you.

  5. Diane says:

    I sure am excited about seeing this movie. I hope even more are made. I am an avid lover of the civil war era, and also the indian wars that came afterward.

  6. Larry says:

    I wish someone would do a TRUTHFUL movie about the Presidency of Lincoln: that he was a ruthless dictator who cared nothing about the Constitution, hated states’ rights, black people and did not care about the slavery issue at all. Using Lincoln’s own words, I have proven to people that the real Lincoln was nothing like the “saint” we learned about in the textbooks. Lincoln thought secession was treason, although our founding fathers permitted secession and it is even stated in the Declaration of Independence that if government becomes corrupt the American people have the DUTY [not right] to throw off that government. That’s what the southerners attempted to do. They were right constitutionally and they are viewed as treasonous by our media and society today—even in Hollywood.

    Hollywood is afraid to make a film depicting the awful things Lincoln did because he is so [an wrongfully] revered for “saving the Union” and “ending slavery”—neither of which he did. I am not advocating his assassination, but I would like someone to tell me the difference between Lincoln and Hitler. Both led invasions and sent their troops to slaughter a massive number of people, both obliterated civil liberties, both were racists, both used censorship to crush free speech [Lincoln shut down over 300 NORTHERN newspapers who were writing that the South was doing nothing wrong, and Lincoln also imprisoned newspaper editors].

    I am not saying I am happy he was killed, but doing evil brings consequences. I am sure many would not have been sad if Hitler was killed—so why be sad that Lincoln was?

  7. lpaur says:

    God I wish one holly wood star, who knows nothing about histot to do a film that produces only what the public sees as the truth. How Mr. Redford can magically procude the truth after so man years is nothing short of a wizards hocu pocus. Where are the men of integrity in the Movie industry who really try to find the fact by following the facts instead of tring to prove a stupid, STUPID. thought and then fading a way into the backgtound. Rober, my boy, is notorious like this. Come to a conclusion and then find facts to support at stupid opinion rather than study the facts and come to a conclusion.


  8. Larry says:

    I can’t believe my comment wasn’t posted. There was nothing in it that was false. Of course, just like the REAL story of Lincoln, it was silenced. I may not see this movie now since it appears that Redford is a Lincoln cultist.

    • Rich says:

      Larry, your original comment was posted at 8:52 pm last night. By 3 in the morning you can hardly blame Mr. Redford or the moderator for not getting out of bed to check to see if someone might have posted to the blog. Be fair.

  9. Larry says:

    Actually Rich, that’s not true. If my original comment had been posted at 8:52pm, then at 3am I wouldn’t have come to the conclusion that it was NOT posted. Do you think I saw that my comment WAS posted and then posted another comment saying it wasn’t? I would be brain dead to do that. I SENT the comment at 8:52pm but it was not posted yet as of 3:14am when I came back to check.

    • Rich says:

      Larry, your post was at 8:52pm but I had already gone to bed and didn’t even see it until this morning. (I go to bed early, I get up early, and I think I’m on a different time zone than you are.) If Mr. Redford had seen it last night then he might have approved it, but neither of us saw your posts until the morning. Honestly, we’re approving the posts as quickly as we can. We appreciate the wide range of opinions and we love the open dialog. But we can’t realistically moderate this instantly, 24 hours/day. I do hope you understand.

  10. Larry says:

    Some people feel that members of Lincoln’s own administration was involved in the plot to kill Lincoln. After all, Andrew Johnson was the only one that was a target of the plot whose life was not attempted on, because Atzerodt chickened out. Johnson became president as a result.

    A year later, in 1866, Johnson split from the Republicans and pardoned many Confederate leaders and let them hold elections in the South—which falls in line with wanting to restore the Union. But Republicans did not seat the elected Southerners. Odd way of showing you favor wanting to “save the Union” when you do not allow Southerners to be elected—this is why Johnson broke with Republicans—and just maybe it might be the reason Johnson was involved in a Coup d’ tat to remove Lincoln from the presidency, because he knew Lincoln hated southerners, states rights and blacks and would have never favored letting southerners become elected leaders an allowed a TRUE union.

  11. Rick Stelnick says:

    Dear Larry and LPaur

    While we wait to see if Mr. Redford responds to your posts himself, I’d like to put my two cents in [not that he needs me or anyone else to defend him].

    First and foremost, I will give you that Abraham Lincoln was not a perfect President, but it was as a result of Booth’s act that made the man larger than he had been in life. As such, in addition, as it’s often said, the victors get to write the history. Both the possibility and probability of Lincoln’s martyrdom and myth coming to be were remote at best until Booth changed an Easter Sunday capture plan to a Good Friday kill shot plot.

    A New York woman, well connected with the Copperhead leadership, Maria Lydig Daly, said it best whe she wrote in her diary entry for April 19, 1865: “The assassination will make a martyr of Abraham Lincoln, whose death will make all the shortcomings of his life and Presidential career forgotten in, as Shakespeare says ‘the deep damnation of his taking off’…Nor can we blame that when elected by a legal majority, he accepted the Presidency…It is a wise man indeed who feels that he knows but little, and as President of the United States, his government as that of right and law was the one to be sustained by all lovers of their country”.

    Secondly, Hollywood’s sympathetic take on “the lost cause” commenced in 1915, when Cecil B. DeMille proclaimed “Let not your angry passions rise”, and released “The Warrens Of Virginia” in the new medium of motion pictures, at the same time, David Llewelyn Wark Griffith, better known as D.W. Griffith, brought his film The Birth of a Nation to the screen as well. To nostalgia craving audiences, the two movies were studies in contrasts mirroring the situation that divided the country in 1860. Where on one hand The Warrens of Virginia was a Civil War love story between two different people, The Birth of a Nation was the telling of the tale between the same two sides again.

    Viewing the original sepia-tinted versions, one is struck by the visual quality of the two films, and while the depiction might appear ascetic at first glance, the austerity of the images is compelling in their own way. Both of the films feature deft and dexterous direction by Cecil B. and Griffith of the acting; the body language, facial expressions, muted gestures, and pantomime of all the actors and actresses.

    Griffith’s screenplay, of what William A. Tidwell of Come Retribution and April ’65 fame termed “the Southern rational” was based upon the Trilogy of Reconstruction, the trio of best-selling novels of Thomas F. Dixon, Jr.: The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman, and The Traitor. The final cost to make The Birth of a Nation was $123,000.00 but it made over $10 million dollars, making it the top grossing silent film of all time; while The Warrens of Virginia budget was only $8,538.00 and grossed $1,098,765.43. Cecil B’s brother, William C’s subtle script, a libretto of love versus loyalty, converted onscreen via cleverly worded inter-title cards, more than made up for the lack of spoken words.

    The ingenious message of the DeMille movie was that normally unacceptable acts and/or crimes committed during the uncommon times of war were forgivable under the circumstances. The movies also demonstrated the fundamental difference between the filmmakers as businessmen: “Cecil B. De Mille had a prescience that [D.W.] Griffith lacked; he was able to estimate the shifting states of audience interest”.

    In my forthcoming book “Dixie Reckoning: A Reassessment of the Lincoln Assassination & Lost Confederate Treasury” I make a case that there were actual two “crime{s} of the century” in the Civil War era from 1850 to 1880. One was the assassination of Lincoln, the other was the “plundering” [Stanton's phrasing] of the Confederacy’s Treasury [not to be confused of course with the Confederate "Treasure"].

    What’s not a well-known, or at least talked about, historical fact is that through time several countries or states, legal or otherwise, have defaulted on their bonds. Major all-time defaults are as follows: China $90 million, Russia over $1.5 billion, Confederate States of America $712 million, Mexico $12 million, and the State of Mississippi $7 million.

    In closing, I’m sorry to say, when one follows the monies, motives, and movers and shakers of both sides one cannot help but reach a conclusion that it wasn’t so much a matter of a lost cause as it was lost coin. As Walter Patrick “Pat” Lang, Jr.; retired U.S. Army colonel, Department of Defense HUMINT expert, and author of The Butcher’s Cleaver & Death Piled Hard has said “I am aware that the SCV [Sons of Confederate Veterans] crowd is hostile to the idea that their ancestors might have been practical men intent on winning the war and independence. My most significant comment would be that it is possible to use history as best one understands it as a framework or skeleton for the expression of “truths” about human nature or persistent circumstances in life”. I may be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that’s what Mr. Reford’s “The Conspirator” is all about.

  12. Rick Stelnick says:

    P.S. The words of Richard Allen Posner, “the most cited legal scholar of all time”, are maybe perhaps apropos as well: “Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts during the Civil War show that even legality must sometimes be sacrificed for other values. We are a nation under law, but first we are a nation”.

  13. Larry says:

    “P.S. The words of Richard Allen Posner, “the most cited legal scholar of all time”, are maybe perhaps apropos as well: “Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts during the Civil War show that even legality must sometimes be sacrificed for other values. We are a nation under law, but first we are a nation”.”

    That is the most ridiculous quote I have ever read. Basically, what Posner is saying is this:

    “If a city has a policy that if the lawmakers of that city ignore their own laws, the townspeople can take up arms and overthrow the city government. So, after the townspeople obey the city’s policy and take up arms to overthrow them, the city is allowed to “sacrifice for other values” and ignore their OWN policy and invade the homes of the townspeople and kill them, in order to “preserve” the city’s government—-despite the fact that the townspeople are obeying the city’s laws by taking up arms to overthrow a city government that is ignoring it’s own laws.”

    On a larger scale, this is EXACTLY what Lincoln did: The Declaration of Independence states that if a government becomes corrupt, it is the DUTY of the people to throw off that government and begin a new one. The Southerners were doing just that, because Lincoln was forcing Southerners to pay for the infrastructure of other states. Basically, the Southerners were pissed because they had to pay federal taxes [in 1861 there was no federal income tax like we have now] when it was unconstitutional to force states to pay for federal governmental projects. [I could go on and on about how our present income tax is unconstitutional as well, but that's another issue]

    It wasn’t just the tariffs the Southerners opposed….it was the incredibly high rate of them—-nearly 200 percent higher than the tariffs they were already paying. So 8 states seceded, with more that followed.

    The war was not about slavery. Lincoln favored slavery and even stated in his first inaugural address he had NO intention of interfering with Southern slavery, because he [correctly] understood that he couldn’t, because the Dred Scott decision of 1857 made slavery constitutional.

    Posner is saying that Lincoln violated the Constitution in order to save it. What a crock of —–. Lincoln not ONCE in his presidency said the war was about slavery [and it wasn't]. He continually said he was trying to “save the union”—also a crock. That’s like saying in order for a man to save his marriage [after all, a marriage is a Union], he has to violate his vows in order to save it, so he abuses his wife and cheats on her and then says to her, “but honey, I did it to save our Union”. Of course, that is absurd, but when it comes to Lincoln violating our constitution in order to “save the union”, most think he was the equivolent of Moses and still praise Lincoln as if he saved our country.

    Total crapola.

  14. Rick Stelnick says:


    I think that you took the Posner quote the wrong way. He was speaking only to Lincoln’s thoughts as to the legality of his actions as chief executive of the country, particularly as regards civil liberties, i.e. suspension of habeas corpus and implementation of martial law during wartime. Lincoln’s approach to things was almost always, first and foremost, as a lawyer, i.e. his defense of the national compact a.k.a. the Union. The majority of Americans tend to forget that fact, but Lincoln’s lawyering must be factored in. After all is said and done at the end of the proverbial day, good or bad, right or wrong, Abraham Lincoln was what he was – an attorney.

    As for the war itself, the mission impossible, of course, is, as it was also then, is getting Southerners and Northerners to agree to agree, at the very least I might add, on its causes and/or conclusions. Not that there isn’t enough evidence or prior proof that attempts were made by men-in-the-know to accomplish exactly that; before, during and after the war.

    There was Andrew Jackson’s admonition to South Carolina on December 10, 1832: “Are you really ready to incur its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment. On your unhappy State will inevitably fall the evils of the conflict you force upon the Government of your country. It cannot accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the first victims”.

    And James Louis Petigru’s prophetic proclamation: “This is the last happy day of my life. I see in the secession vote an awful foreboding of what is to come when the passions of the mob are let loose. South Carolina is too small to be a republic and too large to be a lunatic asylum”.

    Then there were those sinister sentiments of William Tecumseh Sherman: “You people of the South don’t know what you’re doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it. Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car. Hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth – right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe, as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail”.

    The only American to be President of a country other than his own, the Republic of Texas, and the governor of two states Tennessee and Texas, Sam Houston, tried to be both reasonable and realistic in his appeals: “My fellow citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own manhood and conscience, I refuse to take this oath. In addition, earlier this morning I telegraphed President Lincoln, as follows: ‘Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance including your offer to send 50,000 Federal troops of the United States Government’. Again, my fellow citizens, I love Texas too well to bring strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of the State. Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming. Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of bayonet. You may after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of state rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South……Confederate States of America – a brazen misrepresentation if there ever was one. No States were represented as such at the Convention, which they have the cheek to call a Congress. It’s a confederation of politicians without the concurrence of the people. Jeff Davis was selected by politicians, not elected by the people. I’ve had a recurring nightmare, with fields of blood, scenes of horror, cities in smoke and ruin, with brother murdering brother. I see the South going down in an unequal contest in a sea of blood and smoking ruin.”

    Even from abroad, Charles John Huffam Dickens analyzed the area of interest as follows: “So the case stands, and under all the passion of the parties and the cries of battle lays the two chief moving causes of the struggle. Union means so many millions a year lost to the South, secession means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this, as of many other evils. The quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel”.

    And Elihu Benjamin Washburn’s learned opinion: “The temptation our forefathers forewarned us has begun. When all is said and done with it, I think the real reasons for the rebellion will come out in the wash. The Buchaneers, the mordant moniker for the Southern members of President James Buchanan’s corrupt Cabinet, Jacob Thompson, John Buchanan Floyd, and Thomas Howell Cobb may be Confederates in the eyes of the Confederacy, but to the Union they’re nothing more than common criminal culprits. In his final act as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Thompson absconded with eight hundred fifty three thousand dollars from the Indian Department’s Trust Fund. Floyd, with the added curiosity of his middle name being the same as the surname of the fifteenth President, the former Secretary of War, made excessive payments and paid excessive prices. When Cobb was Secretary of Treasury, he deliberately mismanaged Treasury notes and National credit so that the U.S. government had to borrow money at usurious rates and pay ruinous premiums with the British and French. His last immoral scheme as Treasury Secretary was out-and-out fraud. The North’s textile mills had always paid the South’s cotton planters for their crops a year in advance on a go forward basis, an honorable way of doing business. Prior to President Abraham Lincoln taking office, Cobb cheated Northern textile mill men out of millions of dollars when as Speaker of the Provisional Confederate Congress, he coaxed and coerced cotton planters into not making deliveries of previously paid for goods. The Confederacy seized millions of dollars’ worth of public property between the Presidencies of Buchanan and Lincoln. I truly think history will note there never were a people more bewitched, beguiled, and befooled than the people living in the seceded states by their so-called leaders when they allowed themselves to be led adrift in the rebellion due to the pretext for disunion, namely, States’ supremacy and the abolition of slave labor. The Cavaliers, Jacobites, and Huguenots who settled the South have always hated the Puritans who settled the North. Southern men – and women – consider themselves to be aristocratic, chivalric, monarchist, and of noble descent. To them, Northerners are the descendants of boors and Saxon serfs. For fifty years the seeds of a second revolution have been cultivated. However, a class war is not a simple thing to sell to the ordinary citizens of the South, so instead secondary issues such as slavery and states’ rights have been postulated and promulgated from podiums and pulpits, all in the name of the South’s staple supply, cotton. The Fire-Eaters have blinded and deafened the citizens of the Southern states. And who is exempt from the Confederate conscription law: Bureaucrats, ministers, slave owners, traders and overseers. However, think of the folly, the fatal flaw if you will planters without purchasers are paupers, not princes!”

    Jefferson Finis Davis received equal time, albeit after the fact: “The contest is not over. When a constitutional Government oversteps the limits fixed for the exercise of its powers. This was the sole issue involved in the conflict of the United States Government with the Confederate States; and every other issue, whether pretended or real, partook of its nature, and was subordinate to this one. The question naturally arises. On which side was victory? Let the verdict of mankind decide”.

    The warrior king himself, U.S. Grant, would attempt to end the blame and name game when he declared afterwards: “I am satisfied that the mass of thinking men of the South accept the present situation of affairs in good faith. The questions which have heretofore divided the sentiments of the two sections – slavery and state rights, or the right of a state to secede from the Union – they regard as having been settled forever by the highest tribunal – arms – that man can resort to. I was pleased to learn from the leading men whom I met that they not only accepted the decision arrived at as final, but, now that the smoke of battle has cleared away and time has been given for reflection, that this decision has been a fortunate one for the whole country, they receiving like benefits from it with those who opposed them in the field”.

    However, maybe perhaps it is the hindsight of Southerner and Civil War cartographic historian, Mark Swanson, that sums it up: “As all expected, the process began in South Carolina, which had the most entrenched and powerful aristocracy in the South. Not coincidently, it also had the largest percentage of slaves. The American Civil War was arguably the greatest conflict in the Western world between the time of Napoleon and the First World War. It destroyed prewar Southern society, based on plantations and forced labor, and left behind a legacy that can still be found in the South. The outcome of the war defined the United States as a liberal democracy based on industry and capitalism. Never again would agrarian interests control the nation as they did before the war. No other war, before or since, has been responsible for so many American deaths. The American Civil War was unique in another way as well. During the nineteenth century as slavery and serfdom came to be abolished throughout the Western world, in no other place was a war required to do the job. By the end of 1861, the Five Civilized Indian Nations all signed on to the Southern side, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. They all paid for this mistake, both during the war and in the peace that followed”.

    In closing, the bottom line is that “the late unpleasantness” was indeed “a rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight”. How much of the fault for what happened back then when was Lincoln’s? It all depends on one’s point of view, I guess.
    All of which brings to mind one thing I’ll agree with Howard Means about in his 1998 fictional alternate history novel C.S.A. Confederate States Of America; the thought his victorious General Robert E. Lee has as regards releasing his prisoner U.S. President Lincoln: “An eternity with Mrs. Lincoln was punishment enough for any man”.

  15. Bill says:


    We’ve had enough of you and your wild ideas.

    Say:GOODBYE, Larry

    • Timothy McGivern says:

      I disagree with him, but he does have the right to express his opinion. Besides, he inspired Rick to so eloquently respond–making it more than worth it.

  16. Rick Stelnick says:

    I’d like to ask Mr. Redford a question: I remember reading that Richard Burton once remarked playing John Wilkes Booth’s brother Edwin in Philip Dunne’s “The Prince Of Players” was all the reason he needed to agree to the role. Did the fact John Wilkes Booth had been an actor play any part in your decision to direct The Conspirator?

  17. Larry says:

    Bill says:


    We’ve had enough of you and your wild ideas.

    Say:GOODBYE, Larry”

    I will interpret that as “you can’t/refuse to debunk anything I said”. Exactly what was “wild”? Care to share? Where am I wrong Bill?

  18. Larry says:

    Rick, you said:

    “I think that you took the Posner quote the wrong way. He was speaking only to Lincoln’s thoughts as to the legality of his actions as chief executive of the country, particularly as regards civil liberties, i.e. suspension of habeas corpus and implementation of martial law during wartime. Lincoln’s approach to things was almost always, first and foremost, as a lawyer, i.e. his defense of the national compact a.k.a. the Union.”

    First of all, my statement stands even if I factor in that they were Lincoln’s thoughts. He took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he did not.

    Second of all, you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why:

    Lincoln seemed to have memory loss when he was sworn in, because at one time [as far back as 1848] he knew the correct teaching of our founders when he said this:

    “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right—-a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose and exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit”

    [January 12, 1848]

    He must have completely forgotten saying this 13 years later. I bet this quote is nowhere to be found in American history textbooks. So, you see, even as a lawyer, he once knew the correct teachings of the founders—-but when he wanted his war, this ideal of “throwing off the old government” didn’t suit his agenda, did it?

    • Rick Stelnick says:


      Lincoln made the statement you quoted in a speech on January 12, 1848. However, he also said:

      “No state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union. Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy.”

      So, what’s your point? It wasn’t the first – and it wasn’t the last time – a politician spoke out of two sides of his mouth in hopes of broadening his base.

      In my previous post, I tried to make the point with you that Lincoln as a lawyer made it a habit to carve out his representations with caveats. As a politician, terms and conditions were integral parts of both his thought processes and administrative policies.

      The unfortunate thing about trying to evaluate a president who dies in office, like Lincoln or JFK, is that we can never really know how he would have finished up his term. I’d be willing to bet that quite a few Southerners, in their heart of hearts, wondered about that unanswered question a lot after the fact.

  19. Larry says:

    “No state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union. Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy.”

    Did he say this AFTER being sworn in? If so, OF COURSE he would say it AFTER the fact, his real agenda was to expand and centralize the federal government. His idol was Henry Clay for crying out loud. The above quote is simply wrong. If the act of secession is wrong, then the men who fought the Revolutionary War were anarchists—is that what you’re saying? Was the Revolutionary War NOT a war of secession [from England]? In fact, the Declaration of Independence can also be called The Declaration of Secession.

    I seem to recall that secession was also attempted in the early 1800′s by the New England Federalists, but they decided against it—-not because it was treasonous but because the men feared that secession would ruin their chances at a future in politics. When they toyed with the idea of seceding, no one ever questioned their RIGHT to—but only if it would be good politically to do so. The Union is not a compact that is to remain intact regardless. Did you not see my posts where I said the Declaration of Independence permits it? Shall I post it again?

    “The Declaration of Independence states that if a government becomes corrupt, it is the DUTY of the people to throw off that government and begin a new one.”

    That’s not the direct quote. The direct quote from the DOI says:

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    After reading the above portion from the DOI, wouldn’t you agree Lincoln is dead wrong in the quote you provided about anarchy?

    I can refute all the myths about Lincoln very easily. Wanna know what my best weapon against Lincoln is? Lincoln’s OWN words.

  20. Larry says:

    Read that quote from the DOI again very carefully….

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

    The South did NOT consent…that means the government had no power because of the lack of the South’s consent.

    Where am I wrong??

    The power comes from the PEOPLE, so when the people do not consent, the government is powerless. If I am not interpreting that correct, please enlighten me.

  21. Rick Stelnick says:


    What does all the anti-Lincoln rhetoric have to do with Mr. Redford’s movie? And don’t tell me that he caused Mary Surratt to become the first woman executed by the U.S. government. She, Herold, Atzerodt, and Paine-Powell brought that upon themselves because of Mr. Booth. It’s called guilt by association. Neither Mr. Reford nor I were alive then. Neither Mr. Redford nor I voted for Lincoln. The fact is sh*t happens [and in this case, did happen], but don’t shoot the messengers.

    Further, you are not the first, by any stretch , to point out the problems with Lincoln’s position within the American psyche. A friend and fellow member of the Surratt Society, William L. Richter, has written two recent books about the subject matter at hand; “Sic Semper Tyrannis: Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln” [non-fiction] and “The Last Confederate Heroes: The Final Struggle For Southern Independence & The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln”, a fictional account of the life and death of John Wilkes Booth. Both books go into detail about what Brigadier General William A. Tidwell described as “the Southern rationale” in his two tomes “Come Retribution” and “April ’65″, with the end result being, what Mr. Richter calls “getting right with Lincoln and Booth”.

    Finally, I think that you would be better served by checking out and clicking on http://www.lincoln-assassination.com which is the website run by fellow Surratt Society member Randal Berry – for intelligent discussions and exchanges about topics such as this.

  22. Rick Stelnick says:

    P.S. For your perusal, here is my review of “SST”:

    William L. Richter Is An Unrepentant Rebel

    Yes, he is. And his relatively recent new book Sic Semper Tyrannis: Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln is his weapon.

    Richter, a retired businessman turned historian, having had received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, has written dozens of books and articles about the Antebellum South, American Civil War, and Reconstruction, but none as hard-hitting and eye-opening as his latest effort; which proves once and for all time that the old adage “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword” [coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy] is true. Following on the heels of his fictional tour-de-force, the two volume tome, The Last Confederate Heroes: The Final Struggle For Southern Independence & The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln, Richter dares in Sic Semper Tyrannis: Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln to pit the pair of protagonists, Booth and Lincoln, against each other, not physically mind you, but in a battle of political philosophies.

    Abraham Lincoln, who as the Republican Party’s inaugural Presidential nominee had bested the Northern Democrats’ choice Stephen Arnold Douglas in the 1860 election contest, was no novice when it came to a debate about politics. John Wilkes Booth, while on one hand was certainly more cultured than the 16th U.S. President, on the other he was rather primitive in his political thought. However, whatever Booth lacked in know-how he more than made up with the passion of a true Shakespearean tragedian. As a result of their public personas and the oratory power both possessed, it could be easily said each one earned their own mantles as outspoken mouthpieces when it came to their respective beliefs and causes. Sic Semper Tyrannis: Why John Wilkes Booth Shot Abraham Lincoln is comprised of three concise essays; number one is How Did Anakin Skywalker Become Darth Vader? The Abraham Lincoln John Wilkes Booth Knew, number two is Out Of The Sahara Of The Bozart: The Pre-War Political Thought Of John Wilkes Booth, and number three is Killing A Man Is Murder, Unless You Do It To Sound Of Trumpets: The Wartime Political Thought Of John Wilkes Booth. Like any skilled scholar worth his salt, Richter uses the fruit of his labors, the writings of third parties to give readers a generous sampling of well-researched viewpoints in addition, of course, to his own very well-written learned opinions.

    One gets a very strong sensation of climbing a step-ladder with Richter, all with the aim of reaching the top shelf. In he end, it is worth every step to get there and gaze upon the gift of sight the writer has given the reader – the glory of reversing one’s point of view and learning something new for a change after a century and a half of not seeing what was hidden in plain sight.

  23. Larry says:


    How could a person type so much and say nothing? You didn’t address one statement I made, whereas I address ALL yours directly. Why did you ignore my question?

    I’ll repeat it.

    ““Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

    The South did NOT consent…that means the government had no power because of the lack of the South’s consent.

    Where am I wrong??

    The power comes from the PEOPLE, so when the people do not consent, the government is powerless. If I am not interpreting that correct, please enlighten me.”

    You call this “anti-Lincoln rhetoric”. I call it the truth. I began my posts by saying I wish someone would make a movie on the TRUE story of Lincoln’s presidency.

  24. Rick Stelnick says:


    I guess we’ll just have to call you “Lingering Lawrence”. Unless you, yourself, do something to change that label.

    The fact is that Lincoln was elected in 1860 [and re-elected in 1864] He didn’t come to be president as a result of a coup, which is what your posts make it seem like happened. In fact, it was by a stroke of luck he first got elected at all.

    Four candidates had been nominated. The dominant party, the Democrats, split into two; Northern and Southern, with Stephen Arnold Douglas and John Cabell Breckinridge running respectively. In addition to the new Republican party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, there was yet another candidate, John Bell, from the short-lived Constitutional Union party. This, of course, also split the popular vote on November 6, 1860 with Lincoln garnering 39.8%, John Breckinridge 18.1%, John Bell 12.6%, and Douglas 29.5% of the 4,685,561 votes cast by Americans.

    Then on February 11, 1861, with Breckinridge himself, as Vice President in the outgoing Buchanan administration, having had opened the Electoral College ballots, declared Lincoln as the winner with a Constitutional majority – 180 out of 303. Then the 36th Congress [with a Republican minority to boot!] ratified the results and Lincoln had been legally elected the 16th President of the still United States.

    What happened afterwards, of course, is why on the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War you and I and a lot of others, I might add, are going back and forth about it at all, including, but not limited, to Mr. Redford’s new film today.

    It’s time to move on, my man. Take care of yourself, bye.

  25. Felicia says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m a 19 year old African American female and tonight I went by myself to see this amazing movie. Despite some very negative reviews one saying….

    “The only people who will go to see this movie are either A- Nerds, B- Senior citizens almost old enough to say “I was there when..” and C- quite possibly high school students forced to go.”

    None of my friends seemed very interested but I was so excited. I went anyways and enjoyed every single minute of it. I am very big into history – it amazes me and captivates me to learn and understand how we got here today. I didn’t know the outcome of her trial so I was sitting at the edge of my seat waiting to hear what the outcome was. I was sad with the citizens as they mourned the presidents death, and I was yelling along side Aiken as he defended Mary up until the day she died! It was like I was there and I was a part of it, and 150 years later the event could still stir up so much controversy is astonishing. If only they all knew…just amazing! It blows me away to think about how I am able to sit here on my own computer today living in a home with two (white) adopted parents, very much free and independent. I hope that as the days go on and more people view this movie more positive reviews will pop up. I hope that he does more films on other huge moments in history, I will for sure be lining up to buy my ticket if he has any other historical based films in the future!

  26. Larry says:

    And yet, ANOTHER post that ignores every word in my post. That’s two in a row. Who was talking about HOW Lincoln was elected? All of my posts have been dealing with his presidency—-NOT how he got there. I guess if I want you to answer specific questions of mine, I have to talk about an entirely different topic and then I’ll get my answer?

    This is the very thing I’m talking about concerning the Lincoln fairy tale [that he saved the Union or freed slaves]—no wonder the REAL story gets lost in all the fairy tales, because people like YOU choose to ignore it, time and time again…as evidenced in you ignoring my posts over and over.

    I will ask my above question another way [more directly]:

    Do you think the South was wrong in seceding despite the fact that our founding documents SUPPORT what they did, and Lincoln’s actions violate our founding documents? [Keep in mind the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence that I posted above]

  27. Larry says:

    You didnt answer this question either:

    “If the act of secession is wrong, then the men who fought the Revolutionary War were anarchists—is that what you’re saying? Was the Revolutionary War NOT a war of secession [from England]?”

  28. Jean says:

    Wow, All this over someones interpretation of recorded facts made into a movie. But I think it’s wonderful to see a movie deplicting what may be the way of it. We as citizens will never know all the actual facts as they happened. The war is over, gentlemen. Everyone has a right to their opinion.
    Thank you Mr. Redford for yours.

  29. Rick Stelnick says:

    Dear Jean

    “Historians make their names by opposition” – W.L. Richter


    I am not, nor do I profess to be a Lincoln expert. I prefer to leave that to a pro like William L. Richter, who you can get in touch with via http://www.lincoln-assassination.com
    Wild Bill has well over a quarter of a century of experience.

    Now, if you want to have an intelligent discussion with me about the two crimes of the 19th century – the Lincoln assassination and/or the lost Confederate treasury, I’d be more than willing to do so at the aforesaid website as well.

    I just don’t think that this is the right place to do so. Bye

  30. Larry says:


    It’s great to hear that young people like you are interested in history and things that matter while others your age are snorting cocaine and waste their lives watching “reality” TV shows while their brains turn to mush.

    If you are really into history like you say, please get informed about the REAL history of events—-not the fairy tales that Lincoln hated and ended slavery and that he saved the Union. It’s all crapola. The truth is that Lincoln [along with MOST people in that day] were profound racists and cared nothing about slavery. Lincoln even wanted to ship all black people to Liberia. I’m not making this up. In fact, Lincoln’s idol, Henry Clay FORMED the American Colonization Society and the ACS actually purchased Liberia for the sole purpose of sending ALL black people there [not all slaves...ALL black people] because Clay [like his admirer Lincoln] wanted all blacks shipped off there.

    Lincoln made MANY racist statements during his political tenure and never once—never ONCE did he EVER say the Civil War was about slavery. The myth that the war was “about slavery” has been repeated ad nausium by Lincoln cultists for 150 years. The war was about imposing extremely high tariffs on the South to pay for Federal infrastructure in other states. The South knew and followed the constitution. They knew that states are independent and sovereign and that, just like the founders have stated, the states are more powerful that the federal system—so they refused to pay–and seceded [which the constitution permits].

    Lincoln ordered his Union army to invade South Carolina and establish a military base at Fort Sumter, S.C. When Southerners resented the fact that they had been invaded [and rightfully so] and Union troops were in THEIR state [remember, states have more authority than the federal government----although we as a society for the last 150 years have been brainwashed into believing the Federal government is supreme over the states], the Southeners fired first and the war began.

    Keep in mind, people will tell you that because the South fired first, that THEY were the instigators and traitors. Let me give you a similar, smaller scale analogy that will tell you this is not the case:

    If a stranger invaded your house [coming onto your property] and you chose to act in self-defense [either injuring them or shooting them], would you think it was outrageous if the invader then sued you and claimed YOU fired the first shot? Of course you would. It’s just as outrageous then for people to make the point that the SOUTH fired first, therefore a Northern invasion was justified. The North had ALREADY invaded the South. They set up their military fort at Fort Sumter, South Carolina—-the first state to secede.

    Also keep in mind that NO ONE died in the Fort Sumter attack. Pro-Lincoln/pro-North advocates will lead you to believe that because they fired first, they killed people. Not true.

    Here’s a story I wrote 2 months ago about Lincoln and Henry Clay that you may find interesting:


    • Timothy McGivern says:

      “Lincoln ordered his Union army to invade South Carolina and establish a military base at Fort Sumter, S.C. When Southerners resented the fact that they had been invaded [and rightfully so] and Union troops were in THEIR state [?]”

      From Wikipedia:
      “Named after General Thomas Sumter, Revolutionary War hero, Fort Sumter was built following the War of 1812, as one of a series of fortifications on the southern U.S. coast. Construction began in 1827, and the structure was still unfinished in 1861, when the Civil War began . . . The Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter on Friday, April 12th, 1861 at 4:30am. The battle continued overnight until Saturday. . . On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina declared its secession, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie [on Sullivan Island, also near Charleston] and secretly relocated companies E and H (127 men, 13 of them musicians) of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE, WITHOUT ORDERS FROM WASHINGTON. [Emphasis added.] He thought that providing a stronger defense would delay an attack by South Carolina militia. The fort was not yet complete at the time and fewer than half of the cannons that should have been available were in place, due to military downsizing by President James Buchanan.”

      Not that Wikipedia is always the most accurate historical narrative, but if it is to be believed here, then (1) The U.S. military base at Ft. Sumter, although unfinished, was pretty much already established well-before the Civil War (to protect Charleston Harbor from attack by European forces); (2) The U.S. troops not already stationed in Sumter but who moved there were nonetheless already stationed in Ft. Moultrie, also in S. Carolina, and therefore didn’t “invade” S. Carolina; (3) Those troops that moved from Moultrie to Sumter did so on the initiative of their commanding officer Major Anderson, without orders from Washington (i.e., Lincoln).

      It’s apparent you have a definite agenda, and of course that is your right. I think though that not everything about those times was (excuse the expression) black & white. There were good & bad intentions on both sides. Certainly there was plenty about the North and even Lincoln that should be the subject of appropriate criticism, but it shouldn’t be thought necessary to paint everything Lincoln or the North did as purely evil-intentioned, nor should it be necessary to misrepresent what happened (like Ft. Sumter) simply to support an overall viewpoint.

      Slavery was an evil institution, but certainly most men fighting for the South never did nor could they ever afford to own even one slave. Most fought simply for the honor of defending their individual states. Even Lee felt he was a Virginian (not a Southerner nor a Confederate) first and a U.S. citizen second. But to imply that the war had nothing to do with slavery is erroneous. Many Northerners (and even Southerners) fought for the Union because they thought they were fighting to end slavery. The riots that occurred in NYC happened because many poor Irish immigrants objected to being conscripted to fight a war to free the Negroes, who they didn’t care about or for. While you claim Lincoln never claimed the war was about slavery, certainly there were countless other people from the era who did voice that opinion. Perhaps they were mislead or were misleading, but it definitely was a contributing issue.

      I think you clearly know a lot about the history of that era and American history in general. By being so absolute however, you lose credibility. The issue of secession, whether you like the outcome or not, is settled. I would venture that the vast majority of Southerners today, even descendants of Confederates, would not support secession. In the intervening years since the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, if you prefer), many thousands of Southerners have proudly and voluntarily fought and died in subsequent wars as Americans in defense of the United States–Would we want that to have been in vain?

      Kudos to you for your passion, and best of luck to you on your future scholarship.

  31. Larry says:

    For some reason, clicking my link above doesn’t take you to my story—–something about THIS site makes it unable to do. Here’s what you can do: Put your cursor over the link, right click and select “open in new window” and my story will come up.

  32. Rick Stelnick says:

    Mr. Simons

    Now, why am I not surprised? And a fan of TJD to boot.

    As I’ve stated here, you and William L. Richter should have a lot to talk about.

    Bill’s website address is http://www.williamrichter.com

    Larry Simons is a political blogger and researcher from Hagerstown, MD. Larry considers himself to be unaffiliated with any political party [he is a staunch Jeffersonian Constitutionalist], although registered Republican when he voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 primary. Larry has a B.S. degree in counseling and he graduated from a Christian college in North Carolina in 1993, though he is currently an agnostic. His favorite authors are Thomas J. DiLorenzo, David Ray Griffin and Jim Marrs

  33. Larry says:


    I love how you continue to mock and condemn my views, but I keep noticing you REFUSE to answer the questions I’ve asked you—nor have you refuted anything I have said. DiLorenzo, in his books, actually cites passages from Lincoln apologists and refutes their claims. Tell me something, how many Lincoln apologists in THEIR books cite DiLorenzo’s passages and refutes HIM in their books?

    I will guess zero.

    Now, are you going to address the questions I asked you [above] or are you going to continue to ignore them?

  34. Larry says:

    Here are the questions you keep ignoring [for the third time now]. Will you refuse to answer them AGAIN?:

    Do you think the South was wrong in seceding despite the fact that our founding documents SUPPORT what they did, and Lincoln’s actions violate our founding documents? [Keep in mind the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence that I posted above]

    “If the act of secession is wrong, then the men who fought the Revolutionary War were anarchists—is that what you’re saying? Was the Revolutionary War NOT a war of secession [from England]?”

  35. Rick Stelnick says:


    You are persistent, I will give you that. I will try to answer your questions again. However, with one caveat and carve out: without bringing Abraham Lincoln into it.

    Note: You are obviously reading too much into my posts that you take them personally, which they are not.

    First and foremost, I wish you would stop saying the all-encompassing phrase “the South”. The Confederate States of America or the Confederacy are the proper form for this forum and for the purposes of this discussion. [You will notice that I didn't use the catch-all phrase "Rebels"].

    Secondly, you need to stop stating as regards the actual act of secession that it was approved by the people who lived in the southern states via a public referendum. The same, of course, applies to the so-called election of Jeff Davis, as it actually was as a result selection by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, again, not by Southern people in general.

    Third, the resulting rich man’s war and poor man’s fight, that was waged was in fact commanded by a majority, a fraternity if you will, of former West Point graduates, who did so in the observance of the age-old traditions of King or Queen, Country and God [old habits do indeed die hard, as seen even today].

    Fourth and finally, maybe perhaps the greatest irony of the un-civil war was that many of the same bloodlines, had fought side by side to gain the colonies’, joined in a national compact I might add, independence from British rule. It was also shameful that the United States of America was the only supposed civilized country on the planet that had to have a war to settle the slavery issue. My point being, of course, if the states could band together to fight against a common enemy a century before in brotherhood, then it should have been common sense, if nothing else, to come together again at the proverbial table to resolve any and all matters between us as brethren, not as the so-called wild savages who were indigenous to the land that was being stolen right from under their feet by both Southerners and Northerners.

    In closing, what the worlds needs now, as it did then, is not fiery rhetoric that preaches and teaches dissension and divisiveness, but voices, both reasonable and realistic, to achieve, what another assassination victim died for one hundred years later in 1963, peace on the planet by popular demand. After all, at the end of the day, that is what matters

  36. Larry says:

    well, you didnt answer my questions…AGAIN. So, I will stop asking. I have accepted I wont get an answer. I think my usage of the term “south” is understood by anyone to mean “the confederacy” since no NORTHERN states fought in the confederacy. You are so wrong on so many points, it’s worthless to even argue with you, because you are a brainwashed sap who will never be changed. The big thing you’re wrong about is the fact that the original 13 colonies did NOT form a COMPACT. You’re dead wrong and I can PROVE it. It was, and still is—a VOLUNTARY union.

    The war was NOT about slavery. I have stated OVER and OVER that Lincoln said in his first inaugural address that he had NO intention of interfering with Southern slavery because he had NO authority to. I can prove this. I can prove it with Lincoln’s OWN words. I can post a plethora of quotes by Lincoln that would leave your jaw dropped so far south that you would be speechless. Do you really want me to begin quoting Lincoln himself?

    Lincoln NEVER EVER EVER said ONE time during his presidency that the war was about slavery. He shut down over 300 newspapers and imprisoned newspaper editors because NORTHERN newspapers were printing that the South was doing NOTHING wrong and if they wanted to secede—then god speed to them. Not ONCE…EVER did anyone say their secession was treason. They didn’t say it about the New England federalists that planned to secede in the early 1800′s either. Know why? Because the Constitution PERMITS it. I can prove all this. Can you prove your info? Hell, you can’t [more like REFUSE] to even answer my questions!

  37. Rick Stelnick says:

    OMG – “a brainless sap” – LOL. I’ve been called a lot of things in my time on this planet but never ever that before.
    I hate to be the one to tell you this but you need help to get your head together, my man, before the next thing we hear about you is that you’ve gone and committed suicide by cop in a shootout after a standoff with your local police. It’s ugly Americans like you who’ve given this country a bad name and make me feel ashamed to be a citizen. If you don’t like living here in the U.S.A. leave, Lawrence, just leave.

  38. Rick Stelnick says:

    Webmaster, you’ve my permission to please feel free to remove my recent posts dealing with Larry – My apologies for clogging up Mr. Redford’s blog. Thanks & Regards

  39. Nikki Oldaker says:

    I am so looking forward to seeing this film… I wish I could get you to read my book, “Samuel Tilden, the Real 19th President” Tilden’s history has been buried and ignored for too long. I’m currently producing a doc on him –slow go working alone…Want to help another Indy out? :>)

  40. Laurie Verge says:

    As I have stated elsewhere on these blogs, I am the director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD. I just have to make a comment after reading some of the utterly ridiculous condemnations by some bloggers on the Yahoo Movies segment of this forum. I first wondered if they had even seen the movie, but then I realized that they must be the same people who slept through their history classes.

    I am happy to report that our small, historic house museum has seen a dramatic increase in visitation over the past two weeks thanks to The Conspirator. On days when we normally average 25-50 visitors, we are averaging 100-150. My volunteer guides may drop in their tracks, but they are thrilled to be sharing so much history to so many people.

    I am also happy to report that at least 50% of the visitors are in the under-40 age bracket. And, we have heard nothing but positive comments about the movie. This proves to me that even younger people are interested in history and don’t have to be wowed with techno tricks, sex, and blood!

    Thank you American Film Company, Mr. Redford, and all involved in this movie. If the schools won’t teach American history, we’ll find ways such as this to get important lessons across to the general public.

  41. Tim McGivern says:

    Great post, Laurie. I’m not in the under-40 crowd, but I hope to someday visit Surratt House should I ever make it back there again. Sounds wonderful. Keep up the good work!

  42. Rick Stelnick says:

    Timothy McGivern says: April 23, 2011 at 12:05 am
    I disagree with him, but he does have the right to express his opinion. Besides, he inspired Rick to so eloquently respond–making it more than worth it.

    Hello Timothy

    Thank you very much for your comments and compliment. Coming your way shortly is a complimentary first edition copy of “Dixie Reckoning: A Reassessment of the Lincoln Assassination & Lost Confederate Treasury” as soon as it’s released by the publisher Progressive Press. Please contact me via email @ rstelnick@dixiereckoning.com to confirm.

    Thanks & Regards,


  43. Rick Stelnick says:

    P.S. Everyone almost always seems to forget that Lincoln [and Stanton] battled a beast of burden, born and bred of conflict and compromise, which was bequeathed to both of them, within our borders. The tale that is told in The Conspirator trumpets the 150 year anniversary of an un-Civil War and the “crime of the century”, which hopefully helps us realize and remember that there’s still no country on the planet, no nation in the world, like the United States of America.

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