June 9, 1865 - Testimony of William J. Watson about Dr. Samuel Mudd
WILLIAM J. WATSON, a witness called for the accused, Samuel A. Mudd, being duly sworn, testified as follows:
By MR. EWING:
Q. Where do you live?
A. I live in the Eighth Election District of Prince George’s County, Md.
Q. Are you acquainted with Daniel J. Thomas, one of the witnesses for the prosecution?
A. Not very intimately acquainted.
Q. Were you present in your door-yard near Horse Head, on last Fast Day, the 1st of June, with John R. Richardson, Benjamin Naylor, George Lynch, Lemuel Watson, and Daniel J. Thomas?
A. I was.
Q. Will you state what he then said to you, if any thing, as to having been a witness in Dr. Mudd’s case, and being entitled to a reward?
A. I think, if my memory serves me right, he said, that, if Dr. Mudd was convicted upon his testimony, he would then have given conclusive evidence that he gave the information that led to the detection of the conspirator.
Q. Did he say any thing as to a reward?
A. He said that he thought that his portion of the reward ought to be $10,000, and asked me if I would not, as the best loyal man in Prince George’s County, give him a certificate of how much I thought he ought to be entitled to.
Cross-examined by ASSISTANT JUDGE ADVOCATE BINGHAM:
Q. What did you tell him that he ought to receive as his portion?
A. I told him I did not think he was entitled to any portion of the reward, and would give him no certificate.
Q. What did he say in reply to that?
A. I then appealed to his conscience in the most powerful manner, and asked him if he believed himself that he was entitled to the reward?
Q. What did he say to that?
A. I did this three times, and he waived the question every time by saying that Daniel Hawkins said he was entitled to it. That is what I understood him to say.
Q. Is that what he said?
A. Yes, to the best of my knowledge and belief. He did not say that Daniel Hawkins told him he was entitled to the reward, but that Daniel Hawkins told somebody else that he was entitled to the reward.
Q. Are you Daniel Hawkins, or was somebody else Daniel Hawkins?
A. Daniel Hawkins lives in Charles County; a young lawyer at the bar in Port Tobacco. He has testified here to-day, I believe, in this case.
Q. And that is all that Dan. Thomas said?
A. That is all that I heard him say. He then, I think, asked Mr. Benjamin J. Naylor if he did not mention to him and Arthur D. Gibbons, before the killing of the President, the language that Dr. Mudd had used to him. Mr. Naylor said that he had never done it before or after.
Q. Did not Thomas wind it all up by saying that he would not have that man swear to a lie for $10,000?
A. When I was appealing to his conscience in regard to the matter, Mr. James Richards, the magistrate in the neighborhood, rode up; and my brother, Joseph L. Watson, or Lemuel Watson, as he is called, appealed to him, saying, “There is a contest going on here between Billy and Daniel: you are a magistrate, and I want you to decide it between them.”
Q. Please answer my question: Did Thomas say at that time, to any of the parties, “I would not have you for $10,000 swear to a lie.”
Let me go on, if it please your Honor.
ASSISTANT JUDGE ADVOCATE BINGHAM.
Go on in your own way.
Mr. Richards said: “Lem., let us say that he entitled to $20,000 of the reward.” Mr. Thomas then said, “No, sir: I would not have either of you gentlemen swear false, though, by your doing so, it would give me $20,000.” That is what I understood.
By MR. EWING:
Q. Did Mr. Richards offer to take a false oath for Mr. Thomas?
A. No, sir; he did not. I think Mr. Richards was joking. I am confident of that. Mr. Richards, I think, is a good Union man, and I think he was joking with Mr. Thomas. I will say for Mr. Richards, that he has always acted with me; and he has been of great benefit to me in getting along with the elections.
By ASSISTANT JUDGE ADVOCATE BINGHAM:
Q. Do you not consider that Daniel J. Thomas is entitled to belief on his oath?
A. I have no reasons bearing on my mind to offer to this Court why I would not: therefore I must say, I would.
Q. Would you believe him on his oath?
A. I would.
Q. He has as good a reputation for truth as most of his neighbors down there?
A. I should not think he had as good a reputation for truth as most of the neighbors.
MR. EWING objected to this course of examination as improper.
It was not legitimate cross-examination. The witness had been subpœnaed by the Government, and, at the consent of the Judge Advocate, was called by the accused as to a single point, with the understanding that he should be treated as a witness for the accused only to that one point.
The JUDGE ADVOCATE (while not yielding the point that the line of examination being indulged in was improper) stated that he would agree now to take this witness as one for the prosecution; and the witness was accordingly examined for the prosecution in rebuttal, as follows:
By ASSISTANT JUDGE ADVOCATE BINGHAM:
Q. Are you acquainted with Daniel J. Thomas and with the general reputation in which he is held, in the neighborhood, for truth?
A. I was never much acquainted with the man until 1863.
Q. You lived in his neighborhood?
A. Not immediately.
Q. How near?
A. I suppose, about four or five miles off. He lives in Charles County, and I live in Prince George’s.
Q. How long have you lived so near?
A. He was born where he now lives, I think; and I have lived in the neighborhood where I now live ever since I was born; and that has been fifty-three years, going on fifty-four now.
Q. From his general reputation for truth in the neighborhood in which he lives, is he entitled to be believed upon his oath?
A. I do not know what kind of reputation he does bear in Charles County; and in my county he does not come often, or never did until 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg.
Q. It is not confined to county lines; it is confined to the neighborhood in which a man lives; and that may embrace half a dozen counties.
A. I do not know what the people of Charles County may think about his reputation.
Q. I am asking you for his reputation in your neighborhood, which is his neighborhood.
A. They speak evil of him around there.
Q. And some speak well of him?
A. Some speak well of him. They say he tells a good many lies; but I think people tell him as many lies as he tells them.
Q. Do you know what people generally say in the neighbor-hood about his character for truth, for and against him?
A. They generally say that his character for truth is bad. I know they generally say so.
Q. Do you know that some say it is good?
A. Some say it is good.
Q. I ask you your opinion whether you consider, from all you hear of his reputation there, that his character for truth is such that he is entitled to be believed on oath?
A. I believe that he is; because if he was to come here and say he was not qualified, I should have to say that half the men around there are not qualified.
By MR. EWING:
Q. Are you able to say that you know what Mr. Thomas’s general reputation is, in the community in which he lives, for truth?
A. I think I have stated that it is not good for truth in speaking; but I think he lies more in self-praise, to make the people think a great deal of him, than in any other way. I have never heard of Mr. Thomas telling a lie that would make a difference between man and man. I have known of no quarrels to be kicked up in my neighborhood about any thing Mr. Thomas has told from one man to another.