Frederick's Top Matches
About Frederick Argyle Aiken
Lincoln Assassination Trial Attorney for Mary Surratt.
Birth: Sep. 20, 1837 Shrewsbury Worcester County Massachusetts, USA Death: Dec. 23, 1878 Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia, USA
The Conspirator is a movie about Aiken and his client, Mrs. Mary Surratt. Aiken is played by James McAvoy. Alexis Bledel plays his wife, Sarah. Mary Surratt is played by Robin Wright.
A Massachusetts native he moved with his parents to Hardwick, Vermont when he was ten years old. As a young man he studied at Middlebury College from 1855 to 1857. Drawn to journalism he became the editor of the Burlington Sentinel. After he married Sarah Olivia Weston (1846-1900), daughter of Judge Edmund Weston in Randolph, Vermont, he began the study of law. In 1859 he was admitted to the Orange County, Vermont bar, moving to Washington, D.C. in 1860.
When the Civil War began he joined the volunteers, becoming an aide with the rank of Captain on the staff of General Winfield S. Hancock. He returned to the law in 1863 when admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States and in the District of Columbia Courts.
He was best known for his defense of Mrs. Mary Surratt, accused of conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln. His speech in her defense was included in the The World's Best Orations in 1899.
In 1868 he returned to the practice journalism. In 1877 he became the City Editor of The Washington Post, a position he held until his death after an illness of two days.
Although his grave is unmarked he is buried in the North Hill lot containing the grave of Tennessee United States Senator and Secretary of War, John H. Eaton.
Frederick Argyle Aiken was born in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1837, and consequently was only in the 41st year of his age at death. . . During the early years of the war he was a volunteer aide with the rank of captain on the staff of General Hancock, and participated gallantly in several engagements, during one of which he had two horses shot under him, and received injuries the ultimate effect of which no doubt hastened his death. During the dark days of 1863 and 64 when the Democracy of the District made so gallant a fight under the leadership of Col. Thomas B Florence . . . Aiken was one of the most active workers in the Democratic cause, and his brilliant pen and eloquent voice were incessantly employed. When that unfortunate victim of Republican fury, Mrs. Mary Surratt, was dragged from her bed at midnight by the brutal minions of Stanton, and hurried before a court-martial organized to convict, Col. Aiken was one of the gallant few in the District that dared to lift his voice in behalf of justice and right at the imminent risk of his life and nobly undertook to conduct her defense. His defense of Mrs. Surratt is one of the . . . most praiseworty efforts on record. Col Aiken’s memorable speech on that occasion will be long remembered as fulfilled prophecy, everyone now believing her to have been innocent. After this trial, Col. Aiken was called on . . . to assist in the defense of Jefferson Davis, and prepared some of the preliminary papers in that case.
“In 1865 he was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States and practiced in that and the District courts with such esteem until 1868, when he gave up law for his former and most loved . . . journalism. He had previously, during the war and after, assisted Col. Tom Florence in editing the ‘Constitutional Union,’ and in 1869 became the editor of the ‘Sunday Gazette.’ The ‘Herald’ of Washington remembered the brilliant success which attended Col. Aiken’s management of this journal. In 1871 he became the dramatic editor of the ‘National Republican.’ In 1876 he was attacked with a heavy fit of sickness which consigned him to the verge of the grave, and from the affects of which he never totally recovered.
“In the winter of 1877, Col. Aiken started with the ‘Post’ at its city editor position, which he held until the time of his death, he being the first of its staff that has died. He died at twenty minutes past twelve o’clock Sunday night after only three day’s sickness that his friends felt but little anxiety for his condition.
“Gifted, brilliant, and versatile, having in a very marked degree the power of winning and retaining the affection of both men and women, singularly kind-hearted and benevolent, the death of Fred Aiken leaves a void in the hearts of his friends which may not be filled. His presence cast sunshine wherever it went. He had always a cheering smile for the erring, a kind word for the struggling, an open hand for the unfortunate, and a big free heart for those he loved. His handsome, manly appearance will be long remembered and by none more so than by his journalistic and literary friends.
“As a writer he was singularly correct and graceful, and in all the sphere of life his lot was cast; he was famous for doing his duty well, promptly and faithfully. The writer of these lines, who was one of his eldest, most intimate friends, remembering the many happy moments spent in his society and the many kindly acts which delighted him to perform, lays down his pen with the sad conviction that in the death of Frederick A Aiken, the American press has lost one of its most entertaining and versatile writers, and humanity one of its noblest ornaments. It is pleasant to add that in the last few months of his life Aiken had turned his thoughts often and earnestly to the ministry of his savior, and had his life been spared, would doubtless see another Christmas entered the church as one of its earnest, eloquent servitors.”