Bingham, John Armor



John Armor Bingham (January 21, 1815 – March 19, 1900) was a Republican congressman from Ohio, America, judge advocate in the trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Autograph Card Writing Signed, 03/25/1879 - 4 x 2/1/4 written in blk ink overall, fine/veryfine condition.

John Armor Bingham (January 21, 1815 - March 19, 1900) was a Republican congressman from Ohio, America, judge advocate in the trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination and a prosecutor in the impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson. He is also the principal framer of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Born in Mercer, Pennsylvania, he attended public schools and pursued academic studies. His family eventually moved to Ohio where he became an apprentice in a printing office for two years. He then studied law at Franklin College and was admitted to the bar in 1840, commencing practice in New Philadelphia, Ohio and eventually became district attorney for the surrounding Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He held this position from 1846 to 1849. He became active in politics when he was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress under the Opposition Party. He was reelected to the Thirty-fifth, Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Congresses as a Republican. His candidacy in 1862 for the Thirty-eighth Congress was unsuccessful, though the House of Representatives appointed him that year to be one of the managers to conduct impeachment proceedings against West H. Humphreys.

During the Civil War, he strongly supported the Union and became a Radical Republican. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Judge Advocate of the Union Army with the rank of major in 1864, and he became solicitor of the United States Court of Claims in 1865. He was also elected to the Thirty-ninth Congress, which first met on March 4, 1865. Washington was in chaos after John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln and Booth's co-conspirator Lewis Powell came near to assassinating Secretary of State William H. Seward on the night of April 14, 1865. Booth died on April 26, 1865 from a gunshot wound.

When the trials for the conspirators involved in the Lincoln assassination were ready to start, Bingham's old friend from Cadiz, Edwin Stanton, appointed him to serve as Assistant Judge Advocate General along with General Henry Burnett, another Assistant Judge Advocate General, and Joseph Holt, the Judge Advocate General. The accused conspirators were George Atzerodt, David Herold, Lewis Powell (Paine), Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlen, Edman Spangler, Samuel Mudd and Mary Surratt. The trial began on May 10, 1865. The three judges spent nearly two months in court, awaiting a verdict from the jury. Bingham and Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots. The first plot was to kidnap the president and hold him hostage in exchange for the Confederate prisoners held by the Union. The second was to assassinate the president, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward and thereby throw the government into electoral chaos. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from Booth's body and making it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14 April. The defense surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.

In 1866, during the Thirty-ninth Congress, Bingham was appointed to a subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction tasked with considering suffrage proposals. As a member of the subcommittee, Bingham submitted several versions of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would serve to apply the Bill of Rights to the States. His final submission, which was accepted by the Committee on April 28, 1866, read "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The Committee recommended that the language become Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Amendment was introduced in the spring of 1866, passing both houses by June 1866. Bingham continued his career as a congressman, being reelected to the Fortieth, Forty-first and Forty-second Congresses. He served as Chairman of the Committee on Claims from 1867 to 1869 and a member of the Committee on the Judiciary from 1869 to 1873. In 1868 he was one of the judges involved in the impeachment trials of President Andrew Johnson. In 1872, he was unsuccessful in gaining reelection, this time for the Forty-third Congress. President Ulysses Grant then appointed him a new position as United States Minister to Japan, at which he served from May 31, 1873 to July 2, 1885.

He died in Cadiz, Ohio on March 19, 1900. He was interred in Union Cemetery in Cadiz.