Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) Butler.

The necessity of rewards for the detection of crime. Speech of General Benj. F. Butler of Massachusetts upon the frauds on the revenues of the government and reply to personal attacks upon himself, delivered in the House of Representatives, June 19, 1874 online

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Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerThe necessity of rewards for the detection of crime. Speech of General Benj. F. Butler of Massachusetts upon the frauds on the revenues of the government and reply to personal attacks upon himself, delivered in the House of Representatives, June 19, 1874 → online text (page 4 of 5)
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Liberty, even at the risk of having her nose bruised when she is
thrown into the melting-pot to come out as lead pipe

But it is not my purpose at this hour of the evening, nor would it
be of advantage, to go into examination of this system of collection
of delinquent taxes. It has been long in practice ; it has commended
itself to administrative officers heretofore ; it has its uses ; it has its
defects and disadvantages ; and although some four to six millions,
which in niy belief never will be got without it, might have been got
under it, yet as the House has chosen to repeal it, and as it only deals
with past debts and delinquent taxes, it passes out of the line of my
duty as a legislator, especially as the whole internal revenues in
the future do not depend in any degree upon it, as do our customs
revenues upon the other part of the moiety system. It is well enough
to try the experiment of repealing this law and finding out whether
the Commissioner of Internal Revenue can make the collections. Nor
is it my duty or purpose to defend Mr. Sanborn, whether he did well
or ill. That is his affair. I did not promote his getting the contract.
I had nothing to do with its fulfillment by him. If the law is an
unwise one let it be repealed, and in that I have neither more norless

interest or wish than every other member of this House. But I take
leave to say that it is^not brave nor manly in those gentlemen who
passed the law to make scape-goats of the officers who execute the law
they passed.

The Committee on Ways and Means have spent several months and
a large amount of money in seeming examination of the question of
the propriety of the law, and if that time and money were spent in
good faith to ascertain whether the law of May 8, 1872, giving the
moiety contracts to those who should collect old debts ought to be
repealed, it may have been well spent. If on the contrary this ap-
parent purpose of investigation has only been to cloak another and a
different one, carried on for political and personal purposes only, then
the committee and the House may find that they have been made in
this matter simply instruments to pander to the rivalries, hates, and
ambitions of politicians, instead of carrying on a great work of neces-
sary legislation.

I have some evidence showing that the whole Sanborn contract in-
vestigation was gotten up not exactly for those objects and those de-
signs which wise legislators and grave statesmen would willingly

The first the country heard anything about these Sanborn contracts
was that Mr. Sanborn was being indicted in Brooklyn by the district
attorney of that district, one Tenney, about the 1st of February last.
As soon as that was done and duly trumpeted in the opposition news-
papers, Mr. Tenney, an office-holder under a republican administra-
tion and claiming to be a republican himself, sent his assistant dis-
trict attorney here to one of the Committee on Ways and Means, a
leading democratic member of the House, to have him bring the San-
born-contract matter " to the front," Tenney having furnished him
with the Brooklyn democratic papers which gave flaming and lauda-
tory accounts of Mr. Tenney's able endeavors, as they termed it, to
ferret out a great fraud on the Government. One item of evidence
that I have of this fact is a letter of direction to his assistant, writ-
ten by Tenney to his assistant, which I send to the Clerk to be read.

The Clerk read as follows :

178 Broadway, New York, February 6, 1874.

FRIEND HUGHES : Do not fail to see Hon. JAMES B. BECK. He is a democratic
member from Kentucky. He is member also of the Committee on "Ways and
Means. I have to-day sent him Union and Eagle. He is a powerful member of the
democratic party, and will bring this Sanborn matter to the front, I think no news

Yours, &c.,


Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Now, if republican office-holders
will put ammunition into the hands of democratic members on the
Committee on Ways and Means with which to attack and break
down the republican Administration, far be it from me to say one
word in animadversion upon the conduct of that democratic member
of the House who should make the best use he can of that informa-
tion for that object. He should " bring it to the front," and charge
upon the Administration, and attempt to show its great corruption
and wrong-doings. He ought, if he is permitted so to do, to drive
out of office its Secretary of the Treasury and its Assistant Secretary
of the Treasury and its Solicitor of the Treasury, and show that they
were all corrupt together and bad men. He should make violent and
denunciatory speeches against the Administration, founded on the ma-
terial that republican officers and a republican committee of the House


will furnish him for that use. He does his duty, his full duty, in so-
doing as an opposition member of the House, and I applaud him for
his ingenuity, his boldness, efficiency, and perseverance ; and I con-
gratulate him upon the result. It is not often that a republican com-
mittee of a republican Houe force a republican administration to
allow a democratic member to carry off at his toelt the scalps of three
of its principal officers, including its Secretary of the Treasury, to
gnatify the ambition of one of its district attorneys, who wants to
run for Congress on the opposition ticket, and thinks he has already-
driven his republican opponent from the track.

But what shall we say of a republican majority of a Committee-
on Ways and Means who shall allow themselves to be made the tools
of an opposition member, to find him ammunition with which to
wound, if not kill, their own Administration, if the only inducement
to what they did was being blindly led by the superior wiliness of
their democratic associate? But was that the mainspring of action
on the part of all the republican members of the committee ? Four-
teen days after, to wit, the 20th of February, a letter was sent by the
gentleman from Ohio, who reported the abrogation of the Sauborn
contracts from the Committee on Ways and Means, to Supervisor
Harmon, of Brooklyn, New York, the substance of which was sent
to me iinder the heading " Copy of a letter picked up in the streets
of Brooklyn, New York," which is as follows :

As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means he [FOSTER] had discovered
the existence of the Sanborn contracts. At the same time he learned that indict-
ments had been found in Brooklyn ; that he prepared and offered the resolution
calling on the Secretary for information ; that he ottered the resolution and General
BUTLER objected to it. After this BUTLER came to him and asked him to offer the
resolution again before the following Monday, expecting BUTLER to make a speech
on it. In the meanwhile he [FOSTER] and General WOODFORD had agreed to reply
to such speech if made and attack BUTLER : but General BUTLER withdrew his ob-
jection and said he hoped the House would pass the resolution, which surprised
him and WOODFORD, especially himself, "as fie had prepared himself to rap old

Here you have the substance of a genuine letter which the gentle-
man from Ohio will not deny, especially the last phrase, because I
told him one day that whatever he might say of me behind niy back
1 wished he would not write of me that way, and I do not believe
he will again.

Now, what could the gentleman from Ohio desire to "rap old Cock-
eye " for ? What had he done to the gentleman from Ohio ? Had he
ever interfered with him? Had he ever said an unkind word to him,
or of or concerning him ? I aver, from an intimate knowledge of
that unfortunate individual with the defect in his eye, so delicately
alluded to, that he had never entertained for that gentleman any
but the kindest feeling. "What personal grief he had .alas! I know
not." From the time I got that letter I was utterly puzzled to know
my imputed offense ; but I got certain information, Mr. Speaker, after-
ward, embodied in the sworn testimony voluntarily sent me by the
affiant, which the Clerk will read.

The Clerk read as follows:
CITY OF WASHINGTON, District of Columbia .-

WARWICK MARTIN, of the city of Xew York, being first duly sworn, on oath de-
poses and eays :

Being acquainted with some of the claims embraced in the so-called Sanborn con-
tracts, I, after the investigation commenced in the Committee on Ways and Means,
addressed Hon. HENRY L. DAWES and Hon. FERNANDO WOOD, of said commit-
tee, requesting to be summoned to testify in said case. I was not summoned ; but
having business in Washington, I came here on the 9th of April,. 1874, and con-
cluded to appear before said committee and testify, if permitted so to do. I stopped


at the Ebbitt House, and there saw Mr. DA WES and informed him of my winli
to appear before the committee. He said I should be permitted to so testify. Af-
terward on the same day, at the committee-room, Mr. DAWES notified me to be pres-
ent in said room on the following morning at ten o'clock. I was in said room
promptly at the time named. On my arrival at said room only one gentleman of
the committee was present, whom I learned to be Hon. CHARLES FOSTER. An-
other gentleman whom I did not know, but who I supposed was a member of the
committee, came into* said ro3m soon after my arrival, and he and Mr. FOSTER com-
menced conversation.

Mr. FOSTER said to him, in language which I distinctly heard, that his object witk
which he commenced this investigation, or one object, was to find something against
BEN. BUTLER ; that said BUTLER had written a letter to his district to defeat his elec-
tion, and he wished to get even with him, or words to that effect.

On the following day, the llth of April, Mr. FOSTER came up and spoke to me at
the Ebbitt House, where we were both stopping. He and I had a short conversa-
tion, during which the name of General BUTLER was mentioned, I having, as I now
remember, stated that the committee seemed to be investigating General BUTLER
instead of the law of May 8, 1872, and the contracts thereunder. Mr. FOSTER stated
in reply, " Damn BUTLER ; he ought to be investigated; all the men connected with
these contracts are BUTLER'S friends, and you are his friend also, and saw him last
night, and told him what I said in the committee-room yesterday about him," or
words to this effect. I then stated to Mr. FOSTER that he was mistaken ; that I had
never enjoyed the pleasure of an introduction to, or an acquaintance with, General
BUTLER ; that I had not seen him on the evening named, or at any other time, to
converse with him. I add that this is true still. I have never been unfriendly to
General BUTLER, but have admired him for many things, and especially for the
fact that he has always been in favor of compelling wealthy men, capitalists, and
corporations to pay what they owe the Government, instead of taxing the poor,
the industrious, and the honest farmers, mechanics, and laboring men to make
good the deficiencies of the rich.

I so stated to Mr. FOSTER, and added that I thought this one question was all
there was in the so-called Sanborn case.


Sworn to and subscribed before me this 20th day of May, A. D. 1874.


Notary Public, District of Columbia.

Mr. FOSTER. In so far as that affidavit makes the charge that I
wanted to investigate General BUTLER, I pronounce it here and now
an unequivocal falsehood. The party who makes it I know is per-
fectly characterless, and the gentleman from Massachusetts ought ta
know that, too. He is the man, as the gentleman from Massachusetts
knows, who attempted to blackmail his friend Sanborn out of sev-
eral thousand dollars.

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. I never knew Mr. Martin ; I never
saw him. I never boarded with hiui at the Ebbitt House, and he
never was in my confidence.

Mr. FOSTER. He came to us in order to get more money out of
Mr. Sanborn.

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Now, I want to deny here most
positively that I ever interfered in the gentleman's district in Ohio
in my life. Indeed, I do not know where exactly his district is, save
that it is somewhere in that great State. I take shame to myself that
I do not know it. I ought to have known it. I know something
about it now and its Representative ; but that has*nothing to do with
the present question, because I aver, again and again, that I never
did send out there to interfere with the gentleman from Ohio, and if
he had called upon me he would have learned that I never did; and if
he has any evidence that I ever sent out to his district in any way,
prior to the time that he wrote that letter to Brooklyn, let him now
produce and declare it. I wait for it. Being so thoroughly con-
vinced that I had never given him any cause for complaint, I have
no complaint to make or unkind word for him. He has been acting
under entire misapprehension of fact and with a belief that I had
done him a wrong. When he learns as he now does his mistake, his
own sense of justice will correct it.


I could not believe even the affidavit until I turned to this very
voluminous report, containing, with the testimony, three hundred and
twenty-two pages, and upon examination found no allusion whatever
to my humble self or eyes in the report of the committee upon the
Sanborn contracts by any designation whatever; so that I am sure it
turned out that I had nothing to do with them whatever, because the
gentleman from Ohio in the examination of witnesses alluded to me
in various forms of questions thirty-three times, and each time he got
the answer that the witness did not know that I did anything, or knew
anything, or said anything on the subject of the Sauborn contracts.
Still, every time he alluded to me the New York Tribune published a
statement that General BUTLER'S name appeared everywhere in the
investigation ; and this statement was copied each day into all the
Boston papers which are under the control of some of my colleagues
from Massachusetts, who were endeavoring to convince the people
that I was engaged in the affair. Nay, my colleagues' newspapers
were so put to it for evidence of the fact that they declared that San-
born' s lawyer, Mr. Prescott, was my private secretary and henchman,
whatever that may be, and cited as proof that he had his office with
me, when I am told that he once had an office in a four-story build-
ing where I have mine, with some twenty other tenants. Let me say
that I never saw Prescott three times in my life, and did not know
him by sight till he was sent for as a witness. Besides that, when the
gentleman made his speech he alluded to me twenty-eight times,
making sixty-one in all; and then, after his sixty-one questions and
personal allusions in the examination and in the speech, the editor of
the Tribune thought that my " coat-tails" could be seen in the affair.
And this is the kind of attack to which men in public life are exposed
from investigations when somebody wants to get " even with them."

Now, I have no objection to being investigated by anybody and
everybody, friends or enemies; for the more the latter investigate me
the worse they will' like me. But I do object to the public money
being spent for that purpose under the direction of the Committee on
Ways and Means when they ought to have been perfecting a finance
measure, so that the two-thirds republican majority of this House
should not now hang their heads with shame that this Congress has
to go home after more than six months' session and no comprehensive
financial or revenue measure perfected and passed, or any ever come
from that committee on. which the House may pass. But, on the con-
trary, they have been engaged in^vilifying the Administration, rap-
ping " old Cock-eye," and getting " even with him," even to examining
into his private affairs, the fees he received from private persons, and
his personal acts to the number of thirty-three questions. And thus
having learned how unjust and improper it is for anybody ever, any-
where, to examine into another's private affairs, the committee re-
ported a bill that a man's books and papers ought not to be used or
his private affairs inquired into without an order of a court upon a
complaint under path. Why was not this committee legislating about
the drooping business and unemployed labor of the country and trying
to find a remedy for that ?

How will they answer to their constituents, nay, how will this
committee answer to the country, that they frittered away their time in
this pursuit of personal revenge, and have done nothing with either
finance or revenue except to pass two bills ; one of which, if you look
back at the tables I have presented, cuts off $1,200,000 of money paid
into the Treasury last year, and the other the best-informed man
upon the subject swears will prevent the collection of at least four


millions of taxes more, all of which should come from those who have
tried and are trying to cheat the United States ?

Is it wonderful that the interests of the republican party and the
interests of the country have been neglected while the Committee on
Ways and Means, under the leadership of the gentleman from Ken-
tucky, endeavors to break down the Administration, as he had a right
to do, and under the lead of the gentleman from Ohio, mistakenly
thinking he had a private grief against me to assuage, have frittered
the time of Congress away for more than six months in striking at one
of their fellow-members who had not injured them, and against whom,
although pursued with the hate of hell, they found nothing and re-
ported nothing after six months of investigation. No, thank God ; as
usual, u old Cock-eye escaped without a rap."

I do not desire the House or the country to blame either of the
gentlemen of the Committee on Ways and" Means too much in this
matter, because there were those in this House who were egging them
on, advising them to do it. Nay, there were those of my colleagues
from Massachusetts who, in order to strike at me, were willing to
strike down the republican party. The speech of the gentleman from
Kentucky against the Administration, founded upon "bringing the
Sauborn matter to the front," a very able, bitter, denunciatory arraign-
ment of that Administration, put with all the power he could, and
quite worthy of the successor of Clay in the Lexington district, was
launched at our party like a thunderbolt. I expected and supposed,
and the House expected, that his democratic associates would circu-
late it everywhere to break down the republican party, even at the
cost of paying the postage on the distribution.

. But what shall we say of republican Representatives who sub-
scribed for and circulate such a speech by the thousand a speech
of the leading orator of the other side by the thousand ? Why, Mr.
Speaker, the State of Massachusetts has more of the Kentucky
speeches circulated in it by one of my colleagues than of any repub-
lican speech made in this House during the present session. And
why ? Having circulated everywhere through their lying newspa-
pers that I was connected with the Sanborn contract, it was thought
by some of my colleagues that the arraignment of the gentleman from
Kentucky of the Administration would be an indirect " rap at old
Cock-eye ;" and as my enemies either could not or dare not make any
speech against that long-suffering individual themselves, they chose
to send out this attack upon their- Administration, thus to belittle
their Secretary of the Treasury from their own State, to be the means
of circulating the charges of corruption against their party, in order
to get an indirect "rap" at one of their colleagues.

Now, I call upon the gentleman from Ohio to deny, if he can, that
more than one of my colleagues have been to him to give him informa-
tion about me and to have questions put about me, and to advise
with him as to the course that might be taken in his committee to inves-
tigate me. Sir, was that so or not ? Will the gentleman answer upon
his honor?

Mr. FOSTER. Do you wish an answer now ?

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Yes, sir.

Mr. FOSTER. I have to say that f have had no consultation with
any gentleman from Massachusetts in relation to the Sauborn inves-
tigation ; none of them have aided or advised me in any way in the
prosecution of this investigation.

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. I am glad to hear it.

Mr. FOSTER. Or in the investigation of the matter at all.


Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Only about other things ?

Mr. FOSTER. No ; about nothing else.

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Whenever I want a witness to
tell what is not true I shall not send for my friend from Ohio.

Mr. FOSTER. What do you mean by that ?

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. I mean that you tell the truth

Does the House wonder now that almost the only man who was
found to object to my addressing the House at this hour was one of
my colleagues from Massachusetts ?

Mr. Speaker, I have done my duty to this matter. I have shown
by such evidence as has come to me, and by the facts, what was the
ground-work, in fact, of this investigation and this cry raised against
the republican party because of the Sanborn contracts. There is not
a man within the sound of my voice that now does not understand it.

Mr. Speaker, more than one-half at least of all the investigations
carried on in Congress are for the purpose of striking down some rival,
or injuring some enemy, or injuring some administrative officer, or
gaining some party end, not for the purpose of aiding legislation. This
business of investigation is carried too far. I can speak plainly in the
face of the country ; for myself I defy investigation. For fourteen
years, since the commencement of my public life, I have lived under
ihe focus of a microscope, magnifying and distorting every action of
mine a million times, except, perchance, it was a good one, which it
blurred and covered altogether. Living under such inspection, there-
fore, whether I would or no, I must lead an honest and upright life,
or some man would in all these yearshave got a " rap at old Cock-eye,"
and I propose to take very good care of him now and ever. I desire
investigation. I look forward to the time when the majority of this
House will be opposed in politics to mine ; and then I ask them to in-
vestigate every act of mine and publish its results to the country. I
invoke the investigation of a gentlemanly political opposition, and
not of a malignant personal spleen and spite, egged on by political
rivalry ; because I humbly trust that when my every act is known and
understood authoritatively and exactly in its breadth and in its mo-
tives the kindly judgment of my countrymen will be, after all rivalry
and nnkindness of thought has passed away, "He was a man whose
virtues overbalanced his faults, who loved his country, his kind, jus-
tice, and nobleness."

Mr. FOSTER. Let us pray.

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts. Yes; but spell it with an "e."


After Mr. FOSTER and Mr. ROBEKTS, Mr. DA WES of the Committee
-on Ways and Means, Mr. E. II. HOAR, and Mr. TKEMAIN* of New York,
had replied at great length to the above remarks

Mr. BUTLER, of Massachusetts, said: Mr. Speaker, the gentleman
from New York [Mr. ELLIS H. ROBERTS] tried to quote Shakespeare in
ridicule of my sickness; thus one member of the Committee on. Ways
and Means ridicules my eyes, and another ridicules my sickness. I am
grieved that I am not always well. I am sorry that I cannot always
be equal in health and good looks to the majority of the Committee
on Ways and Means. But the most remarkable exhibition has been

* The astounding confessions of the tricks and frauds upon the revenue by the
importers, made by Mr. TREMAIX, of New York, in his defense of Phelps <fe Co., in
reply to General BUTLER, are so remarkable and cogent evidence of the general sys-
tem of robbery of the Government of its taxes, that that part of the learned and in-
genious advocate's speech is inserted here for information of the people :

Mr. TREMAIN. Sir, it was nearly fifty years ago that an act of Congress was
passed increasing the duty upon lead in pigs and Tsars from one to three cents pel-
pound. "What was the occasion of the increase ? Lead mines had been discovered
at Galena. Illinois, and according to this system of that day, of protecting American
productions and American industry, this duty was increased 200 per cent. There
had before that time grown up in the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New

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Online LibraryBenjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) ButlerThe necessity of rewards for the detection of crime. Speech of General Benj. F. Butler of Massachusetts upon the frauds on the revenues of the government and reply to personal attacks upon himself, delivered in the House of Representatives, June 19, 1874 → online text (page 4 of 5)