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H. B. (Henry Bidleman) Bascom.

The Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 online

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Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bidleman) BascomThe Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 → online text (page 70 of 87)
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of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

The following, in brief, is the report made by the Committee on Claims of the Sen-
ate of the Forty-fifth Congress, second session (S. R. 146), and which was adopted
and reported by the Committee on War Claims of the House of the Fifty-first Con-
gress (H. R. 3236), and also by the War Claims Committee of the Fifty-Second
Congress (H. R. 2586).

The Committee on Claims of the Senate report "that the Confederate forces, hav-
ing occupied Nashville for a short time during the war, evacuated it after the sur-
render of Fort Donelson; that within three or four days after that event General
Buell, commanding United States Army, reached Edgeiield, a village on opposite
bank of Cumberland River ; that the mayor of Nashville, together with city officials
and citizens, met him and informed him of the city's condition, and invited him to
occupy and protect the city." He expressed gratification at the proceeding, and
assured the deputation " that protection to both persons and property of all peace-
able citizens would be fully extended by the Army of the United States," and
requested the mayor to so inform the people by proclamation. Whereupon the
mayor, on the 26th of February, 1862, issued his proclamation as follows: " That the
committee representing the city authorities and people had called on General Buell,"
etc. ; " that the interview was perfectly satisfactory, and there was every assurance
of safety and protection to the people, both in their persons and their property,"
etc. (Signed) R. B. Cheatham, Mayor.

On the same day (26th of February) General Buell issued his proclamation, in
which he said : " We are in arms not for the purpose of invading the rights of our
fellow-countrymen anywhere, but to maintain the Union and protect the Constitu-



METHODIST BOOK CONCERN SOUTH. 35

tion. * * * Peaceable citizens are not to be molested in their personal property,
all wrongs to either are to be promptly corrected, and the offenders brought to pun-
ishment," etc. " If the necessities of the public require the use of private property
for public purposes compensation is to be allowed," etc.

From the date of this proclamation until the end of the war Nashville was under
the control of the Federal Army. The civil authorities, including the courts, local
and Federal, were in the full and free exercise of their functions. These results were
the fruits of the proclamation of General Buell, restoring that part of Tennessee to
national authority and giving "the full measure of protection to persons and prop-
erty consistent with a necessary subjection to military government."

General Butler, in his proclamation at New Orleans, stated that "all rights of
property of whatever kind will be inviolate, subject only to the laws of the United
States." The Supreme Court, in the case of " The Venice," decides tbat this clause
"reiterates the rules established by the legislative and executive action of the
National Government in respect to the portions of the States in insurrection, and
occupied and controlled by the troops of the Union,"and that " wherever the national
troops have established order under national rule the right of person and property
have been in general respected and enforced."

There was no formal surrender at New Orleans or Nashville; but in Nashville
there was formal submission, while in New Orleans the mayor refused to give the
pledge of submission.

The orders, or proclamation, of General Buell were much broader and more definite
than General Butler's. They reached to the conduct of officers and men, enjoining
them against all interference with property, etc., and expressly piovided for com-
pensation for property taken for public use.

Your committee are impressed with the conviction that the orders of General Buell
gave "the full measure of protection to persons and property consistent with a
necessary subjection to military government," and that citizens of Nashville who
remain peaceable and their property can not be regarded as remaining enemies, or
their property as enemy property, after the 26th of February, 1862.

The people engaged freely in their business pursuits; the courts were opened; the
civil administration of the law prevailed, so far as was consistent with a necessary
subjection to military discipline. This condition of affairs is satisfactorily estab-
lished by the history of this property, the use of which by the army quartermasters
is the foundation of this claim.

On the 24th of May proceedings were instituted in the United States circuit
court at Nashville by the district attorney to have this property confiscated. On
the 3d of June, 1862, the "Book Agents of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,"
by that name interposed its claim to the property, gave security for costs, and
asked to be allowed to intervene for its rights of property and possession, etc. The
bond to replevy the property was filed on the 4th of June, 1862. Motions were
made and argued ; answers, pleas, and demurrers were filed in the cause, etc. The
case was continued several terms, upon application of the United States district
attorney, until April, 1864, when an amended petition was filed, issues were
formed, etc. Judge Catron, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the United
States, presided during several terms, and made several orders, etc. Finally, after
several more continuances by the Government, the cause was dismissed at the
November term, 1865, by the direction of the Attorney-General of the United States.

After General Buell entered Nashville the corporation of Book Agents, etc., con-
tinued its business of publishing books, tracts, etc., and doing job work for its cus-
tomers until the property was taken possession of under the confiscation proceedings,
and after the property was replevied it still continued business and remained in
the possession and custody of the Book Agents until December, 1863, when the
entire establishment was taken possession of by Colonel Donaldson, chief quarter-
master of the Department of the Cumberland, by order of Major-General Thomas,
commanding general, for the use of the Army of the United States, as confiscable
property, and so held and used until the 13th of December, 1865, when what
remained of it was returned to said Book Agents.

The proceedings in the case for confiscation were conducted with as much regu-
larity and as little interruption as if they had been instituted in a court of New York.
Judge Catron, one of the Supreme Court judges of the United States, held the court
and presided with as little obstruction or threat from the enemy as he did in the
Supreme Court at Washington, and the national authority was enforced there
through the courts, and they administered the laws, local and national, so far as
applicable to controversies between citizens, as completely and effectually within
the territory protected by the Federal armies as could have been done in any loyal
State. This condition of the country gave the people the same protection under the
laws of the United States as is provided for in the order of General Buell, viz, "If
the necessities of the public service should require the use of private property for
public purposes compensation is to be allowed." In Nashville on the 24th of May



36 METHODIST BOOK CONCERN SOUTH.

there was nothing to prevent the United States, through its courts, from asserting
its right to confiscate this property, and when the property was seized and taken
possession of under such proceedings, and while it continued in the custody of the
court, it was not liable to seizure or capture by the Army.

But the Government never claimed this property as captured. In both instances
when the Government seized the property, first under confiscation proceeding and
then under order of General Thomas, it was seized for confiscation under the
penal statutes of the United State* and not as property the Government had acquired
in any other way.

These statutes provide for condemnation after trial had in the courts. They fur-
nish no authority for taking property of rebels without due course of law.

The Army can not enforce these statutes. It certainly can not take jurisdiction
under confiscation and oust circuit courts of the United States. This property was
taken possession of under an order from General Thomas, which states that "it has
been tor a long time contemplated to make an army printing office of the ' Methodist
Publishing House.' The house has been confiscated by the United States," etc.
This order asserts that the house had been confiscated. Such was not the fact. Pro-
ceedings had only been instituted to confiscate, and it was in the custody of the
court when General Thomas ordered its seizure.

It is clear, then, that the property was not taken possession of as captured property.
General Buell's order protected it. General Thomas did not withdraw this protec-
tion. On the contrary, he assumed that it had been confiscated.

It was not seized with reference to its usefulness in any tactical or strategic sense
for the Army. It was seized to save money in printing for the Army and as a con-
venience for the civil department of the Government. The law of military necessity
did not apply. The protection given by General Buell's proclamation and the cus-
todianship of the United States court places this property beyond the reach of the
ordinary rules which apply to enemy's property. When the Government gives such
protection to property it assumes to pay for it if any urgent necessity requires it to
apply the property to the public use.

When the military government undertook to enforce the confiscation of property
for the crime* of its owner, under the authority of the statutory laws of the United
States, it was bound also to respect the Constitution of the United Stiites in the
administration of these laws. But there should be a very clear and very grave neces-
sity to justify the Army or military authority in taking property from the lawful
custody of the courts of the United States.

The court alone can render judgment of forfeiture in such cases, and can alone
condemn and confiscate it, and when it is proceeding to adjudicate in such a mat-
ter no other authority can take the matter out of its bauds and confiscate it. Con-
gress could not do so much, and it is not possible that a military government can
lawfully exercise such authority; and yet this is the precise attitude of this matter.
The property was seized by order of General Thomas as confiscated property, while
the United States was suing in its courts for its condemnation. This cause pro-
ceeded, from its beginning to its end, so far as the United States court was concerned
just as it would have been conducted in any State not included within the insurrec-
tionary territory.

The Government has admitted .by its refusal to prosecute the suit, and the court
has decided, that this property never was forfeited to the United States by the crime
of its owner.

The military authorities never seized the property as "captured or abandoned
property."

In any view of the case the property remained the property of the "Book Agents
of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, corporation," and was not changed by
either its legal or military custody.

This property having been seized by the court, and also by the Army, for the pur-
pose of confiscation, and not by capture, conquest, or other right of war, we are
relieved from inquiry whether the general commanding the department could have
lawfully captured it and could have used, converted, or destroyed it at his pleasure
without compensation for it.

The decision of the court that the property is not confiscable is a decision that
such person owns and has a right to enjoy it.

The Government, acting under its own civil statutes and through its courts in the
confiscation of property, puts in issue the only phase of the disloyalty of a citizen
which affects his right of property, and the action of the court is decisive of this
question.

There was no law to justify the court to withhold the property when it was not
condemned or confiscated. If it had rented out the property or s'old it, the right of
the claimant to the rental or proceeds of sale would be unquestioned.

Your committee do not believe that public policy or public sentiment requires
Congress to refuse to restore this charity.



METHODIST BOOK CONCERN SOUTH. 37

This corporation was chartered by the legislature of Tennessee "for the manufac-
ture and distribution of books, tracts, periodicals," tc., under control of the "Meth-
odist Episcopal Church South," according to th laws and usages of the same, as
contained in its ritual. It was intended in the broadest sense to be an eleemosynary
institution, through which there could be furnished at very low rates, and also
gratuitously, religious literature and schoolbooks to the people. There was no
stock of the corporation, and all its increase was to be and is now devoted to
increasing the usefulness of the charity. If reasons hare heretofore seemingly
existed that would justify Congress in withholding compensation to the claimant,
they no longer exist in such form as to require the Government to deny an act of
justice to the generation now needing the benefits of this great charity.*

The petitions laid before this committee represent that many of the people of the
United States, of all sections, earnestly desire that Congress will give just relief in
this matter. It is believed that no private claim was ever presented to Congress
that was so extensively and earnestly supported by various memorials arid recom-
mendations. That four are from State legislatures; one from the general confer-
ence of the Colored Methodist Church; others from eight of the bishops of the
Methodist Episcopal Church viz, Bishops Morris, Janes, Simpson, Ames, Bowman,
Merrill, Peck, and Haveu and many other ministers of that church; others from
the mayor and council of Nashville and of Edgefield, Tenn. ; another from the gov-
ernor and most of the officials, national, State, and municipal, of Nashville; another
from Judge Trigg, of the United States court, of Nashville; another from all the
judges of the supreme court of Tennessee, with its entire bar; another from about
two hundred merchants, bankers, and business houses of Nashville; another from
the chiefs of the Indian nation west of Arkansas; others from all the annual con-
ferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church South; others from many of the lead-
ing ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, chiefly in New York, Baltimore,
Washington, etc.; and others from nearly a hundred colleges and high schools in
many parts of the country; and still others from about three thousand individual
petitioners in about one hundred cities and towns in twenty-five States. These last
include about one hundred and twenty governors, ex-governors, judges, and Mem-
bers of Congress, and fully five other prominent men in civil office, the remainder
being mostly lawyers, doctors, and clergymen of all denominations, and other sub-
stantial citizens, white and colored, and including all religious beliefs, Jews, Catho-
lics, and Protestants. The papers laid before the committee substantially support
these statements. These memorials indicate a sentiment which is honorable to the
people and most gratifying to all who desire that our past differences may cease to
be remembered as causes of present or future discord, but may only be adverted to
as admonitions to warn us against like evils.

The committee believe that the law of the land, justice to a large and helpless
class of people, a magnanimous spirit on the part of the Government toward the
beneficiaries in a great charity which has been injured through its action, popular
sentiment North and South, and the heartfelt desire of the people throughout the
country for a perfect restoration of peace and amity between them, all concur in
supporting the recommendation which they have the honor to submit that Congress
will pass this bill.

NASHVILLE, TENN., January 1, 1896.



DEAR BROTHER: The claim of the Publishing House is stated in brief extracts
from the reports of the several committees of Congress in the pamphlet hereto
attached. The claim tiled aggregated $457,000. The amount reported by the com-
mittee was $288,600, which the Publishing House agreed to accept, in order to effect
a settlement. The original report was made by the Senate Committee of the Forty-
fifth Congress, in 1874, failure to pass the bil since that time being due largely to
an absence of united effort to secure its passage, although recommended for passage
by committees during two subsequent sessions of Congress.

We are now promised support which we have not hitherto had; but in order to
enlist Members of Congress and Senators it will be necessary for friends of the
church to do some active work. What we need is :

First. Signatures to a petition (copy of which find herewith) from ministers of
all denominations located in your city, town, or vicinity. We had but little difficulty
in securing these many years ago from all classes, including Israelites and Catholics,
as well as those serving colored congregations. ' These petitions should also be signed

* The Organic Law of the Church, Chapter II, paragraph 42, provides : " That the
produce of the Publishing House shall not be appropriated to any purpose other than
for the benefit of the traveling, supernumerary, superannuated, and worn-out
preachers, their wives, widows, and children."



38 METHODIST BOOK CONCERN SOUTH,

by county and city officials, and editors of newspapers, and members and ex-mem-
bers of legislatures, especially in so far as said officials, legislators, and editors are
politically in accord with the Member of Congress to be reached. These petitions thu
secured should be transmitted to tho Member of Congress representing your district,
accompanied with a letter from some personal and political friend of the Member,
asking said Member to present the petition to the Committee on \\ ar Claims and to
lend his aid in favor of the bill. In case a portion of the ministers of the various
churches in your locality should decline to sign the petition, try to make up the
deficiency by having business men and citizens generally affix their signatures.

Second. Leading citizens, especially those who take an active part in politics and
are politically in accord with the Member of Congress from your district or Senators
from your State, and friendly to such Member or Senators, should be asked to write
letters to such Member of Congress or Senators, requesting their active aid in the
passage of this measure. For example, where a brother is not acquainted with either
the Member of Congress or Senator, but knows a friend or friends who are acquainted
with such Member or Senators, and who were active in promoting the nomination
and election of such Senators or Member of Congress, let him take steps to have
such friend or friends write letters to such Senators or Members. Such letters should
be forwarded to the parties, addressed at Washington, D. C.

Third. If, in your vicinity, you have either in the ministry or membership of our
church ex-Federal soldiers, letters from one or more of such brethren, reciting this
fact and urging the payment of the claim, should be written to the Member of Con-
gress representing your district and Senators from your State ; and if, in the member-
ship of our church in your vicinity, a number of ex-Federal soldiers and their families
are found, let the letters written by the brethren also state this fact (giving the num-
ber if large enough to make an impression). Such letters should be sent to the
Member of Congress representing your district, as well as Senators from your State,
with a request to have the fact brought to the attention of the Committee on War
Claims.

Fourth. If, in your vicinity, you have either in the ministry or membership of our
church brethren who belong to and affiliate with the Republican party, letters from
one or more of such brethren, reciting this fact and urging the payment of the
claim, should be written to the Member of Congress representing your district and
Senators from your State; and if, in the membership of our church in your vicinity,
a number of Republicans and their families are found, let the letters written by the
brethren also state this fact (giving the number if large enough to make an impres-
sion). Such letters should be sent to the Member of Congress representing your
district, as well as Senators from your State, with a request to have the tact brought
to the attention of the Committee on War Claims. If it should appear that the
Member of Congress from your district and Senators from your State are not mem-
bers of the Republican party, such letters should be addressed to the Hon. Henry
M. Teller, chairman of the Committee on Claims of the United States Senate, and
the Hon. Thaddeus M. Mahou, chairman of the House Committee on War Claims,
Washington, D. C.

Fifth. If, in your vicinity, you have either in the ministry or membership of our
church, or the ministry or membership of any other church, or prominent citizens
who belong to no church, who are ex-Federal soldiers or Republicans in politics, or
both, who came from the North, East, or West, and who may have friends in that
section that can be induced to aid us, letters from such ex-Federal soldiers, Repub-
licans, or citizens to Members of Congress, stating in what States in the North, East,
or West they lived, and asking the Members of Congress or Senators representing
such Northern, Eastern, or Western States to aid in the passage of the bill should
likewise be obtained. Such letters should be sent direct to the parties, addressed
at Washington, D. C.

Sixth. If, in your vicinity, yon have either in the ministry or membership of our
church, or the ministry or membership of any other church, or prominent citizens
who belong to no church, who are Populists in politics, it is quite desirable to have
letters from such gentlemen addressed to Members of Congress or Senators represent-
ing the Populist Party. If your State has such representation either in Congress or
the United States Senate, such letters should be addressed to such Congressmen or
Senators. If they have no such representation, such letters should be addressed to
the Hon. William V. Allen, United States Senator, Washington, D. C., who is a mem-
ber of the Senate Committee on Claims. Let the letters thus written state that the
writers belong to Mr. Allen's political party, which party is largely represented in
the South and has a large membership in our church.

For your convenient information, as well as those who may desire to transmit
petitions and write letters as indicated, we send herewith a pamphlet containing a
list of Senators and Members of the present Congress, including list of the Com-
mittees on War Claims in the Senate as well as the House.

The foregoing specific methods and forms are suggested by a brother who is ren-
dering valuable aid in connection with this claim, and who, from his large experience,



METHODIST BOOK CONCERN SOUTH. 39

recognizes the value of systematic and well-directed efforts. It is for these reasons
that we are so specific, and we hope that the brethren will adopt our suggestion,
both as to methods and forms.

We recognize that this request will entail considerable work on the ministry, and
therefore suggest that the aid of laymen who are active and have influence be
invoked in the endeavor to secure letters to Senators and Members of Congress, as
well as signatures to the petition. Much good can be accomplished by the work of
such brethren.

There is much, you may be assured, depends upon the work of each and all to whom
this circular letter is addressed, and if we fail to accomplish results it will be due,
in a great measure, to the failure of the brethren of the church to help us in this
hour of need.

The poor of the church need money; hard times and general depression in busi-
ness of all kinds during the past four years has very much curtailed contributions.
"Traveling, supernumerary, superannuated, and worn-out preachers, their wives,
widows, and children" are badly in need of help, which the Publishing House, with
improved facilities, can give if this eminently just claim is allowed. We urge you,
therefore, to speedy and considerate action in the line indicated in the foregoing.

Please acknowledge receipt as per postal card hereto attached, and later on advise



Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bidleman) BascomThe Methodist Church property case. Report of the suit of Henry Bascom, and others, vs. George Lane, and others, heard before the judges Nelson and Betts, in the Circuit Court, United States, for the Southern District of New York, May 17-20, 1851 → online text (page 70 of 87)