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 74 of 87)
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rich man. I am a liberal man. I give away of this world's goods just
as I would throw chaff to the winds. I am not a rich man. When the
question was put to me whether or not I would accept the receivership
of the Atchison road or assume the responsibility of undertaking to col-
lect this claim I did not know whether its collection would take four,
six, ten, or twenty years, but I chose the latter. I chose the collection
of this claim because 1 had been impressed with the justice of it, and
that sentiment, which is so full in our section, caused me to overlook, if
you please, the dangers of the situation, and to accept the risk of doing
this service and obtaining this benefit for the church, with the oppor-
tunity at the same time of compensating myself.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Where were you when this bill passed the

Mr. STAHLMAN. I was in the Senate restaurant.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You knew that the question had been raised on
the floor of the Senate as to a fee?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I knew nothing about it not a bit. It never
occurred to me that such a question would be raised.

Senator FAIRBANKS. But you do know that prior to the passage of
the bill in the Senate certain Senators had conversed with you as to the
truth of the report concerning this contingent fee?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Senator Bacon was one of the men who talked with
me, and I have a distinct recollection of what transpired with Senator


Senator FAIRBANKS. What other Senators talked with you besides
Senator Bacon and Senator Clay?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I think I talked with Senator Lindsay at his hotel.

Senator FAIRBANKS. With reference to this rumor?


Senator FAIRBANKS. What did you say to Senator Lindsay?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Senator Lindsay did nearly all the talking and I
silently assented. If I had not pledged myself from the beginning not
to reveal this contract to anybody, Senator Lindsay is one of the men
to whom I should have told everything.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You could have mentioned the contract to him
without imperiling the bill.

Mr. STAHLMAN. Not according to the statements of Senators without
seeing poverty staring me in the face. I had worked upon the claim
for years, spending my money upon it, and I felt that I was entitled
to just compensation in connection with it. That is what the church
believed ; at all events the book committee believed it.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You led Senator Lindsay to infer either by your
direct statement or by your manner that there was no foundation what-
ever for the rumor?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Senator Lindsay had a perfect right to assume that
there were no attorney's fees to be paid except possibly the fee of an
attorney in Washington. I think I said that an attorney had been
employed in Washington.

Senator FAIRBANKS. But that no fee was coming to you?

Mr. STAHLMAN. He had a perfect right to assume that. I said to
him substantially what I had said to Senator Bacon.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You went to Senator Lindsay's hotel a ad there
had this conversation?

Mr. STAHLMAN. The question was brought up by him. I have known
Senator Lindsay for many years.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you have a similar conversation with any
other Senator in the three years that you have been prosecuting this

Mr. STAHLMAN. The only conversations I recall are those with Sena-
tors Lindsay, Bacon, and Teller, though I do not call in question the
statement of Senators Clay or Bate.

Senator CLAY : Here is what I said in the Senate :

I desire to say to the Senator that I am informed, and I think reliably, that the
Methodist Episcopal Church South has not an agent here to look after this claim. I
understand that all his expenses are paid by the church, and for his services he
charges nothing. The church was simply represented here for the purpose of pre-
senting papers and affidavits to establish the justice of the claim, and I understand
that not a cent of it will be paid to anybody.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I have no recollection of any conversation upon this
subject with Senator Clay, although that conversation may have taken
place. One thing I do know, and that is that while I did not care or
wish (but, on the contrary, desired to avoid) revealing all the facts in
connection with the contract, I made no statement which within its
limit was not true. And right upon this point I know that in ordi-
nary cases the concealment of a fact is considered equivalent to a false-
hood. But surely it can not be so in this connection. That principle
applies to cases where the concealment of a fact is likely to injure
the parties from whom the fact is concealed, or other parties equally
interested. It seemed to me a common-sense proposition that the with-
holding of facts in this case would not injure any Senator, but would
enable the Senate to consider the bill on its merits, and that the ques-


tion as to whether or not I had an agreement for a fee, or had been
promised a lee, was not a question for the United States Senate to con-
sider. Under these peculiar circumstances it seemed to me at that
juncture that if the facts of the contract had been exposed the measure
could not have had an impartial consideration by the Senate, and I
desired to avoid anything calculated to cast reproach upon the people
whom I represented (the church). I thought it was better, entirely
proper and right within my prerogative as representative, to keep
from the public about Washington and everybody else all knowledge of
my arrangements with the book committee.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did Messrs. Barbee and Smith sympathize with
you in that purpose?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I said to the book committee, as I have previously
stated to your committee, u If you are going to publish to the world
that Stahlman is getting a fee of 35 per cent, I would not go to Wash-
ington and spend a month endeavoring to secure the payment of your
claim." I knew the elements about Washington elements which would
have hounded a man to death unless they got a portion of his fee.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you have any conversation with Senator

Mr. STAHLMAN. Yes, some years back, and I told him the truth then ;
that was probably six or seven years ago, but I had no agreement then
about a fee. I may then have told the chairman of this committee the
same thing.

The CHAIRMAN. I do not recollect having discussed the question with
you at all. I never have had any talk with you about the fee.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you have any conversation in relation to the
subject with Senator Bate a short time prior to the passage of the bill!

Mr. STAHLMAN. I say to you that while I respect Senator Bate and
have been on fairly good terms with him, my relations with the dis-
tinguished Senator were not such as to cause me to talk much with him.

Senator FAIRBANKS. That is hardly a fair answer to my question.
Did you not have a conversation with Senator Bate prior to the passage
of this bill respecting this fee?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I will answer that in a very positive way after I have
made a statement, which I think is due to myself in connection with it.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Answer the question first and make any
explanation you may desire afterwards.

Mr. STAHLMAN. If that pleases the Senator, I will do so. I have no
recollection on earth of having had any conversation with Senator
Bate on the question of compensation after I had been regularly
employed by the book committee. It is possible I may have had. I
was just as guarded with him as I was with the other Senators, to the
extent that I did not intend to tell him a falsehood. Yet he might from
this talk have felt justified in assuming that I had no contract.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you have any conversation with Senator
Turley about it?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Not until after the bill was passed.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did that conversation have reference to the fee
in any way?

Mr. STAHLMAN. It did.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you tell him that there was no fee coming
to you?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I led him to believe that the money was all going to
the treasury. I said, "My dear sir, I have just come to ask you to go
to the Treasury Department to get the voucher for these book agents.


That money is all going into the treasury, and they may do what they
like with it after they get it."

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you tell him that any part of it was coming
to you?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I did not.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did you lead him to believe that there was
nothing coming to you?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I object to the question, in that form.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You say that you misled the Senator in the
matter of your fee because you were afraid if the truth were known it
would injure the prospect of the bill?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I did not say that I misled Senators. I said that
from the conversations I had with them they had a right to assume
that there was no fee ; but what I did say was the truth. I felt that
if they knew all the facts in connection with it the bill could not be
considered on its merits.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Come to the conversation which you had with
Senator Turley subsequently to the passage of the bill. If I correctly
understand what you said, you led him to infer that the entire amount
of $288,000 was going to the church.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I do not doubt that he was under that impression.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Why did you mislead him?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I did not mislead him ; there was no reason why I

Senator FAIRBANKS. Why did you not tell him the truth frankly?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Because it was my business, not his.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Were you talking about the question of com-

Mr. STAHLMAN. He brought it up. He said there were some very
broad statements in regard to attorney's fees. I said that I had not
read the Congressional Kecord, and that I had not heard the report.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Did he ask you whether the report was true
or false?

Mr. STAHLMAN. He asked me in regard to it, and I said, "All I can
tell you is, the money is all going to the church."

Senator FAIRBANKS. Then you misrepresented the matter to Senator

Mr. STAHLMAN. Senator Turley had a right to assume that there
were no attorney's fees to me. 1 kept the fact from him because I did
not think it was any of his business.

The CHAIRMAN. You have said something about employing some
assistants here.

Mr. STAHLMAN. Yes, I employed Mr. Sam Donalson, of Tennessee.
He is a native of Nashville, and was Doorkeeper of the House for a
long time.

The CHAIRMAN. Was he occupying any public position then?

Mr. STAHLMAN. No, sir. He acts in the capacity of agent or
attorney for people having matters pending before Congress.

The CHAIRMAN. Have you any arrangements with church people
for any drawback or sharing of profits with you? I mean by church
people members of the book committee or book agents.

Mr. STAHLMAN. Look here, Mr. Chairman, you have had before you
this morning a man as guileless as a babe.

The CHAIRMAN. Never mind about that.

Mr. STAHLMAN (continuing). You had before you this morning two
men as guileless as children. I understand that rumors have been


floating around about them. I declare to you as a man, before high
heaven, and I hope that heaven will strike me dead if I vary from the
truth, that they did not get one farthing, and did not have any hope
of getting one farthing. I refer to Barbee and Smith and to the book
committee and to everybody connected with the church. There is a
class of people roaming about who claim to have got the second bless-
ing, who are trying to belittle and blacken the church and prominent
men in it if they can. There is no man much meaner than an assassin
of character.

The CHAIRMAN. We do not want to go into that. Confine yourself
to the questions. In your interest and in the interest of everybody
we ought to ask this question. I do not want to ask you how you paid
out this money, if you paid it out properly, but to ask you whether
any portion of it went to any Member of Congress or any Senator?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Not one dollar.

The CHAIRMAN. Was .there any money paid by you at any time in
the furtherance of this claim to that class of men ?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Not at all; nor have I paid any money to any attor-
neys with the remotest belief of its reaching any Member of Congress
or Senator.

The CHAIRMAN. The money which you have paid to attorneys has
been legitimate attorneys' fees, has it?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Perfectly. The only way on earth that I could suc-
ceed in getting this bill through was to keep the hordes of vultures who
are hanging around this Capitol from knowing that I had any agreement
for a fee in connection with it. That is the truth. I repeat again, not
one nickel, not one farthing, not one dollar went in that way; and, if
the chairman wants it (although it is my private business), I will show
him where every dollar of that money went. I used the money to pay
my debts, and I have not paid them all yet.

The CHAIRMAN. I do not know that we want that. I will consult
the committee.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I can account for every farthing of it.

The CHAIRMAN. We do not want to go into your private affairs; but
you can see that the question is not put simply out of impertinence,
but in the interest of a fair investigation.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I am ready to develop everything.

The CHAIRMAN. You know what is sometimes said outside, and I
thought it well to give you an opportunity of showing that there is no
truth in such rumors.

Senator PASCO. It is due to the official members of the church and to
Senators and Representatives in Congress that the statements made
by you should be put upon the record.

Mr. STAHLMAN. Yes; and I am willing to go into my private busi-
ness, if need be, to establish the truth of what I say.

Senator PASCO. What correspondence passed between you and the
book agents between the Saturday and Tuesday, about the time of the
passage of the bill between the time I wrote the letter to which atten-
tion has been called and the telegrams relating to the same subject?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I had a regular correspondence with those people
about the situation ; necessarily and naturally. There was scarcely a
thing I went into about which I did not communicate with them.

Senator PASCO. I am speaking with reference to these dates. My
letter was written on the 5th of March. That was Saturday; and on
Tuesday the bill passed. You know the telegram which 1 received in


response, and you know the telegram which Senator Bate sent, and the
response received.


Senator PASCO. What I am after is the correspondence between you
and the book agents about that time.

Mr. STAHLMAN. My recollection is that I communicated with the
book agents either that day, the day before, or the day after. I said to
them : " The story that was started in the House three weeks before
the passage of the bill has been revived in the Senate. It is said that
I am to get 40 per cent, and that I have a contract with you for the
money. You know that that is not so. It seems to me that if any
inquiry is made about it, you ought to deny that. You can afford to
deny that. And, if you want to, you can refer anybody making inquiry
to me, and I will talk to them." I did not mean by that to have them
understand that I should state everything in connection with it. If
any Senator called upon me, I stated substantially what I had said to
Senator Bate and others, and I was conscientious in regard to it. I did
not think it was the business of that Senator, or of any Senator. I
withheld the knowledge of the arrangement from my most intimate
friend, for the reasons which I have already stated. I stated no untruth.
Of course I kept back some of the facts, just as a man pleading before
a court keeps back facts. If he were inquired of as to what his fee
was, he would say, "That is not the question here; the question is
whether my client is entitled to a verdict." You all know that claims
before Congress are nearly all promoted by claim agents. Why, bless
your souls, of course they are. Now, in this case the claimants hap-
pened to be a church, and the church is to be punished because it
employed an agent, having failed after thirty years to get anything
done without an agent.

The CHAIRMAN. The complaint is not that the church employed an
agent, but that having employed an agent it denied that there was an

Mr. STAHLMAN. Well, then, make me the martyr. I made the denial.
Peter denied his Lord three times. He told a story. I do not claim
to be better than Peter. If Peter was forgiven, and Peter is the rock
upon which the church was founded, Stahlman can be forgiven for the
crime he has committed, if crime it be.

Senator PASCO. Have you got the telegrams which passed between
you and the agents T

Mr. STAHLMAN. I think I have. I will produce them with pleasure.
I think I have brought with me nearly everything in connection with
the case. I have a box nearly as large as a No. 1 dry-goods case,
which is full of papers. If it was dishonorable to keep from Senators
and others a knowledge of my fee I am dishonored; but I do not view
it from that standpoint.

Mr. COLYAR (counsel). Something has been said about your borrow-
ing money from the book committee. Did that have anything to do
with this contingent feet

Mr. STAHLMAN. My agreement was that I should bear all the expenses
in every conceivable way. I even paid the publishing house for the
circulars which they printed. I paid for every postage stamp, I paid
my secretary, I paid my hotel bills here, and the bills of my assistants;
in fact, I paid everything in connection with the claim. It so happened
that on one or two occasions I wanted money. I have a large family
and have large expenses. I was here in Washington and was not in a
position to go home and make negotiations for money. I had said to
S. Rep. 1416 5


tbe book committee that it might be necessary for me to ask them to
help me. I said, " I have some property which I can mortgage to you,
and if I want a couple of thousand dollars, can you let me have it?"
The committee referred the matter to a subcommittee who reported that
on property of mine, real estate, worth $5,000 1 could get $1,000. I got
that. On another occasion, when I was troubled very seriously for a
thousand dollars, I asked the book committee if they would not let me
have it, and the book committee said they would, if I could secure them.
I gave them the note of the Banner Publishing Company for a thousand
dollars at ninety days. That note was paid when it fell due. There was
never a better note for that sum of money made in the United States.
It was as good as gold. The Nashville Banner is the cleanest paper in
the State, has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the State,
and is the most successful newspaper in the State, and its note for a
thousand or ten thousand dollars is as good as any note that can be

Mr. COLYAR. Did you pay the entire expenses, including the expenses
of the book agents, when they came up here to look after the bill ?

Mr. STAHLMAN. I did.

Mr. COLYAR. You regarded that as a part of your contract?


Mr. GARLAND (counsel). Something was said about $500 being given
by you for some missions.

The CHAIRMAN. Had that anything to do with this contract?

Mr. STAHLMAN. Not a blessed thing. I am a pretty large contrib-
utor all the time. I am a good paying brother.

Senator FAIRBANKS. You are a pretty good receiving brother, too, I

Mr. STAHLMAN. Yes; and I do not believe that any man who could
command a salary of $20,000 a year would have undertaken to collect
this claim on a contingent fee of 35 per cent, and pay all of his
expenses, including the expenses of those who assisted him.

Senator FAIRBANKS. It is a possible thing that the fee was reason-
able and right; but that is not the main question. The question is
whether the Senate was misled by you and Barbee and Smith.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I think that the real question is whether or not that
claim was just or unjust. That is the question, I think. I do not think
the Senate had anything to do with the employment of an attorney.

The CHAIRMAN. The Senate would have been pretty sure either to
limit the attorney's fee or to submit its amount to somebody.

Mr. STAHLMAN. These people had agreements with other attorneys
before I took it up.

The CHAIRMAN. Many of us who voted for the bill did not think that
it was a claim at all against the Government, but we felt that we were
doing a thing which we felt we could afford to do for a charitable insti-
tution. It was stated by some members of the committee when we
voted to report the bill that they did not vote for the report on the
ground that the claim was a legal one at all, but that inasmuch as we
had adopted the rule of paying such claims in the case of colleges and
schools we would apply the rule in this case to the book concern, which
we considered (especially those of us who were brought up in the Meth-
odist Church) to be a charity, inasmuch as the proceeds went to the
support of supernumerary ministers.

Senator PASCO. So far as I am personally concerned, I agreed to the
report because I believed in the justice of the claim, but I referred also
to a class of Senators who would support it on other grounds, and we


were very glad to get the support of those Senators. Without that
support it would have been a difficult matter to pass the bill. They
were influential and were strong and positive in their views, and we
hailed the support which they gave us.

Mr. STAHLMAN. I agree to that. The precedent had been established
in a number of cases less meritorious than this one. Precedent makes
law, and law seemed to establish the legality of this claim beyond
question, even in the minds of those who doubted that there was any
law in its favor.

The CHAIRMAN. I do not know that I would have voted against the
claim, but I might have voted for some revision of the fee, inasmuch as
1 did not regard it as a legal claim, but a gratuity; and I voted to report
the bill with the distinct understanding that it was a gratuity and not
a legal claim. I stood upon the report made twenty years ago as a legal
proposition that the church had no legal claim.


Mr. Denny said :

Mr. Chairman, I think I should be false to my feelings if I did not
say before these Senators that I have been sitting here these hours with
an incubus upon me greater than I have ever borne. I am the third
generation of my family in the Methodist ministry, and, outside of my
own wife and children, the honor of that church is to me more than all
else in this world. I had heard nothing whatever of the supposition
that there was any bribery or corruption or fraud in connection with
this claim. My lite is that of a recluse almost wholly. Besides being
a Methodist minister, my work is that of a professor in Vanderbilt
University. For the past four years I have been a member of the book
committee, and, at its last meeting, I was elected its chairman. Coming
here and hearing what I have heard, and reading what I have read, I
feel that I would infinitely prefer that the M. E. Church South had never
had one dollar's worth of interest in anything which the United States
Government has ever done. You Senators hold in your hands to day,
by the report which you shall make, the happiness of a majority of a
million and a half members, and if it does not go forth from you that
this money (so far as the church is concerned) has been gotten with
clean hands, there are thousands of us who would die before we would
touch a dollar of it. Most of our members are women and children ;
they do not understand these close distinctions, and in behalf of the
church (if it meets with your approbation) I shall be glad to submit a
statement which I have prepared and to answer any questions which
the committee may ask me. There is nothing that I have to conceal,
so far as the church is concerned. I do feel for her honor, and I feel
that that has been attacked to some extent by the order for this
investigation. After I have read my statement, I hope that you will
ask me the most pointed and searching questions that can occur to you.

The CHAIRMAN. 1 do not know what you know about this matter.

Mr. DENNY. I can tell in a very short time.

Senator FAIRBANKS. There is no division of feeling in the Senate, so

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 74 of 87)