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

. (page 75 of 87)
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 75 of 87)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

far as I am aware, as to the attitude of the church. So far as the
church is concerned there is no stigma, stain, or reproach upon it. If
there has been any wrongdoing, it has been on the part of the agents
of the church who have betrayed their trust.


Mr. DENNY. One Senator, speaking in the Senate, said that the
Methodist Episcopal Church South had dragged its slime through the
United States Senate.

The CHAIRMAN. I do not recall any such expression.

Mr. DENNY. It is in the Congressional Record.

Senator FAIRBANKS. If such a statement was made, it did not reflect
the general sentiment of the Senate.

Senator STEWART. How would it affect the church in any way> in
your estimation, if this committee should report that the statements
made by Senator Bate and Senator Pasco were made in the most abso-
lute good faith, and that they had been misled by statements of the
book agents?

Mr. DENNY. I do not think there is the slightest supposition on the
part of any of our subcommittee that Senator Bate or Senator Pasco,
or any other Senator who has spoken upon the question, did not speak
in absolutely good faith. Our book committee, to which the book
agents are responsible under the law of the church, has made an inves-
tigation of the whole case, so far as the book agents are concerned;
and, not knowing what would become of this resolution, we appointed
a subcommittee to prepare a statement for issue to the church and to
the public in relation to it. As soon as our attention was called to the
fact of the likelihood of the passage of this resolution, we thought it
better and more courteous to the Senate committee to withhold the
statement which we had prepared. I have it here.

The CHAIRMAN. Is that the statement which you intended to publish ?

Mr. DENNY. It is not in the exact form, but the substance of it is the

The CHAIRMAN. In what direction does it go to blame the com-

Mr. DENNY. It goes to the point of stating very briefly the history
of the book committee's effort to collect the claim against the Govern-
ment, the correspondence on the subject, the action of the book agents,
and the action of the church in relation to the statements made by her
own agents.

Senator PASCO. Those book agents are, as I understand, under the
direction of the book committee.

Mr. DENNY. Yes; and under the law we can displace them by a

Senator PASCO. Did these gentlemen, Barbee and Smith, after the
two Houses had voted on this bill, go before the book committee and
make a full, free, and frank statement of all the circumstances connected
with the matter ?

Mr. DENNY. Not until the annual meeting on the 21st of April last,
when I first read the Congressional Record on the subject.

Senator PASCO. They came in with a presentation of their formal
report f Is that what you refer to?

Mr. DENNY. Yes.

Senator PASCO. And that is the first statement you can recall by
them relating to this matter?

Mr. DENNY. I do not recollect that. This is the report they made to
the general conference, and it has to have the approval of the book

Senator PASOO. The $100,800 had then been paid out?

Mr. DENNY. Yes. On the 14th of March, I think, we were called
together to draw up such papers as we understood the Treasury of the
United States would require in order to collect the money that is, to


put in our charter and certificate that the book committee had author-
ity to act, and to send up a copy of the discipline containing the law
of the church. Then the money was collected, and the first meeting
after that, so far as I can now recollect, was the quadrennial meeting,
on the 21st of April, before the general conference was held. At that
meeting the Congressional Eecord of March 8th was brought to the
committee, and when I read that statements had been made on the
floor of the Senate in regard to the claim I called for the reading of
the report in the Congressional Record. That was the first intimation
that 1 had of it.

Senator PASCO. The money had then already been paid to Stahltnan?

Mr. DENNY. Yes.

Senator PASCO. It was paid without any special authority from the
book committee?

Mr. DENNY. No. The committee had met. There are five members
of the committee residing at Nashville, and we met that day to arrange
the papers.

Senator PASCO. And subsequently the money reached Nashville?

Mr. DENNY. Yes.

Senator PASCO. Did the book agents come in and ask the book com-
mittee for authority to pay the money to Stahlman, or did they deal
directly with Stahlman without any conference with the book com-

Mr. DENNY. Authority had been granted to the book agents by the
book committee to pay this 35 per cent under the contract with Stahl-

Senator PASCO. And at that time none of the circumstances which
had occurred in the Senate had been brought to the attention of the
book committee?

Mr. DENNY. No, sir; none of us knew of them.

Senator PASCO. They were brought to the attention of the book
com mittee when ?

Mr. DENNY. On the 21st of April.

Senator PASCO. That was when you were fixing up your business
prior to going on to Baltimore?

Mr. DENNY. Yes; we were -preparing the quadrennial report.

Senator PASCO. Did you take any action, after reading this debate
in the Senate, approving or disapproving the course of the book agents ?

Mr. DENNY. Yes. We passed a resolution setting forth the contract
and instructions to Mr. Stahlman. The instructions were that his
course should be such as to bring no reproach upon the church; but
that was no part of the written contract. I had supposed it was until
I saw the contract about three weeks ago. If it came to the question
of compromising the church in collecting the money, he had positive
instructions that the money was not to be collected. The church was
to be kept from all contamination whatever. That was stated in the
resolution, and also that, as statements had been made in the Senate
which did not accord with the facts, the book agents were instructed
to prepare a statement to be submitted to the general conference, so
that the general conference might be in possession of the whole facts
of the case.

Senator PASCO. Have you got a copy of the resolution?

The CHAIRMAN. It is set forth in this statement which has been
handed to me by Dr. Denny, and which I propose to read to-night and
will inform you to-morrow whether it will be proper to be admitted.

Adjourned until to-morrow.


WASHINGTON, D. C., June 29, 1898.

The committee met. Present, Senators Teller (chairman), Fairbanks,
Stewart, Pasco, and Clay.


The CHAIRMAN. I omitted to ask you yesterday whether, when you
made this contract with Mr. Stahlmau, or when yoii executed it for the
book committee, you had any arrangement by which you were to keep
secret the amount of the consideration.

Mr. BARBEE. Well, I do not know. There was a distinct under-
standing, and it was so expressed, that we would keep that quietly
between ourselves.

The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean expressed in the contract?

Mr. BARBEE. I do not know that there was any formal definite
expression in the contract to the effect that we should keep it secret;
but it was mentioned, of course, and it was understood and agreed
upon that that was a matter between the book agents and the book
committee and Mr. IStahlman.

The CHAIRMAN. There was no publication of it?

Mr. BARBEE. None whatever.

The CHAIRMAN. And you did not intend that there should be?

Mr. BARBEE. No, sir; that is, as to the amount.

The CHAIRMAN. After you made this contract was it reported to any
of the church authorities? Did you report it to the conference or to

Mr. BARBEE. Not in any particular form. I do not recollect whether
I did. I may have announced it on conference floors or elsewhere that
Mr. Stahlman was our employed attorney or agent, or whatever you
choose to call him that he was to represent us in the matter. It was
never concealed that we had employed him and that he was writing to
us, but the amount that we were to give him was a matter between

The CHAIRMAN. Was the fact that you were to give him pecuniary
compensation concealed? Was anything said about that?

Mr. BARBEE. I do not recollect whether anything was said about it.
I had this consciousness, however, in my mind, that we were very care-
fully to keep that question entirely out of view.

The CHAIRMAN. You mean as to the amount?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes; as to the amount and as to the fact that there
was to be any compensation at all. We had our reasons for it, and I
will state them if you desire.

The CHAIRMAN. You are entitled to the statement, if you choose.

Mr. BARBEE. The reason was this : Mr. Stahlman said to us, " If. it
is known that! am receiving a compensation, an appreciable one, there
are cormorants hanging around the halls of Congress who will under-
take to suck it all out of me, and would so embarrass me that I would
not undertake to go to Washington at all if it were known. I would
rather never have anyone know anything about it."

The CHAIRMAN. Did you understand that he was to assume the posi-
tion of a trustee of the church?

Mr. BARBEE. I did not understand that he was simply to pose as the
trustee of the church; oh, no. I understood, and we all understood,
that he was our agent, or call it what you please. I always spoke of
him as an attorney; you may call him agent or what not. I always
HI >oke of him in that light and employed him to act in that capacity.


The CHAIRMAN. Do you know Mr. Gaines, a member of the House
of Representatives from Tennessee?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you ever have any conversation with him about
the fees to be paid ?

Mr. BARBEE. None whatever that I have any memory of now. The
truth is that is a subject I was always careful to avoid discussing.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you have any conversation with Mr. Gaines
about the case?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes; in Washington a year ago. I was attending con-
ference at Staunton and I came from that point here, expecting to meet
Mr. Stahlman. But he said that the session was near its close and that
he could not do anything. I conversed with Mr. Gaines and thanked
him for his activity in the matter. The conversation took on the general
topic of the claim and our appreciation of the interest he was taking.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you tell him then, or at any other time, that no
fees were to be paid in that case?

Mr. BARBEE. I did not.

The CHAIRMAN. You are sure about that, Doctor?

Mr. BARBEE. I am as certain of it as 1 am that I sit here. I am cer-
tain that I never told anyone on earth that there were no fees to be paid.

The CHAIRMAN. Are you certain that you never told that to Senator

Mr. BARBEE. I am.

The CHAIRMAN. Nor any other Senator?

Mr. BARBEE. Nor any Senator.

The CHAIRMAN. You are equally certain, though, that you did not
tell people that you had a contract of this kind? You did not even
tell the church authorities what the contract was?

Mr. BARBEE. Oh, no; no one beyond the book committee. I may
occasionally have told a bishop, but I am not so sure about that. The
book committee originally made the trade, but beyond that we did not
discuss the question.

The CHAIRMAN. You stated that you did not make the trade.

Mr. BARBEE. No ; we drew up and signed the formal contract.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you make the preliminary contract with Stahl-
man before the book committee authorized the final contract with him ?

Mr. BARBEE. When my attention was called to Mr. Stahlman as
available for us, and when I learned how expert he was in such things,
I immediately took to it, had an interview with him, and asked him to
see the book committee. He came before them. He told me that he
would charge 50 per cent, but when he went before the book committee
they brought him down to 35 per cent.

The CHAIRMAN. Were you present with the book committee at the

Mr. BARBEE. I was.

The CHAIRMAN. You were not a member of that committee?

Mr. BARBEE. No. sir ; and have no voice in it. I do have a voice in
the sense of speaking, but not in the sense of voting.

Senator CLAY. You speak of Mr. Stahlman being expert what do
you mean?

Mr. BARBEE. That he has always been remarkably successful in
managing great affairs in legislative bodies.

Senator CLAY. What was his business looking after legislative

Mr. BARBEE. Oh, no; he has been a railroad man.


Senator CLAY. You did not expect any improper means to be used
by him?

Mr. BARBEE. We made it a condition that none should be used. He
was charged by the committee and by all of us that we would rather
lose the whole amount than that anything questionable should be done
in order to get it.

Senator CLAY. What did you expect him to do here in getting the
claim allowed?

Mr. BARBEE. We expected him to do just what he did in the main
and in particular stir up the whole land to write to Congressmen, to
talk with Congressmen, to bring the matter to the attention of Con-
gressmen, to impress them with the importance of the thing, and then
to leave the issue in the hands of this honorable national legislature.
That is what I expected him to do, and I think I never knew a man
who did more writing than he did in this case. We printed in the
publishing house a large mass of literature which he wrote, and he
paid for the printing. There were a great many autograph letters sent
out by him, besides a great many telegrams.

The CHAIRMAN. These were sent out by the book agents and the
book committee?

Mr. BARBEE. The book committee had nothing to do with sending
them out.

The CHAIRMAN. These circulars are all signed by the book com-
mittee or the book agents ?.

Mr. BARBEE. Except such as Stahlman signed himself.

The CHAIRMAN. Did he sign any?

Mr. BARBEE. I have the impression that he did sign some.

Senator CLAY. Did he not write them and send them to you to be
sent out?

Mr. BARBEE. Sometimes he did.

Senator CLAY. I do not think that any of them were signed by
Stahlman himself.

Mr. BARBEE. I would not be positive about that.

Mr. GARLAND (counsel). After this contract was made by Stahlman,
how long was it before you reported it to conference?

Mr. BARBEE. The contract was made in July. I do not recollect
what was the date of the General Conference.

Mr. GARLAND. The contract was made in July, 1895?

Mr. BARBEE. We had a General Conference in May, 1898, the present
year. We had not any from 1894 to 1898.

Mr. GARLAND. In making up matters to report to the General Confer-
ence, was it the custom to make those reports to the annual conference
or to the General Conference?

Mr. BARBEE. To both. We make only exhibits to the annual con-
ference. The quadrennial report, covering all essential details, is made
to the General Conference.

The CHAIRMAN. To which conference do you make your annual
reports; is it to the Nashville Conference?

Mr. BARBEE. I thought that the chairman was a Methodist and
would understand.

The CHAIRMAN. You have so many annual conferences.

Mr. BARBEE. The same report goes to each one of them. I have
heard my report read twenty times in one season of the conference.

The CHAIRMAN. Does the conference at Nashville, where the book
concern is located, have any control over the book concern greater
than any other conference has?


Mr. BARBEE. None whatever.

The CHAIRMAN. The book concern is really under the control of the
General Conference?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes.

Mr. GARLAND (counsel). Be a little specific as to the character of
the business which you report to the annual conference.

Mr. BARBEE. We use simply an exhibit of the business of the year.
We are in the habit, however, preliminary to that, of giving a state-
ment of the value of the plant, the buildings, machinery, etc., so as to
give an idea of what it is worth.

The CHAIRMAN. Have you one of those reports with you?

Mr. BARBEE. I have not any of the annual reports with me; I will
send you one if desired. The last quadrennial report is here.

The CHAIRMAN. In any of these reports to the annual conference do
you make any reference to this claim?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you make any reference to Mr. Stahlman's con-
nection with it?

Mr. BARBEE. I do not recollect whether the annual reports mention
his name or not.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you state whether you had engaged anyone
since the contract was made?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes. I stated that in my address which is on file in
the conference. I do not recollect distinctly what we wrote in the

1 he CHAIRMAN. I am speaking of the report.

Mr. BARBEE. I do not recollect about that.

The CHAIRMAN. Can you look up one of those reports and send it
to us?

Mr. BARBEE. Yes.

Mr. HAWKINS (counsel). What amount of money had been previously
paid to agents or attorneys for looking after this claim in Congress?

The CHAIRMAN. That is all shown in the statement of Dr. Denny,
which I have here.

Mr. BARBEE. Yes ; it is all set out there exactly.

The CHAIRMAN (to Mr. Hawkins). I think you had better not go
into that. Dr. Barbee may not have the exact figures, and they are
here in this statement already.

WASHINGTON, D. C., June 25, 1898.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you appear here on behalf of the book committee?

Mr. DENNY. Yes ; three of us are here.

The CHAIRMAN. Of which you are the chairman?

Mr. DENNY. Yes, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. Who are here besides yourself?

Mr. DENNY. Colonel Beeves and Dr. Mason.

The CHAIRMAN. You are all members of the book committee, are you ?

Mr. DENNY. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Are you all ministers?

Mr. DENNY. Colonel Reeves is a layman.

The CHAIRMAN. He is a lawyer, is he?

Mr. DENNY. He is.


The CHAIRMAN. Do you desire to present to the committee this state-
ment which you left here yesterday?

Mr. DENNY. Yes, sir; by all rneaus I wish to read it to the committee.

The CHAIRMAN. Can you not discuss the salient points of it without
reading it, and let the report go in? I see nothing objectionable in it,
although I see some things that I am sorry to see in it. At the same
time you have a right to present them if you think it better.

Dr. MASON. That statement can be read in thirty minutes, and I
doubt if Dr. Denny can go over the same ground in that time.

The CHAIRMAN. We shall read the statement when we come to make
up our judgment in the matter.

Mr. DENNY. You have in your hands the interest of a church which
is now in a greatly troubled condition.

The CHAIRMAN. I do not think that the simple reading of this state-
ment will help the church, but you will be allowed to put it in the
record, if you desire. I wish to ask you a question or two about this
report. State the character of the examination which your committee
made in the General Conference.

Mr. DENNY. I was not a member of the committee which had that
in charge. Colonel Beeves was a member of that conference, and for
that reason he was appointed on this committee to come here. I was
chairman of the committee which made the investigation in Nashville
last week.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you want to say anything which is not in this
prepared statement!

Mr. DENNY. Nothing that occurs to me now, unless it be called for.
I think it ought to be emphasized that the contract with Mr. Stahlman
was made by the authority of the book committee.

The CHAIRMAN. That has been fully understood.

Mr. DENNY. And that the only authority in our church to which the
matter could be properly reported was the General Conference which
met in Baltimore in May, 1898. Under our law the annual conferences
have no reports made to them of the proceedings of the book commit-
tee. The book committee is not responsible to any annual conference,
so that it would not have been proper to have made a report of this
contract to the annual conferences. That comes only to the General
Conference, and when the General Conference met all the facts were set
forth to it. I know that, because I wrote the report myself.

The CHAIRMAN. You had the money then?

Mr. DENNY. Yes; but that conference was the first that met after
the contract was made.

The CHAIRMAN. What disposition has the church made of the money?

Mr. DENNY. It has gone into the corpus of the estate.

The CHAIRMAN. What do you mean by that?

Mr. DENNY. There is what we call the Publishing House of the Meth-
odist Episcopal Church South. It is so denominated. The corporate
name, however, is " The Book Agents of the Methodist Church South,"
but that corporate name has never been in the Discipline. All the
plant that we have covers the ground, buildings, machinery, and every-
thing in connection with it. The surplus proceeds of the publishing
house go to the support of our worn-out or superannuated and supernu-
merary preachers and their wives, widows, and orphans. The amount
that we received from this claim has been invested, or at least the order
has been made to invest it, in the best interest-bearing securities, the
interest to go to the support of the superannuated preachers.

Senator CLAY. How about the outstanding bonds?


Mr. DENNY. Those bonds were paid by subscriptions to the church
and by the earnings of the publishing house. I think we have paid
them all but $1,000. At least there is a bill in court now to have the
mortgage released up to the amount of the bonds paid 5 but no part of
this fund went to that purpose.

The CHAIRMAN. Has the amount been really invested?

Mr. DENNY. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been
invested in the city bonds of Nashville, and a special committee of
financial men has been appointed to invest the remainder of it.

The CHAIRMAN. And the interest goes, where?

Mr. DENNY. To the superannuated preachers. There was a move-
ment in the General Conference, which many members of the book
committee opposed, to open a branch publishing house at Shanghai,
China. Some of the members opposed it as not being in the power of
the General Conference to make such an appropriation of any of the
money belonging to the publishing house.

The CHAIRMAN. It was not in the power of the book committee
itself to make such a diversion of the funds?

Mr. DENNY. It would not be called a diversion if the General Confer-
ence passed a resolution authorizing us to expend the sum of $50,000
for a branch house in Shanghai, China.

The CHAIRMAN. Out of the general fund?

Mr. DENNY. Out of the general fund, but not particularly out of the
special fund. We have a proposition to establish a branch house in
Dallas, Tex.

The CHAIRMAN. Have you any branch houses?

Mr. DENNY. We had not, until the action of the last General Confer-
ence, the ppwer to establish branch houses with money taken from the
book concern.

The CHAIRMAN. This paper which you handed me yesterday [exhib-
iting] you do not want to be put in the report?

Mr. DENNtf". No; that was simply our statement to the public. I
should like to state, in connection with that report, that our commit-
tee spent many hours in making a thorough investigation of the mat-
ter. We went to the bottom of the matter as far as we could go. It
might be looked upon as an expert investigation, because it was a
minute and exhaustive investigation. We went into it as thoroughly
as we could, and our report (not on the fact that the Senate was misled,
but on the fact that there was no design to mislead the Senate) was

Senator CLAY. How do you reconcile that with the testimony given
here in which the witnesses admit that they intended to mislead?

Mr. DENNY. I do not so understand the testimony given here.

Senator CLAY. Mr. Stahlrnan said himself that he thought it best
to mislead in order to keep the real facts out.

Mr. DENNY. I have nothing to do with the defense of Mr. Stahlman.
He is amply able to take care of himself, as he has shown to this
Senate committee. If I understood him, he testified that he withheld
certain facts, because he did not think they were material to the case.

Senator CLAY. He withheld this knowledge to keep us from know-
ing certain facts, and he said, himself, that the withholding of these
facts was calculated to make us believe that the rumors were untrue.

Mr. DENNY. Yes, he stated that; but we did not investigate Mr.

Senator CLAY. I can not understand how a report can be made that

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 75 of 87)