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 77 of 87)
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duct their trust than to make such an improvident bargain. I knew also that there
was no power to make such a contract, so I did not hesitate to denounce it as a
malicious slander. And I am sure also that the Senators who came to me for infor-
mation upon the subject are thoroughly satisfied with my statement. But as a
matter of caution it will be very well for me to have a positive denial from you,
which I can use if it appears necessary, either before the bill comes up for action
or on the floor of the Senate, so I suggest that you send me a telegram on Monday
as to the facts of the case, and authorizing me, as I am sure you can, to deny this
statement. I am glad to say that there is a very fair prospect of getting the bill up
for consideration by Tuesday, and everything indicates that our efforts will be suc-
cessful. I have had a good many conferences with Senators with reference to it,
and the many assurances of support that have been given to me and others who
have taken an interest in the matter convince me that it has gained strength since
it came to the Senate. Senator Bate has been unceasing in his efforts to bring the
matter to a successful conclusion, and we shall continue to do all in our power to
get a vote as early as is possible.

Yours, very truly, S. PASCO.

This letter coming from the Senator who had the bill in charge, and
asking, as both Dr. Barbee and Mr. Smith assure us they understood,
the direct question as to whether or not they were under contract to
pay Mr. Stahlman 40 per cent of the amount secured, was, in accord-
ance with Mr. Pasco's request, answered by telegram on Monday,
March 7, as follows :

Letter of 5th received. The statement is untrue, and you are hereby authorized
to deny it.


This telegram was delivered in Washington March 7, 12.43 p. m.,
W. Jeffers, a Senate employee, receipting for it. A few minutes later
they sent Senator Pasco the following telegram, the purpose of which
was to enable Mr. Pasco to inform himself more fully upon the matter
if he desired further information :

Have asked Mr. Stahlman to call at once and see you. He is a gentleman upon
whose statements yon may implicitly rely. He is our friend and neighbor and an
official member of our church, whose interest in our behalf reaches beyond and
above pecuniary consideration.


This was delivered at 1.15 p. m., J. B. Lloyd, a Senate employee,
receipting for it.

These were the only communications between Barbee & Smith, book
agents, and Senator Pasco pending the passage of the bill. The first
telegram answers categorically the question asked by the Senator,
which question was as to the fee of 40 per cent. The second refers
him to our representative, Mr. Stahlman, who was present in Wash-
ington and could have given him any information desired. At the same
time a telegram was sent to Mr. Stahlman, telling him to call on Sen-
ator Pasco with reference to this matter, and Mr. Stahlman informs us


thnt when he called Senator Pasco said no further information was

The bill authorizing the payment of the claim was passed by the
Senate March 8. On March 28 the attention of Barbee & Smith wns
called to the Congressional Eecord of March 8, containing the debate
in the Senate pending the passage of the bill, in which debate several
{Senators quoted them as authority for the statement that no part of
the claim should be paid to any agent or attorney. Thereupon they
wrote to Senator Pasco a letter, of which the following is an extract
and all that relates to the matters in issue :

NASHVII-LE, TENN., May 29, 1S98.
Hon. S. FASCO, United States Senate,

Washington, D. C.

DEAR SIR: On the 7th of March we leceived a letter from you under the date of
March 5, in which you stated among other things :

"Some malicious persons are circulating a slanderous story about the Capitol
with the evident purpose to obstruct the passage of our bill. It is to the effect
you have made a contract with Mr. Stuhlman to pay him 40 per cent of any amount

To this we responded :

"Letter of 5th received. The statement is untrue, and you are authorized to
deny it."

We also, on the 7th of March, received a telegram from Senator Bate on the same
subject and repeated to him the telegram we had sent you.

We should not deem it necessary to say anything further on the subject but for
the fact that during the discussion of our bill in the Senate (as shown by the Con-
gressional Record, which we have just read) statements were made by one or two
Senators which, by inference, at least, were calculated to create the impression that
nothing was to be paid by the publishing house to any attorney or representative
of the book agents.

The claim, as you are aware, was pending in Congress for nearly thirty years.
During several years of that period we had a Washington attorney (Mr. lioyersj
employed on a percentage basis. This arrangement was made with the full knowl-
edge and consent of our book committee (the book agents, as very properly stated
by you, having no authority to make such contracts without the consent of that
committee). For reasons satisfactory to our friends in the Senate and House we
declined to renew the contract when it expired, and instead accepted the proffered
assistance of others, some of whom were devoted friends and members of your
church and one of whom, even as early as 1891 and before the agreement with the
Washington attorney expired, had rendered valuable assistance in our endeavors to
pass the bill. This gentleman was as earnest in his endeavor to help us then as lie
was subsequently, the only difference being that formerly much of his time was
occupied in other pursuits, while during the past two and a half years he has had
time which he could call his own, and a good portion of which during his extended
sojourn in Washington he has seen fit to largely devote to our interests.

It is hardly to be presumed that this gentleman and others who assisted him
should be willing to serve the publishing house and incur the large expense of stay-
ing in Washington without some compensation, and if, therefore, in the final adjust-
ment it was deemed proper to pay these gentlemen a reasonable compensation for
heir services and expenses, and this compensation was paid with the consent of the
roper authorities of the church, yon, as well as other Senators, we are sure, will
gree that it w as not an improper thing to do. * * *

To this letter the following answer was made by Senator Pasco,
omitting the closing sentences, which were purely personal and do not
relate to the matter in issue:


Washington, D. C., April 6, 1898.

Nashville, Tenn.

DEAR SIRS : Your letter of March 29 relative to the Methodist Book claim was duly
received, and I value highly the kind manner in which you speak of the efforts I
have made to secure favorable action in the Senate upon it.

I have always felt that the question of compensating the gentlemen who repre-
sented the publishing house here in Washington while this claim was pending before
Congress belonged entirely to the book agents and the book committee of the Metli-


odist Church. Although it was understood from the statements that were made that
they were not influenced by a desire to gain large fees, yet it is quite proper that
tbey should be paid their expenses and such other remuneration as the church
authorities deem fair and just. J was well satislied that no such exorbitant and
unreasonable contract existed as was alleged, and I did not hesitate to deny it before
I received your telegram, which as you know ; I nsed freely both in the Senate and
among Senators who approached me upon the subject.

Yours, very truly, S. PASCO.

A careful reading of this correspondence fails to reveal to us suffi-
cient ground for the charge that Messrs. Barbee and Smith intended
to mislead Mr. Pasco or any other Senator. The fact that they wrote to
Mr. Pasco as soon as they learned of the statements that had been
made by Senators and informed him of the incorrectness of these
statements is evidence that they themselves were surprised at the con-
clusions reached by Senators. Mr. Pasco, in his reply, not only does
not charge them with deception, but says, "I have always felt that
the question of compensating the gentlemen who represented the pub-
lishing house here in Washington while this claim was pending before
Congress belonged entirely to the book agents and the book committee
of the MethodistChurch." And he says again, "It is quite proper that
they should be paid their expenses and such other remuneration as
the church authorities deem fair and just." This he wrote one mouth
after the bill had passed, showing that he had at that time no feeling of
iiidignation against Messrs. Barbee and Smith for having misled him,
and did not believe that they, as the agents of the publishing house,
in carrying out this contract with their representative, were acting in
bad faith toward him or the Senate of the United States.

Mr. Pasco said in the Senate when the bill was under consideration :

It is proper to say that I heard a rumor that was whispered about the Senate
chamber during tbe last few days to the effect that some claim agents would get a
very large proportion of this amount. On Saturday last, when I heard that report,
I sat down and wrote Messrs. Barbee & Smith. I was thoroughly satisfied that the
report had no foundation whatever in fact, but I stated that I wished to haye in my
possession a statement from them which I could use either in private conversation
or on the floor of the Senate, if necessary, and yesterday morning I got this reply to
my letter-

" Letter of 5th received. The statement is untrue, and you are authorized to
deny it."

I made the statement fully in this letter, which sot forth that some agents here
would get a very large percentage of tbe amount.

Senator Pasco was a friend of the bill, and was doing what he could
to secure its passage, and his efforts were appreciated by the church.
If his letter of March 5 to Messrs. Barbee & Smith had been at hand
and had been read it would have appeared that his inquiry was with
reference to a fee of 40 per cent, and not so broad as the statement
from memory made on the floor of the Senate. This might have pre
vented any misunderstanding as to the meaning of the telegram of
Messrs. Barbee & Smith, particularly if the second telegram had also
been read.


On the same day on which Messrs. Barbee & Smith sent the above-
mentioned telegrams to Senator Pasco they received the following
telegram from Senator Bate:

Telegraph to-day answer to Senator Pasco's letter to you Saturday as to Stahlman
having fee of 40 per cent, or any other fee, in case of payment of your claim. I would
like to hear from you also. In my judgment, if true, it will endanger the bill.


To this they immediately telegraphed as follows:

Wired Senator Pasco early this morning as follows : " The statement is untrue, and
you are hereby authorized to deny it."

The book agents inform us that they understood this telegram to
contain two requests. To the first of these requests Barbee <& Smith
replied by saying that they had already answered Senator Pasco, and
they informed Senator Bate what they had answered, repeating the
very words of that answer. To the second they made no reply. Various
considerations, as they inform us, restrained them from doing so :

1. It would have been simply impossible for them, on a few moments'
notice, at the very time when they supposed the bill was up for its final
passage, to frame a telegram sufficiently comprehensive to cover all the
facts in the case.

2. They had already sent a second and fuller telegram to Senator
Pasco, asking him to confer with Mr. Stahlman in regard to any point
of difficulty or importance.

2. Dr. Barbee had three months before, by telegram from Bryan, Tex.,
dated December 10, 1897, informed Senator Bate most definitely that
Mr. Stahlman had full authority, as follows :

Your telegram mailed me here. Confer with Stahlman, who understands the
case thoroughly and has full authority.


As they sincerely believed that their representative, who was on the
ground watching the progress of the case, was a man of ability and
integrity, they did not deem it wise or becoming in them to thrust him
aside and to take the case into their own hands, 800 miles away.

We sincerely regret that Senator Bate fell into an error as to the
meaning of this telegram of March 7, and, owing to this error, made
statements on the floor of the Senate that were incorrect.

For example, it is impossible for us to discover just how, from the
telegram of Barbee and Smith, he could have drawn the following infer-
ence. In reply to a question from a Senator as to whether anyone
was to be paid for prosecuting the claim, Senator Bate said, as reported
in the Congressional Eecord :

I take pleasure in saying that, as I heard such a rumor whispered around yester-
day or the day before, I received a dispatch, as did also the chairman of the sub-
committee of the Committee on Claims, from Barbee & Smith, who are the head
of the concern, stating that there was not one word of truth in the statement that
the fund was to be diverted in any such way.

Nor do we see how Senator Bate, who was in charge of the claim for
many years, could have fallen into the following remarkable error, as
stated in the Congressional Kecord of March 8 :

I want to say in this connection that this fund is to be distributed to all alike, to
the Northern Church and the Southern Church, to the Republicans, and Democrats,
and Populists, and Prohibitionists all are to share alike.

With reference to all these letters and telegrams it ought to be said
that the book committee, in concluding, after a careful and minute
inquiry, that Messrs. Barbee & Smith had not intended to deceive or
mislead any of the Senators of the United States, did not reach this
conclusion solely on the statements found in the letters and telegrams.
Both Dr. Barbee and Mr. Smith were before the book committee and
testified most positively that they had notr intended to deceive or to
mislead. They are both men of established character, of the highest
reputation. No stain has ever rested on their good names. In the
case of Dr. Barbee we had a minister of the gospel for forty-six years,
a man often trusted by the church, and with no charge that he has


ever been false to his trust. The book committee could not lightly
deal with the statements of these men long trusted. A character is
not easily made, and when established is entitled to great weight.
The book committee is well aware that for the most part a man's
character is to be judged by his acts, but every man at times needs to
have his acts judged by his character, otherwise no man could stand
in the confidence of his fellow-men. Men do not break down at one
point, in a single act, but by slow processes character as an entirety
is weakened, and guilt shows itself in more than one place.


The claim against the Government having been paid, the book agents,
by the authority of the book committee, on the 21st day of March, 1898,
paid over to Mr. Stahlman the amount agreed upon.

The book committee for the quadrennium, which would expire early
the following month, held its last session in Nashville, Tenn., on April
21, 1898. While it was in session Drs. Denny and Lovejoy introduced
the following resolution, which was unanimously passed:

Whereas when arrangements in accordance with which our claim against the
United States Government was collected, explicit instructions were given that noth-
ing should be done which should even in the slightest degree compromise the good
name of the church, and that rather than compromise the church we wonld prefer
not to have the claim paid ; and whereas, when the hill for the payment of this claim
was under discussion in the United States Senate, certain statements were made by
some Senators which did not accord with the facts, such statements being made pro-
fessedly on the authority of the book agents; yet whereas we do not believe that
our book agents have, either in fact or in intention, made any statement contrary to
the exact truth; therefore,

Itesolved, That the book agents be instructed to investigate the matter and prepare
a statement relative to the whole subject, that the General Conference may be
informed of the facts aud the church be prepared to show that she is free from all

The book committee and the book agents made their report to the
General Conference, setting forth the financial condition of the pub-
lishing house, and the Government claim was therein set out, its nature,
justness, the efforts made to collect it, the long delay, the employment
of Mr. Stahlman on a contingent fee of 35 per cent, the collection of the
claim, and the payment to Mr. Stahlman of the sum agreed upon. The
report was published in pamphlet form, submitted to the conference,
and was generally distributed among its members on May 5, the first
day of the term of the General Conference.

When the General Conference was organized one of the standing
committees elected was the committee on publishing interests, composed
of one member from each of the forty-seven annual conferences, which
was the proper committee to consider all matters pertaining to the pub-
lishing house. So soon as the committee on publishing interests was
organized, and in fact on the first day of the conference, Barbee and
Smith, agents, demanded an investigation of their conduct in regard to
the collection of the claim from the Government. At the first meeting
of the said committee the following was passed :

Resolved, That all matters connected with the claim of our church on the United
States Government be made the special order for Wednesday next, 3 p. m., and that
the book agents be requested to attend and give the committee all necessary

On the day appointed this matter was taken up by the full commit-
tee, and testimony was introduced, both oral and written. Three
members of the book committee and Barbee and Smith were examined.
Every member of the committee was at liberty to interrogate the wit-


nesses. The examination of Barbee and Smith especially was prolonged
and thorough. The letters and telegrams which passed between them
and Senators Pascp and Bate, or copies, were put in evidence. The
committee made a minute and prolonged investigation into the responsi-
bility of the book agents for misstatements made by Senators on the
floor of the Senate pending the passage of the bill.

The evidence having been concluded, a motion by Judge G. A. Han-
son "that a committee of five be appointed by the chair to draft suit-
able resolutions regarding the whole matter, and report back same to
this committee at its next meeting," was passed, and Mr. J. L. Wheat,
of Kentucky; Judge G. A. Hanson, of Florida; Rev. Drs. J. O. Willson,
of South Carolina, C. C. Woods, of Missouri, and Eev. W. J. Collier, of
Tennessee, were appointed on said committee, and at the next meeting
of the full committee Messrs. Wheat, Hanson, Willson, and Collier
made a report, the following being the body of said report:

First. That our church was fully entitled, as a matter of right and justice, to the
sum of $228,000, for the use of, and damage to, our property by the United States.

Second. That the contract of the book committee and book agents with Col. E. B.
Stahlman was, under all the circumstances of the case, a reasonable and proper one,
and in accordance with the usual business methods in like cases, and is approved ;
and the publishing committee specially commends the instructions given such
attorney that no improper measures should be used in prosecuting our claim.

Third. That the settlement of said contract is also approved.

Fourth. That our book agents and book committee are not responsible for the
misunderstanding that existed in the minds of Senators upon the passage of the bill
granting our claim.

May 11, 1898.

It was sought to amend this report so as to show that, inasmuch as
members of the Senate voted for the passage of the bill under the
belief that no part of the recovery was to go to an attorney, the
money should be paid back to the United States Government. After
a full discussion all proposed amendments were voted down, and the
report of the special committee was adopted. Although there was
some diversity of opinion touching the questions of how far Senators
were misled, and the moral obligation resting on the church to tender
back the money to the Government, yet there was no difference of
opinion as to the blamelessness of the book agents; at least one of the
members who voted ." no " on the adoption of the report announced in
open committee that he supposed there was not a member of the com-
mittee who believed Barbee or Smith was guilty of any wrongdoing,
and the statement went unchallenged.

On June 9, 1898, Senator Lodge introduced in the Senate the following :

Resolved, That the Committee on Claims be directed to inquire and report to whom
the money was paid under the claim of the Methodist Book Concern South, and also
as to all circumstances connected with the passage of the bill providing for the pay-
ment of said claim and with the subsequent payment of the money under said act of

The same day Senators Pasco and Bate made statements on the floor
of the Senate reflecting on the book agents, and other Senators very
seriously reflected on the church. On June 10 the book agents, Mr.
Stahlman joining in the request, sent the following telegram to a num-
ber of Senators :

We hope the Lodge resolution will pass and that a thorough investigation may
follow. We do not care to discuss the matter now. All we ask on our behalf, as
well as the church, is that you and other Senators who supported the claim shall
suspend judgment and refrain from comment or criticism until after the committee
shall have done its work. We are persuaded that we shall be able to show to the


satisfaction of the committee and the Senate that all statements made by ns designed
to promote the passage of the hill were justified by the facts and circumstances of
the case.

The book committee for the present quadrennium was elected on
May 23, 1898, and met in Nashville on June 14 for organization and
for the transaction of business, and so soon as organized Messrs. Bar-
bee and Smith demanded a thorough investigation, which thorough
investigation has been made, and has culminated in this report.

From the history of this movement and from the action of Congress
it stands sufficiently attested that the claim was just and that the
long delay was therefore a hardship to the church. After the claim
had been five times favorably reported on by the Committee on Claims
of the House of Representatives, and had been finally indorsed by
large majorities in both Houses of Congress, a step was taken in the
offering of the Lodge resolution which was calculated to cast obloquy
upon the M. E. Church South.

As the representatives of that church, which has had an unsullied
history from its very origin, and which has stood for ecclesiastical,
civic, political, and personal integrity in every period of its history
and in every place of opportunity, we most respectfully demand a
thorough investigation into the church's relation to the settlement of
this claim as involved in the methods of the book company and book
agents in procuring the passage of the bill of settlement.

In order that the Senate may not judge the church by the state
inents of individuals either within or without the Senate, and whether
prejudiced for or against this claim, we have fully investigated the
movement from its beginning and have submitted herein a history of
the efforts to secure the passage of the bill, with all correspondence and
telegrams relating to the issue involved in the proposed investigation.

It is due to the book agents and to the church that attention be
called to the fact that when the bill was before the Senate on March 8
and statements were being made that no agent or attorney was to

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 77 of 87)