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 82 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 82 of 87)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The petitions laid before Congress some twenty years ago, as shown by H. R. 352,
submitted to the Fifty-fourth Congress, "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 and recom-
mendations. That 4 are from State legislatures; 1 from the General Conference of
the Colored Methodist Church; others from 8 of the bishops of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, viz: Bishops Morris, Janes, Simpson, Ames, Bowman, Merrill,
Peck, and Haven, and many other ministers of that church; others from die mayor
and council of Nashville and Edgefiald, Tenn., another from the governor and most
of the officials, national and State, and municipal of Nashville; another from all the
judges of the supreme court of Tennessee, with its entire bar; another from about
200 merchants, bankers, and business houses of Nashville ; another from the chiefs of
the Indian Nation west of Arkansas; others from all the annual conferences of the
Methodist Episcopal Church South ; others from many of the leading ministers oi
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 3,000 individual petitioners in about 100 cities
and towns in 25 States. These last include about 120 governors, ex-governors, judges,
and Members of Congress, and full 500 other prominent men in civil office, the
remainder being mostly lawyers, doctors, and clergymen of all denominations, and
other substantial citizens, white and colored, and including all religious beliefs-
Jews, Catholics, and Protestants."

Need anything be added? If so, the numerous petitions and urgent letters of ear-
nest appeals from all classes of people, representing the various church denomina-
tions; and all classes and shades of political opinion presented to Congress at this
session, and written to Senators and Representatives, will attest the earnest aim to
have Congress give the relief prayed for by such action as may be necessary to
restore this charity.

These memorials, letters, and petitions, it may well be said, " 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."

Congress, it may with regret be said, has not been able to agree upon a sum satis-
factory either to the claimants or itself, which ought to be paid, and it is because of
this inability to agree that Senate bill 2962 has been submitted. This bill refers the
finding of the sum to be paid to the Court of Claims, with authority to render
judgment, in the hope and belief that speedy and proper relief may be thus afforded,
and that the sum thus found shall be just alike to the United States and the land-
able charity the claimant represents.

With reference to the suggestion, if it should be made, that the Court of Claims
may under this bill render an excessive judgment, and that Congress will have no
right to revise the verdict, it would seem a sufficient answer to say that Congress
has in a number of important cases conferred like power, and in other cases when
such authority was not conferred, Congress has not modified the findings of the
court. It is hardly probable, therefore, that in this case the Court of Claims, created
by Congress to deal justly with claimants, and especially to protect the interests of
the Government, could be induced, under the rigid rules of that court, to adjudge a
given sum to be due which ought not to be paid, especially since this bill provides
for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

With reference to the apprehension that the passage of this measure may open the
door to untold millions of like claims, it may be said that a careful investigation
has developed the following facts; There have been presented to the War Depart-
ment and Congress, including the Court of Claims, on accovint of damages, etc., to
church, educational, and charitable institutions (exclusive of this claim), claims
aggregating $854,922.88. Of these the War Department has paid $102,270.29, and Con-
gress $208,123.59, leaving but $543,524 unpaid. So that if each of the remaining
claims were paid in full (something not to be expected) the sum would not be very
great; and yet to pay them would only be in keeping with the recognized law of all
civilized nations, as enunciated in General Order No. 100, issued by the Adjutant-
General and approved by President Lincoln in 1863, which threw the garb of pro-
tection around "property belonging to churches, to schools, to hospitals, or other
establishments of an exclusively charitable character."

In conclusion, we submit that, of the large number of claims paid by the War
Department and Congress, probably not one will be found which has more merit
than the claim represented in this bill, while a large number have been paid infi-
nitely less meritorious.

Mr. GAINES. Of course, I immediately introduced the bill. I knew
in a general way that it was a meritorious bill, and I treated it as such
all the way through. I gave it that attention which I thought its age,
the amount involved, the justice of the claim, and the hardships which
it had undergone in Congress, warranted. In other words, I gave it all
the attention that I was able to, physically and mentally, explaining
it to my colleagues in the House and possibly to some members of the
Senate later on. A bill referring the claim to the Court of Claims was
reported in due time from the Committee on Claims. Learning that
the Court of Claims was very much crowded in its docket (that is to
say, that it would take the case a long time to be heard) I saw some of
the judges of the Court of Claims, and some of the other officials there,
and received information showing that it would take four or five years
before the case could be tried if it were to go to the Court of Claims.

I found also that there were other reasons about the office why, if the
case was referred to the Court of Claims, there was " not sufficient office
force to take it up, take proof, even if the church was ready." When
J learned that I reported it to the friends of the bill, and I introduced
the bill which finally passed the House and Senate, making a direct
appropriation by Congress itself. That was the bill which finally
became the law. It passed the House and was sent to the Senate. I
made a speech in the House on the merits and law of the claim, on
January 15, 1898, which speech has been printed and sent out; and
later on, January 28, 1898, when the bill passed the House, I made a
speech of five or ten minutes, reviewing the law of the case in reply to
very vigorous speeches claiming that the confiscation laws applied to


this claim. I claimed that under the law the right of confiscation did
not apply to corporations, but " to sentient beings," and I cited the 83d
New York court of appeals case and one that was decided by Judge
Strong, of Pennsylvania, reported in 16 Wallace. Both were bank
cases, and the banks won.

The CHAIRMAN. I think you cited these cases to me, did you not?

Mr. GAINES. Yes; I brought them to your attention. That is all
that was done by me on that question the law.

The CHAIRMAN. State what conversation you had either with Barbee
& Smith, the book agents, or with Mr. Stahlman.

Mr. GAINES. You are aware of the fact that we had a great Centen-
nial Exposition at Nashville last year. I was there a number of times.
While I was there I saw Dr. Barbee once, I am sure, on Church street.
My home is between his home and the publishing house, and I met him
on the street. I also saw Mr. Smith, I think, at the corner of Church
and Cherry streets, at a noted drug store. I saw Mr. Smith another
time last year at Old Point Comfort, where I was resting. I asked him
what there was about the question of lobby fees.

In the statement of facts appended to the letter which I have put in
evidence, reference is made to the indorsement of the claim by several
bishops of the Methodist Church North, viz I read from page 9:
"Bishops Morris, Janes, Simpson, Ames, Bowman, Merrill, Peck, and
Haven;" also many other ministers of that church. I wanted to get
those papers showing their indorsement. I learned, on inquiry, that
somebody in Washington held those papers "for past services in look-
ing after the claim in Congress." I wanted to know by what right this
person held them, and in that way the matter was brought sharply to
their attention as well as my own. Dr. Barbee said to me: "We do
not owe anybody a cent for this; we are not going to lay out a cent;
it is a just claim, and ought to win on its merits. We have not made
any contract and are not going to."

Senator CLAY. You mean a contract for fees?

Mr. GAINES. Yes; we were talking about fees. His word went as
far with me as that of any man in this world. I have known him fifteen
years. I have known him as one of the best citizens of Tennessee and
one of the best preachers. He was my pastor for a number of years,
and I had other intimate associations with him in social life, which
made him well known to me. Of course, that dismissed the matter
from my mind and armed me with the determination to go right on and
obtain those papers.

Senator CLAY. Did you infer from what Dr. Barbee said that no fees
were to be paid?

Mr. GAINES. Yes, of course. The whole idea of fees was entirely
eliminated from my mind by what he said. In addition to that, I was
led to a similar conclusion by the letter which I have just read, in which
it is said that Mr. Stahlman was here on other business "other mat-
ters," as their letter says.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Have you given the name of the person who
held the papers showing the indorsements of the bishops?

Mr. GAINES. I did not know his name at that time. I learned after-
wards that he was a man named Movers. I never saw the gentleman
in my life to know him.

The CHAIRMAN. When was this conversation about fees held with
Dr. Barbee t

Mr. GAINES. It was along in the spring or summer of last year, in


The CHAIRMAN. In 1897 T

Mr. GAINES. Yes, sir; while this measure was pending. I had never
talked with him about the claim in person. All that I knew about it
was what was set out in this letter and what I had heard in conversa-
tions as to some valuable papers, indorsements of bishops of the
M. E. Church North, being withheld without any right. At a later
date, or at least some time during the spring of 1897, I saw Mr. Smith,
as I have stated, and related all this to him ; and Mr. Smith said prac-
tically what Mr. Barbee had said. In substance it was the same, and
in effect it was the same; that is, that they did not intend to pay any
fee; that they did not owe anybody any fee; that they did not have
any contract made, and that they were not going to make any contract.
I did not know anybody else in the matter, and nobody else ever wrote
to me about it. Except as to these particular conversations, you gen-
tlemen know as much about the fee as I do. I saw Mr. Smith at Old
Point Comfort. He was there a week or ten days, and so was I.

Senator PASCO. Was that conversation subsequent to the other one
you had with him?

Mr. GAINES. I do not recollect. I am inclined to think that it was
after I had the conversation with Dr. Barbee. It was late in the sum-
mer after Congress adjourned.

Senator PASCO. In the summer of 1897!

Mr. GAINES. Yes. I had the Old Point Comfort conversation late in
the summer, after Congress adjourned; at all events about that time.

Senator CLAY. When did Congress adjourn?

Mr. GAINES. I think on the 29th of July, 1897. I had previously had
a conversation with him at the drug store, corner of Church and Cherry
streets, Nashville, as I have stated. His statement to me disabused
my mind entirely of the idea that they had made a contract with any-
body; that they owed anybody, or that Moyers and these other people
had any right in the world to keep their papers.

Under that authority and those circumstances I felt like carrying the
war into Africa, and I was going to do it unless those papers were given
up. I felt that the claim was a just one and I was going to the bottom
of it. I would have made an effort to get the papers, but in the mean-
time the Northern Methodist bishops and ministers had got together
at Washington and practically gave the same kind of an indorsement
to the claim. They were very distinguished divines. One of them was
Bishop Hurst, who had formerly indorsed it; lives in this city now.
That is all that I remember of personal conversation with these gentle-

Senator STEWART. You never got the papers, did you?

Mr. GAINES. No, sir. I would have done so or would have seen Mr.
Moyer about them but for the fact that these bishops had given sub-
stantially the same kind of an indorsement subsequently. My conver-
sation with Mr. Smith was, in substance, what Dr. Barbee had said
that is, that they had made no contract; that they did not owe anybody
a cent, and that, in effect, I had a right to get the papers from Moyer;
that they were not going to spend any money, and that the bill ought
to pass on its own merits. Mr. Smith is a man of splendid character.
He is one of our best citizens. He was my Sabbath school superin-
tendent and my neighbor, and Dr. Barbee was my neighbor and pastor.
Their word in Nashville would have gone as far as any other man's up to
the time of this occurrence. What the feeling there is now I do not
know j I have not been home since January.


Later on the matter went into the Senate, and there (you may say, for
the first time) the question of lobby fees broke out vigorously. I then
saw Senator Bate several times and told him the substance of my con-
versation with Mr. Smith and Dr. Barbee.

Senator CLAY. You also saw Senator Hoar?

Mr. GAINES. Yes ; a little later on. We will get along in chrono-
logical order. I told Senator Bate that Mr. Stahlman had said to me
( W e Major Stahlman and I both boarded at the same hotel and some-
times ate at the same table) that he was "not to get a cent out of the
claim ; " that his folks belong to the church (which I knew to be a fact) ;
that he was connected with the church and worshiped there, and that
what he was doing was for the benefit of the church, and was of a
charitable order. I had repeated conversations with Mr. Stahlman as
the matter grew warmer and warmer. One evening after dinner 1 went
over to his table and spoke to him about something; I do not recollect
what. He said to me, " Senator Bate told me to stay away from the Sen-
ate to-day ; that I was injuring the claim by being up there." He seemed
very much distressed about it. His face was flushed and he was very
anxious. He said to me, "I do not know what to do. I am willing to
do all that I can for the church, but of course if I am hurting the claim
by going to the Capitol I will just stay away from there and let the
matter drop." I repeated to him substantially the conversation which
I had had with Mr. Smith and Dr. Barbee, and I said to him, " Stay
away from up there and telegraph to Dr. Barbee to come here at once.
He can settle it in a minute." He said, "I will do that.' 7

The matter went along in that way until I thought that time enough
had elapsed (thirty-six or forty hours) for Dr. Barbee to be here. I
asked Mr. Stahlman if he had heard from Dr. Barbee, and he said,
"Not a word; and I do not understand it." I said to him, " You tele-
graph to him that I say to come immediately." He said that he would,
and that he would send the dispatch at once. I do not think that Dr.
Barbee came. In the meantime I met Stahlman (of course every day I
met him at the hotel) ; 1 said to him, "I will go to my room and get a
letter which Barbee & Smith wrote to me, and which says that you
are up here on other business; that you are a friend of the church,
and cooperating with them as a friend of the church, and because of
your family connection with it." I went to my room, got out this letter,
carried it to him, and said, " Now, you take this letter and defend your-
self from the charge that you are lobbying under a contract for this
claim." He either kept the letter until the bill was passed, and then
gave it back to me, or (and my impression is) he took a copy of it.

On the day the bill passed the Senate some one came over to the
House and said that they had got the Methodist Church question up in
the Senate, and that they were fighting the matter in regard to lobby
fees. I came over to the Senate and went to Senator Pasco's desk,
near the middle door, you know, and asked him the status of the case.
He said, "They have got up the question of lobby fees, but I have got
a telegram from Barbee & Smith which says there is nothing in that
story." Senator Bate was addressing the Senate at the time. As soon
as he sat down I went to Senator Bate's desk and got practically the
same answer or information that Senator Pasco had given me. I then
reported to him the substance of my conversation with Messrs. Barbee &
Smith, and he said, "Major Stahlman has told me, and I have got a tele-
gram, too, from Barbee & Smith, which says that there is nothing in it."
At that time Senator Hoar made an observation upon the question of


putting an amendment upon the bill against paying lobby fees, or fixing
a reasonable fee to be paid. Then Senator Lodge took the floor.
While he was making his speech, I said, "I will go over and see Sen-
ator Hoar." I did not know him personally, and he alludes to me in
the Record as "the Representative from the Nashville district," with-
out giving my name. I stated to Senator Hoar what Dr. Barbee and
Mr. Smith had said to me. I told him that these men were men of very
high character in our city. He tben got up and made a statement in
the Senate in my presence, while 1 was sitting by his side. In a few
minutes the bill passed. That is practically all that I know about it,
except as to what subsequently occurred and except what I have learned
through the papers, and, still later, from some letters alluding in a gen-
eral way to the matter.

Mr. GARLAND (counsel). In your conversation with Mr. Smith at the
drug store in Nashville, was not the conversation almost entirely in
regard to the fees of the past, as contracted for in the past!

Mr. GAINES. The conversation brought out generally the matter which
I had sharply in my mind, but at the same time the question of Mr.
Stahlman's employment was also discussed. I alluded to this letter
which I have read to the committee, and said you wrote to me that
Major Stahlman was up in Washington as a friend of the church and
on other business, and that he was interested in helping the matter
along as a friend of the church, or something like that in substance.
I said to him that I had defended Major Stahlman against the

Mr. GARLAND. Did not the conversation refer almost entirely to the
payment of money? Did it exclude the idea of a contingent fee?

Mr. GAINES. Absolutely. The question of a fee to be paid was abso-
lutely eliminated from my mind, and on that I stood firmly all through
the matter. I would have practically sworn by what these gentlemen
said to me.

Mr. GARLAND. The main purpose of the conversation was simply in
reference to past transactions?

Mr. GAINES. It was in reference to the question of lobby fees and
lobbyists. I did not want to have a lot of lobbyists hanging around
defending, without at least authority, this measure, and if they were
there I wanted to know who they were and what right they had to act
in the matter. I understood that one of these gentlemen, Mr. Moyer,
was fighting the bill because he claimed he had not been treated right
paid a lobby fee.

Senator FAIRBANKS. Who was that?

Mr. GAINES. Mr. Moyer, and probably some others.

Mr. GARLAND. Do you know how long Moyer had charge of the
claim ?

Mr. GAINES. No, sir.

Mr. COLYAR (counsel). Are you a lawyer?

Mr. GAINES. Yes.

Mr. GOLYAR. Had you examined this bill on its merits before you
made a speech in its favor?

Mr. GAINES. Certainly I did ; and my speech indicates that.

Mr. COLYAR. You took the ground generally that it was a just claim ?

Mr. GAINES. Absolutely, and that it had been repeatedly reported
by the committees of the House and Senate.

Mr. COLYAR. Here is what is said in this letter which you have read
in reference to Mr. Stahlman: "Mr. Stahlman, in connection with a


large number of other matters, has been giving our measure some

Mr. GAINES. Yes, sir; and, in a general way, I knew that Major
Stahlman had other matters here. I think probably he had some Ten-
nessee matter in charge the case of the McMiunville railroad claim.
I do not know, as a matter of fact, what Major Stahl man's other busi-
ness was here. I have a letter here from Messrs. Barbee & Smith, dated
March, 1897, from which I will read an extract, to show you that I
immediately took the matter up: " We beg to acknowledge the receipt
of your favors of the 20th and 22d, and to thank you for having intro-
duced the bill." I would show you copies of my communications to
which they referred, but at that time I had not my copying book with
me, and I just wrote to them what I had done, without taking a copy
of my reply.

Adjourned until to-morrow, July 2, at 10 a. m.

WASHINGTON, D. 0., July 2, 1898.
The committee met pursuant to adjournment.

Present: Senators Teller (chairman), Fairbanks, Pasco, Clay, and


Hon. THOMAS B. TURLEY, sworn and examined.

Senator PASOO. State in your own way and in your own language,
and as briefly as convenient, any interviews that you have had with
the book agents of the Methodist book concern, or with Mr. Stahlman,
their attorney, in reference to the question of a fee to be paid by the
book agents to Mr. Stahlman, or in reference to any contract for the
payment of a fee in connection with the publishing house claim.

Senator TURLEY. I never had any interview with the book agents on
the subject. I did have several conversations with Mr. Stahlman in
which this subject came up. The exact number of those conversations
I can not recollect. There may have been only two, or probably three.
I do not recall exactly how the subject came up, but I know that Mr.
Stahlman told me that he was not to get a cent of the claim; that there
was no fee to be paid except a small amount to Mr. Sam Donalson ; that
he had arranged so that Mr. Donalson would get a few thousand dol-
lars for services which he had rendered about the matter, but beyond
that nothing was to be paid. His own language was that he was not
to get a cent. I believe that is about the substance of the conversa-
tions.* 1 can not fix the date, except that I know it was about the time
that the bill passed.

Senator PASCO. Nearly about that time?

Mr. TURLEY. It was between the time when I returned to this city
from Nashville, in February, and the time when the bill passed.

Senator PASCO. That is, when you returned after your election!

Mr. TURLEY. Yes; after my election. The only other matter in con-
versation about the subject was this: In one of the conversations Mr.
Stahlman said that 1 would be astonished if he were to tell me the
names and character of the men who were trying to get the Methodist
Church people to employ them in the matter, on the theory or idea that


no claim could be got through Congress unless somebody was employed
to look after it; but that he had told the book agents to steer clear of
them and not to employ anybody, as there was no need for it. That is
about all that I recollect in the matter.

Mr. COLYAR (counsel). Was that conversation a voluntary disclosure
on the part of Mr. Stahlman, or did you ask him about it?

Mr. TURLEY. I have thought about that, but I can not recall whether
when the matter first came up I asked him about it or whether he
volunteered the statement. I had heard my colleague, Senator Bate,
say to me that he did not understand why Mr. Stahlman was connected

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 82 of 87)