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 85 of 87)
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went back and said to Baker, "I told you that you were mistaken, and
that he is doing this without any fee."

Senator PASCO. That brings us to the time when the bill was being
pressed before the Senate, immediately prior to its passage. State the
facts in connection with the telegrams.

Senator BATE. Before I get to that let me go on a little further in
answer to a former question. A few days before the time you speak of
I met Major Stahlman again in front of the hotel. He was looking
very actively after this matter and was very efficient, as I recollect
outside, at least in getting up information, preparing documents,
writing letters, etc. ; at least I understood so. I asked him what the
chances were for the House bill. He said he had been just up to see
Senator Lindsay or Senator Foraker or perhaps both of them in
regard to it.

I then spoke to him of what I had heard : That he had been talked
about for having a fee in the matter a very high fee. Representative
Gaines and perhaps Representative Sims had been talking to me
about it. I asked him again, "Is there any mistake about that?"
He said, "I have nothing to do with it except that I am a friend of the
parties and I want to do what I can for the church. I am a member of
it." He talked in the same way as he had done before. I can not
recollect now that I had any other conversation with him about it
until the vote. One reason was that he had told me twice that he had
no interest except as I already stated, and I did not think it delicate
or proper for me to go and see him about it again.


That is one reason why I suggested that Senator Bacon should go
and have a conversation with him when the rumor was out that Stahl-
mau was to receive a compensation of 40 per cent. I suggested to
Senator Bacon, Senator Clay, and perhaps half a dozen other Senators
to go and have a personal interview with Stahlinan and to let us
know the truth of the matter. Senator Bacon can speak for himself;
he came back and reported what he had heard from Major Stahlman.
That is all that I have to say about it, unless the committee want to
ask me questions.

Senator PASCO. Give an account of what occurred the day prior to
the passage of the bill in the Senate.

Senator BATE. There came to be a good deal of excitement about it
in the Senate, and much uneasiness. The Southern Senators, all of
them I believe, and some others, favored the bill and felt more or less
solicitude about it. There had been efforts made by someone, through
Barbee & Smith, to get united action on the part of the Southern rep-
resentatives, and they all felt an interest in it. This rumor came up
when we thought it was very damaging if it was true, and we set about
to get at the bottom of it and see whether it was true or not. By way
of ascertaining, I went to Senator Pasco, who had the bill in charge,
and had a conversation with him about it, and he told me he had writ-
ten a letter to Barbee & Smith. I said, "That is exactly right, we will
get the truth of it now." I said nothing more about it until about the
7th of March. The rumor was still rife and Senator Pasco had not
received an answer to his letter, as I understand. By way of hurrying
up the answer in part, and by way of getting one to me also as my
telegram shows I telegraphed to Barbee & Smith, as follows:

WASHINGTON, March 7, 1898.
BARBEE & SMITH, Nashville, Tenn. :

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 yon also. In my judgment, if true, it will endanger the bill.

And here is the response to it:

NASHVILLE, TENN., March 7, 1898.
Hon. WM. B. BATE :

We wired Senator Pasco early this a. m. as follows: "The statement is untrue
and you are therefore authorized to deny it."


I showed that reply to several Senators I think to Senator Clay,
Senator Kyle, and others who sat near me and I left it in their hands,
I think, or else in my drawer. I do not recollect. I referred to it in
the speech that I made. It was around at Senator Stewart's seat that
I spoke, my desk being at the other side of the chamber. I did not
have the telegram with me and did not read it, but I stated the sub-
stance in my remarks to the Senate.

NASHVILLE, TENN., March 7, 1898.
Hon. WM. B. BATE :

It was in these words: "We wired Senator Pasco early this a. m. as follows:
'The statement is untrue, and you are therefore authorized to deny it.'"


Senator Pasco came along afterwards, and during his speech he read
the telegram that he had received. In sending that telegram I was
seeking to get at the facts in plain, simple terms, whether or not
Stahlman had any agreement with them for a fee or for any kind of
compensation. I knew that he was acting for them and that he was
their friend, and that perhaps he might be paid his expenses. I did


not know anything about that, but I was trying to get at the facts
whether there was a contract involving the percentage of the claim.
This is the telegram I sent in plain terms and there is the answer to it,
and I submit that if any of the attorneys present, or anyone else who
can read that language, will take it with the surroundings, he will say
that I was thoroughly justified in coming to the conclusion I did that
there could be no compensation. I so believed it, and I so stated it to
the Senate.

I was dealing with men who were my friends, plain and honest busi-
ness men. 1 used plain, expressive language in that dispatch. I did
not think that I was dealing with a diplomat Talleyrand or a Machia-
velli who used words to conceal ideas; but I wanted a plain, honest
answer to the question, and I got it in such terms as were perfectly sat-
isfactory to me. I stated the facts to the Senate, and I believed it when
I so stated it knowing the men as I did that there was no contract.
But I was misled; and not only so, but I was partly instrumental in
misleading the Senate or a part of the Senate, at least of course, inno-
cently. I saw no guile in the matter and suspected none.

I wanted a plain answer, and I thought I got it, and I presented it
to the Senate. The Senate went with us almost unanimously. I was
very much pleased with it, and was grieved for anything to have
occurred since to bring any slander on anybody, or any scandal, espe-
cially on the church. I was a friend of the church. I do not belong
to it my wife does. Our children, both living and dead, were bap-
tized in it, and I was and am its friend and wanted to do what I could
for it, both as Senator and friend.

Mr. HAWKINS (counsel). There is not a man in Tennessee, whether a
political friend or a political enemy, who does not know that you would
make no statement in the Senate that you did not actually believe.

Senator PASCO. Did you communicate, either orally or by letter, with
Barbee & Smith after the passage of the bill as to the use that was
made of their telegram to you?

Senator BATE. So, sir.

Senator PASCO. Did you inform them of the passage of the bill?

Senator BATE. I do not remember. The fact was telegraphed in the
papers that night. I got a telegram the next day from Mr. Barbee;
thanks and congratulation was the substance of it. You asked me
about communications. It is proper I should say to you that I got a
telegram from Dr. Barbee from Bryan, Tex., dated December 10, 1897.
I have the telegram here and will read it to the committee.

BRYAN, TEX., December 10, 1897.
Senator W. B. BATE, Washington, D. C. :

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


That telegram was in response to one from me asking Mr. Barbee to
come here. I afterwards sent the following to Mr. Smith :

WASHINGTON, D. C., December 8, 1897.

Methodist Publishing House, NtuhviUe, Tenn. :

Am glad to tell yon that my colleague, Senator Turley, and myself went before the
Committee on Claims this morning and were successful in our effort to get the claim
of the Southern Methodist Publishing House through the committee with favorable
report for full amount of $288,000, and also succeeded in getting it placed in the
omnibus bill which will be favorably reported to the Senate, and I hope and believe
we can get it through the Senate this session. This supersedes the necessity of
you or Dr. Barbee being here now.

WM. B, BAT*.


My prior telegram was for him to come here. Not hearing from it I
sent, in a day or so afterwards, the one just read. There was a crisis in
the history of the bill at that time. We wanted the claim put into what
is known as the "omnibus bill," and not only that, but there was a dispo-
sition in the House not to let the claim go to the Court of Claims, as
directed by the Senate. I had previously called it up and had it put
through the Senate, that is, the bill to send it to the Court of Claims. It
was in the House at the time and the question in my mind was whether
it was better to let the claim go to the Court of Claims or take the chance
of putting it on the " omnibus bill" authorized by the Senate to be gotten
up by the Senate Committee on Claims including this kind of claims.
I concluded to take both chances, and I sent Dr. Barbee a telegram
asking him to come here and advise with me about it.

Let me explain this. I had been told before about Mr. Stahlman's
relation to the claim that he was merely acting as a friend. Dr. Bar-
bee had some letters or telegrams from me when he was at Roanoke,
Va., attending a conference, as I now recall it. This was, perhaps, a
year or two ago. He came on to Washington and came to my room
and sat with me some time, and we talked the matter over. He never
told me a word about any contract with Stahlman neither did he deny
it for I understood that there was none, and I did not ask him the
question. Dr. Barbee had control, as I understood it, of the whole mat-
ter, and I wanted him to come here and to go before the committee.

I had about that time a telegram from Dr. Summy, of Clarksville, in
regard to a like claim for his Presbyterian Church. Under my advice
he came here and I introduced him to the committee and he got his bill
right through. When he first came he asked me if it was necessary
for -him to have an agent or lawyer, and I said no, that he was better
without one. Then I telegraphed Dr. Barbee to come. He came, but
he did not stay long, and I did not get a chance to introduce him to the
committee. I am not positive as to the relative dates of these two
transactions of the coming of Summy and Barbee. I had this conver-
sation with him. He did not say a word to me or I to him about a con-
tract, but recognizing him and knowing him to be the chief of the book
concern, I telegraphed him, and here is his answer :

BRYAN, TEX., December 10, 1897.

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

Now, Major Stahlman had told me that he was a friend and was act-
ing as a friend only, and I understood this telegram to mean Stahlman
has full authority as a friend, not as our attorney or our agent. That
is the way I understood it and I so acted upon it. I never talked to
Stahlman about this telegram, except on meeting him one day I men-
tioned the fact that I had received a telegram from Dr. Barbee in Texas ;
he said, "So have I." That was all that was said, so I treated this as
simply informing me that Stahlman was their .friend, and that as their
friend he could represent them.

I have looked at the printed report of the testimony by permission,
and I find on page 82, in the statement of Dr. Denny, this sentence :
" We do not see how Senator Bate, who was in charge of the claim,
could have fallen into the remarkable error, as stated in the Congres-
sional Record, 'I want to say in that connection that this fund is to
be payable to all alike; the Northern Church and the Southern Church
are all to share alike.'" I do not know that I had a chance to correct
that report in the Record. It is printed as the reporter took it down.

The CHAIRMAN. Is that the way it appears in the Record?


Senator BATE. Yes, sir. My understanding was, and is now, that
there are some churches in the North that belong to the Methodist
Church South.

The CHAIRMAN. That is true.

Senator BATE. And there are some Northern churches in the South.

Mr. COLYAR. Yes; a large number.

Senator BATE. I simply mean there that these churches located in the
North that are associated with the churches South would have an equal
chance with the churches located in the South. That is what I meant,
and that is what I understood to be the truth.

The CHAIRMAN. We have several churches in Colorado which are
connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

Senator BATE. I did not understand that the Northern churches
located in the South would get any of it, but I supposed that those in
the North that were connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church
South were entitled to their share, and I made no distinction in politics;
whether ^Republican, Democrat, Populist, or Prohibitionist, all were to
share alike.

Mr. COLYAR. It is perfectly apparent that Dr. Denny so under-
stood it.

Senator BATE. Yes; and I felt that the learned doctor was "sticking
in the bark" unnecessarily, in order to criticize me a little. He is
welcome to do so.

Mr. GARLAND. The telegram that was sent by Barbee & Smith to
Senator Pasco on March 7, "Have asked Mr. Stahlman to call at once
and see you. He is a gentleman on whom you may rely." Was that
dispatch shown to you?

Senator BATE. I can not remember. I do not know whether it was
or not, but it certainly was not before I sent mine. I did see it after-
wards, but I do not know when. I did not see it that day, as I recol-
lect it.

Mr. GARLAND. It seems that it was telegraphed at 1.15 p. m. on
March 7.

Senator BATE. I am unable to tell you as to the time.

Senator CLAY. This telegram of March 7 to you reads: "We wired
Senator Pasco early this morning, as follows:" 'The statement is
untrue and you are therefore authorized to deny it.'" I have got it on
my mind that there were some additional words suggesting to you to
see that telegram which was sent to Senator Pasco.

Senator BATE. They start out by saying " we wired."

Senator CLAY. I thought there was a direction to you to see that
dispatch to Senator Pasco.

Senator BATE. I took that as a direction ; and I went and saw it, too.
I went to Senator Pasco immediately when I got it, and I saw the tele-
gram to him. That is my recollection.

Mr. COLYAR. Did you, as a lawyer, examine this claim ?

Senator BATE. Not as thoroughly, perhaps, as some persons did; faut
I examined it.

Mr. COLYAR. You satisfied yourself that it was a just and legal claim f

Senator BATE. As much so as any I ever saw. And not only that,
I think, and have always thought, that the best thing for that institu-
tion was to send the claim to the Court of Claims. The proof satisfied
me thoroughly that they had a claim of $400,000 or $450,000. The
truth is that the items which they gave and presented amounted to
$458,000, and I did not see why any of those items should be turned
off. I felt that if the claim was carried to the Court of Claims and


properly presented and argued they would have got $458,000, or some-
thing near it.

Mr. COLYAR. If it had gone to the Court of Claims would there not
have been greater delay, owing to the fact that after the court rendered
its decree it might not be approved and paid by Congress for years?

Senator BATE. Yes ; I thought there was something in that. That
was a matter of consultation between Senator Harris and myself, the
morning we came before this committee. We finally concluded that the
best thing to be done would be to send tbe matter to the Court of Claims.
One of the reasons why we hesitated about it was the great delay. I
subsequently saw one of the judges of the Court of Claims, and he
gave me information which, if I had had it at the time, would have led
me to insist on its going to the Court of Claims. He said that the great
delay there was not in the court itself, which kept up with everything
that was prepared by the attorneys, and I knew that this matter was

Senator CLAY. I find the great delay to be after the court renders
its decree.

Senator BATE. My relations with these parties have been pleasant.
My relations with Mr. Stahlman have been strained, growing out of
politics. 1 did not have much to do with him, however. I rather
steered clear of him ; but not after the question came up here and after
he told me that he had no pecuniary interest in the claim. Then I
determined to give any assistance I could in the matter.

Mr. COLYAR. When you got that answer from Barbee & Smith, the
safety which you felt in recommending the claim was, in great measure,
the high character of those two gentlemen?

Senator BATE. Yes; I would have relied on anything they told me.
As I have said, I did not think that I was dealing with diplomatists.
My relations with them were exceedingly pleasant. I did not know Mr.
Smith much, only from reputation that he had a good reputation. I
knew Dr. Barbee well; I heard him preach twenty years ago, I think,
and lived in same city with him.

Mr. GARLAND. If you had known of the existence of this contract at
35 per cent when the debate occurred in the Senate, what would have
been your action?

Senator BATE. I do not think I would have voted for the bill. I do
not know what I would have done under the embarrassment, but I do
not think I would have voted for it.

Mr. HAWKINS. You said you introduced this bill frequently. Can
you tell how it happened that it had not passed?

Senator BATE. I gave you the reason a while ago. At that time
there was a sentiment in the Senate and in the country against such
bills, but in the last few years that sentiment had changed, and finally
the time came when we thought we could win.


Senator PASCO. I have been a member of this committee ever since
I came to the Senate, eleven years ago, and quite early in my member-
ship this claim was referred to me as a subcommittee. It was in the
first or second Congress after I came here, probably the latter. Senator
Bate introduced a bill providing for its payment upon each occasion,
and I think he continued to introduce it in every Congress after we
came here, for we came to the Senate at the same time. He says that


he thinks he introduced it in his second Congress, and probably that is
correct; and in every subsequent Congress he again introduced a bill
in the same terms. The matter was discussed occasionally between us,
but I felt that if the bill were pressed to a vote it would be defeated, so
that it was considered best to delay action, hoping for a more liberal
sentiment, and that we might get a favorable report at a later date.
That opportunity seemed to occur in the spring and early summer of
1896. In each Congress there seemed to be a softening of the feeling
between the North and the South and the conditions gradually to become
more favorable. The bill was then reported by me to the full commit-
tee. I heard that Mr. Stahlman was present before the committee
before the bill was reported, but if so 1 was not present at that meet-
ing. The question as to whether the committee should recommend the
bill came up when I was present.

There were three propositions before the committee: One which I
was urging for an appropriation of $288,000; one which was urged by
other Senators, appropriating $150,000, the amount that had been
recommended in the Morgan report twenty years before; and one
referring the claim to the Court of Claims. The $150,000 proposition
prevailed, and I was authorized to prepare a report. Before I did so I
communicated with Senator Bate, and he with the book agents. I told
him that I thought it would be possible to get a recommendation from
the committee to refer the claim to the Court of Claims, but that at
that time the $288,000 proposition would not be entertained, and there
was no use in expecting it. I thought it better to take the fixed sum
of $150,000, for I had very grave doubts as to whether there would be
any success in pressing the claim before the Court of Claims. But the
decision was otherwise. The book agents communicated with Senator
Bate, and said that they would rather have a bill to refer the claim to
the Court of Claims than a bill appropriating $150,000, and I withheld
the report until that message was received. I brought the matter up
again in the committee at a later date, and the committee agreed that
the former action should be reconsidered, and that a bill should be pre-
pared referring the claim to the Court of Claims.

My recollection is that Senator Bacon was at that time associated
with me as a member of the committee, and it was under his direction,
and probably with the aid of Mr. Stahlman (though I had no direct
information about that), that the bill was prepared. When it was ready
it was presented in the committee room, and a -favorable report was
authorized. I then prepared the report (No. 865, Fifty-fourth Congress,
first session), and it was presented to the Senate on the 5th of May,
1896. It was when I began to prepare that report that for the first
time I had communication with the book agents, and it was for the
purpose of getting some further information than I had in order to pre-
pare my report. I wanted to get the articles of incorporation, the his-
tory of the book concern, their form of government, etc., in order that
I might enter more fully into the history and legal relations of the mat-
ter, and they sent me the proceedings of the General Conference, their
Book of Discipline, and a copy of the legislative proceedings when the
charter was granted, and perhaps some other documents. They sent
them to me by express. I had promised to take special care of them,
for there is no duplicate of some of the documents. It was with them
and with the aid of the Morgan report that I prepared my report. I
pursued the course which I usually take. I prepared the report myself,
and got my data from these different sources. The Morgan report was
very full, and stated the facts and circumstances of the case very


clearly. I used also the petition of the book agents of December 1,
1875. These, with the documents from Nashville and the papers on file,
enabled me to present the case as I did in the report.

This bill referring the claim to the Court of Claims passed the Senate,
but did not pass the House, and in the next Congress the matter again
came up for action. We again passed the bill referring it to the Court
of Claims, and when the omnibus bill was prepared we also put the claim
in that bill, but provided for its settlement by the payment of $288,000.
The bill that became a law came over from the House of Kepresentatives.
It was passed there by a large majority. It was while it was pending
before the Senate that the letter was written by me asking about the
contract for compensation, which has been already referred to. I had
very little intercourse, if any, with Mr. Stahlman at any time. When
I first found out that he was here acting as a friend of the bill I under-
stood that he was an employed agent. I had never been told so by any-
body, but I had that impression and did not feel drawn toward him at
all and had very little communication with him. Subsequently I learned
that he was not an employed attorney, but still I never had much con-
versation with him relative to the claim. The rumors in reference to
this contract for a compensation of 40 per cent were known here during
the week preceding the passage of the bill. They gave me no concern
at first, because I was satisfied that there was no foundation whatever for

My understanding from the charter and the Discipline of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Church was that in order to have such a contract it
must be first made by the book agents and approved by the book com-
mittee, and must then be subjected afterwards to the approval of the
General Conference: and I did not believe it possible for a very large
amount of this special fund to be disposed of unless the General Con-

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 85 of 87)