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Life of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 (Volume 2) online

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the 1 8th, because the court was congested with an accumu-
lation of bankruptcy business and motions for new trials
in the case of those convicted. One of the convicted men
was an old soldier. It had been thought the jury that tried
him would acquit. He did not get a new trial but a sen-
tence of two years in prison. Only one defendant, who was
a soldier, was acquitted. All the others were convicted or
plead guilty, and received sentences varying from two years
in prison to three months in jail. The majority received
jail sentences. Most of these sentences were imposed be-
fore the Brownlee trial was resumed on the i8th. Brownlee
was the last to be tried. The pressure that was brought
to bear on my husband in behalf of the defendants was
terrific, especially in behalf of those who had been soldiers,
and most of them were of that class. Much of the soldier
element resented the prosecution as a reflection on their
"Old Commander." Walter Q. Gresham could not quarrel
with every man who approached him, and as no surveillance
was kept on the jurors and they were allowed to go to their
homes, all that was done was to warn them to allow no one
to communicate with them. Even a layman can understand
the advantage which the defense had. On the jury was a
man who had been a major in an Indiana regiment, a follower
of General Grant, and later, one of the 306 in the memorable
convention of 1880. A member of the machine, forceful
and fearless, that major never hesitated to put anything over.
Many were the circumstances outside of the courtroom that


contributed to, if they did not make, the verdict in the
Brownlee case, it was said. There never was any question
about District Attorney Nelson Trussler, his assistant, C. L.
Holstein, and the special counsel for the government, Gen-
eral Thomas M. Brown, doing their duty.

When, on the i8th, the Brownlee trial was resumed.
General Harrison made his opening statement before the
government began its case. He assailed in advance the
man who was to be the government's chief witness, Gordon
B. Bingham, one of the indicted defendants, and his client,
and animadverted on the spirit to convict and the harsh-
ness of construction that sometimes crept into judicial pro-

In consideration of becoming witnesses for the govern-
ment, the Binghams were promised and granted immunity.
Gordon B. Bingham, who was the first and chief witness
for the government, testified that on a certain evening in
Brownlee 's room in the St. George Hotel in Evansville he
gave Hiram Brownlee $500 in cash. A telegram from
Cincinnati from Gordon Bingham to George W. Bingham
about Brownlee was admitted m evidence, and also a check
of Gordon Bingham drawn on the Evansville Bank whereby
he obtained the cash to hand to Brownlee. On cross-ex-
amination General Harrison led Bingham to say that when
he gave Brownlee the second $500 in Brownlee's room in
the St. George Hotel in Evansville, Brownlee was putting
on a pair of white kid gloves preparatory to starting to the
wedding of Harry Veatch, the son of General Veatch, col-
lector of internal revenue for that district.

General \>atch was the first witness for the defense.
He gave Brownlee a good record and said Brownlee on one
occasion had reported to him an error in one of the dis-
tiller's books. Harry Veatch was married to a certain Miss
Babcock at an Evansville church on a certain evening.
Henry Babcock, one of the groomsmen, said Brownlee, who
also was a groomsman, came to the Babcock residence with



bare hands. Together they went in the carriage to get one
of the bridesmaids. Returning to the Babcock residence
they met Captain W. H. Kellar, another government officer
and another groomsman, and Harry B. Veatch. They all
said Brownlee's hands were bare, and that before starting
for the church they had put on their white kid gloves.
Brownlee had two pairs and when Captain Kellar burst
one of his gloves Brownlee gave him one of his pairs.

At noon on Thursday, January 20, the defense was out
of witnesses. At the urgent request of General Harrison,
on the representation that Captain Kellar was on his way
from Evansville, the case was adjourned over the afternoon
and until the morning of the 21st. Meanwhile the jury
was permitted to separate, but with the admonition that
they were not to talk about the case nor suffer any one to
talk to them.

Harry Veatch had testified that he saw Brownlee put
on the gloves in one of the dressing rooms. Thus it was
argued; Brownlee's denial was corroborated and Bingham's
story discredited. Brownlee was not in the service of the
government at the inception of the conspiracy. His ap-
pointment was due to political influences, and these in-
fluences were strong in his defense.

The instructions were fair to the defense unless it was
in telling the jury that it was no contradiction of Bingham's
testimony to show that Brownlee put on a pair of white
gloves at General Veatch's residence. Where the white
gloves were put on was not the controlling fact in the case.
After telling the jury it was a rule of necessity that required
the government to resort to an accomplice such as Bing-
ham to get evidence, and that they might convict on such
evidence properly corroborated, this language was used:
"But such testimony should be received and weighed with
great caution, for as a rule it is deemed unsafe to convict
upon the testimony of such a witness." At the end of the
charge the jury was also instructed, at General Harrison's


request, that they should take into consideration the good
character the evidence showed Brownlee bore before the
charges he then was under were made.

Brownlee, contrary to the predictions of the bystanders
and newspaper men, was acquitted, and ever afterwards
lived an exemplary life and became a judge on the bench
in his home county. Even if the accused is guilty there is
often wisdom in a jury exercising the pardoning power.
The disgrace, anxiety, and travail of a trial are all the pun-
ishment some men need. When asked what he thought of
the verdict. Judge Gresham said he was satisfied, and then
it was that he made the remark that cut General Har-
rison to the quick. If the General was not very considerate
of the Judge in opening the case, it cannot be said that the
latter did not give the General's client every advantage as
well as every right the client was entitled to under the law.
In other words, instead of evening up on the client, the Judge
restrained himself and took his fling at the lawyer.

It always made Judge Gresham more or less unwell to
try criminal cases. It was also an unpleasant thing for
him to have to sentence men to the penitentiary. One of
Senator Voorhees' stories will illustrate this. The episode
occurred during a jury trial in which the Senator was one of
the counsel.

During the examination of a witness, a young physician,
who had been indicted for stealing letters from the mail
while acting as a clerk in a small post office on the
JefTersonville Railroad, was brought in by Mr. Bigelow,
deputy United States Marshal. Judge Gresham suspended
the examination for a moment and addressing the young
man, said:

"Doctor, I have been informed that your child is dead
and that you would like to go and be with your wife at the
funeral, and that so far you have been unable to attend.
Do you know of any one who will become surety for you?

"There is no one from my home who will or can give


the necessary bail, and I have no acquaintances or friends
here in the city upon whom I can call."

After a little pause Judge Gresham said: "Doctor, if
I will let you go upon your own recognizance to attend the
funeral of your child, will you report back to the marshal
when the funeral is over?"

The doctor timidly answered, "Yes."

"Well," replied the judge, "I am going to put you on
your honor. I will allow you to go and be with your wife.
How long a time do you want?"

"Four or five days," answered the prisoner.

"Well, take ten days," was the judge's answer, "and
at the end of that time report to the marshal and your case
will be disposed of."

The young fellow burst into tears and attempted to
utter words of thanks, but the judge waved his hand for
him to go and give his personal recognizance to the clerk,
and turning to the lawyers conducting the trial, who had
all been interested spectators of the scene, said quietly:
"Gentlemen, you may proceed with the examination of
the witness."

Senator Voorhees, who had been standing near by, ap-
proached him and said : "Judge Gresham, are n't you afraid
that the young man you just let go, after the funeral is
over, being surrounded by friends who may give him bad
advice and tell him he need not go back — that he can just
as well go away as not — may yield to such counsel and
not return?"

The answer was, ' ' I have frequently trusted men under
circumstances somewhat similar but not just like this, and
have never had a man go back on me yet." Then giving
one of his earnest looks, he said: "Dan, 1 don't care if he
never comes back, he shall go and bury his child." Then,
pausing a second, he added: "He'll come back."

The young man came back, received a sentence which
was suspended, and lived to a ripe old age, a respected


citizen. Many men who served "their time" were aided
to get positions. One mistake does not necessarily render
a man a criminal for life. Two of the men who helped
open up the redoubt that night at Vicksburg had shown
cowardice on a previous occasion, and according to the rules
of war should have been shot. Instead, they were given
light punishment and on that night proved the bravest of
the brave.



NOTWITHSTANDING the fact that my husband at
no time lost faith in Grant's personal and official
integrity, he turned to the nomination of Secretary of the
Treasury, Benjamin H. Bristow, for the Presidency. And
this, too, in the face of the probable failure of the Bristow
movement. For on February 6, 1876, he wrote to his old
law partner, "I believe we could poll more votes with
Bristow than any one else, but I doubt if he can be nomi-
nated. It will be said against him, 'Why go to Dixie for
a candidate when the North is full of good men ? We want
no man who has ever owned a slave.' Such talk will have
effect in a convention."

Senator Morton had long been a candidate for the
Presidency. He was in political control in Indiana and
everything was being bent to promote his political fortunes.
General Harrison was at this time an avowed candidate
for the nomination for Governor of Indiana and was play-
ing politics.

October 14 and 15, 1875, under the guise of a non-
partisan soldiers' reunion, a political meeting was gotten
up at Indianapolis by Governor Morton's friends. There
was a great parade ending at the State House grounds,
where Senator Morton said he had bade more than one



hundred regiments good-bye. He said to the men: "You
were awkward then; to-day you marched like the veterans
you are. I have seen nothing Hke it since the march of
General Sherman's army down the Avenue at the close of
the war." In the march through the streets of Indianapolis
that October day there were remnants of more than fifty
Indiana regiments in line. One mustered 350 men with
flags and banners and bands. Before he concluded, Gov-
ernor Morton admitted that he was waving the bloody
shirt and that he was still against complete amnesty.

General Walter Q. Gresham was the only other speaker.
"Reply," one paper designated his address. Being non-
partisan on the surface, as a judge, Mr. Gresham was free
to respond to an invitation to make an address.

After praising Governor Morton for his service during
the war and his devotion to the soldiers, and rapping the
man who stayed at home and made money, he gradually
turned to the questions that concerned the honor and
prosperity of the country's future.

The soldiers of Indiana cherish no feelings of hatred for their
late enemies. They recognize them as brave and gallant foes.
While they believe they were mistaken and misguided in their
purposes, they are willing to concede that they were sincere and
honest in their views. They do themselves no discredit in ac-
knowledging that in all soldierly qualities they were their peers.
The soldiers earnestly desire that all unfriendly feelings engendered
by the unhappy conflict shall be forever forgotten, and they will
rejoice to see the people of the South blessed with prosperity and

And then he used the language which he uttered in
General Grant's presence at an army reunion in 1879 at
Chicago, where he said that while the war legislated it did
not destroy the States and local self-government, and
deprecated the use of troops to sustain a State government.

Walter Q. Gresham was one of General Grant's truest
anji best friends, but gratitude and personal loyalty did


not demand that General Grant be followed when his con-
fidence was abused and he was misled, but rather his ten-
dencies should be resisted. In our next chapter we will
show that General Grant, honorable as he was, came to see
this.^ For William W. Belknap, Walter Q. Gresham always
cherished the warmest feelings of friendship. I have the
letter from Belknap written from Washington and before
General Grant was elected President, in which Belknap
wanted a letter — practically a letter of introduction — from
Mr. Gresham to General Grant, which he got. As well he
might, Belknap died a heartbroken man. When other
men turned the cold shoulder to the former Secretary of
War after his fall, Walter Q. Gresham treated him with
the greatest personal consideration.

To General Harrison's aspirations to be Governor of
Indiana, Governor Morton and his friends proved hostile.
Finally, on December lo, 1875, General Harrison wrote a
letter to the Indianapolis Journal, withdrawing as a candi-
date for the nomination. Before the letter was published
it was submitted by General Harrison to Judge Gresham,
and the judge was offered the support of General Harrison
and his friends if he would become a candidate. This was
before the Brownlee trial. Offers of support were coming
from all quarters. His former law partner was urging him
to accept the nomination for governor, and complaining
that he was heedless of his advice. His answer was that
he could not in this instance do so, and besides he was too
busy in court to give the matter the consideration the ques-
tion demanded, so he would keep out of it. Finally, in
February, 1876, word came from Governor Morton that
Judge Gresham's nomination for governor would be accept-
able to Senator Morton and his friends. But to anything
that involved supporting Morton he was opposed, and the
offer was declined.

At this time the Bristow movement was taking form.
Bristow's former law partner, John M. Harlan, would come

1 See page 469.


Up from Louisville to confer with my husband, and some-
times he would go to Louisville to see Harlan. He would
go Saturday evening and be back in court Monday morn-
ing. General Grant could not understand how men like
Bristow and my husband could be loyal to him and at the
same time insist on revealing the corruption of his faith-
less advisers.

With a woman's instinct Mrs. Bristow could see the
outcome. With a sigh she said to me one day, "General
Grant does n't believe Ben is loyal to him, but he is." She
was thinking of what might have been the result had there
been no break between her husband and the head of the
administration. General Grant's resentment went so far,
that he requested President Hayes to exclude Bristow
from his confidence. Bristow's desire was not to be
President, but to be a member of the Supreme Court.
General Grant's request and a midnight caucus thwarted
Bristow's ambition.

Had General Grant continued to trust Bristow, the
reformers would have defeated Morton and Blaine. The
investigation of Secretary Belknap's administration of the
War Department and the Secretary's certain impeachment
were brought to a close by President Grant's accepting Belk-
nap's resignation* and the political domination of Senators
Morton, Chandler, Carpenter, and Cameron, who had sup-
planted and driven out of the Republican party Sumner,
Trumbull, and Schurz, and thus had become supreme.
At this time my husband was saying: "If the probe is
inserted to the core, the administration of the Interior
Department by Delano will be shown to be as corrupt as
that of the War Department under Belknap, and Robeson's
conduct of the Navy Department will be found to be in-
famous." The fact that the Congressional investigations
were not thorough and only skimmed the surface was con-
clusive to the reformers that Senator Morton and ex-Speaker
Blaine were not proper men to be President. And the fact



that the men in control of Congress perverted or arrested
its judicial powers was a reason why a man on the bench
who always kept his judicial duties free from every outside
influence, should use his judicial powers to the limit.

I know my statement will be questioned that Congress
possessed or possesses judicial powers. As Walter Q. Gres-
ham construed the Constitution, Congress possesses very
important judicial functions. Investigations at which wit-
nesses are summoned, testimony weighed, impeachments
recommended and tried, are the very essence of the judicial
power. And the possession by Senators Morton, Chand-
ler, Carpenter, and Cameron of the power to investigate
and impeach did not make the comparatively young judge
hesitate to violate some of the proprieties of his position —
if you please to put it that way — and support the only re-
former in Washington. The account of the Whiskey Ring
trials shows how a judicial question becomes a political
one, or is often really a mixed question in which are in-
volved political considerations. Although it involved going
against General Grant and breaking relations with General
Benjamin Harrison, Walter Q. Gresham went to the logical
conclusion of his premises.

In a letter of the 12th of March, 1876, to his old partner,
he wrote:

So far as I am concerned, I am ready for anything that I
think will save the country from ruin. I have reached the point
where I can bid defiance to political despotism and corruption.
In short, I am for the country, I am openly advocating Bristow's
claims, and I am the first man at Indianapolis that has really
ventured that far.

Carl Schurz proposed that there be a meeting of the
reform element in Cincinnati a short time before the Cincin-
nati Convention, for the purpose of coercing the Republicans
into nominating Bristow. But this proposition was finally

The Journal of Indianapolis was supporting Senator


Morton, and not a line would it allow in its columns
favorable to Bristow; on the contrary, it depreciated him
in every way possible. John H. HoUiday and Major
Richards in the Indianapolis News became advocates of
the nomination of General Bristow, and they pressed
his cause with great skill and force. At Mr. Holliday's
instance, my husband wrote to his former partner, Thom-
as C. Slaughter, who was always facile with the pen, for
editorials for the News. Noble C. Butler, then living at
New Albany, also contributed to its columns.

The movement in Bristow 's favor failed, but it prevented
the nomination of either Blaine or Morton. Bristow might
have been nominated had he been willing to make the
required trades. One day Senator Chandler walked into
Bristow's office in the Treasury Department and said, "We
will nominate you if you will come along with us." Bristow
promptly declined. In the convention, after the deal was
made at midnight to nominate Hayes, Chandler started
the break by changing Michigan's vote to Hayes. At this
midnight conference it is said John M. Harlan was promised
a place on the Supreme Bench, and he, as the head of the
Kentucky delegation, started the Bristow following to
Hayes. Pennsylvania did not get into the deal. Most of
the independents and reformers, including Mr. Schurz and
all of Bristow's friends, supported Hayes at the polls.

On the 24th day of October my husband wrote to his
old partner:

I have faith in Governor Hayes. Since I saw you last Sunday
I have a letter from Mr. Schurz in which he says Governor Hayes
does not understand the magnitude of the opposition that he
will encoimter in his own party if elected.

In another:

I don't say that the President did wrong in sending troops
into South Carolina on the call of the governor of the State, but
I don't like the idea of bayonets in connection with elections.
It is contrary to our system of government. The truth is, the




negroes are ignorant, many of them not more than half civilized,
and even in those States where they outnumber the whites, they
are no match for the whites. Mr. Lincoln was able to see that
sooner or later the negroes in the South would be controlled by
the whites unless the government intervened to prevent it, and
he was opposed to such interference. I have always thought
he was right. I think so still. I believe his policy would have
divided the whites of the South. Our Southern system is wrong.
The carpet-baggers have utterly bankrupted every Southern
State. Rebels and others have alike been robbed of their sub-
stance. We know from history that the use of bayonets in
elections is a dangerous thing. I am afraid of such precedents.
How long will it be until the same thing is resorted to in the
North! I still think it looks as if Tilden might be elected. If
he is, I shall hope for the best and give him a fair trial.

With the election in doubt as the result of frauds and
violence on both sides. Judge Gresham was opposed to
"counting Mr. Hayes in" simply because the Republicans
had the majority in the Senate and the army at General
Grant's back with, which to do it. This was the plan of
the radical Senators led by Senator Morton. There were
threats of war on both sides. ■ Ultimately a conference com-
mittee proposed to create an Electoral Commission com-
posed of five members of the House, five members of the
Senate, and five justices of the Supreme Court to count the
disputed electoral votes as a solution of controversy. It
met with violent opposition from Senator Morton. In the
midst of a debate in which Senator Morton was pressing
Senator Edmunds hard, the latter discomfited Senator
Morton by producing a telegram from Walter Q. Gresham
and several others, stating that they. Republicans, favored
the Edmunds plan. The bill was passed, and the Com-
mission thus created carried the electoral vote for Hayes
by a majority of eight to seven. "Partisan to the core" was
the criticism made of that decision, and Judge Gresham
felt that the criticism was just. The members taken from
the Supreme Court were no less partisan than those from


the legislative branch of the government. The only criti-
cism that was ever made of Walter Q. Gresham from a
political standpoint was that he was not partisan enough.
Unquestionably there was ground subsequently to say
that Walter Q. Gresham was not always in complete unison
with the Republican party.





QEPTEMBER i, 1877, we started with a large party to
^^ St. Paul to attend the eleventh annual meeting of the
Society of the Army of the Tennessee. This society had
been organized in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol of
North Carolina at Raleigh, April 14, 1865. Major-General
F. P. Blair, Jr., was its chief promoter:

The object of the society shall be to keep alive and preserve

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