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mind and heart that had dragged him downward, lived thenceforth
a pure and noble li^e, is to suppose something not within the range of
probability; something against the teachings of all human experi-
ence ;— a result only to be accomplished by miracle. To fall may be
easy, bat to rise from the depths is not so easy.

Fueilii deeeeneue Avemi ;

♦ ♦ * * •

Sed revooare rpradum, supertuqw evadere ad auroi,
Hoc opui, hie labor ent.

21 1



The respondent's good character, and official purity since 1870 has
been established by nis enemies. Mr. Cltmer's committee, after the
most exhaustive investigation, are silent. Their silence is commenda-
tion ; if they could censure, they would be swift to speak. So it only
remains to consider what was his character prior to 1870.

The part the respondent bore during the war, is recorded history.
Upon a former occasion I referred to the coincidence that the articles
of Impeachment were served upon him on the anniversary of the
battle of Shiloh, and at the very hour of the day when, under the eye
of General Grant, he moved into the line which made a successful
stand against tbe fierce onslaught of Greneral Beauregard, and turned
the tide of battle in favor of the Union. This was the first time the
great commander ever saw Belknap. General Grant never can for-
get the men whose bravery in the war for the Union attracted his
attention. That day's work made Belknap Secretary of War. And
ae though to keep this matter fresh in the mind of the Senate, on
Friday, July 7, (see Congressional Record,) the proceedings of this
court were suspended, to pass a bill removing General Beauregard's

Solitical disabilities ; and then the court resumed its proceedings, to
etermine whether it should impose political disabilities upon Gen-
eral Belknap.

The character of the respondent, from his boyhood to his appoint-
ment as Secretary of War, is established by the testimony of the
Hon. Samuel F. Miller, one of the most highly esteemed Justices of
the Supreme Court, and Governor Lowe, ex-governor and ex-chief
jnstice of Iowa; both of whom for nearly a quarter of a century had
resided in the same town with him, and knew him intimately ; and
by both the Senators from his own State. — His character as Secretary
of War has been established bv heads of Bureaus in the War Depart-
ment, through whom the details of his administration were executed.
The Adjutant-General, Inspector-General, Judge- Advocate-General,
Chief of Engineers, of Ordnance, the Superintendent of the Military
Academy, Generals Hancock, McDowell, Pox>e, and Augur, have all
testified to the energy, ability, and integrity with which he conducted
himself in his high office. Three hwndred and thirty -seven millions of
dollars of the public money passed through his hands while he was
Secretary of War, for every cent of which he has duly accounted.

Of course, where the proof of particular criminality is direct and
positive, evidence of prior good character is unavailing. But where
such direct proof is wanting, and where guilt or innocence must be
spelled out firom facts and circumstances, proof of character is an
important element ; then good character is the great rock upon which
any defense must rest.

We have had a remarkable illustration of this very recently, in the
case of Mr. Kerr, Speaker of the House. And let me say, first, that
I believe Mr. Kerr is as honest a man as ever lived. I do not credit,
in the slightest degree, the slanders that were set on foot ag[ainst him ;
but truth Justifies me in saying, that the testimony against him is
twice as strong as the testimony here is against BelKnap. The wit-
ness who swore positively to the payment of a bribe did not fl«e the
country, as Marsn did ; he remained under the flag and persisted and

Eersists to-day in his statement. Cross-examination did not shake
im. He had learned his story well. What did clear Mr. Kerr in
the estimation of the House and of all honorable men f Mr. Kerr had
not spent his days under a bushel. He was well known in his own
State. He was known to the House; he was known throughout the
country as a high-minded, upright man. And it was not to be toler*
ated, ought never to be tolerated, that a man of such repute and char-
acter should be blasted by the breath of a single scoundrel. — ^What
was the result? The committee of the House of Representatives
imanimously acquitted him; the House acquits him; the country
acquits him.

There was one fortunate circumstance in Mr. Kerr's case. He waa
a democrat. My honest belief is that, had he been a republican, he
would have been expelled the House unanimously. The democrats
would have voted against him for the fun of the thing ; the republi-
cans, to cleanse their party.

The republican party has thus far survived under a practice that
would break up any family in the land in twenty-four hours. Sup-
pose a father, instead of remonstrating with a son for some slightly
irregular conduct, should go upon the streets and denounce him.
Suppose brothers, instead of defending their sisters against the breath
of smnder, should Join in the cry and swell it to an uproar. Suppose
all the little jars and ebullitions of temper occurring more or less often
in every family, were to be recounted with all the exaggerations of
malice ; slight faults magnified, and harmless occurrences misrepre-
sented ;— how long would the family hold together, and how much of
happiness would its members enjoy before its certain disruption?

Ha democratic newspaper or committee of investigation assails a
republican,— especially if he has been prominent,— instantly every
republican newspaper, organisation, and individual, declares the be-
lief that he was always a rascal, and expresses profound amazement
that the democrats had not found it out before. And so, under pre-
tense of purifying the party, they join In one acclaim to cify him down
ioveveTf— anything to get rid of him. The democratic party has some
sense ; it washes its dirty linen at home. If one of its prominent
members be assailed, a halt is called, and a patient investigation de-
manded. And all our republican editors, acting, apparently, upon
the theory, that all the rascals are in the republican party, and all
the republicans, except themselves, are probably rascals, take tbe
part of the accused democrat, and demand a suspension of public



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322



TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAP



opiDlon until the accosation shall have been folly investigated and
absolutely established. Thus the inculpated democrat has somechance
of receiving at least some degree of justice. I do not complain of this.
If our party cannot be just to its own members, I am glad its editors
and politicians can be just to those who do not belong to it.

The Great Master commanded his apostles to be wise as serpents
and harmless as doves. The rei>ublicaa party observes the latter, and
rejects the former, clause of this precept ; and while we are playing
the part of the dove, the serpent is rapidly gliding toward the White
House.

There is another suggestion. Impeachment, nnder our Constitu-
tion, is not designed to punish specific violations of statute law, but
rather to protect the public against general maladministration in
high public offices. And, therefore, when an officer is impeached, it
is submitted that he should not be convicted and removed from office,
degraded and disflp*a^ced, for a single transaction, provided the gen-
eral tenor of his administration is commendable. There is a passage
in one of the arguments of Erskine so appropriate to my purpose that
I will send it to the Secretary to be read. In the trial of John Stockdale,
for libel ; the attorney-general produced before the jury a volume of
several hundred pages, from wnich he read to the jury marked pas-
sages here and there— sometimes with intervals of forty or fifty pages —
and asked the jury upon those passages to convict the writer of the
book of libel. Mr. Erskiue claimed that the whole volume should go
to the jury, and that they should determine from the whole volume,
and not from a few passages here and there, whether the book was
-written with good or bad intent. He said :

One word more, eeutlemen, and I have done. Every human tribunal ought to
take caro to adminlBtor Justice, -as we look hereafter to have Justice administered
to ourselves. Upon the principle on which the attomeygoneral prays sentence
upon my client—God have mercy upon us ! Instead of standing before him in
Judgment with the hopes and consolations of Christians, wo must call upon the
niuuntaius to cover us ; for which of us can present, for omniscient examination, a
pure, unspotted, and faultless course! But I humbly expect that the benevolent
Author of our being will judge us as I havo been pointing out for your example.
Holding up the great volume of our lives in His hands, and regardiiig the ccneral
s4'opo of them : if He discovers benevolence, charity and good-will to man beating



in t tie heart, where He alone can look ; if He llnds that our conduct, though often
forced out of the path by our intirmities, has been in general well directed. His
all-searching eye will assuredly never pursue us into those litUe eamerg of our
lives, much less will his Justice select them for punishment, without the general



context of our existence, by which faults may be sometimes found to have gro'
out of virtues, and veru many of our heaviest offeneee to kave been grafted by human
imperfection upon the best and kindest of our affections. No, genUemen, believe



me, this is not the course of divine Justice, or there is no troth in the gospels of
Heaven. If the general tenor of a man's conduct bo such as I have represented
it, ho may walk through the shadow of death, with all his faults about liim, with
as much cheerfulness as in the common paths of life ; because ho knows, that in-
stead of a stem accuser to expose before the Author of his nature those frail pas-
sa;;cs. which, like the scored matter in the book before you. chequers the volume of
the brightest and best-speht life. His mercy will obscure them from the eye of his
purity, and our repentance blot them out forever.

All this would, 1 admit, be perfectly foreigu. and irrevelant, if you were sitting
hero in a case of property between man and man. where a strict rule of law must
operate, or there would bo an end of civil life and society.

Senators, there never was a case where this eloquent language was
more applicable. It is conceded that the object of impeachment is
not punishment, but protection to the public. Can yoU; as Christian
gentlemen, say that the public safety requires that, for a single trans-
gression, even if you find it clearly prove<l, which I shall attempt to
show is not the case,— can you. for the blot of a single day, in a long
and otherwise spotless life, full of gallant action, and upright admin-
istration in high offices and public trusts, brand this man as infamous
before the wondf

Take the case of General Jackson at New Orleans. Suppose him
to bo impeached and on trial to-day for the arbitrary arrest of a Fed-
eral judge ; and suppose that able lawyers had demonstrated to your
entire satisfaction that the arrest of the judge was an illegal act;—
would you shut your eyes to the fact that this illegal act was only
one step in a brilliant military campaign which saved New Orleans
from the devastation of the foe, and shed immortal luster upon the
American name and nation ? — And would you select this single act,
and base upon it a general condemnation, to render infamous a name
otherwise most illustrious t

And yet, I submit, that the principle which would justify the con-
viction of Oeneral Belknap in this case, for a single transaction in an
otherwise blameless administration of the War Department foi seven
long years, would justify the conviction of Jackson in the case sup-
posed. Such a rule of judgment is in opposition to every principle
and sentiment of Christian charity ; it is consistent only with the
bigotry, the intolerance, and the cruelty, which the religion of Christ
was intended tx> abolish.

But, Senators, if I have pressed the argument too far upon this
point, ma^ I not fall back withiu recognized legal lines, and still in-
sist that, m a case like this, where it must be admitted there is no
direct proof of guilt, the circumstances relied upon to mise an infer-
ence of guilt should be critically scanned, and the whole case re-
jected unless there is a moral certainty of guilt!

Now what is the theory of this prosecution? That it is a cas« of
bribery ; that Bellcnap accepted a bribe from Marsh.

The honorable manager, Mr. Lynde, has referred us to section 1781
of the Revised Statutes, which, omitting immaterial words, provides
as follows : '

Any officer who, directly or indirectly, receives iir agrees to receive any money
Ar. for giving an office of place to any person whatever, shall be guilty of a mis-
ilcmeanon



Also the section in regard to bribery of officers, which is section
5501:

Every officer of the United States * * * -who asks, accepts, or receives any
money • * * toi(A intent to have his decision or action on any question, matt4*r»
cause, or proceeding which may, at any time, be pending, or whicu may by law be
brought before him In his official capacity, injluenced thereby,

shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.

These sections are in pari materiCf and must be construed together.
They define and punish the crime of bribery. Greenleaf, abridging
the English authorities, defines bribery of an officer to be receiving an
undue reward, in order to influence his behavior in office, and incline
him to act contrary to the known rules of honesty and integrity.
And he cites 3 Coke's Institutes, 145 ; 4 Blaickstone's Commentaries,
139 ; 1 Russell on Crimes, 154 ; and Hawkins's Pleas of the Crown, 67.

The language of section 1781 Revised Statutes, " Any officer who
directly or indirectly receives or agrees to receive any money, &c.,
for giving an office," &c., evidently contemplates what section 5501
more clearly expresses, namely, that the money shall be given or
pioraiscd before, or simultaneously with, the giving of the office.

The statutes against usury provide that any person who shall take
or receive, for the loan of money, more than a certain per cent., shall
forfeit, &c. If I borrow of my neighbor $10,000, at a legal rate
of interest, and subsequently pay him principal and interest ; and
after the transaction of loan is completely closed, I say to him that
by the investment of the money borrowed I made $10,000, and ofi*er
to give liim, and he receives, one-half of the profits made by me, it
would not be pretended that such gift and receipt constituted a viola-
tion of the statute against usury. The two sections read together,
and in view of the definition of bribery at common law, can only be
considered as providing for the case where money is received by the
officer, with the intent that his official conduct shall be influenced
thereby. And to this end, of course, the payment or promise of pay-
ment must be made before official action is taken.

Again, bribery may involve the person who gives the money and
the officer who receives it ; or it may involve the person who gives it
and not the officer who receives it ; or it may involve the officer who
receives it and not the person who gives it, and this point I wish to
present distinctly, because the manager the other day maintained ex-
actly the opposite theory. Mr* Jenks yesterday maintained that
whether Mr. Belknap was guilty of being bribed or not def>ended
upon the intent and purpose with which Marsh had given him the
money. That ia not the law. We have two statutes, sections .'3450 and
5451^ punishing the giver, and sections 5500 and 5501, punishing the
receiver, of a bribe. The statute against giving a bribe provides
that if anj person shall give money with intent to influence the officer,
&c. The intent here mentioned is of coarse the intent of the giver — ho
may be indicted, without charging that the officer who received it re-
ceived it with any guilty intent. His crime is complete when he has
given the money, with his own intent that that money should influ-
ence the action of the officer. So when an officer is indicted it need
not be charged in the indictment that the giver intended thereby to
influence the officer's conduct. It must be charged in the langiiage of
the statute that the officer received it icith the intent to have his mind
thereby influenced; for that is the language of the statute.

This I deem an important distinction; and one great error of the
argument of the manager yesterday resulted from his ignoring this
distinction. The mere giving of money by Marsh to Belknap was en-
tirely innocent. But if Marah gave it for the purpose of influencing
Belknap's official conduct, then Marsh is guilty of bribery. But Bel-
knap is not guilty of bribery, unless he leceived the money with the
intent and for the purpose of having his official conduct influenced
thereby.

The burden is upon the prosecution te show that Belknap, when he
received the money, received it with the intent and for the purpose
of having his official conduct influenced thereby. And this must be
proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I need not stop hero, as I should
if addressing a Jury, to show what the law means by the phrase,
^'rciisonable doubt." Thisnhraseis merely the legal expression ox
that maxim of Christian charity inculcated in the gospels. If, un-
der all the circumstano^s, it is as probable that the respondent is in-
nocent, as that he is guilty, charity requires you to find him innocent.
So the law says this charitable presumption, the impulse of the heart
to think well of all men, must be clearly overcome by proof before
there can be conviction : and this is all the phrase means. The pros-
ecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that Belknap not
only received the money directly or indirectly; but that he received
it with the intent of having his official conduct influenced thereby.

For the purpose of bringing this point still more distinctly, if pos-
sible, before your minds, let me read the statute again :

Every officer • * * who asks, accepts or receives any money * • * vnth
intent to have his deeitdon or action on any question, matter, cause, &c., injluenced
thereby is guilty of a misdemeanor, &c. (Kevised Statutes, section 5501 , page 1072.)

I need not stop, addressing a body of lawyers, to show that where
the statute makes the intent an integral and essential part of the
offense that the intent must be established as plainly anu clearly as
the act itself. You must not only find the receipt of the money, but
vou must be able to say that you believe that when Belknap received
It he received it with the intent that his official conduct should l»o
influenced thereby. I submit to every lawyer that upon this s'atute
no indictment could stand a minute that did not change such iuteut.



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TRIAL OF WILLIAM W. BELKNAP.



323



And although eqnalotrictness of pleading be not reqnircd in impeach-
ment cases, the statement of every essential element of the offense is
necessary, and not only must it be stated, but it must be proved. Yon
must be able to say that yon believe this man received this money,
and not only that but that when he received it, he did so, meaning
and intending that in consideration of the money, he would act offi-
cially otherwise than ho would, bad he not received the money. I do
not believe there is a Senator in this Chamber who believes that
Belknap's official action was influenced, or that he intended it should
be, by this money.

It may be said this is holding very strictly to the statute. That is
my duty, and it is your duty. All penal enactments are to be strictly
construed.

The Senate of the United States, in the exercise of this which Black-
stone declares is an *'awfnl jurisdiction,'' cannot go shuffiing and am-
bling in editorial style through these statutes. There must be exact
description of offenses, couched in definite, legal language, or there
is no charge to stand in a Judicial tj*ibunal. And it is as nece.ssary
that the articles should charge, and the evidence show, that Belknap
received the money with the intent mentioned in the statute, as that he
received the money at all. If Belknap received the money with this
intent, he is guilty of bribery. But, if he received the money without
this intent, he is not guilty of bribery. And in determining with
what intent Belknap received the money, it is wholly immaterial
what was the intention of Marsh in giving it.

Now, Senators, let me remind you how important is this distinction
to all public men. I invoke it not for Belknap's sake onlv^ but for
the sake of jastioe, and for the sake of every man holding high civil
office.

We all know how differently different classes of men are affected
by the influence of money. Some men will commit murder for five
dollars ; some for a thousand dollars ; and some not at all. Some men
would think a box of cigars would influence a Senator, and might

E resent it in that expectation. On their part it would be bribery,
ut the Senator might accept the present because he would think it
mere coxcombry of lionesty to decline it. But he would never think
of being influenced in the discharge of his official duty by any such

E resent. In other words, he would not accept it with the intent to
ave it influence his official action.

Take another subject, which has been somewhat discussed, that of
railroad passes to public men. There is no reason to suppose that
railroad companies send passes to legislators out of mere compassion
for their scant salary. If such were their motive, they would send
them to all poor men; and would not discontinue them when the leg-
islator /aiterf of re-election. Gas companies, existing subject to legisla-
tive control and supervision, and constantly complained of bv the
people to the Legislature, do not illuminate the houses of legislators
gratuitously from mere love of illumination ; if so, they would light
up every shanty within their reach ; and gas-meters would be super-
fluous.

These corporations doubtless expect favors to result from their
ostv^ntatious accommodations. But do the public men who receive
gas bills receipted, annual railroad-passes, horse-railroad slips to be
punched by the conductor, and dead-nead stamps from telegraph com-

Sanies, receive the same with intent to have their official action iu-
iienced thereby ?

You all remember the grave joke perpetrated by Nicholas Ilill in
the court of appeals of New York, who said, in the argument of a cause
against a railroad company before that court, .that if the corrupting
power of such corporations was allowed to go on for a few years, it
might chance that an advocate would be compelled to argue a cause
against a railroad company, before a court, every member of which
might have the company's pass in his pocket.

There was published in the New YorK Tribune some time ago an
extract from a telegraph company's report to its stockholders ; an
extract from which was as follows :

Tbo franks issaed to GoTemmeot officials, constitate nearly a third of tbo total

ootnplimentary basinetw. Tbe wireeof tbo Conipany ex'tond iuto tbirty-seven

States and nine Territories, witbin tbo limits of tbe United States and into four of
tbo British provinces In all of them onr property is more or less sabject to the
action of tbo nationdl, State^ and munieipal anthoritios ; and the judieunu nse of
complimentary franks among them, has neon the means of saving to the company
many HineM the money value of the free service performed.

This is a plain confession that dead head stamps are issned in ex-
pectation of official favors, and a declaration that the expectation has
KMien realized. But who will say that the public men who have been
the recipients of such courtesy, received the stamps with the intent to
have their official conduct influenced thereby?

And I invoke at your hands for General Belknap the distinction
which these instances mark between the intention of the giver VkuH the
intention of the receiver of such courtesies. If the giver intended by
the gift of stamps to influence the conduct ol a Senator, he committed
bribery. But if the Senator who received the stamps did so without
intending to be thereby influenced in his official action, he was not
guilty of bribery.



Online LibraryUnited States. CongressCongressional record : proceedings and debates of the ... Congress → online text (page 146 of 172)