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Belknap's Disgrace

Belknap's Disgrace image
Parent Issue
Day
10
Month
March
Year
1876
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Since the inipoachment of President Johnson, no event has created half the excltement that wás produced in all the official and private life of the National Capitol by the announcement of the impeachment of Gen. W. W. Belknap, Secretary of War, for high crimes and misdemeanors. The House Committee ou the Expendititrea of the War Department, of which Hon. HeisLer Clymer, of Pennsylvania, is Ohairman, has be,en for sorne time investigatmg the doings of the War Minister. There have now and thea been rumors of the discovery of crookedness in the department,but no one dreanied of the thunderbolt that was about to descend. It appears that Gen. Belknap had gained some knowledge of disclosures bef ore the Clymer Oommittee, and had tendered his resifjnation early in tho morning of the 2d inst., the President accepting it at once. Notwithstanding this the House proceeded to impeach Mm for high eximes and misdemeanors. Accordingly, near the close of the day's proceedings, Mr. Clymer rose in his seat and presented a reaolution of inipeachment against William W. Belknap, late Secretary of War, for high crimes and misdemeanors in office. In the midst of great excitement, and with uniisual stillnoss in tho House, Mr. Clymer rose and said : "I ask permission of tua House to make a report f rom the Con teittee on Expenditurea in the War Dep ment, of so grave importance that I am qoite certain that when it is heard this House will agree that I am juatifled in asking that permission at this time. Permission was given, and Mr. Cly mor, taking his position at tho Clerk' desk, read the following report: 'Lhe Committee found at tho ver; tLreshold of its investigation such un questioned evidence of malfeasance o William W. Belknap, then Secretary o War, that they found it their duty to la the same befpre the' House. Thoy fur ther report ihat this day, at 11 o'clock a letter of the President of the Unitec States was presented to the Committe accepting the resignation of the tary of War, together with a copy of bis letter of resignation, which the President informed tho Committeo was accepted about 10:20 tbis rnorning. They therefore unanimously report and demand that said William W. Belknap, late Secretary of War, be dealt with according to the law of the land, and to that end subniit herewith the testimony in tlie case taken, together with several statements and exhibitstheretoattached, and also a report of the proeeedings of tho committeo had dnring the investigation of this subject, and submit the following resolutions : Resolved, Tliat Wm. W. Bclknap, lato Secretary of War, be impeached oí high crimes aud miHdemeanora. Resolved, Tliat the testimony n tlie case of Wm. W. Bclkuap, late Secretary of War, be reforrod to the J udioiary Committeo. with instruotions to prepare aud report, without unuecesary delay, tmituble articlea of impeaohment of said AVm. W. Belkuap, late Secretar}' of War. Jiesolved, That a committee of fivo membeis of the House be apDoiiited and inatructed to proceed immedialely to the bar of the Senate, and tl] ere impeach William W. Belknap, lato Secrctary of War. in the name of the poople of tho United States, of higli crimes and misdemeanors when in ofiico, and to inform that body that formal articlee of impeachment will in duo time be presented, and to request tlie Sonato to take such order in the premiaeH as they deern appropriate. Mr. Clymer then procccded to read the testimony of Caleb P. Marsh, taken before tho committee, showing that he had paid Secrotaiy Belkiiap about 20,000 in cousideratioa of liis appoiutmeut as PostTrader at Fort Sill, Indian Territory. The reading was listened to with intense interest by meniders of tlio Houso and by a lai'ge audience in tho galleries. In the more pathetic portions of tho narrativo Clymer was frequently foreed by his feelings to pause until his voice recovered f rom ite tromnloiisness and himself frm his agitation. At the close of the reading, and after many meinbors wlio had taken up positions near the Clerk's desk - the better to liear the testiniony and acconipauying statements - had returned to their proier seats, Mr. Clynier, who had also gone to hia eeat, again rose and said with great emotion : Mr. Speaker - I would not if I conld, and I oould not. in my present coudition, if I would. add auything to tho f acts jast reported to tbo Houso. Another occaaaioi may be afforded me to do so. They are ho plain, that evorywhere tliroughotit this broad land. and throughout Christendom, wherever the English language ia read er spoken, thoy will for long years constitute a record of official corruption and crimes snch as there is no parallel for in our mm hititory, or that of auy eountfy that I know of. In this hour, if ono sentiment of pity, one word of syuip:tliy, could fmd utteranco from mo, it would be becauso I foei that the lat 3 Secretary of War is but the proper ontgrowth, the true exixneut, of corruption, oxtravaganee and misgovernraent, that have cnrsod this land for years past. That being my owu rellectiou, I wili discharge my duty best to myself and to this Honso by demandiñg tho previous queation on the adoption of the resolution. After some debato the House proceeded to vote on the resolutions, and they were unanimoiisly adopted. ïhe Speaker appointed as tho cotarnittee to notify the Senate of the action of the House Mossrs. Clymer, Kobbins, lilnckburn, J5ass, and Danforth - these mombers composiug the Gommittoe on Expenditures of the War Department niaking tho report. The effect of themi disclosures in Washington oflicial and social life can be better iniágihod thaii desa-ibed. It seems that Secrotary Belknap's wifo, formerly a Miss Tomlinson, of Harrpdsburg, Ivy. , went before the Clymer committeo and acknowlíídgfid tlio tnith of tho charges of blaokmail made ngainst her husbantt by Üalc! P. Masl -m also revoaled other irrcgwlarities of a startling and disgraceful natiire. Marsli'8 Story. The following i the story of the Mc Öecretary of WW Uelknaii's bfMal malfeasance, as told to the coinmittce of Congress by Caleb P. Marsh : iji repjy to yóur question I wottld state that in the Bummer of Í.8V0 mysfili and wife spent three Weeks at Lonf? Branch, and on our retum to New York Mrs. Belknap and Mrs. lïowers, by ovu'invitation, carne for a visit to our house. Mrs. Belknap was ill during this visit some three or four weeks, and I sup ose. in consecmence of our kindness to her, ehe feit nnder some obligation, for she aeked me oue tlay In tho coufse of a conversation vrhy I tïid not apply tor a post-teadershirt n the ft:oiltiel I ftskcd what tiiey ere aiid waü told that raany of them were very lucrative offices or positions iu the gift of the Secrotary of War, aud that if I ar.tcd oae sho woiüd ask the Sccrtitary for one. Üpon üiy replying that I thought such offices belongnd to disabled soldiers, and besides that I was without political infliieiice, she answered that politicians got snch places, etc., etc. I do not remember saying that if I had a valnable pont of that kind that I would remcmbor her, but I do f emember lier saying something like this: "If í can provail upon the Secretary of War to award you a post, yon must bocareful to say nothingto hira about presenta, for a man once offered him $10,000 for a tradeship of this kind, and he told him that if he did not leave the oftlce he would kick liim down stairs." Kemembering as I do this story, I presume the .nntec&dfirit statement to be correct. Mrs. Èelknap and Mrs. Bowers roturned to Washington, and a few weeks thereaf ter Mrs. Belknao sent me word to come over. I did so. Sho told mo the post-tradorship in Fort Sill was vacant ; that it was a valuablo post as she ündefstood, and tíiat she had asked for it for me, or had prevailed upon the Secretary of War to agree to give it to me. At all events I called upon the Secretary of War, and as near as I can remember made application for this positlon ; a regular printed form. The Secretary said he would appoint me if I crald bnng tho proper letters and ecommendations, and this I said I could o. Either Mrs. Belkuap or the Secre;ary told mo that tlio present trailer at ie post, John S. Evans, was an appliant for reappointment, and that I had setter see him, he beinginthe city, as it would not be fair to turn him out of fïice Without some notice, as he would ose largely on his buildings, merchanise, etc, if the office was taken f rom iim, and that it would be proper and just for me to make eeme arrangement with for their purchase if I wished to run tho post myself. 1 aw Evans, and found liim alarmecl at :he prospect of losing the place. I remember that he said that a flrm of Western post-traders who claimed a good loal of influenco with the Secretary of War promised to have him appointed, jut he found on coming to Washington ,his firm to be entirely -without intíuence. Evans first proposed a partnership, which I declined, and then a bonus of a cortain portion of the profits if I would allow him to hold the position and continue the business. We finally agreed upon $15,000 per year. Evans and myself went on to New York together, where the contract was made and executecl, wnicn is nerewiui subnutted. [Paper marked A." During onr trip over, however, Mr. Evans saw something in the Army and Navy Journal which led hira to think tliat some of the troops were to be removed from the fort, and ho had offered too largo a sum, and, before the contract was drawn, it was reduced by agreementto$12,000, the same being payable quarterly in ndvanca. When the flrst remittance came to me, say, probably, in November, 1870, 1 sent one-half thereof to Mrs. Belknap, either I presume, by certifícate of deposit or bank notes by oxpress. Being in Washington at a funeral, some weeks after this, I had a conversation with Mrs. Bowers to the f ollowing purport, as far as I can now memoer, uut must say mat just nere my memory is exceedingly ïnclistinct, and I judge in part perhaps from what followed as to details of the conversation : I went up-stairs in the nursery with Mrs. Bowers to seo the baby. I said to her, "This chüd will have money coming to it bef ore a great whüe." She said " Yes." The mother gave the ehild to me, and told me that "The money coming from you she must take and keep for it." Isaid "All nght," and it seems to me I said that perhaps the father ought to be consulted I say it it seems so, and yet I can give no reason forit, for as f ar as lknew the father knew nothing of any inoney transactions betwccn the mother and rnyself. I have a faint reeollection of a renaark of Mrs. Bowers that if I sent the money to the father it belouged to her, and that sho would get it anyway. I certainly liad somo understanding tlien or subsequently with her to him, for whon tho nexfc payment carne due and was paid I sent one-half thereof to the oecretary ol War, and nave continued subsequently from that day forward to the present time to do the same. About, I sliould say, one and one-half to two yearB alter tho commencement of these pnyments, I reduced the amotint to $16,000 per annum. The reason of this rednotion was partly because of cornbined complaints on the part of Evans and bis partner, and partly, so faras I now remember, in consequence of an article in the newspapers about that time reflecting on the injustice done to soldiers at this fort, caused by exorbitant charges made necessary on the part of the trader by reason of the payment of this bonus. To the best of my knowlcdge and belief the above is a truc tatement of all the fact in the case, and as complete as I can remember the oceurrences of so maiiy years ago.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus