ROBERT J. BRECKINRIDGE,
His Printed Speech of November 9, 1840.
The best temper of minds desireth good name, and true honor.—Lord Bacon.—Sylva Sylvarum. Cent. X. Exp. 1000.
PRINTED BY RICHARD J. MATCHETT,
Corner of Gay and Lombard streets.
ROBERT J. BRECKINRIDGE, &c
To Robert Wickliffe:
Sir—I now proceed to redeem my pledge to you and to the public, and invite your attention to what I am about to submit, as my second defence. Your printed speech of November 9, 1840, (I refer to it, by the date given to it by yourself—though that date is entirely incorrect, as I have heretofore publicly shown) is the principal count in the long and bitter indictment you have preferred against me; but other publications of yours may enter into the case, and your unpublished letters, in your somewhat famous correspondence of 1832—especially your letter of August 29, 1832, in 38 manuscript pages, must form a large item in it. While it is very far from my intention to go over all you have written against me, and especially not over what I have already refuted and exposed, in my printed speech of October 12, 1840; yet, your memory is so elastic and your imagination so creative, that it is often necessary to compare your charges made at various times carefully with each other, in order to get precisely at your meaning; and, happily, when you mean any thing distinctly, besides unmeasured abuse of all that stand in your way—this process of comparing you with yourself, not unfrequently administers the fullest justice to yourself, as well as the amplest deliverance to those you accuse. Surely no man can expect to be better answered than by himself; nor can any one desire to be better defended than by his accuser.
Before proceeding with the details of the case, however, I crave your attention to several general observations, which seem to me worthy of a moment’s notice. And in the first place, it is to be noted that you have been obliged by the overwhelming facts of the whole case, to give up entirely, the grand cause and ground of your recent attacks upon me. Who, sir, is the guilty and disloyal author of the detestable act of 1833? Sir, I would not, for all the land you ever wrested from its rightful owner—occupy your position, in regard to that one thing. You attempted to make me infamous, by proving me the author of a particular law, which law I did not know existed, while you had yourself, as a Senator, voted for it; and when these facts are set in a light so palpable, that even the blind cannot help seeing them—you silently drop the subject, and attempt to escape public execration by raising an outcry upon other matters having no sort of relation to the case, or to the merits of the original charge. Upon the case between us, as made by your attack and my defence, your present speech, by its studied silence, concedes your guilt and my innocence. Here we take a new start.
Be pleased to observe, again, that the bitter and violent introduction into this debate, of transactions purely personal and private, has been wholly your work. I had been a non-resident of Kentucky for more than eight years, when my name was introduced into the county canvass of Fayette, and when you delivered and printed a violent speech against me, in the summer of 1840. Your charges, though utterly unfounded, were at first of a public character; but now they have degenerated into private accusations of a nature so scurillous, that no gentleman should print them even if they were true; and being, to his own knowledge, false, no man could utter them who was not lost to all sense of self-respect. But what I insist on is this—that you had no sort of inducement in the subject matter of our dispute in 1840, nor any provocation or example from me in my speech to which yours of November, 1840, professes to be an answer—to fly off into bitter and abusive personal accusations about private matters, even if your charges had been all true instead of all false. My speech was a public discussion of public acts and principles, and it mixed up personal matters no farther than they absolutely formed a portion of the case. Your reply, is an indecent tirade of personal abuse, for transactions which are in general, altogether private; and public affairs are introduced by you, only so far as to enable you to revile those who took part in them.
There is one peculiarity of your present publication which is so entirely characteristic, that I confess to you, I have never thought of it without smiling. Here is a pamphlet of 55 pages, expressly got up to prove certain charges against me, and so far as may be necessary to injure me, against the Presbyterian Church in America; and at the end of the pamphlet you publish as testimony, a letter, which not only disproves some of the charges deemed by you amongst the worst of all, but which actually proves that you yourself did not believe them! For example, you labor hard to prove abolitionism on me and on my church, and then publish a letter of Mr. Emilius K. Sayre, in which he says in terms, and by your own procurement, that you never meant to charge me or it with any such crime, and that you were willing to have said so much in print if called on! You vilify me in a manner unrivalled except in your own pages, and then conclude the book with a certificate, that you had in your other speech, no idea of being “disrespectful or injurious” to me—but on the contrary, “that you had complimented me highly, for openness, fairness, and great ability.” Yea, a speech intended to ruin me, closes with proof, that a public explanatian and disclaimer was tendered, the week before the speech was delivered, and all other accusations are capped by this, that I would not ask for a disavowal of all I complained of, with a certainty of getting it!
Ah! sir, I had known you too long and too well to be taken in such a trap. You had made charges which you knew were unfounded—and when you saw, most unexpectedly, that you were to be held responsible for them, you protested that they did not mean what every body saw they did mean—and what you now avow, you always knew to be true, and really intended to utter. It was not to disavow any thing—but it was to turn the dispute with me, from the vile calumnies you had uttered, into a wrangle about the sufficiency of the explanation which you wished me to ask, that you agreed to answer if called on. I was willing, nay anxious, that you should disavow what all men understood you to mean; and would have continued to bear, as I had done for ten years, all your private injustice and abuse. But, if you had been in earnest, the only possible course consistent with honor and propriety, was a spontaneous disavowal of accusations, which all men understood you to make—and which you pretended, for the occasion, were erroneously imputed to you. Subsequent events have fully established the accuracy of my estimate of your principles and intentions; and this under plot, in our affairs, affords a new proof of the openness and forbearance with which I have treated you, and of the rancorous duplicity with which you have been accustomed to act towards me.
Let me note as another general fact, that nothing can be more evident, than that your printed speech was not intended for the latitude of Kentucky. The spoken speech was for the community in which you dwell. The result of our personal discussion, fortified by your subsequent public conduct, left you completely prostrate, not only in the commonwealth but in your own county. Having resigned your unexpired term in the Senate—avowedly because the defeat of your son at the previous election showed that the sentiments of the people of Fayette were opposite to yours on the subject of the importation of slaves; you were allowed by the people of the county, to return and finish your unexpired term. But with all the reluctance which many felt to give up a man, who as they thought, had done some service in former years; with all the efforts of those who still adhered to you; with no body out against you as a candidate—and yet with the polls kept open three days, in order to test the real sentiments of the people; still you could command in a constituency polling but the other day some 2400 votes—only about 766 supporters: and under this contemptuous silence, a more eloquent instruction than even the vote that caused you to resign—you went to Frankfort to make your last public acts responsive to the tenor of your private conduct—and finished your political career by the betrayal of your principles, your party, your constituents and your country. In the midst of these transactions you wrote and published the speech to which I am now replying—not at all to operate on those, who, before its publication, had publicly condemned you; but to be read and believed elsewhere, by such as were ignorant of the facts, unacquainted with your constitutional infirmities, and not informed of the overwhelming result of your conflicts of 1840 and ’41, in Fayette and in Frankfort. For example, sir, who that reads on the 34th and 35th pages of your speech—that I made a public apology for my former conduct and opinions, and was hardly allowed to be heard by “a part of the crowd”—after the mass had departed, refusing to hear me; can imagine it was intended to be read by those who knew that my apology consisted of a public rebuke of you for charging me with the writings of Judge Green and Mr. Clark—a public defiance to you to prove what you had pledged yourself to prove I had penned and printed, viz., a draft of the law of 1833, which you stood for twenty minutes thumbing old newspapers to find,—and a public protest to the people—which the greater part heard with loud applause that your general character and present conduct required every honest man to consider all you said against others, false, until it was proved to be true.
Let me also, in a general way, call your attention to the correspondence of 1832, already hinted at—and to the origin of our first difficulties. On your return from the Legislature in the spring of 1830, you published a circular to the county, which you then represented in the Senate of Kentucky—making, amongst other things, a great outcry on the subject of slavery. In reply to this part of your circular, I published seven Nos., between the 21st of April and the 9th of June. Here began our troubles—you the friend, as I then thought and as you now admit, of perpetual slavery—I controverting your theories as founded in error and injustice, and your plans as fraught with the ruin of the commonwealth. It so happened that about the same time, I had advocated the repeal of all laws of Congress, requiring the mails to be transported and the post offices to be kept open on the sabbath day; and that you had caused to be passed, the winter before, a local law about the public high ways, which like all your legislation had a special eye to your own case—and which the people received with general derision. When I became a candidate for the county, therefore, in the summer of 1830, these three points were up for discussion; and you, though a Senator, “took the stump” against me. A county committee, appointed in relation to national politics—and unless I am entirely deceived, appointed by yourself as chairman of the public meeting—saw fit to arrange a ticket for the county, excluding me; and the opposite party seeing ours embroiled, brought out a ticket of their own. In this contingency, I did not throw myself into the hands of men whose principles I had always opposed—as you have lately done: but I firmly held by my convictions, refused alike to surrender my principles, or sacrifice my party—and calmly withdrew from a conflict in which success appeared to me no longer compatible with personal honor. I believe, sir, no one except yourself, ever considered my conduct on that trying occasion, unbecoming a patriotic citizen, and an independent and upright man. You, however, had injured me; and therefore never ceased to hate and fear me.—You had besides, deeper reasons for distrusting the future than I knew at that time; and this leads to the second point of our troubles. For a very long period you had managed a case for the heirs of my father, against the executors of John Lee, and others, in which we were endeavoring to subject the Slate-Creek Iron Works, to the payment of a large sum of money: of which, more presently. At the March term of the Fayette Circuit Court, for 1830, we obtained a decree Nisi, as it is called, for the payment of the money; and at the June term, 1830, a decree for the sale of the property mortgaged. When you saw us about to collect our money—you, who had been our lawyer in this case from its commencement twenty years before—employed your nephew, Mr. D. McC. Payne, to get our decree set aside—and when he failed, you appeared against us yourself—as counsel for other parties whose interest was subsequent to ours—parties who had employed you years after you had brought our suit—and your connection with whom, as a party interest, we never suspected till that moment.—These facts and dates, are from official statements; you will reconcile them at your leisure, with what you say on the subject in your printed speech. It is needless to say, that I considered your conduct in this matter, altogether outrageous; that I immediately felt convinced you were personally interested against our recovery; and that as trustee for my father’s heirs, I was obliged to resist a proceeding, which as a lawyer and a gentleman I felt bound to condemn. Of all this more presently; it leads to the third part of our original difficulties. About the first of May 1832, I left Kentucky, with my family, and after spending some months at Princeton, N. J., I settled in the beginning of November, in Baltimore, where I have continued to reside ever since. About thirty days after my departure from the state, you opened a correspondence with my younger brother, the Rev. Wm. L. Breckinridge, then Professor of Ancient Languages in the College of Danville; the purport of which was, that in this suit with the Lees and others, I had taken a course, as agent of the family, which was greatly detrimental to its interest, and might entirely lose the claim; that in this I had been led astray by Richard H. Chinn, Esq., who was, as you insinuated, unduly influenced by the Hon. Henry Clay, the executor, remotely of George Nicholas, whose heirs, you said, were in fact, the parties most directly responsible to us, for our debt. Your first letter to my brother William, is dated July 6, 1832, and consists of about 3 pages; your second letter, also directed to him, is dated June 22, 1832, and consists of 18 pages. Both of these letters are entirely in your own hand writing. The third letter in this series—I speak only of such as are now lying before me—is a copy of my letter to you, dated “Princeton, New Jersey, July 2, 1832,” written in consequence of my brother having communicated to me, the nature of your movement on him. This copy consists of 8 large pages, and the original was sent open, to my brother and to Mr. Chinn. The fourth letter is one from you to me, dated “Lexington, August 29, 1832;” it consists of 38 closely written pages. It is not written in your hand—you doubtless have the original—but every page is sprinkled over with your corrections, and the whole is signed by you. This letter was inclosed to my brother, in one from you to him, dated September 3, 1832, containing 3 large pages—entirely in your own hand. My brother returned it to you, under an envelope, which envelope you returned to him in a blank cover, apparently in childish spite—both of which wrappers are before me. The letter was then sent to me by another channel, and reached me about the end of February, 1833. I have what appears to be a draft of the beginning of a reply to you, dated March 4, 1833—consisting of 5 pages only. It is incomplete, and my recollection is that no answer was ever sent. So ended our third period of difficulty. Presuming on my long forbearance in repeatedly permitting such conduct to pass without any further notice than the absolute duties of my position required; you became finally so mush emboldened, that in the autumn of 1840, you delivered and printed the speech, which I met fresh from the press on my unexpected visit to Kentucky, in October of that year. It seemed to me, that the time of endurance was ended; that duty to myself, my friends and the truth, required of me a change of conduct; that God had demanded at my hands more than I had done; and that nothing short of a faithful and thorough dealing with you could set matters right. In this view of the subject I delivered my speech in Lexington, in October, 1840; and in the firm conviction that your published reply to it, requires the following notice at my hands, I proceed to administer it in all good conscience.
Looking back on these troubles—it seems to me most proper to proceed at once to the developement of that portion of them, on which you have manifested the most interest—and around which you have made all the personal accusations of your second speech, cluster. We shall thus escape, as far as possible, from the chaos created by your designed want of method, and easily slide along into the midst of those charges, which have induced me to trouble you with this paper.
Some time after the death of my father, John Lee’s Executors commenced a suit against his Administrators to recover on a contract entered into by said Lee with my father and George Nicholas, for the sale of one half of Blackwell’s Entry for 19,000 acres of land, near the Slate Creek Iron Works. This suit was prosecuted with various success, till the month of June, 1825, when a judgment was rendered against us in Woodford, and subsequently affirmed—by which we had to pay about $7,400. You were our lawyer throughout. In the month of September, 1811, you filed a Bill in Fayette, in the name of my father’s administrators and heirs against Lee’s executors and others—one principal object of which was to subject to the payment of whatever sum we might lose by the foregoing suit—certain property mortgaged to our father for that very end. The case stood thus: John Breckinridge and George Nicholas, proprietors of the Iron Works, the former owning 18–48 parts thereof, jointly contracted with John Lee, for the purchase of Blackwell’s Entry; John Breckinridge subsequently sold his interest in the Iron Works to Nicholas and Walter Beall, taking from Beall a mortgage upon the estate sold, to indemnify him, amongst other things, against his liability on this claim of Lee; Beall subsequently sold his interest in the iron works, to Thos. D. Owings, taking from him a mortgage upon it, amongst other things, to secure him against his own liability to Breckinridge, on account of his mortgage to him; then Beall, Nicholas, and Breckinridge all died, Owings being still in possession: and in this state of case, Lee’s executors sued and recovered against us; we, by you, having filed our bill, as above stated, to recover so much as we might be forced to pay. The nature of Nicholas’s liability as partner—and the extent of Beall’s and Owings’s as mortgagors, are nothing to the present matter. In 1830, as heretofore stated, we got first a decree Nisi, and then a decree to sell; and were just on the eve, as we supposed, of getting the money we had actually paid and expended. But all of a sudden, our own lawyer—the honest and faithful Robt. Wickliffe—who had filed our bill—managed our case—made contradictory allegations in our pleadings—and been, as he insinuates, our patron, and our father’s bosom friend, came into court in the name of Luke Tiernan and Ellicott and Meredith, and by Mr. Payne, filed a petition for a postponement of the sale ordered, and a review of the decree itself. The reasons alledged in the petition of this faithful counsel in favour of his new clients and against his old ones, are 1, That George Nicholas’s heirs were not before the court. 2. That the decree was for too much; to which others are added, of which learned counsel whose abstract I follow, says, “they are not worth notice.” Now the first reason is false, as the pleadings show; and the second is false, if your allegations in our bill are true; for in it you say, all Blackwell’s claim is within a circle of three miles around the forge and furnace, and in your reason 2d, you assume that it is not—and therefore our decree is for too much. But if both were true—the question still remains, and your character requires it to be answered—what right had you—our original counsel, and constant attorney in this case—our general legal adviser in the business of the estate, and that for twenty years running; what right had you, thus to interfere against your own clients, friends, yea, if we may believe you—dependants—and defeat a recovery which was in some form absolutely beyond question—upon doubtful points of legal learning? I demand, sir, does the honor of the legal profession, tolerate such a procedure? Will the sacred relations of client and counsel endure it? Does the just interpretation of contract between man and man, allow it? No sir, no sir. It is a procedure, altogether without precedent, at the Kentucky bar; and which, I am glad to say, admits of the clearest possible explanation. I proceed to give it.
On the 11th September, 1817, (six years after filing our bill against Lee and others) you filed a declaration in debt, in the Circuit Court of the U. S. for the Kentucky District, in the name of Luke Tiernan vs. Thos. D. Owings for $5523,75; and got judgment the following November. On the 10th day of July, 1818, you filed in the same court, against the same defendant Owings, a declaration in debt, in the name of Samuel Smith, for $17,952; and got judgment the November following. On the 25th of July, 1819, you filed in the same court, against the same defendant Owings, a declaration in debt, in the name of Comyges and Pershouse, for $1785,45, and got judgment the November following. These debts jointly amounted, originally, to $25,263,20, as appears of record; though you say, (p. 5, speech of Nov. 9, 1840,) “I had recovered for Samuel Smith, Luke Tiernan, and Comyges and Pershouse, judgments against Thomas Dye Owings, to the amount of seventy or eighty thousand dollars.” Now, sir, we begin to get into the light. This Thomas Dye Owings, was a sub-purchaser under Beall, to whom my father sold his interest in the Iron Works; he was a sub-mortgagor under Beall, who mortgaged to my father; he was in possession of the identical property—and was made by you, a defendant to our bill. In your speech (p. 5,) you say—as part of the sentence quoted above—“Owings gave up to the Marshal large bodies of lands, including parts of the lands mortgaged by Beall to Breckinridge”—to satisfy the debts of your new clients. And then you immediately add—that the trustees of Owings, put your said clients into possession of all these lands, “and they, by their Agents,” proceeded to rent them out. At the head of that agency—stood Mr. Robert Wickliffe—faithful friend and counsellor of the heirs of his old friend, John Breckinridge.
We find you now in possession of the property—against which, it caused you so much anguish in 1830, that we should get a decree, prayed for, by you, for us twenty years before. Nominally, your possession was that of your new clients; really, it was on your own account! You are the owner of the estate! How much you may have paid Smith, Tiernan, Comyges or Pershouse—for their claim of “seventy or eighty thousand dollars,”—I cannot say; but this is notorious, that you are the possessor of the princely fortune of Thos. D. Owings—including the portion mortgaged to us; and that he is hopelessly ruined. When I called at the clerk’s office to examine the papers in these cases—I was shown a thick bundle—which the clerk informed me, contained the executions. I counted them—and then asked him to do it. There were just eighty one of them. Eighty one executions, issued by you, in three cases! How you managed to do it—I leave the profession to guess. But by them you managed to divest Owings of all his estate, legal and equitable, in these same Slate Creek Iron Works. Mark that—legal and equitable. So that you having entirely divested Owings, in the names of your new clients; and then having become, in a way best known to yourself, proprietor of the interests thus divested; the recovery of your old friends the Breckinridges, upon their case instituted by you in 1811—against a portion of this property—becomes, in fact, a recovery—not against Thomas Dye Owings—but against Robert Wickliffe! No wonder, then, you should be so desperately uneasy, lest we should get our money, before Nicholas’s heirs were properly before the court—or before we had proved all your allegations about Blackwell’s Entry—twenty years ago, or before some abstract law question had been settled to the entire satisfaction of a passionate lover of mere justice—like yourself. To defeat our recovery makes the Slate Creek Iron Works just worth so much more to their owners—say ten, or twelve thousand dollars; and our old friend and lawyer, Mr. R. Wickliffe, had become one of the proprietors, if not sole owner—when? Pray, sir, when? Shall I answer for you? Then turn to the 21st page of your great letter of August 29, 1832—and there you will find yourself saying—that at and before our decree Nisi—that is, before March, 1830, this Iron Works property belonged to your clients and yourself—and that you and they, were partners in it!
Here then is the plain case on which we quarrelled. My judgment is, that I would have been a faithless trustee, if I had connived at your conduct; and that I acted as every honest man placed as I was, would be obliged to act. What the issue of the law suit may be—is not for me to say, as it is still sub judice. What men may think of your conduct, is your affair, not mine.
In the confused and false narrative you give of the foregoing case, is contained one of your most unfounded and dishonoring charges against me. On page 6th of your speech of November 9, 1840, you say: “This said Robert J. Breckinridge, found among his father’s or his brother Cabell’s papers, George Nicholas’s and Walter Beall’s bond for indemnity, which he says he has lost, but which, I have always believed he, for motives which he knows I know, has hitherto suppressed.” You then proceed to alledge the solvency of Nicholas’s estate, and the case with which the money due us, might be made out of it, and add, in the following words, the reason, which induced me to suppress the aforesaid bond, viz.: “but this would close every part of the gentleman’s duty as agent or administrator for his father’s estate, and take from him every excuse for not settling with his heirs, by accounting for not “only monies received, but lands of great value sold and sacrificed by him.” Again on page 7, you say, that in regard to this whole business, I have “played off from that day to this, an intended deception, on the heirs” of my father, pretending that I cannot settle with them because my business is unfinished. Let us here examine first the fact, viz.: the suppression of the paper, and then secondly the motive, viz.: that I might fraudulently avoid a settlement with my co-heirs, whose estate I have wasted.
As to the fact, you shall be my witness. In your letter of June 6, 1832, page 2, speaking to my brother William of “the condition of a claim your (our) father’s administrators have against Nicholas”—you say, “Nicholas’s estate lay immediately open to pay two-thirds of the debt, and other property of Owings and Beall, in abundance, was liable.” This letter shows that you had familiar knowledge of the relations and liabilities of the estates of Nicholas, Beall, and Owings to ours; that you considered Nicholas liable to us, for two-thirds of the amount paid by us, to Lee’s executors for Blackwell’s claim; and that you knew that the liabilities of Nicholas and Beall to us, were of an entirely different sort, and not the result of a joint bond, as alleged in the preceding quotation from your speech. That is, your written statement of June 6, ’32, is entirely inconsistent with your printed one of November 9, ’40.
Let us hear you again. In your letter of June 22, 1832, to the same individual, and written in reply to his answer to your letter of June 6, you say on page 1, “Indeed without some further aid from the family, there is one fact charged in the original bill or an amendment that I find no voucher for, although I think it was made on some voucher in the possession of your brother Robert or Cabell, or on information from one of them, viz.: that George Nicholas was bound for two-thirds of Lee’s debt. By a joint contract, your father and George Nicholas bought the one half of Joseph Blackwell’s Entry,” &c. Now here observe the utter contrariety of this statement from both the foregoing. In the first, you assert your positive knowledge that I had the suppressed paper—that said paper was a joint bond of Nicholas and Beall; and that it made them clearly and readily liable to us for the debt recovered by Lee. In the second, you omit all mention of a bond, and state the liability of Nicholas and Beall to be different from each other, both as to amount and foundation, and introduce a third party, viz., Thomas D. Owings. In the third, you profess utter ignorance of the whole matter; confess that you don’t knew who told you that Nicholas was liable for two-thirds; nor when they told you so; nor how it was to be proved; nor at what time it had been first asserted.
But we will try you again, from a fourth statement, made by you under still new circumstances. In your letter to me, of August 29, 1832, p. 19, you say, that not long after the filing of the amended Bill of 1826, in this famous chancery suit, I gave you the information which follows—I quote your words: “Not long after you made this amendment, you informed me that I was mistaken in only charging in the original bill, that Nicholas’s heirs were bound for half, that by a contract between Nicholas and your father, Nicholas was bound for two-thirds of the purchase money, and I think you stated, you had, or showed me at the time of the conversation, such contract,” &c. Now, here we have a new form of the case. What you say in 1840, that you “have always believed;” you tell us in 1832, you did not know till 1826, although, you had at this latter period been managing the whole case for fifteen years. What you tell my brother William in June, 1832, had been obtained, you hardly knew where; you tell me in August of the same year, had come from me, at a precise time. What you assert in 1840, to be a joint bond of Nicholas and Beall, known by you to be suppressed by me; you tell me in 1832, was a contract between my father and Nicholas, and tell my brother in the same year, was “some voucher.” These absurdities and contradictions, are, however, the less important, as they are all false; as I will prove, by yourself.
Let us hear you for the fifth time. In your letter of June 22, 1832, p. 1, you say, writing to my brother: “Shortly after your father’s death, suit was brought on the bond for the £10 per hundred. At that time your brother Cabell was young and out of the state, and neither of the administrators seemed to be competent or inclined to act,” &c. On p. 2, you proceed to explain clearly how you understood, from actual surveys, and the examination of papers and records, the case to stand, between Beall, Lee, and my father, and declare Beall’s liability to us, to be, net from any supposed bond, trumped up in 1840—but because you found a mortgage, from Beall to my father, precise to the very point, on which mortgage you say you filed a bill of foreclosure and for indemnity. Here then, the liability of Beall, which you charge me in 1840, with trying to smother up, in order to defraud my co-heirs, is confessed by you in 1832, to have been fully understood by you, “shortly” after my father’s death, (he died December 14, 1806;) and was actually proceeded on, by you, in chancery, in 1811, and remains unsettled, depending, and open to all mankind, till this hour, in the case of Breckinridge’s administrators vs. Beall’s administrators and others, on the chancery side of the Fayette Circuit Court. That is, some thirty odd years after you are fully possessed of certain facts, and actually proceed to put them on record, and to hold parties to heavy liabilities upon them; you find it convenient, for purposes of personal malignity, to represent these facts, in four or five different ways—all, as you well knew, utterly false; yea proven so by your own testimony.
But you shall have a full hearing; answer, therefore, for the sixth time, and having told us, at last, the real state of the facts about Beall’s liability; tell them also truly as to the rest. I have said my father died in the autumn of 1806. His administrators, whom you attack, as neither “competent” nor “inclined” to do their duty, were, the first, my uncle Robert Carter Harrison, a man who could have spared as much repute for unsullied honesty, as would enrich a generation, having such a repute as yours; the second, my brother-in-law, Alfred W. S. Grayson, who, though I shall not defend his errors—would, as to all noble, manly, and gentleman-like qualities, have justly considered himself defamed by a comparison with you; the third, my venerated mother. As to the two first, it is not my part to defend them; and for the third, I will only say, I feel a kind of degradation, in mentioning her name on the same page with yours. Now as you expressly assert (in the letter of 22d June, 1832, already quoted) the youth and absence, of our eldest brother (Cabell); the incompetency and negligence of the administrators; and your own knowledge on personal and careful examination of all the facts of the case as to Beall’s liability: so also you are shut up by your own statements, as to that of Owings and Nicholas, for on page 3 of that letter, you say, “On further search I laid my hands on Owings’s contract or mortgage to Beall, and ascertained that he, Owings, was bound to Beall, to execute his contract with your father, as to indemnity. In this suit, I made Nicholas’s executors and heirs parties, and also Owings a party, praying first, Nicholas’s executors might be decreed to pay Nicholas’s part, supposed to be two-thirds, and that Owings might be decreed to pay at the rate of £10 per hundred for all of the 10,000 acres of Nicholas and Breckinridge sold by your father to Beall.” Here then is a clear and precise statement, by yourself, in 1832, flatly contradicting every allegation you have made before or since, against me, or my brother Cabell, on this subject; clearly pointing out the sources of your knowledge, as independent of both of us; and precisely convicting you of intentional falsehood, in all your allegations against me in this behalf.
But there is, if possible, clearer proof still behind; so let us hear you, for the seventh time, on this matter. I was born on the 8th day of March, in the year 1800. In the year 1811, you commenced both the suit in chancery in the name of my father’s adminisistrators against Lee’s executors and others, and that against Beall’s administrators and others. In your various statements, spoken, written, and printed, when you desire not to be understood, you confound these two cases; though they have little in common, were both commenced by you for many years. You have several times, within a few years, had the papers in these cases under examination, as I learn; and, those who have examined them after you, find them in a state, which all who know you will easily understand, under such circumstances. Being five hundred miles off, when I began to collect materials for this defence, I had to rely on the kind aid of friends. I have before me two abstracts of the case first named above; one made especially for me—the other to aid, in the perfect understanding of the case; both by professional counsel, men above all suspicion. Both these abstracts assert, that in the first case named above, an amended bill was filed in 1811, which contains amongst other allegations, this, viz.: that George Nicholas the joint obligor with John Breckinridge, to John Lee, was bound to pay for two-thirds of the purchase, and the amended bill prays that the trustees and executors of Nicholas, may be subjected to contribution. Now, sir, this amended bill is in your hand writing, and was filed by you—when I was eleven years old! So here is matter of record, contrived by yourself, and existing for thirty years before your charges of 1840—proving that what you assert is not only false, but impossible—and that you had for thirty years, known it to be both the one and the other. So far as I know, the first denial that the liability of Nicholas was for two-thirds, and that of my father for one-third, it contained in the answer of Henry Clay, as executor of Morrison, and so executor of Nicholas, filed in this case in answer to an amended bill written by you, in 1827—in which after the lapse of sixteen years from the first assertion of the fact, of record, by you—you reiterate the statement that Nicholas was liable for two-thirds.
But, sir, I demand of you as of a man long skilled in all the tricks that bring disrepute on the noble science of the law, to assign one tolerable reason, in this whole transaction, why there ever could have been such a bond, as you say you knew existed? Breckinridge and Nicholas were partners in the Iron Works. They entered into a contract for the purchase of Blackwell’s land, wholly for the partnership, or in part for it, and in part on private account. Breckinridge then sold out his his partnership interest to Beall and Nicholas; but swears really for his (Beall’s) single use; and Beall gave him a mortgage to indemnify him from loss by reason of any covenants in the contract with Blackwell. If Breckinridge really sold nothing to Nicholas, as Beall’s mortgage and oath seem to prove, why should Nicholas and Beall in such a case, execute to Breckinridge a joint bond, to secure him against Blackwell? Pray sir, what would be the consideration of any bond under such circumstances, executed by Nicholas to Breckinridge? Especially how could it be a joint bond of Nicholas and Beall to Breckinridge, when the interest of Beall and Nicholas, was in every respect unequal? If Nicholas owned 30 shares on his own account and 4½ shares purchased from Beall, making 34½ in all; while Beall owned only 13½ shares, having, as he swears, immediately sold to Nicholas 4½ shares of the eighteen purchased from Breckinridge, and received for them, in cash, the consideration money from Nicholas; how is it conceivable that they should execute a joint bond to Breckinridge? Moreover, why should Beall execute any bond, joint or single, when he had paid, in lands, the price contracted to be paid to Breckinridge, and secured him by mortgage, against collateral liabilities? That he committed a fraud as to some of the lands given to my father in payment for his 18–48ths of the Iron Works, or was himself in error in regard to them, and thereby rendered a subsequent transaction necessary between those two; rather strengthens than weakens this whole view of the matter. In other words, is it not perfectly clear, from the mere statement of the case—that neither Beall nor Nicholas could have executed such a bond; in other words, that no such bond ever existed? The liability of Nicholas to Breckinridge for money paid by the latter, was that of a partner—that of Beall, was that of a mortgagor.—And the quantum of their several liabilities, was matter of contract, of record, or of law; and all you say about a joint bond, is pure fiction.
I rest this part of this matter here—although I have ample means to push it farther—because I cannot see how any man who is open to conviction, can fail to perceive that I have demonstrated my innocence and your guilt. I now proceed to clear myself of those motives charged by you, as the spring of actions, which I have proved by yourself, it was impossible for me to have committed. It is indeed, true, that not having suppressed any bond, I could not be fairly held to feel the motives, which you say caused its suppression. But this does not satisfy me.
Why should I suppress such a bond, supposing it to exist? Look, sir, at the facts. The whole question, as made by yourself, is, whether we are to recover from Nicholas’s estate one-half or two-thirds of a certain sum of money—amounting now to some ten or twelve thousand dollars. That is, the utmost interest we have at stake, is, the one-sixth part of that sum of money; and my utmost personal interest in that would be one-fifth or sixth part. So that, my particular interest, whether Nicholas’s liability were settled at one-half or two-thirds, could not possibly exceed a few hundred dollars, even if we had no other remedy. But, you have repeatedly asserted, and I suppose there can be no doubt, that the mortgaged estate of Beall and Owings, is additional to this liability of Nicholas, as a partner of my father, and perfectly ample; so that the only question is, how much we should recover from Nicholas, and how much from the rest; and thus, whether there was ever any such bond as you alledge, is utterly indifferent, to every interest of my father’s estate and to me.
But the entire facts in the case, show conclusively, that Nicholas is responsible to us, as the partner of my father, for money paid by us, on the partnership account, for precisely so much as his interest in the concern was, say 30 parts out of 48, of what we have so paid; for 18 parts out of 48, was the exact interest of my father, as you assert; and that of Nicholas, if he owned the rest, must needs be 30 parts out of 48.
Again, the interest of Nicholas’s estate in the premises, must be precisely measured by ours; the only question with them, on your own presentation of the case, is, whether they shall pay one-sixth more or less; for this is just the difference between one-half and two-thirds.—Whether Henry Clay, who has acted as the lawyer and the executor of Nicholas, would attempt to exert a corrupt influence over any one, and in particular over me, as you constantly insinuate, for an interest so remote and contingent as to him, and so clearly null as to me, I leave the public to judge. As to the heirs of George Nicholas being capable of such an attempt, luckily for me it happens to be true, that fair and open proposals of compromise, have more than once been made to me on their behalf, since the recovery of Lee’s executors against us, in order to liquidate the liability of Nicholas; to all which I have steadily replied, that nothing less than the total settlement of the whole case would satisfy me; for since I had discovered your dishonorable and faithless conduct in it, I felt obliged to stand fast by our legal rights and remedies, and would do it, even if I did it singly. So that any collision between me and the heirs or representatives, whether legal or personal, of Mr. Nicholas, is utterly out of the question, upon the very face of the transaction; and for further proof, I appeal to all those parties, and especially to Henry Clay; to Judge Nicholas, and to Richard Hawes, Esq’rs.
But again. Why should I endeavor to prevent a recovery by my father’s heirs? If you had said there had been a bond suppressed to prevent a recovery against us, there might have been sense at least, though no truth in the charge. But to say this was done to prevent a recovery by us, is at the same time false and ridiculous. In one breath you charge me with wasting the estate of my father; in the next, with preventing the recovery of its means: while, in very deed, your cause of quarrel with me was, that as its trustee, I had so managed its interesrs as to detect your infidelity as its lawyer, and to endanger your enormous speculations in property and claims, incompatible with its interests, and with your professional engagements to it.
There is one proof against this accusation, which, I presume, you, at least, will consider difficult to answer. Ah! you are too good to your adversaries. Who could suppose, that in charging me in 1840, with preventing the collection of certain monies due my father’s heirs, in order to have an excuse for putting off a settlement with them; you had been so considerate of my good name, as to furnish me, eight years in advance, with proof, under your own signature, that my conduct was actuated in the identical case, by an entirely different motive? Hear yourself, and believe; for if you tell truth, I can prove my innocence by you; and if you tell not truth, that, too, establishes my innocence, for no one else accuses me. In your letter of August 29, 1835, you thus discourse in regard to the money, which you say, I will not allow to be collected, and of the motives, which you then said, actuated me. “I wrote to you, stating your decree was erroneous, that it was void, and if it could be carried into effect, it was iniquitous; that the bill should be amended to state Clay’s compromise with Nicholas’s heirs, and his agreement to pay five thousand dollars, the insolvency of most of the heirs of Nicholas, and the necessity of an injunction, to prevent the money going into their hands. To this writing, communicated with the sincere desire that others, if not yourself, of your father’s family, might not, through your malicious folly, be defrauded of what was justly due them, you made no reply, but that I must proceed at my peril.” You then go on to assert, that the money could have been easily collected—not on any bond, as you now talk, but by the proceedings indicated above, and then add: “But this was not what you wanted; this would not have been your sweet revenge.” I do protest, sir, that it seems marvellously odd, to a plain man like myself, that a professed spendthrift should refuse to take money, part of which is his own, when he has only to hold his hand out and receive it. But it is still harder to see, how it could be true that he did this upon motives precisely opposite to each other. Good gentleman, you cannot tell how you have aided me in my defence, by abusing me too often.
And why should I desire, much less attempt, to shun a settlement with my father’s heirs, either partial or general? It is true, my business relations with those heirs, individually and collectively, have been large; but they are wholly misunderstood, or wilfully misrepresented by you. I was the youngest child of the family, but one, that attained mature age; and must, therefore, have been involved in the business of my co-heirs, as individual persons, purely and solely by their own acts. And now, omitting all mention of any service I may have had the happiness to render to any of them, I freely tell you, that if you will point out any act of mine, by which any of them have lost and I have gained one dollar, in any individual transaction between any of them and myself; I will pledge myself immediately to cancel the act, or to prove it to be not only perfectly equitable, but kind and fraternal. As it regards the estate of my father, you utter a pure fiction when you say, (p. 9, Speech, Nov. 9, ’40,) “the reverend gentleman had got himself, by an act of the Legislature, appointed administrator, with power to sell lands, pay debts,” &c. &c. I never got the Legislature to pass any act on the subject; I never was an administrator of my father’s estate; and I never got myself appointed to any thing whatever, by any authority whatever connected with that estate. While I was yet a child, other persons administered on it; while I was yet a boy, the Legislature passed two acts, (in 1812 and in 1813,) on representations in which I was too young to take any interest, by which certain trusts were created, to a limited extent, as regarded portions of the undivided estate of my father; and for many years, my oldest brother executed these trusts with great skill and ability, and as trustee, performed most of those important services which you falsely claim as your own. After his death, which occurred in 1823, I was, I may truly say, obliged by the family to consent that the courts should throw on me the un-finished business of this trustee-ship—two of my co-heirs, one of whom had been my guardian and of course knew me well, becoming my sureties; and this trustee-ship is the sole foundation for your unparalleled statements. In it my powers were limited and special; the business which I transacted, though large, brought comparatively little money into my hands to be spent or accounted for. I never sold an acre of its land, nor compromised one of its claims, without a previous order in writing from a majority of the heirs, under the acts of Assembly; and the estate has always been in debt to me, from the moment I became its trustee. I have given bond and security that I would account for all monies that should come into my hands as trustee; and the statutes gave a summary remedy against me.
No, sir, you are utterly deluded, or else, in your malice, talk at random. It has been the aim of my life, to be always ready to settle with every body, in all respects. No rule of conduct has been more rigidly adhered to by me; and I think by this time, you must yourself be convinced, that it had been well if you also had adopted for your government, a principle which would have required you to be just, truthful, moderate and honest; and, therefore, constantly prepared, without fear, and as to all good men without reproach, to answer for all your conduct.
But if you still doubt, I submit to you the following testimonials. They are from the only children of my father, besides myself, who survived at the time they were given; and since their date, one of them has passed to his enduring reward above, affixing the seal of death to his ample vindication of me, and just rebuke of you. If any one should know the truth on the general subject in regard to which they speak, they should. The public know these men; and when they know that they speak in regard to matters about which you have attempted, for ten years, publicly and privately, to poison their minds; the matter must be considered as put to rest. If I had nothing to offer in my defence, but these two statements, I should consider myself beyond the reach of your malice.
|Cabell’s Dale, near Lexington, Ky.,||}|
|May 14, 1841.|
Having been requested by my brother, Robert J. Breckinridge, to give him my certificate in regard to certain charges brought against him by Robt. Wickliffe, Sen., in his late speech, touching his management of our father’s estate, I do hereby declare, that to the best of my knowledge, my brother Robert’s agency has, throughout been conducted with ability, faithfulness, and a disinterested regard to the good of those he represented, which often exposed his own interests. These statements derive additional force from the facts, that the estate was remarkably difficult to direct, and that the agent occasionally found fraud practiced by those who were engaged with him in its settlement.
If this had not been requested, I should have thought it useless to give it, for I do not think that any one believes the charges brought; no, not even Mr. Wickliffe himself.
Having been from his earliest boyhood up to the period of his last illness, intimately acquainted with the hand-writing of my late friend and kinsman the Rev. Dr. John Breckinridge, corresponding with him for years together in boyhood, youth and manhood—I have no hesitation in saying that this is entirely his hand-writing, piece and signature.
Aug. 20, 1841.
J. Cabell Harrison.
I have looked over a pamphlet by Mr. Robert Wickliffe, Sen., in which very severe charges are made against my brother, the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, in relation to his management of our father’s estate, as Trustee thereof. Being one of the heirs, I deem it proper for me to say, that I have had no occasion, at any time, as far as I can now recollect, to be dissatisfied in the slightest degree with any part of my brother’s management of that business, and that as regards his entire control and disposition of it, and his assiduity, discretion, and fidelity, I consider Mr. Wickliffe’s insinuations as perfectly gratuitous, and utterly destitute of all foundation in fact.
W. L. Breckinridge.
Louisville, March 22d, 1841.
One of the most painful and degrading accusations you have seen fit to make against me, relates to a portion of my Brædalbane estate, and to my alleged unkindness to my deceased aunt, Mrs. Meredith. I will state the accusation in your own words. In your speech of November 9, 1840, you say, “I also recovered for the heirs 300 acres of first rate land, from their aunt, the late Mrs. Meredith, which this reverend individual now holds, at a price merely nominal, from the other heirs, as I am informed and believe.” Again, on page 20, thus: “You were born and raised here, and inherited your fortune (except what you wrong from your old aunt Meredith,) through my labor. No sooner had you dispossessed your old aunt,” &c. Again, on page 22, thus:
“In a practice of more than forty years, amidst our conflicting land titles, it could hardly happen that I should not be the lawyer for the successful claimant, and often interested in the event of the suit; and sometimes my feelings have been greatly excited for the unfortunate occupant. And I declare before high heaven, that in all my practice I never had my heart wrung more, than from the nominal ejection of the reverend gentleman’s uncle, Samuel Meredith, but the real ejection of his aunt, old Mrs. Meredith, his father’s beloved and only sister—by the gentleman himself; and that I never had a more unfeeling wretch for a client, than he was. After having dispossessed his aged relative, he had the impudence to apply to me to bring an action against her for mesne profits. This I indignantly refused, and rebuked the gentleman, by telling him he wanted me to do what I would not do, and that he ought to treat and speak of his aunt more kindly; that he had no right to mesne profits. He then, to harrass his aged, infirm and destitute aunt, who, if then not a widow, had a husband incapable of business—employed another lawyer, brought his suit and paid the costs. This I state from impression, and the records will correct me if I do the gentleman wrong as to his suit for the mense profits. Mrs. Meredith was unfortunately married, and always relied on her brother for protection and counsel; and has often with tears in her eyes declared to me that the mortgage for 300 acres of land of which the gentleman dispossessed her, was had and contrived by her and her brother, to prevent her husband from selling her lands in Fayette county and moving to Green River. That her brother’s claim on Col. Meredith, the father of her husband, which her brother and her made the foundation of the mortgage, had been fully paid by Colonel Meredith; and that her brother had died suddenly without thinking of the condition she would be in by the enforcement of the mortgage. This mortgage of ancient standing, was found among the papers of Mr. Breckinridge, and enforced by the expulsion of his sister; and is the farm, the very farm, the gentleman says he has come by the providence of God, to visit! Poor old Mrs. Meredith now sleeps with her brother in the silent grave, while the gentleman struts the lord proprietor of her land and her labor; and if any want to learn the character of this pious preacher, let him inquire of the descendants of his aunt.”
These are bitter things; and whether they have any relevancy to prove that I was the author of the act of 1833, or not; if they were true, I should confess myself that detestable wretch, which every upright man must pronounce him to be, who could bring them, knowing them to be false. I frankly take issue with you, then, upon this case as put by you. If what you say, be true, I confess myself infamous; if it is false, I hold you to be everlastingly disgraced.
I produce then at once the highest of all proof—in the most undoubted of all forms. Hear it—and if you are not dead to all honor, hide yourself forever from the haunts of men.
I, Harry I. Bodley, Clerk of the Fayette Circuit Court, in the State of Kentucky, do hereby certify, that I have examined the records of my office, and find that an action of ejectment was commenced in said court on the 20th of June, 1814, in favor of John Breckinridge’s heirs against Samuel Meredith, which was served on said Meredith, on the 23d of June, 1814; the declaration in said case, is in the hand-writing of Robert Wickliffe, Esq., and his name is marked thereto, as the attorney for the plaintiff.
Judgment in said case was rendered for the plaintiff at the March term, 1817, which was enjoined by a suit in chancery, instituted in said court by defendant Samuel Meredith, and in which a decree was rendered in August 1819. A writ of possession issued on the judgment in favor of Breckinridge’s heirs against Meredith, on the 1st March, 1821, upon which the Sheriff made the following return, viz.:
“Executed March 1st, 1821, by taking into and delivering to David Castleman, a complete possession of all the within mentioned premises amounting to 10 tenements.
R. Sharp; D. S. for
J. C. Richardson, S. F. C.”
Said writ issued for 355 acres of land in Fayette Co. on the waters of Elkhorn, except the interest of Conway’s alienees in 4 acres, on which a saw mill &c. in erected, being one-half, which was enjoined in suit of Dallam against Breckinridge’s heirs.
On the 20th November, 1821, Breckinridge’s heirs commenced a suit against Samuel Meredith (Richard H. Chinn being the attorney for the plaintiff) for back rents, &c., which abated by the death of Samuel Meredith, on the 1st April, 1825.
April 8, 1841.
H. I. Bodley.
If you can look your degradation in the face, compare your libellous assertions with this overwhelming proof. My “father’s beloved and only sister”—was ejected “by the gentleman himself”—you hardily assert and print the assertion in Italicks to give it damning emphasis. The truth sternly replies—that you brought the ejectment, when I was just fourteen years of age; recovered the estate when I was seventeen, and pursuing my studies at Princeton in New Jersey; got a decree in chancery, when I was nineteen and still a non-resident of Kentucky; and finally a writ of possession, on which the estate was put into the possession of David Castleman, who you know to be one of the legal representatives of John Breckinridge, while I was still a minor; and Mrs. Meredith not even a party to the proceedings! So that in point of fact, neither my aunt nor myself had any thing to do with this matter—as in point of law, neither of us had any authority to act in regard to it; and all you say about it—is a clear, sheer, and baseless fabrication. You say, that “to harrass his (my) aged, infirm and destitute aunt,” I proceeded after the recovery of the estate, and after being indignantly rejected by you, to engage other counsel to oppress her in the matter of mesne profits; whereas, the record shows, that this proceeding was had at a time, when I was barely of full age, and when this estate was under the general control of my brother Cabell, as trustee, and the particular management of Mr. Castleman, as agent, and when I could not if I had desired it, have controlled the business; and in point of fact, had nothing at all to do with it. I repeat, it was impossible for me to have interfered, directly, in this matter, even if I had been of full age, and had ever so much desired it; for by those special acts of the Legislature of Kentucky, which I have spoken of in another part of this defence—passed in 1812 and 1813—cases of this very kind were put under the control of a trustee—my oldest brother, being such trustee from the 28th day of March, 1814, (which is the date of his bond as trustee—not quite ninety days before the commencement of the action of ejectment by you, against Mr. Meredith,) till the 1st day of September, 1823, (just two years and a half after the final recovery—and nearly two years after the commencement of the action for mesne profits)—when he died, in the midst of his days, his usefulness, and his reputation.
But, sir, I have a never failing, and you must believe an unimpeachable witness, by whom to prove the absolute untruth and entire impossibility of all these grievous things. It is yourself. You have repeatedly written and published, that your recovery from Mr. Meredith, was for my father’s heirs—not for me particularly. You say this in one of the passages already cited, (speech of Nov. 9, 1840, p. 10,) thus, “I also recovered for the heirs, 300 acres of first rate land, from their aunt, the late Mrs. Meredith,” &c. Again, page 28 of your letter of August 29, 1832, thus, “After I obtained judgment for your father’s heirs for 300 acres of land against Meredith,” &c. And to the same purport in various other places and on divers occasions. Now observe; in the accusations I am answering, you charge me with being your especial client, in all this business from 1814 to 1821; with being the cruel and unfeeling persecutor of my ‘aged, infirm, and destitute aunt;’ and with endeavoring, after wresting her estate from her by your agency, to engage you in still farther wrongs against her, under a demand for mesne profits. Mr. Bodley’s statement, shows by the record, that all this must necessarily have been before the end of 1821, if at all. Now hear my unflinching witness. On page 18, of your letter of August 29, 1832, addressing yourself to me personally, you say, I will now, sir, pay my respects to yourself in proper person, for the last time, as I trust, on this side the verge of eternity. The first business I ever transacted with you, as the representative of your father, was to make you a deed and to receive one in the Voss claim, after dividing the land with you. Finding that you had taken upon yourself the agency, I informed you of all the unfinished business, which hung upon my hands, or that had passed over to your brother,” &c. Here, then, we have a fixed date assigned by yourself, for the commencement of our business relations, touching the property of my father’s heirs; and the land recovered from Mrs. Meredith, was by your own showing, and in fact, property of that kind. This period was after my brother Cabell had ceased to act—that is after September 1, 1823; and it was after I had “taken the agency,” that is after February 9, 1824—which is the date of my bond as trustee. I have endeavored twice, without success, through a professional friend, to find the date of the execution of the deeds spoken of by you; but it must necessarily be later than Feb. 9, 1824. To confirm all this, and put it out of the possibility of dispute, you say (p. 14, speech, Nov. 9, 1840,) “Of the reverend gentleman who now assails me, at the death of his brother, of my own knowledge, I knew nothing,” &c. That is, until after Sept. 1, 1823, when my brother died, you “knew nothing” personally of a man who had been your client from 1814 to 1821, in a most painful case—whom you dismissed with indignation and full knowledge of his being a “wretch” in the latter year—and whose conduct, during seven years, you paint in the blackest colours, from personal knowledge—yea, appealing to God for the truth of what you say; when by your own printed confession, you had no personal knowledge whatever of him till more than two years after these seven had expired. Now, sir, how do you like the looks of this proof? I ask you, can any thing be more certain, than that you have herein published that of me, which you could not but know, was as completely false, as it was utterly disgraceful?
“If any want to learn the character of this pious preacher, let him enquire of the descendents of his aunt.” It is thus you sum up the case. Yes, I freely consent, let all inquire.—They will tell them, I cannot doubt, that from the day of my birth to the day of my aunt’s death, I never extended to that venerable lady any thing, but kindness, respect, and veneration; that in the unhappy difficulties, which, for a number of years, existed between Mr. Meredith and those legally responsible for the adjustment of my father’s estate—difficulties which in some degree alienated the families from each other—I never took the slightest part: that the confidence and affection of my aunt, in many of the members of my family, and in myself, continued unabated to the close of her eventful life; that it was her habit to consult me, to trust me, and to confide in me as a son—God having given her no son—amid some of the sharpest and keenest trials she was ever called to bear; that, to the best of my capacity, and with a veneration which the dignity and excellence of her character, and the greatness of her trials—not less than her peculiarly interesting relations to me inspired—I eagerly availed myself of all such opportunities, not to minister to her wants, for none know better than you, sir, that she lived and died in affluence; but to offer my protection, and to testify my love; and that in my last interview with her, no great while ago, and but a little before her death, she put into my hands a token of her constant attachment, with tears and blessings, all unwonted in one so lofty, tranquil and composed, thanking me for my friendship, and commending me to God. This, sir, I dare not doubt, is what her descendants will tell you. And they may add that one of them, the one whose trials have perhaps been the greatest, sought my intervention as that of a tried kinsman, with a member of your own family, in a matter of most delicate and painful interest, but a brief space before your first libel of 1840, was published against me. And to testify the cordiality with which I assent to this reference—made by you with a spirit and motive unworthy of a savage—I now inform you, that as soon as I read your speech in Baltimore, I wrote to a friend in this country, beseeching him to lay it before all the surviving children of my aunt, all of whom are females, and all in circumstances which would prevent any being but yourself from dragging them, without permission, before the public; and with one accord their response was—that your reference to them was wholly unauthorized. Sir, it is idle to say, no gentleman could act thus; you scarcely deserve to be called man.
You make it necessary, that I should speak of these family transactions. Beware, that you drive me not to break over my firm resolution and visit you with a horrible retaliation. I will merely say, at present, that my father, before emigrating to Kentucky, purchased from the original patentee, Col. Samuel Meredith, of Va., a portion of his lands in the present county of Fayette, held by grant for military services. Samuel Meredith the younger, then married to my father’s only sister—received the balance of these lands by gift from his father and settled on them; and notwithstanding the sale from his father to mine, sold the larger part of that conveyed to my father, to other persons. On the subsequent removal of my father to Kentucky, in 1792, he found things in this posture, and at the solicitation, as it appears both of Mr. M. the younger and his vendees, he confirmed the sales, and in lieu took from the former, evidence of claim and title to adjacent property. All these things happened before I was born. In 1806 my father died, intestate—all his children being minors: and in 1814, you sir, instituted proceedings on the deed of Samuel Meredith the younger, under the instructions, I will suppose—at least by the wish of the elder members of my family—and especially of my brother, Joseph Cabell Breckinridge, then trustee of the estate of my father. I have already stated, when and how, you recovered the estate, I have no doubt on a just and perfect claim—to which there was and could be no defence either in law or equity, but about which I knew nothing—and up to 1824, did nothing. All these are matters standing, not in hearsay, conjecture and belief, but in deeds and oaths of all the parties. In this last named year, I became the purchaser of the interest of my father’s heirs, in this and some other property; not out of choice—but because the convenience if not the necessities of some, and my liabilities for others of my co-heirs, rendered the sale of the estate indispensable, and my purchase of it, hardly less so. In book Y, folio 15, and book Z, folio 161, you will find the deeds of my co-heirs conveying their interest in this land to me, of record in the office of the clerk of Fayette county; and the property now constitutes, not as you emphatically assert with reiterated Italics “the very farm”—but somewhat over half of that on which I last resided in Kentucky; and which I still cultivate.—The consideration paid by me, for this property, you say, was “merely nominal;” a statement which, if true, could be made only to give offence—as all the heirs who sold and conveyed it were adult persons, fully acquainted with the value of the property; but which as I will show, being like nearly all you say, untrue, adds another shade to that infamy which the whole affair brands indelibly upon you.—The consideration “merely nominal,” stated on the face of these deeds, is $850 for each fifth part of 355 acres, being $4,250 for the whole. This was silver; and by the scale kept by D. A. Sayre, of Lexington, from 1820 to 1830, I ascertain through a friend, that the average value of specie, during the year 1824, was rather over 100 per cent., or 2 for 1 in currency. The consideration paid by me, therefore, was as near as may be $24 per acre in currency—prompt payment. Now, I find by examining the records, that this is more than the common price of circumjacent estates, at and about the same time. For example: Nicholas Long, sold to Newbold Crockett, 60 acres of land adjoining my farm, for $1,000, on the 3d of May, 1824, which is only $16,66 ⅔ per acre; and John Clarke sold to William Nutter, 96 acres, then adjoining my farm, and now forming part of it, for $1,431,45, on the 25th October, 1825, which is $14,91 per acre, payable, as Mr. Nutter himself informs me, in currency, at seven annual payments—currency being then, by Sayre’s tables, worth about fifty cents in the dollar; and as late as June, 1830, the heirs of Preston Breckinridge deeded to Jacob Shannon, 77 acres of land, also adjoining my farm, for $16 per acre, which, even if it were silver, made only about $20 per acre in currency, as by Sayre’s tables, currency was then worth about 88 cents in the dollar.
What makes this matter more glaring in its injustice, is the fact, notorious in the neighborhood, that this Meredith portion of the Brædalbane estate, was in a worse condition than any other land in that region when I bought it; and instead of being worth more, was worth less than the common average. The statement of Mr. Bodley shows, that the Sheriff delivered 10 tenements on the 355 acres, when he put my father’s heirs into possession; and it was partly on account of this enormous use and waste for many years preceding its recovery, that the suit for back rents and mesne profits was instituted. On the 25th May, 1824, I purchased the estate, which my family had finally recovered and peaceably possessed since March 1, 1821; on the 9th February, 1824, I became trustee of my father’s estate. Mr. Meredith, and not his wife, was the sole party on that side in all these suits; his property, and not her’s, was in contest. On the other hand, I was never your client at all in any personal sense. I had, properly speaking, nothing to do with the difficulties, legal or personal; and long after the property was finally recovered, I reluctantly, and by necessity, purchased it of my co-heirs, at a full price. This, then, is the case between us; and if you can escape without dishonor, I confess my inability to decide on moral conduct.
The slanders which I have now refuted, are perhaps the most offensive and disreputable of any in your pamphlet; on which account, I put them first. As you observe no order in making your charges, it is difficult in disproving them, to classify and connect them. I will do this as far as possible; and therefore invite your attention next to a congeries of falsehoods, which you have collected into your narrative of what you call your last legal service to our family. The facts of the case, as furnished to me by one of the learned counsel who managed a large part of it, stand thus: In October, 1811, you filed a bill in chancery, in Fayette, in the name of John Breckinridge’s administrators vs. Walter Beall’s executors, trustees, and others, to recover £1,000 secured by mortgage dated April 23, 1801. There was an interlocutory decree, 9th Sept., 1814, and a final decree in our favor, 16th day of September term, 1819. A bill of review and injunction filed by N. B. Beall, September term, 1820. Demurrer and order to commissioner to proceed and sell, February term, 1822. June term, 1824, motion to set aside sales, heard and overruled. Under these sales, among others, N. B. Beall gave bond, with P. B. Ormsby as his scurity, for $1,212, and P. B. Ormsby gave bond, with N. B. Beall as his security, for $4,031; upon which suits were instituted and judgments recovered in Jefferson; and on the 10th May, 1824, certain equitable estates of P. B. Ormsby sold, and $1,862,29 credited on the execution against him. On the 24th of May, 1824, Ormsby filed his bill against Beall and Breckinridge—praying that the decree of the Fayette Circuit Court might be reviewed, and alledging that Walter Beall was non compos when he made the mortgage which was the basis of the decree. Answers filed 6th June, 1826; injunction granted; and on the 17th February, 1827, injunction made perpetual, and appeal by the defendants; January 15th, 16th, 17th and 19th, 1829, cause argued before the Court of Appeals. Court took time; and on the 16th of April, 1829, decree of inferior court reversed. This case was managed in its various stages for Breckinridge’s administrators, by R. Wickliffe, J. C. Breckinridge, R. H. Chinn, R. J. Breckinridge, and A. K. Woolley, of Fayette; and by G. Duncan and S. S. Nicholas, of Jefferson. From the filing of the original bill to the final decree in the Court of Appeals in our favour on the particular branch of the case with Ormsby, was nearly eighteen years; and the original case is still depending in Fayette, waiting a final settlement in the case of other parties prosecuted to insolvency. The mere inspection of the dates and facts herein given, shows conclusively, that the case was gained by us, against the most desperate opposition—and upon the absolute merits of our claim; and of consequence that the attempt to stultify Beall and impeach my father’s character, was as you admit, an utter failure—made by unscrupulous men, for selfish purposes; and, also, that your graceless allegations that you gained the case by trick—watchfulness and overreaching the Bealls, are unhappy manifestations of your propensity for romancing, exercised upon your own character; and finally that your statements implicating the character of your brother, Governor Wickliffe, in his agency at the Bardstown sales, (see letter, June 22d, 1832, p. 5, 6 and 18,) though meant by you to do him a favor, by impressing us with high ideas of the value of his services and of our obligations for them—are, in truth, slanderous on him.
Your account of all this matter, is scattered over a number of pages of your speech—and as your intention was to prevent people from understanding the case, and thereby to enable you to say about it, whatever you judged most suitable to the particular objects you successively had in view; you have mixed it up with all sorts of things, according to your common habit in such cases. Your largest printed statement of the case, is, I think, on p. 11–12, speech of November 9, 1840; I give it in your own words:
“I directed the mode of defence, which was in part pursued; but notwithstanding able counsel appeared for the administrators of Breckinridge, the decree of the circuit court sustained the charges in the bill, and granted a perpetual injunction. I advised the appeal, with the intention to argue the cause in the appellate court; but such was the decline of my health and strength, and the weight of public and professional duties that had pressed upon me for some time before the court approached the trial, that I felt wholly unable to appear in the cause, and so advised the reverend gentleman, who seemed to acquiesce, and consulted with me as to the counsel he should substitute. In this we agreed, and I promised to aid them with my views upon the case, which I faithfully did. But when the day of trial came near, my present slanderer and persecutor had confidence in me alone. He appealed to me not only on account of the large sum involved, and which was indispensable, he said, to relieve me, as his security, but because the decree involved the memory of his father, to lay aside my public duties and make an effort for him. The last consideration was decisive with me. I arranged with Senators, to suspend, for a day, the important business of the Senate, and obtained, from the Court of Appeals, the same day to make my defence. I made it. The decree of the inferior court that nailed the foul charge on the coffin of the deceased—that he had cheated and defrauded a poor senseless lunatic—was reversed and annulled. By this decree, not only was the exalted name and spotless character of John Breckinridge vindicated, but nearly ten thousand dollars wan put into the pocket and under the control of his profligate son. Tina was the last professional service I performed for the family, and God knows when at night I retired, exhausted and prostrate from the court room, I felt as if it was doubtful whether I should ever enter the court house again. If I risked my life as I did in the effort, it was in defence of the memory of a departed friend, and well has his ungrateful son paid me for it. It was not two years afterwards that he occupied the newspapers and took the field against me; and now again, when sixty-six winters weigh upon me, in the presence of my children and grand children, and before my county and country, under the garb of religion and a pretext that he is a missionary of heaven, he has, with a virulence and a bruitishness suited to the mouth of a baron of a brothel, and to no other, falsely and infamously assailed my name and peace. In assailing me thus, this individual assails not only the friend of his father while living, but the defender of his fame when dead.
It is scarcely worth while, sir, in a letter to one like you, to argue any question, touching the meritoriousness, or even the propriety of human conduct, as exhibited by your statements: first, because your moral sense seems to be so obscure, that you could not feel or understand what would be said; and, secondly, because what you say is nearly always untrue, and, therefore, it is not material to urge, that the conduct charged is good or bad. If the case were otherwise, I would here point out, how, that in representing me to be, in general, a bad and an abandoned man; and in this particular case, while aiming to represent me in a light altogether hateful, you have recorded a fact, which, if the whole case was not a fiction, would put me before the mind of every virtuous man, in the noblest of all lights. A witness like you, whose soul is consumed with the very lust of gold, boldly declares of one, whom, in the same breath he calls a profligate, that the ruling passions of his life, gave way before the fervor of his filial love! A witness like you, consumed with a selfishness so intense, as to be able to make himself an idol even when that self was you; denounces one as a pattern of iniquity, and in the same sentence, proves that the great end of his anxious zeal, was the vindication of a father’s memory! A witness like you, destitute of all notion of real glory and true nobility, in the very attempt to fasten the lowest vices upon one, sets him forth as struggling to save, from the least impeachment, a fame already so pure, that the great effect of its relation to him, is to make his own enormities the more hideous, by the fearful contrast! That is, in attempting to blacken me, you set forth a character shining under one of the noblest, loveliest, brightest manifestations. Sir, in return for this felicitous blunder, I offer you one profound hope. You have often and bitterly accused me of degeneracy. I forgive you these unfeeling taunts, because they imply or assert the excellence of one, whose image nothing has been able to efface from my heart, and whose fame is precious to me as life itself. And now, my sincere and unfeigned hope is, that in all future time, no man may ever have just occasion to draw a picture of human baseness, such as is on the lips of scores of your cotemporaries every day, and applying it with fearful emphasis and unanimous consent, to any miserable descendent of yours—say, “worthy son of a sire like yourself.”
There are many things in this tirade about which it is not necessary, at present, to say much, beyond a mere indication of them. 1. Thus, you imply that you expected the cause to be gained in Jefferson, and after it was lost contrary to your hopes, you were consulted by us, being doubtful what to do, when we found that “the decree of the Circuit Court sustained the charges in the bill;” and that you “advised the appeal.” But the record shows, that the decree of the Circuit Court in Jefferson—seventy-five miles from your residence—“sustained the charges,” on the 17th February, 1827, and on the same day, an appeal was taken by us! 2. You say, that when it became probable, you could not argue the cause in the Court of Appeals, I consulted you, and “we agreed,” “as to the counsel” I “should substitute” for you. But it is of record, that Mr. Chinn argued the case with you; and it is not only notorious, but I could prove, out of your letters, if it were necessary, that he had been engaged in the law business of my father’s estate in the courts in which he practised, from the period of my brother Cabell’s removal to Frankfort—that is, for about eight years. 3. You speak of a certain security-ship, on your part, for me, which, as I shall have to explain it more particularly again, I will only say, is a pure figment of your imagination. 4. You speak of my attacking you upon the stump and in the newspapers, in former years, and then again more bitterly in 1840; whereas, in every case, as I have shown in my speech of October 12th, 1840, and more fully in the present paper, my difficulties with you, public and private, have been always in defence; viz.: that my “Hints on Slavery” were written in 1830, in defence of myself, my opinions and my party, against a circular previously published by you; that our controversy on the stump, during the same year, was produced by your previously attacking me before the people, when not a candidate yourself; that our personal difficulty, about the same time, arose out of your coming into open court, and endeavoring to set aside a decree for money we had paid, you being the counsel for us in the very case, and against our interest, counsel also for an opposite party; and that my conflict with you in October, 1840, was produced by libels published by you against me, in your September speech, of the same year, resigning your seat in the Senate of Kentucky. 5. The scurrility of your language, in a portion of what you say, renders it alike unworthy of my notice, and inapplicable to my person or character. For the rest, I now proceed to a more particular notice of what seems to require it at my hands.
And, in the first place, you know perfectly, that what you say in regard to the alledged insanity of Walter Beall, and the supposed effect of that insanity, if proved, on the character of my father, is absolute trash. This pretended insanity was no new thing. On the 2d of August, 1804, Walter Beall himself filed an answer in the Federal Court for the District of Kentucky, to a bill previously exhibited against him by my father, in which answer he swore that he was mad when he executed the mortgage for the £1,000, above spoken of. On page 9 of your speech of Nov. 9, 1810, you make two statements, to which I call your attention as bearing on this point. The first is in these words: “I voluntarily took upon myself the whole business of the late Mr. Breckinridge’s estate,” &c. The second is, that you knew my father had sued Walter Beall “in the Federal Court,” on “a mortgage to secure” “a thousand pounds;” and you add, “That court having no jurisdiction, I dismissed the suit,” &c. Here, then, we have you first confessing your knowledge of this charge of Beall’s madness, very soon after it was originally made; and secondly, acting without authority, in such a way as to prevent its being then tried. On the 4th of March, 1814, Samuel T. Beall, son and heir of Walter Beall, filed his answer, on oath, in the Fayette Circuit Court, in the case of Breckinridge’s Adm’rs. vs. Walter Beall’s Exec’rs. Trustees and others, (brought by you in 1811, after dismissing the suit in the Federal Court,) and reiterated the allegation of the madness of his father; making his father’s answer of 1804, a part of his own answer in 1814. In this case, then, the question of his feigned madness was fully made, for the second time, and as a part of the cause was tried and decided in our favor, before our final decree in September, 1819; and in all the subsequent steps of that violently litigated case, up to the sale of 1822, was an adjudicated point. On the 24th of May, 1824, Peter B. Ormsby filed his bill in Jefferson, against Beall and Breckinridge, as already stated, and here again, for the third time, the question of Beall’s insanity was made; and in this case, it came up before the Court of Appeals, and was again settled in our favour. So that the fact, that Walter Beall was not mad at all, was a fact fully settled by proof, and by a court of chancery, before the period we are now about to arrive at; was a fact sworn to by you, in a deposition taken in the defence against Ormsby; and whether it was a fact or not, was not of the smallest possible importance; because, at a period confessed by all, even by Walter Beall himself, to have been a period of perfect sanity, he had, by deed of record, confirmed the previous mortgage. These are the unvarnished facts; and they were all notorious to you, when you wrote your speech.
Suppose, sir, I now show that this whole statement of yours, in regard to my appeal to you, is a mere fabrication, without even a foundation in fact? You say, “When the day of trial came on, my present slanderer and persecutor,” &c. Again: “He appealed to me,” &c. Again: “I arranged with Senators to suspend, for a day, the important business of the Senate, and obtained from the Court of Appeals, the same day, to make my defence,” &c. Here you identify the supposed appeal to you, by me, as being during the session of the Court and the Senate; immediately before the hearing of the cause; and under an emergency, that allowed a single day only, for you to prepare for the argument. It is matter Of record, that the cause was argued in the Court of Appeals on the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th days of January, 1829—upon some one or all of those days, and upon no other day. This is fixed beyond cavil. (See Order Book of the Court of Appeals, No. 29, pp. 108–113.)
I was a member of the House of Representatives of the Kentucky Legislature in the year 1828–9. The Assembly met that year on Monday, the 1st day of December, 1828. Immediately after the August election, I had gone to Western Virginia, and did not reach Frankfort, Ky., until the last day of November—the day before the Assembly met. I sat and did business in the House of Representatives, for twelve days—the first twelve of the session; and I never sat again in that house; as the Journal proves. I passed a considerable portion of the 14th day of December, 1828, in company with Col. James Love, now of Texas, and Judge John P. Oldham, of Jefferson; both of whom were at that time, members of the House of Representatives; the object of the interview on the part of Col. Love, and myself being to get Judge Oldham to consent to become a candidate for the Senate of the United States—at an election then about to take place; the party with which we acted being unable to elect a man of our opinions—and Judge Oldham being the person of the opposite party, most acceptable to many of ours. He declined being a candidate, for reasons—which I do not feel free to repeat—but which struck me at the time, as being disinterested and honorable in the highest degree.
On the night after this interview—I was taken dangerously ill, with a bilious fever. From that bed of sickness no one ever expected me to rise. I was confined to it for more than two months, and was at last removed from Frankfort, in a state of emaciation and debility—nearly as much dead as alive. I have not been able to bring the subject before the mind of Col. Love; but I confidently appeal to him for the truth of what I say. The statement of Judge Oldham follows:
During, and I think shortly after the opening of the Kentucky Legislature, in 1828, I spent a considerable part of a sabbath day in company with Robert J. Breckinridge, of Fayette, and James Love of Knox county, all of us being members of the Legislature.
The object of the interview, on their part, was to induce me to offer for the Senate of the U. S., there being a vacancy then to fill—much conversation passed between us on the subject, and when I assured them I could not offer, they seemed unwilling to take the decision as final, and insisted I should give further consideration to the subject, and that the matter should be farther discussed at another time.
On the next day I learned that Mr. Breckinridge was very sick, and I believe remained so until the end of the session.
Fair Hope, March 4th, 1841.
Jno. P. Oldham.
The Hon. Thomas A. Marshall, Judge of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, was my room mate, from the commencement of the session of 1828, till I took sick: he being then a member of the House of Representatives, from the county of Bourbon. In a conversation with him, he informs me his recollection is distinct that my sickness commenced within the two first weeks of the session; and he has permitted me to make this reference to him. I refer also to Garnett Duncan, Esq., of Louisville, who was with me in Frankfort, when the session began, and subsequently during my sickness slept many nights in my room; and who being an intimate friend both of Judge Oldham and myself, was personally and deeply interested in all the events of the period; and has full knowledge of them all. You will observe also, from the statement of Judge Oldham, that Col. Love and myself were to have had another interview with him before the Senatorial election, and were prevented from having it, by my sickness. But the Journals of both houses will show that this election took place on Tuesday the 23d of December, 1828. The proof, therefore, exclusive of my own assertion, is positive, is irresistible, that my sickness commenced early in the session. I have already asserted that its actual commencement was on Sunday night, the 14th of December.—From that day till January 15–19, 1829, when you argued your “last suit,” is more than thirty days. I had been in bed all that time, at the point of death; and yet you gravely tell the world a long cock and a bull story, of my making visits, appeals and what not to you, a day or two preceding this 15th–19th of January, 1829. Who do you expect will believe you when these facts are known?
But, sir, this is not the whole, nor perhaps the worst of the proof. You arranged important business with Senators for a single day: so, so. You obtained from the Court of Appeals “the same day;” good, again. Now, Order Book of the Court, No. 29, shows that the last day in December, 1828, on which the Court of Appeals sat, was the 4th day of the month, [p. 103–4] Judges Owsley and Mills being present. The next day on which the Court sat was Wednesday, January 14, 1829, leaving a period of forty days during which the court did not meet. On that day George Robertson and Joseph R. Underwood, Esq’rs, produced in Court their commissions as Judges of the Court of Appeals, and also evidence that they had taken the oaths of office (the former on the 24th of December, the latter on the 12th January) and thereupon constituted the court (Order Book, No. 29, p. 105 and 6). Your “last suit” was called that same day, and fully argued on the 19th. Now if you will examine the Senate Journal for the same period, you will find the following facts, viz: That Judges Owsley and Mills resigned on the 5th December, 1828, and were renominated by Governor Metcalf, (p. 63,) and were rejected by the Senate on the 10th (p. 69–70); that Messrs. Robertson and Underwood were nominated as their successors on the 20th, (p. 107–8) and confirmed on the 22d (pages 110, 111 and 112); that Chief Justice Bibb (the only remaining Judge) was elected to the Senate of the United States, on the 23d (p. 118 and 119); and that Robert Wickliffe, the Senator from Fayette, was present and voted on these various occasions, and therefore knows all these facts from his personal knowledge. I have already shown that Judge Underwood was not qualified till January 12, 1829, and that no Court was held after December 4, 1828, till January 14, 1829. And now it is seen that no Court of Appeals existed—there were not Judges enough, in natura rerum, to hold a court, for a month after I took to bed, on the 14th of December; and therefore, that all your fine statements, about our very pathetic interview, are, by inevitable necessity, untrue; and were of your certain and personal knowledge, known to be not capable of being true, in the nature of the case—when you printed them to damage me and glorify yourself.
But this is not all. You yourself furnish evidence, of that violent and dangerous illness, which you attempt to use, as you do every other incident in my life commented on by you—to my injury and your advantage. To my injury, by a fiendlike insinuation, as false as it is base, that the whole disaster arose from an attempt on my part, to kill myself, by taking an over-dose of calomel after a long debauch: to your advantage, by setting forth your great solicitude for me, and kindness to me during that long and painful malady; thus piteously exhibiting my ingratitude to one who had loved me so much, as well as served me so faithfully. On p. 14–15 of your speech of Nov. 9, 1840, after an account of a paternal visit to me, as fabulous as it is dramatic, you proceed as follows:
“He promised fair, but that was all, for he still kept up his habits until late in the session of 1828, I think a mutual friend disclosed to me that he was ruining himself at Farro and other games of chance, and had on the night before lost enormously. About the time I expected him to repair again to his sinks of ruin and infamy, I went to his lodging room, and found him in the act of rising from his bed to accompany some of his companions then in attendance for his company to commence Farro again. His guests soon disappeared, and he threw himself into bed, pretending to be very sick. After speaking to him privately not to leave his room that night, and obtaining a promise that he would not, I left him for the night, as I hoped, to sleep off the desperation which his countenance portrayed, arising from his dissipation; but I learned afterwards, that the gentleman, instead of going to sleep to ease his mind, took a quantity of calomel, without weight or measure, (having no more effectual remedy at command,) and was found prostrate next morning. The local physicians proving deficient to give the gentleman relief, he prudently called in Dr. Marshall, who, with Dr. Munsell, by the aid of hot bath and steam battery, brought the calomel from him in witches balls, and saved his life. During the awful suspense in which his fate was in the hands of his physicians, I remained near him, and no man living could feel more relieved than I did when Dr. Marshall exhibited to me the balls of calomel which the steam battery had forced through his stomach, and announced to me his hopes of saving his life, and when I saw him able to return to his family, all I said was to advise him to quit politics, go home and repair his constitution and fortune; this he assured me was his own plan, and I parted with him in perfect friendship.
Now, from the 12th day of the session, that is from the 14th of December, 1828, (the 7th and 14th being Sundays,) till after the session closed—which was on the 29th of January, 1829—all my friends were looking daily, for me to die; and yet during this period you were watching over me to prevent me from ruining myself at Faro! The Journal of the House of Representatives shows that I was in my seat on the 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 13th days of Dec. There is no recorded vote on the 10th; and therefore only presumptive proof of my presence that day. The statement of Judge Oldham shows that on the last day I was able to be about (which was the 14th of January, the Sabbath day,) I spent “a considerable part” of it with him and Colonel Love, on a matter, I now admit with sorrow not suitable to the day, but clearly proving my position, both social and political, to have been all I could have desired. But your testimony is, that having slept all the day that Judge Oldham thinks I was with him, I only rose up at night to commit suicide with calomel, producing thereby a disease, which my physicians were foolish enough to consider bilious fever! It is perfectly manifest from the whole testimony, that no such interviews as those described by you, could have occurred.—As is usual with you, you not only prove yourself a slanderer, but give a key to unlock your method; for you say, and no doubt thought, my illness did not commence till “late in the session of 1828,” and therefore supposed yourself safe so long as you laid the scene of your fictions in the fore part of the session.
But my proof goes a step or two further yet. You do not publish what you spoke, in this, more than in other cases. But take it as you say. I assert that I never saw your face, during my whole illness at Frankfort; and that although you boarded in the same house, represented the same county, belonged to the same party, were connected with me by marriage, and professed to have been a personal and hereditary friend; I have no knowledge of a single act of yours, indicating the very slightest interest in my living or dying; and no reason, but your word, which can scarcely be called one, to believe you felt or manifested any. You have introduced the name of Dr. Marshall—a name precious wherever genius, knowledge, and honor are revered—a name dear to me by a thousand obligations, and by all the ties of the firmest friendship, continued through every vicissitude of life, from childhood to the present hour. Hear what he says:
Sir:—You ask me to state what attentions were paid you in your illness in Frankfort, by Mr. Robt. Wickliffe, Sen.? I staid with you 62 days, never having left the room but twice, for very short intervals each time, (not exceeding one hour each,) except for my meals, and when Mr. Wickliffe was at the private table with me. During this time Mr. W. was never in your room, or ever sent any enquiry for you as far as came to my knowledge. When I left the room, as stated, I left your brother William to stay with you until my return. After the adjournment of the house, I staid in your room until you removed, when I brought you home.
R. J. Breckinridge.
Lexington, May 3, 1841.
Allow me also, to call your attention to the following statement:
In relation to Mr. Wickliffe’s personal attentions to my brother during his illness at Frankfort, in the winter of 1828–9, I can only say that, I did not reach my brother for some days after his sickness commenced; that although I was not with him the whole of its continuance, I was a great part, I think much the greater part—that when there, I was seldom out of the room many minutes at a time, and have no recollection whatever of having seen Mr. Wickliffe in it during the winter, or of having heard any thing of his attentions. It is proper, however, for me to add, which I do with a very distinct and grateful recollection of the circumstance, that our friends were so abundant and kind in their attentions, that those of no particular individual were absolutely required.
Louisville, March 22d, 1841.
W. L. Breckinridge.
In addition to this, I feel authorized to refer to David Castleman and James H. Allen, Esq’rs., who are the only gentlemen of the number who laid me under lasting obligations by their kindness at that period, with whom I have had an opportunity to confer particularly on this matter.
I have gone over this part of our case thus minutely, not so much on account of its intrinsic importance, as because of my peculiar abhorrence of the particular offence herein charged upon me. If I know my own heart, it is a grateful heart; prompt—it may be, too prompt perhaps in taking fire at intentional indignities and insults, even more than at real injuries, of which I think I am patient; but utterly incapable of forgetting benefits—of slighting affection—of requiting kindness with ingratitude. In my estimation, ingratitude is not a vice; it is a crime. I have therefore thought it my duty to put in the clearest light the falsity of your assertions, in this behalf, as relating to me personally; as I will now proceed to do the groundlessness of those which impeach me on the basis of your intimacy with, and services to my father; concerning whom you boastfully say in the foregoing extract, that you were his “friend while living,” “the defender of his fame when dead.”
What may have been the precise relations between yourself and my honored father, I cannot, of course, personally know, since he died before I had reached my seventh year. It has, however, as far as I know, always been the opinion of the whole connexion into which you married, at your first nuptials, that that marriage was the earliest decisive step in your fortunes; and that the notice of my father, and of your brother-in-law, General Howard, were your earliest passports into society and at the bar. How you requited the kindness of the latter, I shall not take upon me, at present, to display; how that of the former, I leave others to decide, after your controversy and mine is finished. You have yourself said to me, (letter of August 29, 1832, p. 34,) “I had a debt of gratitude to discharge to your father’s family, for his kindness to my wife;” and to my brother William you have said, (letter of June 22, 1832, p. 14,) speaking still of your first wife and our father, “He was her best friend and kind benefactor.” It is also true, as I suppose you will hardly deny, that my father was the tender and faithful friend of your present wife, and the steadfast and valued counsellor of her excellent mother, in their orphanage and widowhood, up to the hour of his own death; and that from the earliest settlement of the country, till your marriage into that family, the widow, the child, and the grand child of John Todd, and the entire family of John Breckinridge, were united by ties of friendship, cemented through three generations. Sir, there are things that might be said here, and I am not sure I am faithful to the memory of one of the earliest and dearest friends of my childhood, in leaving them unsaid; the bare recital of which, in the public ear, would be deemed, by any honorable man, a dear purchase of all the undeserved wealth conferred upon you by that generous family. Conferred, did I say? It was a hasty expression. I will qualify it a little, and venture an opinion, which may be of some importance to you, and for which, though it is professional, I will charge you nothing. Those deeds of settlement; you have ridiculously enough accused me of prying into and exposing your private affairs. My answer, if any were necessary to such a charge, under such circumstances, would be—first, that when a man puts a deed on record, he does it precisely, that it may be private no longer, and that all the world may note its contents; and, secondly, that I noticed the matter no farther than to prove that you were more an abolitionist than I, on your own showing, with this difference, however, that I set my own slaves free, without being paid for them; while you set your wife’s free, and got a princely fortune for doing it. But did you get it? Will those deeds pass it? This, sir, is the point on which I venture to give you a legal opinion. I predict to you now—note it down by the side of your scornful declarations of my incompetency as a lawyer—I predict to you, that those deeds, whenever the question is fairly made, will turn out to be absolutely void, as being utterly at war with some of the most sacred principles of equity, and some of the clearest maxims of law. This will be remembered, when you and I are dead.
But to return. The obligations you were under to my father are confessed. The evidences of any special intimacy, and more particularly of any ground of obligation on our part to you, upon the basis of our father’s intimacy with you, or his obligations to you, are not only utterly unknown to the whole family, but are precisely and explicitly denied. I speak now of your relations with my father during his life. Your alleged services to his family, collectively and individually, after his death, are distinct matters, to be treated of in their proper places. Your speech contains two allegations to sustain your general statements on this particular subject, which I will now examine.
The first relates to a suit of one Wood, of Va., or his representatives, against the administrators of my father, for certain monies, which you say my father was represented to have collected and kept; and about which you give a long story, embracing your services in it, and a visit to my mother founded on it. The story is told on pages 7 and 8 of your speech of November 9, 1840. The extract which follows is from the latter page:
The suit was shortly called, and the administrators being wholly unprepared, I with great difficulty got the case postponed until I could go, myself, and search Mr. Breckinridge’s papers for evidence, pledging myself to make no farther resistance to the claim, If I found no evidence against it among his papers. On the next Sunday, (for then the sun shone but few Sabbaths on me,) I repaired, for the first time, to the desolate mansion of my departed friend, which, in his palmy days, I had visited as the happy residence of the most accomplished gentleman and talented man I ever knew. It was my fate to find no human being at home but his bereaved and disconsolate wife. I told her my business. She handed me the key to her husband’s papers, at which the tears streamed from her eyes. I found his papers in such order as to stamp the mind with a thorough conviction that he was a fair and honest man, for he seemed to have retained the evidence of his whole life and transactions with perfect security. Among these thousands of papers, I at last found Wood’s papers, and, to my joy, discovered that the suit was a gross fraud, and the tale a vile slander. The papers and the vouchers showed that Wood had been paid every farthing, and was debtor to Mr. Breckinridge, nine shillings. I soon put an end to the suit and an end to the calumny.
I find, through professional counsel, that a suit was brought in Fayette, Wood vs. Breckinridge’s Adm’rs; no date to the declaration, nor is it stated on it when it was filed, but a capias amongst the papers directs the sheriff to summon the defendants to appear at the September term, 1809. The declaration is endorsed, “Dismissed for want of prosecution.” Barry, for plaintiff; Clay, for defendants. So far, then, as the record goes, it appears that the suit was never tried, and that you never had any thing to do with it. The danger and the calumny of which you speak, as well as the great zeal, success and friendship of which you boast, having existed only in your own imagination. But I thought it worth while to quote the passage from your speech, chiefly on account of the narrative it gives of your visit to Cabell’s Dale, and your interview with my mother, and your inspection of my father’s papers. All this, I am authorized, by the highest authority to say, is pure fiction; absolute fabrication. In a letter to me, dated March 6, 1841, my venerable parent, speaking of this particular matter, positively denies that you were ever on terms of intimacy in my father’s house; and says in terms, “I never gave him access to your precious father’s papers in my life.” This decisive testimony is confirmed by the best of all witnesses, as you must believe, viz: yourself. If you will examine your copy of your 38 page letter of August 29, 1832, you will find, on p. 3–5, a statement of this Wood’s case, differing materially from your published account of it; and especially in two points, conclusive of the matter now in hand. For you say, in the first place, (p. 3,) that prejudices existed in our family against you; that they were strengthened by your bringing a suit against them in the name of William Breckinridge; and (p. 14,) that “no intercourse of a family character took place”—such are your words—till your alledged appearance in this Wood’s case; that is, for three years immediately following my father’s death. And, in the second place, you give (p. 5) quite another version to your famous visit to Cabell’s Dale, after a confessed absence of three years. Here you say, “Before the next court, I visited your mother, “examined and found myself, or received from Harrison, whom I “directed also to search, a bundle, labelled, Major Wood’s papers,” &c. Sir, have I spoken too hardly of you, where I have said, you had two tongues and no memory?
Let us now try your second specification, to prove your intimacy with my father, and kindnesses conferred on him, and by consequence, my dreadful ingratitude in defending my character, my principles, and my conduct, against your vile calumnies. On p. 7, speech Nov. 9, 1840, you say:
I had known Mr. Breckinridge long, and in the latter part of his life our acquaintance ripened into an intimate and family friendship, and no man living or dead ever had more of my respect and esteem. I witnessed his last moments, and bore him to his grave, where I mingled my tears with these of his bereaved family and friends.
This is the last version of your conduct during my father’s last illness. Your second version, given in your speech, as delivered, was, that you had tenderly and assiduously, watched by him, as a tried friend, according to the simple and affectionate manners of our country, during his last protracted and fatal sickness.
Your first and earliest version of the story, known to me, is contained in your letter of August 29, 1832. You will find it on p. 3. I give it in your own words: “I visited him on his death bed, and the few moments I was (alone) with him, convinced me, that in the event of his death, he expected my friendship to his family. I parted with him most friendly, scarcely hoping to see him living again, promising to return, &c.; but, alas, I was doomed to see him again but a lifeless corpse,” &c. It is your part, not mine, to reconcile these statements with each other; and when you have done so, perhaps those which follow will enable you to perceive the difference between the truth and every allegation on your part, that any thing occurred at the death, any more than during the life of my father, to justify your unfounded, indelicate, and repeated boastings and accusations on this subject.
The Meadow, June 30th, 1841.
Rev. Robt. J. Breckinridge.
My Dear Sir:—In conformity with your expressed wish, I now answer the questions proposed. With a view that my answers may be certainly correct, I have referred to my day book, on which I kept a record of each day’s business: On the 30th of Oct., 1806, I was sent for to the residence of the Hon. John Breckinridge; where I met in consultation Doctors Todd, Marshall, and Walter Warfield—that I attended very constantly from that day until the 14th of December, on which day I believe Mr. Breckinridge died—Dr. Marshall or Dr. Watson, or both, were (the latter part of his illness) nearly all day and night in the house; and at any time when I was there, and that nearly daily, I have no recollection of seeing Mr. Robt. Wickliffe at the house; neither do I remember of seeing him at his burial. If there was a personal intimacy existing between Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. R. Wickliffe, I did not know it. I am respectfully,
Lexington, May 3d, 1841.
Dear Sir:—You desire to be informed what I know as to Mr. Robt. Wickliffe, Sen. having nursed your father at any time during his last illness. In answer to this inquiry, I state, I attended your father without intermission during his last illness, and sat up with him the forepart of every night until the evening but one preceding the day of his death, (as informed afterwards by his attendants.) During this time I never saw Mr. R. Wickliffe at the house, nor did I ever hear of his being there. I was with Mr. B. from the 18th of October to the 12th of December inclusive, he having died on the 14th, in the morning. I saw all the family of the Grove (except Mr. W. and lady,) at Mr. B.’s during my attendance, and left Mr. B. Howard with Mr. B. when an appointment previously made, rendered my going to Frankfort indispensable.
Robt. J. Breckinridge.
To these proofs, furnished by the surviving physicians, I add a few words, from the letter of my mother, already referred to, of March 6, 1841. Speaking of you and your statements on the present subject, she writes: “He never nursed your deceased and ever lamented father. I don’t recollect ever to have seen him at my house, during his long illness. If he was at his funeral, I did not know it.” In what light does the subject now appear to you?
Perhaps it is as well, while we are on this general subject of ingratitude, to go through with it; for you charge me with forgetting your services and friendship, not only to my father, but to his heirs in general, and to several of them in particular. You carefully set forth your claims on me, for having served my sister; and then again, for having served my brother Cabell; and still more elaborately, for having intended to serve me; a benificent purpose, which my alledged intractableness, haughtiness, and general worthlessness, unhappily defeated. As it regards my brother, it is perfectly notorious in the country, that his standing, whether personal, professional, or political, was, as compared with yours, when you and he were on the theatre together; such, that if there was any patronage in the case, it was your part to receive, not to confer it. In what you say about my sister, you go into particulars, and, therefore, put it in my power to show your constitutional bias. On the 12th and 13th pages of your speech, you tell a long story about a most important service rendered to her at very great personal sacrifice to yourself, and that your influence over Mr. Charles Carr was successfully exerted to prevent him from pushing for a certain debt; and conclude by saying, the service was gratuitous. As to this last point I am not able to speak, as I have not access to the books of Alfred Grayson’s Trustees, by whom you confess, on p. 17 of your letter of August 29, 1832, you were employed. But a friend, who conversed with Mr. Carr, at my instance, informs me, that he says you are entirely mistaken, in so far as relates to him; for he actually proceeded, and made his debt. You must permit me also to doubt your accuracy, both as to the general extent, and still more as to the gratuitousness of your services, both to the Trustees of Alfred Grayson, and to the estate of my sister; both of which are paraded with much pretension by you. For, in the first place, you confess, on p. 17, of your letter of August 29. 1832, that you were paid $25 by General Robert Breckinridge, one of Mr. Grayson’s trustees, for certain professional services for the trust estate, thereby showing your relations to that estate; and, secondly, however true it may have been, that you were employed on some special business by those trustees, about which I know nothing, it is hardly probable, that you did their general business, as two out of the three (Cabell Breckinridge and Frederick Grayson,) were themselves eminent lawyers. As regards your relations to my sister, you shall yourself be my witness. In your letter of August 29, 1832, p. 3, you thus write: “Mr. Grayson, I understood, was appointed or assumed the duty of the lawyer, declaring, that when he wanted counsel, he would engage me, your sister protesting that I should have nothing to do with the business,” &c. You then go on to explain the origin of this prejudice, which you trace back to a period several years anterior to the death of my father; and afterwards show, that it increased to a total separation of the families, which you confess lasted till your famous and fictitious visit about “Major Woods’s papers,” in 1809. I confess to you, that this early contempt and aversion of my sister for you, which you were the first to inform me of, is a very remarkable evidence of that elevation of character and force of understanding, which distinguished her through life, and made her one of the most remarkable women of her age. And I venture to suggest, that with many hundreds, perhaps thousands of persons, in our wide spread country, your confession, that the late Mrs. Porter, from her early womanhood, throughout her greatest trials, equally as during her subsequent brilliant life, absolutely refused to trust, or even to employ you; will be the last proof you could adduce that you were ever worthy of the friendship, or had earned the gratitude of her Family.
In immediate connexion with the general subject, which we have just been considering, are others closely connected with it. Having elaborately set forth our ingratitude in contrast with the greatness of your services, you carefully explain that they have been, in reality, gratuitous. Let us now examine that. On the 12th page of your speech, the following paragraph occurs:
Fellow citizens, I have only adverted to the prominent cases and services rendered to the estate of the gentleman’s father. While his children were in infancy and unable to help themselves, I performed other and numerous services for them; I performed the duties of agent, attorney, paymaster and friend; I caused witnesses to be summoned, surveys to be made, and, for the family, advanced the fees when called on—for all which, I never asked or presented a fee bill, until I argued the last suit, and then did not charge, for all I did, what would have been charged by many lawyers, for the single suit of Ross and Carneal against Preston and Breckinridge; and a part of that pittance was paid in a most iniquitous demand on my brother, which the reverend gentleman coerced, of the injustice of which he was fully notified.
What may have been the true extent or value of your services to the estate of my father, it is not possible for me, at this time, to ascertain. Whatever they were, you deserved proper compensation for them—(of which more presently)—and were also entitled to due consideration and respect on the part of those you served. It is notorious, however, that my father left a very large estate, which was so entirely free from embarrassment, that the proceeds of the sale of that part of it which was most perishable, not only discharged all its debts, but divided many thousands amongst his children. So that all pretence of there having been any necessity for gratuitous, and especially, pecuniary aid from you, is about as well founded as the insinuation that you were a man either able or disposed to extend charity to us, or that we were people likely to receive it. The difficulties of the estate were such as grew out of executory contracts; and these almost exclusively in regard to lands; and even taking all your statements as true, the evident fact is, that our claims very greatly exceeded our liabilities, and that we have gained very much more than we have lost on this score; and the estate, ample at my father’s death, has had large additions made to it since. That your professional services were the only cause of our prosperity and success, may perhaps be modestly doubted, when it is considered, that from 1804, (two years before my father died,) till 1830, (one year after the argument of Breckinridge’s Adm’rs, vs. Ormsby, which you say was “the last suit” you argued,) there was an uninterrupted succession of lawyers in our own family, who devoted themselves, for twenty-five years, to all our business. It is also to be considered, that at various periods, other lawyers, and they the most distinguished in the Commonwealth, James Hughes, John Allen, Henry Clay, Martin D. Hardin, J. J. Crittenden, James Haggin, R. H. Chinn, James Denny, S. S. Nicholas, Garnett Duncan, and many others, were employed from time to time, in various, difficult, and important business of the estate; and that you, sir, were often, on your own showing, employed adversely to us, sometimes to our vexation, and sometimes to our loss. For example, I think you sued us twice in the name of Howard, after the death of General Benjamin Howard, who was the near kinsman and confidential friend of our father; a third time in the name of Wm. Breckinridge, who was his brother; a fourth time on the claim of Green, by which you gained a large estate, and my sister Porter lost one, that we had to replace; as a fifth case of favor to us, we surely ought to be thankful, that you, as the attorney of Morrison, who was executor of Nicholas, defeated Lee, and so turned him over on us for about $7,400; (see p. 13, letter 29th August, 1832;) and as a sixth special mercy, you are now, and have been for some years back, trying in the name of Tiernan and other parties, to prevent us from recovering those $7,400, which we have paid for some body, but for whom it seems hard to find out, and you having been, by turns, lawyer for nearly all the parties in the case, have tried successively to show was for no body in particular. When all these matters are considered, I think I may venture to conjecture, that your habitual modesty has for once forsaken you, and that in the general statement of your services and relations to us, you have gone a little, a very little, over the mark.
What I cordially admit, however, is that you ought to have been paid, fees, advances, out door work and all. And I will contend, on your behalf, even against myself—that twenty-two or three years are too long to keep you waiting—and that you ought by all means to have presented your bills before 1829. You have doubtless been a greatly injured man. But let us compose ourselves, and examine together, the weighty allegations of this extract—which contains the essence of what is distributed over many of your pages.
You positively assert, that you never presented a bill against my father’s heirs, for services rendered and money advanced for the estate, until you had argued the last suit. This last suit is clearly identified in your speech—the 11th page of which is devoted to it. It was the suit in chancery, Breckinridge’s administrators vs. Ormsby, an appeal from Jefferson county, about which I have already said so much. It was argued in the Court of Appeals on the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th days of Jan., 1829, as already proven at large. Appended to the opinion of Chief Justice Robertson in this case, is the usual notice of counsel, from which it appears that ‘Chinn’ was with ‘Wickliffe,’ in the argument for the appellants (the same gentleman, whom you lose no opportunity of insinuating evil against, in all the manuscript letters before me;) and I remember that the case below was managed with great ability by Mr. Duncan, and prepared with much labor and learning above, by your son-in-law, the present Judge Woolley, upon whose brief, I think, you argued the case. But no matter; you have forgotten that any one else ever had any part in the cause—and as it was your “last suit” for us—we will pass over your left-handed compliments, to your colleagues and kinsman. Until after the 19th of January, 1829, you “never asked or presented a fee bill”—this is the point at present.
Now, sir, my first difficulty is, that this statement, like about nine-tenths of your speech, is not what you delivered; but what on second thought, you chose to publish. Your original statement was, that you had never at any time, charged my father’s heirs any thing at all; and this was stated in order to prove the blackness of my ingratitude, against one who had served me and mine, so long and so largely—without charge. That you really made that statement, let the following proof show:
Mr. Breckinridge: We, whose names are hereunto affixed, have no hesitation in saying that we heard that part of Mr. Robert Wickliffe’s Speech, which was delivered in the Court-house yard, in answer to you, on the 12th day of October, 1840, and we distinctly understood him to say that he had never put pen to paper to charge your father’s heirs one cent for any legal service rendered by him.
Robert S. Russell,
James C. Todd,
D. M. Craig,
C. M. Clay,
James H. Allen,
Thos. S. Redd,
April 12, 1841.
I understood him to say he had made no charge for services rendered to the family of Mr. Breckinridge as a lawyer.
D. A. Sayre.
It is for you, sir, to reconcile these statements. To me, it is of little consequence which you select to stand by, since both are false, as I will prove by yourself. Falstaff was accustomed to say, that he was not only witty himself, but the cause of wit in others; and I may, without a metaphor, say of your 38 page letter of Aug. 29, ’32, that it is not only a repository of untruths, but also of the means of detecting your other untruths. See what is written on page 27: “When I was compelled to remind you, that it was necessary, that we should settle our accounts, you asked me to make it out. I told you that I had done so and handed it to your brother, J. C. Breckinridge; you replied that you had lost it or had never seen it; and sir you made this statement with my account in your possession as certainly as you live; for after you commenced your prosecutions against me, you admitted that you had the account I had given your brother, but only wanted to see if I would make out such another.” Passing by the portion of this extract, which was only intended to give offence, and which needs no reply; we have here the most positive contradiction of Robert Wickliffe in 1832, against Robert Wickliffe in 1840. At the latter period he publishes to the world that he had “never asked or presented a fee bill” before January, 1829, when he argued the last suit; at the former, he asserts with insult, that he had made out and presented his account to my brother, before September, 1823, when he departed this life.—Pray, sir, do you know this distinguished witness, and can you tell us at which end of these seven or eight years, he is to be believed? But this is not all; for on the next preceding page of the letter (p. 26) the same disinterested gentleman, who asserted before hundreds of his neighbors in October, 1840, that he “had never put pen to paper to charge” my “father’s heirs,” not only abuses me roundly in August, 1832, for not having paid him his fees before, but charges me (falsely of course) with a design to plead the statute of limitations against him—all which, he says he defeated, by notifying me that he would file a Bill in chancery! Nor is this all; for on the 32d page of the same letter, this honest gentleman actually sets forth items of cash received, on account of John Breckinridge’s heirs credited by himself, viz˙: $155, “Michael’s hire for two years,” and $163,46, “cash received of H. Grubbs in a judgment.” The dates of these payments are suppressed. After all, however, it is a hard thing to hide the truth. If the name of the servant as well as the period of his hiring had been suppressed, I would have had no means of fixing the date of the payment. As it is, I can do it precisely. There was only one slave of the name of Michael, or as he was familiarly called Mike, belonging to my father’s estate; and he was a man, in many respects remarkable, and was particularly associated with some of my boyish recollections. I remembered that this man, was one of the slaves assigned to my mother as part of her dower—and therefore as you had hired him from the estate of my father, it must have been before its division; whereupon I set to examining the accounts of those “incompetent” administrators, whom you condemn with so little ceremony. In a list furnished as part of the account of Robert C. Harrison, and so settled on the 30th June, 1812, by Richard Higgins, Elisha Meredith and John D. Young, Commissioners, are the following entries; under the year 1810, thus, ‘Mike Mr. Wickliffe, £75;’ and under the year 1811, thus, “Mike Mr. Wickliffe, $80.” In the letter of this same Mr. Wickliffe, of August 29, 1832, it stands thus, “Michael’s hire for two years, $155.” So, sir, it seems that you “voluntarily took upon yourself the whole of the business of the late Mr. Breckinridge’s estate” [p. 9, Speech of Nov. 9, 1840,] from about the period of Michael’s hiring. I leave it to the public to judge, whether it is more likely that this unsolicited beginning of services, labors, and advances, which have proved so onerous to you, was out of pure charity to us, or with an eye to $155 “for Michael’s hire for two years,” and to $163,46
Breckinridge, R. J. (1841). The Second Defence of Robert J. Breckinridge, Against the Calumnies of Robert Wickliffe: Being a Reply to His Printed Speech of November 9, 1840 (1). Baltimore: Richard J. Matchett.
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