|Lincoln/Net||Prairie Fire||Illinois During the Civil War||Illinois During the Gilded Age||Mark Twain's Mississippi||Back to Digitization Projects||Contact Us|
Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
Gov. Edwards' appointment as Minister to Mexico His Controversy with Mr. Crawford Letters from Judge McLean, Mr. Adams, Mr. Ingham, Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Wirt, and others, in reference to it False Charges of Col. Benton Gov. Edwards' Resignation Etc.
In alluding to his controversy with Mr. Crawford, it is not the object nor desire of the writer to say anything that would have the tendency to affect the reputation of either Mr. Crawford or Gen. Noble, whose testimony he proposes to investigate. Mr. Edwards stated, in his argument before the Committee, that he did not put in issue, by anything he had said in his vindication, the Secretary's "intentions" in regard to those several acts (meaning the charges and specifications referred to in his memorial.) He said, in a public communication, that he disclaimed any other construction of them than the most innocent of which they were susceptible.
In 1824, he received the appointment of Minister to Mexico, from Mr. Monroe, which appointment was nearly unanimously confirmed by the Senate. On its confirmation, Gen. Jackson, then a member of the Senate, wrote him a note congratulating him on that event.
Soon after this, and on the eve of his departure on his mission, the Secretary of the Treasury, William H. Crawford, sent a communication to Congress, in which he alluded to Mr. Edwards in the following language:
The Hon. Mr. Edwards, late a Senator of Illinois, having stated on his examination before a Committee of the House, on the 13th February, 1823, that the late Receiver of Public Moneys at Edwardsville had, on his advice and in his presence, written a letter to the Secretary, inclosing a copy of the publication which Mr. Edwards represents himself to have made sometime in the year 1819, announcing his intention of retiring from the Directorship of the Bank at Edwardsville, and that he had advised the Receiver to withhold his deposits from the Bank until he could receive a letter from the Secretary directing him to continue his deposits, the Secretary deems it proper to state that no such letter from the Receiver is to be found on the files of the Department; that the officers employed in it have no recollection of the receipt of such a letter; and that, on an examination of the records of the Department, it appears that no answer to any such letter, directing the Receiver to continue the deposits, was ever written to him by the Secretary of the Treasury.
The Secretary of the Treasury, in his reply to the address of Mr. Edwards, says, as "he had no recollection of the communication to which (Mr. Edwards') testimony referred, he considered himself bound to state the fact;" and adds, the terms in which the communication was made "will show that no disrespect towards him was intended." Any one, however, who will read carefully the communication of the Secretary, cannot fail to perceive that it had the tendency to create the impression that it was intended as an attack on the evidence of Mr. Edwards. It thus appears, from his own statement, that the Secretary did not intend to show any disrespect to Mr. Edwards, and, also, that Mr. Edwards did not put in issue, by any thing he had said, "the Secretary's intentions" in regard to the charges and specifications in his memorial.
Mr. Edwards' veracity having, as he supposed, been thus questioned, he sent a memorial to Congress, in which he preferred certain charges against Mr. Crawford among which was one in relation to this letter; and for the proof of the charges he referred entirely to documentary evidence; but the Committee to whom these charges were referred thought it important to examine Mr. Edwards as a witness. In the course of the investigation, with a view to impeaching the credit of Mr. Edwards, Gen. Noble was introduced as a witness to prove that he had denied the authorship of certain publications over the signature of "A. B." which Mr. Edwards had avowed himself the author of in his memorial to Congress.
Taken entirely by surprise, by this testimony, Mr. Edwards introduced a number of witnesses to prove that Gen. Noble was mistaken. For the purpose of vindicating himself from those charges and insinuations, by the advice of his friends he voluntarily tendered his resignation of the office of Minister to Mexico, so as to afford him an opportunity of collecting further testimony, and also for the purpose, after making his defense, to appeal to the people of his own State to sustain him.
Besides his reply to Gen. Noble's testimony, which he published in 1825, it may not be improper for me to give the additional evidence; but before doing so, it may be proper to state that the only charge against the Secretary, and on which he gave any testimony in which his veracity was questioned, was the one in relation to the letter of Benjamin Stephenson, the Receiver at Edwardsville. That there was no cause to question his statement in reference to this letter, is evident, from the report of the Committee, in which they say: "In regard to the contested letter of Benjamin Stephenson, of the 12th October, 1819, the Committee see no cause to change the opinion which was entertained and which they intended to express in their former report: that although the letter was written, as stated by Mr. Edwards in his testimony, there was no evidence that Mr. Stephenson communicated or transmitted it to the Secretary of the Treasury."
The following is taken from Mr. Edwards' address, in the year 1825:
As charges against the Secretary of the Treasury were too well founded to admit of a fair and full investigation, it was deemed prudent by those who dreaded their application to divert the course of scrutiny from his conduct to my character, and for this purpose the testimony of the Hon. Mr. Noble was introduced. This operation, it was hoped, would not only weaken the force of my allegations, which, resting on public documents, had the united support of reason and record, but would serve to screen the vulnerable reputation of Mr. Crawford, by drawing off the fire of public curiosity and censure. The stratagem was not only old, but successful; for the proceeding of the Committee was both loose and summary, and as the testimony of the witness, in its application to myself, referred to matters of which I was totally unconscious it was not in my power to foresee or to withstand its force.
That the proceeding of the Committee was loose is sufficiently evident from their having forced me to testify to facts not embraced in the charges submitted to them, and which, as they themselves declared, were not material to the investigation thus, without reason, extending the surface of my testimony, thereby impairing its force and augmenting its liability to question, without the countervailing result of presenting more points of weakness in the conduct of Mr. Crawford. In so far, therefore, as the testimony transcended the limits of the charges, the investigation was a trial of me and not of Mr. Crawford. And this injurious irregularity was increased; for while my general reputation was not impeached, the latitude allowed in the examination of Mr. Noble admitted attacks on special points of my character which I could not have apprehended, was of course unprepared for, and which, as they derived all their energy from the surprise they effected, were the more formidable in consequence of their being false.
That their proceeding was also summary arose, probably, from the impatience of members, natural after a long and laborious session, and is proved by their failure to summon several witnesses whose attendance I had formally required, while their most distinguished member was personally active in procuring the appearance of Mr. Noble.
The scheme for diverting the public attention and the weight of the scrutiny from Mr. Crawford to myself, and thus frustrating the object of Congress in raising the Committee, having been determined on, a position was speedily taken in the remote and debatable ground of the "A. B." publications. The first movement was an attempt to prove that I had denied the authorship of these papers in order to secure the appointment of Minister to Mexico a proceeding which would have been disgraceful to me, but which, even if proved, it is difficult to imagine could have altered the meaning of the public documents, affected in the smallest degree the official responsibility of the Treasurer, lightened the fiscal losses of the Republic, imparted fairness and precision to her financial operations, or appeased the offended dignity of her laws.
It was urged, accordingly, that I had actually secured the appointment by making the denial, although it was known that of the twenty-seven Senators who voted for it, all except Mr. Noble (my avowed friend) were political adversaries of Mr. Crawford, and of course would have been not the less friendly to me on account of my opposition to him. This effort, originating in injustice, terminated in abortion; and the marvelous memory of Mr. Noble was relied on to prove that although I did not secure the appointment by disavowing the publication, yet that I endeavored to do so a charge which, had it been sustained, would have been equally injurious to my moral
Upon the testimony of Mr. Noble, therefore, it becomes my duty to exercise the right of self-defense, a right in which all the stronger virtues take root, and to demonstrate that it is neither consistent with facts, nor even consistent with itself; and that the disastrous effect it had upon my reputation resulted, not from its truth or veri-similitude, but from the super-sensibility of the public mind, prepared and heated by party contention, "to trifles light as air," when sanctioned, as Mr. Noble's testimony was, by the authority of forms and office, and adapted to particular modes of popular feeling.
As a preliminary to its refutation, it may be fitly observed that if Mr. Noble's testimony be not good against himself, it cannot be operative against another person, and if it be good against himself it proves that he has violated all those principles of honor which forbid the breach of private confidence, and that voluntarily.
It is not my province to designate his motives. He, himself, has declared that his active support of my nomination was blamed by his political friends. That when my address was afterwards presented to the house, it was urged upon him as practical demonstration of his impolicy, with so much force as to require an expiatory sacrifice of friendship and honor, it is more easy to believe than proper to assert. Even if this be the case, he has made ample atonement; for I am free to confess that the peculiar circumstances in which his testimony placed me compelled me, from respect to myself, my friends and my country, to resign an appointment which the combined strength of his friends, in fair opposition, could not, as they well knew, have- prevented my receiving.
In regard to that view of his testimony which proposes to consider it extrinsically, a difference presents itself, between the conduct imputed to me by Mr. Noble and that which it is known I pursued, that weighs strongly against its accuracy.
Had I so recently and emphatically denied my authorship of the "A. B." publications, is it reasonable to suppose that I would have been so inconsiderate as to avow it in my address especially as I was under no strong inducement thus to ruin my reputation? Such a naked and unnecessary adsurdity can hardly be credited of any man, unless we disregard the admitted influence of self-love, and violate those habits of judgment by which we trace the operations of moral causes and form conceptions of individual character. To believe it of any man would lie difficult, but to believe it of one who, in an uninterrupted course of public service of twenty-seven or eight years, had constantly been honored with the distinguished approbation of every people whose public servant he had been who, in the patriotic and enlightened State of Kentucky, had served several sessions in its Legislature, and successively filled the unsolicited stations of a Circuit Judge, a Judge of the General Court, fourth Judge of the Court of Appeals, and Chief Justice of the State, before he had attained his thirty-second year who had administered the government of a Territory between nine and ten years, with entire satisfaction to two administrations, and at the termination of this service had been elected, almost unanimously, a Senator of Congress by the State which sprung out of the Territory of which he had so long been the Governor, and who was considered by the President, by the Senate and by the Hon. Mr. Noble, himself, qualified both as to principle and capacity for the highest appointment is impossible!
Again had I designed, as he insinuates, to carry this denial through him to the members of the Senate, is it credible that, I should neither have requested him to
Another circumstance, which would be sufficient to discredit a story of much greater plausibility than Mr. Noble's, is my sickness and extreme debility at the time in which he lays its foundation. He swears that, in the conversation in which I disavowed to him the authorship of the "A. B." publications, that it took place "in his own room and on the evening of the day on which he called up my nomination in the Senate." But his memory is evidently false both as to time and place for the fact is (as the testimony before the Committee shows) I was too sick on the evening of that day to leave my bed, much less to be in his room, which was separated from mine by considerable distance and by the intervention of several flights of stairs; and I was too feeble, in any situation, to make the ample and lively gesticulations which he describes in his testimony, or to toss my feet, in the athletic restlessness of ease, "high upon the jambs," as he has frequently asserted, perhaps to corroborate his oath, in familiar conversation.
It is known to a multitude of gentlemen that I had been confined to my bed, without being able to dress or be dressed, for several successive weeks previous to that, toward the end of which Mr. Noble came to reside at Mrs. Queen's. In the course of it, though feeble and exhausted, I had, contrary to the caution of my friends, ventured to ride as far as the capitol in a carriage, and to take some gentle exercise on foot to which it is most probable my severe relapse was attributable. The insinuation that my illness, tedious and severe as it was, was simulated, is too illiberal for notice, and, as it was witnessed by a number of respectable individuals, too contemptible for refutation. It can only be important to show that, on the day of the alleged conversation (Tuesday, the 24th, or Thursday, 26th February), and for a number of tedious and painful days thereafter, I was in no condition to visit Mr. Noble in his room, or to hold the conversation, or to exhibit the gestures he represents.
Mrs. Queen, the lady with whom Mr. Noble and myself boarded, and a witness before the Committee, being asked by me what she knows concerning my sickness at her house, after my removal into the back building that is after the 21st February, when I gave up the front room to Mr. Noble how long I continued sick, and how long it was after Mr. Noble's coming that I became so ill as to be confined to my room, says, upon oath, "I know that you were very sick while you lodged in that room so ill that the servant was obliged to sit up with you every night;" and, also, that "it was Tuesday or Wednesday you became so sick as to be confined to your room;" and further, that she "does not recollect having seen Gov. Edwards at the table after Monday, the 23d."
Mr. H. W. Queen (another witness), a young gentleman who is the son of the aforesaid Eliza, and who had the best opportunity of knowing the occurrences of the family,
Mr. Asa Hough (another witness), after testifying that he recollected having seen me at Mrs. Queen's after I "occupied the back room," that is after the 21st of February, declares, "you was sick in bed; I cannot remember the precise day; it was sometime towards the latter end of February; I recollect that you was so much indisposed, that I did not communicate the business for which I had come; I called again, sometime afterwards, but, learning that you were still confined to your room, I did not go in."
Mr. J. Mason, Jr., a witness on the part of Mr. Crawford, says he "visited me shortly after my nomination, and shortly after I occupied the back room, and that he then thought me quite ill."
Mrs. A. Lindsay, another boarder at Mrs. Queen's, "thinks I continued confined to my room about a fortnight, and does not recollect seeing me at table after Monday, the 23d of February."
The Hon. Jeremiah Nelson, another boarder, says he "lodged at Mrs. Queen's when Mr. Noble came there, and I removed to a room in the back building; that he understood, from several members of the family, that Gov. Edwards was very sick; and that he visited me in my room more than a week afterwards, and found me still so."
All this testimony was given before the Committee, and represents my condition as certainly very unfit to square with the oath of Mr. Noble. I have since, however, received statements which, though not sanctioned by the solemnity of an oath, have all the force of truth, and render it indisputable that his testimony is not to be relied on, and that he has done me the greatest possible injustice.
The high character and reputation of George M. Bibb, Esq., one of the most eminent lawyers of Kentucky, formerly a Judge of the Court of Appeals of that State, a Senator in Congress, etc., is known throughout the Union. This gentleman was well informed in relation to certain subjects, which rendered me solicitous for an interview with the Hon. Rufus King of New York, on Saturday evening, the 21st of February. Not being able to go out and see Mr. King, (as appears by my letter to him of that date, which he has returned to me with his own indorsement thereon,) and being desirous to have the benefit of what Mr. Bibb knew on the same subject, I wrote to him on the following Monday morning, requesting him to make the explanations relating to it to Mr. King. The following is an extract of a letter to me, from Mr. Bibb, in reply to mine calling his recollection to the above transactions:
"FRANKFORT, August 2, 1824.
"My Good Friend: "When I arrived in Washington City, in February last, you were at Mrs. Queen's, occupying the front room on the first floor. I visited you there several times whilst you were sick and confined to your room. You afterwards removed to the back part of the building, where I visited you frequently; you were sick most generally in bed, but sometimes sat up. The time when you removed to the back room of Mrs. Queen's I cannot state; I recollect, while your nomination was pending in the Senate, unacted upon, you were confined to your room in the back apartment. I had a conversation
It will be seen, by reference to Mr. Noble's testimony, he asserts that previous to my alleged conversation with him in his own room, I had been informed of his having called up my nomination in the Senate. This information was communicated to me by Hon. G. Moore of Alabama, one of my mess at Mrs. Queen's. The following extract of a letter will show that my confinement to my bed had commenced before I received this information, and, taken in connection with the foregoing testimony, must satisfy every unprejudiced mind that I could neither have been in Mr. Noble's room, as he swears, on that evening, nor "for six or eight days thereafter":
"As to your indisposition having made it my business to call to see you every night and morning, I know I cannot be mistaken. It is also in my recollection, on, that or the day in the evening of which I informed you Gen. Noble had moved to take up your nomination, I was informed you had experienced a very severe shake of the ague, and when I gave you this information, you were confined to your bed, and appeared much exhausted, and continued confined and very much weakened and debilitated, I think, for six or eight days, and perhaps more."
In addition to this, I submit the following affidavit of a young gentleman, of perfect truth and respectability, which is positive as to my being sick in bed on Tuesday, the 24th February, and for several successive days afterwards:
"Frederick Hewitt, of Madison county, and State of Illinois, and lately a cadet in the military academy at West Point, deposes and says, that he arrived in the city of Washington from West Point, and put up at Brown's Hotel, on the 24th February last; that being particularly desirous to see and converse with Gov. Edwards, he called, for that purpose, at Mrs. Queen's boarding house, on the same day and within a very short time after his arrival, and found him to all appearances very sick, in bed, in a room in the back building of the said boarding house; that Gov. Edwards complained considerably said be was too sick for conversation at that time, and requested deponent to call again in the evening: upon which deponent took his leave, and returned again after candle-light, and found the Governor still in bed, and a gentleman in the room with him, whom Gov. Edwards called ‘Judge,’ but deponent does not recollect that he heard the gentleman's name, or, if he did, he has forgotten it.
"This deponent remained in the city till the evening of the 28th of February, and called everyday, and sometimes twice a day or more, to sec the Governor, who continued sick during the whole of that time, and on the last mentioned day took physic in deponent's presence.
"On deponent's taking leave of Gov. Edwards, on the 28th of February, aforesaid, he expressed a great unwillingness that his situation should be known to his family,
"District of Columbia, Washington county, etc."
[On the 23d day of September, 1824, Frederick Hewitt personally appeared before the subscriber, a Justice of the Peace for the county aforesaid, and made oath, in due form of law, that the facts stated and set forth in the aforesaid affidavit are true.
WM. HEWITT, Justice Peace.]
Independently of the incoherences of his testimony, Mr. Noble himself furnishes the means of establishing the fact and time of my confinement, and the impossibility of his statements being true. He admitted, on the day that the witnesses who testified on this subject before the Committee were examined, and has since reiterated, that I was "very sick," and that he, himself, brought a letter from Mr. King to me, "in my room." Fortunately this letter has been preserved. It is dated "Senate Chamber, Tuesday, 24th February, 1824," the earliest possible period at which the alleged conversation could have taken place inasmuch as Mr. Noble states it to have occurred after he moved to take up my nomination, and the journals of the Senate show that he could not have made the motion at any time before that day. This letter is as follows:
"SENATE CHAMBER, February 24, 1824.
"Dear Sir:"The nomination was read this morning, and upon the suggestion of a member that an absent Senator was understood to be prepared to submit to the consideration of the Senate, objections to the confirmation of the appointment to Mexico, and to afford an opportunity of this being done, I moved to postpone the nomination till to-morrow, when the absent Senator expects to be able to attend. It was intimated that it was desirable that some intimation of the nature of the objection should be given, in order that inquiries could be seasonably made by the friends of the candidate. Nothing particular was intimated, though it was understood that Col. Benton is the Senator who is to offer objections.
"HON. NINIAN EDWARDS, of the U. S. Senate. "
Not having been present, I cannot say with absolute certainty whether Mr. Noble moved to take up my nomination on the 24th or the 26th of February, (for it appears, from the journals of the Senate, it was taken up on both of those days,) or, consequently, whether the imputed conversation, which he brings within the same day of the motion, is alleged to have occurred on one or the other of those days. All the indications, and his own expressions, however, point to the first, and, by linking his charge with that day, force it into direct conflict with all the testimony, formal and informal, above referred to. Give him, however, the utmost possible advantage, and extend the time of the imputed conversation to the 26th, the force of evidence against his oath is still but too formidable.
Mrs. Queen swears that "two or three days after Mr. Noble came to her house, (Feb. 21) I became so ill as to make it necessary for a servant to sit up with me every night, and continued confined to my room about two weeks." Mrs. Lindsay, that "I continued confined to my room about a fortnight." The Hon. Mr. Moore declares that I was confined to my bed the evening of the day on which the motion for taking up my nomination was made in the Senate, and continued confined "six or eight days and perhaps more."
Plain fair and strict as I intend this examination of the testimony of Mr. Noble to be, I will not affect to conceal my conviction that the arguments and exposition already bestowed on it, have completed its discredit. Charity may forgive, but credulity itself can never believe it; yet the chain of proof against it is still longer, and acquires strength as it extends. Among the memorabilia of that imputed conversation he swears I mentioned "that I was about to be attacked in the Senate of the United States, for the purpose of defeating my nomination; that party and political spirit was now high; that I understood that charges would be exhibited against me, and that it had been so declared in the Senate Chamber; that he remarked to me that I well knew, according to the rules of that body, while on executive business, secrecy was required; that he was not at liberty to mention any occurrences or the remarks of a single member, excepting so far as related to himself; that I then replied that I was informed almost every day of the transactions and remarks of individuals when my nomination was called up." Almost every day when my nomination was called up! Astonishing! One would suppose from this statement, and indeed (being given without any comment or surprise) it is equivalent to a direct affirmation on his part, that my nomination had, at that time, been repeatedly called up in the Senate, and that different members had as frequently made remarks in relation to it, of which the rules of that body interdicted the disclosure; yet let any one consult the journals of the Senate, and compare the facts with the tenure of this affirmation. I was nominated on Wednesday, the 18th February; my nomination was read on that and the succeeding day, as a matter of course, and subsilentio; it was called up for the first time on the 24th, the very day on the evening of which Mr. Noble brought me Mr. King's letter, and when he found me, as he himself declares, very sick in my own room; the second time on the 26th, the day on which Mr. King visited and found me, as he himself states, sick in bed and was confirmed on the 4th March, following. Every member of the Senate who was present, except Mr. Noble, will bear me out in the assertion, that no transactions or remarks of which the rules of that body forbid the disclosure, which could be likely to excite my curiosity or to require his forbearance, could have taken place prior to the 24th February; nor was anything ever afterwards alleged in that against the nomination, if Mr. Noble himself is to be believed, for he, himself, says, "the fact turned out that there was no opposition."
It was confirmed without opposition, twenty-seven members rising in its favor, and none against it. It is, therefore, not only improbable, but hideously incredible, that the very first day, or even the second, on which a motion was made to take up my nomination, when it is certain an intimation of future opposition was all that had occurred and of course the most that could have transpired, I should have assured Mr.
According to Mr. Noble I deprecated opposition, and aimed at conciliating Mr. Crawford's friends. According to Mr. Seaton, one of his warmest friends, I was regardless of opposition and confident of success. Both accounts can hardly be true, and that Mr. Seaton's is most probable, the following extract of my letter to Mr. King of New York, of the 21st February, affords convincing proof: "That I shall meet all the opposition you allude to, I know just as well as that it will be utterly unavailing. I speak advisedly when I say it cannot succeed unless my friends are absent when the vote is taken." Another pertinent fact stated in my address to Mr. Noble, in the summer of 1824, which he has tacitly admitted by his answer and cannot deny, is, that the reason I alleged for being willing to give up to him the front room at Mrs. Queen's, which, for several successive sessions, I had occupied, and which, it is well known, I preferred, was, that I expected, in consequence of my nomination, to remain so short a time in the city, that it was no object with me to retain it, and it was upon that ground, on the 21st February, he himself predicated his application to me for it. This circumstance, though trivial in itself, is not unimportant in connection with others already referred to, which afford not only probability but proof, that at the time of the alleged conversation, I could not have apprehended serious opposition or been in such a state of mind as to make the declarations imputed to me by Mr. Noble, so obviously inconsistent, as they certainly were, with the uniform and undisguised tenor of my conduct towards Mr. Crawford for years before the more especially, as not a single step had been taken in the Senate on my nomination, after I came to board at Mrs. Queen's, until the day in the evening of which he brought me Mr. King's letter in my own room, when, as he admits, I was very sick, and from which time the foregoing testimony incontestably proves, I was confined with severe indisposition until after my nomination was confirmed. I need hardly here repeat my notice of another defect in the testimony of Mr. Noble. It was generally understood, I believe, after my address to the House of Representatives was presented, that Mr. Noble and Mr. Elkins were to swear to the same facts and to corroborate each others testimony. Accordingly Mr. Elkins declared, on his oath, that he had seen an article in the "Richmond Enquirer," in which it was stated that Ninian Edwards, of "A. B. plot" memory, had been nominated by the President as Minister to Mexico, an incident which, he says, led to the conversation with me, out of which his evidence grew, and which, he asserts, happened during the pendency of my nomination before the Senate.
And Mr. Noble says, upon his oath, "I saw an article in the ‘Richmond Enquirer,’ stating that Ninian Edwards, the author of ‘A. B.,’ or of ‘A. B. plot’ memory, (I do not recollect which) had been so nominated. The paper I saw at the boarding house of Mrs. Queen, and, I think, in the hands of Mr. Elkins."
It is perhaps, not to be wondered at, and, in truth, it ought to have been expected, that as Mr. Noble's testimony differed from that of all the witnesses whose testimony appeared consistent and accurate, it should exactly agree with that of a witness who certainly swore to the existence of that which was not. I have procured a file of the "Enquirer," and find, after a careful examination, no such article as Mr. Elkins swears he saw, or as Mr. Noble swears he saw, and saw, he thinks, in the hands of Mr. Elkins. Such an article, or one in the least like it, I defy either of these witnesses to show in that paper, during the time my nomination was pending before the Senate, or at any time after Mr. Noble came to Mrs. Queen's. It is surely possible that I may have uttered, and that Mr. Noble may have listened to, many absurd, and, indeed, many politic remarks; for the friends of Mr. Crawford (who, with an invention superior to Shakspeare's, attribute to him the utmost wisdom and integrity, while they admit that he repeatedly violated the laws and disregarded the resolutions of Congress, and make me both Roderigo and Iago) assign to me the capacity of a sage and at the same time impute to me the conduct of a fool. Mr. Noble goes so far as to make me a prophet; lie says, upon oath, that I told him I never had any fear of not being nominated, except for a short time when Pennsylvania seemed disposed to support Calhoun for the Presidency: then I had some apprehension of Dallas' success; but the moment that State gave up Calhoun I had no longer any doubts, as Dallas, I knew, would soon be out of the question. Let us compare the dates of the events here alluded to, and it will be found that Mr. Noble has rendered it morally impossible for any rational being to believe him. Pennsylvania "gave up Mr. Calhoun" on the 4th March, 1824, when the delegates met in convention, at Harrisburg the very day on which my nomination was confirmed, and fifteen days after it had been made to the Senate. To have told Mr. Noble what he swears I did tell him on the 24th February, it was necessary for me to foresee and assume the fact that Pennsylvania had then done what she did not do for eight or ten days afterwards, and to conceive Mr. Noble himself capable of an equal degree of prescience. Until the mind can be brought to believe that the effect is previous to the cause, no one can credit Mr. Noble. His cruel anachronism is not mended by the referring to the giving up of Mr. Calhoun, by Pennsylvania, to Mr. Dallas' movement in Philadelphia, for that happened on the 18th February the day my nomination was made. It could not, of course, have been known to me (unless by second sight) and was not known at Washington, as the editor of the "National Intelligencer" can testify, until several days after the nomination had been made, and could not possibly have any influence in removing my apprehensions of "Mr. Dallas' success" which the nomination itself must have already quieted.
His testimony in regard to the indecent observations, imputed to me, respecting the President of the United States, is equally false and equally incredible. The slanders against that distinguished patriot to which it presupposes an allusion, had not been agitated when I left Washington, nor had any attempt then been made to implicate Mr. Calhoun in my contest, nor had Mr. Hay replied to Mr. Lowne. This mass of incongruity I might heap still higher. I might show, from the absurdity of the remarks alleged, respecting the currency of Illinois and Indiana, in the testimony of Mr. Noble, that no person so well informed on that subject as I necessarily was could have made them, and that they likewise imply a foreknowledge on my part of facts but I feel for the taste and patience of the reader. In justice to Mr. Noble, however, one observation must be added. It is that, from the peculiar nature of his testimony, it is less disgraceful to him to prove it to be false, than to admit it to be true. Such wide and shocking departures from truth, as he appears to have made, do not necessarily,
The principal object we have, in the publication of many of the letters to him, is for the purpose of showing that after his resignation as Minister to Mexico, and the investigation of the charges against Mr. Crawford, he was held in high estimation by the most distinguished and purest patriots of the country. Amongst his most devoted friends were Judge McLean, Mr. Adams, Samuel D. Ingham, (Secretary of the Treasury under General Jackson's administration,) Mr. Calhoun, Hon. Gabriel Moore of Alabama, William Wirt, and John J. Crittenden, and they continued so up to the time of his death. In the year 1825, which was a year after the termination of the controversy with Mr. Crawford, and before Governor Edwards' election as Governor of the State, Judge McLean, in a very long letter, commences by saying: "Having a few minutes leisure, I do not know how
I can employ it more pleasantly to myself than by communicating to you the aspect of our political affairs; for I am persuaded it will not be wholly uninteresting to you," etc. In another letter, referring to the election for Governor of Illinois, he says: "From the certainty of your success in the approaching election I derive sincere pleasure; it will be a triumph to yourself and your friends. I believe almost all of that virulence of feeling which was so generally evinced by the caucus party against you, has disappeared, and to a considerable extent has been succeeded by feelings of a very different nature." In another letter, dated in November, 1826, Judge McLean says: "I do not believe that you and I will differ widely in this matter; it would be strange indeed, after looking to past scenes, if we should. * * Had your letter been received before I reappointed , I should, as I have always done, have appointed the person you name. I felt sincere regret that I had made the appointment before the reception of your letter. For your success in the late election (although your competitor was an old and, I believe, a sincere friend of mine) I felt a deep interest. It has been often referred to, by me, as a triumphant refutation of the scandles which had been so extensively circulated against you."
In a conversation between Mr. Clay and Mr. Wirt, it will be seen, from a letter of Mr. Wirt as late as 1831, that Mr. Clay says that "the sentiments expressed by Gov. Edwards do honor to his own heart, and I cannot but hope that he may lend his powerful aid and support, at this crisis, to the cause which the most enlightened men throughout the community consider as the cause of our country." Mr. Wirt adds that his motive for mentioning it is "the pleasure I derived from the light in which he views you." In a letter from Mr. Wirt, dated in November, 1826, he says: "Your friends (and I among the foremost) have rejoiced at the recent proof of respect which you have received from your State; it must have been balm to your feelings, as it was to ours;" and in a still later letter he says, "I am much rejoiced, in common with your other friends, at the honorable demonstration you have received of the confidence of your State, so bravely and nobly won."
In a letter from President Adams to Gov. Edwards, dated Aug. 22, 1827, Mr. Adams says: "Your recommendation for the appointment of a sub-agent at Peoria will, in the event of a vacancy in that office, receive the deliberate consideration to which it is entitled, and a disposition altogether friendly to him as recommended by you. And your opinion in regard to any appointment of the General Government, in the State of Illinois, will be always acceptable to me, whenever you may incline to communicate to me. Accept my friendly and respectful salutations."
Mr. Wirt, in a letter dated after the report of the Committee, says: "Very many, whose good opinions are most desirable, think you are right,
notwithstanding the report of the Committee: nay, many think you supported by that report to the full extent of all your charges. * * You say that your resignation has exposed you to imputations, etc. The opinion I expressed to Mr. Cook, as to your resignation, was that of every friend of yours with whom I conversed. I learned, from Mr. Cook, himself, that it was also the opinion of Mr. Adams (and, I think, Mr. Calhoun), expressed to him; and I know it was the opinion of Mr. Southard. Indeed, I did not hear one dissenting voice Mr. Cook, himself, concurred in it; the opinion being that, with reference to yourself alone, resignation was the only dignified, the only proper course: so that, if the opinion was wrong, it was one in which I erred in company with some of the ablest men in the country, and with all your best friends. It is only because you place your resignation on my single opinion, that I have referred to the concurrent and unanimous opinions of all who wished you well some of whom were much better qualified by experience, than myself, to estimate the effect of political movements."
The Hon. S. D. Ingham, Secretary of the Treasury under Gen. Jackson's administration, in his letter dated the 20th of July, 1824, says: "I duly received your favor of the 16th, and the same mail brought the report of the Committee, which is the first view I have had of your whole defense. Upon all the charges and specifications you have made out your case completely. I would not dwell on Noble's testimony; you have already given it the proper answer. Those who believe him will consider it no unusual finesse among politicians, and it will have much less effect than you suppose. I think Mr. Webster must have winced under your exposition of his expert on the uncurrent funds."
The Hon. Gabriel Moore, in his letter of Aug. 8th, 1824, in reference to Gen. Noble's testimony, says: "Nothing of a similar nature ever astonished me more than the general character of the testimony given before the Committee by Gen. Noble, and particularly that part which has relation to the authorship of the ‘A. B.’ publications; not only because I know that, among the members, it was generally if not universally understood and believed that you were the author, but because I had some conversation with Gen. Noble, pending your nomination, in relation to this subject, in which, a reference having been made to the authorship as forming some objection to the confirmation of your nomination, by some of the friends of Mr. Crawford, I am clearly and decidedly of opinion that on this occasion I was authorized, from the general tenor of Mr. Noble's remarks, to infer that whether you were the author or not would have, or had, produced no influence on his mind."
Mr. Moore was at that time a member of the House of Representatives, but was afterwards a Senator in Congress and Governor of Alabama.
Judge William Kelly, another Senator of Congress, in a letter dated Aug. 23d, 1825, says: " I called several times while he [Gov. Edwards] occupied the latter room [the back room], and recollect to have seen a gentleman there who was from West Point, as I understood, and bound to Illinois but cannot fix the precise date of the transaction; but I well recollect that the Governor was so unwell, at the time, as to be confined to his room as he alleged, and his appearance seemed to require it. This was his condition for several days previous to the confirmation of his nomination. On account of his indisposition, I called frequently perhaps every time I was in the neighborhood of his residence. I recollect conversing with him on the subject of the postponement of the nomination on account of its being stated that an absent Senator had, perhaps, objections that he would like to make, and inquired if it could be the ‘A. B.’ affair that formed the objection; to which he replied that he could not say or conjecture the ground or nature of the objection, unless it should be the ‘A. B.’ affair or a newspaper controversy that had occurred in the West some years before, neither of which he considered ought to form any ground of objection. I recollect conversing with him on the subject of his being the author of the ‘A. B.’ letters, and he did not pretend to deny the fact to me. So far from it, he told me, upon one occasion, that he had prepared another document of considerable length, of the same tenor."
The above statement of Judge Kelly corroborates the statement of Mr. Hewitt, whose affidavit we have given; and the correspondence in another portion of this work shows that the fact that Gov. Edwards was the author of the ‘A. B.’ publications was known, not only to his friends, but to the members of Congress generally. Is it probable, then, that he would have denied it to Gen. Noble, who had previously taken a zealous part in his support, without asking him to communicate this denial to others on whom it was expected to have some influence? nor that he should not have inquired of him if he had done so? Is it probable that he would have made this denial for the purpose of securing the confirmation of his nomination, and thus run the risk of exposure and the loss of the support among those who so generally had understood, from him, that he was the author and especially as the majority of the Senators were political opponents of Mr. Crawford? Or is it reasonable that he should have made those articles a part of the address, if he had so recently denied their authorship?
The following letter, from President Monroe, shows that no such denial had ever been made for any such purpose:
OAK HILL, April 30, 1826.
SIR: In reply to your letter of the 23d, requesting to be informed whether Gov. Edwards declared to me, before his nomination as Minister to Mexico, that he was not the author of the publications signed "A. B." on which declaration, it is said, that his nomination was founded I feel it due to candor to assure you that he never
With great respect and esteem,
I am your obedient servant,
In another letter, to Mr. Cook, on the same subject, dated April 27, 1826, President Monroe requests Mr. Cook to assure Mr. Edwards "of his good wishes for his welfare and happiness."
From the letter of his resignation, a copy of which is among the papers in the possession of the writer, and from the allusions and opinions referred to in Mr. Wirt's letter, respecting the propriety of his resignation, there can be no doubt that it was voluntary on his part, and not required by the President. That such is the fact is also evident from a letter of Mr. Ingham, in which he says, "I am not sure that you have done right by resigning."
Notwithstanding Mr. Clay was of opinion that he "was not liable to pay the out-fit and salary he had received," in which opinion he also believed the administration concurred with him, yet he accounted to the Government for all he had received, except for the time he had held the office and the losses he had sustained in making his preparations to leave on his mission. Mr. Clay said, "if it were my case, I would not return one cent of the amount."
The following is an extract from a letter to Gov. Edwards, dated Oct. 8, 1828, from the Hon. Hugh Nelson, who was a member of Congress from Virginia for fourteen years, and afterwards Minister to Spain:
I wrote to you just before I sailed for Spain, and hope you received my letter, because, having received from you a most kind and affectionate letter, just before my departure, I should regret that an appearance should have been afforded to the presumption that I was regardless of your friendship. I have never participated in the persecution against you, which was started about that time, and have always believed you an upright, honest statesman and politician, and have thought you perfectly right in that affair in which the C ----- faction bottomed their efforts to hunt you down. I always said, too, that your talents would enable you to rise against the whole host.
Before Mr. Cook presented Mr. Edwards' memorial to Congress, he says that he submitted it to some of his friends, and states, in his letter in reference to it, that Mr. Adams' friends, Mr. Houston, and all the Tennessee delegation except Mr. Cocke, would stand by Gov. Edwards.
The object in referring to the causes which led to his resignation, and to the settlement of his account with the Government, is for the purpose of proving the falsity of the charges made by Col. Benton and published
in his "Debates," and also in his "Thirty Years in the Senate," that, in consequence of the report of the Committee, Mr. Edwards was required by the President to resign and to return his out-fit and quarter's salary. Col. Benton is not satisfied with giving a garbled extract from the testimony, but takes it upon himself to assert as a fact what the accounts in the Treasury Department prove to be untrue; for the records of the Treasury Department show that in the settlement, which he voluntarily proposed, and which was accepted by the Department, he was allowed not only his salary, for the time he had held the office, but also the loss he had sustained in consequence of his resignation. After the Committee had published their report, and of course after the testimony of Gen. Noble had been given, in consequence of its being stated in one of the public journals, in Washington City, that directions were given, by a member of a committee appointed to make arrangements for the celebration of the Fourth of July, not to receive the subscription of Ninian Edwards to the dinner, all the members of the Cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Crawford, who were in Washington, refused to participate in the celebration as will appear from the following correspondence:
WASHINGTON, 3d July, 1824.
To Messrs. T. Carbery and Jos. Gales, Jr.:
Our attendance at the dinner, after this notice, would justly be considered as equivalent to an assent, on our part, to this exclusion.
The character and conduct of Mr. Edwards being before the nation, upon the report of the committee of the House of Representatives, yet to be acted upon by the House, we should consider it incompatible with our duties as public servants, as well as with the principles of common justice, to participate in an act which we think would, in no event, be justifiable before a final decision upon the investigation. We request you, therefore, to consider this as notice that we have withdrawn our subscriptions for attendance at the dinner.
We are, very respectfully, gentlemen,
Your obedient servants,
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,
J. C. CALHOUN,
The Secretary of the Navy and the Attorney General, not having expected to be in the city, have not subscribed to the dinner. We are authorized to say, that if the Attorney General had received a similar invitation, and had subscribed, he would now have joined in the above letter.
We are authorized and requested, by the committee of arrangements for the celebration of the anniversary of independence, to say, that the publication in the "National Journal" of this morning was unauthorized by them, or any one of them, and that nothing will be wanting, on their part, to make the public dinner on the occasion a national festival, divested of all reference to party politics.
Messrs. Van Ness, Carbery and Gales constituted the committee of arrangement.
WASHINGTON CITY, 3d July, 1824.
To Hon. John Quincy Adams, J. C. Calhoun and John McLean:
We have the honor to be, with great respect,
Your obedient servants,
THOMAS CARBERY, Chairman.
JOSEPH GALES, Jr., Secretary.
WASHINGTON, 5th July, 1824.
To Thomas Carbery, Chairman, and Joseph Gales, Jr., Secretary of the Committee of Arrangements, for Celebrating the Anniversary of American Independence:
We are, with great respect, gentlemen,
Your very humble and obedient servants,
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS,
J. C. CALHOUN,
The report of the Committee was never acted upon by the House of Representatives. Acquitting Mr. Edwards of the charge against which he had defended himself, and containing no allegation against him, he could not complain, and especially as the Committee had been unable to detect a single inaccuracy in any of the facts he had alleged against Mr. Crawford. Mr. Crawford had no motive to demand any further investigation, as he could not hope to obtain a report more favorable to himself. The charges against him were:
First That he has mismanaged the national fund.
Second That he has received a large amount of uncurrent notes from certain banks, in part discharge of their debts due to the United States, contrary to the resolution of Congress in 1816.
Third That, being called on by a resolution of the House of Representatives to state the amount of uncurrent notes which he received from these banks, he has misstated it making it less than it really was.
Fourth That he has, in his report to the House, misrepresented the obligations of those banks, or some one of them, at least, and predicated thereon an indefensible excuse for his conduct in receiving those uncurrent notes.
Fifth That he has acted illegally, in a variety of instances, by making and continuing deposits of public money in certain local banks, without making report thereof to Congress, according to law.
Sixth That he has, in several instances, withheld information and letters called for by the House, and which it was his duty to have communicated.
In regard to the second charge, the report of the Committee shows, "That although the Banks of Tombeckbee and Edwardsville were liable to account for such deposits as cash, if the construction which the Committee gives to their contracts be correct, yet, that both the Secretary and the Banks express a different opinion as to the meaning of those contracts, and that the Secretary, in receiving fifteen thousand dollars from the one and twenty thousand dollars from the other of those Banks, appears to have acted according to what he supposed to be the rights of the parties, and with a proper regard to the interest of the United States, under the circumstances which then existed."
In regard to the third charge. "That no intentional misstatement has been made to the House of uncurrent bills received from the Banks, although a sum of two hundred and eight dollars of such bills were omitted through mistake."
In regard to the fourth, "That although the Secretary may have misconstrued the effects of some of the contracts with the Banks to the extent before mentioned, the Committee finds no ground for the charge that he has misrepresented them, inasmuch as the contracts themselves were submitted, with his report, to the House."
In regard to the fifth, "That the Secretary did omit to communicate to Congress the reasons which led him to direct the deposit of public moneys in the three local Banks of Chilicothe, Cincinnati, and Louisville, where the Bank of the United States had branches; but there is no reason for supposing that any concealment was intended or that the omission was occasioned by design."
In regard to the sixth, "That in some instances papers called for, by resolution of the House, have not been communicated with other papers sent in answer to such calls, but that these omissions have happened either from accident, or from a belief that the papers so omitted were immaterial or not called for; and that there is no evidence that any document or information had been withheld from improper motives."
That in regard to the contested letter of Benjamin Stephenson, "Although the letter was written, as stated by Mr. Edwards in his testimony, there was no evidence that Mr. Stephenson communicated or transmitted it to the Secretary of the Treasury."
With regard to the first charge, the Committee content themselves with saying, that, in their opinion, "nothing has been proved to impeach the integrity of the Secretary, or to bring into doubt the general correctness and ability of his administration of the public finances."
If the reader will bear in mind that in making the charges Mr. Edwards stated, in his memorial, that he "disclaimed any other construction of them than the most innocent of which they were susceptible," and that, in pointing out palpable omissions or neglect to lay before the House letters which ought to have been communicated, and that various misstatements had been officially made, he "attributed them to nothing more than forgetfulness, inattention, inadvertence, or some erroneous but innocent views of the subject," it will be seen that the report of the Committee fully sustains him in all his statements, but excuses the Secretary because he acted according to what he supposed to be his duty, had made no intentional mis-statements, had misconstrued the effect of some of the contracts, and, in his omissions to make important communications and papers that were called for by Congress, no concealment was intended or occasioned by design, or any information withheld from improper motives.
Mr. Edwards, in writing the articles over the signature of "A. B." against Mr. Crawford, claimed that he had the right, wisely guaranteed to every freeman of the Union, of investigating the official conduct of a public officer. Mr. Crawford had been a prominent candidate for the Presidency, for some time previous to the commencement of their publication, and was subsequently nominated for that office, to succeed President Monroe, by the Republican members of Congress, in caucus. In one of Mr. Wirt's letters to Gov. Edwards, dated January 4, 1820, he says: "You may remember that four years ago, when Mr. Monroe was presented to the public for the Presidency, Mr. Crawford was extremely pressed to oppose him. I was in Washington, by chance, at the time mentioned, and I remember that it was extremely dubious whether Mr. Crawford would not have a majority in the caucus of Congress; but he withdrew from the opposition, and I remember he gave great disgust to many of his friends by doing so. He withdrew, too, with the declaration that Mr. M. had the best title to the office." The caucus system had become very unpopular, and the friends of General Jackson, Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay were rallied against Mr. Crawford, and the result was that, for the first time, the candidate thus nominated was defeated.
Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwardsillinois.html