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Title: Ten Years Among the Mail Bags - Notes from the Diary of a Special Agent of the Post-Office Department
Author: Holbrook, James
Language: English
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  Notes from the Diary of a Special Agent






  Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855.
  In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Columbia.

  This Work



The idea of preparing the present work was suggested to the author by
the universal interest manifested in regard to the class of
delinquencies to which it relates, and the eagerness with which the
details of the various modes adopted in successful cases to detect the
guilty parties, have been sought after by all classes. He was also
induced to undertake this series of narratives by the hope and belief
that while it afforded interesting matter for the general reader, it
might prove a public benefit by increasing the safety of the United
States mails, and fortifying those officially connected with the
post-office and mail service, against the peculiar temptations
incident to their position, thus preserving to society some at least
who, without such warnings as the following sketches contain, might
make shipwreck of their principles, and meet with a felon's doom.

It has been said that whoever acts upon the principle that "honesty is
the best policy," is himself dishonest. That is, policy should not be
the motive to honesty, which is true; but taking into view how many
there are who would not be influenced by higher considerations, it is
evident that whatever serves to impress on the mind the inevitable
connection between crime and misery, if not between honesty and
happiness, will aid in strengthening the barriers against dishonesty,
too often, alas! insufficient to withstand the pressure of temptation.

The author has endeavored to enforce these truths in the following
pages, and he relies for the desired impression on the fact that they
are not dry, abstract precepts which he presents, but portions of real
life; experiences the like of which may be the lot of any young man;
temptations before which stronger men than he have fallen, and which
he must flee from if he would successfully resist.

The most elaborate treatise on rascality would not compare in its
effects on the mass of mankind, with the simplest truthful narrative
of a crime and its consequences, especially if addressed to those
exposed by circumstances to the danger of committing offences similar
to the one described.

Two objections to the publication of a work like the present, occurred
to the author as well as to others whom he consulted, and caused him
to hesitate in commencing the undertaking. First, the possibility that
the detailed description of ingenious acts of dishonesty, might
furnish information which could be obtained from no other source, and
supply the evil-disposed with expedients for the prosecution of their
nefarious designs. Second, the danger of again inflicting pain upon
the innocent relatives and friends of those whose criminal biography
would furnish material for the work.

In reference to the first of these objections it may be said, that,
although descriptions of skilful roguery are always perused with
interest, and often with a sort of admiration for the talent
displayed, yet when it is seen that retribution follows as certainly
and often as closely as a shadow; that however dexterously the
criminal may conceal himself in a labyrinth of his own construction,
the ministers of the law track him through all its windings, or
demolish the cunningly devised structure; and that when he fancies
himself out of the reach of Justice, he sees, to his utter dismay, her
omnipresent arm uplifted to strike him down; when these truths are
brought to light by the record, an impressive view will be given of
the resources which are at command for thwarting the designs of
dishonesty, and of the futility of taking the field against such
overwhelming odds. And in addition to the certainty of detection, the
penalty inflicted for offences of this description is to be taken into
the account. Doubtless many employés in Post-offices have committed
crimes of which they never would have been guilty but for a mistaken
idea of security from the punishment to which they were making
themselves liable. It is well for all to be correctly informed on this
subject, and to know that offences committed against this Department
are not lightly dealt with. Information of this character the author
has fully supplied.

Again--Comparatively but few of the secret modes of detection are
exhibited, and he who should consider himself safe in evading what
plans are here described, will find to his sorrow that he has made a
most dangerous calculation.

As to the second objection above mentioned, namely, the danger of
wounding the feelings of innocent parties, the author would observe
that fictitious names of persons and places are generally substituted
for the real ones; thus avoiding any additional publicity to those
concerned in the cases given. And furthermore, he ventures to hope
that few of the class to which this objection refers, would refuse to
undergo such a trial of their feelings, if by this means a wholesome
warning may be given to those who need it.

There are other wrongs and delinquencies connected with our postal
system, of a mischievous and immoral tendency, and of crushing effect
upon their authors, which, although not in all cases punishable by
statute, yet require to be exposed and guarded against. Descriptions
of some of the most ingenious of these attempts at fraud, successful
and unsuccessful, are also here held up to public view.

It was the author's intention to give two or three chapters of an
historical and biographical character,--a condensed history of our
post-office system, with some notice of that of other countries, and
brief biographical sketches of our Post Masters General. But matter
essential to the completeness of the work in hand, as illustrating the
varieties of crime in connection with post-offices, has so
accumulated, that the chapters referred to could not be introduced
without enlarging the volume to unreasonable dimensions; and the
author has been compelled to limit his biographies of the Post Masters
General to a short chronological notice of each of those officers.



Under the Revolutionary organization, the first Post Master General
was Benjamin Franklin. He was experienced in its duties, having been
appointed Post Master of Philadelphia in 1737, and Deputy Post Master
General of the British Colonies in 1753. He was removed from this
office, to punish him for his active sympathies with the colonists;
and one of the first acts of their separate organization was to place
him at the head of their Post-Office Department. It is a singular
coincidence that this eminent philosopher, who cradled our postal
system in its infancy, also, by first bringing the electric fluid
within the power of man, led the way for the electric telegraph, the
other great medium for transmitting intelligence.

The necessities of the Revolutionary struggle, demanded the abilities
of Franklin for another sphere of action. Richard Bache, his
son-in-law, was appointed to succeed him as Post Master General, in
November, 1776. He was succeeded by Ebenezer Hazard, who subsequently
compiled the valuable Historical Collections bearing his name. He held
the office until the inauguration of President Washington's

In relation to the several Post Masters General, since the adoption of
the Federal Constitution, the author regrets that he is compelled,
contrary to his original intention, to confine himself to brief
chronological notes. The succession is as follows:--

1. SAMUEL OSGOOD.--Born at Andover, Mass., Feb. 14, 1748. Graduated at
Harvard College in 1770. A member of the Massachusetts Legislature,
and also of the Board of War, and subsequently an Aid to Gen. Ward. In
1779, a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. In
1781, appointed a member of Congress; in 1785, first Commissioner of
the Treasury; and Sept. 26, 1789, Post Master General. He was
afterwards Naval Officer of the port of New York, and died in that
city Aug. 12, 1813.

2. TIMOTHY PICKERING.--Born at Salem, Mass., July 17, 1746. Graduated
in 1763. Was Colonel of a regiment of militia at the age of nineteen,
and marched for the seat of war at the first news of the battle of
Lexington. In 1775, appointed Judge of two local courts. In the fall
of 1776 marched to New Jersey with his regiment. In 1777 appointed
Adjutant-General; and subsequently a member of the Board of War with
Gates and Mifflin. In 1780 he succeeded Greene as Quarter Master
General. In 1790 he was employed in negotiations with the Indians;
Aug. 12, 1791, he was appointed Post Master General; in 1794,
Secretary of War; and in 1795, Secretary of State. From 1803 to 1811
he was Senator, and from 1814 to 1817, Representative in Congress.
Died at Salem, June 29, 1829.

3. JOSEPH HABERSHAM.--Born in 1750. A Lieutenant Colonel during the
Revolutionary War; and in 1785 a member of Congress. Appointed Post
Master General Feb. 25, 1795. He was afterwards President of the U.S.
Branch Bank in Savannah, Georgia. Died at that place Nov. 1815.

4. GIDEON GRANGER.--Born at Suffield, Ct., July 19, 1767. Graduated at
Yale College in 1787, and the following year admitted to the Bar. In
1793 elected to the Connecticut Legislature. Nov. 28, 1801, appointed
Post Master General. Retired in 1814, and removed to Canandaigua, N.
Y. April, 1819, elected a member of the Senate of that State, but
resigned in 1821, on account of ill health. During his service in that
body he donated one thousand acres of land to aid the construction of
the Erie Canal. Died at Canandaigua, Dec. 31, 1822.

5. RETURN JONATHAN MEIGS.--Born at Middletown, Ct., in 1765. Graduated
at Yale College in 1785, and subsequently admitted to the Bar. In 1788
emigrated to Marietta, Ohio, then the North Western Territory. In
1790, during the Indian wars, he was sent by Gov. St. Clair on a
perilous mission through the wilderness to the British commandant at
Detroit. In the winter of 1802-3, he was elected by the Legislature
the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the new State. In
October, 1804, he was appointed Colonel commanding the United States
forces in the upper district of the Territory of Louisiana, and
resigned his judgeship. In the following year he was appointed as one
of the United States Judges for Louisiana. April 2, 1807, he was
transferred to the Territory of Michigan. In October following he
resigned his judgeship, and was elected Governor of the State of Ohio,
but his election was successfully contested on the ground of
non-residence. He was chosen at the same session as one of the Judges
of the Supreme Court of the State; and at the next session as United
States Senator, for a vacancy of one year and also for a full term. In
1810 he was again elected Governor of Ohio, and on the 8th of December
resigned his seat in the Senate. In 1812 he was re-elected Governor.
On the 17th of March, 1814, he was appointed Post Master General,
which he resigned in June, 1823. Died at Marietta, March 29, 1825.

6. JOHN MCLEAN.--Born in Morris Co., New Jersey, March 11, 1785. His
father subsequently removed to Ohio, of which State the son continues
a resident. He labored on the farm until sixteen years of age, when he
applied himself to study, and two years afterwards removed to
Cincinnati, and supported himself by copying in the County clerk's
office, while he studied law. In 1807 he was admitted to the Bar. In
1812 he was elected to Congress, and re-elected in 1814. In 1816 he
was unanimously elected by the Legislature, a Judge of the Supreme
Court of the State. In 1822 he was appointed by President Monroe,
Commissioner of the General Land Office, and on the 26th of June,
1823, Post Master General. In 1829 he was appointed as one of the
Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, which office he
yet holds.

7. WILLIAM T. BARRY.--Born in Fairfax Co., Va., March 18, 1780.
Graduated at the College of William and Mary. He was admitted to the
Bar, and in early life emigrated to Kentucky. In 1828, he was a
candidate for Governor of that State, and defeated by a small
majority, after one of the most memorable contests in its annals.
Appointed Post Master General March 9, 1829. In 1835 appointed
Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain, and died at Liverpool, England, on
his way to Madrid.

8. AMOS KENDALL.--Born at Dunstable, Mass., August 16, 1789. Graduated
at Dartmouth College in 1811. About the year 1812 removed to Kentucky,
and in 1815 was appointed post master at Georgetown, in that state. In
1816 he assumed the editorial charge of the _Argus_, published at
Frankfort, in the same State, which he continued until 1829, being,
most of the time, State Printer. In 1829 he was appointed Fourth
Auditor of the United States Treasury; and, May 1, 1835, Post Master
General. He resigned the latter office in 1840, and has, since the
introduction of the electric telegraph, been mainly employed in
connection with enterprises for its operation. He is yet living.

9. JOHN MILTON NILES.--Born at Windsor, Ct., August 20, 1787. Admitted
to the Bar in December, 1812. About 1816 he removed to Hartford, and
was one of the first proprietors of the _Hartford Times_, and had
charge of its editorial columns until the year 1820. In 1821 he was
appointed Judge of the Hartford County Court, which office he held
until 1829. In 1826 he represented Hartford in the Connecticut
Legislature. In April, 1829, he was appointed post master at Hartford;
which he held until December, 1835, when he was appointed United
States Senator to fill a vacancy, and in the ensuing May was elected
by the Legislature for the remainder of the term. In 1839 and 1840 he
was supported by his party, though without success, for the office of
Governor of the State. May 25, 1840, he was appointed Post Master
General. In 1842 he was elected United State Senator for a full term.
Mr. Niles is yet living.

10. FRANCIS GRANGER.--Born at Suffield, Ct., Dec. 1, 1792. Graduated
at Yale College in 1811. Admitted to the Bar in May, 1816. He was
elected a member of the New York Legislature in 1825, and again in
1826, 1827, 1829, and 1831. In 1828 he was a candidate for the office
of Lieutenant Governor, but was defeated; and in 1830 and again in
1832, he was run for Governor, with the same result. In 1834 he was
elected to Congress. In 1836 he was a candidate for Vice President,
and received the electoral votes of the States of Massachusetts,
Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. He was
again elected to Congress in 1838 and in 1840. Appointed Post Master
General March 6, 1841, but resigned the following September. His
successor in Congress thereupon resigned, and Mr. Granger was again
elected to that body. On the 4th of March, 1843, he finally retired
from public life, but is yet living.

11. CHARLES A. WICKLIFFE.--Born at Bardstown, Kentucky, June 8, 1788,
and was admitted to the Bar at an early age. He was twice elected to
the State Legislature during the war of 1812. He twice volunteered in
the Northwestern Army, and was present at the Battle of the Thames. In
1820 he was again elected to the Legislature. In 1822 he was elected
to Congress, and was four times re-elected. During his service in that
body, he was appointed by the House as one of the managers in the
impeachment of Judge Peck. Upon leaving Congress, in 1833, he was
again elected to the lower branch of the State Legislature; and, upon
its assembling, was chosen Speaker. In 1834 he was elected Lieutenant
Governor of the State, and in 1839, by the death of Gov. Clark, he
became Acting Governor. He was appointed Post Master General,
September 13, 1841. In 1849 he was chosen as a delegate to the
Constitutional Convention of Kentucky; and, under the new
Constitution, he was appointed as one of the Revisers of the Statute
Laws of the State. He is yet living.


12. CAVE JOHNSON.--Born, January 11, 1793, in Robertson Co.,
Tennessee. His opportunities for education were limited, but made
available to the greatest extent. In his youth, he acted as
deputy-clerk of the County, his father being clerk. He was thence led
to the study of the law. In 1813 he was appointed Deputy Quarter
Master in a brigade of militia commanded by his father, and marched
into the Creek nation under General Jackson. He continued in this
service until the close of the Creek war in 1814. In 1816 he was
admitted to the Bar. In 1817 he was elected by the Legislature one of
the Attorneys General of the State, which office he held until elected
a member of Congress in 1829. He was re-elected in 1831, 1833, and
1835. Defeated in 1837. Again elected in 1839, 1841, and 1843.
Appointed Post Master General, March 5, 1845. In 1849 he served for a
few months as one of the Circuit Judges of Tennessee; and, in 1853,
was appointed by the Governor and Senate as President of the Bank of
Tennessee, at Nashville. He is yet living.

13. JACOB COLLAMER.--Born at Troy, N. Y., about 1790, and removed in
childhood to Burlington, Vt., with his father. Graduated at the State
University at that place in 1810. Served during the year 1812, a
frontier campaign, as a lieutenant, in the service of the United
States. Admitted to the Bar in 1813. Practised law for twenty years,
serving frequently in the State Legislature. In 1833 he was elected an
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the State, from which
position he voluntarily retired in 1842. In the course of that period,
he was also a member of a convention held to revise the Constitution
of the State. In 1843 elected to Congress to fill a vacancy, and
re-elected for a full term, in 1844, and again in 1846. Appointed Post
Master General March 7th, 1849. In 1850 he was again elected a Justice
of the Supreme Court of Vermont; and in 1854 he was chosen United
States Senator, which office he now holds.

14. NATHAN KELSEY HALL.--Born at Skaneateles, N. Y., March 28th, 1810.
Removed to Aurora in the same State in 1826, and commenced the study
of the law with Millard Fillmore. Removed with the latter to Buffalo
in 1830. Admitted to the Bar in 1832. Appointed First Judge of the
Court of Common Pleas in 1841. In 1845 elected a member of the State
Legislature, and in 1846 a member of Congress. He was appointed Post
Master General July 20, 1850; and, in 1852, United States Judge for
the Northern District of New York, which office he now holds.

15. SAMUEL DICKINSON HUBBARD.--Born at Middletown, Ct., August 10,
1799. Graduated at Yale College in 1819. He was admitted to the Bar in
1822, but subsequently engaged in manufacturing enterprises. He was
Mayor of the city of Middletown, and held other offices of local
trust. In 1845 he was elected a member of Congress, and re-elected in
1847. He was appointed Post Master General September 14, 1852. Died at
Middletown October 8, 1855.

16. JAMES CAMPBELL, the present Post Master General of the United
States, was born September 1, 1813, in the city of Philadelphia, Pa.
Admitted to the Bar in 1834, at the age of twenty-one years. In 1841,
at the age of twenty-eight, he was appointed Judge of the Common Pleas
Court for the City and County of Philadelphia, which position he
occupied for the term of nine years. In 1851, when the Constitution of
the State was changed, making the Judiciary elective, he was nominated
by a State Convention of his party as a candidate for the Bench of the
Supreme Court of the State, but was defeated after a warmly contested
and somewhat peculiar contest, receiving however 176,000 votes. In
January, 1852, he was appointed Attorney General of Pennsylvania,
which he resigned to assume the duties of Post Master General. He was
appointed to that office on the 8th of March, 1853.


A mail bag is an epitome of human life. All the elements which go to
form the happiness or misery of individuals--the raw material, so to
speak, of human hopes and fears--here exist in a chaotic state. These
elements are imprisoned, like the winds in the fabled cave of Æolus,
"biding their time" to go forth and fulfil their office, whether it be
to refresh and invigorate the drooping flower, or to bring destruction
upon the proud and stately forest-king.

Well is it for the peace of mind of those who have in temporary charge
these discordant forces, that they cannot trace the course of each
missive as it passes from their hands. For although many hearts are
made glad by these silent messengers, yet in every day's mail there is
enough of sadness and misery, lying torpid like serpents, until warmed
into venomous life by a glance of the eye, to cast a gloom over the
spirits of any one who should know it all; and to add new emphasis to
the words of the wise man, "He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth
sorrow." But until they are released from their temporary captivity,
the letters guard in grim silence their varied contents. Joy and
sorrow as yet have no voice; vice and crime are yet concealed,
running, like subterranean streams, from the mind which originated, to
the mind which is to receive their influence. The mail bag is as great
a leveller as the grave, and it is only by the superscription in
either case, that one occupant can be distinguished from the other.

But leaving these general speculations, let us give more particular
attention to the motley crowd "in durance vile." If each one possessed
the power of uttering audibly the ideas which it contains, a confusion
of tongues would ensue, worthy of the last stages of the tower of
Babel, or of a Woman's Rights convention. Indeed matters would
proceed within these leathern walls, very much as they do in the world
at large. The portly, important "money letter," would look with
contempt upon the modest little _billet-doux_, and the aristocratic,
delicately-scented, heraldically-sealed epistle, would recoil from the
touch of its roughly coated, wafer-secured neighbor, filled to the
brim, perhaps, with affections as pure, or friendship as devoted as
ever can be found under coverings more polished. Would that the good
in one missive, might counteract the evil in another, for here is one
filled with the overflowings of a mother's heart, conveying language
of entreaty and remonstrance,--perhaps the traces of anxious
tears,--to the unwary youth who is beginning to turn aside from the
path of rectitude, and to look with wishful eyes upon forbidden
ground. Need enough is there of this message to strengthen staggering
resolution, to overpower the whispers of evil; for close by are the
suggestions of a vicious companion, lying in wait to lure him on to
vice, and to darken the light of love which hitherto has guided his

In one all-embracing receptacle, the strife of politics is for a time
unknown. Epistles of Whigs, Democrats, Pro and Anti-Slavery men lie
calmly down together, like the lion and the lamb, (if indeed we can
imagine anything lamb-like in political documents,) ready, however, to
start up in their proper characters like Satan at the touch of
Ithuriel's spear, and to frown defiance upon their late companions.
Theological animosity, too, lies spell-bound. Orthodoxy and
Heterodoxy, Old and New School, Protestant and Catholic, Free Thinkers
and No Thinkers, are held in paper chains, and cease to lacerate one
another with controverted _points_. Nor in this view of dormant
pugnacity, should that important constituent, the Law, be left out of
sight. An opinion clearly establishing the case of A. B.
unsuspectingly reposes by the side of another utterly subverting it,
thus placing, or about to place, the unfortunate A. B. in the
condition of a wall mined by its assailants, and counter-mined by its
defenders, quite sure (to use a familiar phrase,) of "bursting up" in
either case. And the unconscious official who "distributes" these
missiles, might well exclaim, if he knew the contents, "cry havoc, and
let slip the dogs of war."

But we come to another discord in our miniature life-orchestra. Those
all-embracing, ever-sounding tones, which lie at the two extremities
of the "diapason of humanity," namely, Life and Death, here find their
representatives. Here lies a sable-edged missive, speaking to the eye
as the passing bell speaks to the ear, telling of blighted happiness,
a desolate home, and loving hearts mourning and refusing to be
comforted because the loved one is not; while close at hand and
perchance overlying the sad messenger, is the announcement of another
arrival upon the stage of life--Our First--and though it is as yet
behind the curtain, not having made its bow to the world at large, is
an important character in the green room; and the aid of that
convenient individual, Uncle Sam, is invoked to convey the information
of its advent to a circle of expectant friends, as highly favored as
that select few who are sometimes invited to witness a private
performance by some newly-arrived artist, before he makes his
appearance in a more public manner.

Nor should we omit at least a passing notice of the humorous aspects
of our Bag. Physiognomy will not go far in aiding us to determine as
to a given letter, whether its contents are grave or gay. A
well-ordered epistle, like a highly bred man, does not show on its
face the emotions which it may contain. But in what we may call the
lower class of letters, where nature is untrammeled by envelopes, and
eccentricity or unskilfulness display themselves by the various shapes
and styles in which the documents are folded and directed, there is
more room for speculation on their internal character; and it is the
author's intention to furnish some rare specimens of unconscious humor
of this kind, for the delectation of his readers.

As we contemplate the wit, fun, humor, and jollity of all sorts, which
lie dormant within these wrappages, we are tempted to retract our
commiseration for the imaginary official whom we have supposed to know
the contents of the letters in his charge, and therefore drag out a
miserable existence under their depressing influence. At least we feel
impelled to modify our remarks so far as to say that in the case
supposed, his days would be passed in alternate cachinnations and
sympathizing grief. He would become a storehouse of wit, a magazine of
humor. For there is much of wit, humor, and jollity running through
these secret channels, that never is diffused through the medium of
the press, but flows among the privacies of domestic circles, adding
life to their intercourse, and increasing the attractions of social
fellowship, like some sparkling stream, both refreshing and adorning
the landscape through which it takes its course.

We leave the further development of this prolific train of thought, to
the reader's imagination. Yet the imagination can devise no
combination more strange than those which may be found every day
within the narrow precincts of which we have been speaking; and the
same may be said of the Post-Office system at large, interwoven as it
is with the whole social life of civilized man.

The laws of the land are intended not only to preserve the person and
material property of every citizen sacred from intrusion, but to
secure the privacy of his thoughts, so far as he sees fit to withhold
them from others. Silence is as great a privilege as speech, and it is
as important that every one should be able to maintain it whenever he
pleases, as that he should be at liberty to utter his thoughts without
restraint. Now the post-office undertakes to maintain this principle
with regard to written communications as they are conveyed from one
person to another through the mails. However unimportant the contents
of a letter may be, the violation of its secrecy while it is in charge
of the Post-Office Department, or even after having left its custody,
becomes an offence of serious magnitude in the eye of the law; and as
the quantity and importance of mail matter is continually increasing,
it has been found necessary to adopt means for its security, which
were not required in the earlier history of the Post-Office. One kind
of danger to which the mails were exposed before the days of railroads
and steamboats, namely, highway robbery, is now almost unknown. The
principal danger at present to be apprehended, is from those connected
with their transportation and delivery, and a system of _surveillance_
has been adopted, suited to the exigency of the case, namely, the
creation of Special Agents, who have become a fixed "institution,"
likely to be essential to the efficiency of the Department, as long as
any of its employés are deficient in principle or honesty. The origin
of this Special Agent System will be given elsewhere. It is sufficient
to say here, that the curious developments of character, and
combinations of circumstances, which will be found in the following
pages, were mainly brought to light by the operation of this system,
as carried out by one of its Agents. "Ten years" of experience have
given the author (or at least ought to have given him) an ample supply
of material for the illustration of nearly every phase in Post-Office
life. His principal difficulty is the "_embarras des richesses_;" yet
he has endeavored to select such cases as are not only interesting in
themselves, but well calculated to benefit those for whose use the
present work is especially designed.



  No "Ear-Biters" employed--The Commission--A whole School
  robbed--Value of a "quarter"--Embargo on Trunks--Unjust
  Suspicion--The dying Mother--Fidelity of Post Masters--A
  venerable pair of Officials--President Pierce assists--A clue
  to the Robberies--The Quaker Coat--An insane Traveler--The
  Decoy Letters--Off the Road--The dancing Horse--The Decoy
  missing--An official Visit by night--Finding the marked
  Bills--The Confession--The Arrest                              Page 25


  A competent Assistant--Yielding to Temptation--An easy Post
  Master--Whispers of Complaint--Assistant embarrassed--Application
  to his Uncle--The Refusal--Value of a kind Word--Resort
  to Depredations--Evidences of Guilt--Decoy Letter taken--The
  Bowling Saloon--The Agent worsted--The Restaurant--Bother
  of the Credit System--The fatal Bank-Note--Keen Letter
  to the Agent--The Arrest--The next Meeting                          52


  Business Rivalry--Country Gossiping--Museum of Antiquities--New
  Post Master--Serious Rumors--Anonymous Letters--Package
  detained--Bar-room Scene--_Ram_ifications of the Law--First
  Citizens--Rascally Enemies--Lawyer's Office--Gratuitous
  Backing--Telegraphing--U. S. Marshal arrives--The Charge--The
  Fatal Quarter--Enemies' Triumph--The Warrant--Singular
  Effects of Fear--A Faithful Wife--Sad Memories--The Squire's
  Surprise--All right                                                 66


  High Crimes in low Places--Honest Baggage-masters--Suspicious
  Circumstances--Watching the Suspected--Shunning the
  Dust--Honesty Triumphant--An Episode--Unexpected Confession--The
  Night Clerks--Conformity to Circumstances--Pat the Porter--Absents
  himself--Physician consulted--The Dead Child--Hunting
  Excursions--"No Go"--Pat explains his Absence--His
  Discharge--The Grave-stones--Stolen Money appears--The
  Jolly Undertakers--Pat at the Grave--More Hunting--Firing a
  Salute--Removing the Deposits--Crossing the Ferry--Scene at the
  Post-Office--Trip to Brooklyn--Recovery of Money--Escape--Encounter
  with a Policeman--Searching a Steamer--Waking
  the wrong Passenger--Accomplices detained--Luxuries cut off--False
  Imprisonment Suit--Michael on the Stand--Case dismissed             95


  An infected District--A "fast" Route Agent--Heavy Bank
  Losses--Amateur Experiments--Dangerous Interference--A Moral
  Lecture--The Process discovered--An unwelcome Stranger--Midnight
  Watching--Monopoly of a Car--Detected in the Act--The
  Robber searched--His Committal--A supposed Accomplice--The
  Case explained--Honesty again triumphant--Drafts and
  Letters--A long Sentence--Public Sympathy--A Christian Wife--Prison
  Scenes--Faithful to the last--An interesting Letter                122


  Safety of the Mails--Confidence shaken--About Mail Locks--Importance
  of Seals--City and Country--Meeting the Suspected--Test
  of Honesty--Value of a String--A dreary Ride--Harmless
  Stragglers--A cautious Official--Package missing--An
  early Customer--Newspaper Dodge--Plain Talk--A Call to
  Breakfast--Innocence and Crime--Suspicion Confirmed--The
  big Wafers--Finding the String--The Examination--Escape to
  Canada--A true Woman--The Re-arrest--Letter of Consolation--The
  Wife in Prison--Boring Out--Surprise of the Jailor--Killing
  a Horse                                                            136


  Startling Complaints--Character against Suspicion--The two
  Clerks--Exchanging Notes--The Faro Bank--Tracing a Bill--An
  official Call--False Explanation--Flight of the Guilty--The
  Fatal Drug--The Suicide--Sufferings of the Innocent--The Moral     152



  Midnight Mails--Suspected Clerk--A trying Position--Limited
  View--A "crack" Agent--Sneezing--"Counter Irritation"--The
  Night Bell--Fruitless Speculations--Insect Orchestra--Picolo
  introduced--Snoring--Harmless Accident--The Boot-black--A
  tenanted Boot--The Exit                                            165


  Throwing off the Cars--Fiendish Recklessness--The Boot-Tracks--A
  Scamp among the Printers--Obstruction removed--A
  Ruse--The Boots secured--"Big Jobs"--The Trial--Unreliable
  Witness--A Life-Sentence                                           172



  The Unpaid Draft--The Forged Order--A Reliable Witness--Giving
  up the Mail Key--A Lady Assistant--Post-Office Records--The official
  Envelope--Return of the Post Master--The Interview--Embarrassment
  of Guilt--Duplicate Circular--Justice secured                      181


  Indian Depredations--The model Mail Contractor--Rifles and
  Revolvers--Importance of a Scalp--Indian Chief reconnoitering--Saving
  dead Bodies--Death of a Warrior--The Charge--A
  proud Trophy--Sunset on the Prairie--Animal Life--A solitary
  Hunt--The Buffalo Chase--Desperate Encounter with an
  Indian--Ingenious Signal--Returning to Camp--Minute Guns--A welcome
  Return                                                             192


  Cheating the Clergy--Duping a Witness--Money missing--A
  singular Postscript--The double Seal--Proofs of Fraud--The
  same Bank-Note--"Post-Boy" confronted--How the Game was
  played--Moving off                                                 201


  Young Offenders--Thirty Years ago--A large Haul--A Ray of
  Light                                                              206



  A sound Principle--A slow Period--A wholesome Law--"Ahead
  of the Mail"--Moral Suasion--Indignant Passengers--Dutch
  Oaths--A Smash--Interesting Trial--A rowdy Constable--The
  Obstructors mulcted                                                213


  A dangerous Mail Route--Wheat Bran--A faithful Mail Carrier--Mail
  Robber shot--A "Dead-head" passenger--An Old Offender--Fatal
  Associate--Robbery and Murder--Conviction and Execution--Capital
  Punishment--Traveling in Mexico--Guerillas--Paying
  over--The Robbers routed--A "Fine Young
  English Gentleman"--The right stuff                                222


  The tender Passion--Barnum's Museum--Little Eva--The
  Boys in a Box--The Bracelet--Love in an Omnibus--Losses explained  226



  Bank Letter lost--The Thief decoyed--Post-Office at
  Midnight--Climbing the Ladder--An exciting Moment--Queer Place of
  Deposit--A Post Master in Prison--Afflicted Friends--Sighs and
  Saws--The Culprit's Escape--How it was done--A cool Letter--A
  Wife's Offering--Moral Gymnastics--Show of Honesty--Unwelcome
  Suggestion--"A hard road to travel"--Headed by a
  Parson--Lost Time made up--A Male overhauled                       229



  Sad Perversion of Talent--Increase of Roguery--Professional
  Men suffer--Young America _at_ the "Bar"--Papers from Liverpool--The
  Trick successful--A legal Document--Owning up--A
  careless Magistrate--Letters from the Un-duped--Victimizing
  the Clergy--A lithograph Letter--Metropolitan Sermons--An
  up-town Church--A Book of Travels--Natural Reflections--Wholesome
  Advice--The Seed Mania--_Strong_ Inducements--Barnes'
  Notes--"First rate Notice"--Farmer Johnson--Wethersfield
  outdone--Joab missing--"Gift Enterprise"--List of Prizes--The
  Trap well baited--Evading the Police--The _Scrub_ Race             242



  Embarrassing duty--An exciting Question--A "Hard Case"--Decease
  of a Post Master--The Office discontinued--The other
  side--Call at the White House--The Reference--Agent's
  Arrival--Molasses Incident--An honest Child--Slicking up--The
  Academy--Stuck fast--The Shoe Factory--A shrewd Citizen--The
  Saw Mill--A Tenantless Building--Viewing the "Sites"--Obliging
  Post Master--The defunct Bank--A Funeral Scene--The
  Agent discovered--Exciting Meeting--"Restoration Hall"--Eloquent
  Appeals--A Fire Brand--Committee on Statistics--Generous
  Volunteers--Being "put down"--Good-nature restored--The
  Bill "settled"--A Stage Ride--Having the last Word                 264



  A gloomy Picture--Beautiful Village--Litigation in Harrowfork--A
  model Post Master--The Excitement--Petitioning the
  Department--Conflicting Statements--The decisive Blow--The
  new Post Master--The "Reliable Man"--Indignant Community--Refusal
  to serve--An Editor's Candidate--The Temperance
  Question--Newspaper Extracts--A Mongrel Quotation--A Lull--A
  "Spy in Washington"--Bad Water--New Congressmen--The
  Question revived--Delegate to Washington--Obliging Down
  Easter--The lost Letters--Visit to the Department--Astounding
  Discovery--Amusing Scene--A Congressman in a "Fix"--The
  Difficulty "arranged"                                              289



  Infallibility not claimed--"Scape-Goats"--The Man of Business
  Habits--Home Scrutiny--A Lady in Trouble--A bold
  Charge--A wronged Husband--Precipitate Retreat--Complaints
  of a Lawyer--Careless Swearing--Wrong Address--No Retraction--A
  careless Broker--The Charge repulsed--The Apology--Mistake
  repeated--The Affair explained--A comprehensive Toast              323



  The wrong Address--Odd Names of Post-Offices--The Post-Office
  a Detector of Crime--Suing the British Government--Pursuit
  of a Letter Box--An "Extra" Customer--To my Grandmother--Improper
  Interference--The Dead Letter--Sharp Correspondence--The
  Irish Heart--My Wife's Sister                                      333


  Responsibility of Post Masters                                     348


  Official Courtesy, etc.                                            353


  Importance of Accuracy                                             358


  Post Masters as Directories--Novel Applications--The Butter
  Business--A Thievish Family--"Clarinda" in a City--Decoying
  with Cheese--Post Master's Response--A Truant Husband--Woman's
  Instinct                                                           360


  A Windfall for Gossipers--Suit for Slander--Profit and Loss--The
  Resuscitated Letter--Condemned Mail Bag--An Epistolary
  Rip Van Winkle                                                     365



  Their Origin--Degeneration--Immoral Influence--Incitement
  to Dishonesty                                                      368


  The Clairvoyant Discovery                                          375


  Poetical and Humorous Addresses upon Letters                       381


  Origin of the Mail Coach Service                                   390


  Evasion of the Post-Office Laws                                    392


  Post-Office Paul Prys                                              394


  Special Agents                                                     397


  Route Agents                                                       403


  Decoy Letters                                                      409


  Practical Information--Post-Office Laws--Improved Letter
  Case                                                               413





    No "Ear-Biters" employed--The Commission--A whole School
    robbed--Value of a "quarter"--Embargo on Trunks--Unjust
    Suspicion--The dying Mother--Fidelity of Post Masters--A venerable
    pair of Officials--President Pierce assists--A clue to the
    Robberies--The Quaker Coat--An insane Traveller--The Decoy
    Letters--Off the Road--The dancing Horse--The Decoy missing--An
    official Visit by night--Finding the marked Bills--The
    Confession--The Arrest.

In the fall of 1845, information was received from the Post-office
Department at Washington, of extensive depredations upon the mails
along the route extending from Boston to a well known and flourishing
inland town in one of the New England States, accompanied with the
expression of a strong desire on the part of the Post Master General,
that prompt and thorough efforts should be made to ferret out, if
possible, those who were concerned in these wholesale peculations.

It so happened that the gentleman at this time at the head of the
Post-office Department, had not been a very ardent believer in the
necessity or usefulness of "Secret Agents," so called. In fact, when
he entered upon the duties of his office, he dismissed the entire
corps of this class of officials, and notwithstanding the urgent calls
of the public, and the dissenting views of his most experienced
Assistants, he steadily refused to re-employ them, excepting
temporarily, and in special cases, until near the close of his
official term. Justice to that honest and thorough-going officer,
however, requires some mention of the causes which controlled his
decision in this important matter.

While he was a Representative in Congress, a violent onslaught was
made upon the system of Special Agents, for the reason (as was
alleged,) that they were neither more nor less than so many political
emissaries, supported at the public expense; and in consequence of
their secret, and therefore commanding position, possessing, and often
exerting an undue and improper influence against those opposed to them
in politics. Believing this charge to be unjust, he took up, in the
House of Representatives, the defence of this Special Agent system,
and called for proof in support of the accusations of violent partisan
conduct brought against these Agents.

Those who know him will be able to judge of his mortification and
displeasure when it was distinctly proved that in one instance a
Special Agent relieved his pugnacious propensities by getting into a
regular fight at the polls, and damaging one _poll_, by biting off an
ear attached thereto; the poll aforesaid being the property of a
political opponent.

It was also shown that this sanguinary Agent inserted a dirk knife
between the ribs of another antagonist, thus performing a sort of
political phlebotomy, with the intention, doubtless, of relieving the
patient of some portion of his superabundant Whig or Democratic blood
(whichever it might have been) and thereby bringing him to a rational
view of public questions.

This, and some other equally reputable cases of interference in
elections, having been fully established, it is not wonderful that
strong prejudices should have arisen in the mind of the future Post
Master General against this class of officers, although such
disorderly and disgraceful conduct was clearly the fault of the
individuals who indulged in it, and not of the corps or system, with
which they were connected. And I would here say, in justice to this
body of Agents, that many of them were gentlemen of intelligence and
discretion, who would be far from countenancing such proceedings as
have just been mentioned.

When, therefore, in the year above designated, the writer found
himself in possession of a Special Agent's Commission, signed by the
same gentleman, as "Post Master General," and rendered impressive by
the broad seal of that Department, which represented a 2.40 steed
rushing madly along, with a post-rider on his back, and the mail
portmanteau securely attached,--when he received accompanying
instructions to look into the alarming state of things on the route
aforesaid--his leading thought and ambition was to satisfy the
distinguished Tennessean that a Special Agent could catch a mail
robber by the ear quite as readily as a political antagonist, and
apply the knife of justice to those whose case required it, with at
least as much courage and skill as could be displayed in the matter of
disabling belligerent "shoulder hitters" at the ballot boxes.

How much the result of this first investigation, after the restoration
of the "ear-biters" (as they were then sometimes facetiously called,)
had to do with the radical change in opinion and action, noticeable in
certain quarters, as to the utility and indispensable necessity of
this "right arm" of the Department, it may not be advisable, nor
indeed modest, to inquire.

The depredations in the case thus placed in my hands for
investigation, were seemingly very bold, although from the length of
the route, and the number of post-offices thereon, the rogue had no
doubt flattered himself that it would take a long time to trace him
out, even if Government should condescend to notice the complaints
which he might suppose would be made at head-quarters. It is also
possible that he was encouraged to this course of rascality by the
belief that the Department had no officials whose particular business
it was to be "a terror to evil-doers," and that he could easily elude
the efforts of those no more experienced than himself in the crooks
and turns through which every villain is compelled to slink.

The letters stolen were principally addressed to the members of a
large and flourishing literary institution, situated in the town
already mentioned, and embracing in its catalogue pupils of both sexes
from almost every section of the Union. So keen was the scent of the
robber, that, like an animated "divining rod," he could indicate
unerringly the existence of gold, or its equivalent beneath the paper
surface soil, and he "prospected" with more certainty, though less
honesty, than a California miner. From all the mail-matter passing
through his office, he would invariably select the valuable packages,
abstracting their _material_ contents, and, as it afterwards appeared,
committing the letters to the flames. "Dead men tell no tales."
Neither do burnt letters.

The results of this system of robbery, as regarded those who suffered
by it, were somewhat peculiar. The abstraction of an equal amount from
the members of a business community, might have inconvenienced some,
but would have made little perceptible difference in the course of
business. The temporary deficiency would have been as little felt, on
the whole, as the withdrawing of a pail-full of water from a running
stream. The level is quickly restored, as supplies flow in.

But when the victims of dishonesty are youth pursuing their studies at
a distance from home, and depending on remittances from their parents
and friends for the means of discharging the debts which they may
incur, the case is widely different. Here the stream is dammed up
somewhere between its source and the place where the waters ought to
be flowing, and the worst description of drought--a drought of

All sorts of consequences, in the present instance, followed this
state of things. The school became, in this particular, like a
besieged city, cut off from supplies from without, while its
inhabitants lived on under an ever increasing pressure of
difficulties, which made premature Micawbers of the unfortunate
aspirants to that temple which is so artistically represented in the
frontispiece to Webster's spelling book, as surmounting the hill of
Science, and animated by the figure of Fame on the roof, proclaiming
through her trumpet a perpetual invitation to enter the majestic
portals beneath.

The possessor of money, received, under these circumstances, a greater
degree of consideration than is usually accorded to the millionaire in
the world at large. The owner of a "quarter" had troops of friends,
and became purse-proud on the strength of that magnificent coin. Happy
was he who had unlimited "tick;" to whose call livery-stable keepers
were obsequious, and with whom tailors were ready to in_vest_, having
faith to believe that the present dry aspect of the financial sky
would be succeeded by refreshing showers of "mint-drops" from the
paternal pockets. Some of the young ladies who had invoked the
milliner's assistance in defiance of the poet's line--"Beauty
unadorned, &c.," occasionally received hints respecting the settlement
of their trifling accounts, which materially diminished the pleasure
that they would otherwise have felt in the contemplation of their
outer adornments. Bonnets reminded them of bills, and dresses of duns.

The more juvenile portion of our scholastic community, too, felt the
pressure of the "hard times" which some invisible hand had brought
upon them. In early life, the saccharine bump is largely developed,
but unlike other organs described by phrenologists, this is within the
mouth, and is commonly called the "sweet tooth." Those luxurious youth
who had hitherto indulged the cravings of this organ _ad libitum_, or
as far as they could do so without the knowledge of their teachers,
found the wary confectioners unwilling longer to satisfy their
unsophisticated appetites, without more "indemnity for the past" if
not "security for the future," than they had yet furnished.

So these victims of raging desire were compelled to retire hungry from
untasted luxuries, not without sundry _candid_ expressions of their
feelings toward the obdurate retailers of sweets, and _tart_ replies
from those individuals. Their only consolation was to revel in dreams
in which the temple of Fame was supported by pillars of candy, with a
protuberant pie for a dome; while her trumpet was converted into a
cornucopia from which unfailing streams of sugar-plums were issuing.

But such annoyances and inconveniences as have been enumerated were
trifling, compared with other consequences which resulted from this
prolonged and systematic robbery of the mails. It is hard for one who
never had his word doubted, to learn by unmistakeable indications that
his story of money expected and not received, is disbelieved by an
impatient creditor, who perhaps hints that the money has come and gone
in some other direction than that which it should have taken. The
honorable pride of some was wounded in this manner, and much
ill-feeling arose between those who had hitherto regarded each other
with mutual respect.

The term of the school was just closing, and worthy Mrs. K., who had
several of the pupils as boarders in her family, being blessed with a
rather large organ of caution, refused to allow one or two to leave
(who did not expect to return the next term,) without depositing some
collateral security for the payment of their board-bills. Those
luckless youth had written again and again for the money necessary to
settle their accounts in the place; but their entreaties were
apparently unnoticed and unanswered. They were in the condition of Mr.
Pecksniff's pupils, who were requested by their preceptor to ring the
bell which was in their room, if they wanted anything. They often did
so, but nobody ever answered it. It very naturally seemed almost
incredible to Mrs. K. that the parents of her boarders should neglect
to provide for the various expenses which arise at the close of a
school term, especially as these pupils were not to return. So the
good lady felt bound by her duty to herself to lay an embargo upon
their trunks, and she further took occasion to observe that if there
hadn't been so much horseback riding, &c., during the summer, her bill
could have been settled. This of course provoked an angry retort, and
suspicion smouldered on one side, and resentment flamed out on the
other, until the whole mystery was unravelled.

In another boarding-house, inhabited by pupils of both sexes, it had
been customary for some of their number to get from the post-office
the letters and papers sent to them, and this duty had lately
devolved, for the most part, on one person, Henry S., who was a
relation of the post master, and, from other circumstances, had
frequent occasion to visit the office. As he returned almost
empty-handed of letters from day to day, his disappointed
fellow-boarders at first wondered at the silence of their friends,
then suspicion began to work in their minds; and since the post master
was a man of unsullied honor, and entirely reliable for honesty, they
at length reluctantly admitted the supposition that Henry S. must be
the delinquent.

Acting on the ground that S. was the guilty one, his fellow-boarders
gave orders to the post master, forbidding the delivery of their
letters to him. So the next day, when he presented himself at the
office, he was thunderstruck by the information that he had lost the
confidence of his fellow-pupils, and that they would no longer trust
their letters in his hands.

"It can't be," exclaimed he, "that they suppose I took their letters."

"I guess they do," said the old post master; "but I think they had
better be sure that there were letters coming to them, before they
suspect you."

"Oh, now I see why they have acted so strangely, lately, just as if
they didn't want me around. I never once thought that this was the
reason of it."

From that time, he withdrew himself as much as possible from the
society of his fellow-pupils, stung by a sense of their injustice, and
cherishing anything but amiable feelings towards them; yet he did not
escape sundry taunts and flings at his character for honesty, from the
maliciously disposed. And although those who had regarded him with
suspicion, frankly acknowledged their error when the true culprit came
to light, yet it was long before he could entirely forgive them the
deep mortification they had caused him.

Nor were such cases as this the worst that occurred.

There was a boy in the school, "the only child of his mother, and she
was a widow." The lad was quick in intellect, amiable in disposition,
and a general favorite throughout the institution. He loved his mother
with a strength of affection not often surpassed, and it was fully
responded to, by his tender parent. The frequent visits which she made
him during his residence at the school had given her opportunities to
become acquainted with many of her son's young companions, as well as
with his teachers, so that she was quite well known in the little

Let us place ourselves at the residence of Mrs. E. (the lady in
question,) some hundred miles away. She is lying upon a sick-bed, from
which she will never arise. Let us listen to the conversation between
her and her attendant.

"Has the train come up yet, Mary?"

"Yes, ma'am, it passed a few minutes ago, but Charley hasn't come."

"Of course he hasn't, he would have been in my arms before this, if he

"Perhaps," suggests Mary, "he will be here by the next train."

"God grant he may," groans the dying mother. "It is now more than a
week since they first wrote to him, telling him that I was very sick,
and requesting him to come immediately. Oh, what _can_ keep him away
so long? I fear he is sick himself. Some one must go to-morrow, and
find out what it is that keeps him from me. I cannot die without
seeing him once more."

While this mother was struggling with disease, and with that "hope
deferred" that "maketh the heart sick," her son was pursuing his daily
round of studies and amusements, anticipating with delight his return
home at the close of the term. We may imagine the grief and distress
of the poor boy when his uncle, who came for him, told him how the
friends at home had written to him twice, each time enclosing him the
requisite funds to bear his expenses home, that there might be no
delay from _that_ cause. And how his mother's only wish, as she now
lay rapidly sinking, was to see once more her beloved Charley.

Off they went, the boy and his uncle, on iron wings,--but the wing of
the Death-Angel was swifter, and before they arrived at the place of
their destination, had cast its awful shadow over the mother's brow.

It will easily be believed that the failure of so many letters to
reach those for whom they were intended, excited no small degree of
uneasiness in the minds of the parents and friends of the pupils; and
in some instances, such was their alarm and anxiety, that journeys of
hundreds of miles were undertaken in order to learn why their letters
were not received, and why they heard nothing from those to whom they
wrote; for the unknown author of all this trouble and confusion, in
order to prevent discovery, often destroyed the letters passing both

I cannot here refrain from saying a few words respecting the
heinousness of such villanous conduct on the part of post masters or
their employés. Leaving out of sight the fact that they are sworn to
do nothing contrary to the laws, in their official capacity, and that
if they incur the guilt of a breach of trust, they also become guilty
of perjury, it should be considered that the well-being of community
in all its relations, domestic, social, commercial, and literary,
depends on the fidelity with which they discharge the duties of their
office. Much confidence is reposed in them by the public, and I am
happy to say, that in comparatively few instances is this confidence
misplaced. But in consequence of the circumstances just mentioned, an
amount of evil, terrible to contemplate, may be the result of an abuse
of trust, which may seem trifling to the guilty perpetrator. The law
considers no abuse of the trust reposed in those connected with the
post-office as slight; but with a jealous regard for the good of
community, provides penalties commensurate with the greatness of their
crimes, for those whom neither common honesty, nor honorable feelings,
nor moral principle can withhold from the commission of such deeds.

But we will resume the thread of our story.

It may seem strange that the disorders which I have partly described,
should have continued so long before the Department was informed of
the state of things; but in regard to this, I would say that
frequently such failures of correspondence go on for some time, and
work much mischief before the post master is apprised of the troubles
existing in his vicinity, as he of course is not expected to know what
letters are sent to his office, in the absence of complaints made
directly to him. It should be stated here, for the benefit of those
not informed in these matters, that it is made part of the duty of a
post master to report promptly to the Post-office Department all
complaints of the loss of any valuable letters said to have been
deposited in his office. In the case I am narrating, the failures in
the delivery of letters became at length so general, that complaint
was made to the post master of the town, and information communicated
directly to the Department at Washington.

Having received a commission from the Post Master General as before
stated, with orders to investigate this case, I proceeded at once to
the place in question, having first been assured of the entire
reliability of the post master in charge there; and if looks could
ever be taken as the index of the man, I needed no other assurance of
his honesty. I found an old gentleman who had numbered his
three-score years and ten, a veteran in the service, having held the
post which he then filled, "from time immemorial." He looked the
worthy representative of that class of men, whose moral principles are
applied to the discharge of public duties, as strictly as to those of
a private character,--men like that high-minded worthy, who, when his
son attempted to help himself to a sheet of paper from a desk
containing public property, rebuked him thus: "Take some paper from
_my_ desk, if you want it. _That_ paper belongs to the United States."

It is generally necessary in investigating cases of depredations, to
inquire into the honesty of the clerks in the offices to which we
direct our attention; but in the present instance, such a precaution
was uncalled for, since the only assistant of the old post master was
his wife, a venerable, motherly matron, of about his age, who had
aided him in his official duties, and had been his help-meet in the
household for many, many years.

The correspondence of a generation had passed through their hands, and
they were enabled to note the changes in the number and appearance of
the letters which were placed in their charge during the long period
of their incumbency,--changes produced by the increase of population,
the freer intercourse between distant places, and the facilities for
epistolary communication, which had been progressing ever since they
had assumed the responsibilities of their office. At first few letters
were transmitted but those of a sturdy, business-like appearance,
written on coarse paper, and sealed with wafers of about the
dimensions of a modern lady's watch,--wafers that evidently had in
charge matter of weighty import, and were mighty embodiments of the
adhesive principle. Then, as Time and Improvement advanced, and the
_cacoëthes scribendi_ became more generally developed, documents
appeared of a milder grade, and of a more imaginative aspect, not only
representing the cares of business life, but indicating, by the
fineness of their texture, the laboriously neat and often feminine
character of their superscriptions, and the delicacy of their
expressive waxen seals, that Love and Friendship, and the interests of
domestic circles, were also beginning thus to find utterance.

Our worthy pair, having been connected with the postal department
during such a large portion of its existence, had naturally come to
feel much interest in whatever concerned it, and of course were
especially anxious that no blot should come upon the reputation of the
office in their charge, and that the delinquent in the present case
should be brought to light and to justice.

The old man was slow to believe that a fraud had been committed by
those connected with any office in his neighborhood, as he thought he
could vouch for the character of every one of his brother post masters
with whom he was acquainted, and the information which he gave me
respecting them seemed to exonerate them, so far as his opinion could
do it.

My first proceeding at that point, was to examine the books of the
office, by which it appeared that Boston packages were received only
once or twice a week, while they had been sent daily, according to the
records of the Boston post-office.

After passing over the entire route several times _incog._, and taking
as minute a view of the several offices as it was in my power to do
without incurring the danger of being recognised, I concluded that my
duty required me to seek an interview with the United States District
Attorney, whose functions were then discharged by no less a personage
than Hon. Franklin Pierce, now President of the United States. On
laying the whole matter before him, he expressed much regret at the
seeming implication of the "Granite State" in such acts of dishonesty
and systematic fraud; at the same time confidently expressing the
belief that the incumbents of two or three post-offices, to which I
felt satisfied the difficulty was confined, could not be the guilty
parties, as they were personally known to him.

Although I greatly respected his judgment, yet I ventured to suggest
the possibility that his desire to think well of his acquaintances
might have led him to view the characters of some of them in a too
favorable light. So, in order to establish more firmly their
trust-worthiness in my estimation, he kindly went over to the
State-house, where the Legislature was in session, and confidentially
consulted the representatives from each of the towns in question.

One of the members thus consulted, and who readily endorsed the
favorable opinion of the Attorney, happened to be _a brother of the
post master who had done all the mischief_, as it was afterwards
ascertained. I have reason to believe, however, that this gentleman
was not aware of his brother's delinquencies, and that he was
incapable of doing anything to countenance or forward such
dishonorable practices.

One of the lost letters contained several twenty dollar notes on one
of the Boston banks. On the occasion of a public Exhibition, held at
the close of the term, in the Academy before referred to, a large
number of visitors from abroad were collected together, and as money
at such a time would be circulating in the town more freely than
usual, it seemed not unlikely that one or more of those bank notes
might find their way into the current of business, and furnish, by
their identification, some clue to the perpetrator of the robberies.
With this hope, I inquired privately of several merchants in the
place, whether they had recently taken any such bills, and learned
from one of them that, about two weeks before, at the time of the
Exhibition, several of those or similar bills had been offered for
exchange by a stranger, which fact would perhaps have attracted no
particular attention, were it not for the absence of any apparent
object in this exchange. The imperfect description of the stranger
which I obtained, agreed tolerably well, as far as it went, with that
of Mr. F., post master in the town of C., where was one of the offices
through which the many missing packages should have passed.

The most decided mark of identity which was furnished me, was a brown
over-coat, cut something after the Quaker style, which my informant
remembered to have been worn by the stranger for whose accommodation
he had exchanged notes similar to those described. Deeming it unsafe
to inquire of any neighbor of the suspected post master whether he
possessed such a coat, I adopted the expedient of attending, on the
following Sabbath, the church of whose congregation he was a member,
for the purpose, of course, of listening to a good sermon, not
forgetting, however, under the scriptural license furnished in Luke
xiv. 5, to look about now and then for the Quaker coat and its
owner,--a wolf in sheep's clothing. I observed the frequent
characteristics of a country congregation,--a noisy choir, a gorgeous
display of ribbons and other "running rigging" by the fairer portion
of the audience, and a peculiarly ill-fitting assortment of coats, but
never a Quakerish garment. By the time the preacher had drawn his last
inference, I had drawn mine, namely, that it is easier to identify a
man by his face than by his coat, inasmuch as he cannot lay aside the
one, while he may the other. The day, indeed, was remarkably mild, and
few over-coats made their appearance. Mr. F. was present, however, at
both services, as I afterwards learned, and occupied a seat in the
choir,--a _base_ singer, probably.

I have now to mention one of those singular coincidences which are so
frequently brought about, as if with the design of aiding in the
exposure of crime, and of pointing out its perpetrators with unerring
accuracy. The numerous instances which are every day occurring,
illustrative of this principle, leave us no room to doubt its truth.
"Murder will out," and so will all other crimes. Let the guilty one
envelope himself in a seemingly impenetrable cloud of secrecy; let him
construct, ever so cunningly, the line of his defences, sparing no
pains to fortify every exposed point, and to guard against every
surprise; yet some ray of light, darting, like the electric flash, he
knows not whence, will pierce the darkness which surrounded him; some
hidden spark will kindle an explosion, which will bury him and his
works in ruin. "Trifles light as air" harden into "confirmation strong
as words of Holy Writ."

Assuming that the aforesaid coat, if it had any connection with the
author of the robberies, was probably manufactured at the only
tailoring establishment in the place, I happened in there on Monday
morning, and inquired of the presiding genius his price for a
respectable over-coat, intending in some roundabout way to find out
whether he had made one like that which I was in pursuit of.

"That depends," replied he, "on the material and style of making."

While continuing a desultory conversation with him on the subject of
coats, their various shapes and styles, &c., my eye fell upon a small
slip of paper pinned to the sleeve of a garment hanging near the door,
and on approaching it, I found the name W. F. written upon the paper.

"That coat belongs to Mr. F., our post master," remarked the knight of
the goose. "It was a trifle too small, and I have been altering it."

Its color, unusual length, and peculiar make, were circumstances
almost conclusive to my mind of the identity of its owner with the
individual who had been exchanging the twenty dollar notes.

I bid the tailor good morning, feeling pretty well satisfied that I
had laid the foundation of a more important _suit_ than any which his
art could furnish.

The distance from this place to the town where the academy was
situated, was about twenty miles, and the next thing to be done was to
ascertain whether F. had been there within a week or two. A little
reflection suggested a tolerably safe and direct mode of ascertaining
this fact, which was, to see the merchant before referred to, as being
cognisant of the passing of the twenty dollar notes, who had already
been partially informed of the object of my former inquiries
concerning them; and to request him to address a line to Mr. F.,
inquiring whether he recollected seeing a person, apparently insane,
in the stage-coach, while on his way home after the Exhibition. This
certainly could do no harm in case he was not present on that
occasion, while if he had been, he would very naturally confirm the
fact in answering the question proposed. The next mail brought a reply
to the effect that he did not return home by the stage, but in his own
private conveyance, and therefore saw no such person as the one
inquired about.

I had thus made a beginning in laying a foundation for the
superstructure of evidence which I was endeavoring to raise; a
foundation, of which a tight coat was the corner-stone. If Mr. F.'s
outer garment had not required alteration, I should, up to this time,
have failed in establishing a most important fact, viz., his probable
identity with the individual who passed the bank notes; and as long as
this point was involved in much uncertainty, I should hardly have felt
prepared to push my researches with much energy or hope.

The following facts were now in my possession: Mr. F. was in the same
town where the Exhibition was held, and upon that occasion; his
general appearance corresponded to that of the person who had then and
there exchanged the notes; and his position as post master gave him
sufficient opportunities to have committed the robberies. All this
seemed to authorize and require more definite and concentrated
measures on my part.

In the mail from Boston, which was to pass on that route on the
following day, sundry tempting-looking packages might have been found,
which were not altogether valueless in a pecuniary point of view, and
would assuredly have been missed had they been stopped anywhere short
of their place of destination. In other words, these packages were
what are called _decoy letters_,--a species of device for entrapping
the dishonest, which will always be effectual, and whose detective
power the shrewdest rogue is unable to withstand. The utmost sagacity
will never enable one to distinguish between a decoy-letter and a
genuine one, so that the only way of securing safety from these
missives is to let all letters alone. The coat of arms of Scotland--a
thistle, with the motto "_Noli me tangere_,"--would be an appropriate
device for these paper bomb-shells.

This set of packages, however, passed the suspected point in safety
on this occasion, and several times afterwards, for the very good
reason, as it subsequently appeared, that, in the absence of the post
master, an honest person overhauled the mails.

The snare was laid once more, and with better success.

Upon a certain day, as the mail was leaving Boston, a letter
containing some fifty dollars, in good and lawful money, duly marked
and recorded, that it might afterwards be identified, was placed in
the package of letters for the post-office which had suffered so many
losses before, and to pass through the office over which he of the
tight coat presided. This package was watched by the Special Agent for
the distance of seventy miles or more, until it had arrived unmolested
within ten or fifteen miles of the suspected office.

About this time I again fell in with General Pierce, who kindly
offered to act in concert with me until the result of that day's
experiment should be decided; he taking the stage which was to convey
the mail, and I intending to follow after by private conveyance, both
to meet again, and to examine the contents of the bag after it had
passed the office at C. The object of this temporary separation, as my
readers will readily see, was to prevent the possibility of any
recognition of my person, which might have been incurred had I been
seen traveling with a gentleman so well known as the Hon. Mr. Pierce.
Much curiosity would inevitably be manifested to know whom the U. S.
District Attorney had with him, and speculations on the subject might
approach too near the truth for the interests of public justice.

The united efforts of the sixteen legs which impelled the "leathern
conveniency" containing my friend, the Attorney, were soon too much
for the four that hurried along "Cæsar and his fortunes;" and the
first-mentioned vehicle ere long was "hull-down" in the distance. I
had often been over this route before, yet in some incomprehensible
way, either by turning off too often, or not turning often enough, I
got upon the wrong road, and came near making a bungling job of it.
Pressing on as fast as possible to get a glimpse of the stage once
more, I had driven furiously for several miles, until, becoming
convinced that I was not likely to overtake it though I should go in
that direction till doomsday, I halted at a farm-house which stood
near the road, and addressed a man who apparently had been engaged in
cutting wood in the yard, for he stood, axe in hand, with an unsplit
log lying before him. The sound of my wheels had undoubtedly arrested
his attention. Dropping his axe with alacrity, he lounged up to the
fence, and leaned his elbows upon it, evidently prepared to refresh
himself after his bodily toil, with a little social intercourse.

"Is this the road to G.?" said I.

"What are yer in such a darned hurry for, now," replied my
interlocutor. "I've heerd them air wheels of yourn a rattlin, rattlin,
this half hour by spells, and I don't bleive I've cut the vally of an
armfull of wood all that time. I do'no what She'll say."

Here he glanced uneasily over his shoulder towards the house, as if he
feared _Her_ awe-inspiring presence.

"But, my friend," I remonstrated, "this don't tell me anything about
the road. I _am_ in a hurry, and no mistake; and I'll be much obliged
to you, if you will give me a short answer to a short question."

"Wal, if that's all you want, mebbe I can 'commodate yer. 'Taint no
use keeping on this ere road. Ef you should drive ever so fast on't,
you couldn't never git to G. Cause it don't go there! Wal, you wanted
a short answer, so I'll give it to yer. That are beast o' yourn hes
some good pints. Wal, ef you want to git to G.--lemme see,--never bin
on this road afore, hev you?"

"Of course I haven't," replied I, somewhat testily.

"Then you wouldn't know nothin about the old Hoxie place; no, sartin
you wouldn't. Wal, abeout two mild furder on, you'll come to a brick
house with four chimblys, jist where another road comes in. You turn
to the right by the brick house, and that'll bring you to G."

"How much further is it to G. this way than it is by the direct road?"

"Wal, 'bout four mild."

Upon this, I was about starting, when he called out, "I say, mister,
don't you want to trade hosses? I----"

"What yer beout there, Jerry," exclaimed a shrill voice from the
house, which could be no other than that of the redoubtable
"She"--"not a stick of wood in the house, and you a loafin there on
the fence. I tell you----"

Her further remonstrances were lost to me, but I doubt not that the
luckless Jerry received a suitable reprimand for his delinquency.

Here I was then, having four miles further to go than the stage, and
my horse beginning to show unequivocal signs of fatigue. As the stage
driver knew nothing of our plan, the probability was that he would
pass the next office long before I could arrive and examine the mail
bag. In this emergency, I could think of nothing better than to leave
horse and carriage at some place on the road, and obtain a
saddle-horse, with which I might succeed in "coming to time." And
after turning at the "brick house with four chimblys," I was gladdened
by the sight of a tavern some half a mile beyond, to which I hastened
with all practicable speed, and lost no time in inquiring whether I
could obtain a substitute for my over-driven animal.

The landlord was prompt in answering my demand, and forthwith ordered
his hostler to put the saddle upon "Bob." While Bob was being "got
up," I found myself the object of many inquisitive looks from the
assemblage of tavern loungers, to whom my arrival was a rather unusual
windfall; for it was not every day that the intervals between drams
were enlivened by such a comet-like approach. The team wagons and
other vehicles which frequented the road, and whose motions were as
methodical as those of the planets--the tavern being the sun of their
system--produced no emotions in the minds of these idlers, like the
unexpected appearance of an unknown body like myself, coming no one
knew whence, and going no one could tell where. One of two
alternatives seemed forced on them by the "hot haste" of my movements.
The stranger was either a pursuer or the pursued. If he was the
latter, what had he been doing? And if the former, of what had
somebody else been guilty? These perplexing questions were settled in
a manner apparently satisfactory to them, by the inquiry which I made
of the landlord, whether he had seen a man pass that way on horseback,
leading another horse, which I described minutely. The anxious
audience at once jumped at the conclusion, as I had intended they
should, that I was in pursuit of a horse-thief, which impression I
took care to strengthen by sundry incidental remarks. It seemed
necessary by some such device to prevent all suspicion of my real
character and object, in order that if I failed in executing my design
this day, the case might stand as well as before.

By this time "Bob" had been saddled and bridled, and issued forth from
the stable, equipped for action, under the auspices of the hostler. He
(to wit, Bob,) was a stout Canadian pony, rejoicing in a peculiarly
shaggy mane, and a tail which was well calculated to add completeness
to my comet-like character. He was strong of limb, and evidently quite
as competent as any quadruped that could ordinarily be found, to carry
me to my destination within the required time.

As soon as I was fairly in the saddle, some one among the small crowd
assembled to witness my departure, gave a slight whistle and made a
sound something like "he up," whereat the treacherous Bob went through
a series of gymnastic performances highly gratifying to the select
audience in front of the tavern, and occasioning a display on my part,
of equestrian accomplishments which I was never before conscious of
possessing. The pony elevated himself upon his hind legs so as to
assume an almost perpendicular posture, giving me much the attitude of
Napoleon as he is represented in David's well-known picture, "only
more so." After standing thus for an instant, he commenced a rotary
movement, still upon two legs, and coming down, reared in the
opposite direction a few times, before he saw fit permanently to
resume the horizontal position, I, during this period of revolution,
hanging by his neck (my _main_ stay,) and losing off my hat in the
ardor of my embraces.


While I was thus the sport of circumstances, the spectators indulged
in various jocose observations, which then seemed to me exceedingly
ill-timed and impertinent. One suggested that I was a Millerite, and
was endeavoring to "go up" on horseback, at the same time expressing a
desire to know what I would charge for an extra passenger; while
another inquired what direction I proposed to take in my pursuit of
the imaginary horse-thief; intimating a willingness to be in his
place, so far as concerned any danger of being overtaken by me.

"Well done!" exclaimed the jolly landlord, as Bob re-assumed his
quadrupedal character.

"No, no," replied I, "there's too much _rare_ meat in him for that."

Under cover of this sally, I made a triumphant retreat, the landlord
leading Bob for a little distance, lest he should be inclined to
repeat the entire programme. While thus engaged, Boniface explained
the conduct of the horse, by informing me that he formerly belonged to
a person who had taught him the trick, which he would always attempt
to go through with when instigated thereto by such a sound as I heard
when I mounted him. With many apologies for the occurrence, "mine
host" let go the bridle, and I proceeded to find out what Bob could do
with his whole force of legs. This performance was more satisfactory
to me than his former one, and as we flew along, his tail and my
coat-tails streaming in the air, I seemed to myself an embodiment of
the design upon the seal of my commission, and was inwardly amused to
think how soon the ideal post-rider and his steed had found their real
representatives in the persons of myself and Bob.

In this style we dashed onward, and as I reined in my panting charger
before the door of the hotel in G., the stage was just ready to start,
the driver being seated on his official throne, whip and reins in
hand, looking the picture of impatience. He would have been gone
before this, had not the District-Attorney interceded for a short
delay. This gentleman was standing in the door of the post-office,
appearing very much surprised at my want of punctuality. A hasty
explanation produced a smile, and the remark, that it was a "good

A doubt which I suggested, as to the safety of examining the mail in
the presence of the post master, was set at rest by my companion, who
assured me that he was certain of the integrity of this functionary,
and also informed me that he had been made acquainted with the object
of our call, before my arrival. The post master being a merchant,
there was, among the other miscellaneous articles which compose the
stock of a country store, a fair assortment of gentlemen of leisure,
sitting upon the counter, and reclining in graceful attitudes upon the
boxes and barrels. Our unusual movements inspired them with unwonted
vigor, and an ardent desire was manifested on their part to know what
hidden mystery lurked within the recesses of the mail-bag, which we
were about carrying to a room above, in order to be out of the way of
observation. Two of these gentlemen, thirsting for knowledge, hastily
formed themselves into a committee of investigation, and followed us
up stairs, until they were summarily relieved from the discharge of
their self-imposed duties by a peremptory intimation from Mr. Pierce,
that we wished to be alone for a short time.

As soon as we had secured ourselves from intrusion, the bag was
hastily unlocked, and its contents turned upon the floor. Each package
was taken up, separately and carefully examined, but the all-important
one, whose absence would indicate unerringly the guilt of the
suspected individual, was not there! This was the most trying and
responsible moment of all, as it is always found to be in such
investigations--the moment when it is discovered that the trap has
been sprung, and the rogue is almost within your grasp. For experience
has shown, that missing a "decoy-letter," and establishing in a legal
manner the guilt of the individual who is known to have intercepted
it, are two very different things. Much caution is requisite in the
management of these cases, in order to leave no loop-hole of retreat
to the culprit. Too hasty movements might spoil all, by alarming him
before he had put it out of his power to account plausibly for the
detention of the letter; while a too long delay might enable him to
increase materially the difficulty of obtaining direct evidence, by
affording him an opportunity of disposing of the necessary proof,--the
letter itself, and the contained money.

In the present instance, it was considered that a too speedy return to
search for the absent package, might result in finding it in a perfect
state, allowing of the explanation by the post master, that it had
been left over by mistake in overhauling the mail, which would have
put the case in a capital shape for a tolerably sharp lawyer to
defend. We therefore concluded to allow several hours to elapse before
making a descent upon the premises, the time being mainly occupied in
drawing up the requisite papers, and procuring the attendance of a
proper officer to serve them.

All things having been prepared, we started, at about nine o'clock in
the evening, for the post-office in question. The office itself was in
a small building, some twenty rods from the post master's house, and
as we approached the premises, no light was visible, excepting in one
of the chambers of the dwelling. There, accordingly, we directed our
steps, and a few raps upon the door brought down the post master,
light in hand, who at once recognised "Squire Paarce," as he called
the District-Attorney. This gentleman politely requested him to step
over to the office, to transact some business, the nature of which he
did not then explain. The post master expressed his readiness to
accompany Mr. Pierce, remarking that he must first leave him a moment,
in order to go to another part of the house for a lantern. Some such
manoeuvre on his part had been anticipated, and he was closely
watched--in fact, Mr. Pierce went with him--while absent on his
errand, to deprive him of an opportunity of secreting any money that
he might have on his person.

On reaching the post-office, he was introduced to the Agent, whose
first object was, to get an admission from him, that he was present
when the mail arrived from Boston that day, that he overhauled it
alone, and that he had at this time no packages on hand to go by the
mail Northward the day following. These points having been
ascertained, the subject of the numerous losses on that route was
broached, and the fact plainly stated, that they had been traced to
that office; which piece of information was received by the post
master with the utmost apparent self-possession. Indeed, he seemed
exceedingly surprised to hear of the various frauds which I
enumerated, and professed entire ignorance that anything of the kind
had occurred, assuring me that if such things had been done, my
suspicions as to his office were utterly groundless.

"Do you receive much money in the course of your business, Mr. F.?" I

"Some," was the laconic reply.

"Have you much on hand now, and is it here, or at the house, or where
is it?"

"I don't know that my duty to the Post-office Department compels me to
answer such questions--to strangers, anyhow," replied he, with an air
of defiance.

"Then," said I, "_my_ duty to the Department will require me to
dispense with further interrogatories, and proceed to satisfy myself
as to the present state of your finances in some other, and more
direct way."

"Well, Squire," said he, turning to Mr. Pierce, "I want to know if you
have brought this man here to bully me, on my own premises, and accuse
me of doing things that I never thought of, to say nothing of his
impertinence in inquiring into my private business affairs. Let him
find out what he can about them. I sha'n't help him."

The District-Attorney assured him that all was correct; that his
rights should be protected; and that he had better furnish the
required information as to his means, and allow us to examine any
funds he might have on hand. This, the Attorney suggested, would be
the course which a regard for his own interests should lead him to

After much grumbling, and giving vent to his dissatisfaction by the
remark, that "he didn't see why he should be picked out, and treated
in this way," he reluctantly complied with my somewhat urgent request
to be allowed to look at the money in his possession. Handing me his
wallet, he awaited the result of the examination with all the
composure he could command. He must have inferred, from what had been
said, that it was in my power to identify whatever money he had that
was unlawfully obtained, yet with the consciousness that he was thus
open to detection, he did not flinch, nor betray but in a small
degree, the heart-sinking that a knowledge of his perilous situation
could not fail to produce. These were my first thoughts, but I
afterwards had occasion to believe that he was not aware of the
overwhelming proof against himself which he supplied as he passed his
pocket-book into my hands. A hasty examination of its contents
revealed unmistakable evidence of his guilt, for on consulting the
description of the bills mailed that morning in Boston, to go some
twenty miles above this point, every one of them was at once

"Mr. F.," said I, "this money I saw placed in a letter in Boston, this
morning, to go some distance above you; how came it in your wallet?"

For some time the unfortunate man was speechless. He had continued so
long in his course of fraud, that the ground had begun to feel firm
beneath his feet, when all at once this gulf opened before him, about
to swallow up everything that man ought to hold most dear: character,
liberty, the love and respect of his fellow men, and even property--a
thing of comparatively little importance--for restitution would justly
be required.

The words in which one of Milton's fallen spirits addresses a brother
angel, might appropriately be applied to this victim of the lust of

    "If thou be'st he;--but O, how fallen, how changed!"

Yes, indeed, how changed! He had occupied a high position in
community, enjoying the confidence of every one; and had been elected
to places of honor and trust by his fellow-citizens, before his
appointment to this office by the general Government. What was he now?
What would he be when it should be known everywhere that the exemplary
Mr. F. had been guilty of a felon's crimes, and was likely to meet
with a felon's doom? How could he ever face again his children,
already deprived of one parent by death, and about to lose another by
that which is worse than death? Ah! if crime presented the same aspect
before its perpetration that it does afterward, how vast would be the
diminution of human guilt!

The District-Attorney and Sheriff having purposely retired for a few
moments, I took occasion to represent to F., in as strong a light as
possible, the disappointments and distress which his unprincipled
course had occasioned among the pupils of the academy, at the same
time urging him, if he had not destroyed their letters, to produce
them at once, that they might be forwarded to their rightful owners.
He did not deny that he was the author of all the mischief; and stated
that the letters he had taken had been destroyed, but that the
money--several hundred dollars--was invested in real estate, and could
be restored.

After I had ascertained these important facts, I consigned the
criminal to the Sheriff's hands, in virtue of the warrant which had
before been made out, as I have already mentioned. The Sheriff
returned to the house with him, to allow him to make some preparation
for a night's ride, and as they issued from the dwelling, I noticed
that F. had on the identical Quaker coat, which had been to him what
the robe of Nessus was to Hercules,--a garment bringing unforeseen
destruction to its wearer.

The trial of the prisoner was held in due time, and its result
furnished no exception to the truth of the Scriptural declaration
respecting the way of transgressors.

Before closing this narrative, I should mention that measures were
taken to secure the restoration of their money to those who had been
defrauded by this man's dishonesty. It was, however, a slower process
to heal the wounded feelings, to re-establish the broken friendships,
and to reproduce the lost confidence, of which he had been the guilty
cause. Whether he ever regained his lost reputation, I am unable to

A long course of upright conduct may and ought to obliterate the
memory of former crime, but the commission of such crimes ordinarily
raises additional barriers in the way of a virtuous life; and too
often it were as hopeful a task to collect the fragments of a diamond
which has just been dashed upon the pavement, and attempt to
reconstruct it in its original beauty, as to gather up the remains of
a ruined character, and endeavor to restore it to its former lustre.


    A competent Assistant--Yielding to Temptation--An easy Post
    Master--Whispers of Complaint--Assistant embarrassed--Application
    to his Uncle--The Refusal--Value of a kind Word--Resort to
    Depredations--Evidences of Guilt--Decoy Letter taken--The Bowling
    Saloon--The Agent worsted--The Restaurant--Bother of the Credit
    System--The fatal Bank-Note--Keen Letter to the Agent--The
    Arrest--The next Meeting.

Those who are connected in any way with the administration of the law,
find their sympathies excited in very different degrees by the several
cases which they have in hand from time to time. Although the ruin of
character is to be deplored under all circumstances, yet it never
gives rise to greater commiseration and regret than when it destroys
more than ordinary capabilities for adorning and profiting society.
Such were the capabilities possessed by Thomas L., the subject of the
following sketch.

I have rarely, in my official capacity, come in contact with a young
man who was more richly endowed with acuteness of intellect,
brilliancy of talent, and fascination of manners; and in addition to
these gifts of nature, he had received from a devoted mother those
lessons of morality and religion which she fondly hoped would guard
him from the dangers that might beset his path. Well was it for her
peace of mind that she was removed to that world "where the wicked
cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest," while yet her
beloved son retained an unsullied character, and the respect of his

Such was the young man whose fall I have to record. His employer, the
post master, was a man of ample pecuniary means, independent of the
emoluments of his office, and, as is often true in similar cases,
giving but little time or attention to the discharge of its duties.
Nor was his immediate superintendence necessary, so far as concerned
the details of business, for his young Assistant, though only eighteen
years of age, kept everything in complete order, and so administered
the office, with the occasional assistance of a younger lad, as to
give perfect satisfaction to all who had dealings with it, and to
render the angel-like visits of the post master a matter of very
little consequence to the public. But this universal popularity, and
the absence of supervision and of restraint, other than that supplied
by his own conscience, were circumstances unfavorable to the
preservation of his integrity, and laid him open to the temptations
which so easily assail those of like character and similarly situated.

The most gifted and socially attractive are always peculiarly exposed
to danger of this kind, and nothing short of firmly established
principle can be relied on for safety. Doubtless, the truths which his
departed mother had endeavored to impress upon his young mind often
sounded their tones of warning in his ears; yet they were too weak to
be heard in the roar of the stream which was bearing him along to

A few drops of water seem of little importance. They may sparkle as
dew, they may form a rainbow; but when, united to others, they rush
onward as a mighty torrent, sweeping everything before them, we may
see how pleasing and often apparently trifling are the beginnings of
evil, and how irresistible are its downward tendencies to those who
put themselves within its power.

The usual enticements of a moderate-sized Massachusetts country
village,--the sleighing parties, dancing schools, balls, refreshment
saloons, bowling alleys, &c., conspired in this case to invite
considerable expenditures, and the subject of this sketch, in his
attempt to keep up with the course of extravagance and unthinking
dissipation upon which his companions had entered, who could better
afford the expense, found his means entirely inadequate to this end;
but before making the discovery, he had been committed to the
whirlpool of fashionable pleasure too far to extricate himself without
much difficulty.

The first effects of this course began to show themselves in the
frequent closing of the office in advance of the proper time, and the
opening of it at irregular and often unseasonable hours. Whispers of
complaint were heard on the part of business men, which, coming to the
ears of the post master, were followed by some _gentle_
remonstrances,--gentle they necessarily were, for circumstances
already related had given the boy too much consequence (rendering his
services, as he well knew, quite indispensable) to allow him to bear
patiently anything like a "blowing up" from his too easy employer. For
a time, however, this remissness ceased, and like some noble ship
struck by a heavy wave and brought to a momentary stand, while driving
onward to shipwreck, this promising young man appeared to pause in his
dangerous career, and for a while all seemed to be going on well. But
the improvement was only temporary. The importunities of his
companions, innocent perhaps of any vicious design, again diverted his
attention from business, and he was soon fairly in the old track of
pleasure-seeking, regardless of the sacrifice of time or money.

Having the entire control of the post-office funds, and not being
required to account for the money collected till the close of the
quarter, he at first ventured to use these funds in a limited way, to
pay the more urgent demands upon him, trusting, as he afterwards
expressed himself, that "something would turn up," he knew not what,
to enable him to replace the money before the quarterly settlement
with his confiding employer. As the time approached, he discovered
with dismay that the deficiency amounted to some seventy-five
dollars. How to make this good was a perplexing question, which
occupied his daily thoughts and disturbed his nightly slumbers. He was
proud-spirited, and up to this time, had enjoyed an unspotted
reputation. Discovery must be averted at any rate.

At this juncture, the thought of some property which his widowed
mother at her death had left for him in the hands of a relative living
at a distance, came to his relief, and he resolved to lose no time in
applying for aid in that direction. A frank and full statement of his
real situation would no doubt have brought him the desired aid, but,
as will be seen in his letter of application to his uncle, he was
induced to give a false reason for his need of funds, and the cold,
business-like reply which followed, is such as would naturally be
expected from one who had no sympathy with the weaknesses of youth,
and no disposition to inquire with a kindly interest into the affairs
of his young relative. Had this reply been different in its tone, it
might have drawn out the requisite explanation, and have effectually
prevented what afterwards occurred.

Here are the letters:

                                    E----, Mass., February 16th, 1849.

    My dear Uncle,

    I am in need of some funds, say seventy-five dollars. I have
    foolishly loaned about that amount in small sums to a friend at
    school here, upon whose word I thought I could depend, when he
    promised me he could replace it at any moment I desired. I shall
    consider it a great favor if you will accommodate me.

                                       Your affectionate nephew,


To this the following reply was received:--

                                      New York, February 19th, 1849.

    My dear Sir,

    Your letter of the 16th inst. is before me, soliciting the sum of
    seventy-five dollars. This singular request has very much
    surprised me, as in the first place I have no available means in
    my hands belonging to you, and besides, if I had, I should not be
    in a hurry to relieve you from the embarrassment which you seem
    to be in, as it may learn you to be more cautious in future.

    I have understood that your compensation is ample for your
    support, if you are economical; but if you lend your money to
    spendthrifts, and get swindled out of it, it is your own affair.
    This is the opinion of

                                                Yours, &c.,

                                                          HENRY S----.

It can be imagined how much a response of this description was
calculated to open the heart, or invite the confidence of the
unfortunate Thomas. His pride felt sorely the repulsive tone which his
uncle adopted, and the supposed disgrace of making an unsuccessful
application for money, to say nothing of the slurs cast upon his own
discretion, and the honor of his companions. At this critical juncture
in the character and affairs of the young man, such a cold rebuff was
like a death-blow to all purposes of future fidelity and honesty; and
as I listened to this part of the instructive narration, I could not
but feel that the uncle, by withholding needed sympathy and aid, was
in some degree responsible for the after course of his erring nephew.

All hope of assistance in this direction having been abandoned,
desperation suggested a further departure from honesty.

"It is but a little more risk," whispered the fiend. "Take enough to
make this quarter's account square, and you will come out right
somehow before another settlement."

Weakened conscience was unable to withstand the pressure of
circumstances, and the plausible scheme proposed for relief. So, money
letters, which heretofore had been perfectly safe, were emptied of
their contents to meet the present exigency.

Indications not to be mistaken, that some one was robbing the mails in
that vicinity, soon began to appear, though among all the complaints,
not one referred to the loss of any letter mailed at or addressed to
the office at E. They all related to important letters posted at other
offices, but passing through E., and it was not until all sorts of
tests and experiments had been tried in vain at other points, and
every other mode of operation exhausted, that the Agent took up
temporary quarters at the private residence of an acquaintance, from
which, without being observed, he could overlook this office, hitherto
the least suspected on the route.

The opportunity afforded after dark of taking a glance at the interior
of the office and its principal occupant, through the glass boxes in
front, was of course properly improved, and this little experiment
furnished, as the result showed, an important clue to the whole
matter; for on the first evening's watch, I discovered what I deemed
evidence of the clerk's guilt.

Stepping silently and unnoticed into the vestibule of the office, and
gaining a position whence I could observe his motions, I distinctly
saw him thrust what appeared to be a letter into the stove, afterwards
taking up a wallet from the table and placing it hastily in his
pocket. I must have made some slight noise, for after doing this, he
suddenly turned and looked sharply in my direction.

This may have been nothing more than the instinctive glance of
distrust which those who have not the entire control of themselves are
apt to cast around after doing something that they would dislike to be
detected in.

However it may have been, thinking that he had discovered me, I
stepped boldly up to the "general delivery," and inquired for a letter
for "Robert Marshall, railroad contractor," taking occasion to observe
him closely as he was engaged in running over the letters. He seemed
confused, his hands shook a little, his face was flushed, and his
voice Was inclined to tremble, as he replied that there was "nothing
for Robert Marshall." I attributed all this to fear lest his previous
movements might have been observed, and left the office, strongly
suspecting that Thomas L. was the author of the depredations in

A few experiments in the way of "decoy letters," mailed so as to pass
through that office, soon converted suspicion into certainty. One of
these letters, containing sundry bank-notes, disappeared, and one of
the notes was traced directly back to his hands. How this was done,
the reader will probably insist upon knowing, and it is my intention
to gratify this thirst for information, although in so doing I shall
be compelled to reveal a degree of unskilfulness in the game of
ten-pins which would deter the most sanguine gamester from betting on
my head.

In the basement of the hotel was a bowling saloon, which, as I had
ascertained, the suspected clerk was in the habit of visiting in the
evening, after closing the post-office, and this fact suggested my
plan. I might have arrested and searched him at once, but I thought it
the better way to watch the money exchanged by him, in the hope that
some of the missing bills might thus come to light.

For if he should chance to have none of these about his person, a
search would spoil all, by putting him on his guard, whereas if he
should offer none of them, no harm would be done, and things would
remain _in statu quo_.

With these views I made a confidant of the landlord of the hotel which
contained the bowling saloon, and agreed to meet him there early in
the evening for a "roll," and arranged that in case the young man came
in as usual, my partner should excuse himself, and substitute L. in
his place, to oblige a stranger, who, of course, was rolling merely
for exercise.

My design in making this arrangement was to fasten the expense of the
evening's recreation upon L. by a brilliant and overpowering display
of my skill in bowling, calculating that he would probably pass some
of the stolen money in payment. This was my programme--how it was
executed I shall proceed to show.

"Mine host" and I had been rolling perhaps half an hour, when a
fine-looking, well-dressed young man entered the saloon, whom I at
once recognised as L. The landlord and myself happened to be the only
ones then engaged in playing, as it was rather early in the evening
for the appearance of most of those who resorted there; so L. watched
our game for a while, till the landlord, looking at his watch,
remarked that he had an engagement which must be attended to
immediately, and turning to L., said,

"Here, Tom, you take my place with this gentleman, for I've got to go

"Enough said," replied Tom. "I am always on hand for most any kind of
a _ball_."

As I looked at the pleasing features and intelligent countenance of
the young man, a pang of sorrow shot through my heart, to think that
over his head the invisible sword of justice was even now suspended.
But such reflections are unprofitable, inasmuch as they tend to unfit
one for the discharge of painful duty. So I dismissed them as far as I
could, and applied myself to my double game--

    "Rolling down at once, by a double stroke,
     A man, as well as a pin."

The first roll of my new antagonist shook my faith in the feasibility
of my plan, for the ball went clattering among the wooden platoons
like the grape-shot at Balaklava, and in an instant ten _block heads_
bit the dust.

"A rather bad beginning," thought I; "but I don't believe he can do
that again."

Comforting myself with this reflection, I applied all the practical
and theoretical skill I was master of, to vanquish my experienced foe.
I called to mind my long dormant and slender knowledge about the
angles of incidence and reflection. I considered the nature of
resultant forces, and the effect which a ball impinging on pin A would
have upon the uprightness of its neighbors, B, C, &c. I thus devised
theoretical "ten strikes," which (doubtless from some defect in the
reasoning) would fall short of my ideal standard by as much as four or
five pins; and on several occasions, the ball strayed almost
innocuously through the ranks, prostrating only one or two of the
outposts. I had a few transient gleams of light when my adversary grew
somewhat careless, perhaps from continued success; but darkness soon
returned upon my prospects, and I saw in my mind's eye the money
coming from my pocket and not his.

We held but little conversation during the progress of our game, for
my thoughts were preoccupied with my ultimate object, and L. made no
great effort to overcome my taciturnity; yet some casual remarks were
made which showed that he identified me as the person who inquired for
letters for "Robert Marshall, railroad contractor."

After playing thus for some time, he invited me to take a glass of
ale, which proposition I gladly accepted, as it would give me one more
chance to know something about the contents of his pocket book. I
began to think that my toils were nearly over, and as we stood
imbibing the fluid, I could hardly wait until the glasses were
emptied, in my impatience to see the bank-note produced which was to
settle at once the bill, and him.

Delusive anticipations! The credit system interposed to crush my
hopes, for L. said to the bar-tender, "Put it down to me, Jim."

As "Jim" put it down, _I_ felt put down, and followed my companion
back to the alley as humbly as if we had changed places, and I was the
suspected one.

"Come, Mr. L.," said I, after we had resumed our game, "you play so
much better than I that you will be safe in giving me some little
advantage. Just allow me twenty on a 'string,' and let me see if I can
do any better at that."

"Very well, sir," said he, "I will do it, although I am afraid you
will be too much for me."

But I was not, and after playing until the establishment closed for
the night, I found myself under the disagreeable necessity of paying
some three dollars for the privilege of being thoroughly defeated,
deducting the benefit received from more than two hours' hard work!


One other expedient suggested itself, namely, offering in payment a
twenty dollar note, in the hope that the proprietor, finding it
inconvenient to make change, would call on the victorious clerk to
accommodate him, and thus would bring to light the missing bills. But
this device also failed.

I did not yet "give up the ship."

"I don't know how it is with you, L.," said I, "but I feel rather
empty about the epigastric region, after such a pull as you have given
me, and I should think you might afford to treat a fellow."

"Well, I don't care if I do," said he. "_I_ feel a sort of gnawing
under my vest. Come up stairs, and we'll get something."

To this I replied that I was tired of the noise, and would rather go
to some more quiet place. He readily assented, and led the way to a
neighboring restaurant. We ensconced ourselves within one of the
curtained recesses, and here I devoted myself to the consumption of as
much "provant" as my digestive organs could dispose of, with the
intention of running up as large a bill as possible, in order that a
bank-note might be offered in payment, and the desired proof of my
companion's guilt secured. I saw through the corner of my eye that he
seemed to be studying my physiognomy, and the thought came into my
mind that his readiness to "treat" was owing to his wish for a good
opportunity to find out something more about me. We had begun to talk
about various kinds of occupations, and he inquired,

"Is not your business a profitable one, Mr.--Marshall, I believe?"

I acknowledged the name, and said that my business was anything but a
profitable one.[A]

  [A] See Act of Congress establishing the compensation of
  Special Agents.

"Isn't it a rather ticklish one, now-a-days? so much rascality you

"Yes, but I mean to look out sharp for rogues, and to be pretty sure
that I deal with people I can trust."

"I have a very good situation in the post-office," said he, "but I
sometimes wish to be where I could have more variety--some kind of
business that would require me to travel."

"You had better be contented where you are," replied I; "this
seventeen-year old fever never did any one much good. If you are
faithful in your present place, you will have no trouble in getting a
better situation a few years hence."

To this he made no reply, and the conversation dropped.

After I had appeased "the sacred rage of hunger," and added some works
of supererogation in that line for the furtherance of my object, we
emerged from our retreat, as "the iron tongue of midnight" was tolling
twelve, which sounded to me like the knell of my companion's doom, for
I felt confident that the time had now come for the _denouement_ of
the two-act drama which we had been playing that evening. It seemed
extremely improbable that there should be here any accommodating "Jim"
to score down the little bill for future settlement. But there was. We
went up to what was then the bar, but in these temperance times would
be called the "office," and L. said to the presiding genius, with a
familiar and confident air, "Just charge that to me, and I'll make it
all right."

"Rather all wrong," thought I.

As we passed out into the darkness of the night and stood for a moment
on the steps, I thought I discovered, by the faint light of a street
lamp, my companion observing me with scrutinizing glances, thus
seeming to indicate a suspicion on his part that our rapid
acquaintance and companionship had not been without some design, which
he was desirous of penetrating. Indeed a fear of this produced
anything but agreeable reflections after we had separated, and I had
retired to my lodgings. Could it be that a suspicion of my real object
had prevented him from paying for the ale, and settling the bill at
the restaurant? It seemed possible, certainly, yet under other
circumstances I should have thought nothing of the occurrence, and he
seemed to be satisfied with the "dodge" of the "railroad contractor."

Then came a doubt as to the wisdom of the policy I had adopted, in
allowing him to be at large, instead of arresting him at once on the
disappearance of the decoy letter. Several days had elapsed since it
was taken, and the probability of finding any part of its contents
upon him, hardly seemed to warrant a resort to that course now; so, on
the whole, I concluded to persevere in the cautious line of policy
with which I had commenced.

In the course of a conversation which I held with the aforementioned
landlord, on the following day, the fact came to light that he had a
claim against L., for money loaned. It occurred to me that an urgent
application for its repayment might accomplish the desired object, and
I requested the landlord to assist me in this way. He readily
complied, and after a second appeal the debt was discharged, and among
the money, which I lost no time in comparing with the description of
that purloined from the letter, was a five dollar note that I at once
identified as one of the stolen bills.

Notwithstanding this overwhelming evidence as to the origin of the
mail depredations on this route, there were good reasons for further
delay in making the arrest, especially as it seemed unlikely that the
person detected would know anything of his real situation for a few
days. During this interval, I found it necessary to visit a
neighboring city. The reader may judge of my surprise at receiving,
two days afterwards, a letter, of which the following is a copy:--


    I have ascertained, no matter how, that you are the "railroad
    contractor" whom I met in the basement of the hotel in this place
    a few evenings since, and who partook of my hospitalities
    afterwards at M----'s saloon. Also that you entertained and
    perhaps still entertain some doubts of my honesty, as a clerk in
    the post-office here.

    I am sorry you had not the candor to say as much to my face, and
    thus afford me the opportunity of satisfying you as to my standing
    and character among those who have known me best and longest. You
    are welcome, sir, to all the advantage you obtained in your
    underhanded dealings with me on the occasion referred to; if,
    however, you cannot prostrate private character faster than you
    can ten-pins, I think I have but little to fear at present.

                                     Yours, _not_ very respectfully,

                                                         THOMAS L----.

        To J. Holbrook,

      Special Agent, P. O. Dept.

How this clue to my official identity was obtained, I failed to
discover at the time, and have been no wiser on that point at any
period since. Nor was it of much account, as the information, from
whatever quarter derived, came too late to be of any avail, and after
he had exposed himself by passing the money which had been placed in
the mail to detect him. When he was preparing the above epistle,
congratulating himself on my want of skill at prostrating "private
character," little did he think that I had already achieved a sweeping
"ten-strike" in his own case!

The necessary complaint was made, a warrant issued, and the
unfortunate young man taken into custody by the U. S. Marshal. I shall
never forget the indescribable look which he gave me as he entered the
office of the U. S. Commissioner, for a preliminary examination. It
was the first time we had met since the memorable roll and supper, and
the quondam "railroad contractor" now first appeared to his eye
transmuted into the formidable "Special Agent."

There was little surprise in his look, but an expression of mortified
pride and anger, as he addressed me in a low tone,

"I thought I should meet _you_ here!"

"Well, Thomas," said I, "I don't know as you will believe me, but, I
assure you, I heartily regret that you are brought to this pass, and
if the ends of justice could be answered, I should be the first to let
you go free."

"Perhaps you would," replied he, moodily. "It's easy enough to say

"But," I remarked, "I want you to take a reasonable view of the
matter. You cannot think me so destitute of common humanity as to wish
to place any one in such an unpleasant position, much less a young man
like yourself, so capable of better things."

He appeared to be somewhat impressed by the earnestness with which I
spoke, and answered in a softened tone,

"I suppose I ought to believe you, but it seems hard to be entrapped
in the way I have been."

"It may be the best thing that could have happened to you under the
circumstances," said I, "and I sincerely hope that it will prove so."

I was desirous of making him see that I was actuated in the course I
had taken by no motive other than a wish to discharge my duty
faithfully, and therefore left him for the time to consider what I had
said, confident that a little reflection would calm his ruffled
temper, and lead him to a correct view of the case. In this I was not
mistaken, and when I urged him to make a confession on the ground of
justice to others, and his own interest, he "made a clean breast" of
it, and gave in substance the account of his downward course, with
which the reader is already familiar. He expressed much regret and
penitence, and a mournful satisfaction that his mother was not alive
to know of his disgrace.

It seems unnecessary to pursue the subject further. The force of the
lesson it is calculated to teach would not thus be increased, and the
feelings of some might be harrowed up, who should rather receive
sympathy and consolation.


    Business Rivalry--Country Gossiping--Museum of Antiquities--New
    Post Master--Serious Rumors--Anonymous Letters--Package
    detained--Bar-room Scene--_Ram_ifications of the Law--First
    Citizens--Rascally Enemies--Lawyer's Office--Gratuitous
    Backing--Telegraphing--U.S. Marshal arrives--The Charge--The Fatal
    Quarter--Enemies' Triumph--The Warrant--Singular Effects of
    Fear--A Faithful Wife--Sad Memories--The Squire's Surprise--All

The jealousies and rivalry often existing between persons of similar
occupations, which supply the truth contained in the old proverb, "Two
of a trade can never agree," are fostered and strengthened in small
towns to an extent which is not as conspicuous, and perhaps not as
frequently observed in larger places. For this general spirit of
emulation and strife is greatly aggravated by the interest that almost
all the inhabitants of small communities feel in the sayings and
doings of their neighbors.

This interest is too often manifested by reporting from one to another
hasty and ill-considered speeches, which should be suffered to die
where they are born; but thus set in motion by careless tongues, for
the benefit of itching ears, they roll on like snow-balls, and attain
a size and shape hardly recognisable by those who gave them their
first impulse.

An incidental, but an important consequence of these circumstances, is
the ready formation of parties about almost every quarrel that may
arise in such a village. The tranquil surface of country life is in
this way disturbed, like that of a still lake by the plunge of a stone
into its bosom, and the resulting waves, in both instances, extend
indefinitely in every direction.

The bustling little town of H. was not exempt from the evils at which
I have glanced, for the half-dozen shopkeepers who supplied the
inhabitants with their necessaries and luxuries, fully exemplified the
truth of the proverb above quoted. Their rivalry, however, was not
exercised by and toward one another impartially, but it was rather a
contest between the old, established merchants of the place, and one
whose coming was of a comparatively recent date. It was, in short, a
competition between Old and Young America.

The old school merchants affected to look with contempt on their
younger brother and his goods, suggesting that, however alluring his
prices and commodities might be, his customers would find to their
cost, that "All is not gold that glitters." Hints were thrown out
about calicoes that "did from their color fly," and sugar that was not
entirely soluble in hot water. It was also darkly intimated that B.
(the merchant in question) couldn't stand it long at the rate he was
going on, rashly keeping his assortment full all the time, instead of
cautiously waiting until an article was ordered, before he sent for
it. This sort of thing would never do. It was sure to bring him to

On the other hand, the enterprising B. ridiculed the clique of "old
fogies," as he termed them, and characterized their establishments as
"Museums of Antiquities." In accordance with the spirit of the age, he
lined his shop with vast hand-bills, printed on type of stupendous
size, so that he who runs might read; with such headings as "The only
Cheap Store!" "Fresh and fashionable Goods at Low Prices!" "This Stock
of Goods bought within the present Century!" and other wonderful
announcements, which drew the susceptible public within his doors to
a greater extent than was agreeable to the feelings or the interests
of his "slower" competitors.

And as if all this was not enough, by way of climax to his prosperous
course, B. received the appointment of post master. The post-office,
as a matter of course, always brings an increase of business to the
store where it is kept; and in the present instance, B. did not fail
to secure all the advantages arising from his position.

And so successfully did he manage his affairs, with this additional
impetus, that one or two of his opponents, finding many of their
customers deserting them by reason of the superior attractions of the
"new store," abandoned the field in disgust, determined, however, to
lose no opportunity of undermining the object of their jealousy, or at
least of injuring his prospects.

Rumors, detrimental not only to his reputation as a man of business,
but to his character as a post master, soon got abroad. How they
originated, no one knew; whether they had any foundation in truth, no
one could say. The baseless reports which malice invents, have no more
permanent effect upon an upright character, than have flying clouds
upon the mountain which they may temporarily obscure; and it is only
when rumors are weighted by truth, that they can injure materially the
object at which they are aimed.

    "Honor dwelling in the heart,
      Welcome friends or welcome foes.
    Whensoe'er it doth depart,
      Smiles are weak, but strong are blows."

Anonymous letters were despatched to the Post Master General,
expressing a want of confidence in the management of the office, and
hinting at something of a more criminal nature than mere official
carelessness and neglect; but as such complaints are always
disregarded when unaccompanied by responsible names (being considered
the result of personal rivalry or malice), nothing was done in the

These unknown correspondents, however, did not cease from their
machinations, and it soon came to the ears of the obnoxious post
master, that he had been assailed at head-quarters; unjustly, as he
claimed. So he lost no time in repelling the "vile slanders" through
the medium of sundry long-winded communications to the Department, the
burthen of which was, that business rivals had done it all; and that
the ridiculous stories which had been set afloat, originated entirely
in the unworthy design of building up their authors on the ruins of
his good name. And in the most indignant terms he courted, and even
demanded, a careful investigation of his official acts and his private

These various communications on both sides were all referred to the
Special Agent, that he might establish either the truth or the falsity
of the charges made against this post master.

The first step was to obtain a private interview with some of the
complainants, who were traced out by means of the specimens of their
hand-writing furnished by the letters they had sent to the Department.

They readily admitted themselves to be the authors of those documents,
after having been assured that the Government had no other object than
to ascertain the truth, and to protect the rights of the citizens who
had an interest in the post-office. I gave them to understand that the
Department required something more than mere assertion as a ground for
decided action; and suggested, that if those charges were well
founded, which represented the loss of valuable letters posted at that
office, their truth could be shown by furnishing a list of such
letters, and a statement of all the facts, by the parties immediately

As had been stated, the accusers of B. proved to be his rivals in
trade, and their active friends, animated and impelled by that bitter
competition of which I have already spoken.

In addition to the causes to which I have alluded as especially
influential in country places, to produce such a state of feeling,
may be mentioned a sectarian spirit, the bane of many small villages,
creating needless prejudices, dividing the community into discordant
fragments, and forcing a man to stand, in a degree at least, not on
his own merits, but on the preference of the sect with which he may be
connected. This sentiment is in some measure natural, and unavoidable.
Similarity of opinion tends to create favorable prepossessions toward
those who thus agree, but is ever liable to produce an exclusive
feeling which does injustice to all concerned.

Thus arises much of the sympathy and preferences which are so strongly
felt in small communities, especially towards merchants and
professional men.

Dr. Wilkins goes to our meeting, therefore he is a good doctor,
whatever other folks may say. Mrs. Garfield, the trader's wife, is
_such_ a good woman, and did so much in fixing up our church and the
vestry, that we must all "patronize" her husband, and sustain him
against his enemies, who oppose him solely on account of his activity,
and that of his family, in building up "our society." Dr. Wilkins may
not be eminently successful in the treatment of his patients, and Mr.
Garfield may be far from remarkable for his moderate prices, yet their
enthusiastic friends stick to them through thick and thin.

All these things must be taken into the account in pursuing
investigations like those which I had just commenced, and due
allowance made for the disturbing forces acting on the minds of those
who undertake to furnish the required information. The rubbish of
selfishness and gossip must be thrown aside, and only those statements
regarded which are corroborated by sufficient evidence.

Acting upon this rule in the present instance, but willing, in justice
to the accused as well as to the public, to follow up even the
accusations of open enemies, I instituted careful inquiries in the
right quarter, which soon established the fact that there was a screw
loose not far from that post office, if not directly in connection
with it. But for some weeks previous, no letters had been disturbed
which were deposited in or addressed to this office, the failures
having been confined to the mails which passed through it and were
there assorted. This circumstance rather confirmed suspicion than
otherwise, for the post master being aware of the complaints sent to
Washington, would consider it necessary to use greater caution in
carrying on his depredations (if he were guilty,) especially in regard
to the class of letters taken. But in such cases, as in those that
come under the supervision of medical art, various applications are
required according to the changes in symptoms and circumstances.

For instance, I might perhaps have worked to this day in the ordinary
line of experiments, such as depositing special test letters in that
office, or sending them to be delivered there, and all to no purpose.
They would, for a time at least, have been the object of special care,
and particular pains would have been taken for their safe dispatch;
while if dishonesty really existed, it would seek out and avail itself
of such opportunities as would not be likely to betray it, or to
attract the attention of the self-constituted "vigilance committee,"
which had already sounded the alarm.

With such views, I adopted a species of "decoy" which I thought best
suited to meet the exigencies of the case. In the first place a
document was prepared addressed to an imaginary firm at Rouse's Point,
New York. It read as follows:

                                               Boston, March 20, 1850.

    Messrs. Baxter & Clark,


    Herewith you will receive twenty-five dollars and fifty cents, the
    balance of my account, and for which you will please send me a
    receipt as soon as convenient.

    When does either of your firm intend to visit Boston? I like the
    articles you last sent me very much better than the former ones,
    and so say my customers,--will send you another order before long.

                               Very Respectfully Yours,

                                                      F. P. CRANE, Jr.

Bank notes of a small denomination were used to make up the
twenty-five dollars named in the letter, and two American quarters
enclosed, to make it more attractive; both bills and specie having
been marked, and a full description of them taken.

Another letter, written in a different hand, addressed to a lady, and
containing nothing of value, was also prepared and placed in a note
envelope, to accompany the above _business letter_. Here is a copy of

                                               Boston, March 19, 1850.

    My Dear Cousin,

    Since you visited us, we have experienced important changes. Our
    family is pretty much broken up by George's death. Father and
    mother depended so much on him to manage our out of doors affairs,
    that they don't feel like keeping house any longer, and have gone
    to boarding, and as I shall not have any particular household
    cares, I expect to be floating about, like many others of the
    sisterhood of old maids, ready to make myself generally useful.

    Perhaps I may inflict a visit on you in the course of the summer,
    and help you to take care of _that baby_. I can't stop to write
    any more, for we are hardly settled after moving. Father and
    mother send love to you and husband.

                                                Your Affectionate


My object in sending this second missive was to prevent any suspicion
that otherwise might arise in regard to the money-letter. For it might
reasonably be presumed that the accused post master would be on the
watch for anything that could by any possibility compromise him; and a
solitary letter containing funds, passing through his office, might
"give him pause," in case he should have any desire to appropriate its

Both letters were directed to Rouse's Point, N. Y., regularly
post-marked at the Boston post-office, and the post bill also made out
for Rouse's Point. But on the outside wrapper was purposely written
the name of the office which I wished to test. This would excite no
suspicion, for mistakes such as this appeared to be, do sometimes
occur in the hurry of making up the mails. Instead of putting the
package into the mail, however, I conveyed it myself to a point near
the town of H., and saw it placed in the pouch just before it reached
that office.

The question now to be settled was, whether on taking off the wrapper
(marked "H." as the reader will remember,) and finding the enclosed
letters directed to another place, he would forward them to their
address, as was his duty, or would appropriate them to himself,
believing that they had come there in consequence of a mere accident,
and that if he should see fit to take possession of them, the
circumstances of the case would effectually conceal his crime, and
render search unavailing.

It may be said that this was carrying temptation too far. By no means.
What degree of integrity should be reasonably required, let me ask, of
a person in the service of the public, occupying a responsible
position like that of a post master? upon whose fidelity depend the
prompt and safe transaction of business, and the security of many
other interests of social life. Will a valetudinarian virtue answer
the purpose? a virtue strong against weak temptations, but weak
against strong ones? The man whose principles cannot withstand every
degree of enticement to dishonesty, is unfit for any place of trust.

Furthermore, the combination of circumstances which I have just
described, might occur in the experience of any post master throughout
the country, and the sufferers by the unfaithfulness of an official so
tempted, would hardly be satisfied with being told that he could have
resisted any ordinary enticement, but that such an opportunity was too
good to be lost.

It should be borne in mind that up to this time, the party whose
character was involved in these investigations and experiments, was
totally unaware of the visits of the Agent to his neighborhood.

The _mis-sent_ package referred to, arrived at the office in H. on the
evening of the day that it left Boston, and should have been remailed
and forwarded on the following morning; but a close examination of the
contents of the mail-bag soon after it left H., failed to bring to
light the hidden treasure. No package for Rouse's Point made its

This, however, did not make out a clear case against the "persecuted"
official, neither did it justify his arrest.

It occurred to me, on failing to find the letters referred to, that
the wrapper in which they had been enclosed, might have been used in
sending off other letters that morning, it being the custom in most of
the smaller offices, as a matter of economy, to use the same wrappers
several times by turning or reversing them. A short search produced
the paper in question, which I removed from the package it enclosed,
and substituted another in its place.

Here was an additional proof that the decoy package had reached the
office at H., and had been opened, as the new address upon the wrapper
was in the post master's hand-writing. He could not therefore say that
he had never received such a package at his office, or should he make
such an assertion, as he would be very likely to do if he were guilty,
the production of this envelope would shut his mouth, and go far to
prove his evil intentions.

But the case, at this stage, was very far from being a clear one
against him, and he yet had a chance, if he were an honest man, of
coming out triumphant over the efforts of malice, and the wiles of his

The removal of the wrapper and its use in enclosing other packages was
all natural enough, being, as I have said, agreeable to the frequent
custom in such small offices, and even the non-appearance of the
Rouse's Point letters might yet be accounted for on the supposition
that he had laid them aside to be forwarded, and had forgotten them;
or that not observing the name of the town to which they were
addressed, he had placed them in the "general delivery," where they
might at that moment be lying unmolested.

Desirous of affording the suspected man a fair chance to prove his
innocence in this matter, if that were possible, and acting in
accordance with the above-mentioned charitable suppositions, I allowed
two other opportunities of remailing the letters to pass, but after
searching in vain for them on both occasions, I resolved to wait upon
the post master and talk over freely and frankly the subject of his
enemies' attacks, believing that he would not for a moment dream that
I had any connection with the missing package, even if he had
purloined it,--a calculation which afterwards proved to be perfectly

Accordingly I proceeded to the hotel at an early hour in the morning,
intending not to seek an interview with him till after breakfast, and
while waiting in the bar-room I overheard the following conversation.
For convenience' sake I will indicate the different speakers by
letters of the alphabet.

Mr. _A._ (to C. just entering the room.)--"Good morning, Mr. C. Are
you 'armed and equipped as the law directs' to go over to F?" (a
neighboring town.)

_C._--"You mean by that, I suppose, whether I have laid in enough
cigars to last till I get there, and patience enough to hold out till
I can get back."

_A._--"It will be a tedious business, that's a fact. Here's nobody
knows how many going over from this town; no end to the witnesses, and
no end to the case, _I_ don't believe; at least not this term of

"Yes," broke in a rough-looking bystander, "the court'll set and set,
and never hatch out nothin' but a parcel of goslins for the lawyers to

_A._--"We can't dispute you, L., for you've been one of those same
'goslins,' I believe."

_L._--"No I haint, I've been a darned sight wuss,--a great goose. I
swow it makes me mad with myself whenever I think on't."

"Come, daddy L.," spoke up a free and easy specimen of Young America,
"tell us about that great law-suit of yours. I never heard all the

"Wal, young man," returned L. solemnly, "I'll tell you all about it,
hopin' it'll be a warnin' to you never to have nothin' to do with the

"About fifteen, mebbe sixteen year ago, afore you'd got through
hollerin arter your mammy, I used to keep considerable of a lot of
sheep, and one year I bought a ram that I'd taken a fancy to jest
because he was sech an all-fired big feller, and had sech thunderin'
curly horns. I got him pretty cheap, and arter I'd had him awhile, I
found out the reason on't. He was the darndest buttin', jumpin' feller
that ever _I_ see. There couldn't a calf nor a colt nor nothin' about
his size come into the pastur where he was, but what he'd be arter it
and knock it into a cocked hat if he could git a lick at it. Fact, he
pretty much killed two or three likely calves that I had, but the
colts was mostly too lively for him. He couldn't often hit 'em.

"Wal, I kinder hated to kill the feller, he was such a buster, so I
shet him up in a little three-cornered lot so's to have him out of the
way till the calves was killed off or had got bigger. But what did the
rascal du but go to buttin' agin the stone wall that kep him out of
neighbor Bliss's patch o' rye; and afore he'd bin there tew days, he
knocked a hole in't and got into the rye. It was a kinder out of the
way place where the lot was, so he had a chance to stay there all
night, and 'praps a little longer. Anyhow, when Bliss found it out, he
was hoppin' mad.

"He's rether techy any time, but he'd bin a braggin' on this ere field
o'rye, how he was goin' to beat the hull town on it, and to have that
old ram a nibblin' and trottin' threw it, and a spilin on't, sot his
dander up. I was willin' to a' paid him suthin' for damages, but his
charges was tew hot for me. Told him I'd see him darned afore I'd be
imposed upon in that shape. Wal, he said he'd sue me, and sure enuff
he did.

"We kept a lawin' on it considerable of a spell. Fust the court gin
him his damages; then I 'pealed, and the case kept a gettin' put over
somehow or other, till the 'all wool _suit_,' as the lawyers got to
callin' it, come to be a standin' joke, and I was heartily sick on't.
Wal, finally we contrived to settle it, and arter payin' Bliss about
what he fust asked, I had my costs to see tu, and I went to Squire
Sharp, my lawyer, to see what _he_ was a goin' to charge me for his
_sarvices_, as he called it. He was jest as smilin' and clever as a
baskit o' chips.

"'Take a seat, Mr. L.' says he, 'I'll find your little account in a
minit. Pleasant mornin', sir, good growin' weather.'

"Wal, I set down and found out purty soon that I'd got 'bout fifty
dollars to pay for his _sarvices_,--blame 'em!

"'Now,' says I, 'Squire, that air's a good deal o' money for a man
like me tu pay, and I don't blieve I can raise it all tu wonst. P'raps
you'd take part out in _pro_duce, jest ter 'commodate.'

"'Oh, yes,' says he, 'Mr. L., I'll take anything you've a mind to

"'So,' thinks I, 'I'll git red of one plague by the means;' and I went
home and got the old ram and carried him up to the Squire's house.

"'Good mornin', Squire,' says I, 'I've brought the fust instalment on
my little account.'

"'The deuce you have,' says he, 'what do you suppose I'm going to do
with that old buck?'

"'Donno, Squire,' says I, 'all I know is that you said you'd take
anything I was a mind ter bring, and this ere ram is _legal tender_,

"Wal, he saw he was kinder stuck, so he 'greed to take it, and 'low me
five dollars.

"I heerd arterwards that the Squire put the ram into an empty hog-pen,
to keep him until he could sell him, but the darned critter went over
the top on't, and tackled Miss Sharp, the Squire's wife, that happened
to be a stoopin' down, weedin' her posies in the gardin, upsot her,
and then put arter little Jim, one of her boys, and floored him, and
ended off with knockin' down a crazy old well-curb, pitchin' into the
well, and breakin' his neck, or drowndin' himself, I donno which.

"That's the end of my experience in law. The old ram cost me, fust and
last, about a hundred dollars."

After the conclusion of this instructive narration, the general
conversation, which for the time had been suspended, was resumed, and
I gathered from what was said that the post master was one of the
principal witnesses in the trial above alluded to by Messrs A. & C.;
that arrangements had been made for an early start, as the place where
the court was to be held was some twelve or fifteen miles distant, and
that the hotel where we were was the place of rendezvous.

I observed narrowly every new-comer, and soon a well-dressed,
intelligent-looking man, apparently about thirty years old, entered,
whom I took to be the very gentleman I wished to see. My conjecture
respecting him proved to be correct, for it was not long before some
one addressed him, inquiring whom he had engaged to take charge of the
post-office during his absence.

Deeming it unsafe to delay longer, I beckoned him out of the room,
unnoticed by others, and in a friendly and familiar manner, introduced
myself, taking care to throw him off his guard by remarking, that
being in that vicinity I had concluded to make him a call and satisfy
myself whether the complaints made to the Department respecting him
were just or otherwise, adding that in many of these cases similar
complaints had their origin in personal disagreements, or business

"I am delighted to see you," he replied. "I am gratified that the
Department has at last authorized some one who is impartial, to look
into its matters here, and if I can have a day with you, I will
convince you by the testimony of the best men of all parties, that the
stories detrimental to me are the invention of enemies, who seem
determined to put me down if possible. But they haven't succeeded yet,
and what's more, they can't succeed. Things have come to a pretty pass
when a man can't carry on a more flourishing business than his
neighbors, without being set upon and slandered out of his life.

"I am summoned to-day to attend court, but if it is inconvenient for you
to wait till my return, I shall run the risk of being in time
to-morrow, with my testimony, as this business is of vital importance
to me and mine, and must not be neglected, come what may."

"It _is_ very important," I replied, "and my advice is to risk the
displeasure of the Court, and ask some of your friends to explain your

He concluded to follow my recommendation, and we walked over to the
post-office, and retired within its sanctum, where we remained some
time, combining pleasure with business, by inhaling the vapor of as
good cigars as the mercantile department could furnish, while
examining the post-office books, and the post master's general
arrangements, and discussing various matters relative thereto.

My chief object was, if possible, to get a sight of the contents of
the boxes where the two "decoys" should be if they had been mistaken
for local letters, and placed in the "general delivery." The one
enclosing the bank-notes and specie would come under the initial B.,
and this box contained quite a number of letters which I thought it
unsafe to examine particularly. While I was endeavoring to devise some
plausible mode of getting a satisfactory view of them, some one
fortunately entered the store and inquired if there were any letters
for John Barstow. All the B's were at once taken down by the post
master, thus giving me exactly the opportunity I wanted of observing
each letter, as he was running them over. The last one was reached,
but the _mis-sent_ document did not appear; so one important requisite
for proving his innocence seemed entirely cut off.

Soon after, we started out to call on some of the "first citizens," as
he termed them, but I readily discovered that the select few to whom I
was being introduced, although evidently sincere in the opinions they
expressed, were a little biassed in his favor by one motive and
another; and that they were quite as likely to be deceived as those
whose interests, perhaps, fully as much as their regard for a
faithful administration of the post-office, had led them to scrutinize
more closely the conduct and principles of our injured friend.

Among those of his backers on whom we called, was a lawyer of some
note in that region, who had recently received a nomination for
Congress from one of the leading political parties. On our way to this
gentleman's office, the post master, as my readers will easily
suppose, took care to inform me thoroughly respecting these important
particulars. Squire W. was evidently a tower of strength to him, and
he spared no pains to impress upon me the great truth, that whomsoever
the Squire thought fit to endorse, possessed irrefragable evidence of
an immaculate character. We fortunately found the would-be future M.
C. in his office, no other person being present than a law student,
also a warm friend to my companion, who quickly withdrew, owing
probably to some silent intimation from one or the other of the
gentlemen present, that his room was, for the time being, better than
his company.

This was not, by the way, the post master's first visit here to-day,
for he had stopped in as we were passing in the morning, leaving me a
moment for that purpose, on which occasion he doubtless suggested our
visit, and the importance to him of a pretty strong backing.

He appeared immensely delighted to think that he had been able to
bring me, a "green" Agent, upon whom his character with the Department
depended, into contact with one whose assurances were to dispel all
the clouds that lowered about his head, and reveal him to the
community with the double effulgence of injured innocence and undimmed
integrity. This pleasing prospect seemed to beget an exuberance of
spirits which rather astonished his friend, the Squire, as I judged by
the occasional expression of his countenance.

"Now, Squire," said the post master, slapping him gently on the back
in a persuasive manner, "I want you to tell this gentleman just what
you think about the opposition made to me in this village. You know we
have always been opposed in politics, and of course you are entirely
disinterested in the matter. All you want is to have the office here
well managed. You have heard all about the charges that some of my
rascally enemies have made against me, and I believe I told you the
other day, that they had sent complaints on to Washington. We'll see
how their slanders turn out when the Agent here gets through with
investigating the matter. All I want is the truth."

"Yes, yes, I see," said the Squire, clearing for action, by putting an
extra stick into the stove, and materially lessening the contents of a
good-sized snuff-box that stood upon the table. "It's just as my
friend B. says, Mr. H----," continued he; "we've always belonged to
different parties in politics, and are connected with different
religious societies,--in fact, we don't seem to agree on anything of
that sort. But I never mean to allow such things to affect my estimate
of a man's character, and I hope I shall always be ready to do any one
justice, however he may differ from me in opinion.

"The case, Sir, stands thus: Here is a young man fortunate enough to
be possessed of more industry and enterprise than some of his
neighbors, and accordingly succeeds in business better than they do.
Their envy is excited, he incurs their ill-will, and they attempt by
slander to ruin his character. I don't think any of them would lose by
exchanging characters with him. No, Sir," (fortifying his position
with another pinch of snuff,) "all these charges are utterly without
foundation, save in the brains of those who produced them,--a narrow
foundation enough, in all conscience, for anything.

"I have, perhaps, as great an interest in the proper management of the
post-office here as any one, as I receive and send through it probably
more important correspondence than any other man in town; but I have
never had cause to complain, and, so far as I know, everything has
gone right."

Here a moment's pause followed, which the lawyer improved by
replenishing the stove and his facial promontory. The post master
cleared his throat, gave the Squire an approving nod, and rocked back
and forth upon the hind legs of his chair, picking his teeth in a
nonchalant way, apparently much at his ease.

"By the way, Squire W.," he broke out, rather suddenly, "perhaps the
gentleman would like to hear about that letter that Marshall mailed
here to go to New Haven, Ct., and which was misdirected to New Haven,

I replied, that I should be happy to hear any statements that would
throw light on the subject in hand.

"Well," said the Squire, "there was a great handle made of that
affair. You see, this Marshall is a careless, absent-minded genius,
and he wrote a letter, into which he put fifty dollars for his old
mother in Connecticut, and it didn't get there. Well, he came and
consulted me about it, and wanted me to sue B. here, for the money.

"'Why, Mr. W.,' said he, 'I'm confident that B. has got it. People say
he can't be trusted, and I believe it now.'

"'But see here, Marshall,' replied I, 'there are twenty offices or
more between this place and the one where you sent your letter; and it
is, to say the least, quite as likely to have been purloined anywhere
else as here. You had better wait a few days, and I will make
inquiries, and do what I can to find out whether B. knows anything
about it. If it should appear at all probable that he does, I can
assure you that I will not hesitate to sue him.'

"So I put off matters for a little while, and before Marshall got very
urgent again, the lost letter turned up in the New Haven, Vt.,
post-office; no one being to blame but the very man who had made all
the fuss! The enemies of our friend here, who had all the time been
chuckling to think they had him on the hip, felt flat enough, I assure
you, when the letter came to light, for they would rather have paid
over the fifty dollars themselves, than to have lost this chance of
confirming their accusations against him."

This turn in the conversation gave me an excellent opportunity of
trying the nerves, or the innocence of the post master, without
exciting his suspicions in the least; so I remarked,

"The New Haven, Vermont, post master must have been an honest man, or
this money letter might never have been seen again; as no one would
have thought of looking there for it, and if they had, it wouldn't
have been very easy to prove that it ever went there."

Here I glanced at B., but his countenance betrayed no consciousness
that my observation was designed to hit him, and with an aspect of
unruffled coolness, he proceeded to say,

"That New Haven case reminds me of something very similar, which
happened in this office only a day or two ago. A package of letters
came here from Boston, which were intended for a town in New York. By
the way, Mr. Agent, I wish the next time you are in the Rutland office
you would request the mailing clerks to be a little more particular in
addressing their wrappers, as our packages, both of letters and
papers, frequently go astray, while those for other offices sometimes
come here. Surrounded, as I am, by so many prying and fault-finding
people, failures caused in this way are likely to be seized upon to
make me trouble."

I replied, that I would try to bear his request in mind, being all the
time well satisfied that it was a device adopted to turn attention
from the _mis-sent_ package, to which he had unguardedly referred, and
to prevent further allusion to it, which might awaken suspicion, and
even betray guilt. He was indeed treading on dangerous ground. His
voluntary admission, that a package similar to my decoy package had
been in his hands, and that he had noticed the name of the place to
which the letters were directed, was all that was wanting to confirm
my belief that they had been purloined, since I already knew that they
had not been forwarded from his office.

After our worthy legal friend had exhausted every illustration, and
brought to view every fact at his command, corroborating his very high
estimate of the post master's character, both personal and official,
and had given the "enemies" the extremely low and degraded position
which they, as maligners of spotless worth, and conspirators against
tried honesty, ought justly to assume,--in short, after he had said,
if not done, all that even the object of his advocacy could have
desired, I proposed an adjournment for dinner, more for the sake of
securing in that way an opportunity of telegraphing for the United
States Marshal, than for administering to the wants of the inner man.
The victim of calumny and myself separated at the door of the Squire's
office, agreeing to meet again soon after dinner; and while he was
dispatching his meal, I was dispatching a telegraphic message, which
ran thus:--

    "----, Esq., U. S. Marshal:

    "Come here by first train. I will join you at the depot, and
    explain business."

Just as I had left the telegraph office, I was addressed in a very
private and mysterious manner by a substantial-looking citizen, whom I
had before observed eyeing me very closely. He wished to know whether
I was the United States Mail Agent.

I informed him that such was the title of my office.

"Then I want an opportunity for some conversation with you about this
business of the post office. I suppose you are here to examine into
this affair, and are willing to hear both sides. There are some things
in connection with the matter, which I think you ought to know."

"I was just going to the hotel for my dinner," said I. "Government
officers must eat, you know, as well as other people, and for a while
after dinner I shall be engaged; but if what you have to communicate
is of importance, I will endeavor to confer with you before I leave

"I hope you will; and allow me one word now. I understand that you
have been closeted with Squire W., and I want you to know something
about his position in this matter. Everybody allows him to be an
honest and a sincere man, but the fact is, he has been very active in
effecting the removal of the site of the post-office from the other
side of the river to its present location, and could hardly be called
a disinterested witness in such an investigation as you no doubt
intend to give the subject."

How far this dig at the Squire was just, I could not then certainly
know; but a glance at his law dispensary and the post-office, distant
from each other only a few rods, both being a good quarter of a mile
from the old post-office site, gave some plausibility to the
intimation that the Squire's interest and love for justice, happened
in this instance, to run in the same direction.

My presence in the village had become pretty generally known, as
appeared by various unmistakable indications, particularly some not
very flattering remarks which I overheard at the dinner-table, such as
"a one-sided affair," "consulting interested persons," "don't know how
he expects to find out the truth," and the like; all of which I
pretended neither to hear nor to notice. It was very evident that our
man of letters hadn't many friends in _that_ house, for those of its
inmates and frequenters who were not in some way influenced by rival
interests, were no doubt more or less disaffected by the removal of
the post office from that immediate neighborhood.

As I was one of the last to leave the table, the usual cloud of
tobacco smoke had taken possession of the bar-room, and was enveloping
its occupants in an atmosphere

    "Darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,"

when I entered the apartment devoted to the production of this
mollifying vapor. The narcotic herb seemed to have lost its ordinary
soothing power, for the company then and there present bestowed upon
me glances cool and scrutinizing enough to dispel effectually any
inclination I might have had for indulging a short time in the
delights of social intercourse. So I seized my over-coat, and passed
out; and this movement was the signal for a spasmodic giggle by the
entire assemblage, in which the landlord joined, as I supposed, for I
distinctly recognised his grum voice just as I closed the door,
uttering, in a contemptuous tone, the following remark, "I guess the
Agent don't like tobacco smoke!"

I was little disturbed, however, by these and sundry other indications
that I was not establishing a reputation for impartiality and
shrewdness with a majority of the citizens. If I were to listen to all
they might be ready to tell me, I should be spending valuable time to
no sort of purpose, for the proofs of the post master's delinquency
which I had thus far obtained were derived, not from them, but from
himself, and it was in that direction only that I could reasonably
expect to obtain conclusive evidence of his guilt, for all the
accusations which his enemies had sent to the Department had been
supported by nothing better than the opinions of those who made them.

If I failed in securing what I expected from the course I was
pursuing, it would then be time to see what other proof could be
procured from different quarters; and until the result of my
investigations should be known, I was content to rest under the cloud
of misapprehension which appeared to be gathering about me, knowing
that thus I could best serve the interests of justice, and that time
would set me right with those who were now disposed to look on me as
one whose mind had been preoccupied by the artful tales of the post
master and his friends.

I must confess that I was somewhat amused to think what a complete
metamorphosis my character would undergo in the eyes of almost every
member of this little community, when the truth should come to light.
I had sufficient confidence in the uprightness and candor of the
Squire, to believe that he would readily acquit me of trifling, in the
course I had pursued with him, and that he would acquiesce in the
adoption of whatever measures the public interest might seem to have
required. Nor was I in this instance the victim of misplaced
confidence, as will hereafter appear.

The post master and myself soon met again at the post-office, when
cigars for two were produced, and as we sat smoking them, I could not
avoid a feeling of melancholy, at seeing him apparently so cheerful
and happy, and sincerely regretted the necessity that compelled me to
persist sternly in a course which would assuredly end in the blight of
his hopes and the ruin of his character.

He was evidently certain of having fully established his innocence,
and of having inspired me with some of the contempt for his
persecutors which he felt himself. "We have met the enemy, and they
are ours," seemed to be the language of his looks and actions, if not
of his lips. The sky over his head appeared bright; the clouds, to his
eyes, had dispersed; and he dreamed not that the roar of the next
railroad train would be to him like the peal of thunder which
accompanies the lightning's quick and deadly bolt. Yet I consoled
myself with the reflection that my motives were such as should actuate
every public officer in the discharge of his duty, and that I was not
responsible for the consequences which might follow the carrying out
of plans judiciously devised for this end,--an end which, in an
important case like this, fully justified the means.

This train of thought was interrupted by the post master, who rather
abruptly asked,

"Well, Mr. H., I suppose you have satisfied yourself about this
affair; and, if it isn't asking too much, I should be glad to know
what sort of report you are going to make to the Department?"

I was unprepared for this, and I confess I was for a moment
nonplussed. But I evaded a direct answer, by relating what I had heard
and seen at the hotel, and how displeased they all were with me for
not giving them a chance to be heard in the course of my
investigation. And wishing to divert his mind still further from the
troublesome point on which he had touched, I ventured upon a few
remarks about the painful and often disagreeable duties of a Special
Agent, introducing, by way of embellishment, an anecdote of Post
Master General Collamer.

In the course of a conversation between that officer and one of the
western Special Agents, the matter of an increase of salary, among
other things, was briefly discussed. Says the Agent,

"You know, Sir, that many times we are called upon to do things which
can hardly be made to square with the code of honor; and in fact, we
sometimes have to resort to downright duplicity and deception."

"Well, well," replied Judge Collamer, "I suppose you find yourself
perfectly at home at that!"

This diversion answered the purpose, and nothing further was said
about my intended report. Just as I had fairly extricated myself from
this ticklish position, a messenger from the telegraph-office
appeared, with a reply from the Marshal to my dispatch, which response
I managed to read without the least suspicion of its nature on the
part of the individual who had such a momentous interest therein.

The contents of the dispatch were simply, "I will leave by first

After having been introduced to a number of other swift witnesses for
our friend, who _happened in_ at the post-office, and holding some
conversation with them on the all-absorbing theme, the iron horse's
shrill neigh announced the approach of the train by which the Marshal
was to arrive; and without much ceremony I took my leave, to meet him
at the depot, promising to return again. He was the first man to
alight on the platform, and was soon made acquainted with the business
in hand. We thought it best that he should go directly to my room at
the hotel, where I was presently to join him, in company with the post
master; and ten minutes more found us there, sitting around as
pleasant a fire as ever irradiated and comforted with its genial
warmth, such a trio of officials. I had introduced the Marshal by his
proper name and title, yet the announcement produced no visible effect
upon the unsuspecting post master. He seemed as cool and unembarrassed
as if he had been in the habit of forming the acquaintance of United
States officers every day. This rather astonished me, as it did the
Marshal, and he (the Marshal) favored me with a glance and a slight
motion of the head, which intimated that, in his opinion, I had
mistaken my man.

I had set it down as a fixed fact, that the appearance and
introduction of the Marshal in his own character, would at once excite
the apprehensions of the post master, and lead to inquiries from him
which would render it comparatively easy for me to enter upon that
decisive course of questioning and examination which the present
advanced state of the affair required. But all my calculations were
frustrated by this unexpected move on the part of my antagonist, and I
was left _in statu quo_, so far as regarded any help I had hoped for
from him. In this condition of things, all that remained for me was to
make a bold push at once, and break the ice as speedily as possible.
So, turning to the post master, I thus addressed him:

"Were you, Mr. B., at home, last Monday evening, when the Boston mail

"I was," replied he, after some hesitation.

"Did you open and assort the mail yourself on that occasion?"

"I did."

"And did you find a package of two letters, mailed at Boston, and
addressed to Rouse's Point?"

Here, for the first time, a change came over his countenance; and,
after a moment's reflection, he answered very firmly, that he did not
recollect any such package.

"One of the letters," continued I, "contained twenty-five dollars in
bills, and fifty cents in specie, and the other contained no money,
and was addressed to a lady."

He listened attentively, and repeated that he did not see any such
letters as those I had described.

"Well, Sir," I observed, "we must now trouble you to show us the money
you have about you."

He readily complied with this requisition, by handing me his
pocket-book. It was well filled, but among a tolerably large roll of
bank-notes, none of those included in the decoy letter appeared. His
knowledge, of the absence of these important witnesses against him,
easily accounted for his promptness in submitting to the examination,
and as he received the wallet from me again, and returned it to his
pocket, his air of assurance, which for the moment had been dimmed,
reappeared in all its native lustre, and with an assumed expression of
wounded pride, he requested to know if he was to understand that I
suspected him of interfering improperly with the letters I had been
inquiring about. To this I answered,

"Yes, Sir; you _are_ so to understand me; and further, that I believe
you have robbed and destroyed those letters!"

The Marshal was looking on all this while, evidently somewhat
incredulous as to the justice of my accusations, for he had long known
by reputation the young man against whom they were made, being an
acquaintance of the family, and always supposed him to be an
enterprising, honest person. Indeed, he told me afterwards, that he
really thought, to use his own expression, that I "had put my foot in
it." In fact, I began to think myself, that however certain B.'s guilt
might be, it was likely to prove more difficult than I had supposed,
to establish the fact legally.

One thing, however, remained,--to examine a quantity of specie, which
I knew he had in his pocket, as he had frequently exhibited it during
the day in the way of making change at his office. This also,
amounting to some six or eight dollars, was promptly produced at my
request, and laid on the table.

"Now," thought I, "the last card is dealt; let us see whether it will
turn up a trump."

The evil spirit, which so enticingly leads people into scrapes, and is
so reluctant to get them out again, true to its fatal instincts, had
safely preserved the evidence of guilt in the present case. A moment's
inspection of the different coins, brought to light one of the
identical pieces which had been placed in the missing letter! It was
thus described in the original memorandum to which I referred:
"American quarter--dot over left wing of eagle; slightly filed on
lower edge under date, 1850."

"Here is one of the quarters," said I, holding it up, "that was in the
Rouse's Point letter,--marked and described in my memorandum, so that
I could swear to it anywhere."

"Well, Mr. H.," said the post master, "I suppose this circumstance
appears to you very strongly against me, and perhaps it is. But I
should like a few moments' private conversation with you, if you have
no objection."

Agreeably to this hint, the Marshal retired; but the post master
remained silent for a while, resting his chin on his hand, and gazing
into the fire with a countenance overshadowed by dejection and
discouragement. The gloom on his features grew deeper and deeper, but
at last he roused himself, and looked me full in the face, saying, in
almost despairing tones,

"_Can_ anything be done to save me? Oh, Mr. H., for heaven's sake, put
yourself in my place for a moment! Think what it is to fight as I have
fought for years, to defend my reputation against enemies who wanted
to pull me down, and build themselves up on my ruins; and after
holding my ground so long, to be blown to pieces, as it were in an
instant! How they'll all exult! There's old P.; I can see just how
he'll look, shaking his old fox head. 'Ah, I knew something was rotten
all the time!'

"What can you do to get me out of this trouble? I can't have it so; I
_must_ have something done to save me from becoming the laughing-stock
of my enemies."

"But," said I, "your enemies, as you call them, could have done you
no harm, if you had not supplied them with weapons yourself."

"That may be," replied he, mournfully, "but I assure you that this is
my _first_ offence. I had never dreamed of meddling with letters till
this Rouse's Point package came in my way; but it didn't seem as if it
could ever be discovered, so the temptation was too much for me."

(It is a curious fact, by the way, that almost all the cases of post
office robbery we meet with are "first offences;" even those whose
boldness indicates some little previous experience in such things.)

"What," inquired I, "did you do with the bills that were in the

"I sent them away," replied he, "the same day that I took them. Now,
I've told you frankly all about the affair, and I hope you will
contrive some way to save me from disgrace and ruin. Couldn't the
business stop here, if I refund what I have taken, and resign my
office as post master? I should be willing to do more than that, if it
should be necessary."

I assured him that I had no power to make any such arrangement, and
that I must leave the matter with the Marshal, who I supposed would be
under the necessity of serving the process.

Thus speaking, I stepped to the door, and called that gentleman into
the room, who proceeded forthwith to read the warrant issued against
B. During the reading of that instrument, a sudden change came over
the countenance of the unfortunate post master. He turned pale, and
would have fallen, had I not prevented him. The Marshal and I assisted
him to a bed that stood in the room, where he lay for a long time,
prostrate in body and mind.

As I stood over him, attempting to revive him by the use of such means
as were at hand, I thought how great must have been the shock which
had so overpowered his faculties. His strength of body, and pride of
soul, were, for the time, laid low. What a pity that he had not
possessed the right kind of pride; not merely the ambition to rise
above the machinations of his enemies, and put them under his feet,
but the pride that despises a mean action, and dreads a crime more
than its consequences. Such a feeling would have been a safeguard; but
I was sorry to observe that, while he was confessing his guilt, the
thought of his enemies' triumph over him was uppermost in his mind.

He had now somewhat revived, and wishing to calm his exasperated
feelings, (which I supposed were in some measure the cause of his
present condition,) by turning his thoughts to another channel, I
inquired of the Marshal, in a rather low tone, whether he had any

"He has a wife, I believe," was the reply, and in a moment B. was
saying to himself, his eyes still shut,

"Jane, Jane, what will _you_ think? Don't despise me, if you can help

He went on for some little time in this strain, displaying a high
regard for his wife's affection and good opinion, and an apprehension
that he might have forfeited them by his misconduct; an apprehension
utterly groundless--so far, at least, as regarded affection, for the
undying flame of love in a true woman's heart cannot so be quenched.

Mrs. B., as I afterwards learned, was a most estimable woman, whose
influence had doubtless been of great benefit to her husband. Alas!
that the power of his good angel could not have triumphed over the
temptation to which he yielded!

When he had recovered sufficiently to walk about, the Marshal took him
in charge, and conveyed him to a neighboring town, where the United
States District Judge resided, for examination. His friends, who were
highly respectable, were informed by telegraph of his arrest, and gave
the required bail for his appearance at trial.

Thus we have traced out an important part of the career of one whose
character was laid low, not by his enemies, but by his own hand. And
whenever I pass through the pleasant town which was the scene of these
transactions, a shade of melancholy comes over me, entirely at
variance with the general cheerful appearance both of the place and
the surrounding landscape.

On one of the last occasions that I was in that vicinity, the train on
which I was traveling stopped for a few moments at this station. It
was a delightful summer's day, and if the objects which met my eye, as
I gazed up and down the street, had not been, many of them, monuments
to me of a melancholy history, I should have thought that the place
yielded in beauty to few of the villages which adorn New England. But
a stranger occupied the store where the unfortunate B. maintained the
contest with his rivals; the post office was in other hands; and I was
just turning away from a scene that suggested nothing but unpleasant
reminiscences, when Squire W. emerged from the station-house, and
cordially addressed me. This was the first time I had seen him, since
our memorable interview in his office.

"Good morning, Mr. H.," said he; "how is the rogue-catching business
now? I suppose you have disposed of a good many since you despatched
B. so summarily. When I first heard of his arrest, feeling sure of his
innocence as I did, I don't know that I should have been much
surprised if you had come after me next; and I felt a little sore, to
tell you the truth, to think that my endorsement of him had so little
weight with you. But I have since seen that you were perfectly right
about it, though I am sorry that poor B. should have turned out so

Here the iron horse began to manifest indications of impatience, and
shaking hands with the worthy Squire, we went our several ways.


    High Crimes in low Places--Honest Baggage-masters--Suspicious
    Circumstances--Watching the Suspected--Shunning the Dust--Honesty
    Triumphant--An Episode--Unexpected Confession--The Night
    Clerks--Conformity to Circumstances--Pat the Porter--Absents
    himself--Physician consulted--The Dead Child--Hunting
    Excursions--"No Go"--Pat explains his Absence--His Discharge--The
    Grave-stones--Stolen Money appears--The Jolly Undertakers--Pat at
    the Grave--More Hunting--Firing a Salute--Removing the
    Deposits--Crossing the Ferry--Scene at the Post Office--Trip to
    Brooklyn--Recovery of Money--Escape--Encounter with a
    Policeman--Searching a Steamer--Waking the wrong
    Passenger--Accomplices detained--Luxuries cut off--False
    Imprisonment Suit--Michael on the Stand--Case dismissed.

Public confidence in the United States Mail, and in the integrity of
those connected therewith, never perhaps received a severer shock than
that which it suffered from the extensive robberies committed in the
Summer and Fall of 1853, by Pat R., at that time a night porter in the
New York Post Office. The range of _his_ ambition was by no means
commensurate with his humble station in life and the post office, and
his menial occupation did not repress aspirations which could render
him a fit rival to such men as Swartwout and Schuyler, both by the
extent of his schemes of villany, and the success with which they were
carried on.

He was no petty thief, content with doing a small but comparatively
safe business at filching, or at least, satisfied to begin with the
"day of small things;" but he had hardly taken the oath of office
before its strength was tested, and it proved no greater restraint to
him than a spider's thread to a wild buffalo. He at once plunged into
the tempting field which lay before him, and grasped with a greedy
clutch at every opportunity to enlarge his increasing store of
ill-gotten wealth. He would sometimes add thousands to his hoard in a
single night, and carried on these bold depredations for some time
unsuspected, not because he was _above_ suspicion, but because he was
_below_ it.

In other words, after these robberies had been pretty satisfactorily
traced to the New York office, it was necessary to establish the
innocence, so far as these losses were concerned, of a large number of
clerks, before suspicion fairly rested on the guilty party. Thus, when
the investigation was commenced, he was buried up, so to speak,
beneath so many protecting layers, all of which were removed before he
came to light. I will not attempt to give any idea of the quantity of
labor necessary in this and similar preliminary investigations.

Some of the numerous complaints made to the Department and the post
master of New York, involved large sums of money. Among them was a
package of $2000 in bank-notes, mailed at Middletown, Conn., for
Philadelphia, Penn. Another of $1800 from Bridgeport, Conn., to
Zanesville, Ohio. Still another of $1400 from Joliet, Ill., to New
York, and many other smaller sums, from $50 to $1000; also drafts,
notes, checks, &c, to an enormous amount in the aggregate. None of
these valuable remittances had been seen by any persons properly
interested in them, after they had passed out of the hands of the

Doubtless to those unacquainted with such matters, it may not prove
much for the efficiency of the Special Agent to state that the thefts
were occasionally repeated even after he had entered upon this
investigation. But the Agent employed in this instance always
preferred to catch the rogue, rather than frighten him, thereby
leaving innocent parties under the ban of suspicion, as well as
destroying all chances for the recovery of the property already
stolen. And the benefits and propriety of that course were fully
realized in the result of the important case under consideration.

As "it is the last straw which breaks the camel's back," so it is
often the stealing of the last letter which aids in bringing to light
the depredator of former ones.

I propose here to relate some details, which may be interesting, of
the means taken to "narrow down" and trace out those extensive
robberies, not so much on account of anything novel or original,
adopted at this or any other stage of the investigation, as to
demonstrate the value of a character that is proof against trying
temptation; and the dangerous position of those who are not at all
times thus fortified, although they may be innocent of the particular
offences charged.

With but few exceptions, the mails in which the missing letters and
money packages should have been conveyed to New York, would have come
from the East by the express night trains, over the Boston and New
York Railroad. Upon those trains, the mails were in charge of the
baggage-masters, the regular mail or "route agents" being confined to
the way mail-trains running at different hours of the day. A variety
of circumstances, besides their good reputation, conspired to avert
suspicion from these baggage-men. The mails were in "through bags,"
and it required a mail-key to obtain access to their contents; and
besides, the robberies could not well be perpetrated in that way
without collusion between several persons,--the express agents, and
the conductors, all reliable men, having occasion often to visit the
baggage car, which was always well lighted.

Accompanying the night express trains there were also "through
baggage-masters," so called. Their duty was performed by two persons,
one of whom left Boston and the other New York on each evening.

On privately consulting the officers of the railroad company as to the
running of these men, it appeared that about all the losses had
happened on the nights of one of them: a discovery which, as had been
shown by experience in similar cases, was by no means conclusive, and
yet of too much importance to be overlooked.

The individual thus involved knew me well, and it required no little
manoeuvring to get over the route as often as was necessary, without
being observed by him. One night when thus endeavoring to avoid him, a
very amusing incident occurred.

The regular conductor soon after leaving Springfield, was taken
suddenly ill, and procured the services of this identical
baggage-master for a short distance, unknown of course to me. I was
sitting curled up in the corner of the saloon of the first passenger
car, when the door opened and the well known call of "Tickets,
gentlemen," apprised me that he had found me out before I had
recognised him, or at least had discovered that I was "aboard." But I
made the best of it, simply remarking that there was the least dust
there of any spot on the train.

Up to this time my ground of suspicion was mainly confined to the
coincidence already mentioned between the dates of losses, and his
presence on the cars. The investigation had not proceeded far,
however, when another matter came to light, which increased suspicion
in that quarter.

A citizen of New York called on me and stated that recently, just as
the night train was starting from the depot in Canal Street, he handed
this same baggage-master a letter containing money, which he asked him
to take charge of, not having time to carry it to the post-office. He
at first declined, on the ground that the conveyance of letters out of
the mail was illegal, but finally proposed to receive it, and, if
possible, to get it into the proper bag through one of the small
openings between the staples. This was the last that was ever seen of
the letter by the sender or his correspondent. The former having
called on the baggage-master, had been told that, the letter was
crowded into the right mail-bag, as promised; but the statement was
not believed, and the circumstance happening in the midst of other
troubles on the same line, seemed to constitute an important step in
the progress of discovering the author of all this mischief.

A very shrewd acquaintance of the man of trunks, in Boston, was
confidentially employed to ascertain something of his habits, and the
state of his finances. After a fair and faithful trial, he reported to
me, that the aforesaid superintendent of baggage was "as steady as a
model deacon, and as poor as a country editor within fifty miles by
railroad, of a large city." And that "although always ready, like many
other clever fellows, to partake of the hospitality of his friends
when strongly urged, yet you might as well try to get a smile out of a
dead man without the use of a galvanic battery, as to induce him to
spend a dollar unnecessarily."

The justice of this report was speedily confirmed, and the problem for
the thousandth time satisfactorily worked out, that suspicion never
yet injured a really honest man, although seemingly well founded in
the outset.

Connected with the mailing of one of the large money packages already
described, were circumstances which made it necessary, as is often the
fact in a series of robberies, to investigate it as an isolated case,
unconnected with the theft of the other packages and letters, none of
which would go into or pass through the office in which this one was

The statement of the cashier went to show that he took the package to
the post-office himself, and handed it to a clerk who happened to be
alone in the office, and but a short time before the mail left for New
York. This was confirmed by the clerk's own statement, and by his
entry in a book kept for the registry of valuable letters and parcels.
About the habits of this clerk, and his manner when examined, there
was nothing which appeared in the least to implicate him. The cashier
thought it out of the question that anything could be wrong there.
The young clerk was a member of his sabbath-school class, from which
he was never absent, and he believed him to be "all right."

And yet he had an excellent opportunity to have kept back the package,
and the temptation would indeed have been a dangerous one to older and
more strongly fortified persons than he was. I determined, therefore,
to put him to the test of a direct charge of having purloined the
package, which I lost no time in doing, intimating that a confession
and restoration of the money was his first duty. But he met the charge
fearlessly, and firmly asserted his innocence as to the important
remittance in question. The faithful monitor within, however, would
not let him rest there. Believing, probably, that I knew more about
other transactions of his than the one I had accused him of, he
addressed me as follows:--

"I mailed that bank package, and know that it left our office. What
could I have done with so much money, if I had been bad enough to have
taken it? And I _was_ just bad enough! I am willing to tell you all I
have done, and will very gladly restore the ill-gotten funds, for they
have made me miserable."

I will omit the details of this unexpected confession, but the first
case owned was the $40 letter that had been handed to the through
baggage-master, to be crammed into the locked mail-pouch, the failure
of which letter, as has been already shown, had given so much force to
suspicions against him!

By way of corroborating this part of his admissions, at my request, he
described the address of the letter, the kind of money it contained,
and to complete the identity, he mentioned that it came there loose in
the mail-bag.

This discovery relieved the baggage-man amazingly, and at the same
time aided me in deciding at what point the heavy losses had occurred;
for if the large package started from this office, and was not
disturbed on the cars, it must have been stolen in the New York or
Philadelphia office, where it was destined.

Another fact transpired about this time, which assisted still further
in locating these alarming robberies. Among them was one of a letter
mailed by the cashier of a bank in Vermont, for an office in one of
the Western States, and enclosing a quantity of the notes of that
bank. The bills had peculiar marks upon them. They all found their way
back to the bank through the usual channel of redemption, within a
week of the time they were mailed; hence, of course, the letter could
not have gone beyond New York. Besides, it was sent to that office for
distribution, and the post bill was on file there, and described this
identical letter, by its unusual rate, and as being pre-paid by stamps.
In all the other cases, the post bills were not to be found, either in
New York or other distant post offices, and they must have been taken
with the packages themselves.

The fact that the night mails had suffered chiefly, warranted me now
in confining the investigation principally to the night clerks. They
were generally a worthy and reliable class of gentlemen, some of them
having held this responsible station for many years. In the inquiries
and examinations which I was obliged to make, I found some instances
of conformity to circumstances and limited means, that would confer
credit on any men, or any age.

But it will perhaps be said, that cunning men may be dishonest, and
yet keep their ill-gotten gains out of sight; surrounding themselves
with the appearances of frugality and even poverty. This may be so
sometimes, temporarily, but it is nevertheless a fact that rogues
_steal money to spend it_, and for the comfort and ease which they
_expect_ it will confer, which expectation, however, never is
realized. For it is the universal rule that money, or any other
property not honestly obtained, "bites like a serpent, and stings like
an adder;" and realizing the fabled vulture of Prometheus, unceasingly
feeds on the undying life of him who steals, not fire from heaven, but
a baser thing from earth.

The sad experience of thousands who have thought themselves cunning
enough to cope with the shrewdest officers of justice, will show that
however artful and ingenious may be the devices adopted, there are
ways enough to meet and expose them. Honesty is, therefore, not only
the best policy, but the only safe and impregnable barrier against
suspicion, detection, and misery.

Pat R. was appointed as a night porter, at the urgent solicitation of
a prominent, and at that time, somewhat influential citizen of the
First Ward. He was recommended as a robust, athletic man, just suited
to the drudgery which somebody must undertake in such an office, of
attending to the lifting, handling, and removing of heavy mails. In
that capacity it was not expected that he would discharge any of the
more responsible duties of a regular clerk, such as making up and
assorting mail-matter; but the labor of the office accumulating, he
gradually added to his nightly employments that of "facing up" the
contents of the midnight mails, after they had been emptied out, and
separating the letter from the newspaper packages. Had this last fact
been furnished me at an earlier date, by the head clerk of that
department, this troublesome investigation would probably have been
sooner brought to a satisfactory termination. But, supposing from
Pat's position and legitimate duties, that he had not the requisite
opportunities for committing depredations, he was about the last one
to be looked after. And when I did conclude to extend my particular
attentions to him, I was somewhat startled by the discovery, from an
examination of the "time register"--a book in which each clerk is
required to enter his name and the time of his arrival at and
departure from the office--that Pat had not been on duty for nearly a
week! This was of course known before to the then first clerk of that
department, but the sickness of the absentee, and the death of one of
his children, which had been alleged as an excuse, (through another
porter,) seemed to be a plausible and satisfactory explanation.

But the Agent thought otherwise, under the circumstances, and deemed
it best, at all events, to ascertain in a careful way its truth or

By the aid of a reliable day clerk, who lived in Brooklyn, in the
neighborhood of Pat, I learned the name and general standing of the
physician whom he had employed. An interview with him, supposed on his
part to be for the purpose of ascertaining whether Pat was a man of
strictly temperate habits, and in all respects fit to be employed in a
post office, confirmed the part of his story relating to the child's
death, but disproved the rest of it, about his own illness. But the
doctor went the whole figure in regard to Pat's good character and
fitness for any place which was not too intellectual. I could see,
however, that my referee cared more about keeping a paying customer,
(all professional charges, as he stated, having been fully liquidated
up to that date,) than for posting me up in any matters that would
jeopardize so good a situation, where all the monthly payments were in
hard and legal currency.

By this step I obtained the first tangible justification of my
suspicions against Pat. He had assigned, in part at least, a false
reason for his absence. At about the same time, I consulted one of the
Brooklyn penny-posts, whose beat took in Pat's residence, and who
reported that he had on several occasions recently met him with a gun
on his shoulder, apparently starting on a hunting excursion.

He was very poor when he entered the office, and by way of testing his
ability to live without work, it was arranged with an agent for
procuring laborers for a Western railroad, to call on him, and offer
him a chance to go to Illinois as foreman of a gang of hands. But it
was "no go." His health was too precarious for that.

Thus matters went on for some time longer, when one day, very much to
my surprise, Pat entered the post master's room, and with a woe-begone
look, and most melancholy tone of voice, commenced apologizing for his
apparent neglect of duty. I was busily engaged in writing at the time,
and so continued, hoping that he would not recognise me, as it
afterwards appeared he did not.

"Misther Fowler," says he, "I wish to spake to your honor about
meself. Ye see, sir, I've been unfortunate, and didn't come to me
task; and the cause is, sir, that I've been sick meself with a
terrible diarrhoee (placing his hand on his abdominal region,) and
what is more painful than that (still keeping his hand in the same
position, instead of changing it to the region of the heart,) I have
buried a darling boy, your honor; and sure isn't it enough to turn the
brain of a poor divil? Ah, may the like on't niver happen to yourself,

And a big tear rolling down his cheek, attested the _sincerity_ of his

A momentary fear that the post master might intimate something of our
suspicions, was speedily relieved by his shrewdly remarking that he
was sorry for his (Pat's) misfortunes, and that he had no fault to
find, except that he ought to have sent more particular word as to the
cause of his detention.

Pat thanked his employer, and backing out of the room, promised to be
at his post that night.

"Well, what do you think of him?" inquired the postmaster.

"I think," said I, "that if he _is_ the robber, and can come here and
appear in that way, he is smarter than either of us. But we shall

For the week following, but few of his movements were unknown to me.
His duties at night were very indifferently performed, and the hours
during the day usually improved by the other night clerks for rest,
were by him devoted to dissipation; so that, before half the night had
passed, he would often be found in some out of the way place, fast

His discharge (which he no doubt desired) was thought best, in order
to throw him upon his own resources, with the hope of bringing to
light some of the stolen funds, if they were still in his hands. Much
of the money, which amounted in all to some $8000, could be
identified. The Middletown package of §2000 consisted of small bills,
put up in parcels of §200 each; and upon every bill there was a mark
by which it could be readily known. Up to this time none of the money
contained in this package or the others, except that mentioned as
coming from Vermont, had found its way to the banks by which it was

One day, about noon, I observed Pat's giant-like form crossing
Broadway, and for more than an hour I followed him without his
knowledge, until he brought up in a stone-cutter's establishment. As I
passed and repassed the door, I thought I observed him paying over
some bank-notes to the occupant. After he had left, I stepped in, and
was soon in possession of three $5 notes of the Middletown (Ct.) Bank,
with which he had paid for the _grave-stones_ of "_his darling boy!_"
The bills were clearly a part of the §2000 Middletown package, being
of the same denomination, and exhibiting the same unmistakable marks.

This accidental meeting, at once supplying a key to the mystery, was
one of those misfortunes that so often befall criminals at some point
of their guilty career, and even when they imagine themselves
perfectly successful, and permanently secure against the possibility
of detection.

I must here tell the reader a secret, explanatory of a question that
naturally arises, namely, why, with such overwhelming proof in my
possession, an arrest was not at once made. It was simply because he
would have gone clear before any tribunal, had I depended on the case
as it then stood. The bills of the §2000 package were all marked as
stated, but unfortunately a large amount, with precisely the same
peculiarities, was in circulation at this very time, though not
supposed to be in that vicinity. Had the arrest taken place then, and
the cashier been summoned to testify on the point of identity, he
would have said that he put _such_ bills into the Philadelphia
package, but could not have sworn that they were some of the identical

Besides, it was no unimportant part of this difficult business, to
effect a return of the funds, as far as possible, to the pockets of
the victims of these robberies.

The scarcity of live game in any direction within several miles of
Brooklyn, and Pat's supposed want of experience in the use of the
"shooting iron," suggested the possibility that his frequent
excursions to a neighboring wood had some other object than hunting.
Possibly it might be the guarding of his hidden treasures.

Therefore, on a bright October morning, I concluded, if possible, to
know more upon this point, and, disguised in the garb of a
shabby-looking hunter, with a gun and dog borrowed of a friend for the
occasion, I strolled off in the direction in which Pat had so often
been in the habit of going. Before fairly reaching the woods, he and
two of his companions passed me in a rough-looking vehicle, and soon
after turned from the main road into the burial-ground. From a
somewhat secluded spot, I could watch their movements tolerably well,
and it soon became apparent that at least one of the objects of this
trip was to place the marble stones--the payment for which had so
singularly betrayed him--at the grave of his deceased child.

The whole party were evidently under the effects of the "critter;" and
the prospect seemed to be, that they would soon have occasion to mourn
the departure of other beloved _spirits_, for the jug circulated
freely, and a more jolly set of fellows, considering the lugubrious
nature of their errand, is seldom met with.

But when they arrived at the spot where the child was sleeping, their
mirth grew less boisterous, and Pat in silence commenced his labor of
love; and as he proceeded in his melancholy task, I could see that he
refused to join his companions in further potations, for although
their respect for the place, or for their friend's affliction, seemed
to overcome for the time their rum-inspired loquacity, they did not
cease to resort to the jug for strength to enable them to bear his
grief, while sitting in the cart waiting for the completion of the
task which brought them there.


At length the little white stones stood in their places, showing, by
the short distance between them, how brief was the passage from the
cradle to the grave, of the being whose whole history, so far as
concerned the world at large, was inscribed on these marble pages.

A parent's heart, however, bears a different record; and after Pat had
adjusted the turf about the little grave, and given the finishing
touches to his work, he stood and gazed for a moment upon the resting
place of his child, thinking--of what? Perhaps of the contrast between
the guilty living and the innocent dead. Perhaps a flash from
conscience glanced across his mind. At least he exhibited some
external signs of emotion, for as he turned away to join his
unconcerned companions, he brushed away a tear, and with it, perhaps,
the softening influences that were at work upon his heart.

The trio once more seated in the vehicle, Pat no longer refused the
fluid consolation that his companions proffered him. They by turns
levelled the jug at the heavens, taking observations with the mouth
rather than with the eyes, and as the last member of this astronomical
corps elevated the instrument, its near approach to the perpendicular
showed that a vacuum was well nigh formed within its recesses. What
discoveries they made, except "seeing stars" in general, I cannot say,
for they immediately turned their course towards home.

This was the last that I saw of Pat that day, but the next time he
started on his accustomed tramp, two days after, he had at least one
attentive spectator of his rifle exercise; and although I failed on
this occasion to discover the precise place of his deposits, owing to
my fear of alarming him, the opinion was strengthened by what I saw,
that they were still resting quietly within a thick piece of woods,
embracing some three or four acres, where he spent several hours that
day. During this time, I was not more than a quarter of a mile from
him, yet not a single report of his gun did I hear. Presuming that he
had seen me at a distance, I now and then let off a charge innocent of
lead, and occasionally betrayed the dog into a tolerably ferocious
bark, by making him "speak" for a small cigar case which, held at a
respectful distance from the animal, might easily have been mistaken
by him for a well-cooked morsel of meat. This stratagem I thought
necessary to carry out the idea of a busy and enthusiastic huntsman.
But this little essay at hunting yielded me no game of bipeds,
feathered or otherwise.

Soon after this, a rumor that several of his neighbors were preparing
for a removal to the West, led me to fear that Pat also might have
similar intentions, and that on the occasion of his last visit to the
woods, he might, after all, have withdrawn the deposits. It was
therefore deemed unsafe to delay longer in bringing matters to a
crisis. But the manner of doing this, and of conducting the arrest, so
as to accumulate evidence of his guilt, and at the same time recover a
part or the whole of the funds, was worthy of much caution and study.
If I went with an officer directly to his house to make the arrest, he
might be absent at the time, and, getting notice of our visit, effect
his escape. His family or accomplices, if he had any, would of course
be aware of our movements, and perhaps secure the spoils, unless they
were secreted immediately upon the premises. Then I should be left
with only the proof already mentioned: that he had had an opportunity
of purloining the $2000 package, and had passed three bills supposed
to have been contained therein; together with some other less
important circumstances.

The only safe and discreet course seemed to be to secure him when
alone, and by that means keep his family ignorant respecting his
arrest, until every effort had been made to get possession of the
money. Accordingly I procured the aid of an officer, and at an early
hour in the morning, we took up our quarters in a private dwelling in
the neighborhood, where we could overlook Pat's house, and patiently
waited for him to make his appearance.

It happened to be one of his lazy mornings, and he did not venture out
until near ten o'clock, and then, very much to our disappointment, in
company with another individual, unknown to either of us. A moment's
consultation resulted in the decision to follow them at some distance,
in the hope that they might separate, but with the determination not
to lose sight of Pat again, and to take him into custody that day at
all hazards. We had not gone far, however, before he looked over his
shoulder, and although at least two squares from us, and a number of
other persons were passing and repassing at the time, he no doubt
recognised the officer, for after proceeding but a few steps further,
he and his friend turned and came toward us.

Believing that we were discovered, and that Pat was making for the
house to look after the safety of the treasures, a stratagem was
hastily arranged to throw him off his guard, and at the same time to
separate him from the stranger, who was so much in our way. It matters
little what this scheme was, provided there were no actual
misrepresentations involved. Suffice it to say, it was quite
successful, and his companion resuming his walk towards Brooklyn City
Hall, the rest of the party were soon on their way to New York.

At the ferry, and while waiting for the boat, Pat suddenly became
quite restless, as if he had for the first time connected me with the
scene in the post master's room. He walked back and forth upon the
dock, and several times halted and leaned on the railing directly over
the water, with one hand in his breeches' pocket, as if he
contemplated throwing something overboard. But I remained closely at
his side, wherever he went, and kept him engaged as much as possible,
in remarks about the weather, the growth of Brooklyn, and other
common-place matters.

We had soon crossed the ferry, and were seated in an omnibus, moving
slowly (who ever went in any other way by that conveyance?) up
Broadway. Pat had by this time grown very taciturn, and no doubt began
to suspect that his escort was not entirely prepared to fight for his
personal liberty. In fact, he must have fully decided in his own mind
that we were no very consistent friends of the "largest liberty," in
his case at least, when one of us pulled the leather strap, to give
the usual signal for a halt. This was just as we had reached the head
of Cedar street, on which the post office is situated, and before we
had arrived, by several blocks, at the place where he at first
supposed he was going to call, for a much more agreeable purpose than
that of being confronted with the charge of extensive mail robbery.

As he alighted from the "slow coach," he halted for a moment, as if
inclined to have some better understanding before proceeding further,
especially as we turned our faces in the direction of the post office.
He possessed physical strength enough to have put an end to our
troubling him any further, but Broadway at midday is no very favorable
place for such an attempt; and besides, he no doubt hoped that all
might yet come out right. After being told that he was wanted at the
post office on some private business, he went there peaceably.

Once alone with him in a private room, the time had fully arrived for
deciding--not as to his guilt, for of that I was fully satisfied--but
what were the chances of proving it, and of inducing him to disgorge
his plunder.

"Patrick," said I, "you are detected in your robberies of the night
mails in this office, and the first question I wish you to answer is,
can you restore the money, that it may be returned to those you have

He received the accusation with a look of surprise, but without any
manifest trepidation.

"I am an honest man, thank God," he asseverated, "and I'll defy all ye
can do to me; and it's nither ye nor the divil that can scare me, so
it ain't," at the same time drawing himself up into an attitude of

"I don't wish to scare you, Pat," I remarked. "I am sorry on account
of your family that you should have so abused your trust while
employed in this office. But that is neither here nor there. I want
you to hand over the seven or eight thousand dollars you have got so
wrongfully. You passed some of the $2000, from the Middletown package,
to Mr. G., for the grave-stones, you know, and I have the bills in my

"And it's trouble enough that I've had," he replied, "with the
sickness of meself, and the death of little Pat, and now ye'd have me
father all the thievish tricks of the whole office, would ye? Ye'll
find, if ye look sharp, that it's another that's got the letters ye
speak of; for sure haven't I seen him, while 'facing up,' throw
something under the counter, among the waste paper, and then go
looking there agin, after his task was done? And wasn't they large,
thick parcels that he dumped under the table?"

I have never had a doubt that he was then describing the exact process
by which he committed his own depredations.

"Very well," I answered, "you will soon see who is answerable;" and
calling the officer, who had remained outside the door during the
conversation, Pat was notified that his person must undergo a thorough
search--and it _was_ thorough.

Among the contents of his wallet were some forty dollars that agreed
very well with the description of the kind of money mailed at Joliet,
and also the receipt for the aforesaid grave-stones. On examining his
hat, which he had taken off on first entering the office, and placed
at some distance, on the top of a secretary, there appeared, snugly
stowed away under the leather lining, $165, all in fives of the
Middletown Bank, with the well-known marks on each bill! But even this
discovery produced but little impression on him; declaring, as he did
very promptly, that he could show where he obtained that money; and no
doubt he could!

Pat was left in charge of two suitable persons, and the remainder of
the day was spent by the officer and myself in searching his house and
premises for the balance of the missing funds, which was done without
giving any information to his wife of the real object of our
examination, or the unpleasant situation of her husband. The woods
were also thoroughly ransacked, though the chances appeared to be,
that the booty had been removed to the house or vicinity, as he went
directly from home that morning, having a part of the funds about his
person, with the design, as it was afterwards ascertained, of
purchasing tickets for himself and family, and several others, to

But our researches were unavailing, and I returned to the post-office
somewhat disappointed; for the proof was not yet sufficient to convict
him, on account of the impossibility of identifying the bills with
certainty, as I have already mentioned.

Before leaving, I had made known to him our intention to search his
house, and when we returned, he for the first time showed signs of
great uneasiness, and walked the room constantly, evidently anxious to
know if his treasures had been discovered. His anxiety was natural
enough, for it turned out that the whole of the money was secreted in
the house, and that at one time during the search, I was separated
from its hiding place, only by a half-inch board!

But Pat remained immovable, so far as any confessions were concerned;
and it was thought advisable, at this juncture, to call into
requisition the influence of the person at whose urgent solicitation
Pat had obtained his situation in the post-office. An interview
between them was speedily arranged, but the accused, for a while,
still continued stoutly to deny his guilt. Subsequently, however, he
inquired of the post master whether, in case he produced the money, he
would have his liberty. The post master assented, so far as to promise
no prosecution on _his_ part, and Pat finally agreed to go with us on
the following morning, and point out the place of deposit, but
insisted that H., his friend and patron, (just referred to,) should be
of the party.

Fully impressed with the importance of securing Pat as well as the
property of his victims, I now obtained a warrant, which was at once
placed in the hands of one of the U. S. Deputy Marshals, who agreed to
be in the immediate vicinity of the mail robber's residence, but to
delay the arrest till he received a signal from me that all was ready,
and after the funds were fairly in our possession.

Accordingly, a hack was ordered to be at the post office at an early
hour the next morning, and we (the post master, myself, Pat, and H.)
were soon crossing the ferry to South Brooklyn. Ten minutes' ride
brought us in front of Pat's house, where we all alighted. Here
matters took a turn wholly unexpected to me, for Pat insisted that no
one but his friend, H., and himself, should go for the money, which he
said was buried in the yard behind the house. To this I objected, but
Pat stood firm, remarking, that it would attract too much attention if
all hands went, and that if his request could not be granted, he
should make no further disclosures, and we might as well go back to
New York.

The post master and myself having at that time confidence in H., I
took him aside and told him Pat must not be allowed to escape, on any
account, and that if he went alone with him, he must promise to be
responsible for his safe and speedy return with the money, to all of
which, H. readily assented, claiming to have complete control over his
man, and promising to have him back in a few moments. With this
understanding they both passed round the house, and I started to give
the Marshal the signal that the time for his services had arrived.

Not more than three minutes had elapsed before I returned in company
with that officer, and H. was seen coming towards us, with a small box
under his arm, but _alone_.

"Where is R.?" I inquired.

"He went into the house, through the back yard," was the response.

Taking the box from H., and handing it over to the post master, to be
taken to the carriage, we at once passed into the house, but no Pat
could be found. On applying to H., to know what this meant, he
explained by saying, that as soon as the box was handed to him, Pat
hopped over the fence into his back yard, and entered the house.

After some further search, he could not be found there, and H.
proposed that we should not then appear too anxious to secure him;
repeatedly promising to have him forthcoming at any moment, after the
excitement had passed by a little. Returning to the carriage, we
started for New York, counting the funds as we rode, which amounted to
$4473. Much of it was in the original parcels of bank-notes, of one
hundred and two hundred dollars each, enclosed in the usual straps of
paper, with the amount of each package marked thereon, in the figures
of the cashiers and others, which greatly assisted afterwards in the

The author of all this mischief managed to elude the most secretly and
cautiously executed plans for his arrest. It was, however, pretty well
ascertained that he occasionally visited his home during the night
season, and one night he was discovered at a late hour, by a local
policeman (who had been employed to watch for him,) emerging from the
front door of his house. They saw each other at about the same
instant, and the policeman made an effort to seize him; but Pat was
well armed, and was in the act of pointing a gun at the officer, when
the latter, knocking it aside, presented a revolver and snapped it,
the cap, luckily for the miserable fugitive from justice, only

The noise had attracted the attention of two of his friends, who it
appears were just leaving the premises, and who were also well armed,
and in the confusion which ensued, aided by the darkness of the night,
Pat managed to get clear again.

The next attempt to arrest him was undertaken in consequence of
private information that his family, together with a brother and other
relatives, had purchased tickets for the West. The buying of an extra
ticket more than was required for the party entering their names,
authorized the belief that it was obtained for Pat himself, who would
probably join them at some point on the route. They were to leave on a
certain evening, by one of the Albany boats, which usually made no
landing between the two cities. On this occasion authority was
obtained for the boat to touch at Poughkeepsie, to receive on board
the Special Agent and two United States Marshals. With this sleepless
corps of officials there was no lack of handcuffs, revolvers, &c., nor
of firm resolves to take the culprit at all hazards, if he was on the
boat, and to arrest his wife and one or two others, believed to have
been his accessories after, if not before, the fact.

The night being still and cloudless, at about midnight the well-known
sound of a steamer's paddles was heard, and soon the huge form of the
"Hendrick Hudson" was seen looming up in the distance, her numerous
signal and other lights, as she changed her position from time to
time, appearing like some brilliant constellation, and making a most
beautiful display.

As she approached, for a time there appeared no perceptible change in
her course, but when nearly opposite the landing, she suddenly veered
toward us, and in a moment her guards were chafing against the ends of
the pier; and without waiting for the gang-plank, we were on board
before the wheels had fairly ceased their motion. The engineer's bell
sounded the signal for going ahead; and we about the same time
commenced our search through the floating palace.

As we progressed through the spacious cabins, a chorus of discordant
sounds saluted us from their sleeping occupants.

It is curious, by the way, to see how the levelling influence of sleep
shows itself in establishing a sort of equality between different
individuals, in respect of the noise they make in the world. Your
modest man, who, in his waking moments, avoids all display of his
vocal or other powers, no sooner comes under the influence of the
drowsy god, than his modesty deserts him; he blows his trumpet with as
much sonorousness as the most impudent of mankind. The most retiring
person I ever knew, was remarkable for being outrageously vociferous
in his slumbers.

The redoubtable Pat, however, was guiltless of contributing to the
volume of sound aforesaid; nor was his physiognomy discoverable among
the sleeping or waking occupants of the cabins, so far as we could
see. And as for any discoveries we made that night, or any good that
our trusty arms did us, we might as well have been encircled in the
"arms of Morpheus." At one time, however, we thought our night's work
would prove a successful one, for on hastily consulting the clerk as
we boarded the steamer, he informed us that a man answering tolerably
well the description of the object of our search, had paid his fare to
Albany, and was snugly stowed away in berth No. 54, in the forward

The revolvers and "ornaments" were hastily examined, and the plan
adopted of delegating one of the trio to proceed quietly to No. 54,
and, under the pretence that its occupant was in possession of the
wrong berth, to ascertain, first, if he was really the veritable Pat.

As I was the only one who could readily identify him, this duty fell
upon me; and leaving my fearless associates at the top of the stairs,
with instructions to rush to my aid, in case I took off my hat, with
almost breathless anxiety I made a descent into the cabin, and in a
few seconds stood in front of the berth designated by the clerk.

"Hallo, stranger," I called out, at the same time gently shaking him,
"haven't you got the wrong pew?"

An inhuman sort of a grunt was all the reply I could at first obtain,
but after repeating the inquiry, and increasing the force of the
punch, he leisurely turned over.

"And what the d--l do you want?" says the lodger, "bothering a
gentleman in this way? Is it my pocket-book, or my boots, you're

It wasn't Pat's voice at all, nor was it his face, which I at that
moment got a glimpse of, by the aid of a lantern in the hands of one
of the servants who was passing. As I saw preparations making for
"turning out," and was satisfied that I had waked up the wrong
passenger, I thought it prudent to withdraw before matters progressed
further in that direction.

None of the suspected party were on board on that occasion.

The telegraph was resorted to after our arrival in Albany, and word
transmitted to us in that way, that the party we were in search of
would certainly go up the river by the boat on the following night.

The next morning we were at the wharf, and by an arrangement with the
officers of the boat, we were enabled to see every person who went
ashore, as they passed through a half-opened door at the
after-gangway, in giving up the passage tickets. The net was well
spread this time, and though we did not pick Pat up, we secured the
whole party of his traveling friends, including his wife and two
children. The Marshal took them in charge, and without much ceremony
or explanation, conducted them to a hack which had been provided for
their special accommodation. They were very soon after escorted to the
police station, and a subsequent examination of their persons and
effects afforded no additional light, except that among the baggage of
Mrs. R. was found a lot of scrap gold, which a dentist of Philadelphia
mailed to a New York firm, and which had never reached that firm. On
the strength of this discovery, she was afterwards indicted as an
accomplice of her husband, and committed to Brooklyn jail, where she
remained for several months, her two children staying with her, at her
own request.

Although she undoubtedly knew the precise locality of her "liege
lord," and probably could have procured her own liberty by making it
known, yet she remained firm, and to the last steadily refused to give
the least information, insisting, moreover, that she was ignorant of
the post office depredations at the time they were going on, and that
the stolen property found in her possession was placed in one of the
trunks without her knowledge. Possibly it was so, as some of Pat's
wearing apparel was found there also.

The remainder of the party, three in number, were detained at Albany.
It was deemed necessary that they should remain there a while, but the
Chief of Police was instructed not to treat them strictly as
prisoners, but to allow them to lodge at the station; and an
arrangement was made for them to eat at a neighboring restaurant, at
the expense of Government.

The proprietor of the aforesaid restaurant finding, however, that they
were disposed to abuse that privilege, by imbibing too freely, and
selecting from the bill of fare whatever was choice and expensive--and
especially as the contract for this portion of his customers was not
very clearly defined--took the precaution to erase from one copy of
the bill of fare all articles of a rare and expensive kind, which
corrected list, by the third day, embraced but one or two plain
dishes. This brief programme was sure to be thrust before them as
often as they called for anything to eat, though a verbal announcement
of "coffee" was added at the regular morning and evening repast.
Having also some faint recollection of the discussions in the public
papers about reforms in the Navy, and dispensing with the "grog
rations," he compromised the matter on that head, by allowing the men
"two drinks" a day, and no more; that being, in his estimation, a
proper Government allowance.

As sufficient legal evidence could not be procured, to show that they
really aided and abetted in the robberies, they were notified that
their bills would no longer be paid by the Post Office Department; and
declining to continue their journey to the West, tickets were
furnished them to return to New York.

Soon after their arrival in the city, they fell in with a tolerably
smart specimen of a lawyer, whose indignation at the unheard-of
proceedings against them, of course had nothing to do with so
mercenary a motive as that of getting a fee out of them; and by his
advice a suit was promptly brought against the Special Agent and the
two Deputy Marshals, for false imprisonment!

The cause was "set down" for trial in the Marine Court, and came off
in the course of a week or two. A waggish spectator remarked that he
could not see why it was brought in the Marine Court, unless it was
because the complainants were "half seas over" when stopped at Albany.

A very brief synopsis of this trial will, I think, prove worth a

On the part of the prosecution, the complainants themselves were the
witnesses--all three of them genuine sons of the Emerald Isle.

Separate trials were asked and granted, and that of the Special Agent
was first taken up.

Michael D. was duly sworn, but instead of mounting the witness's
stand, with one bound and a broad grin, he was inside the Judge's
desk, and seated in the chair usually occupied by one of the Associate
Judges! A burst of laughter followed, in which his Honor, as well as
the spectators, joined. The officer in attendance on the Court was
quickly alongside of Mike, and with considerable difficulty removed
him to the witness' stand. Here he fixed his eyes intently on me,
perhaps to keep watch, lest I should attempt to run away, considering
me his prisoner at last, and evidently chuckling within himself at the
thought that the time had now come to put me on as limited allowance,
so far as variety went, as he had been restricted to while in Albany.

Order being now restored, the counsel commenced interrogating the

"Michael, were you on your way to Illinois, from this city, on the
20th instant?"

_Witness._--"Was I in Illinoi? and sure I niver was in me life; and if
that spalpeen of an Agint beside ye says I was, he lies, bedad he

Notwithstanding the loud calls of "stop, stop," by his lawyer, he went
through with the sentence, and stood, a thumb in each arm-hole of his
vest, looking defiantly at me, and apparently ready for the next

_The Court._--"Now, Michael, you must not be in such a hurry. Try and
understand what is said to you thoroughly, before answering. I shall
not permit any indulgence in the use of harsh names to any of the
Government officers, or to any one else in Court."

_Witness._--"And didn't they stop me, and trate me the same as a male
thafe, your Honor?"

_The Court._--"Well, that's what we want to find out; but you must not
talk, only when you are questioned; remember that."

_Counsel._--"I will put the inquiry in another shape. Were you a
passenger on board the steamboat for Albany, on any night during the
present month?"

Mike remained speechless for a moment, staring at the Judge in the
most penetrating manner. That functionary finally broke the silence,

"Well, why don't you answer?"

_Witness._--"And sure, your Honor, didn't you just tell me to remain
spacheless when questioned?"

_Court._--"_Only_ when questioned, I said."

_Witness_ (to the counsel).--"I _was_ on the stameboat, and the Agint
there knows it, so he does; and them other big feeling chaps there
(pointing to the Deputy Marshals) knows it too. And I'd like to see
'em try to delay me in that way agin," at the same time looking fists,
if not daggers, at those innocent officials.

Here the patience of the Court, as well as the counsel, became well
nigh exhausted, and it was suggested that Michael should stand aside
for the present, as the same facts could be proved by another and more
intelligent witness.

The new witness went on to describe the affair from the commencement,
including the detention at Albany. The cross-examination, however,
showed that so far as any "imprisonment" was concerned, it was
literally "false."

It was shown that all had the "freedom of the city," while in Albany,
having frequently visited some "distant" connections--_distant_ about
two miles from the police station--and had been well boarded, away
from the station, at the public expense. That in fact they could have
gone anywhere they chose, a few hours after their arrival in Albany,
or on any succeeding day.

After listening to the circumstances, and the motives which led to the
detention of these men, and to the testimony of one of the police
officers at Albany, in relation to their treatment while there, the
Judge summarily dismissed the case, remarking that, in the first place
no "imprisonment" had been proven, and that, even if it had, he should
probably have sustained the officers in the discharge of what they
considered their duty, in endeavoring to ferret out and punish the
authors of important crimes against the laws of the land.

The trial I have just described was but one of many incidental
occurrences which took place in the course of the attempts made to
arrest Pat R.; occurrences, both tragical and comical, which would
here find a place, did not the limited space render that impossible.

In closing the history of this case, it will be sufficient to say
that, in the course of our investigations, the innocence of many
suspected persons was established; restitution made to the sufferers
by Pat's villany, so far as their losses could be satisfactorily
traced to him; and the Post-Office Department were rid of one of the
most daring and unscrupulous mail robbers that ever disgraced the
service. He is not even now as secure in his hiding place as he
perhaps imagines himself to be.

If there are those (as there is reason to suspect) who shared with him
in such of the spoils as were not recovered, they also, even if they
escape the punishment which they merit from their fellow men, will not
always elude the pursuit of conscience, nor avoid the retribution
which she will most surely inflict upon them.


    An infected District--A "fast" Route Agent--Heavy Bank
    Losses--Amateur Experiments--Dangerous Interference--A Moral
    Lecture--The Process discovered--An unwelcome Stranger--Midnight
    Watching--Monopoly of a Car--Detected in the Act--The Robber
    searched--His Committal--A supposed Accomplice--The Case
    explained--Honesty again triumphant--Drafts and Letters--A long
    Sentence--Public Sympathy--A Christian Wife--Prison
    Scenes--Faithful to the last--An interesting Letter.

The literary reputation of one of the oldest and most celebrated seats
of learning in New England, was once temporarily overshadowed by the
"bad eminence" that it attained in the eyes of all within a distance
of fifty miles in every direction, who attempted to transmit valuable
matter through the mails. The period during which this state of things
existed, was in the months of January and February, 1854. Throughout
those months a fatality attended all money-letters designed to pass
through the place referred to; the like of which has seldom been known
in the history of the Post-Office.

As well might one have attempted to send a valuable letter across the
Maelstrom, as to get it safely past the fatal point. This point was
like the lion's cave in the fable, _into_ which many tracks entered,
but _from_ which none were seen to return. And the lion, whoever he
was, had an insatiable and indiscriminating appetite, for he consumed
the supplies coming from three or four neighboring counties in the
State, and like a feline Oliver Twist, continually "asked for more."

The effects of these numerous losses, of course, were not confined to
the vicinities of the sufferers, but were felt in remote portions of
the country.

But the loss of money and the consequent inconvenience, were not the
only results following this wholesale robbery. Perhaps no series of
mail depredations ever spread so widely the cloud of suspicion over
those connected with the mail service. All the route agents, post
masters, post-office clerks, and mail messengers, whose spheres of
duty lay within the infected district; all these officials felt the
severity of the test of character, which existing circumstances
applied. Such a state of things as that which we are describing, often
serves as a thunder-shower, to clear the moral atmosphere. Half-formed
purposes of roguery are, for the present at least, laid by; those
already guilty of peculation on a small scale cease from their
operations; all wait in breathless suspense for the _denouement_ of
the drama; and when the bolt falls, and the offender is smitten down,
they breathe more freely; and such a catastrophe is not unfrequently
the turning point in the life of some young man, who has hitherto been
vacillating between good and evil.

The arrest and punishment of another inspires him with salutary fear
of similar results in his own case, should he venture upon a like

And the effect of such occurrences upon those who have never turned
aside from the path of rectitude, is no less decided.

These are the times that "try men's souls." It is a hard thing for one
to bear up for weeks and months under a load of suspicion, though
conscious of innocence; but this is a still harder task, if he has
nothing between the eyes of the public and his inward rottenness but
the thin shell of a decent and false reputation. No man can know to
its full extent the value of a good character, until he has been
through some "fiery trial," in which nothing but such a power could
have saved him from ruin.

Yet those who at the time of which I speak, were most firm in
conscious integrity, did not escape the stings of annoying suspicions,
and significant insinuations.

"Could it be a certain Route Agent?" confidentially asked an officious
individual, perhaps quite too willing to start such a suspicion, the
aforesaid Agent having, in pursuance of general instructions, denied
him the privilege of the mail car. "I saw him," continued our virtuous
friend, "sporting a fine turn-out only last Sunday, and they do say
that he is rather _fast_ for a young man on so small a salary. It
wouldn't surprise me much if they should find that the trouble is

Unfortunately for this theory, so well founded on the basis of a
Sunday "turn out" and a "they say," the "fast" young man could not
have had access to one in a dozen of the lost packages.

This is a specimen of the endless surmises and conjectures that were
thrown out in the progress of the affair, much to the annoyance of
numerous post masters' clerks, and other officials, whose honesty,
aided by the strenuous efforts of the Special Agent to arrive at the
truth, carried them through the ordeal triumphantly; and left their
accusers, particularly the man who couldn't ride in the mail car,
rather "chop-fallen," and possibly not a little disappointed.

The banks within the infected district, suffered in the loss of
drafts, &c., to the amount of at least two hundred thousand dollars,
while scarcely a business man in either of the two or three cities
within range of the prevailing disorder, escaped the vexatious and
often injurious consequences of the depredations then going on, for
the robber did not stop to select his booty. Indeed, he could not have
done so, had he wished it, as the reader will hereafter see.

An investigation of the case was ordered by the Department, and
carried on with as much energy as prudence would permit; yet in the
midst of it the robberies continued unchecked. Hereupon some of the
bank officers grew very impatient, as the victims of depredations are
apt to do, if they are not made acquainted with every step that is
taken in the delicate process of narrowing down the investigation.

When I had been on the trail for nearly a week, one of those
gentlemen--an excellent financier, but by no means profoundly versed
in the mysteries of human nature--in his imprudent zeal to find out
_something_, took matters into his own hands, and came near spoiling
all by alarming the robber, without detecting him. He prepared a sort
of decoy letter, as he called it, well filled with pieces of tissue
paper, about the size of bank-notes, and this tempting package he
addressed to a cashier to whom several of the missing letters had been
directed. This fell into the hands of the robber, but the experiment
was rendered harmless by the fact stated by himself after his arrest,
that he never stopped to read or examine any letters, except to
ascertain whether they contained money. It will never be known,
probably, how much good advice the criminal lost, when he committed
this _tissue_ of deception to the flames, for the worthy cashier, in
his well-meant zeal, supplied the place of bank-notes in the decoy
package with what he doubtless considered of more value, namely, a
moral lecture to the delinquent, displaying in vivid colors the folly
and wickedness of his course, and closing with the warning that if he
took _that_ letter, he would surely be detected!

The ingenuity and shrewdness of this device cannot be too much
admired. The threat contained in the letter was so well calculated to
throw the culprit off his guard, that if he had read it, he would no
doubt have fallen an easy prey to such cunning machinations! It was of
course expected by the deviser of this scheme that the package would
be preserved by the person who stole it, in order to afford the
necessary evidence of crime! The pieces of tissue paper could easily
have been identified, and he would naturally preserve the accompanying
document with as much care as Job was ready to show to the "book"
which he wished his adversary to write!

Such interference as this, with an important investigation, is never
warranted by any considerations whatever. The commander of an army
who has laid all his plans for surprising an enemy, would feel under
very slight obligations to any officious friend, who, in his
impatience and ignorance of the course intended, should alarm the foe
by some hasty and ill-advised attack.

Thus is it in the investigations to which we refer. Secrecy is
all-important to the successful issue of the plans that may be
devised; and volunteer services, especially from persons destitute of
experience, are quite as likely to aid the criminal as to assist those
who are endeavoring to detect him.

This digression has been made principally for the sake of protesting
against such interference as that above mentioned, and of inducing
others to abstain from similar unwarrantable experiments.

Notwithstanding the uneasiness of our amateur detective officer, and
the remarkable skill displayed by him (as he supposed) in that
capacity, considerable progress had already been made by means much
safer than those which he adopted, if not more ingenious.

There were but few points to which suspicion could be reasonably
directed, as there were but few places where the stolen packages would
have centered. Each of these points was closely watched. A section of
rail road, some thirty-five miles in length, over which most of the
robbed mails must have passed, seemed, for a time, to satisfy the
conditions of the problem to be solved, but this hypothesis was
overturned by the fact that on one and the same night, packages were
taken from mails which had passed each other on this road, in opposite
trains, on separate tracks, and at a high rate of speed.

The mail messengers employed to convey the mails to and from the
several railroad depots at central points, were carefully looked
after, but all appeared right among them. And as for the post-offices,
there were not more than two out of all affected by the numerous
losses, through which half a dozen of the lost letters would have

There was however, one man who had not thus far been included in the
investigation, chiefly because in the discharge of his ordinary duties
as baggage-master, at a central station or junction where mail
carriers were provided by the rail road companies, he was not supposed
to have even a temporary charge of any of the mails. But while
watching one of the mail carriers on a certain evening, as he was
conveying a number of mails from a city post-office to the cars, the
Agent observed him placing them in charge of the aforesaid
baggage-master, prior to the arrival of the train by which they were
to be forwarded.

After they had thus been committed to his custody, he was seen to
throw them carelessly into his baggage room, and enter the room,
closing the door behind him. After a lapse of several minutes, he came
out, piled the bags upon a barrow or baggage truck, and wheeled them
to a point upon the platform, opposite which the approaching train was
to stop. The unnecessary operation of placing the bags in the room,
when the train was nearly or quite due, was a very suspicious
circumstance, especially when taken in connection with the other
movements of the baggage-master, and by means of the telegraph the
post master of a neighboring city was requested to be present at the
opening of that mail, to see whether certain letter packages arrived
which were known to have been in the through mail pouch for his office
that evening. The reply was, "opened mail myself, no letters for this

An hour and a half had now passed since the train had left, and if the
mails had been rifled in the baggage room, sufficient time had been
afforded the robber to have concealed or destroyed all the direct
proof of his guilt upon this occasion. Hence no open action was then
taken in view of the discoveries made. Besides, there was too much at
stake to warrant the incurring of any risk on the strength of these

The following evening the movements of the suspected person were again
watched, the Agent having a better knowledge respecting the exact
nature and value of a portion of the contents of the mail bags which
were to be forwarded at that time.

Upon this occasion, the train was "on time," and the carrier a little
later than usual, so the mails were placed directly upon the barrow,
and wheeled by the baggage-master to an obscure part of the depot,
more remote from observation, and less in the way of passers, than
that where they were carried the previous night. After remaining there
a short time, he rolled the truck and its valuable load back to the
usual spot, in readiness for the train.

This strange manoeuvre indicated still another and a bolder
operation, but the probabilities were that he had been foiled in any
attempt he might have designed to make, by a person whom I saw
following him into his dark retreat to make application for baggage,
as I supposed, for they both entered the baggage room, and soon came
out, the stranger with a valise in his hand. This _contre-temps_
excited in my mind no very amiable feelings toward its innocent cause,
for I had concluded to bring the affair to a crisis at once, should
the telegraph report anything missing from the mails. But the dispatch
received that evening was, "All right," which confirmed my belief that
my plans and those of the baggage-master had been frustrated by the

Another train from the opposite direction, and bringing mails for
delivery at this point, were due at a later hour, and as there had
also been losses from those mails, I decided to wait and see what
usage they received on their arrival, which, owing to heavy
snow-drifts somewhere on the road, was delayed till near midnight.

When the train came in and the baggage was disposed of, the mails were
all carried to the baggage room instead of to the post-office, and,
after putting out the gas-lights about the depot, the faithful
baggage-master returned to his apartment.

Through a small swinging window designed for ventilation, opening into
this room near the top, I could see a faint light, and from its
unsteady motions, which showed that the lamp from which it proceeded
was in the hand of some one moving it in various directions, I
concluded that the occupant of the room was rifling the mails.

This was an exciting moment. My first impulse was to proceed at once
to the door, demand admittance, and charge him on the spot with the
crime of which I suspected him. But a slight distrust of my physical
ability to cope with him single-handed in case of resistance, which
would almost certainly follow if my suspicions were correct; and the
lateness of the hour, rendering it improbable that I could obtain aid
should it be necessary; these considerations prevented me from
carrying out my first intention, and when the unconscious object of my
scrutiny put out his light and left the depot, I went in an opposite
direction to my quarters, determined, however, to give him but one
more chance to continue his depredations.

The next night he robbed his last mail bag.

Obtaining a private interview with the Superintendent of the rail
road, I for the first time laid the facts before him, for the purpose
of securing some assistance in the prosecution of my plans which he
only could render. I wished to provide a place of concealment in that
retired part of the depot where the mails had been taken on the
preceding evening; and as empty cars were frequently left standing
over night upon some of the unoccupied tracks, it was arranged to
leave a car near the place mentioned, for my exclusive occupancy. From
the "loop-hole" of this "retreat" I could determine with some accuracy
the nature of such mysterious movements as I had before witnessed in
that vicinity.

Lest the baggage room should be chosen this time as the scene of
operation, and thus my plans be defeated, a discreet friend was
stationed near that point about the time that the mails were brought
over from the office, in order to "head off" the suspected

For the purpose of allowing as much time as possible, the conductor of
the train, which was to take that mail, had been telegraphed to "come
in a little behind time."

Certain money packages had been prepared, and everything being in
readiness, I took my post of observation in the empty car just before
the mails came from the post-office.

I had not long been stationed, when I heard the familiar rumbling
sound of the baggage truck, and in a moment more the baggage-master
appeared, trundling along his load of mails, and coming to a halt upon
the platform, within fifteen feet of my watchful eye.

That eye saw rapid work for a few moments! Hasty passes of the right
hand between the mouth of one of the mail bags (as it appeared in the
dim light to be) and the capacious pockets of a sack over-coat, showed
clearly for what purpose the mails had been thus taken out of the way,
and the well-known click of a mail-lock informed me that the operation
was concluded, and that the moment had arrived for action on my part.

I think a rail road car was never emptied of its contents in a much
less time than on the present occasion. And my very informal
introduction to the wholesale dealer in goods in the "original
packages," was about as sudden. In fact, he had hardly set down the
barrow, after removing it a few rods to its usual position, before I
was addressing him.

In the midst of the rifling process just described, I had seen him
open the door of a small apartment near him, a light shining out for a
moment while the door was open. And it occurred to me that an
accomplice might be secreted there for the purpose of receiving the
stolen property. Accordingly I remarked that I would like to have him
accompany me for a moment into this room on private business, to which
he readily assented, neither knowing me, nor having any suspicion of
the nature of my "business," for otherwise he might not have so
cheerfully complied with my request.

On opening the door I discovered a person within, who appeared to be
wholly unoccupied, except in smoking a cigar. Thinking it probable
that he was in some way connected with the robberies, I considered it
prudent to obtain assistance before making known the object of this
interview, and accordingly spoke to three or four persons who had been
attracted to the place by the unwonted movements, requesting them to
call one of the police officers, some of whom were generally in the
vicinity of that rail road station.


During this delay, and in order to prevent any attempt at escape, I
put a series of questions to the baggage-master, calculated to allay
the suspicion which began to be strongly indicated by his looks.

"Did you," I inquired, "find, in this morning's train from H----, a
pocket-book, lost there by a passenger? If we can recover the papers,
the money is less of an object."

This seemed to relieve his fears considerably, and he replied in a
cheerful tone,

"I have found no such thing. It isn't my business to go through the
trains, but this man's," pointing to the other person present.

"Ah, it's my mistake. Did _you_ see anything of a pocket-book," I
asked, turning to the person indicated.

"No," was the answer; "have you lost such an article?"

I was relieved from the difficulty of this question by a rap on the
door from the Chief of Police, who was the man of all others whom I
wished to see.

As he entered, I intimated to him, in a whisper, what was on foot, and
then turning to the baggage-master, without any preamble or formality,
I requested him to hand me the mail-key, which he had in his

"I haven't any mail-key," was the dull response. "Very well," said I,
"then we shall have to search you."

He turned pale, and remarked, with assumed calmness, "I suppose I know
what you want."

One of the side pockets of his over-coat appearing somewhat distended,
I commenced my investigations with that. The first article that
appeared was the large package of letters made up that evening for
delivery at the neighboring city, before alluded to, and the next dive
brought to light a heavy distribution package for the same office.
Several other packages of less size were afterwards drawn forth. After
the search had been completed, the culprit was hand-cuffed, and lodged
in jail within half an hour from the time when he had committed this
last depredation.

After we had dispatched this part of the business, we turned our
attention to the companion of the unfortunate baggage-master, who had
been observing our proceedings with the utmost equanimity, though not
without interest.

"That's rather hard on Ed," said he, as the door closed on the

"Yes," replied I, "it is. But I believe we must search you, for I
think you are concerned in this affair."

"I never was searched in my life," said he, smilingly, "excepting when
I've searched my own pockets, and then I never found much. Perhaps
you'll have better luck; at any rate, it won't hurt me to have it
tried;" and so saying, he laid aside his cigar, and presented himself
to undergo the ordeal. But nothing was found to implicate him in any

I then expressed my fear that he might still be an accomplice, as I
noticed the baggage-master open and shut the door of the little room,
while rifling the mails that night.

An honest laugh followed this remark, and an explanation was given me,
which satisfactorily accounted for the suspicious circumstance.

It seems that his dishonest companion, fearing that he would come out
of the room and detect him in the act, had opened the door, telling
him that he would have to be locked in till the train arrived, and
turned the key on the outside. This passed for a joke, and the
imprisoned person thought little of it, as he would have no occasion
to leave the room until the train arrived, when it would be his duty
to inspect the cars. It also appeared that this locking up trick had
been played several times previously, no doubt for a similar purpose.

Thus, was an honest man subjected to suspicion, by circumstances
beyond his control. A satisfactory explanation of them, however, was
not beyond his power, and his experience goes to increase the array of
testimony, to show the inestimable value of a clear conscience in all
exigencies whatever.

The key of a private desk in the baggage room was taken from the
robber, and in this desk was found about $40,000 in bank drafts,
checks, &c., and more than a hundred rifled letters, which, as their
post-marks showed, must have been the proceeds of one or two nights'
robbery. Everything taken from the mails, except money, had been
committed to the flames, as the criminal himself afterwards confessed.
A large portion of the available funds which he had accumulated, was
recovered and restored to the rightful owners.

In less than a week from this time, he was tried, and sentenced to the
State Prison for the term of _twenty-seven years_.

The discoveries here detailed, gave rise to great surprise and
excitement among all who knew the guilty individual, for he had
sustained a good reputation for sobriety, honesty, and industry.

His innocent family received the warmest sympathy of the entire
community, which indeed they deserved, for the culprit's wife was a
sincere Christian woman;--a living exemplification of the religion by
which she professed to be guided.

Some of the interviews at the prison between her husband, children,
and herself, were painful to behold; yet, after the first terrible
shock, (and how terrible it was, can be realized by those only who
have seen a beloved one suddenly metamorphosed from a fancied angel
into a "fallen spirit,") she became more resigned to the overpowering
calamity which had overtaken herself and her children.

She had no reproaches for her sinning husband, nor did she allude in
his presence to the sufferings which he had brought upon his innocent
family; but her aim seemed to be, to induce him, by means of his
bitter experience, to begin a new and a Christian life.

One day, when I called to see the prisoner, in company with a
gentleman who was anxious to learn the fate of a package of valuable
papers which he had lost, we found the afflicted woman sitting by her
husband,--one arm thrown lovingly around his neck, and an open Bible
lying in her lap. We apologized to her for the interruption. She
looked up mournfully, a tear stealing down her wan cheek as she said,

"It is no matter, I was only reading to poor Edward." Then looking at
him fondly, she continued,--"He has been a kind, good husband and
father, and hadn't any bad habits or companions that I knew of; and I
have often thought that if he only had religion, he would be perfect.
And if this trial, bad as it is, will only make him a Christian, it
will be all I shall ask."

Meanwhile her two little children were thoughtlessly playing about the
door of the cell, unconscious of the ruin which had been wrought in
the hearts and the prospects of their wretched parents. The youngest
one, while we were there, tried to play at "bo-peep" with its father,
but was immediately checked by the poor mother, who cried out in an
agonized voice, "Oh Eddie, don't!"

Ever since her husband was sent to prison, this devoted wife has
visited him twice a month, (having been furnished with a free pass by
the officers of the rail road which passes near the prison,) and to
judge by the report of those who have an opportunity of observing him
every day, the prisoner has commenced that Christian life, to which
the prayers and loving efforts of his wife were designed to lead him.

Nothing can be said that would add to the force of the lesson
contained in the facts here narrated. If a life-time of imprisonment,
and the blighting of the hopes and happiness of loved ones, do not
show with sufficient impressiveness the result of crime, imagination
will in vain attempt to supply the deficiency.

I append a letter received by me from the criminal, some time after
his committal to the State Prison:--

                                                 W----, July 18, 1854.

    Kind Friend--

    For I must consider you as such, because through your
    instrumentality I have been saved, perhaps, from a worse fate than
    has befallen me. I think through this, I have been taught to see
    what a sinner I am. I am truly penitent for this crime, as well as
    all my disobedience to the just laws of God. I mean, through the
    help of Almighty power, to serve my Creator the remaining years of
    my life.

    It is strange how I was tempted to do that crime. I never was
    inclined to do evil or keep bad company. In fact, I kept no
    company hardly, except that of my wife and little ones. Oh! how my
    heart throbs to break loose and join them! Look upon yours as you
    can in freedom, and think of me. It almost suffocates me to call
    them before me in my mind.

    Oh, horrors! little did I ever think such a fate would befal me! I
    cannot tell why I did it, more than this--to pay my debts. How
    they did trouble me--how should I ever pay them? But this was not
    the way to cancel them.

    I do not love money--not at all. I never desired to be rich, only
    to be square with the world. I became indebted by inexperience and

    I would tell you the little story of my life, if I could. My
    connections, except my father, are pious people. My mother was a
    good Christian, and died in the happy hope of Heaven. She called
    me to her bedside about two months before her death. That was the
    last time I saw her alive; and when she parted with me, she
    clasped me to her bosom, with these words--"My son, obey God and
    meet me in Heaven!" Oh! how full of meaning, and a mother's love.

    But this is too painful. I cannot write of this.

    You can imagine my feelings at this time. But the evil tempter has
    left me now, and I pray to God, never to return.

    Do warn others of my sad fate, to shun the road to ruin.

    God, in his infinite goodness, has looked upon me with compassion,
    and calmed my troubles in part. At least all that I have desired,
    He has done for me, or how could I have lived?

    Will you not call and see me some time? Don't despise the thief;
    Christ did not.

    Many thanks to your kind heart. Also please thank the Government
    Attorney, and the Post Masters of H----, and N---- H----. May God
    watch over and preserve you all.

                                             Your unworthy servant,

                                                          E. A. S----.


    Safety of the Mails--Confidence shaken--About Mail
    Locks--Importance of Seals--City and Country--Meeting the
    Suspected--Test of Honesty--Value of a String--A dreary
    Ride--Harmless Stragglers--A cautious Official--Package
    missing--An early Customer--Newspaper Dodge--Plain Talk--A Call to
    Breakfast--Innocence and Crime--Suspicion Confirmed--The big
    Wafers--Finding the String--The Examination--Escape to Canada--A
    true Woman--The Re-arrest--Letter of Consolation--The Wife in
    Prison--Boring Out--Surprise of the Jailor--Killing a Horse.

In our larger cities, and indeed throughout the country, there are
thousands of persons engaged in the transaction of business, who if
called upon would testify that in the course of their employment of
the mails, involving in the aggregate the collection and disbursement
of millions of dollars, no part of their correspondence, valuable or
otherwise, had failed or had ever been delayed through any fault of
the Post-Office Department.

Such, up to the year 1849, had been the experience--an experience
extending through many years--of a firm in Northern New York,
extensively engaged in manufacturing and real estate operations, which
required the frequent transmission of heavy remittances between their
place of business and New York City. For a long time they confined
themselves to the use of drafts, checks, and other representatives of
money, but as everything went on smoothly for years, they finally
remitted money itself, in the shape of bank-notes, whenever
convenience required, without bestowing a thought upon the insecurity
or danger of such a course; and for a time the prompt acknowledgment
of the receipt of the various sums thus sent strengthened their
confidence in the safety of the mails, and the fidelity of their

Therefore the rifling of one money letter directed by them to New York
caused but little alarm; but when this was followed in rapid
succession by the loss of the contents of a second, third, and even a
fourth, they began to think that there was "something rotten in the
state of"--New York, and accordingly called upon the Post-Office
Department for aid in ascertaining the locality, and detecting the
perpetrator of these robberies.

The losses could not be attributed to misdirection, or any other of
the long catalogue of causes not of a criminal nature, though
occasioning much alarm and inconvenience. For in the present case the
rifled letters had reached the parties addressed. They had been
opened, robbed, and resealed.

The route over which the letters passed was a long one--some four
hundred miles--and the first look at the case seemed almost to forbid
the hope of success in its investigation; for it appeared probable
that the robber might defy detection as effectually as "a needle in a
hay-mow;" and a belief of this kind no doubt encouraged him in his
course. There was, however, another fact in connection with the
matter, as will presently be seen, of which he was ignorant, which
might have caused him at least to hesitate in pursuing his designs,
had he known it, for it very much curtailed the limits within which
investigation was necessary.

The course of the mail on this route was, first to Ogdensburg, some
sixty miles, by stage, the mail being overhauled at each of the
intermediate offices, eight or ten in number. At Ogdensburg, all
matter for New York was put into a "through bag," which was furnished
with a brass lock, and not to be opened until its arrival in New York.

It may be well here to state that two kinds of locks are used in the
mail service; the iron lock for short distances and upon routes where
the mails are frequently overhauled, a key to which is in the
possession of all the post masters and "Route Agents;" and the brass
lock, used for greater safety only between large places and on
important routes; the intermediate offices being supplied with their
mail matter without the necessity of opening the through bag.
Consequently the brass key is in the hands of comparatively few post
masters, (only those who are connected with the offices where the
through bags are opened,) and of none of the Route Agents.

The reader will see from this statement, and others hereafter to be
made, that the robberies were probably committed somewhere between the
first-mentioned place and Ogdensburg, and that thus it would be
necessary to pursue the investigation only on the latter route, some
sixty miles as has already been mentioned.

The _seals_ of the rifled letters were important witnesses in this
case. In the resealing, uncommonly large wafers of a peculiar shade
had been used, as well as a particular kind of stamp, which
circumstances satisfactorily proved that all the robberies were the
handi-work of one person, and probably at a single locality. The
letters had in each instance been detained somewhere one day longer
than the time usually required for their passage over the route.

Now there are certain features or symptoms, so to speak, in cases of
mail depredations which go far to assist one accustomed to their
investigation in determining whether they have occurred in large or
small post-offices, and to distinguish with tolerable accuracy,
between city and country embezzlements. A city depredator seldom if
ever confines his operations to letters passing over a particular
route. Indeed he could scarcely do so were he to attempt it, for in
the usual division of labor, a dozen letters arriving on separate days
would be likely to be taken charge of by as many different hands, and
if letters were passing each way on the same route, it would be still
more difficult for the same person to purloin from both, as the
receiving and forwarding departments are generally if not always
entirely distinct.

Neither is it a city symptom to reseal and replace a letter after it
has been rifled, for the reason, among others, that the depredator is
not willing, after having succeeded in purloining it, to incur the
additional risk of smuggling it back again. While in country or
village post-offices, the thefts must in most cases be confined to one
route, and there is more leisure and better opportunity for the
resealing and returning process.

For similar reasons, the loss or robbery of a number of letters
addressed to the same party or business firm, although arriving by
different routes, would not necessarily place a city post-office clerk
under suspicion, since he could scarcely have a motive for such a
selection among the thousands of valuable letters coming into his
custody. On the contrary, if he were disposed to be dishonest, he
would be more likely to take A.'s letter to-day, B.'s to-morrow, and
C.'s the next day. Neither would it, in the case just supposed, be
probable that there was a rogue on each of the different routes. The
theory which experience and observation have established, would be
that the repeated embezzlements had been carried on by some dishonest
messenger outside the office who had in his power only the
correspondence with which he had been intrusted. At all events, such a
conclusion would be fully justified by the very frequent discoveries
of similar delinquencies in our cities and large towns.

The peculiar features in the present case showed quite plainly that
neither the New York nor Ogdensburg offices were implicated, and that
the depredations had occurred somewhere between the latter and the
mailing office.

An important question now arose, namely, what postmaster between these
points used wafers similar to those upon the rifled letters. Having
entire confidence in the Ogdensburg post master, I requested him to
write to each of the post masters on the suspected route, asking for
information on indifferent subjects and requiring replies. One was
requested to send a copy of the post-bill from his office to
Ogdensburg of a certain date. Another was inquired of to know whether
a letter remained in his office addressed to Timothy Saunders; another
to know whether there was once a clerk in his office by the name of
Philip Barton, and if so, where he was at present residing. In this
way letters were obtained from all these post masters in the course of
a few days, and the mode of sealing was in each case particularly
examined. Upon one of these letters the large wafer was found! There
was not only the kind of wafer, but the stamp identical with that used
upon the rifled letters.

For a few days after this, the exterior of all the letters received at
Ogdensburg, and which passed through the suspected office, were
carefully examined to see if they had been disturbed. This examination
showed plainly that a number had been opened, and resealed either with
the large wafer, or by the use of the original seals, which of course
were mutilated.

Careful inquiry of some who knew the suspected post master, showed
that he was a merchant in good standing, against whom no charge of
dishonesty had ever been preferred.

The next thing to be done was to visit a point beyond him, in order to
pass decoy letters through his hands, on their way to the Ogdensburg

Accompanied by a citizen of Ogdensburg, whose services I had secured
as a guide, I started in a private conveyance, and when we had arrived
within ten miles of the office of the big wafers, we turned into a
by-road so as to avoid passing through the village in which it was
situated. At a short distance from the village upon the road
aforesaid, we saw a sleigh approaching, (it was the month of December,
and capital sleighing,) and as it drew near, my companion remarked
that he believed its occupant was Mr. Willis, the very person we were
endeavoring to avoid! My friend knew Mr. W. by sight, but was not sure
that Mr. W. knew _him_.

We concealed our faces as well as we could under the circumstances,
and passed at as rapid a rate as was compatible with the muscular
powers of our Rosinante. It afterwards appeared that Willis was out on
a collecting tour that day, and that neither of us were known to him,
nor had he the least suspicion of our business.

The mail which had so frequently suffered the loss of its valuable
contents, passed over the route in the night, leaving Fort Covington
at about ten P. M. and reaching the suspected office a little before

An interview with the victim of the former losses, resulted in his
preparing a letter containing one hundred dollars in bank-notes,
addressed to the same New York correspondent to whom the other letters
had been sent. A full account of the bills was taken, and the letter
sealed with a _small_ wafer. A post-bill was prepared by the post
master at Fort Covington, and the letter enclosed in a wrapper
directed on the outside to New York City.

For the first time it occurred to me that the _string_ to be put upon
the decoy package, might be made to play an important part in
supplying evidence of crime. If the letter should be robbed, and then
destroyed together with the wrapper, and the money secreted, no proof
of the deed would remain excepting the circumstance that the package
went into that office and never came out. But the most cunning
depredator would never think of destroying a thing so insignificant as
a string. So I concluded to make it available in the experiment about
to be tried. Among my notes of this case, I find the following
description--"A white cotton string, twelve inches long; a knot
exactly in the middle, another an inch from one end, and another two
inches from the other end,--the last-mentioned end dipped in ink."

The package, tied up with this tell-tale string, was then thrown into
the bag, and we soon set out on our return in the mail conveyance. The
road lay for the most part through thick swampy woods, upon whose grim
silence the cheerful sound of our sleigh-bells made but little
impression. Nor did we possess any other means for dispelling the
gloom around us than the red glow of a couple of cigars, with which we
resisted the encroachments of Jack Frost, so far as our noses were
concerned. These (the cigars, not the noses) must have appeared like
feeble imitations of a pair of coach lamps.

We had passed over about half the distance through the woods, when an
incident occurred serving at least to break the monotony of our ride.
A dark object by the side of the road, made conspicuous by the snow
upon the ground, attracted our attention and that of our horses, who
attempted to halt, and required a smart application of the lash to
induce them to resume their pace. A moment after we could distinguish
the forms of two persons stepping nearer to the middle of the road as
we approached them. Not a word was said by either of us, as we were
too much engaged in speculating on the character of the unexpected
apparitions, to indulge in conversation; but the driver had evidently
made up his mind to forestall any nefarious designs which they might
entertain. Requesting me to "raise up a little," he drew from the
sleigh-box an instrument effectual to lay such phantoms, to wit, a
revolver. There was, however, no occasion for its use, for the
personages before us turned out to be two French Canadians too far
gone in intoxication to be very formidable antagonists, had they
entertained hostile intentions, which they were far from doing, as
their energies were entirely devoted to maintaining a perpendicular
position, and keeping somewhere within the bounds of the road. Their
erratic course rendered it somewhat difficult to avoid running over
them, but we finally left them behind, muttering "_sacre_" and
staggering about in a very social manner.

When we had arrived at the village and were within a quarter of a mile
of the office, I alighted from the sleigh and walked on, leaving it to
overtake me, my object in this being to keep out of sight of the post
master, whose suspicions might possibly be excited by seeing a
stranger in the sleigh with the mail carrier, although the mail
carriage occasionally conveyed passengers. Perhaps this was an excess
of caution on my part. At any rate, it did no harm, and I prefer in
all such cases to give a wide berth to possibilities.

Once more on our way, my mind was chiefly occupied with conjectures as
to the result of that night's experiment, and in determining what
steps were to be taken in case the money package had been abstracted.
The post master himself had changed the mails on this occasion, the
driver in the mean time having gone over to the hotel at my request,
in order to afford the former a good opportunity for committing the
depredation if he entertained any such design.

The distance to the next post-office on this route was about six
miles, and nothing further could be ascertained respecting the
condition of the package, till our arrival there. An excellent account
had been given me of the post master at this place, and his assistant.
The former boarded at the hotel nearly opposite the post-office, which
was kept in his store. As he was crossing the street with the mail bag
on his way to the office, I overtook him, made myself known to him,
and under an injunction of secrecy, disclosed to him the object of my
visit at such an unseasonable hour. I furthermore expressed a desire
to examine the packages contained in the pouch.

"It may all be right," said he, "but I hardly think I ought to allow
an entire stranger, especially at this hour of the night, to know
anything of the contents of the mails."

I was glad to find in this gentleman such a degree of caution and
faithfulness to his public trust, and I was disposed to test it a
little further.

"Well, sir," I said, "if you are to obstruct an Agent of the
Department in this way, while in the discharge of his duties, you will
be reported at head quarters for removal."

"Can't help that," replied he, "I intend to go pretty straight while I
am here, and if the Post Master General himself were to appear here
and want to overhaul my mails, he couldn't touch them, unless he
satisfied me that he was the very man. That's just as the case

"Very well," I remarked, "the driver knows who I am, and if he says
it's all right, I suppose that will do."

"Not a bit of it," was the decided answer; "he may be deceived as well
as any one else."

I now drew from my pocket the official evidence of my authority,
bearing the signature of the Post Master General, and the seal of the
Post Office Department. After inspecting this document rather closely,
the cautious officer observed that there was no mistaking the
signature of N. K. HALL, and that he believed he must "give in."

I expressed my gratification at the fidelity which he had displayed,
and in a moment more the contents of the bag were spread upon the
counter. A careful search, several times repeated, failed to discover
the decoy package. Its absence, of course, showed that it must have
been stopped at the office which I had intended to test.

I informed the driver that I could go no further with him that night,
and procuring another conveyance, I returned to look after the stolen
letter, and its dishonest possessor. Directly opposite the post-office
was the village tavern, and there I arrived about daylight, intending
from that position to watch the post master, and introduce myself as
soon as he entered his store.

After watching about an hour, I observed some one removing the outside
shutters of the store windows, and was informed by the landlord that
it was the proprietor and post master.

I deemed it important not to be seen by him until I had entered the
store, when it would be too late to destroy or secrete anything that
he might have taken from the mail the night previous. In this I was
successful. When I opened the store door, he was stooping down near
the stove, engaged in preparing "kindlings" for making his fire. I
came upon him so suddenly that he started to his feet almost with a
spring, and looked rather more flurried than one would naturally be
who expected to see no more formidable a personage than some early
customer for a codfish or a quart of molasses.

"Thus Conscience does make cowards of us all," thought I, as I
observed his futile attempts to recover his self-possession. After
returning my salutation, he resumed the occupation which I had
interrupted, that of splitting up a knotty piece of pine; but in his
embarrassment he endeavored in vain to strike twice in the same place,
hitting the floor quite as often as the stick which he was attempting
to dismember.

Several common-place questions and answers passed between us while he
was thus engaged. With the view of giving a temporary relief to his
nerves, and of ascertaining what part of the store was appropriated to
the post-office, (for there was nothing of the kind in sight,) I

"Is there a letter here for Albert G. Foster, Jr.?"

"No, there is no letter in the office for any one of that name,"
replied he, apparently much relieved by the inquiry.

"You must have a paper for me," said I, "will you look?" He dropped
his hatchet, and I followed him into a counting-room at the further
end of the store, which was devoted to the postal department. The
transient newspapers were examined, but not a paper could be found for
Albert G. or any other Foster.

By this time the gentleman had nearly recovered from the effects of my
first sudden appearance, but the calm was destined to be only of short

"Mr. Willis, you have been talking to an Agent of the Post-Office
Department, who has been sent on here for the purpose of detecting you
in your frequent depredations upon the mails passing through your
office, particularly the letters of Messrs. A. & Co. And last night
you repeated the experiment once too often. Now I want the letter that
you then robbed, and the hundred dollars which you found in it. It is
a shameful thing for any one, much more for a man of your standing and
connections, to convert, as you have done, a position of public trust
and responsibility into a sort of place of ambush, where you lie in
wait for the letters of your unsuspecting neighbors, and other members
of the community, and thus abuse the confidence reposed in you. It is
worse than highway robbery."

He gazed intently at me for a few moments with a look designed to be
one of surprise and injured innocence. The attempt was a miserable
failure, however. Conscience would lend her aid to no such cloaking of
guilt, but proclaimed it through the wavering of his eye, the forced
expression of his countenance, and the general agitation which he
vainly attempted to conceal.

"That is plain talk, sir, _very_ plain talk," said he; "and I think
you cannot know much about me or my standing in society, to come here
and accuse me in the way you have done."

"Your standing," replied I, "can have but little to do with last
night's transactions. I must have the hundred dollars, even if you
have destroyed the letter; and it is also important that I should
recover what you have taken from the mails on previous occasions."

"You seem to be sure that you are safe in making these charges, sir,"
said he; "but all you have yet stated is nothing but assertion without
any proof."

Just then the front door of the store opened, and a pleasant voice was
heard, "Breakfast is ready, father." A sweet little child stood in the
door-way, and her innocent, careless face, contrasted strikingly with
the anxiety which displayed itself in the features of her guilty
father. Would that her voice could have called him away from the
course of villany and dishonor which he had taken!

As her father did not at once reply to her, she came skipping up to
him, and as she caught hold of his hands and playfully attempted to
draw him along, he looked at her and then at me, with an expression
that said as plainly as words could say it,--"Have you the heart to
come between us, and destroy the happiness of my innocent family?"

I felt the force of the appeal, but was impressed still more strongly
with detestation of the conduct of a man who could deliberately risk
involving the members of his domestic circle in misery and disgrace
for the sake of enriching himself at the expense of those who had
confided in his integrity.

"I can't go now, my dear," said he, withdrawing his hands from hers,
"I am very busy. Run along and tell mother not to wait for me."

So away tripped little Innocence, joyfully humming a simple air, and
leaving us to deal with the grim question before us.

I now commenced a search among some waste papers scattered upon the
floor and one of the tables, for the wrapper in which the decoy letter
had been enclosed, but I could find it nowhere. I however continued
the search, hoping to find the string, if nothing else; and my
perseverance was rewarded by the discovery of the package at the back
part of a drawer in a desk. The package appeared to be in a perfect
state, except that the string was missing. Holding it up, I inquired
of the post master, "What is this package doing here?"

"It must have been thrown out by mistake in overhauling the mail last
night," replied he.

I removed the wrapper, and immediately found a full confirmation of my
previous assertions, for the letter itself had been broken open, and
the large wafer substituted for the original seal. In fact it had been
served exactly like its rifled predecessors, and was now waiting to go
forward to New York by the next mail. I also observed a quantity of
the large wafers lying upon the desk, a few of which I secured for the
purpose of comparison. The evidence of the string now became of little
importance, but I wished to find it if possible, and after a few
moments' search, I discovered it lying on the floor behind the counter
of the store.

The probability is that after the mail had passed that night, he took
the stolen letter to the store, and there opened it.

Against such overwhelming proof as this, it was worse than useless to
contend. So thought the unfortunate post master, whose tone now
changed considerably. He refunded on the spot the proceeds of the
last night's robbery, and proposed to make over a portion of the goods
in his store as security for the restitution of the amount previously
purloined, if by such a step he could save himself and his young
family (consisting of a wife and the little girl already referred to,)
from the crushing effects of public exposure.

But this tender regard for the happiness and honor of his family came
too late. Such considerations, if others are insufficient, ought to
restrain one from the commission of crimes; and it has always seemed
to me that when a man in the full possession of his faculties can thus
compromise the comfort and peace of mind of his innocent family, he
deserves little sympathy or pity from any quarter, however sincerely
he may regret his folly.

Willis was arrested by a local officer, and taken before a Justice of
the Peace in that neighborhood, who, notwithstanding the efforts made
to impress upon him the importance of holding the accused for trial,
fixed the bail at a few hundred dollars, which sum was readily
furnished by responsible parties.

As several weeks were to elapse before the session of the Court, it
was my intention to re-arrest him under a United States warrant, as
soon as one could be obtained, but during the night he made over a
portion of his property to his sureties, and hastily filling a few
trunks with articles of clothing and other personal property, he
decamped with his family to Canada, leaving behind a deserted home and
a disgraced name.

As soon as the crimes of Willis became known in the town, universal
sympathy for the wife of the criminal was felt and manifested. She was
a refined and accomplished lady, connected with a highly-respectable
family in a neighboring county, and had endeared herself to all who
knew her, by her kindness and other excellent qualities. Like a true
woman, she remained constantly at the side of her husband, after his
arrest; overlooking all his offences in her devoted affection, and
palliating them to others as far as she could, on the ground of
pecuniary embarrassments.

Some weeks elapsed before a clue was obtained to his whereabouts. The
deputy Marshal, to whom this business was intrusted, entered upon the
search with great energy, and finally succeeded in arresting him, and
conveyed him to Utica, New York, where he was examined before the
United States Commissioner, who held him to bail in a large amount,
for trial before the United States District Court. Being unable to
obtain this heavy bail, he was sent to jail a few miles from Utica, to
await his trial. His wife, on his second arrest, returned to her
father's house. It was soon after this that she wrote him the
following letter, which was left in the jailor's possession:

                                                  F----, Feb. 6, 1850.

    My dear William,

    It goes to my heart to feel that we are separated, even for a
    time, and above all, to think _what it is_ that separates us. But,
    William, my love for you is such, that I had rather you were thus
    than dead.

        "I ask not, I care not, if guilt's in thy heart,
        But I know that I love thee, whatever thou art."

    Oh! what strong temptation you must have had to struggle with,
    before you yielded to it! And I know that you meant to restore the
    money to those it belonged to, at some time or other.

    I sometimes find it hard to elude Julia's artless inquiries. She
    wants to know "why Father went away with that man and didn't come
    back." Poor child! must she ever know that her father is in a----?
    I can't write the word.

    God forbid, my dear, that I should speak a word of reproach, but
    perhaps I can say in a letter what I might find it hard to say if
    I were with you. I am sure, William, that you have fallen into
    error for my sake and Julia's, but let me assure you, from the
    bottom of my heart, that I had far rather sink with you into the
    depths of honest poverty, than rise to affluence, leaving an
    approving conscience behind. Never think of me for a moment, I
    beseech you, as a wife whose wishes must be gratified at whatever
    expense, but reckon on me as one who will ever be ready to undergo
    any self-denial which the adoption of a straight-forward course
    may involve. I reproach myself that I had not been more free to
    confide to you my views on this subject before your misfortune.
    Had I done so, perhaps we might have been differently situated
    now. But the past cannot be changed. The future may be a new life
    to us, if we wish it; and shall we not?

    As to the bail, I have strong hopes that it can be arranged before
    long. I hope to be with you as early as next week.

    Julia sends a kiss to Father, and says, "Tell him I want him to
    come and see me and mother." I send the same for myself. Good
    night, my dear, and many good morrows.

                                       Your affectionate wife,


Not far from two weeks after the committal of Willis to jail, Mrs.
Willis called one day late in the afternoon, and requested permission
of the jailor to spend the night with her husband. This officer was a
kind-hearted old gentleman, and the lady-likee deportment of the
applicant, whom he had seen on former occasions, had won his entire
confidence. He made no objection, and his native gallantry, and
sympathy for the lady, prevented a very thorough investigation of the
contents of a large basket that she brought with her, which presented
to his eye nothing but a goodly array of such delicacies as are not
usually included in a prison bill-of-fare. So she was ushered into her
husband's place of confinement, basket and all.

The jailor retired to rest that night with the happy consciousness of
having done at least one kind act during the day, and slept
soundly,--perhaps more soundly than usual--till morning.

When going his accustomed rounds, he noticed sundry shavings and chips
of a decidedly new and fresh appearance on the floor outside of
Willis's door. He further noticed that the door was partly open,
whereupon he hastily entered the room in no small perturbation of
mind. Nor was his disturbance diminished when he found that there was
but one occupant of the bed, and that, the fair lady whom he had
admitted the night before! She was apparently fast asleep, and
although the spectacle was one of a picturesque description, the
old gentleman would have derived much more satisfaction from a sight
of her liege lord. He looked in all directions round the room, with
the vague idea that his prisoner might start up from behind a chair or
table; but no such phenomenon occurred, and the conclusion forced
itself upon him that he had been made the victim of misplaced
confidence; in other words, that Willis had escaped by the aid of his
devoted wife and her treacherous basket. An auger, concealed in its
depths, had been smuggled in, and used in boring off the door-hinges,
and now lay on the floor.


"Mrs. Willis," cried the now indignant jailor, "Mrs. Willis, I say!"
But the slumberer stirred not, and he repeated the call in louder
tones,--"Mrs. Willis, where's your husband?"

Rising up on one elbow, and looking about the room, apparently much
confused, she replied,

"Where's my husband? have you taken him away without letting me know

She steadily refused to give any information concerning the time or
mode of his escape, and was equally careful not to deny that she
furnished the means for securing his exit. She was therefore arrested
and taken before an United States Commissioner, charged with aiding
and abetting the escape of a prisoner; but such was the public
sympathy in her behalf, that she was discharged from custody, and no
doubt, soon joined her husband, who had proved himself so utterly
unworthy of such an affectionate, devoted, and heroic companion.

Not long after this escape, a suit was brought in one of the lower
courts, against a brother of Willis, to recover the value of a horse
killed by hard driving on the night of Willis's disappearance. It was
more than surmised that the two circumstances were in some way


    Startling Complaints--Character against Suspicion--The two
    Clerks--Exchanging Notes--The Faro Bank--Tracing a Bill--An
    official Call--False Explanation--Flight of the Guilty--The fatal
    Drug--The Suicide--Sufferings of the Innocent--The Moral.

The close of the year 1839, and the opening of 1840, were marked in
the Post-Office Department with frequent and startling announcements
of the loss, by mail, of valuable letters from Southern Virginia, and
Eastern and Northern North Carolina, directed to Richmond and other
commercial cities farther North.

These cases, as they reached the Department, were duly prepared and
submitted to the Special Agent for investigation. Search and inquiry
were promptly instituted. But for a time the utmost vigilance failed
to obtain any clue to the supposed embezzlements. The cases of loss
continued to multiply; and at length the Agent's attention was
particularly drawn to the Distributing Post-Office at P.

A circle of numerous facts pointed unmistakably to this spot as their
center and focus. It was here that the lines of circumstantial
evidence from every quarter converged and met. The post-office at P.,
therefore, became an object of special interest in the eyes of the

However, investigations in this direction proved at first no more
successful than elsewhere. The high integrity of character for which
the post master was distinguished, and the excellent reputation of his
clerks, stood like a wall of adamant in the way of all evidence and
all suspicions.

The Agent seemed destined to be baffled at every point. Yet a stern
truth stared him in the face, and fixed its immovable finger over this
Distributing office. Every missing letter, although reaching P. by
various routes, had been mailed at points South of it for points North
of it. Here they must all concentrate, and here only. It was therefore
at this place only that all the losses could have occurred.

Several days were passed by the Agent in P. and the vicinity, quietly
pursuing his investigations. No person knew the secret of his
business. He became acquainted with the post master and his two
clerks, studied their characters, and their social circumstances.

The first was a man of position and competence, whose honor no breath
of calumny had ever dimmed, and who could not possibly have any motive
for periling the peace and prosperity of his family by a dishonest
course. Neither did the unflawed respectability of the clerks betray
any chink or crevice in which to harbor a doubt.

The elder of these, and the superior in the office, was a young man of
education and refinement. We will call his name Carleton. His face was
frank, his eye steady and clear, his manners always self-possessed and
easy. The Agent liked and admired him from the first. He learned too
that he was a favorite with all who knew him--that his connections
were among the first families in the State; and that by his talents
and high-toned generous impulses, he had so far nobly sustained the
lustre of his family name.

Another circumstance was greatly in Carleton's favor. Although
descended from the "aristocracy," the fortunes of his family had run
somewhat low in the later generations; and now, his father being dead,
he devoted himself zealously to the maintenance of his aged mother,
and the education and support of his only sister.

The junior clerk was a youth of minor pretensions. He was uniformly
retiring in his manners. Although by no means a person of forbidding
aspect, there was something measured and guarded in his movements, far
less prepossessing than the free and chivalrous bearing of Carleton.
This apparent prudence might arise from various causes. The Agent
could not believe that it was the result of a secretive and dishonest
disposition. If such was the case, however, that same discretion had
effectually succeeded in covering the poverty of his moral character
from public scrutiny.

Foiled at every point where he attempted to hang the sad burden of
criminal facts, the Agent resolved upon striking a bold and hazardous
blow. He sought a private interview with Carleton.

"Do you know," said he, "that I am here on very delicate and peculiar

"I had not thought of such a thing," replied Carleton.

"Well, sir, I will tell you. I am convinced that you are the very man
to assist me. If you will, you may do me and the Post-Office
Department a signal service."

"I do not understand you."

"No, but you will. First, however, give me your pledge that what I
have to divulge shall be held in strictest confidence and honor by

"Certainly," said Carleton, "if you wish it."

The Agent then stated the business that had brought him to P----.
Carleton expressed some surprise, but cheerfully promised to afford
the Department any assistance and information in his power.

"Have you mentioned the subject to Mr. B.?" he asked.

"Not yet; he is the nominal post master, it is true, but you have a
far more intimate knowledge of the details of the office than he has.
I have another reason for not speaking with him. I dislike to disturb
his confidence until the establishment of strong proof renders it my
duty to do so."

"You can speak to me with perfect plainness," said Carleton.

"I trust so," replied the Agent. "And I am sure you will do all you
can to set me right, if I am going wrong. Nor will you, I am
convinced, suffer me to injure an innocent person in your estimation.
To come to the point, then, I wish you to open your inmost thoughts,
and tell me if you regard it as possible that your fellow-clerk can be
guilty of these depredations upon the mails."

"You shock me," said Carleton, not without emotion.

"Speak freely," continued the Agent.

"Why, I could almost as soon think of suspecting Mr. B. himself,"
exclaimed the other. "I believe Howard to be perfectly honest."

"Certainly, I know nothing to the contrary; and I sincerely hope your
judgment is well founded. But," continued the Agent, "our public duty
should not be altogether biassed by private opinion. You will not,
therefore, fail to unite with me in tracing the embezzlements to their
true source, no matter at whose door the blame may be laid."

"I will do all in my power," said Carleton. "Although I would be
almost willing to pledge my own reputation that the losses have
occurred outside of the office, I will use every exertion to discover
any dereliction from duty that may come within my sphere of

The Agent expressed his thanks for the clerk's ready promise of
coöperation, and took his leave.

Meanwhile he did not neglect other measures that he had adopted for
tracing the robberies. By a singular coincidence, within an hour after
this conversation with Carleton, he was able to seize a certain clue,
which he had long been in search of, and despaired of obtaining.

On his return to the hotel, the landlord thus addressed him:

"You asked me if I could give you any more large bills, in exchange
for small ones. I think I can accommodate you this morning. I have a
one hundred dollar bank-note, which, if you are sending money by mail,
will be very convenient."

"Thank you," replied the Agent; "it will be a great accommodation."

The landlord passed the bank-note over the counter. One can imagine
the Agent's secret triumph on discovering, at last, one of the very
bills he was in search of, one that had been lost in a letter passing
that post-office only a week before; and of which he had an accurate
description from the Department.

Having made the purchase, he held the bank-note up to the light.

"I suppose you will warrant this paper to be genuine?" he suggested.

"There is no doubt about it, sir," said the landlord.

"Of course you know from whom you had it?"

"To be sure! I took it of one of my boarders this morning, Captain

"I have no doubt but the bill is good," said the Agent, putting it in
his pocket. "You are sure you had it of the Captain?"

"O, yes! 'twasn't an hour ago he gave it to me."

"By the way, who is this Captain Wilkins? He's a very
gentlemanly-appearing fellow."

"O, he's a capital fellow!" said the landlord.

"What's his business?"

"He keeps a faro bank."

To a Northern reader, the two clauses of this statement may seem
inconsistent with each other. But allowance must be made for the
freedom of Southern manners and society. To bet at a faro bank is
considered no serious stain upon the honor and respectability of
gentlemen in Southern cities. The keeper of a faro bank may pass, as
we have seen, for a "capital fellow." But the Agent felt pained to
know from what source the landlord had obtained the bill. Already a
dark picture of temptation and crime arose before his eyes. It is a
significant and too often a tragical word--the Faro Bank!

Captain Wilkins had gone to ride. The Agent pretended to transact a
little business, mailed two or three letters, and read the newspapers
until his return. The rattling of a light-wheeled buggy before the
hotel steps announced the expected arrival.

Captain Wilkins--a soberly-dressed and polite individual, whom one
might have taken for a clergyman--stepped out of the vehicle,
accompanied by a friend, pulled off his driving-gloves as he entered
the house, and lighted a fresh cigar at the bar.

The Agent took an early occasion to accost him.

"Can I speak with you a moment?"

"Certainly," said Captain Wilkins. The two walked aside together. The
Agent exhibited the bank-note.

"Did you ever see that paper before?"

"Yes, and very recently. I passed it with the landlord this morning."

"As the bill is of so high a denomination, you probably remember from
whom you received it?"

"Perfectly well. I had it last night from one of the post-office
clerks, who was betting at my bank, and for whom I changed it."

"May I ask from which one?"

"O, from Carleton. He is a reliable fellow. Have you any doubts about
the bill?"

"No, if you are sure you had it of Carleton."

"I am sure of that."

"You could swear to it as the identical bank-note?" Captain Wilkins
glanced at the paper again.

"It's the identical rag," said he; "I can take my oath of it."

This startling revelation gave a different phase to the business. The
finger of discovery seemed to point directly at the senior clerk.
Again the Agent, on leaving Wilkins, recalled Carleton's every look
and word, in the conversation he had with him that morning. He could
not recall the faintest indication of guilt. And he could not but hope
that the young man was as innocent as he appeared; and that
circumstances would prove him so. However, there was no way left but
to follow the thread of evidence he had so far successfully traced.

He strolled towards the post-office, and found Howard there alone.

"Where is your brother-clerk?" he asked.

"He went to dinner about five minutes ago,--rather earlier than

"Very well; perhaps you can do my business for me. I mailed a letter
here this morning, which I would like to recover from the mails, if it
has not already gone out." A description of the letter was given. All
this was done to prevent Howard from suspecting the Agent's real
business with Carleton. The letter had gone, as the inquirer well
knew, and he left the office.

But now his pace was quickened. He knew not what might be the result
of his interview with Carleton. It was a significant fact that he had
gone to dinner at an earlier hour than usual. If guilty, what more
natural than that he should take that opportunity of destroying any
evidence of his guilt to be found among his papers at home?

The Agent had already learned where Carleton lived, and he hastened at
once to his house.

The young man's mother received him in a truly lady-like and
hospitable manner.

"He just came in," said she, graciously. "Sit down, I will have him
called. He remarked that he had some trifling affair to attend to
before dinner, and immediately went to his chamber. You may speak to
him, Sarah."

"I have only a word to say to him," replied the visitor. "Perhaps it
will be as well for me to go to his room, instead of calling him

"As you please. My daughter will show you the way."

Sarah, a beautiful and stately girl of eighteen, conducted the caller
to her brother's chamber, and knocked at the door. Presently Carleton
appeared. A slight paleness overspread his features on recognising the
Agent, but without losing his self-possession, he invited him to enter
the chamber.

"I have strange feelings on seeing you!" he observed in a very natural
tone of voice. "What you said to me about Howard, has troubled me more
than I would have thought it possible. Take a seat. Do you smoke?"

"Not before dinner," replied the Agent. He made a rapid observation of
the chamber, as he sat down. "You are very comfortably situated here."

"I have nothing to complain of. We live rather humbly, but we are not

Carleton then spoke of his mother and sister, in a manner which
touched his visitor deeply. Could it be possible, thought the latter,
that he was destined to destroy the peace of that happy family? He
shrank with indescribable repugnance from the performance of his duty;
but it inexorably urged him to finish what he had begun, and he
produced the fatal bank-note.

"Not to detain you," said he, "I have some question in my mind with
regard to a bill I took this forenoon. I have been referred to you as
the person who passed it. Will you see if you recognise it?"

Again the swift pallor swept over Carleton's face; but this time it
was more marked than before, and his fingers trembled as he examined
the bill.

"Certainly," said he, "I recognise it. It's a note I changed with
Captain Wilkins last night."

"It also happens," observed the Agent, "to be a note which, according
to an accurate description I have of it, was recently lost in the
Southern mails. This is as painful to me, Mr Carleton, as it is
unexpected; and I hope you will be able satisfactorily to account for
the manner in which you obtained this money."

"It is still more painful to me than it can be to you," replied
Carleton; "and heaven knows I heartily wish I could not tell how that
bill came into my possession. I remembered it, after you left me this
morning; and I had a presentiment that trouble would come out of it. I
am afraid, sir," Carleton added, after some hesitation,--"I am afraid
your suspicions of Howard will prove too well founded!"

"Do you mean to say, that Howard is responsible for that bill?"

"I will tell you all I know about it, sir. I yesterday sold a colt I
had been training the past season. He proved too high-spirited for our
use, and I preferred to own a horse my mother and sister would not be
afraid to ride after. I sold it to a neighbor of ours, Mr. Fellows. He
was to pay me one hundred dollars down,--and this is the money he gave

Carleton hesitated. The Agent begged him to proceed, as no time was to
be lost.

"I was trying to recall the conversation that passed between Mr.
Fellows and myself. It was to this effect:

"'I'd quite as lief you would give me small bills, if convenient,'
said I, 'for I shall have several little sums to pay out of this in a
day or two.'

"He replied that he could do no better by me, and added that he
thought Howard would like to change it for me. 'How so?' said I.

"'You remember,' said he, 'that Howard bought a house lot of me, some
time ago. The last payment came due yesterday. He seemed reluctant to
part with this bill, and said if I would wait, he would give me specie
for it in a day or two.' Something more was said about Howard's good
luck in making payments for the house lot, so promptly, and so we

"Where will I find this Mr. Fellows?" asked the Agent.

"I saw him not ten minutes ago enter a store in the village."

"You are sure he will corroborate your statement?"

"There's no doubt of it. He's a plain, practical man, who tells a
straight-forward story."

"Come, then," said the Agent, "we will go and find him."

Carleton readily assented, and the two left the chamber.

"I've a little business to transact before dinner, mother," said the
young man, as they passed out. "If I am not back in a quarter of an
hour, do not wait for me."

But little difficulty was experienced in finding Mr. Fellows. He was
such a person as Carleton had described; but he turned out to be very
deaf, and the Agent deemed it expedient to retire with him and
Carleton to some secure place, where their loud talking would not be
overheard. The clerk proposed that they should make use of the private
room of the post-office. The Agent readily agreed to this, for he was
somewhat anxious to make sure of Howard; and he now resolved that the
latter should be present at the interview. This plan was also proposed
by Carleton, and when they had arrived at the post-office, the senior
clerk informed the junior, in a low and serious tone, that his
presence was requested in the private apartment.

"But who will attend in the office?" asked Howard.

"I'll speak to one of the clerks in the store; they accommodate us
very often in this way," Carleton added, addressing the Agent. "It's
only around the corner."

The thought struck the Agent that it would be safe enough to accompany
Carleton. But to do so, it would be necessary to leave Howard, who, if
guilty, might by this time have suspected the danger at hand. Besides,
it seemed not at all probable that Carleton could have any motive for
attempting an escape. His position in society, his family
circumstances, his frank and manly demeanor,--everything tended to
disarm suspicion. Furthermore, nothing could be more satisfactory than
the story he had related of the manner in which he obtained the fatal
bill. He was accordingly suffered to leave the office. As there were
persons passing in and out, the Agent did not consider it proper to
broach the important subject until Carleton's return.

But some minutes passed, and he did not reappear.

"I thought he said he had only to go around the corner," said the

"It is probable," Howard replied, "that the boys have gone to dinner.
In that case, if your business is important, he has possibly gone to
call the post master himself."

A quarter of an hour passed. Carleton had had time to walk to Mr. B.'s
house and back, but still he did not make his appearance. The Agent
grew uneasy. He waited five minutes longer, then resolved upon a
decisive step.

"Mr. Fellows," he cried, in the deaf gentleman's ear, "did you ever
see that bill before?" Fortunately, Mr. Fellows' sight was good,
though his hearing was bad. He examined the paper without spectacles,
and decided at once that he then and there saw it for the first time.

"Did you not buy a horse of Carleton yesterday?"

"No," said Mr. Fellows; "I have talked of selling his mother a pony,
but I never bought anything of him."

The truth flashed upon the Agent's understanding. For his credit let
it be declared, Carleton had played his game with a consummate art
that would have deceived "the very elect."

No time was lost in obtaining traces of the young man's flight. The
Agent judged rightly, from his character, that he would not attempt to
leave town. He anticipated a more melancholy fate for the unhappy
youth. Some inward prompting seemed to direct him to an apothecary's
shop not many doors distant, and on inquiry he learned that Carleton
had just been there.

"Which way did he go?"

"In fact, I am not certain he has gone," said the druggist. "He
purchased some medicines, remarking that he wished to write out some
directions for its use, and stepped into the back room. I have been
very busy, and he may have passed out without my seeing him."

The Agent sprang forward. The door was locked upon the inside.

"What medicine did you sell him?" asked the Agent.

"Oh! you needn't be alarmed, he has studied medicine, and knows how to
use these things."

"He knows how to use them too well! This door must be forced. His life
depends upon it,--if it is not already too late!"

Too late, indeed, it was!

On breaking into the room, Carleton was found lying upon the floor,
with an empty vial beside him, and an unfinished letter to his sister
on the table.

In that letter he confessed his guilt, and besought his sister not
only to support the mortal affliction he had brought upon her, with
fortitude, but also to sustain and console their mother. The young man
was not yet dead. Medical assistance was speedily procured, but all
efforts to save his life proved unavailing. He was already past
consciousness, and never spoke again.

A veil should be drawn to exclude the scene of horror, agony, and
distress that awaited his family. The brokenhearted mother survived
the tragical interruption of her late happy days but a few months. And
though the sister was afterwards happily married, it is said that,
from the date of her brother's disgraceful end, a continual cloud of
melancholy rested upon her mind during the remainder of her life. She
has since passed into that land where kindred souls are destined to
meet again; and these allusions to her sad family history will give
her no pain.

The secret of Carleton's lapse from virtue is soon told; and the
lesson is one that every youth, who considers himself secure from
temptation, should heed and carefully remember. The devil never boldly
enters the citadel of rectitude, at the outset. He first walks around,
and passes by; then holds a parley, and "makes the worse appear the
better reason;" and ends by gaining permission to walk in just _once_,
promising thenceforward to cease his solicitations, and keep aloof.
But once admitted, he goes artfully to work to destroy all our
defences, and before we are aware of it, he is a permanent occupant of
the castle.

Such was undoubtedly Carleton's experience. He was not a hardened
sinner. He was truly a man of generous and noble impulses. But little
transgressions of the stern law of conscience had in his boyhood
weakened his moral force, and prepared him for more serious offences.
Then, in an unguarded hour, he formed an attachment for a fascinating,
but gay and heartless woman, under whose influences his soul fell from
the truth and purity of manhood. It was her hand which indirectly
administered the deadly drug that destroyed his life. To meet her
necessities for dress and dissipations, he resorted to the faro bank.
Although fortunate at first, he afterwards lost extensively, and
became pecuniarily embarrassed. He borrowed money, which he was unable
to return. Only one course seemed open to him, to save his honor in
the public eye. At first, he purloined cautiously and abstemiously
from the mails, hoping, no doubt, that success at the faro bank would
swell those unlawful gains, and cancel the necessity for further

But let us not pursue the sad topic. The end we have seen, and we will
hasten to turn the last leaf of this melancholy chapter.



    Midnight Mails--Suspected Clerk--A trying Position--Limited
    View--A "crack" Agent--Sneezing---"Counter Irritation"--The Night
    Bell--Fruitless Speculations--Insect Orchestra--Picolo
    introduced--Snoring--Harmless Accident--The Boot-black--A tenanted
    Boot--The Exit.

Some years ago, the post-office of a prominent city in Western New
York became involved in a series of mail depredations, and at length
it was apparent that some one of three clerks who had slept in the
office, must be guilty of committing them; but the fastening of the
charge upon the delinquent was a thing yet to be accomplished. By
various processes, the range of suspicion was narrowed down till it
rested upon _one_ of the clerks, and it only remained to get the
_legal_ proof of his guilt.

Packages were missed that were known to have reached the office by the
midnight mails. The clerks took turns in getting up to receive these
mails, each one performing his duty for a week in succession, the one
who for the time attended to it, sleeping on a cot in the post-office
_proper_, and the other two occupying a small apartment at some little
distance from the main office, but connected with it.

It had also been ascertained that the packages were abstracted from a
particular mail-pouch which arrived with many others about midnight,
and remained unassorted till morning. On a certain occasion, when the
suspected clerk was upon duty, an exact description of everything in
that pouch was taken, upon the cars from the West, with the view of
comparing the list of its contents with the post bills which should be
found on the files of the office the following morning, these bills
having heretofore disappeared with the packages.

As I had before this had good reason to know that magistrates and
jurors in that section of the country very properly required pretty
conclusive evidence for conviction in such cases, I determined, in
addition to other expedients, to take the post of private watchman
inside the office, for one night at least, that I might obtain, by
ocular demonstration, sufficient proof against the guilty one, to
satisfy the most incredulous court and jury.

One of the unsuspected clerks was sent away that night, and the other,
in whom I had the utmost confidence, was apprised of my intentions. By
him I was let into the office through a private door, before the
object of our machinations had entered; and I was not long in
selecting a suitable place where I could see without being seen,
behind an open door leading from the post master's private room. This
position could command (through the crack of the door) a fair view of
the aforesaid cot and its occupant.

It was not long before the individual arrived who was to be honored
with my scrutiny during the live-long night; and as he "wrapt the
drapery of his couch about him," I could not avoid making a momentary
comparison between the luxury about to be enjoyed by him, and the
wearisome hours upon which I was entering. Well,

    "Some must watch, while some must sleep;
    Thus runs the world away."

Sitting in the public stocks,--watching with the body of a person who
has died of some contagious disease,--being cornered by a bore, when
you have an immediate engagement elsewhere,--waiting your turn in a
dentist's office,--all these are somewhat trying to the nerves; but
for a real test of their power of endurance, commend me to a stand
behind a door, between the hours of 10 p. m. and daylight; the
thermometer ranging from 80 upwards, all motion and sound being
forbidden, under the imminent risk of being discovered in your hiding
place, and forced to retreat ignominiously.

This is a faint picture of the situation of the author on the night in
question. Zeal for the public good, and a cracker or two, alone
sustained him through the tedious night watches.

The proverb says that "a great deal can be seen through a small hole."
My sphere of vision, however, was rather limited, embracing only a
portion of the adjoining room, faintly lighted by a hanging lamp, the
cot with its sleeping burden, a table, and the dimly seen tiers of
letter boxes forming a back-ground. Entirely in keeping with this
scene of "still life," was the monotonous buzz of sundry flies of a
rowdyish disposition, who, not content with tickling the noses of
peaceable citizens, and otherwise harassing them during the day, must
needs "keep it up" through the hours devoted to repose by insects of
more steady habits. However, they might have been engaged in the
praiseworthy occupation of soothing one another to rest by their
"drowsy hum," for I myself began to feel its soporific influence, and
to bless "the man who first _in_vented sleep," but anathematize
(inwardly) him who was _pre_venting it.

I was roused from this sleepy condition by a slight irritation in the
Schneiderian membrane; in other words, I began to feel a desire to
sneeze. Now, sneezing is an operation which admits of no compromise.
You must either "go the whole hog," or entirely refrain. Any attempt
to reduce the force of the explosion is as unavailing as was the
Irishman's effort to "fire aizy" when he was touching off the cannon.
So the annoying inclination must be nipped in the bud, if I wished to
preserve my secrecy inviolate, and prove that I was "up to _snuff_."

Accordingly I called to mind (as far as I was able) and practised all
the expedients of which I had ever heard, besides others entirely
original, for allaying this titillation. I rubbed the bridge of the
nose; I would have slapped myself on the forehead, had I not feared
the remedy would prove worse than the disease in respect of noise. I
instituted experiments in "counter irritation," by pulling my hair,
pinching my ear, and thus diverting attention from the rebellious
organ; and finally I succeeded in subduing this refractory member. The
uneasiness I felt lest, after all, I should be compelled to wake the
echoes of the building, as well as other more tangible creations, were
in some degree dispelled by several hearty snores which proceeded from
the sleeper, and, like the guns which announce the arrival of a vessel
in port, gave evidence that he had arrived in the land of dreams.

Under the cover of this "_feu de joie_," I dispatched a cracker (not a
fire-cracker) which I happened to have in my pocket, as my inner man
began to feel the effects of my unwonted position and consequent

At about midnight, a sudden peal of the bell, pulled by the mail
carrier, at a back door, aroused the sleeper, who started up, went to
the door and received the mail, and, after a little delay, returned to
his bed, not, however, to sleep as quietly as before, as he often
rolled over from side to side, occasionally uttering a groan.

Having nothing better to do, I speculated on the cause of these
phenomena. They might be owing, first, to heat, second, to a
disordered stomach, or third, to an uneasy conscience.

As to the first of these supposed causes, it seemed improbable that
his recent visit to the door in a very airy costume, should have had
any tendency to increase the animal heat; and as regarded the second
theory, my knowledge of his dietetic habits was too limited to furnish
me with data for anything like an argument. If his short delay at the
door after receiving the mail bags, was produced by any cause for
which conscience might properly goad him, the last hypothesis might be
correct,--but on the whole I was obliged to follow the example of
many profounder theorists, and confess that I didn't know much about
the matter.


A combination of the stomach and conscience suppositions, might be an
adequate solution of the question, for the slender salary of a
post-office clerk hardly sufficed for more than three meals a day, and
the inference from these premises would be rather easy that a fourth
must have been at the public expense.

Here my reflections came to an untimely end, for the insect orchestra,
of whose performances I have spoken, was reinforced by the addition of
a picolo, in the shape of one of those minute specimens of creation
commonly called mosquito, whose note, "most musical, most melancholy,"
blended with the trombone of the blue bottle fly in a manner rather
more curious than pleasing. And the different sounds produced by these
insects were no less unlike than their modes of approaching their
victims; the latter, with bull-headed obstinacy, bouncing against your
face in a blundering way, with apparently no particular object
excepting that of making himself generally disagreeable, while the
former, lighting upon you as delicately as a snow flake, proceeds with
admirable promptitude and definiteness of purpose to take out his
lancet, and, like some never-failing humorist, is always "in the

The tones of this insect Æolian rose and fell for a little time at a
distance, but I was speedily aware of its presence in immediate
proximity to my ear, and apparently making a tour of observation
around my head, whereupon I commenced a blind sort of defence by
flourishing my hands as noiselessly as possible round the region
invaded, to as little purpose, however, as the attack of regular
troops upon a body of Indians; for in a moment the music ceased, and I
felt the sharp prick which informed me that I was hit, and I
instinctively inflicted an energetic slap upon the spot, by which my
enemy was extinguished, and one bill at least effectually cancelled.
This result was not attained without a report, which so violently
broke the silence, that I stood for a moment in breathless suspense,
fearing that the sound would penetrate into the realms of Morpheus,
and that thus I might pay too dearly for my triumph. But the sleeper
"made no sign," and I was again left to my solitary musings.

A small pistol which I had observed my sleeping friend place under his
head, on going to bed, did not tend to increase the comforts of my
position, for since he had become so restless, the thought passed
through my mind that he might have heard some suspicious noise in my
direction, and was feigning sleep, while on the watch for its
repetition. If this were the case, the discovery of a supernumerary on
the premises, might lead to a hasty assault on the supposed midnight
prowler, and also a more rapid transfer of the contents of the pistol
to me than would be either agreeable or wholesome, before I could
offer any reasonable explanation for my presence behind the door at
such an unseasonable hour.

After a while, however, a renewal of the snoring, which was
occasionally echoed by the occupant of the adjoining room, assured me
of the absence of belligerent intentions, and the buzzing of the flies
before mentioned, with the ticking of a clock in the office, were the
only additional sounds that broke upon the silence.

About two o'clock, a slight accident occurred to me, which, however,
did no harm. In reaching for a pitcher of water that stood on the
table near by, I knocked off a book, which must have been poised on
the corner of the table. I immediately imitated, by scratching, the
gnawing of a rat in the wall, so that if the falling of the book had
aroused the sleeper, he would have attributed both the noises to the
imaginary animal.

But few sounds outside the building were heard, save the occasional
drunken shout of some votary of Bacchus, reeling home to disgrace his
family with his presence; and the measured strokes of the city clocks,
as they told off the long, long hours.

But the most ludicrous circumstance happened just about
daylight,--that is, daylight outside, for within the office it was
still dark, as all the blinds were closed. I was startled by a sudden
rap on the door of the post master's room which opened into the main
hall, soon followed by another even more energetic. The clerk in the
bed-room jumped from his bed and passed by me to open the door.
Fearing that I should be discovered, I darted into the bed-room
without his knowledge, and before he had returned. The truth is, he
was not more than half awake, and had forgotten me entirely. He had
admitted a colored man to get the boots which required his polishing
touch, and then returned to bed again.

This gentleman of color, who by the way proved to be a trusty porter
employed in several of the offices in the building, proceeded first to
the side of the cot to get the boots there, and then made for the
bed-room, into which I had retreated. In feeling about the floor to
find the remaining "leathern conveniences," he seized one of mine!
"I've got my foot in it now," thought I; but by a gentle and dexterous
movement I succeeded in withdrawing the exposed covering from his
partial grasp, without his discovering the existence of a leg within.
Whether it was fright at the touch of the tenanted boot, or something
else, that made him leave the premises so suddenly, I have never been
fully satisfied. I went out myself soon after, leaving both clerks
sound asleep.

What occurred on that night beyond that which I have already
described, or how the investigation terminated, I am confident the
reader will not insist upon knowing, when I assure him that there are
special reasons, affecting public as well as private interests, why I
should make no further disclosures.

Though this was not the last night which I have spent in post-offices
for similar purposes, yet I have never repeated the experiment under
circumstances requiring quite so severe restraints, and such
abridgment of personal liberty.


    Throwing off the Cars--Fiendish Recklessness--The Boot-Tracks--A
    Scamp among the Printers--Obstruction removed--A Ruse--The Boots
    secured--"Big Jobs"--The Trial--Unreliable Witness--A

In the narrations of mail robberies which we have thus far given,
their perpetrators, though bold and unscrupulous, have not often
plotted the destruction of human life in order to further their
projects. But in the case we are about briefly to relate, murder on a
large scale was coolly contemplated for the sake of the facilities
which would be afforded to the plunderers of the mail, by the
confusion, distress, and preoccupation which necessarily follow the
throwing of cars from a railroad track. The certain destruction of
property and the probable loss of life which would be caused by the
successful execution of their plans, were nothing to these atrocious
scoundrels, as long as by these means plunder might be brought within
their grasp.

Rather more than a year ago, on a certain day in March, the locomotive
of a mail train upon one of the Western railroads was thrown from the
track by a "T" rail, which was placed with one end against a tie, so
that the other, projecting somewhat upward, was struck by the engine.
This occurred near a city in one of the Western States. No one on the
train was injured, and whoever placed the obstruction failed in
accomplishing his purpose, if that was to rob the mail.

No person was particularly suspected of the deed, but tracks made by
a boot of peculiar shape, with rows of large nails around the soles
and heels, were found in the soft clay in the neighborhood of the
spot, and an impression of them was taken for future reference. On the
same day the Superintendent of the road received a letter, of which
the following is a copy.

                                                Adrian, March 7, 1854.

    Sir: I have for the last few days written five or six notes to
    send you, but as often I have changed my mind and concluded to let
    the information that I wish to convey you, lie buried in
    obscurity. But the late act of villany that was committed I may
    say within sight of our city, forces me to disclose to you
    information that I received a few days ago of the formation of a
    gang of rascals who have combined together to commit, I may say,
    wholesale murder, and other criminal acts, by obstructing the
    passage of trains and endangering the same on the M. S. & N. R. R.
    This gang of villains is under the management of two men that are
    now known to me. The subject came to my knowledge by an offer from
    them of a large sum of money if I would take part with them in
    their intended villany.

    This I refused, and scornfully regarded their proposals to have
    anything to do with them. I further threatened to expose them if
    they should attempt at any time to carry their intentions into
    effect, and one of them said if I should ever disclose to any one
    their intentions, that it would be certain death to me. I cannot
    in this note explain to you the information I wish to convey in
    full; but should you answer by dropping a line in the post-office
    to me, I will, if you wish, disclose to you the names of the
    parties; in fact, I will give you all the information that I can
    of the parties and their intended plot, on condition that you will
    give a liberal reward. I would be able to point them out or
    describe them so that they might be arrested. I am satisfied one
    of them has in his trunk documents that would disclose the whole

    I hope you will keep this subject dark, as I am exposing myself to
    great danger by disclosing this to you, and would also expose the
    interest of the road by disclosing this subject to the public.
    Yes, such would make the road a terror to all.

    As I cannot write to any satisfaction, should you wish to know
    further about the matter, let me know and I will go to your office
    any evening that may be convenient to you.

         For the present I remain yours,
                                                             A. S----.

The author of this document (who here signs a feigned name) claimed to
be a natural son of an English lord celebrated in literature, and
assumed the name of his pretended father. He seems to have been a man
of considerable shrewdness, though he did not prove to be quite shrewd
enough to outwit the business men and officers of justice with whom he
had to deal.

The Superintendent replied to the letter, requesting an immediate
interview. To this B. (the person in question) returned an answer,
stating that he had written to one of the leaders of the gang in New
York, and that he would call on the Superintendent as soon as he had
received a reply, which might give him further information.

Three or four days after this the interview was held, and afterwards
another in the presence of the attorneys of the railroad company. On
these occasions, B. repeated his story with some further details, and
offered to assist in the detection of the scoundrels, if he could be
assured of a sufficient reward. There were many suspicious
circumstances about this person, both as respected his appearance and
the statements which he made.

It did not seem very probable that any one should have so intimate a
knowledge of the designs of the villains as he appeared to possess,
without being, to some extent at least, involved in their guilt.
Notwithstanding their suspicions, the officers of the road concluded
to engage his services, with the intention of keeping a sharp lookout
upon him. He gave the names of several persons as concerned in the
scheme, and proposed to correspond with some of the leaders and draw
from them disclosures which would cause their detection.

About this time he went to work in a printing office, and was observed
to be irregular in his habits, being much out at nights. He had
occasional interviews with Mr. S. (one of the Attorneys above
mentioned,) rather respecting what he had _not_ discovered than what
he had, and sometimes showing letters that he pretended to have
received, threatening his life unless he left the country. These
interviews, however unfruitful they were in available information, led
to a result which was not anticipated by the cunning B.

Had this individual narrowly observed all the surroundings of the
lawyer's office, he would have seen a quantity of fresh damp sand
strewed upon the walk in front, through which he was obliged to pass
on entering. Of course he thought nothing of it; hardly any one would;
but the impressions which his boots made on that sand were found to
correspond exactly with those obtained from the clay at the scene of
the railroad accident before mentioned!

One evening, about three weeks after the accident on the railroad, B.
rushed into the office of the railroad company in breathless haste,
and informed the Assistant Superintendent that he had been applied to
by a certain person to put obstructions on the track a little West of
the city, to catch the 9 P. M. mail train West; but had got away from
him and hurried to the office to give this information. The Assistant
Superintendent and others immediately went up the road about two
miles, and found obstructions placed in the spot indicated, and
removed them. When the train passed, the light in front of the
locomotive showed several men running into the woods.

This was the third instance of attempted obstruction to the mail
trains upon this road, within less than a month (one having occurred
previously to that first mentioned, causing, however, but slight
damage,) and it was ascertained that there were considerable amounts
of money in the mail on each of those occasions.

It may be remarked in passing, that although B. had notified the
company in advance, of actual obstructions, and had given the names of
the parties concerned, yet no progress seemed to be made in detecting
the guilty individuals. It was evidently his policy to obtain money
from the company as the price of his disclosure, and yet to manage so
that no discovery would result.

In the mean time, the Post-Office Department had been informed of
these facts, and an experienced and skilful police officer in Chicago
was appointed Special Mail Agent to investigate the matter. He very
soon came to the conclusion that whoever the other guilty persons
might be, B. was "one of 'em" to all intents and purposes. As we have
before stated, B. had said that one of the leaders was in New York,
and at the request of the company's attorney, B. wrote a letter to

The Chief of Police of New York was written to, and requested to
station an officer at the post-office to watch for and arrest the
party who should call for the letter, but during the time which
elapsed between the arrival of the letter and the officer who was to
watch outside the post-office, the letter disappeared, and even before
any one connected with the New York post-office had been apprised of
the arrangement.

Four days afterwards, B. informed one of the company's attorneys that
the man in New York had received the letter and sent him a verbal
answer to the effect, that he had better write no more by mail, "as
the letters might get lost." Mr. P., the Chicago police officer, went
in company with a lawyer to New York, with the design of finding the
man to whom the letter was addressed. Their efforts, however, though
assisted by the Chief of Police, and the Special Agent for the New
York district, were unavailing.

It was ascertained that he had paid his passage to Liverpool on the
ship Washington, but having been asked a casual question by one of the
officers of the vessel, concerning his relationship to a certain
Englishman, he had forfeited his passage-money, and disappeared.

Having returned to the West, Mr. P., the government Agent, determined
to arrest B., which he effected, and, without his knowledge, obtained
possession of his boots, which had already supplied such important
evidence against him.

He displayed much virtuous indignation, and talked largely of his
wealth, respectability, and high standing in society; but all this
availed him nothing, and he was committed to jail.

Although he had arrested B., yet Mr. P. doubted whether he had
sufficient evidence to convict him, and determined to condemn him out
of his own mouth. Accordingly he made arrangements with a deputy
sheriff of Milwaukie, to play the part of prisoner, and thus to obtain
the rascal's confidence.

Agreeably to this arrangement, when B. entered the prison, he found
the deputy sheriff already in his cell, apparently a fellow victim to
the demands of justice. For about four weeks this gentleman was most
of the time in the cell with B., representing himself as an "express
robber;" conducting himself in such a turbulent manner that B.
supposed the time of his absences was passed in the dungeon.

For some time, however, he failed in extracting any disclosures from
B., who confidently expected that his connection with the railroad
company would protect him. After he had been in prison about three
weeks, B. was informed that his arrest had been made by an United
States officer, who intended to make his boots convict him of
obstructing the mail train, and that the railroad company were
powerless to shield him from punishment for acts committed (as this
had been) previous to his employment by them.

He now saw his danger, and, on returning to his cell with his supposed
fellow prisoner, who had assumed the name of Harris, he manifested
great agitation. Harris asked what was the matter. B. hesitated for a
while, and at length exclaimed: "That rascally P. has stole my boots."

"What if he has?" replied the pseudo Harris. "They couldn't be worth

"They are worth considerable to me, I can tell you, for he means to
send me to State prison with them."

"Send you to State prison? What in the world do you mean? How can your
boots send you to State prison?"

"Why, he is going to show that they made the tracks that were found
where the rail was put on the track East of Adrian."

"Well," said Harris, "that looks rather bad, but it isn't as bad as it
might be. You'll get out of it yet, and I'll help you, if I can. I
expect to get bailed out in a day or two, and if I can do anything for
you, I will."

"You are the man for me," said B., "and I shall want you to come and
swear on my trial that you saw a person by the name of A---- put the
rail on, and that I wasn't there."

"But if you are innocent," replied Harris, "you will get clear; and if
you are guilty, I don't believe I can help you."

"You must, by heavens," said B. "If you don't, I'm a goner!"

Here the conversation ended that day, but the next morning B. directed
his fellow prisoner to testify that his name was Grover, and that on
the night on which the obstruction in question was made, he went with
A----, and saw him put the rail on the track. (So minute, by the way,
was B.'s description of the place and the manner in which the
obstructing rail was laid, that the deputy sheriff going there
afterwards in company with Mr. P., easily found the spot, and
identified the very tie under which the rail was placed, though it was
the first time he had been there.)

"Well," said Harris, _alias_ Grover, (who seemed to grow rapidly rich
in names,) "if I help you out in this way, what shall _I_ get by it?"

B. replied: "If you get me clear I shall keep the confidence of the
railroad company, and will introduce you to a set of good fellows who
do nothing but big jobs, and my connection with the company will
enable me to get you a position where you can pay yourself."

Having by such inducements secured (as he supposed) the aid of his
companion, B. recovered his equanimity, and wrote as follows to one of
the attorneys for the railroad company:--

    "To return to the obstruction east of Adrian in regard to my boots
    such as I can prove by J S that I mentioned in my last, by him I
    can prove where I was that night, as also where my boots were, and
    as for the other man's evidence I am sure that I cannot be
    mistaken as to my success on trial or examination. I hope you will
    soon see Mr G again and be sure to have him at the time. As to the
    danger of my going to Adrian for fear I would fall into the hands
    of the engineers and firemen in that place, I will say for once
    and all, let me go to Adrian--& as to the danger of falling into
    the hands of rowdies I am not afraid of no! no! not if all the
    fiends of Pandemonium was to raise against me I will not shrink
    from anything as long as I am innocent or as long as I can have
    the protection of the law on my side Justice! Justice!! is all I
    claim and that I expect to have before a Court of justice and an
    independent & impartial Jury, if I can't swim there let me sink.

                                    Res. yours & Others,      A. S. B.

    P. S. I will convince your Engineers & firemen that I was their
    friend, and that I have oftentimes run myself into danger for
    their safety, as well as that of the Company & the travelling
    public Yes & if they or the Co. have any feeling of gratitude in
    them I am sure that they will not show it by prosecuting me but
    first I must prove "_my title_ clear" & that I can do so Hurra
    boys, &c., three times three.

                                           Yours truly,      A. S. B."

The railroad company could have no further doubt of his guilt. It was
plain that he had entered their service to betray them; and though he
had given the names of his accomplices, he had been careful not to
catch them.

At his request he was removed to Adrian for trial. He told his counsel
what he should prove by Grover; and was assured of an honorable

At the trial, the counsel for the prosecution examined several
witnesses in relation to the boot-tracks, which, for the time being,
were as interesting to the legal fraternity, as are the ancient
bird-tracks found in sandstone, to geologists.

The defence supposed that the counsel for the prosecution would there
rest, and were confident that they had the game in their own hands,
knowing, as they did, that the evidence thus far adduced was not
sufficient to convict their client.

But the prosecution called "Wm. B.," (the deputy sheriff,) when, to
the utter astonishment and dismay of the prisoner, his man Grover took
the stand!

This unexpected transmutation at once dissipated the dreams of triumph
and future villany in which he had been revelling; and as "Wm. B."
testified to the facts in his possession, and the disclosures of the
prisoner, this baffled scoundrel found the prop on which he had relied
falling beneath him, and plunging him into that gulf from which he had
made such desperate though vain efforts to escape.

He was found guilty on two indictments. On the first, he was sentenced
to imprisonment for life, the judge remarking that he would suspend
sentence on the other till the first had expired.

The interval between the pilfering of small sums and the deliberate
plotting of wholesale murder for the sake of plunder, seems a wide
one; yet no one who enters even the verge of the maelstrom of a
dishonest course, can tell how far within the vortex he may be drawn
by its ever strengthening current.

The case just related forms a culminating point in the series of
villanies which we have recorded in this book for the benefit of those
who, in defiance of the eternal laws of Providence, attempt to make
the way of the transgressor easy.



    The Unpaid Draft--The Forged Order--A Reliable Witness--Giving up
    the Mail Key--A Lady Assistant--Post-Office Records--The official
    Envelope--Return of the Post Master--The Interview--Embarrassment
    of Guilt--Duplicate Circular--Justice secured.

One of the coolest and at the same time silliest pieces of post-office
rascality that I have ever known, occurred a few years since in Rhode

A small draft from the Post-Office Department having been presented by
a mail contractor to the post master of P., payment was refused, on
the ground that the office had been abolished some time before, and
that there was little or nothing due the Department. No time was lost
by the contractor in apprising the proper officer at Washington, of
the non-payment of the draft, and the reason assigned therefore; when
reference was at once made to the official records. They, however,
failed to show the discontinuance of the office.

Here was a mysterious and singular affair, and a letter was
accordingly despatched to the seemingly delinquent post master,
requiring an explanation of his course. A reply to this was very
promptly sent to the Department, to the effect that some months
previous he had received from the Appointment Office formal notice
that his office had been discontinued, accompanied by an order to
hand over all the mail matter remaining on hand, together with the
mail key, and other property of the Department, to a neighboring post
master, and that he had of course answered the demand.

A re-examination of the books still showing the office to be a "live
one," he was written to, and directed to forward the original document
upon the authority of which he had shut up his office. The papers were
duly forwarded, and sure enough, there was the "Order," signed with
the name of the Second Assistant Post Master General, who was then at
the head of the Appointment Office. It read as follows:--

                               Post-Office Department, March 28, 1846.


    The Post Master General having decided to discontinue the
    Post-Office at P----, from and after the expiration of the present
    fiscal quarter, you will, at that time, please hand over all mail
    matter, the mail key, and all other property belonging to the
    Department, to the Post Master at M----, on his presenting this

                                 Very Respectfully,

                                        Your Obt. Servant,

                                                     WM. J. BROWN,

                                               2d Asst. P. M. General.

Although a tolerably fair imitation of that officer's hand-writing, it
was at once pronounced a forgery. My services, as Special Agent, were
called into requisition, and all the facts, as they then stood,
communicated to me. As speedily as possible I visited the scene of
this perplexing and extraordinary official mystery. Arriving at the
site of the late post-office, I found its former incumbent to be a
highly respectable merchant, well advanced in years, and blessed with
one of those countenances which, to a person at all accustomed to
study character in that way, at once dispels all doubt and distrust.
He was of Dutch descent, and, while intelligent on general subjects,
was poorly "posted" in the arts and devices of cunning knaves. From
him I received a full statement of the shutting up process, and
obtained some additional facts, which afterwards furnished me with a
clue to the whole mystery.

On one of the last days of March, Mr. G----, post master at another
village in the same town, called on him in company with one of his
friends, and presented what purported to be a copy of an order from
the Department, directing him to close the office, and to give up the
property in the manner already described. Of course the post master
felt and manifested no little surprise, for the office had been
established but about a year, and he had heard of no application or
desire in any quarter for such a proceeding.

"It is all right, I suppose," said he, after carefully examining the
"copy" which had been handed him without a word of explanation; "but I
think, before I hand over the property, I ought to have the original

"Oh yes, it's all correct," responded the witness (who had seen the
copy made from the spurious order, supposing that to be genuine); "I
saw it compared with the original myself, and it's a true copy."

"But the quarter will not be ended till to-morrow," remarked the
astonished official; "and, on the whole, I think I must refuse
compliance, unless the original instructions are placed in my hands."

"Then I understand you as refusing to obey the order of the
Department, do I?" said the applicant.

"Not at all," was the mild response; "I am perfectly ready to comply
when I see the written command over the signature of the proper
officer of the Department. It can be but little trouble to produce
that, and I think, under the same circumstances, you would demand as
much yourself."

"But do I not bring a reliable witness to prove that this is an exact
copy of the original?" asked the visitor, impatiently.

"True, but my request is reasonable, and I think I will adhere to it,"
he replied; and the gentleman, with his companion, left the premises,
simply remarking, "You will hear from me again, to-morrow." And sure
enough, he did.

Towards sun-down on the following day, the abolisher of post-offices
made his appearance, and, with an air of authority, without uttering a
word, threw the extinguishing document upon the counter. The post
master took it up, and after adjusting his spectacles, examined first
the outside. It had the usual printed endorsement on the right hand
upper corner, "Post-Office Department, Official Business," was
properly franked by the Second Assistant, post-marked "Washington,"
and plainly addressed to the "Post Master, M----, R. I."

On withdrawing the letter from its covering, it had, sure enough,
every appearance of genuineness, and no doubt remained that it was the
official action of the Department. The post-office effects were
accordingly put in shape as hastily as possible, and handed over. But

    "The course of _knavery_ never did run smooth."

Strong suspicions began to arise that the neighboring post master,
before mentioned, was the author of the whole transaction, and when
the knowledge of a motive on his part was supplied, his guilt became
to my mind clear and positive.

It appeared that at the time of the establishment of the now defunct
post-office, there was a tremendous opposition, in which he took an
active and leading part, but the member of Congress for that District
favored the application for the new office, and it was finally
granted. Being but two miles from the old establishment, there was, as
had been anticipated, a considerable falling off in the receipts of
the latter. The snake was "scotched, not killed," or in other words,
post master number one had bottled up his wrath, and was biding his
time. The affair had now become with him a matter of pride as well as
interest, and when joked, as he frequently was, about his defeat in
the post-office contest, he was often heard to say that the new
post-office was "short-lived any way."

He was quite an active, prominent politician, and when a new
nomination for Congress was to be made, he thought he saw his way
clear. He struggled hard for the selection of a personal friend, and
succeeded, not only in the nomination, but in the election. But when
the pinch came, the Honorable member failed him, and could not be
persuaded to take the responsibility, for the new post-office had
proved really a great convenience to many of his constituents and to
some of his friends, personal and political.

With the advantage of this information obtained from the ex-post
master and one or two other citizens of that vicinity, I proceeded to
visit the office which at one gulp had swallowed up the other, without
apparent injury to its digestive organs. The post master was absent,
and the office in charge of his wife. This was a piece of good luck,
for it would enable me to examine the books and papers to greater
advantage, and what was better, to interrogate the lady and her lesser
half separately. Two or three points were very important.

Might not some wicked wag in the Department, knowing all the
circumstances of the case, have prepared the letter in question, and
sent it as a hoax? This could be easily settled by referring to the
account of mails received, for the record in that event should show
the receipt of a free letter, either direct from Washington, or from
the Distribution office at New York. Then another test, was a
comparison of the "order," with the hand-writing of the post master.
But the most troublesome point of all to reconcile, was, how the
official envelope had been obtained, for that was beyond a doubt

Introducing myself to the lady assistant, who happened to be alone in
the office, I remarked,--

"I am in pursuit of a letter which should have come here from New York
in March last, and I wish to see if your New York packages, during
that month, were all regularly received. Where do you keep your
transcripts, the books, or sheets, you know, upon which you copy your

They were taken from a desk and laid before me. Turning to the record
of the month in question, not a single free letter was entered as
received at that office for the last two weeks in March, from any

"Who made the entries in this book?" I inquired. "My husband," was the
prompt answer.

Having the general style of the "order" in my mind, I glanced over a
few pages of the book, and observed several peculiarities in the
formation of some of the capital letters which I had noticed in the
(to this time) fatherless document. It was written in bluish ink, and
so were the pages of the records made at about the same time,--a
trifling circumstance to be sure, but yet a link in the chain of
evidence. The wafer too, used in sealing, was strikingly similar in
size and shade to those contained in a large box upon the desk. The
"order" was on a half sheet of letter paper of different size and
stamp from the wrapper enclosing it.

It now remained to establish some reasonable theory to account for his
possession of a genuine official envelope. Some farther reflection
supplied that theory which in the sequel proved to be the correct one.
The date of the Washington post-mark I had before noticed, was very
indistinct, in fact could not be made out, although the word
"Washington" and "March" were tolerably plain. At that time the
present style of envelopes were not much in use by the Department.

Could it not be an old wrapper, or the "fly leaf" of some former
official document from head quarters? This idea was certainly favored
by the fact that on one side it presented a ragged appearance as if
torn from another half sheet; and if its fellow could be found on the
premises, the two parts must necessarily fit together, and
conclusively show that a branch of the Appointment office had really
been temporarily established without authority of law, not far from
that locality.

It was now late in the afternoon, and the post master still absent,
though momentarily expected home. An invitation to take tea with the
good lady, was the more readily accepted, from a desire to prevent any
comparing of notes between them with respect to the inquiries and
examination already made. At the table I ventured, for the first time,
to broach the subject of the "stoppage" affair.

"I believe the last time I passed over this route, you had two
post-offices in town," I remarked.

"Yes," was the reply, "but it made so much bother, and did so little
good, that it was abolished some months since."

In her manner of receiving this remark, I could discover no proof of a
participation in, or knowledge of the process by which the rival
concern had been gotten rid of. And I might as well say in this
connection as anywhere else, that I have never in my own official
experience, known any instance of a wife or child being made an
accomplice, partner or confidant, "before the fact," in the commission
of serious post-office offences. Prying ladies have sometimes,
however, from curiosity, rather than pecuniary considerations,
exhibited a remarkable aptness in getting at the written contents of
letters, without the consent or knowledge of the owners.

The cloth had not long been removed before the post master's approach
was heralded by the scratching at the door of a large Newfoundland
dog, the circumstance being at once noted by the lady as indicative of
the safe return of her husband. In a moment more the sound of the
horse's hoofs were distinctly heard, and as soon as the nag had been
passed over to a boy we had left in the office, the post-office
annihilator entered.

"My dear," says the affectionate wife, "you have got back once more."
And with this salutation she announced her guest, as "a gentleman who
had come to see about some post-office business."

He eyed me rather closely, and with a much less amiable expression
than he assumed on learning that I was a near relative of his "Uncle
Sam," which I saw it was essential to make known to him, in order to
secure decent treatment; for he was decidedly savage in his looks and
manners on the first introduction, taking me no doubt for some
troublesome customer (as I eventually proved to be, by the way,) who
had come to bother him about some trifling affair.

An intimation that I would like to see him at the post-office was
sufficient. We soon found ourselves there alone, and I commenced
interrogating him thus:--

"Did you receive notice from the Department in March last of the
discontinuance of the office at P.?"

"I did, and was ordered to take possession of the property of the
Department," he replied. "The old gentleman," said he, "rather hated
to yield; but, when I showed him the documents, he caved in and made
the best of it. The fact is, the office never ought to have been
created at all."

"When did the order reach your hands?" I asked; "and do you remember
the circumstance of its arrival in the mail?"

"I well remember all about it," said he; "I opened the mail that day
myself, as usual. I think it was one of the last days in March. I
shall never forget the astonished look of neighbor N., as he perused
the order converting him into a private citizen once more."

"He wasn't satisfied with a certified copy of the unwelcome document,
was he?" I remarked. "And, by the way, what was the object of serving
a _copy_ of the paper on him?"

"Well," he rejoined, with a slight embarrassment, "the fact is, I
thought I had better retain the original for my own protection, in
case of any fuss. He had to have it, however, before he would shut up

At this juncture I produced the "order," and laying it before him,
requested that he would turn to the entry of a free letter on his
"mails received," at the time of the receipt of this one. The search
was in vain, as I well knew it would be; and he undertook to explain
that circumstance by claiming that official letters frequently came
from Washington without wrapper or post-bill.

By this time he evidently began to construe my inquiries into a
suspicion of his fraudulent conduct; and, as in all such cases, every
attempt to extricate himself only made the matter worse.

"Come to think of it," said he, "I was absent from home the day that
letter arrived, and on my return I took it from my private box where
my letters are put," at the same time pointing to a pigeon-hole in a
small letter-case over the desk.

"And would your wife open the mail in your absence?" I inquired.

Receiving an affirmative answer, I requested him to call her, taking
care that they should hold no private conversation. Exhibiting to her
the outside of the letter, I asked if she recollected taking it from
the mail and placing it in the post master's box. They exchanged
glances, and, on the second look towards him, I was just in time to
observe a trifling nod of the head by way of intimating that she had
better say yes. But she thought otherwise, and was quite positive that
if such a thing bad come loose in the bag, at any time when she opened
the mail, she would have noticed it.

"To come right to the point," said I, "this document is disowned by
the Department, and no authority has been given to any one to
discontinue the other office."

A forced laugh from the post master followed this announcement, but
the honest wife looked worried.

"Well," he answered, "if it did not come from the Appointment Office,
then some mischievous clerk in the Department may have sent it as an
April-fool hoax, as it was near the first of April; or some one may
have slipped it into my private box unobserved, though no one could
well do it unless it was the boy that you see about here."

"I see no motive that he could have had for doing it," I observed.

"But he might possibly have been hired to do it," was the reply.

In accounting for the envelope, it now became an important point to
settle whether or not the post master had been in the habit of
preserving all official circulars from the Department. If so, and this
envelope had been torn from one of them, the remaining fragment might
still come to light as his certain accuser. A search of the files
showed the preservation of all such documents for two years previous,
but nothing appeared to match the covering of the "order."

Still believing it was obtained in that way, I adjourned the
investigation for a few days, and meantime applied to the Department
for duplicates of any printed circulars that had been sent to this
office, and the return mail brought me one that was so sent, but a few
weeks previous to the fraud in question. Its absence from the
postmaster's files, while all other similar documents had been
carefully saved, was a strong circumstance to show that a part of it
at least had been used for this dishonest purpose. But the damning
proof was yet to come. In the printed words "Official Business," which
were in capitals on the outside of the duplicate circular, there was a
defect, or "nick" in the letter O, and the last S, in business. On
comparing this with the covering of the spurious order, exactly the
same bruises were found in the same letters, identifying the one with
the other in the most positive manner, as the coincidence would be
almost miraculous of the same type being battered in precisely the
same way, upon circulars printed at different times.

Nor was this all. In folding the circular before the ink was fairly
dry, some parts of the printed words in the body of it had "struck
off" upon the inner side of the "fly leaf," which parts of words
could, by a strong light, be distinctly observed upon several lines
directly under each other. Referring to the printed page of the entire
circular received for examination and comparison, a copy of which was
known to have been sent to this post-office, _the same words were
found to occur, and precisely in the same relative positions_.

Thus was the final link in the chain of evidence closed and riveted; a
chain which held the guilty one in its unyielding grasp, and set at
nought all attempts at evasion or escape, had he been disposed to make
them. His only alternative was silence or confession, and of these he
chose the latter.

A full report of all the facts above stated was made to the
Department, and the tricky post master soon received an official
letter from Washington, concerning whose genuineness the most
sceptical could have no doubt. In this case, "the engineer was hoist
with his own petard." In stopping his neighbor's office he was himself
stopped; and, furthermore, received a reward for his misdeeds, the
nature of which any future post-office stopper will learn by sad

The defunct office was resuscitated, and its former incumbent
reinstated in all the rights and privileges of which he had been
deprived by the treachery of his unscrupulous opponent.

Nothing but the most obstinate determination to carry his point, at
all hazards, could have impelled this man to the extreme measures
which he adopted for ridding himself of his rival. Forgery is a crime
of sufficient magnitude, one would think, to deter from its commission
any one that is not prepared to go all lengths in the execution of his
designs. And the present case shows how far pride and self-will may
carry a man who yields to their suggestions, and how small a matter
may be sufficient to raise them to an irresistible height, and create
a tide which may sweep away conscience, and honor, and all that is
valuable in character, to say nothing of an enlightened regard to

The man whose discreditable exploit we have recorded, paid dearly for
his short-lived triumph; and whoever is in danger of suffering his
pride or obstinacy to hurry him beyond the bounds of prudence and
virtue, will do well to "sit down first, and count the cost."


    Indian Depredations--The model Mail Contractor--Rifles and
    Revolvers--Importance of a Scalp--Indian Chief
    reconnoitering--Saving dead Bodies--Death of a Warrior--The
    Charge--A proud Trophy.
    Sunset on the Prairie--Animal Life--A solitary Hunt--The Buffalo
    Chase--Desperate Encounter with an Indian--Ingenious
    Signal--Returning to Camp--Minute Guns--A welcome Return.

Previous to the year 1850 there was no regular mail service between
the valley of the Mississippi and New Mexico and Utah Territories. In
selling lands to settlers and taking these communities under the
protecting care of the nation, the Government was bound in good faith
to give them a regular mail. This, like all other mail service, is
carried on without much regard to the question whether the actual
receipts from the locality will be remunerative or not.

The commencement of this service in 1850, called out the energies of
some of our most daring and enterprising business men. A tract of
country nearly one thousand miles in extent had to be traversed, where
there were no civilized inhabitants, and but one or two military

The Indian tribes, finding their game disappear before the unerring
rifle of the white hunter, and learning the taste of the luxuries of
civilized life without the industry to procure them, became at first
sullen and despairing, then hostile and revengeful. A detailed account
of the "hair breadth 'scapes," the dangers, losses, and tragedies in
encounters with hostile Indians, in transporting the United States
mails across these plains, would form one of the most remarkable
chapters in the postal history of the world.

One mail contractor on the route from Independence, Missouri, to Santa
Fé, by his success in transporting the mails safely, and his daring
and diplomacy with the Indians, has become eminent among his
countrymen, and dreaded by the hostile tribes whom he has encountered.
The treachery so fatally prevalent in meetings between small bands of
whites and these dark sons of the forest, and the cunning and boldness
displayed in stealing the horses and cattle that belong to the "pale
faces," have made it necessary that great caution should be used, and
also that the Indians should be made to feel the force of that
terrible weapon the modern rifle. The Indian has long since learned
the superiority that the possession of "revolvers" gives to the white
hunters. And he has also learned at what distance it is safe for him
to approach the camp or the traveling party of his foes. They do not
consider that there is much security in any distance less than three
hundred yards, when well mounted and in rapid motion.

The honor attached to the possession of scalps, and the dismal
forebodings attending the loss of a beloved chief, make all the tribes
particularly cautious that their leaders shall not be too much
exposed, and that their slain shall not fall into the hands of the
enemy. A reckless daring displayed by a chief, always gives him honor
with his tribe, and this is proportioned to the success which attends
his efforts and skill, whether in the offensive or defensive.

The mail contractor before alluded to, is a man of great humanity as
well as courage, and prefers making now and then a terrible example,
rather than wage an indiscriminate warfare with tribes inveterately

After the tragic occurrences attending the capture and terrible death
of Mrs. White, with several others in a party of California emigrants
near Santa Fé, the Indians, emboldened by success, seemed to feel that
they had the power and did not lack the will to drive all white
travelers from the plains. Our "model mail contractor," in addition to
the heavy responsibility of conveying from fifteen hundred weight to a
ton and a half of the United States mails, often had intrusted to his
care, coin and gold dust in considerable quantities, and the lives and
effects of numerous passengers.

A usual "mail train" consisted of three covered wagons, with elliptic
springs, each drawn by six mules, guarded by eight or ten men, and
carrying perhaps as many passengers.

Thirty miles a day was a usual drive, and this gave several hours'
rest in every twenty-four. By having plenty of Sharp's rifles, and
Colt's six-shooting cavalry pistols, the entire company of men and
passengers formed a terrible phalanx, able to fire three or four
hundred shots without any delay in loading.

The Indians soon learned to _respect_ these parties, and usually gave
them a wide berth, not venturing to attack them though outnumbering
them by more than ten to one.

Soon after the above-mentioned barbarous transactions near Santa Fé,
the mail was on its way accompanied by the contractor himself. One
morning, marks of hostile Indians were quite frequent. A large camp
was passed where the fires still burned, and newly picked bones of
buffalo and deer were scattered around.

In the course of the forenoon, several Indians were seen, and at the
noon rest, their whole party was in sight, numbering apparently one
hundred and fifty or more. The main body kept three or four hundred
yards off, but one daring warrior, evidently their chief, would ride
in a wide circuit, approaching sometimes within a hundred and fifty or
two hundred yards of the mail wagons. He seemed to be reconnoitering;
and though the mail party, passengers and all, did not exceed a dozen
persons, there seemed to be little disposition to attack them. The
chief--as he proved to be--was splendidly dressed; the long feathers
on his head waving in the wind, and mounted on a milk white horse, he
seemed the Murat of his nation.


A shield of raw hide, dried in the sun, quite common among the
Indians, covered his entire person from his saddle to his neck. Though
within rifle shot, his swift riding and the protection afforded by the
shield, gave but little chance for a successful shot. In the most
daring and impudent manner he rode several times in a semicircle,
reducing the distance between his followers and the little band of
whites, at least one half.

The mail contractor told his men to stand by their arms, and be ready
for an attack. He then took his Sharp's rifle and lay down on the
ground, resting his gun across a stone. He looked across the sights,
and saw the chief "wheel his daring flight" within good gun range, but
always on the full run with his head just in sight over the shield.
Each Indian is provided with a rope or _lariat_ made of hide, and this
is fastened by one end around the rider's waist, and by the other to
the saddle, that in the event of his being killed, the horse will drag
off the dead body and thus prevent its falling into the hands of his

Some accident happened to the chief on the white charger; his stirrup
broke, or something took place which obliged him to dismount. He was
then about a hundred and seventy yards from the mail camp, and as he
dismounted on the farther side, he was no fairer mark than before. It
was easy enough to shoot down the horse, but that would accomplish
nothing, as the chief was nearer to his friends than to his foes. It
was evident that he must, to a certain extent, expose himself, when he
mounted, and as he sprang up in his stirrup, his breast for a moment
presented a fair mark.

The sharp ring of the rifle was heard, and the chief lay on the
ground, while the blood sprinkled the snowy flank of the beautiful
charger. He was shot through the heart!

The horse sprung, and the weight of the dead chief broke the _lariat_
clear from the saddle. The consternation among the Indians was
terrible. Drawing their knives and pistols, the mail carriers gave a
yell, and charged directly at the whole array of Indians. The head of
the little band, whose successful shot had so opportunely killed the
chief, had given orders not to attack except on the defensive, but
nothing could restrain them; and appalled as much by the daring
bravery of the whites as by the sudden death of their chief, the
warriors broke and fled.

The scalp of the unfortunate Indian was soon stripped from the skull,
and, with its dark and flowing locks, formed a trophy of the short
combat, and made the subject of a tale around the fireside of the bold
and hardy pioneer.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have room for but one more narrative of border life, and the perils
of mail carrying in the backwoods; and this is also an incident in the
life of our "model mail contractor."

At a period anterior to the events just related, the mail, with quite
a number of wagons, was wending its way toward Santa Fé. The party
were near the banks of the Cimmeron, and then in the country of the
Arrapahoes. Large herds of buffalo were constantly visible, but no
Indians had been seen for some days.

It was a beautiful afternoon in June, the slowly descending sun
illuminating one of the grandest scenes in nature--a broad rolling
prairie covered with verdure, and presenting one checkered field of
animal life. Beautiful antelopes, that flew rather than ran, and
scarce seemed to touch the earth; stately elks, with branching horns,
gallantly guarding their gregarious herds, and the unwieldy bison, far
more numerous than all the rest, numbering hundreds of thousands, and
blackening the plain as far as the eye could reach. Our hero of many
an Indian skirmish and numerous buffalo hunts, mounted his horse to go
and select an animal from the vast herd, which should furnish supper
for his party.

He was mounted on a fleet animal, but after getting fairly away from
the train, he found he had omitted to put on his spurs. It was in a
section of country where small streams form deep ravines, some of them
nearly as abrupt, though not as deep as the awful _canons_ of the
Gila and the head branches of the Rio Grande. He singled out a fat
buffalo cow, and drawing his "Colt," dashed on to get near and be sure
of a fatal shot at the first fire. Not being able to spur his horse,
the animal led him a rapid race, and taking a path, followed it down a
dark ravine, where a slender stream gurgled idly between its banks.

His horse, accustomed to the sport, went faster and faster, and neared
the buffalo at every spring, till she suddenly turned the corner of
the bank, now near the bottom of the ravine, and some fifty or sixty
feet below the level of the prairie. The path that led down the ravine
was a gradual descent, and on each side were some scattering trees and

When the bluff was rounded in pursuit of the buffalo, the animal was
but a few yards ahead, and then, for the first time, a fair mark. Our
hero was nearly ready to fire, when _whiz!_ went an arrow so near that
there was no mistaking its sound, especially to one whose ear was
practised in Indian warfare.

The arrow had scarcely ceased its whir, before a mounted Indian came
down upon our buffalo hunter, from behind the bank of the ravine. His
lance was poised in its "rest," with the butt of it firmly against his
shoulder. The buffalo passed from sight, and the Indian instantly
appeared; and before there was a moment for reflection, the "white
hunter" had to "wink and hold out his iron."

The lance was a bright piece of steel, about twenty inches long, on a
pole of some twelve feet in length. This murderous blade was aimed
directly at his breast, and the two horses on a full run in opposite
directions. Our contractor had nothing on but a pair of trousers, his
red hunting shirt, and traveling cap.

The Indian, with the exception of some long feathers on his head, was
naked to the waist. The savage observed the "law of the road," and
took the right, and with one simultaneous and almost involuntary
movement, the "pale face" dropped the bridle, and with his left arm
parried the approaching blow by knocking the lance upward. The blade
in its course ripped the hunting shirt, and tore the muscles from his
shoulder; and simultaneously with this he fired his "Colt," and saw
the blood spirt from the naked breast of the Indian. The slain warrior
fell heavily to the ground, while the white man's horse turned
suddenly to the right, and mounted the bank of the ravine, which was
here so steep, that, having no longer a hold of the bridle, the rider
came near tumbling backward.

The surface of the prairie was gained, and near two hundred yards
measured off by the horse before the owner had time to gather his
scattered thoughts. He attempted to grasp the bridle, but found his
left arm quite powerless, not only from the wound on the shoulder, but
the stunning effect of the lance on his fore-arm, near the wrist. With
a rapid movement he plunged his pistol into the holster, and seizing
the bridle with his right hand, drew up his horse and dismounted.

Every movement had been so rapid since going down the path into the
ravine after the buffalo, until he emerged in safety on the plain,
that he had not reflected a moment. He had done better; he had

There now appeared five Indians, all mounted, and not more than two
hundred and fifty yards from where he stood. He instantly formed his
plan. His arms consisted of his revolver, and a double-barrelled
English fowling-piece, one barrel loaded with ball, and the other with
buckshot. He unstrapped his gun, kept himself on the farther side of
the horse from the Indians, and as they seemed to be approaching him,
he made his arrangements. He concluded to wait until they arrived
within about a hundred and fifty yards, and then fire with his ball,
and if possible, kill the foremost. The other barrel with the buckshot
would then be "good" for two more, when he would have five loaded
barrels of his "Colt," with only two foes. But the cowardly villains
dared not attack him. Four of them retreated, and the other rode a
little nearer to reconnoitre.


The Indian, believing he knew the character of his foe as that of an
old hunter, was sure he was armed with one or more "six-shooters." He
communicated his thoughts to his red-skinned brethren, by riding
several times rapidly round in a circle, this being the sign given by
the Arrapahoes when they meet white men armed with "revolvers."

Being satisfied with this view of their foe, and the taste they had
had of his prowess, they turned their horses and disappeared down the

Danger was not yet over, and our friend was determined to be ready for
whatever might happen. He rode slowly away for fifty or a hundred
yards, and stopped. Thinking he had better have his arms in as good
condition as possible, he dismounted and thought he would load the
discharged barrel of his pistol. On looking, this trusty weapon was
missing. The holster was entirely torn away, and the pistol gone. He
went back where he had waited for the Indians, and there lay the
pistol on the ground.

In his violent effort to put up the weapon and stop the horse while
one arm was totally disabled, he had evidently thrust it in the
holster so violently as to tear the leather away, and the weapon
unperceived had fallen to the ground.

Having loaded the empty barrel, he again mounted. The sun by this time
was just setting. The Indians and the long dark ravine lay between him
and the camp, and he took a circuitous route to meet the train.

After going some four miles to the south-west, he came to the road. By
the light of the moon he examined the track to see if his wagons with
their broad tires had passed. There were no ruts but those made by the
narrow-tired wagons of a Mormon train that was one or two days ahead
of them. He then followed back, and mile after mile not a sound, not a
person, not an animal, or a camp fire broke the vast solitude! But now
he hears a gun directly ahead of him.

Another minute and another gun; yes, 'tis his own party camped out for
the night, firing minute guns as a signal, and waiting with anxiety
and fear for their absent leader. He soon rode up, and--in the words
of the narrator, as he told us the story--"how the boys took me in
their arms and hugged me! They fairly screamed as I told them how I
missed the buffalo but didn't miss the Indian. They took me on their
shoulders and carried me three times round the camp. We saw no more of
the Arrapahoes during the journey to Santa Fé."

Such have been the adventures and perils of carrying the mails between
the far outposts of civilization, on our wild frontier.


    Cheating the Clergy--Duping a Witness--Money missing--A singular
    Postscript--The double Seal--Proofs of Fraud--The same
    Bank-Note--"Post-Boy" confronted--How the Game was played--Moving

Our collection of "outside" delinquencies would be incomplete, were we
to omit the following case, which was investigated by the author not
long ago, and in which not a little ingenuity, of the baser sort, was
displayed. It will serve as a specimen of a numerous class of cases,
characterized by attempts to defraud some correspondent, and to fasten
the blame of the fraud upon some one connected with the Post-Office.
We could give many instances of a similar kind, did our limits permit.

A person of good standing in community, who laid claim not only to a
moral, but a religious character, was visiting in a large town on the
Hudson river, about midway between New York and Albany. This person
owed a clergyman, living in New Haven, Conn., the sum of one hundred
dollars; and one day he called at the house of another clergyman of
his acquaintance in the town first mentioned, and requested to be
allowed the privilege of writing a letter there to his clerical
creditor, in which the sum due that gentleman was to be enclosed.
Writing materials were furnished, and he prepared the letter in the
study of his obliging friend, and in his presence.

After he had finished writing it, he said to the clergyman, "Now, as
the mails are not always safe, I wish to be able to prove that I have
actually sent the money. I shall therefore consider it a great favor
if you will accompany me to the bank, where I wish to obtain a
hundred-dollar note for some small trash that I have, and bear witness
that I enclose the money and deposit the letter in the post-office."

The reverend gentleman readily acceded to his request, and went with
him to the bank, where a bill of the required denomination was
obtained and placed in the letter, which was then sealed with a wafer,
the clergyman all the while looking on.

They then went to the post-office, (which was directly opposite the
bank,) and after calling the attention of his companion to the letter
and its address, the writer thereof dropped it into the letter box,
and the two persons went their several ways.

The letter arrived at New Haven by due course of mail, and it so
happened that the clergyman to whom it was addressed was at the
post-office, waiting for the assorting of the mails. He saw a letter
thrown into his box, and called for it as soon as the delivery window
was opened.

Upon breaking the seal and reading the letter, he found himself
requested to "Please find one hundred dollars," &c., with which
request he would cheerfully have complied, but for one slight
circumstance, namely, the absence of the bank-note!

This fact was apparently accounted for by a postscript, written in a
heavy, rude hand, entirely different from that of the body of the
letter, and reading as follows:--

    "P. S. I have taken the liberty to borrow this money, but I send
    the letter, so that you needn't blame the man what wrote it."

                                                 (Signed)  "POST-BOY."

The rifled document was immediately shown to the post master, and in
his opinion, as well as that of the clergyman, a daring robbery had
been committed. The latter gentleman was advised by the post master to
proceed at once to New York, and confer with the Special Agent, and
at the same time to lay all the facts before the Post Master General.
He did so, and it was not long before the Agent had commenced the
investigation of the supposed robbery.

In addition to the postscript appended, the letter bore other
indications of having been tampered with, which at first sight would
seem almost conclusive on this point. Upon the envelope were two
wafers, differing in color, one partly overlapping the other, as if
they had been put on by different persons at different times.

Notwithstanding these appearances, there were circumstances strongly
conflicting with the supposition that the letter had been robbed. The
postscript was an unnatural affair, for no one guilty of opening a
letter for the purpose of appropriating its contents, would stop to
write an explanatory postscript, especially as such a course would
increase the chances of his own detection. And in the present
instance, there had been no delay of the letter to allow of such an

By a visit to the office where the letter was mailed, the Agent
ascertained that it must have left immediately after having been
deposited, and the advanced age and excellent character of the post
master, who made up the mail on that occasion, entirely cut off
suspicion in that quarter.

An interview was then held with the clergyman who witnessed the
mailing of the letter, and from him were obtained the facts already
stated. Concerning the writing of the document, and its deposit in the
letter box in a perfect state, after the money had been enclosed, he
was ready and willing to make oath, and had he been called upon he
would have done so in all sincerity and honesty.

In reply to an inquiry whether he used more than one sort of letter
paper, he informed me he had had but one kind in his study for several
months, and at my request, immediately brought in several sheets of
it. A comparison of this with the sheet upon which the _rifled_
epistle had been written, showed that the latter was a totally
different article from the first. The shape and design of the stamp,
the size of the sheet, and the shade of the paper, were all unlike.
Moreover, the wafers used at the bank, where the hundred-dollar note
was obtained, and the letter containing it, sealed, were very
dissimilar to either of those which appeared upon the "post-boy"

From the consideration of all these facts, I was satisfied that a
gross and contemptible fraud had been perpetrated by the writer of the
letter, and lost no time in proceeding to the village where that
personage lived. I called upon the post master and made some inquiries
relative to the character and pecuniary circumstances of the person in
question. From the replies made, it appeared, as I have already
stated, that his reputation in community was good.

I thought it might be possible that in so small a place, I could
ascertain whether he had lately passed a hundred-dollar note, as he
would have been likely to have done, if it was true that he had not
enclosed it in the New Haven letter.

Calling at the store which received most of his custom, I introduced
myself to the proprietor, made a confidant of him to some extent, and
learned that the very next day after that on which the aforesaid
letter was mailed, its author offered him in payment for a barrel of
flour, a hundred-dollar note on the bank from which a bill of the like
denomination had been obtained, as before-mentioned, in exchange for
the "small trash." The merchant could not then change it, but sent the
flour, and changed a bill which he supposed to be the same, a few days

Armed with these irresistible facts, I proceeded to call on the
adventurous deceiver of the clergy, who had attempted to make one
member of that body second his intention to cheat another. "Insatiate
archer! Could not one suffice?"

"Mr. T----," said I, after some preliminary conversation, "it's of no
use to mince matters. The fact is, you did not send the money in that
New Haven letter. You offered it the day after you pretended to mail
it, at Mr. C.'s store. You see I've found out all about it, so I hope
you will not deny the truth in the matter."

I then gave him his choice, to send the hundred dollars promptly to
his New Haven correspondent, or allow me to prove in a public manner,
the facts in my possession.

Being thus hard pressed, and finding himself cornered, he confessed
that he had prepared the letter which was received in New
Haven--postscript, double wafers and all--before he left home, and
that while crossing the street from the bank to the post-office, he
substituted this for the one he wrote in the clergyman's study! He
promised to send the money, and pretended to have suffered severely in
his feelings, on account of this dishonest act.

There is no United States law providing for the punishment of such an
offence, but public opinion and private conscience make nicer
distinctions than the law can do, and often mete out a well deserved
penalty to those who elude the less subtle ministers of justice.

In the present instance, the foregoing story was made public by
direction of the Post Master General; and the author of the trick,
unable to sustain the indignation and contempt of the community in
which he lived, was compelled to make a hasty retreat from that part
of the country.


    Young Offenders--Thirty Years ago--A large Haul--A Ray of Light.

The facts of the following case were furnished me by a gentleman
connected with the New York post-office. I will introduce him as the
relator of his own story, taking some liberty, however, with the

It is one of the too numerous class of cases, of which mere boys are
the heroes, (if the term may thus be perverted,)--a class that is
represented in this work, which would otherwise be incomplete,
professing, as it does, to illustrate the various phases of
post-office life, as respects persons of different ages and
conditions. The present narration will show that our own times are not
the only period fertile in juvenile rascality, but that the youth of
thirty years ago were too frequently set upon evil.

At the time when the incidents occurred which I am about to narrate,
(viz. in the year 1826,) it was the usual practice in the New York
office to make up the morning's mails on the preceding evening, and to
place them upon tables before they were entered on the "transcripts,"
(sheets or books in which copies of the post-bills are made,) and
enclosed in wrappers. At this time a boy twelve or thirteen years of
age was employed as assistant to one of the letter carriers, and
generally arrived at the office at an earlier hour in the morning than
the regular clerks. The nature of his duties made him well acquainted
with the different species of letters, so that he could determine
without much difficulty, from its general appearance, whether a letter
contained hidden treasures or not.

So, by way of beguiling the time before the arrival of the clerks, or
for the sake of a little improving practice, he one morning looked
over the Eastern mail, which lay spread before him, and selected a
letter addressed by the Cashier of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of
New York, to the Cashier of one of the banks in Boston, containing
four thousand dollars in bank-notes of one thousand dollars each.

On the discovery of this "pile," the boy lost no time in "removing the
deposits" to his own pocket, substituting for the bank-notes four
pieces of paper of an equal size, cut from wrappers lying on the
floor. He then resealed the letter and replaced it. The letter was
forwarded by due course of mail, and when it was received at the bank,
the Cashier discovered to his dismay that the money by some jugglery
had been converted into brown paper; and the evident marks of breaking
open and resealing, indicated unequivocally that some human agency had
been engaged in working the spell.

Information of the loss was immediately conveyed to the New York
office, much to the consternation and grief of all concerned, for this
office had been considered a model one, and the clerks had taken pride
in sustaining its character, to say nothing of their own; and now that
suspicion was thrown among them by this daring act of dishonesty,
which, from appearances, must have been committed by some one having
access to the mails, they felt that all confidence in one another, as
well as the confidence of community in them, would be greatly
weakened, until the author of the deed should be discovered. It was
suggested, indeed, that the robbery might have been committed in the
Boston office, but circumstances rather favored the supposition that
the guilt rested with New York.

The Post-Office Department at Washington was apprised of the facts in
the case, and the attempts made to investigate the matter elicited a
good deal of correspondence, which, however, produced no successful

Among other expedients, intimations were thrown out that a thorough
search should be made of the residences and persons of the clerks,
although it was not likely that the thief, whoever he might be, was so
green as to keep the money for such a length of time, in any place
where its discovery would be positive proof against him; and if the
search were unavailing, the only result would be the infliction of
mortification upon those who were innocent of the crime.

At this juncture, a ray of light appeared. It was then as well as now
the practice of the assorting clerks to place the letters "mis-sent"
and "overcharged," in a box by themselves, and one morning a letter of
this description was mis-sent to this office, directed to Jamaica, L.
I., which was accordingly placed in this box. On our return from
breakfast this letter was found to be missing. As the boy before
mentioned was the only occupant of the office during our absence, the
disappearance of the letter naturally induced the belief that he had
taken it. This second instance of delinquency assumed a double
importance from the fact that the purloiner of this and the robber of
the Boston letter, were in all probability one and the same person.
Every exertion was therefore made to bring the truth to light.

One of the clerks was dispatched to Jamaica to ascertain whether the
letter might not have been somehow received at that office, but his
proposed investigations were prevented by the unofficial behavior of
his horse, which, unmindful of the important business in hand, ran
away, upset the carriage, and spilt out its contents. The clerk was so
much injured as to be unable to proceed, and therefore returned
without the desired information.

On the next morning, while the "drop letters" were being assorted,
this letter was found among them and was identified. It had been
broken open, examined, resealed, but not robbed of a draft for a large
amount which it contained. Near the seal were written with a pencil
the words "Picked up in Vesey Street."

The hand-writing was believed to be that of the suspected boy, and he
was immediately charged with taking and breaking open the letter,
which accusation he stoutly denied, but when he was assured that we
knew his hand, that the words which he had written on the letter
showed conclusively that he knew something of its whereabouts during
its absence, and that it was our determination to investigate the
matter thoroughly, his courage gave way, and he confessed opening the
letter, but said he did not meddle with the draft which it contained,
as he could make no use of it.

Having thus applied an entering wedge, I lost no time in turning to
account the information already obtained, which I hoped would lead to
the detection of the person who robbed the Boston letter. Indeed, I
was entirely unprepared to admit the existence of two such rascals in
the New York office, as such repeated instances of delinquency would
imply, and was quite positive that the boy before me was the only
culprit. I accordingly said to him, "Now, Samuel, I am glad for your
sake that you have confessed your guilt in relation to this letter,
and I hope you will be equally frank if you have been doing anything
else of a similar nature. I strongly suspect that you robbed the
Boston letter that we had so much trouble about, and if you did, the
best thing you can do will be to confess it."

"No, sir," replied he, "I don't know any more about this Boston letter
than you do, and I haven't touched any letter but the Jamaica one."

"It is useless," said I, "for you to make such assertions, in the face
of the probabilities in the case. You have confessed that you stole
one letter, and that renders it the more likely that you have robbed
the other."

"Perhaps it is likely," returned he, "but I didn't do it."

"Well," said I, "take your choice. If you persist in your denial, you
must meet the consequences, and you know that this kind of offence is
punished severely; but if you will own up, I will engage that you
shall get off as easily as possible."

By such considerations I finally induced him to acknowledge his guilt
in relation to the Boston letter, and on being questioned further, he
stated that he still had the bills, and offered to show me the place
where they were concealed. I at once started off, accompanied by him
as my guide. We took a course which soon led us out of the city, and
along the banks of the East River.

The day was rainy, and a mist overhung the river and the land. As we
plodded along through the mud and wet, the face of my young companion
was shaded with a sadness which indicated that the external world
harmonized in its gloom with the little world within.

For myself, I must acknowledge that the prospect of reestablishing
lost confidence among my fellow-employés in the post-office, and of
putting an end to the suspicion which had haunted almost every one, as
well as restoring the stolen property to its rightful owner, produced
in me an exhilaration of spirits strangely at variance with all that
met my eye. But as we continued to go on and on, with no signs of
approaching our place of destination, I began to query with myself,
whether my companion might not contemplate giving me the slip, after
leading me a wild-goose chase. I could not see, indeed, what motive he
could have for such a proceeding, unless he wished to vent his malice
on me as one who had been prominent in detecting his misdeeds.

But he kept on steadily, till, after going half a mile or so beyond
the old Penitentiary, (a distance of about three miles from the
post-office,) he turned from the road and stopped before an old wooden
house, apparently uninhabited. The exterior showed signs of many
years' conflict with the elements, in which it had been decidedly
worsted. Moss had gathered upon the shingles, and the paint, of which
there was here and there a trace, strengthened by a feeble contrast
the dark color of the parts from which it had been entirely washed
away. Some of the windows were destitute of glass, and probably
served as a mark for the "slings and arrows" of passing boys.

We entered the building, whose damp and musty-smelling air chilled me,
heated as I was with my long and fatiguing walk, and ascending a
flight of stairs, the boy unlocked the door of a room into which I
passed by his request. The room contained no furniture but half a
dozen chairs, a table, and an old bureau. This last he approached,
unlocked, and taking out entirely one of the drawers, he showed
another smaller one, which was behind the first when that was in
place. Opening this, my eyes were refreshed with a sight of the four
bills, of which I immediately took possession, and thinking it well to
see what further discoveries I could make in this _terra incognita_, I
found a little drawer, concealed like the first one behind another,
and containing two or three hundred dollars in bills, which the
precocious youth confessed to having purloined at different times from
dead letters, which were usually _laid out_ upon tables while the
clerks were making up the dead letter account. It would seem that the
boy thought no more of robbing a dead letter, than do the
camp-followers of plundering dead men after a battle.

After examining the bureau as thoroughly as I was able, and finding no
more of the ill-gotten wealth, I asked my companion whether he had any
more money that did not belong to him, to which inquiry he returned a
negative answer.

The place of concealment was certainly well chosen, for the old house
would be the last place to which any one would think of going, who was
in search for anything valuable. It seemed to me that it was a
particularly fortunate circumstance that the discovery was made at
this time, for he informed me that he had been accumulating the money
found in the bureau with the intention of intrusting it to his uncle,
for the purpose of purchasing some property in Newburgh. This would
have been a rather large operation for a youth of his age! an
operation even worthy of some specimens of Young America at the
present day.

It seemed remarkable to me, as it doubtless has to the reader, that
the boy should have such a remote and strange hiding-place. I
afterwards learned that the house, the back part of which was occupied
by a small family, belonged to an acquaintance of his, and that he
used the room as a place of rendezvous, with some of his companions,
and, as we have seen, as a receptacle for stolen money.

Having accomplished the object of my expedition, I returned light of
heart, though heavy of limb, and communicated the facts as soon as
possible to the Cashier of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank, and to
the post master. The lad was at once arrested, tried, and found
guilty, but in consideration of his youth, and his apparent ignorance
of the extent of his crime, and the recovery of the property, he was
sent to the House of Refuge for three years.

The boy's reformation was permanent, as I have been informed by one
who afterwards knew him, when he had removed to a distant place, and
established a good character. If this was so, (which there is no
reason to doubt,) it furnishes an instance of the salutary effects
arising from early detection in a course of crime, especially to those
who are not yet hardened in iniquity. The whole case, also, shows the
danger of allowing boys, with principles hardly established as yet,
and destitute of that firmness which habit and perseverance bestow, to
occupy responsible stations in large offices, where the apparent
facility for the commission of crime and the temptations offered, too
often subvert the honesty which has not yet ripened into a second



    A sound Principle--A slow Period--A wholesome Law--"Ahead of the
    Mail"--Moral Suasion--Indignant Passengers--Dutch Oaths--A
    Smash--Interesting Trial--A rowdy Constable--The Obstructors

The proper adjustment of the various interests, great and small, which
are involved in the every-day life of a nation like ours, is a problem
not always very easy of solution, yet one of vital importance to the
well-working of the social machine. Indeed, it has ever been an
important part of legislation to determine the relative magnitude of
different interests, both public and private, and to assign to each
its proper place in the scale.

Republican principles require that the less should yield to the
greater--individual convenience to public good. And an excellent
illustration of the practical application of these principles by the
wisdom of Congress, is found in the provisions which that body has
made to secure the uninterrupted transmission of the mails.

It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the vast importance of punctuality
in this branch of the public service. Time, as an element in business
transactions, is increasing in value in proportion to the
multiplication of devices for obtaining the greatest results possible
from each passing moment. An hour in the present year, represents
more--more business--more planning--more results of various kinds,
than did an hour thirty years since.

To take, for instance, the matter of traveling. The state of things no
longer exists which will permit public conveyances to take pretty much
their own time in starting and in arriving at their destinations. That
was a distressingly "slow" period, when horses were in their glory,
and wayside taverns afforded comforts and luxuries which are poorly
replaced by the eating, or rather devouring department of a rail road
depot, where ravenous passengers, like the Israelites of old, are
obliged to dispatch their repast, girded up for flight, at a moment's
notice, instead of comfortably and deliberately sitting down under the
auspices of "mine host," to a meal which deserved more respectful
attention than could be given it in a less space of time than half an
hour; the driver, meanwhile, being easy in his mind on the subject of
"connecting," inasmuch as he, the _connector_, felt quite certain that
the _connectee_ would not leave him in the lurch, as "lee-way" of an
hour or two was allowed, and often required, by the exigencies of
traveling. But since, by the agency of steam, an hour swallows up
thirty miles instead of four or five, minutes become correspondingly
precious, and the locomotive infuses somewhat of its own energy into
every mode of progression.

The inexorable hand of the rail-way clock waits not for dilatory
drivers, and makes no allowances for detention, unavoidable or
otherwise. Here comes in the application of our republican principle.
If it were in the power of any one to delay the progress of the
vehicle containing the mail, to suit his whim or convenience, the
public interests would often be seriously interfered with; and, in
order to prevent such contingencies, the following law was enacted by

    _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall, knowingly
    and wilfully, obstruct or retard the passage of the mail, or of
    any driver or carrier, or of any horse or carriage, carrying the
    same, he shall, upon conviction for every such offence, pay a
    fine not exceeding one hundred dollars; and if any ferryman shall,
    by wilful negligence, or refusal to transport the mail across any
    ferry, delay the same, he shall forfeit and pay, for every ten
    minutes that the same shall be so delayed, a sum not exceeding ten

It is obviously right that the pleasure of an individual should not
weigh for a moment in the balance, with the interests of thousands
depending as they do, in a degree, upon the prompt transmission of
correspondence. Were all the consequences of simply impeded delivery
of important letters to be made known, the record would be a
melancholy one indeed.

In crowded cities especially, through whose streets the mails are many
times a day conveyed to steamboats and rail road stations, it is
particularly important that all obstacles in their way should be
removed; and pains have been taken to make the law on this subject
generally understood, so that at the approach of the wagon bearing the
magic characters "U. S. Mail," the crowd of vehicles which throng the
busy streets, separate to the right and left, and do homage to that
supreme power--the Public Good.

A curious trial under the law I have cited, was held in Boston before
the United States Court, about two years since.

It appears that the regular mail-coach from Worcester to Barre, left
the former place on the afternoon of January 8, about half past four,
full of passengers, and ornamented, as well as distinguished, by the
words "U. S. Mail," painted in conspicuous letters on both sides of
the foot-board.

The passengers were beginning to develope those sparks of sociability
which are elicited by the collisions with one another, and the
stimulus to the brain resulting from sundry jolts inseparable from the
vicissitudes of stage-coach traveling. In other words, the coach had
proceeded about two miles, when, arriving at a place where there was
some ascent in the road, it overtook three one-horse wagons, which
made way for it to pass. Very soon, however, the two occupants of the
hindmost wagon, (whom we will call Stark and Baker,) whipped up their
steed, and rushed by the coach, like some saucy cutter shooting ahead
of a seventy-four. After this demonstration, their horse, having
gained four or five rods on the coach, subsided into a walk.

The correspondingly moderate movements which the driver of the coach
was compelled to adopt, did not very well suit his views, as the icy
road and his heavy load formed a combination of circumstances which
rendered him anxious to make all possible speed, in order to fulfil
the requirements of the U. S. Mail, as well as those of his
passengers. But he was obliged to retain his humble position of
follower to the wagon, for the road at that point was too narrow to
admit of passing, and as no other means of attaining his object were
at his command, he proceeded to try the effect of moral suasion.

"I say, you, there," shouted he to the obstinate couple in the wagon,
who were smoking very much at their ease, and apparently busily
engaged in conversation, "I wish you'd drive on faster, or let me go
by you."

"Couldn't do it," replied the provoking Stark, "unless you'll race."

"It's none of my business to race," returned the driver; "all I want
is to go on."

"Well, let's see you do it, then," said Stark, checking his horse
still more.

They soon came to a wider portion of the road, and the stage driver
attempted to pass the wagon, but was foiled by the dexterous
manoeuvring of Stark, who so accurately adjusted his motions to
those of the stage-coach as to check-mate its presiding genius. Upon
coming to a still wider place, the driver outsailed his persevering
tormentor, and pushed on at a rapid rate, say seven knots an hour,
indulging the sanguine hope that he was rid of his Old Man of the Sea.
But this expectation was short-lived, for, on arriving at a curve in
the road, where it was narrow and icy, he was compelled to "shorten
sail," whereat Stark added wings to his speed, and ran by the
coach, directly afterward reining his horse into a walk as before.


A succession of similar manoeuvres was kept up till the coach
reached Holden, a distance of three or four miles, and during this
time the facetious Stark, not content with these highly aggravating
proceedings, added insult to injury by personal reflections on the
skill of the driver and the character of his horses.

"Hallo, you driver!" shouted he derisively, "why don't you _drive_? If
there's any of your passengers in a hurry, I'll take 'em on, and tell
the folks that you'll be along in the course of a day or two."

To this the driver wisely answered nothing, but his tormentor did not
profit by his example. After some ineffectual attempts on the part of
the U. S. functionary to pass the wagon, which were foiled as before,
Stark again essayed to beguile the time with a further display of his
conversational powers.

"Guess your horses ain't very well trained to keep the road, are they?
They seem to go from one side to the other as if they couldn't draw a
bee-line. May be, though, they are kinder faint, and that's what makes
'em stagger about so. I'll try 'em."

So saying, he proceeded to open a bag which lay in his wagon; and,
taking from it a handful of oats, he allowed the horses to come nearly
up to him, when he held out the grain to them, calling "k'jock,
k'jock," as if he was desirous of enticing them along.

Before this time, the occupants of the coach had become aware of what
was going on, and were naturally highly indignant at the imposition
practised on them by the audacious Stark and his fellow conspirator.
One irascible gentleman did not bear the infliction with as much
equanimity as his "guide, philosopher, and friend," upon the
coach-box; but, every time that the wagon passed the coach, he popped
his head out at the nearest window, and fired at the enemy a volley of
reproachful epithets that could be likened to nothing but the
"nine-cornered Dutch oaths," which on special occasions were wont to
rumble through the gullet of William the Testy, at the hazard of
choking that illustrious individual, as we are assured by the grave
and matter-of-fact historian of New York.

The persevering repetition of the provocation at last excited a degree
of rage in the breast of our peppery friend which could not be allayed
by the expedients we have mentioned. He called out, "Driver, I say,
stop and let me out, and I'll see whether this sort of thing will go
on much longer. Why don't you stop? Do you suppose we are going to
stand this for ever? How the deuse do you think we shall ever get to
Barre, at this rate?"

The driver advised him to keep cool, telling him that very likely they
would get rid of the wagon before long; with which opinion another of
the passengers coincided, who knew the men, remarking that they
belonged in Hubbardston, and would probably turn off at the road
leading to that place. This road was beyond Holden, where the coach
stopped at the public-house. Here the men in the wagon came up, and
expressed a wish to exchange their horse for the four coach-horses,
provided sufficient "boot" were offered them. To this impertinence the
driver made no reply; but the fiery passenger intimated to them that,
if they would come within his reach, he would give them _boot_ enough
to make their accounts _foot up_ even.

After leaving the mail, the coach started out of Holden, preceded by
the wagon, which dodged back and forth along the road as heretofore.
They passed the Hubbardston road, but the men did not turn off; and,
about a mile from Rutland, they made that once-too-often attempt which
such mischievous individuals usually make somewhere along their
course. The patience of the much-enduring driver had become finally
exhausted; and, as the annoying wagon was in the act of passing him,
at a rather narrow place in the road, he drove on without particular
reference to that vehicle, and experimentally tested the relative
strength of the fore wheel of the coach and the body of the wagon. The
latter structure was "nowhere," or, to speak more accurately, it was
resolved into its original elements; while the aforesaid wheel rolled
away uninjured, bearing its share of the triumphant passengers.

The occupants of the smashed vehicle survived the "wreck of matter;"
whether with a whole skin or not, does not appear, as the personal
knowledge of the driver, as stated on the trial, was summed up in the
words, "_I left 'em there!_"

In consequence of the proceedings which have been described, the coach
arrived at Barre an hour and a quarter behind the time.

It having been thought advisable to prosecute these men for
obstructing the mail, a suit was brought against them in the U. S.
District Court of Massachusetts.

The evidence on the part of Government went to show that they must
have known the character of the coach: that it carried the mail, for
the words "U. S. Mail" were conspicuously painted on the coach; and
the sign "Post-Office" was up at the place in Holden where the mail
was taken out, and where they saw the coach stop. Also the men were
known by sight to some of the passengers; and one of them had been a
stage-coach proprietor, and the other had driven a coach. Indeed, one
of the passengers, while they were at Holden, addressed Baker, whom he
knew, by name, and told him "he should think that he had been in the
stage business long enough to know better."

The passengers were unanimous in considering the case as clearly one
of wilful detention.

The testimony for the defence was rather lame. The post master at
Rutland testified that the mail from Worcester was due at 7 P. M.,
though he had known it three-quarters of an hour later. He thought it
arrived, on the evening in question, at 5 minutes past 7; but could
not say certainly that the 8th of January was the night when the mail
arrived at that time, though he had no doubt of it, nor had he looked
at his register since that night. In short, his evidence amounted to
a rough guess, which could make no impression on the Gibraltar of
opposing testimony furnished by a coach full of passengers, as well as
other witnesses.

Another witness for the defence testified that Stark's horse was
"smooth-shod," with the view of establishing the extreme improbability
of the alleged performances, as the road was icy, and rapid motion
therefore hazardous to an animal thus shod. But, as the quadruped in
question was shown actually to have done the thing, this ingenious
theory was set aside, although a slur was thus cast upon Mr. Stark's
character as a prudent driver.

But the crowning shame of Stark's delinquency consisted in the fact
that he was constable and tax-collector of the town of Hubbardston.
History is not without instances of monarchs and others high in
authority, who have descended to the indulgence of freaks inconsistent
with the dignity of their station; and Shakspeare has immortalized the
frolics of Prince Henry. But neither historian nor poet has hitherto
been able to record of a constable and tax-gatherer that he amused
himself with maliciously driving a smooth-shod horse, so as to
obstruct the progress of the United States Mail.

This man, set to be "a terror to evil-doers" should have been a terror
to himself; indeed we may conceive of him as smitten with compunction,
and arresting himself--Stark the constable tapping himself on the
shoulder. At least he should have arrested his own progress, before he
fell from his high estate, and degenerated from a constable into an
unlucky buffoon.

The questions for the jury were, First, Did these men obstruct the
United States Mail? And, secondly, Did they do so knowingly and
wilfully? If they did so obstruct the mail, then as a man is presumed
in law to intend what is the natural and necessary consequence of his
acts, in the absence of controlling testimony otherwise, the inference
would inevitably follow, that their conduct in this affair was the
result of "malice aforethought."

They were both convicted, and sentenced as follows,--Stark, the driver
of the wagon, to a fine of thirty dollars, and Baker to a fine of
fifteen; thus footing up the pretty little sum of forty-five dollars
for their evening's diversion, besides the destruction of their wagon,
which was taken into the account in determining the amount of the

Thus ended this piece of folly, the record of which it is hoped will
serve as a warning to any who may be disposed to try similar "tricks
upon travelers," since they might not get off as easily as did the
pair of worthies, whose brilliant exploit we have briefly sketched.


    A dangerous Mail Route--Wheat Bran--A faithful Mail Carrier--Mail
    Robber shot--A "Dead-head" Passenger.

    An old Offender--Fatal Associate--Robbery and Murder--Conviction
    and Execution--Capital Punishment.

    Traveling in Mexico--Guerillas--Paying over--The Robbers routed--A
    "Fine Young English Gentleman"--The right stuff.

In the early annals of our country, many instances of mail robbery are
found, some of which occasioned the display of great intrepidity and
daring, as the perusal of the following pages will show.

While the country was yet thinly settled, and the mails were
transported on horseback, or in different kinds of vehicles, from the
gig to the stage-coach, often through extensive forests, which
afforded every facility for robbery, the office of stage driver or
mail carrier was no sinecure. Resolute men were required for this
service, who on an emergency could handle a pistol as well as a whip.

Some thirty or forty years ago, a mail-coach ran in the northern part
of the state of New York, through the famous "Chateaugay woods." The
forest was many miles in extent, and common fame and many legends gave
it the reputation of a noted place for freebooters and highwaymen.

One morning the stage driver on this route had occasion to examine his
pistols, and found, instead of the usual charge, that they were loaded
with _wheat bran_! A daring villain had, through an accomplice, thus
disarmed the driver, preparatory to waylaying him. He drew the
charges, cleaned the weapons, and carefully loaded them with powder
and ball.

That afternoon he mounted his stage for his drive through the
Chateaugay woods. There was not a passenger in his vehicle. Whistling
as he went, he "cracked up" his leaders, and drove into the forest.
Just about the centre of the woods a man sprang out from behind a
tree, and seized the horses by the bit.

"I say, driver," said the footpad, with consummate coolness, "I want
to take a look at that mail."

"Yes, you do, no doubt, want to overhaul my mails," replies the
driver; "but I can't be so free, unless you show me your commission.
I'm driver here, and I never give up my mails except to one regularly

"O, you don't, eh? well, here's my authority," showing the butt of a
large pistol partly concealed in his bosom. "Now dismount and bear a
hand, my fine fellow, for you see I've got the documents about me."

"Yes, and so've I," says the driver, instantly leveling his own trusty
weapon at the highwayman.

"O! you won't hurt nobody, I guess; I've seen boys playing soger
before now."

"Just drop those reins," says the keeper of Uncle Sam's mail bags, "or
take the consequences."

"O! now you're joking, my fine lad! but come, look alive, for I'm in a
hurry, it's nearly night."

A sharp report echoed through the forest, and the disciple of Dick
Turpin lay stretched upon the ground. One groan and all was over. The
ball had entered his temple.

The driver lifted the body into the coach, drove to the next stopping
place, related the circumstances, and gave himself up. A brief
examination before a magistrate resulted in his acquittal, and
highwaymen about the Chateaugay woods learned that pistols might be
dangerous weapons, even if they were loaded with wheat bran, provided
they were in the hands of one who knew how to use them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another exciting case occurred near Utica, early in the present
century, when Western and Northern New York was a wilderness.

An old rogue, who had long been steeped in crime, finding his
companions nearly all gone--the prisons and gallows having claimed
their own--and his material resources nearly exhausted, sought for a
profitable alliance. He succeeded in getting into familiarity with a
very young man, son of a gentleman of standing and reputation, a
worthy citizen and an honest man. These two laid their plans for
robbing the mail. Considerable sums of money were known to pass
constantly in the great mail running East and West.

Watching their opportunity, they stopped the coach one night when
there were no passengers. The driver was bold and faithful to his
charge, and made a stout resistance. They tied him to a tree, and
opened the mail. Fearing detection and not obtaining much money, the
veteran villain drew his pistol and shot the poor driver. As in most
criminal transactions, fortune went against the perpetrators. They
were both taken, and sufficient evidence being produced, they were
sentenced to be hanged.

Though there was but one opinion as to the comparative culpability of
the two individuals, no one could say but that both were equally
guilty, in a legal sense, of the murder. Out of respect to the parents
of the young man, great efforts were made to obtain a pardon, but they
were unsuccessful.

Both the sentences were carried into execution. The circumstance gave
rise to a thorough discussion of the policy, the humanity, and the
right or wrong of Capital Punishment. One of the most powerful
arguments ever made against the death penalty, was written by the
father of the younger criminal, and obtained a wide circulation in
pamphlet form.

In the summer of 1851, a company of travelers were seated in the mail
stage that runs from Mexico to Vera Cruz. Marauding parties of
_guerillas_ had often stopped the mail, and when practicable, robbed
the passengers. Sometimes returning Californians, and other travelers,
gave these freebooters a rather warm reception.

On the present occasion there were but three or four passengers, some
of whom were armed with small revolvers. Suddenly a party of mounted
guerillas appeared, nearly a dozen in number, and at once stopped the
coach and ordered the passengers out.

Either from fear or collusion, the drivers never interfere, but remain
neutral. Probably, if they resisted, their lives would pay the
forfeit. The passengers, supposing there was no hope of escape but to
give up their watches and money, commenced "paying over."

A young English gentleman in one corner of the coach, immediately took
up a double-barreled gun and shot the villain at the door of the
coach, and then with the other barrel killed another of the party, by
shooting him off his horse. He then drew a revolver, and jumped out.
The other travelers concluded, like Wellington's reserve at Waterloo,
that they might as well "up and at 'em," and, quite unprepared for
such a reception, the freebooters--the surviving ones--fled with
precipitation. The papers resounded with the praises of "this fine
young English gentleman, all of the modern time."

His father was a distinguished member of Parliament, and soon had the
pleasure of meeting his son, who had been abroad and shown that he was
made of the right kind of stuff for a traveler in a dangerous


    The tender Passion--Barnum's Museum--Little Eva--The Boys in a
    Box--The Bracelet--Love in an Omnibus--Losses explained.

As Shakspeare, after having displayed Falstaff in his ordinary
character of rascal and rowdy in general, represented him as a "lover
sighing like furnace," so we, in the course of our researches among
juvenile delinquents, find that they are sometimes the victims of what
they consider the tender passion. And the ardor excited in their
breasts is not always innocent in its effects, but, as in the case of
"children of an older growth," sometimes leads to the commission of
heinous crime, as is exemplified in the instance we are about to

While the drama of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was running at that Museum of
Natural and _Un_natural History, commonly called Barnum's, four boys,
the eldest apparently about fourteen years of age, were observed night
after night occupying a stage-box in the theatre attached to that
establishment, and watching, with admiring eyes, the movements of the
young lady who represented "Little Eva." Boys are gregarious in their
loves and hates, and it appeared that in the present instance, the
three younger ones were not smitten with the aforesaid damsel, _per
se_, but simply as friends or satellites of their older companion,
accompanying him in that capacity, to encourage him, and witness his
hoped-for triumph over the heart of the young actress, and possibly
for the sake of sharing in the "treats" of various kinds which he
dispensed to favored ones with a lavish hand.

Not content with sighing at a distance for the object of his
affections, and on one occasion making a decided demonstration, by
throwing a gold bracelet upon the stage, intended to encircle her arm,
the enamored youth often watched for his charmer as she descended from
the world of imagination to that of real life,--from the theatrical
stage to that humble, but useful vehicle, an omnibus; and having
ascertained which one was irradiated by her presence, he madly rushed
after, and purchased, with the slight outlay of a sixpence, the
enrapturing consciousness of being included within the narrow walls
that held the mistress of his heart.

But "the course of true love never did run smooth." Sometimes
unfeeling parents obstruct; sometimes "no" is a decided obstacle; but
neither of these was the immediate cause of the rough "course" in the
present instance. It does not appear that our stricken youth had ever
approached near enough to his "bright particular star" to admit of any
confidential disclosure of the state of his feelings; much less had he
opened any negotiations with the "powers that be." The rocks on which
he split were, the manager of the Museum and a police officer!

When the reader is informed that the lad in question was not the son
of wealthy parents, and had, or ought to have had no other pecuniary
resources than those which he derived from his occupation in the
employ of a bookseller, he will readily conjecture whence came the
means for the indulgence of such extravagance and folly as have been
described. Such an unusual occurrence as the hiring of a stage box by
a boy, for several nights in succession (the expense of which was five
dollars a night), attracted the attention and the suspicions of the
manager of the Museum, who sent for the police, and on searching the
boys, an empty envelope, addressed to "S----& Co., Fulton Street," the
employers of our precocious young gentleman, was found upon his
person. It was then ascertained that S---- & Co. had recently lost
several money-letters, and the boy, being the person who took the
letters out of the post-office for the firm, had appropriated the
money to his own use. He was tried before the United States Court, and
sent to the House of Refuge, where, it is to be hoped, he was cured of
indulging his boyish whim at the expense of his employer's money and
his own character.



    Bank Letter lost--The Thief decoyed--Post-Office at
    Midnight--Climbing the Ladder--An exciting Moment--Queer Place of

    A Post Master in Prison--Afflicted Friends--Sighs and Saws--The
    Culprit's Escape--How it was done--A cool Letter--A Wife's

    Moral Gymnastics--Show of Honesty--Unwelcome Suggestion.

    "A hard road to travel"--Headed by a Parson--Lost Time made up--A
    Male overhauled.

    The Invalid Wife--The Announcement--A touching Incident.

During the whole of the author's official career, he has never been
brought into physical conflict with any one, nor exposed to any great
danger in the discharge of his duties. These duties have seldom called
him to undergo "moving accidents by flood and field," excepting so far
as severe weather, dangerous roads, fractious horses, or some other of
the inconveniences and perils incident to the different modes of
traveling, might be classed under that head.

An incident, however, once occurred while I was engaged in
investigating a case of depredation, which may be worthy of record
here, as it is not devoid of a certain picturesqueness, even aside
from the extremely interesting circumstance (to me) that my head, for
a short time, seemed to be in imminent danger.

The case referred to was that of the loss of a letter containing six
hundred dollars, posted by the cashier of a Northern bank. The person,
(a post-office clerk,) whom I suspected of being the robber, was
detected in taking a decoy letter which was placed in his office after
the loss of the one first mentioned. On the strength of this, I boldly
charged him with the first loss, and insisted that he should restore
the money. After the usual assertion of innocence, and some demur, he
intimated to me that the spoils were hidden somewhere in the

This interview was held in the directors' room of the bank which had
suffered the loss, and I immediately proposed that we should go over
to the office and get the money. Accordingly we proceeded thither. It
was then after midnight. As soon as we entered, my companion locked
the door behind us, and preceded me, with a lantern in his hand. A
remark which I made respecting the lonely appearance of a post-office
at that time of night, drew from him nothing but a sullen assent,
which put an end to any further conversational efforts on my part.

The room (or rather recess) in which he lodged, was over that part of
the office devoted to the public, a space in front of the boxes, and
access was had to it by means of a ladder inside the office.

The clerk rapidly ascended this ladder and I followed closely behind,
without a word being spoken by either of us. The apartment, besides
the ordinary furniture of a lodging-room, contained a few shelves of
books, indicating some pursuit more creditable to their owner than
those which had rendered my interference with them necessary. I had
before been told that he was somewhat diligent in the cultivation of
his intellect.

Setting down his lantern upon the table, he reached up and took down a
rifle which was suspended to the wall, directly over his bed, a fit
emblem for one engaged in _rifling_ the mails.

Although the moodiness which he had displayed during our intercourse
that evening, had not surprised me, yet I was by no means prepared to
expect that he would resort to such extreme measures as his movements
seemed to indicate.

I was uncertain what to do. "The better part of valor" being
"discretion," it was by no means clear whether this same discretion
required me to rush upon him, or to make a precipitate retreat down
the ladder, or to jump and disappear in the darkness below. There was
evidently no time to lose, for the deadly weapon was already pointed
in my direction, and its desperate owner was fumbling about the stock,
as if, in the dim light, he could not easily find the lock.

Springing towards him, I seized the rifle by the barrel, remarking,
that I wished he would not turn the muzzle upon me, and then I saw
what he was attempting to do. He had crammed the stolen notes into the
"patch-box" of the rifle, and was endeavoring to get them out, which
he could not readily effect as they were tightly wedged in. I
cheerfully volunteered to assist him, and by our united efforts, the
debt was discharged instead of the rifle! In other words, I recovered
the identical bank-notes, deposited in the office by the cashier
several weeks previously, all in one hundred dollar bills.

The evidence furnished by the "patch-box," was of course amply
sufficient to convict the depredator, had other proof been wanting,
and he was recently sentenced to ten years' imprisonment in the State

       *       *       *       *       *

An ingeniously planned and successfully executed escape of a mail
robber from prison, occurred in Troy, New York, less than a year ago.

This person had held the office of post master in a place of some note
in the Northern part of New York. He was a man of education, and
connected by birth and marriage with some of the most respectable and
influential families in that part of the State, and in the Province of

These favorable circumstances, however, did not prevent him from
becoming seriously embarrassed in his pecuniary affairs, by which he
was led, in an evil hour, to resort to mail depredations, continuing
them until this course was cut short by his detection and arrest. As
he failed to give the requisite bail, he was thrown into prison to
await his trial, which was to take place in the course of a few weeks.

As the efforts which he and his friends had made to secure the
intervention of the Post Master General for postponing the trial were
unavailing, and the direct and positive proof against him made it
certain that he would be doomed to at least ten years' imprisonment at
hard labor, the desperate expedient of breaking jail seemed to be the
only hook left to hang a hope upon.

He occupied a large room, adjoining that of the notorious murderess
Mrs. Robinson, and had for his room-mate a person who had been
committed for some minor offence.

He was frequently visited by his relations, whose high respectability
exempted them from the close examination which should have been made
by the jailor, to ascertain that they carried no contraband articles
on their persons. Respectability in this case, as in many others,
served as a cloak to devices from which rascality derived more benefit
than the cause of justice.

These afflicted friends, in the course of their visits, contrived to
supply the prisoner with the tools necessary to enable him to effect
his escape from "durance vile." Sighs and saws, regrets and ropes,
anguish and augers, were mingled together, supplying both consolation
for the past and hope for the future.

The time selected for the escape was a Sabbath night. The first thing
discovered by the jailor on the next morning, was a rope suspended
from a back-hall window in the second story, and reaching to the
ground, the window being open. On ascending the stairs, he found in
the partition separating the mail robber's room from the hall, an
opening about large enough to admit of the egress of a small person;
and on entering the room but one occupant appeared, who was fast
asleep; but the mail robber was gone.

It was with the utmost difficulty that the sleeper could be aroused.
He was evidently under the influence of some powerful narcotic, as was
fully shown by his replies to the interrogatories of the jailor after
he had sufficiently recovered from his stupefaction to understand what
was said to him.

His story was, that on the previous evening he was complaining of a
severe cold, whereupon his sympathizing room-mate remarked that he had
some medicine that was just the thing for such complaints, and offered
to give him a dose, if he wished to try it. To this the unsuspecting
victim of sharp practice assented; and the amateur "M. D." measured
out a quantity sufficient for the purpose intended, first pretending
to swallow a dose himself, in order to convince his patient that the
medicine was perfectly safe.

One of the last things that the patient remembered on the night in
question, was that about eleven o'clock he was affected by a very
drowsy sensation which he could not overcome, and that he lay down on
his bed to sleep. About this time his attending physician came to him
and inquired "how he felt;" to which he replied, "very sleepy." His
benevolent friend assured him that this was a "favorable sign," and
asserted further that he would be "all right by morning." At the same
time showing his solicitude for his companion's comfort by taking the
pillow from his own bed and placing it under his head.

The cause of these phenomena stood revealed, in the shape of a vial
labeled "Laudanum," which was found upon a table in the room. Near it
lay a note addressed to the jailor, of which the following is a copy.

                                                         Sunday Night.

    Dear Sir,

    Intelligence of a very discouraging nature, informing me that my
    approaching trial is not to be postponed on any account, impels me
    to make my way out of this place to-night.

    Before doing so, however, I have to thank you for your kindness to
    me. I am also indebted to Dr. M. for his attention to my comfort,
    and I regret that interests of the highest importance require me
    to take a step which may lead some people to find fault with you.
    All that I can say about that is, that I have been fortunate in
    eluding your vigilance as a public officer.

    The effects I leave behind me should be sent by express to my
    friends in P----, who no doubt will pay all expenses incurred by
    me while I was with you. Any letters coming here may be forwarded
    to me at P----, that is, after waiting a week when my brother is
    to be at that place.

    With a renewal of my acknowledgments for your goodness, I remain

                                            Respectfully yours,

                                                              A. C. N.

    To J. Price, Esq., Sheriff, &c.

Among the "effects," left behind, were sundry saws, files, and chisels
of the best workmanship and materials; a large roll of putty, to have
been used in concealing the saw-marks, in case a second night's labor
had been required; and a valise containing a variety of books, wearing
apparel, and letters received from his friend during his confinement.
One of them was from his wife, a young, lovely, and accomplished
woman. It is full of love, devotion, and Christian resignation, and
ends as follows:--

    "The dear baby is quite well, and is growing finely every day. She
    is a dear, beautiful child. Oh that God may keep her for us both,
    for she will make us so happy, she binds us so closely together.

    "Here are some lines which I have preserved for some time. They
    have often comforted me, and I hope your feelings are such that
    they may comfort you."


      This blessed truth I long have known,
      So soothing in its hopeful tone--
      Whate'er our trials, cares and woes,
      Our Father's mercy freely flows--
      That on his bosom we may rest,
      For God is good, "His way is best."

      Trouble without and grief within,
      Are the sure heritage of sin;
      And e'en affection's voice may die
      In the last quivering, gasping sigh;
      But what though death our souls distress,
      'Twere better thus--"God's way is best."

      Misfortune's dark and bitter blight
      May fall upon us like the night;
      Our souls with anguish may be torn
      When we are called o'er friends to mourn;
      But what assurance doubly blest,
      To feel that all "God's ways are best."

      Yes, glorious thought! in yonder sky
      Are joys supreme which never die--
      That when our earthly course is run,
      We'll live in regions of the sun;
      And there, upon the Savior's breast,
      We'll sing for aye, "God's way is best."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a doctrine advanced by Mahomet, that all men after death were
obliged to cross a fiery gulf, upon a bridge as narrow as a single
hair. The good always succeeded in effecting their passage safely,
while the wicked were precipitated into the depths below.

This idea might be extended to the present life, by way of
illustrating the difficulties which beset those who follow a criminal
course, and attempt to conceal the fact from the eyes of others. A
step too far, or not far enough, this way or that, is sufficient to
cause them to slip, and this kind of tight-rope balancing is a species
of moral gymnastics, in the execution of which few are successful.

A specimen of this was once furnished me by a post master against whom
serious complaints had been made to the Department, but who was not
aware of the existence of such charges. In the course of several
interviews which I held with him, I gave him not the remotest hint
that I suspected his integrity, yet (probably on the principle of
taking medicine when one is well, or thinks he is, in order to be
better) he resorted to several somewhat original expedients to
establish a character for honesty in my estimation.

The most striking of these was the following:--

As I entered the vestibule of the office one day, he pretended to pick
up a ten dollar note from the floor.

After the usual morning salutation, he said,

"I am in luck, this morning. I just picked up here a ten dollar bill,
and I must see if I can't find the owner;" and he forthwith proceeded
to write a flaming placard, announcing the finding of "a sum of money"
outside the delivery window, and to post it in a conspicuous place.

His singular manner, however, while speaking of the money, and while
engaged in drawing up the notice, attracted my attention, and I became
strongly impressed with the belief that the whole affair was one of
those silly devices which are as effectual in preventing the detection
of those who employ them, as is the device of the ostrich, in hiding
his head under his wing, to conceal him from his pursuer.

It occurred to me, after a little reflection, that I had seen a
well-known merchant in the place hand the post master a ten dollar
note the day previous, in payment for postage stamps. This fact was
confirmed by inquiries which I made of the merchant, who further
informed me that he could recognise the bill if he should see it
again, from the initials which it bore of a correspondent, who had
sent it to him by mail a few days before. Having ascertained what
these initials were, ("C. P.,") I took occasion to examine the note,
(which the post master had rather ostentatiously laid aside in a
drawer, to be ready for the _owner_ whenever he should claim it,) and
found the "C. P." upon it.

After the notice of the finding had been posted some twenty-four hours
without the appearance of any claimant, I suggested to the _honest_
finder, by way of annoying him a little in return for his attempted
deception, that as the money was found within the post-office limits,
the Department would probably require that it should pass into the
United States Treasury, in the same way as funds contained in dead
letters for which no owners can be found.

This view of the case did not seem to strike him favorably. He looked
blank, but attempted to pass it off as a joke, by saying that he
didn't know that the post-office was a dead letter.

The next morning the placard had disappeared, and the post master
informed me that a stranger had called late on the evening before, who
claimed and described the bill, and to whom it was accordingly

The termination of this case fully confirmed my opinion of the post
master's double-dealing in relation to this affair.

       *       *       *       *       *

It sometimes happens that the ends of justice are best secured by
allowing criminals to go on for a time unmolested in their course, and
even by affording them facilities for the commission of offences,
which will be to them as snares and pitfalls. When means like these
are adopted for the detection of crime, a temporary check to the
operations of the suspected persons, from whatever cause arising,
creates some additional trouble and anxiety to those who are
endeavoring to ferret out the evil-doer, and provokes a degree of
exasperation toward his unconscious abettor.

Such an untimely interference with plans carefully laid, and carried
out at a considerable expense of time and effort, once occurred while
the author was attempting to bring to light an unscrupulous
depredator, in whose detection the public was much interested, as many
had suffered by the loss of money sent through his office.

I had been hard at work for a week in pursuing this investigation,
having for the third time passed decoy letters over the road on which
the suspected office was situated, (the road being one of the roughest
kind, about forty miles in length, and very muddy,) and was flattering
myself that _that_ day's work would enable me to bring my labors to a
conclusion satisfactory to the public and myself, if not to the
delinquent; when my hopes were, for the time, dashed to the ground by
the innocent hand of the village parson.

And it happened in this wise:--

The mail carrier was instructed to throw off his mail, as usual, at
the suspected office, and to remain outside, in order to afford the
post master a good opportunity for the repetition of the offence which
he was supposed to have committed, the Agent being all the time a mile
or two in advance, in another vehicle, impatiently waiting to learn
the fate of his manoeuvres.

As the part of the road where I was stationed, was in the midst of
woods, and the carrier had no passengers, no particular caution was
needed in conducting the conversation, and before my associate had
reached me, he called out,

"I guess you'll have to try it again; the Dominie was there and helped
to overhaul the mail to-day."

The sportsman, who, having just got a fair sight at the bird which he
has been watching for hours, beholds it, startled by some blunderer,
flying off to "parts unknown;" the angler, who, by unwearied
painstaking, having almost inveigled a "monarch of the pool" into
swallowing his hook--sees a stone hurled by some careless hand,
descending with a splash, and putting an end to his fishy
flirtation;--these can imagine my feelings when the mail carrier made
the above announcement.

"Confound the Dominie," involuntarily exclaimed I, "why couldn't he
mind his own business?"

I examined the mail bag, but nothing was missing except the matter
that properly belonged to that office.

But at the next trial, the parishioner did not have ministerial aid in
opening his mail, and accordingly, probably by way of indemnifying
himself for his forced abstinence, he not only seized the decoy
package, but several others.

The following day, instead of overhauling the mail, he was himself
thoroughly overhauled by an United States Marshal.

A man of such weak virtue, should hire a "dominie" by the year, to
stand by and help him resist the devil, during the process of opening
the mails.

Not the least painful of the various duties connected with the
detection of crime, is the sometimes necessary one of revealing a
husband's guilt to his wife.

I anticipated a severe trial of my feelings in making such a
disclosure during the progress of a recent important case where the
mail robber was in possession of a mail-key by means of which he had
committed extensive depredations. He was at length detected, and has
lately entered upon a ten years' term in the State Prison.

On his arrest he manifested much solicitude for his wife, fearing that
the intelligence of his situation would overpower her. "She is in
feeble health at best," said he, "and I am afraid this will kill her."

It was necessary, however, that I should see her in order to get
possession of some funds, a part of the proceeds of the robberies,
which her husband had committed to her keeping. Furnished with a
written order from the prisoner, and leaving him in the Marshal's
custody, I proceeded to call on the invalid, racking my brains while
on the way to her residence, for some mode of communicating the
unpleasant truth which should disclose it gradually, and spare her
feelings as much as possible.

On my arrival at the boarding-house, the note was sent to the lady's
room. It read as follows:--

    My dear Susan:

    Will you hand to the bearer a roll of bank-notes which I left with


The lady soon made her appearance. She was young, rather
prepossessing, and evidently in delicate health. Finding that I was
the bearer of the note, she addressed me, expressing great surprise
that her husband had sent a request so unusual; and with an air of
independence observed that she did not "know about paying over money
under such circumstances to an entire stranger."

Desiring not to mortify her unnecessarily by making explanations in
the presence of others, I requested her to step into a vacant room
near at hand, and after closing the door, I said in a low tone,

"It is an extremely painful thing for me, Mrs. M----, but as you do
not seem inclined to comply with your husband's order, I must tell you
plainly that the money was taken from the mails by him. There is no
mistake about it. He has had a mail-key which I have just recovered,
and has made a full acknowledgment of his numerous depredations. I beg
of you to bear this dreadful news with fortitude. No one will think
less of you on account of his dishonest conduct."

I expected to see the poor woman faint immediately, and had mentally
prepared myself for every emergency, but, a moment after, _I_ should
have been more likely to have fallen into that condition, if
astonishment could ever produce such an effect, for as soon as I had
finished what I was saying, she stood, if possible, more erect than
before, and with some fire in her eye, and one arm 'akimbo,' she
replied in a spirited manner,

"Well, if he _has_ done that, he's a dam'd fool to own it--_I_

She gave up the money, however, soon after, and although the
recklessness displayed in the speech above quoted seemed to make it
probable that she was implicated in her husband's guilt, it afterwards
appeared that this exhibition of "spunk" was due to the impulses of a
high-spirited and excitable nature, which sometimes, as in the present
instance, broke away from control, and went beyond the bounds of
decorum. Such an ebullition of passion indicated, in her case, a less
degree of moral laxity than it would have shown in one differently

In a subsequent examination of their apartment in search of other
funds and missing drafts, a touching incident occurred, strikingly
displaying, when taken in connection with the outbreak just
mentioned, the lights as well as shades of an impulsive character.

During this examination, it became necessary to investigate the
contents of a well-filled trunk, and this was done by the lady
herself, under my supervision. After several layers of wearing apparel
had been taken out, she suddenly paused in her work, and wiped away a
falling tear, as she gazed into the trunk. Thinking that some
important evidence of her husband's crimes was lurking beneath the
garments remaining, and that her hesitation was owing to reluctance on
her part to be instrumental in convicting him, I reached forward and
was about to continue the examination myself, when she interposed her
arm and said sobbingly,

"Those are the little clothes of our poor baby,--they haven't been
disturbed since his death, and I can't bear to move them."

A second glance into the trunk confirmed her sad story, for there were
the little shoes, scarcely soiled, the delicately embroidered skirts
and waists,--all the apparel so familiar to a mother's eye, which, in
its grieving remembrance of the departed child,

    "Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form."

A similar affliction had taught me to appreciate the sacredness of
such relics, and I waited in sympathizing silence, until she could
command her feelings sufficiently to continue the search.

She soon resumed it, and the contents of the trunk were thoroughly
examined, yet none of the lost valuables were found therein.



    Sad Perversion of Talent--Increase of Roguery--Professional Men
    suffer--Young America _at_ the "Bar"--Papers from Liverpool--The
    Trick successful--A legal Document--Owning up--A careless
    Magistrate--Letters from the Un-duped.

    Victimizing the Clergy--A lithograph Letter--Metropolitan
    Sermons--An up-town Church--A Book of Travels--Natural
    Reflections--Wholesome Advice.

    The Seed Mania--_Strong_ Inducements--Barnes' Notes--"First rate
    Notice"--Farmer Johnson--Wethersfield outdone--Joab missing.

    "Gift Enterprise"--List of Prizes--The Trap well baited--Evading
    the Police--The _Scrub_ Race.

An incalculable amount of talent is perverted to dishonest purposes,
thereby becoming a gift worse than useless to its possessors, and a
fruitful source of evil to the community. Such misemployed ability is
like the "staff of life," turned by a magic worse than Egyptian, into
the serpent of death. And the brilliancy which surrounds the
successful development of some deep-laid plan of knavery--the
admiration which it involuntarily excites, in the mind even of those
who abhor the deed, and condemn the cunning designer, render such
misdirected powers doubly dangerous, by exciting in the weak-minded
and evil-disposed a desire to emulate such wonderful achievements, and
to become notorious, if they cannot make themselves famous.

It cannot be denied that a considerable degree of talent is requisite
to insure success, even in a course of knavery; and by success I mean
nothing more than that longer or shorter career, which ends, if not
always in detection, certainly in disappointment and misery. Success,
then, in this connection, signifies putting off the evil day--a day
which is as sure to come as any other day. Time is an enemy which no
rogue can ever outrun.

Even such pitiful success as this is not within the grasp of small
abilities. The possessors of such moderate endowments will find it
emphatically true, that Honesty is the best policy for them, however
brilliant and seductive a dishonest course may be.

When Shakspeare wrote, "Put money in thy purse," he probably did not
intend to exhort any one to pocket another's money, but to confine
himself to that which he actually possessed. But, judging by the
number and variety of the ingenious frauds which are practised upon
the community, the saying in question seems to have been adopted in
its most unscrupulous sense as a principle, by sundry personages, more
remarkable for smartness than for honesty. Not a few of these
characters have selected the mails as the means of facilitating their
designs upon the pockets of the public at large.

"But this sort of thing is becoming too prevalent," as a worthy
magistrate was in the habit of remarking, when about to sentence some
pick-pocket or disturber of the peace; and if the devices of the class
of villains referred to continue to increase as they have done for
years past, semi-annual sessions of the legislative branch of
Government will scarcely suffice for the enactment of penalties to
meet the increasing exigencies of the case.

There is no end to the gross swindles of this description now
perpetrated or attempted, and requiring the utmost care and
watchfulness on the part of the public to avoid being deceived by
them. No class nor condition in society is exempt from these wiles;
the most intelligent and shrewd being victimized quite as often as the
credulous and inexperienced.

Lawyers, clergymen, editors, farmers, and even post masters, have all
in turn been swindled by means of facilities afforded by the
post-office system, the frauds ranging in magnitude and importance,
from imaginary papers of onion seed, to "calls" for ministerial aid in
the momentous work of converting "a world lying in wickedness!"

It is with a view to put those who may peruse these pages on their
guard, that a few rare specimens of the tricks of these "Jeremy
Diddlers" are here exposed, most of which have come to light within a
few months of this present writing.

The first that we will describe, was perpetrated quite successfully
upon the legal fraternity, and some of the most distinguished members
of that highly useful profession in the different States, will no
doubt readily recognise the truthfulness of the picture, as it is held
up to their gaze. This "dodge" may properly be entitled


In January of the present year, the post master of Brooklyn, N. Y.,
called my attention to the fact that large numbers of letters were
arriving at that office to the address of "William H. Jolliet," and
that from some information he had received, he was led to believe that
the correspondence was in some way connected with a systematic scheme
of fraud.

Arrangements were accordingly made to watch the person who was in the
habit of inquiring for the "Jolliet" letters, and the next time he
called, which was in the evening, he was followed as far as the Fulton
ferry, detained just as he was about to enter the ferry-boat, and
questioned in reference to the letters.

The person thus interrogated was an exceedingly intelligent boy, about
fifteen years of age, plainly but neatly dressed, and of prepossessing
manners, particularly for one so young. When asked what he intended to
do with the letters he had just taken from the post-office, he
manifested great self-possession, and apparently anticipating trouble,
without allowing an opportunity for a second question, he hurriedly

"Why, what about this business? I have been thinking there might be
something wrong about Jolliet's letters. I am a student in a
respectable law-office in Now York, and would not like to be involved
in any trouble of this sort. I can tell you, sir, all I know about
these letters."

As his explanation will hereafter appear in full, suffice it here to
say, that he threw the entire responsibility upon a stranger whom he
accidentally met in the Harlem cars. The story was told with much
apparent frankness, and a gentleman passing along who knew the lad,
and confirmed his statement as to his connection with a prominent
law-office in New York, he was allowed to go at large, under a promise
that at an appointed hour on the following day, he would call on the
Brooklyn post master, explain the matter more fully, and put him in
possession of facts which would enable the officers to arrest Jolliet,
if that was thought best.

The appointed time arrived, but the young man did not. A rather
voluminous package of papers, however, was sent as a substitute. These
papers are so well worded, and so formally drawn up, that I will here
introduce two of them _verbatim._ The reader will bear in mind that
they are the production of a boy only fifteen years of age:--

                                    New York, January 26, 1855, 12, M.

    Post Master, Brooklyn, L. I.

        Dear Sir:

    Being detained by important court business from attending to my
    promise given to you yesterday to be at your office, I am obliged
    to write to you. I enclose a statement of facts which I think
    sufficient to get a warrant. It is sworn to by me before a
    Commissioner of Deeds of New York, authorized to take
    acknowledgments for the State.

    I saw Mr. Jolliet yesterday evening. He does not suspect anything.
    I told him that the mails had not arrived when I was over to
    Brooklyn, yesterday; and, in course of the conversation, he told
    me _he would take a sleigh ride to Snediker's on Saturday_.
    Therefore, it is important you should _get a warrant, and take him
    upon that day_. He also told me he would have a white sleigh, a
    white robe, and a cream-colored pair of horses. You can easily
    know him. I will be over, if no accident intervenes, to-morrow,
    say about 11 or 12 o'clock. I tracked him to the Manhattan
    bar-room in Broadway, but could not find out his residence, as he
    stayed too late. I think he is connected with a gang of rascals
    who have made this kind of rascality their special business.

    I am acquainted with the District Attorney in this city, and have
    thought of getting him to bring the case before the grand jury,
    and get a bench warrant out in New York against Jolliet, in case
    you should think it advisable.

    Meanwhile, I will remain still about the matter until I hear from
    you again.

                                                    Yours, very truly.

Annexed is the statement of facts alluded to above:--

    _Statement of Facts_. A.

    During the month of November or December, 1854, I became
    acquainted with a man whom I knew by the name of William H.
    Jolliet. He seemed to be about 25 or 30 years of age, and, by his
    dialect, of English parentage; he was genteelly dressed, and
    seemed to be a gentleman by his talk and manners. He came to know
    me from often seeing me on the cars of the New York and Harlem
    Rail Road, and often talking to me. I am in the habit of doing
    copying, &c., for pay, and therefore was willing to do anything in
    that way, under the usual circumstances--that is, for pay.

    He asked me one day if I was a man of business. I told him I was.
    He then asked me if I could make a copy of a note he had in his
    pocket, and show it to him the next time I should meet him, and
    not to say anything about it to anybody. I told him I would. He
    gave it to me, and it was something as follows--that is,

                                        Brooklyn, L. I., Jan. 6, 1855.


    I have received a package of papers for you from Liverpool,
    England, with six shillings charges thereon--on receipt of which
    amount the parcel will be sent to you by such conveyance as you
    may direct.

                                    Yours, respectfully,

                                                   WILLIAM H. JOLLIET.

    I met him one or two days afterwards, and gave him his original,
    and my copy. He said it was very well done, but looked too much
    like a law-hand, and asked me if I couldn't write more of a
    mercantile-looking hand. I told him I supposed I could. He then
    gave me my copy, and told me to buy some paper, and make as many
    copies as I could, and direct them one to each of the names he
    gave me on a list, and mail them. I told him I would. This was on
    a Saturday evening; and on Sunday afternoon I wrote about a
    hundred copies of them, and directed them and sent them. I met him
    on Monday, and he asked me if I had done it. I told him I had; he
    then asked for the list of names he had given me, and I handed it
    to him. He asked if I knew the names I had directed the letters
    to. I told him I did not, although I did well, my suspicions about
    him having been aroused by his request for secrecy.

    On that Sunday on which I wrote the notes, I made up my mind to
    play traitor to him, by sending the notes as directed, and keeping
    all answers which he should get (he having told me to call for
    them at the Brooklyn Post Office), and then delivering them, with
    my evidence, to officer B----, in New York, whom I know well by
    reputation as a good officer, and an American in fact and
    principle. This was foiled by my disclosures to the Post Master of
    Brooklyn, on Thursday.

    At the time he asked me to make the copies of the note, he gave me
    a five-dollar gold piece, to defray expenses. I have kept a copy
    of the list he gave me, and also of another which he had given me,
    and which I returned in the same way. I have mailed about 200
    letters in all. At the time he ordered me to make the copies of
    the letter and mail them, he requested me to make a letter and
    direct it to him at Brooklyn, and mail along with the others. I
    did so, but I asked him what this was for, and he said he wanted
    to know how long it would take for a letter to go from New York to
    Brooklyn. But I did not believe him, and this formed part of the
    causes for my suspicions. I afterwards received the letter, I
    think it was Tuesday, and gave it to him. At the time of my first
    mailing the letters, I dropped, by carelessness, a list of the
    names of persons to whom they were directed, along with them.
    Could this list be got, it would tell us a great deal about the
    transaction, and then we could have a complete list of all the
    persons addressed. It was dropped in one of the three new boxes on
    the south-west corner of the New York Post-Office.

    I have seen him since he first spoke to me about this affair, five
    or six times, (once on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and
    twice on Wednesday, I believe.) He lives in Harlem, I think. I
    don't know anything further of interest, and close with the ardent
    wish, that a King's county officer will get the credit of catching
    one of the greatest scoundrels that ever lived, thereby ridding
    the community of him.

                                                              G. H. B.

    City of Brooklyn,

        County of Kings, ss,

    G. H. B----, of the city of New York, student at law above named,
    being duly sworn, doth depose and say that he has read the
    foregoing statement, and knows the contents thereof, and that the
    same is true of his own knowledge.

                                                              G. H. B.

    Sworn before me this
      26th January, 1855.

              B. T. B----,
                Comr. of Deeds.

Being satisfied that a young lad of sufficient abilities to compose
these documents in such a style, could not have been made the innocent
dupe of any one, especially a stranger, I determined to lay the whole
matter before his employer, a prominent member of the New York bar. He
had heard nothing of it before, and was much pained to hear my
narration, for he was warmly attached to the young student, who, up to
that time had enjoyed his entire confidence, and for whose improvement
and legal education he had taken unusual pains.

A moment's reference to the Law Register, a work containing the names
and residences of all the members of the legal profession in every
State in the Union, and to be found in almost every law office, showed
the source whence he had obtained the list which had been "dropped by
carelessness" into the post-office, for pencil marks appeared against
the names of most of the _country_ lawyers, but including none of
those that had ever been correspondents of the firm with which he was

The opinion that there was no accomplice, nor even principal, in the
case, beyond the boy himself, was fully coincided in by his employer,
and it was at once decided to call the lad up for a private

I thought, as he entered the room, cap in hand, and with an air of
perfect _nonchalance_, that I had seldom seen a more expressive and
intelligent countenance. His high forehead, adorned with graceful
curls of brown hair, his full and laughing eye, and the regular
features of his face, seemed made for some better use than to delude
unwary victims.

"George," said his employer, "what do these Jolliet letters mean, that
you have been sending all over the country?"

_Boy._--"I will tell you all I know about it, sir. Some weeks since,
as I was coming in town one morning, in the Harlem cars, a man calling
himself Jolliet----"

_Agent._--"Stop, George, and hear me a moment before you go further.
We don't want to hear that story. We know there is no such person as
Jolliet, and if you go on with such a statement before Mr. F.," (his
employer,) "your pride will render it harder for you to make the
acknowledgments that I know you must come to. You have had no
accomplice, and if you will bring me the Law Register, I will show you
where you got the names of the lawyers to whom you sent the letters."

_Mr. F._--"Now, George, you see that Mr. H. knows all about it, and I
hope you will not attempt to deny the truth. I am deeply pained to
find that you have been guilty of such misdemeanors; and I trust, for
your own sake, that you will make a clean breast of it."

After a pause of a few moments, the young man acknowledged, that,
being "hard up," he had resorted to this plan to obtain funds, and
that he knew no such person as "William H. Jolliet."

_Agent._--"How then could you have sworn to the statement you sent to
the Brooklyn post master? You must have been aware that in so doing,
you were committing perjury."

_Boy._--"Ah! but I did not swear to it. My name is attached to the
affidavit, it is true, but having prepared it beforehand, I spoke to
the Commissioner just as he was leaving the officer, and he signed
it, but in his hurry he forgot to administer the oath."

_Agent._--"But that omission must have been merely accidental.
Supposing he had required the usual ceremony, what would you have

_Boy._--"I have so often seen him omit it, that I took that risk. If
he had insisted, I should have backed out."

Subsequent inquiry satisfied me that the Commissioner in question,
having often had occasion to sign affidavits for the young man, in the
course of the office business, was not always particular in
administering the oath, and that it was no doubt neglected in the
present instance.

The punishment inflicted in this case, was all that the most indignant
victim of the fraud would have demanded; and there is reason to
believe that a permanent reformation in the character of the young man
has been the result; and that the rare talents which he possesses,
will yet be found arrayed on the side of honesty and virtue.

Answers to the Jolliet letters continued to arrive from all parts of
the country, for some time after the discovery of the fraud, as here
related. The letters that had accumulated in the Brooklyn Post Office,
were sent to the Dead Letter Office, opened, and subsequently returned
to their respective owners, with their contents, accompanied by a
proper explanation.

In nearly every instance, the dodge had been successful. The six
shillings, or that amount in postage stamps, were duly enclosed; and,
in some instances a dollar, to make even change, with directions for
forwarding the mysterious package.

Such an unexpected notice had no doubt given rise in many cases to
sundry visions of heavy fees, which were to flow in upon the fortunate
correspondent of Jolliet, for conducting the business of some wealthy
capitalist of the old world, who, attracted by his professional fame,
was about to confide to him matters of great weight and
importance--perhaps some complicated law-suit, the successful issue of
which would bring him a wealth of reputation and money, compared with
which the outlay of six shillings was an item too contemptible to be

Or some sanguine individual might scent out a legacy in the "package
from Liverpool."

People were dying every day in England, whose heirs lived in this
country. It was not very unusual for persons to inherit immense
fortunes from those whose names they had never heard. It might make
the difference of thousands of dollars to a man whether his name was
Brown or White, when some possessor of one or the other name came to
leave his property behind him. And it would be a pity to lose the
chance of securing a handsome property for one's self, or the
opportunity of acting as agent for somebody else, though the whole
affair might prove but a hoax, and the chance of thus finding a
fortune rather less than the prospect of drawing a prize in a "gift

It was amusing to peruse the letters which the Agent received from
those who had been swindled, acknowledging the safe return of the
letter and money which they had sent to Jolliet. Most of them were
"well satisfied" when they sent the money, "that it was all a hoax,"
but then it was a small sum that he applied for, and they thought they
would send it to the fellow for the ingenuity he had displayed in
"raising the wind!" All, however, seemed very glad to get their money
again, even at the risk of allowing such talent to go unrewarded.

Some wary old heads, too acute to be caught by such chaff, took the
precaution to request Jolliet to call on their friends in New York,
leave the package, and get the six shillings. Another directed that it
should be left at the Express Office, the expenses paid there, and
when the parcel arrived, the entire charges would be promptly met.

Two or three, not content with informing Jolliet that he had not taken
them in, indulged in a somewhat sarcastic style of correspondence. The
following are two specimens of this kind of reply:--

                                                  P----, Feb. 2, 1855.

    Mr. Wm. H. Jolliet,


    I am in receipt of a note from you, informing me that you have in
    your possession a package for me from Liverpool, Eng., on which
    there is a charge of 6s. sterling, and which you will send to me
    on receipt of the above sum.

    Sir, I cannot but think it a little strange that my large circle
    of friends and correspondents in Liverpool (a circle which may be
    represented thus, 0) should have thought it necessary for parcels
    which they send me, to pass through your hands, unless you have
    some connection with the friends aforesaid, unknown to me. Before
    I send you the _sterling_ money, I should like answers of the like
    quality, to some or all of the following interrogatories:--

    1st. Who are you?

    2d. Who knows you?

    3d. Who do you know?

    4th. Is "Wm, H. Jolliet" the name given you in baptism?

    5th. Wouldn't you receive less than six shillings, if you could
    get it?

    6th. Do you think you have taken me in?

    7th. After reading the above, please inform me whether you remain
    _Jolly yet_.

    Not your victim,

                                                           JNO. S----.

                                                 H----, Jan. 28, 1855.


    I know I am ambitious. I have my aspirations. My fame may be
    extending. Perhaps it is, I had thought it was local; confined to
    this county, certainly to the State. But it seems that I am known
    abroad, and you wish me to pay the moderate sum of seventy-five
    cents for verifying the fact. Sir, I am an Anglo-Saxon. I rejoice
    in it. And I don't doubt that somewhere between Adam's time and
    mine, some of my progenitors have inhabited England. But I believe
    they have all died or moved away. So you see it isn't likely that
    I have any relations in Liverpool, whence came the package you say
    is in your hands.

    In the next place, sir, living as I do in an inland town, I know
    little of those "who go down to the sea in ships." (David, Psalms,
    Cap. 107.) And all my particular friends are in this country,
    according to the best of my knowledge and belief. But no others
    than the individuals I have cited, would be likely to send me
    packages from foreign lands. It therefore follows, sir, that the
    aforesaid package is not _in rerum natura_. I shall be happy to
    receive from you any facts which may vitiate this conclusion.

                        Pending this, I remain yours, &c.,

                                                            ED. B----.

    Mr. Wm. H. Jolliet.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have allowed the lawyers to lead off in the melancholy procession
of victims of rascality which we have undertaken to display to our
readers; and it is our design, in marshaling our regiment of "the
Great Deluded," to place the clergy second in order. Lawyers are (or
ought to be) hard-headed, with little faith in mankind at large; while
it is the general characteristic of clergymen to be soft-hearted, and
to trust, sometimes "not too wisely, but too well," in the integrity
of their fellow men. In addition to the weak points which they may
have in common with all, and through which they are liable to be
successfully assailed, the cultivation of that spirit of charity which
"thinketh no evil" makes them slow in suspecting villanous designs on
the part of others; and renders them an easy prey to those who are
unscrupulous enough to use their unsuspecting disposition as a means
of carrying into effect their own base purposes.

In making these remarks, we are far from wishing to cast any slur upon
the native shrewdness or penetration of the clergy, which would be
unjust to them, (for there are few keener intellects than those that
are possessed by some who are members and ornaments of this body,) but
our object is simply to mention some of the causes which often make
them the victims of imposition. Many of them, especially those who
live in the country, occupied as they are with the duties of their
calling, in the retired life of the study, and in intercourse with the
comparatively honest and virtuous community in which their lot is
cast, are somewhat secluded from the world at large, and know little,
except by report, of the innumerable forms of deceit and iniquity that
people enact, who live outside of their own quiet boundaries. This is,
perhaps, less generally true at the present time than it was years
ago, before the increased facilities for communication had given equal
facilities to rogues, who have chosen our large cities as a field for
their nefarious operations, and have extended them, by means of the
mails, to the remotest corners of the country.

The trick which we are about to describe was attempted on a large
scale, and the trap set for unwary clergymen was sprung in almost
every section of the country, with considerable success, though some
of the intended victims were too wary to be thus swindled.

The trap alluded to was in the form of a letter, of which the
following is a copy:--

                                     New York, Sunday, March 18, 1855.

    Brother P----:

    Being at leisure this afternoon, and somewhat wearied rather than
    refreshed by the morning's discourse of our respected pastor, I
    have concluded to sit down and write you, though utterly
    unacquainted save in that sympathy which persons of like
    temperament involuntarily feel toward one another.

    It is the apparent coldness and formality of our metropolitan
    sermons that has led me, by a pleasant contrast, to think of you.
    I heard you once, while passing through your place--a sermon that
    has many times recurred to my memory, though its calm piety and
    deep perception of human nature may be weekly occurrences to your
    congregation. I have several times thought it would be well for
    our church to call on you for a trial here. Our house is wealthy,
    and "up town," though that is no matter.

    I had almost given up the idea, when it was forcibly returned to
    me yesterday by seeing a notice of you in the new publication of
    travels through the States; in which I see the writer has heard
    you, and was so impressed that he gives a strong description of
    you and your style, so well according with my views, that I feel
    confirmed in my opinion of you. You have probably seen it. And,
    aside from any vanity at praise in print, or any pain at his
    censure, (for he finds fault, too,) I think a preacher cannot too
    much study his style, in duty to his Master and his people, by
    learning all he can of his hearers' views of him, if not for the
    praise at least for the blame.

    So you see I yet hope to sit under your ministrations. I wish you
    would write me, immediately, what you think of coming here, if I
    propose you. My bell has just rung for tea, and I close hastily,
    wishing you success in any field, and "many souls as seals of your

                                      Yours, in the Lord,

                                                      A. D. CONNELSON.

    P. S.--If you have not seen the notice of you, (in the book I
    alluded to,) I will get it for you. I believe it sells at a dollar
    and a half, or thereabouts.

                                            I close in haste,

                                                              A. D. C.

Here is an instance of one who

    "Stole the livery of Heaven
    To serve the devil in."

The author of this production, which was lithographed, leaving only a
space after the commencing word "Brother," for the insertion of the
name of the person addressed, was signed in some copies as above, and
in others by the name of "W. C. Jansing."

We can easily imagine the effect of such an artful, flattering epistle
upon the mind of some unsuspecting and humble country pastor, whose
chief ambition had hitherto been to minister to the spiritual wants of
his little congregation, and who had never before indulged the thought
of receiving a "call" to the attractions and responsibilities of a
city pastor's life. He taxes his memory in vain to recollect upon what
occasion any stranger, who might represent the devout Connelson, had
been present during his Sabbath services, and in like manner fails to
recall any reminiscences of the author, who, in his "Travels through
the States," had also heard him, and was "impressed" so remarkably in
accordance with Mr. Connelson's "views." His opinion of his own
abilities having been elevated several degrees by the united testimony
of two such competent witnesses, he begins to think that after all,
it is not so very improbable that he should be thought of as a
candidate for that "wealthy" and "up-town church."

"Was not the distinguished Dr. L---- called from as small a place as
this, to the charge of a large city congregation? And I remember that
his abilities did not use to be so much superior to mine."

With reflections like these, he works himself into a state of mind
that would prevent any surprise, were he some day to be waited on by a
committee from the church aforesaid, with the request that he would
favor the congregation with a specimen of his preaching, with the
additional view of securing the "pleasant contrast" to the "apparent
coldness and formality of metropolitan sermons," that might result
from his ministrations. At any rate, it would be gratifying to him to
see for himself, what the traveling critic had said of him and his
sermons; not that he cared particularly about the opinion, so far as
he himself was concerned, but he would like to have his people know
that their minister had attracted the attention of distinguished
characters from abroad. So he replies to his spontaneous
correspondent, intimating that he should have no objection to taking
charge of the "up-town" church; and enclosing a dollar and a half, to
purchase the book of travels, which he does, not without misgivings
that he is sacrificing too large a portion of his slender salary, for
indulgence in the anticipated luxury.

It is almost needless to add, that the dollar and a half went to the
"bourne from which no _traveler_ returns," and that our clergyman did
not, in this instance, display "that deep perception of human nature,"
which so often recurred to the mind of the admiring Connelson.

The operations of this worthy were soon stopped by the New York post
master, who, having received letters from some of the shrewder members
of the reverend body, enclosing the above epistle, gave the matter in
charge to the police, whose movements alarmed the rogue, and blew up
the cheat, before many letters containing money had arrived. Enough
came, however, to show that had he not been disturbed, he would have
feathered his nest comfortably with the spoils of those whom he had

These letters, remaining uncalled for, became "dead" in due course of
time, and were returned with their contents to their authors;
doubtless refreshing the heart of many a sorrowing minister, who
supposed that he had seen the last of his money, and had given up all
hopes of receiving the promised _quid pro quo_.

I insert as a sort of epistolary curiosity, a letter addressed to
Connelson by one of his intended victims, which was sent under cover
to the New York post master, with the request that he would read and
deliver it, if he knew the whereabouts of the person alluded to.

                                               "F----, March 23, 1855.

    "Mr. A. D. Connelson.


    "I am in receipt of a communication from you, of the 18th inst.,
    of whose flattering contents I have reason to believe that I am
    not the only recipient; as I am not ignorant of the fact that the
    art of lithography can be employed to multiply _confidential_
    letters to any extent. If, as you state, you have at any time
    heard a discourse from my lips, I regret that the principles which
    it inculcated have produced so little impression upon your
    actions, especially as it has 'many times recurred to your

    "There are truths, sir, in addition to those you may have heard on
    the occasion referred to, (if there ever was any such occasion,)
    which, judging from the apparent object of your letter, it might
    be profitable for you to recall. I would recommend to your
    attention the truth contained in the following saying of the wise
    man:--'The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, is a vanity
    tossed to and fro of them that seek death.'--_Prov._ 21, 6.

    "You have expressed a hope 'to sit under' my 'ministrations.' I
    trust you will be profited by the few words I now address to you,
    and if you feel any disappointment in failing to find the expected
    'dollar and a half, or thereabouts,' you will have to console
    yourself with the reflection, 'How much better is it to get wisdom
    than gold? and to get understanding rather to be chosen than
    silver?'_Prov._ 16, 16. I give you the references to the passages
    quoted that you may ruminate on them at your Sabbath's 'leisure,'
    which I hope will hereafter be more profitably employed than in
    attempting to perform the part of "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

                                            "Your well-wisher,

                                                             G. J. T."

    "P. S. If you ever happen to pass through this place again, and to
    be detained over the Sabbath, your name, mentioned to the sexton,
    or indeed, to any member of my congregation, will secure you as
    good a seat as the house will furnish; and if you will inform me
    of your intended presence, beforehand, I will endeavor to suit my
    discourse to your _wants_, if not to your _wishes_.

    "'Not what we _wish_, but what we _want_,
    Do thou, O Lord, in mercy grant.'

    "If, however, circumstances like some that I can foresee, if you
    continue in your present course, should prevent a visit to our
    place, I hope you will manage to be satisfied with the
    ministrations of the chaplain at Sing Sing, who, I understand, is
    an excellent, talented man. And I trust that you and your
    _traveled_ friend will agree as well on the question of his merits
    as you have on those of others."

Further comment on this case is unnecessary; and we would only say
that any one suspecting an imposture in any such mode as the
foregoing, need not be prevented from indulging in a reasonable
suspicion, by the charitable thought, "This person could not be such a
rascal;" for it is a truth that should be well known and acted upon,
that no amount of hypocrisy, deceit or audacity is too great to be
practised by miscreants like those whose villanous devices are to some
extent exposed in these pages.

       *       *       *       *       *


    "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now."

The next ingenious "dodge" to which I would call the attention of my
readers, is one which might be styled double-barreled, inasmuch as it
brought down both editors and farmers simultaneously.

The agricultural portion of community has been much exercised of late
years on the subject of seed. Astounding stories have circulated
through the newspapers from time to time, concerning the wonderful
prolific powers of certain kinds of seed, and prices have in some
instances been demanded for these choice varieties, which remind one
of the times when a laying hen of the right breed would earn more per
day for her owner than an ordinarily smart negro. It really seemed to
be the belief of many enthusiastic persons, that seed could be
brought, by careful culture, to a pitch of perfection that would
almost render it independent of the assistance of mother earth, save
as a place to stand on. The improved seed was to do it all. However
desirable it might be to obtain seed which could be warranted under
all circumstances to produce heavy _crops,_ (which of course can
always be done after a certain fashion, by feeding it out to fowls,)
this "good time coming" will not be hastened, we apprehend, by the
public-spirited efforts of "Mr. Joab S. Sargent," notwithstanding the
glowing prospects held out in the following advertisement:--


    _Spanish Onion Seeds._

    The subscriber will send to any part of the United States and
    Canada, a paper of the seeds of the above superior Onion, on the
    receipt of ten cents (one dime.)

    Farmers and Gardeners, see to it that you secure the best of
    seeds. For a mere trifle now, you can put money in your pockets
    and fat on your ribs.

                              Address, JOAB S. SARGENT,

                                         266 Hicks St., Cor. of State,

                                                Brooklyn, N. Y.

    P. S.--Publishers of newspapers giving the above and this notice
    three insertions, calling attention editorially thereto, and
    sending marked copies to the subscriber, will receive by return
    mail three dollars' worth of the above seeds, or a copy of Barnes'
    notes on the Gospels, valued at three dollars and fifty cents, or
    two dollars cash. Address plainly as above.

    April 11, 1855.

Observe how adroitly the cunning Joab aims his thrusts at the most
vulnerable spot in both classes of his victims. "Publishers of
newspapers," in the plenitude of Joab's generosity, are to have their
choice between the onion seeds, the gospel, and the ready cash, if
they will but make known to the world the incomparable qualities of
the genuine Spanish article. And many of these publishers "called
attention to the same" with a will, as the following copy of one of
those notices will show:--

    columns. If you want _large onions_, get the real _Spanish_
    seed--a change in the seed works wonders. We have seen bushels of
    onions imported from Spain of half a pound weight each, and as
    large as saucers."

It may be well to say here that no onion seeds, "Spanish" or other,
were sent in compliance with the many orders which poured in upon the
successful Sargent from all parts of the country, excepting that a few
of those first received were supposed to have been answered by the
sending of a few seeds of some kind, whether onion or grass, no one
knew. Perhaps the recipients will discover in the course of time. The
editors were equally unfortunate. Many of them selected the "Notes on
the Gospels" in preference to the seed or the money, yet their wishes
were not destined to be gratified.

Let us see how this tempting advertisement worked on the farmers and

Here is farmer Johnson, whose boy has just brought in his weekly paper
from the office, and who is proceeding to refresh himself after the
labors of the week, with the record of what the world at large has
been doing in the same time. He deliberately peruses the columns of
his hebdomadal, dwelling with solemnity on the more weighty articles,
and endeavoring to laugh over the funny ones, till, after having
exhausted the "reading" department, his eye goes on in search of new
advertisements, which he can distinguish at a glance, for he knows
all the old ones by heart. His attention is arrested by the
conspicuous heading, "SPANISH ONION SEEDS." He reads it over
carefully, and studies every word, that he may be sure that he fully
and correctly understands it; and then comparing it with the editorial
notice of the same thing, he rapidly becomes convinced that Spanish
onions must be great things, and that ten cents may be safely invested
in the speculation. Visions of saucer-like onions rise before him; of
prizes in Agricultural Exhibitions; and if he is an inhabitant of
Connecticut, he fancies he sees the former renown of the ancient town
of Pyquag, or Wethersfield, growing dim before the lustre of Spanish
onions. Accordingly he sends the required dime to Joab, who proved to
be like the elephant which had been trained to pick up coin from the
ground and place it on a lofty shelf. Upon a certain occasion, a young
gentleman was gratified by this performance, he having furnished a
half-dollar for the display of the animal's skill. After the piece was
safely deposited far out of reach, the youth requested the exhibitor
to "make him hand it down again." "We never learnt him that trick,"
was the reply!

The enterprising Joab reaped an abundant harvest of dimes, and floods
of papers poured into the Brooklyn post-office, each one containing
his advertisement marked, agreeably to its conditions, and a few words
written upon it by the editor, making his choice between the valuables
promised by Sargent, and directing how to send the books, when they
were the articles selected. These papers were of course charged with
letter postage, and as the quantity which had arrived was becoming
somewhat troublesome by its bulk, (since Joab took very good care not
to inquire for _them_,) the post master sent to 266 Hicks Street, in
order to notify him of the mass of news waiting for him at the office,
as well as to make some inquiries in reference to the voluminous
correspondence in which Mr. Sargent was engaged. But the person sent,
returned with the report, "_non est inventus_," and the wary deceiver,
having doubtless taken the alarm, came no more to the office to
inquire for letters; so that although the rogue was "unwhipped of
justice," a stop was put to his unrighteous gains. This case may serve
as a warning to all, to look with distrust upon such advertisements
emanating from unknown individuals, especially if the promises made
are out of proportion to the "value received." In the present
imperfect state of human nature, it is not common to find an
individual offering through the papers most disinterested proposals
for the good of people in general, without the fact coming to light
sooner or later, that he had rather more prominently in view his own
good in particular. And I will conclude with the following
aphorism,--If you want onion seed, or anything else, send where you
know you will not be cheated.

       *       *       *       *       *


The fraud of which I am about to speak, also depended in a great
measure for its success on the fact that it could be carried on
through the mails.

Gorgeous hand-bills were sent to the post-offices throughout the
country, accompanied with requests to the different post masters to
act as agents, and allowing them a liberal per-centage on all tickets
sold. Those who read these hand-bills (suspended on the post-office
walls,) and swallowed with expanded eyes and capacious throats the
magnificent promises which they contained, could not determine by
anything that appeared on the surface, whether "Dashall & Co." were
real personages, or merely figments of the brain; and if the former,
whether or not they were able and willing to meet their engagements.

The scheme certainly had as fair an appearance as any "Gift
Enterprise," and the "local habitation" and "name," which were
appended, gave more probability to the idea that the firm in question
was not a myth but a reality. Thus it is evident that no one could
have detected the fraud without entering into a course of
investigation which would have involved more time, trouble, and
expense, than most people would be willing to devote to the affair
under the circumstances.

The following is a copy of "Dashall & Co's." list of prizes:

    150,000 Presents to be given to the purchasers of the large and
    elegant engraving of the "Inauguration of George Washington,
    President of the United States," from the celebrated painting of
    David Paul Laurens. Price of engraving One Dollar, which includes
    a gift-ticket, entitling the holder to a chance in the following
    list of magnificent gifts.

    The value of the presents, as appraised by a committee chosen for
    the purpose, is $146,000, as follows:--

    A splendid Farm on the Hudson River, completely stocked,
    houses, &c.                                                $20,000
    Stone Front Dwelling and Lot on Fifth Avenue, N. Y.         13,000
    A magnificent _gold_ Tea Service, property of the late G. Van
    Denton                                                       4,000
    Silver Wine Service                                          1,000
    The Race Horse "White Raven"                                 8,000
    Coach, Harness, and Horses, _a magnificent establishment_    3,500
    30 Shares Central Rail Road Stock                            3,000
    200 Fine Watches, $100 each                                 20,000
    10,000 Gold Seals and Charms                                10,000
    10,000 Gold Pens and Silver Holders                          5,000
    100 Boxes Best Cigars                                          500
    100 Gold Guard Chains                                        1,500
    A splendid Buggy                                               190
         "     Phaeton                                           1,000
    A Horse, Harness, and Buggy, splendid affair                   500
    An elegant Dog, St. Bernard                                    100
    Splendid Fast-sailing Yacht, "Spirit of the Wave"            4,000
    The fast and trim pleasure Yacht, "Evening Bird"             1,000
    A loan for 25 years                                          8,000
      "   "                                                      5,000
      "   "                                                      1,000
         (all without interest.)
    1 Rosewood Piano                                               800
    3 Mahogany Pianos                                            1,500
    A Farm in Ohio                                               4,000
    A Farm in Kentucky                                           3,000
    A Farm in Pennsylvania                                       6,000
    A Farm in Massachusetts                                     10,000
    25,000 Vols. Poems                                          11,000
    Statue of "Cigar Girl," by Reeves                            1,000

    Also over 100,000 Paintings, Statues, Medals, Charts, Albums,
    Valuable Books, and Portfolios of Engravings, making in all
    150,000 gifts, which will be distributed by a committee appointed
    by the Shareholders, and forwarded free of charge by the Public's
    obedient servants,

    DASHALL & CO.,
                                               486 Broadway, New York.

Whoever concocted the above list certainly deserves credit for the
expansiveness of his views, the soaring flights of his imagination,
and the nicety with which he adapted his various enticements to the
different phases of human nature and life.

Was the reader of the hand-bill a "fast" youth? To him a dollar opened
the prospect of "a horse, harness, and buggy,--splendid affair;" or "a
splendid, fast-sailing yacht;" or "100 boxes best cigars;" or, as a
companion to the above cigars, "Statue of Cigar Girl, by Reeves." Did
the list of prizes attract the attention of a person agriculturally
inclined? To him a choice of farms was offered in the varied regions
of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Kentucky; or "a splendid farm
on the Hudson River" awaited some fortunate individual, who had
sufficient faith in good luck and "Dashall & Co.," to purchase the one
hundred and fifty thousandth part of a chance to secure that valuable
property. The man of business was tempted by sundry loans "for 25
years without interest," and by "thirty shares of Central Rail Road
stock." Through what "centre" this rail road ran, unless it was
Dashall & Co's. office, the deponent sayeth not. Upon the man of
literary tastes, one dollar might confer "an elegant selected
library," while the lover of music was attracted by the offer of
elegant "rosewood and mahogany pianos."

Nor was the fairer portion of creation forgotten, in the shower of
gifts which was to fall on the 10th of March, 1855. The ambitious
lady, who had long sighed for more splendid adornments to her table,
could not read without emotion the promise of "a magnificent _gold_
tea service, the property of the late G. Van Denton." As the lamented
Van Denton was doubtless known, in the circle of his acquaintance, as
a man of taste, the promised tea service must have been
unexceptionable in that respect.

"Melodeons, Harps, Paintings, Albums, Portfolios of Engravings, &c.,"
formed a galaxy of attractions which drew many a dollar from fair

The engraving of the "Inauguration of George Washington" appealed to
the patriotic feeling of every American. What friend of his country
would refuse to part with the paltry sum of one dollar, which would
enable him to possess this transcendent work of art, copied from the
"celebrated painting" of the no less celebrated "David Paul Laurens;"
a blood relation, no doubt, of the departed "Van Denton."

Each ticket was so embellished with intimations of the rich gifts
possibly in store for its holder, as almost to make him feel as if he
were already driving a "blood horse," or taking his ease in the
"magnificent residence on the Hudson."

The reader is by this time probably aware of the true character of
"Dashall & Co.," and their magnificent scheme. The former were
atrocious impostors, and the latter was only a bag of wind.

The suspicions of the New York post master were excited as to the
character and destination of the numerous letters which came addressed
to the aforesaid firm; and the Chief of the Police taking the matter
in hand, a detachment from that body made a descent on 486 Broadway,
where they found a respectable female of Milesian extraction, engaged
in washing the floor; and observed an open window, through which the
representative of Dashall & Co. had probably made his exit. There was
no furniture of any description in the room; so, having secured
neither "persons" nor "papers," the civil authority was compelled to
beat a retreat, not without sundry remonstrances from the old woman,
touching the invasion of her "_clane flure_." She could tell them
nothing about the firm, and only knew that she was sent there by the
owner of the room to "clane up," which occupation she resumed, after
imparting this information, with a vigor that threatened the immediate
submersion of the intruders.

The parties concerned in this fraudulent transaction are supposed to
have cleared upwards of fifty thousand dollars by the operation,
which, allowing for the per-centage to agents and other expenses,
proves conclusively that there was more than that number of fools
existing at the time in this enlightened land. We would hope that
those who were taken in by this cheat, will not be thus deceived

We trust that the foregoing record of knavery, whose contrivers were
indebted, in some measure, for the carrying out of their plans, to the
post masters who acted as agents, will have the effect of producing
greater caution on the part of these officials as respects undertaking
agencies for _unknown_ individuals. It would seem that a proper regard
for the public interest would prevent any post master from lending
himself, even undesignedly, to a fraudulent scheme like this of
"Dashall & Co." It would be easy to refuse to have anything to do with
proposed agencies, whose principals were not known to the post master,
or concerning whom satisfactory information could not be obtained.

The adoption of this practice would seriously interfere with the
operations of the class of rogues who succeed in their villanous
designs by making cats' paws of honest people in ways similar to that
above described. I do not hesitate to say that thousands of dollars
would every year be saved to those who are now swindled out of their
money, if post masters were to take the course suggested, and refuse
to allow hand-bills containing advertisements to be posted up in their
offices, unless they were satisfied of the reliability of the parties
sending them.



    Embarrassing duty--An exciting Question--A "Hard Case"--Decease of
    a Post Master--The Office discontinued--The other side--Call at
    the White House--The Reference--Agent's Arrival--Molasses
    Incident--An honest Child--Slicking up--The Academy--Stuck
    fast--The Shoe Factory--A shrewd Citizen--The Saw Mill--A
    Tenantless Building--Viewing the "Sites"--Obliging Post
    Master--The defunct Bank--A Funeral Scene--The Agent
    discovered--Exciting Meeting--"Restoration Hall"--Eloquent
    Appeals--A Fire Brand--Committee on Statistics--Generous
    Volunteers--Being "put down"--Good-nature restored--The Bill
    "settled"--A Stage Ride--Having the last Word.

Of all the troublesome matters that have to be passed upon and decided
by the Head of the Post-Office Department, the settlement of
controversies involving the location of small post-offices, is
undoubtedly the most perplexing, and difficult of adjustment.

By such cases we are forcibly reminded of attempts which we have
witnessed in our younger days, to soothe the troubled breasts of an
angry swarm of bees, destitute of a queen, and uncertain where to
"locate." Whoever tried to settle the question before _they_ settled,
was pretty sure to get well stung for his pains.

The difficulty above referred to arises from the conflicting,
contradictory representations made to the Department by interested
parties, governed by as great a variety of motives as the number of
individual whims and interests depending upon the settlement of the
"vexed question." Notwithstanding the voluminous documents and
geographical information usually tendered in these cases, those with
whom the final decision rests, often find themselves perplexed beyond
measure, to know what is for the true interests of a majority of the
citizens--that being the only object aimed at by the Department--and
deem it necessary, occasionally, to refer the subject to a Special
Agent, with instructions to visit the neighborhood, make a personal
inspection of the different sites proposed, and decide, if possible,
what the public interest and convenience demand.

In some instances, where the emoluments of the office itself would not
exceed the sum of fifty dollars annually, and where its entire
abolishment would not prove any serious inconvenience, a whole
neighborhood has been thrown into the most intense excitement, and
feuds and animosities have been engendered which the parties concerned
will perhaps carry with them to the grave.

But, like numerous other phases of post-office life, they furnish many
admirable and instructive illustrations of human nature _as it is_.

During his experience, the writer has himself been frequently charged
with the duty of becoming the medium for the settlement of local
disputes such as have been alluded to; and a difficult and unpleasant
duty has he often found it, though a better school for studying the
selfishness and other hard points of the human character, cannot be

But the Government official who is sent to ascertain the truth in one
of these post-office disputes, will sometimes find himself about as
much embarrassed as have been his superiors, and unless he is well
posted up in the shrewd dodges and ingenious appliances that he will
have to encounter, will find it quite as troublesome to give an
impartial and just recommendation. Decide satisfactorily he cannot of
course, for those whose ends are not answered are not only sure to
grumble, but to charge all sorts of unfairness upon him in conducting
the investigation.

The town of M., situated somewhere East of a line drawn across the
map, from New York city to Whitehall, N. Y., but out of the State of
New York, was recently the scene of one of these hotly contested
controversies; and it is proposed to give an outline of the
investigation, as it stands sketched among the author's official
notes, under the head of a "Hard Case," with, of course, some
additional comments and illustrations.

In extent of territory, the town referred to is about six miles
square, and contains three small villages, one comparatively new,
having sprung up at the rail road depôt near the West line of the
town. The second, about two miles to the Eastward of this; and the
third, about two miles still further to the East.

Village number two, in the order in which they have just been
mentioned, had for many years been the site of the only post-office in
the town, and continued in the uninterrupted enjoyment of this
monopoly until the office became vacant by the death of the post
master. This was the signal for a movement for some time privately
contemplated and discussed within a limited circle composed of a few
of the knowing ones residing in villages numbers one and three, which
movement involved nothing less than the establishment of a post-office
at each of those points, and the abolishment of the old established
one at village number two.

A petition to that effect was hastily drawn up and circulated chiefly
among those whose interests in the plan sought, would be apt to secure
secrecy, due care being taken to say quite as much in favor of the new
sites and against the old one, as the facts in the case would warrant.
This petition was dispatched to Washington in charge of an influential
person, whose hot haste for immediate action was rendered tolerably
reasonable by the fact, that the decease of the post master left the
community without any appointed guardian of its postal interests.

A fair case having been made out according to the meagre information
before the Department, and the aforesaid bearer of dispatches not
hesitating to supply verbally what seemed to be lacking in other
forms, with one fell swoop of the pen of the Post Master General, the
glory departed from village number two to its more fortunate rivals,
numbers one and three; and by the same trifling operation, two very
competent and suitable individuals were promoted from the condition of
private and unassuming citizenship, to the dignity and
responsibilities of deputy post masters of the United States of

When the news of this sad calamity reached the staid and peaceable
villagers, who had thus been unexpectedly deprived of their ancient
postal privileges, rest assured it was no favorable time for the
organization of a Peace Society! Such oil would not still these waves!
Their late beloved and popular post master had become a "dead letter,"
though properly "addressed," as was fondly hoped, by the heavenly
"Messengers" who beckoned him away from other duties, to "wrap" and
"box up"--and now even the post-office itself had been prematurely
"taken away" also.

Not many suns had risen and set, however, before the other side of the
picture was prepared and presented at Washington, and now the ball had
fairly opened, with the orchestra in full blast. A formidable
remonstrance had received the signatures of all the "legal voters,"
and, as was charged on the other side, of many whose elective rights
were not so easily settled.

The customary accusations of unfairness, improper influence, stealing
a march, downright misrepresentations, &c., were called in requisition
to show the Department that this "outrage" on the citizens was
unwarrantable; and the important trust of conveying this evidence to
the seat of Government, fell to the lot of a certain gentleman well
known among political circles in that section of the country, and
supposed to possess a fair share of influence with the appointing
power. He repaired to Washington, made his first call at the White
House, and labored hard to enlist the feelings of the Chief Executive
in the case, but a few words from that distinguished official were
sufficient to show that such interference in a comparatively
unimportant matter could not reasonably be expected of him.

The President did however show his respect for his visitor, who
happened to be an old personal friend, by escorting him down to the
Department, and introducing him to the Post Master General. The
Governor of the State was also in the case, the two United States
Senators, and several of the members of Congress, as the files of the
papers, _pro_ and _con_, clearly demonstrated. Not that they felt any
personal interest in the result of the controversy, but because their
political relations with many of those who did, were such that they
could not well resist their importunities to come up to their relief.

On patiently listening to the statements of the representative from
the seat of war, and re-examining the documentary evidence, the Post
Master General declined to reverse his former decision, but suggested
sending one of the Department's Agents to investigate the whole
matter. This course was adopted, and the responsibility thus
transferred for the time being, to the shoulders of the to be author
of "Ten Years."

For many days before he arrived upon the ground, the excitement both
among the vanquished and the vanquishing, was at the highest pitch;
information that such reference of the case had been made, having been
conveyed to both parties on the return of the distinguished politician
from the Capital.

Post master number one, however, could not await the slow process of
that form of justice, so he dispatched a semi-official private note to
me, nearly as follows, if my memory serves me:


    Will you please inform me if you have been instructed to visit
    this place in connection with our post-office controversy. If so,
    I would like to be informed of the time of your visit, as I wish
    to post you up as to certain parties here whose true position you
    ought to understand before their testimony in the case is heard.

                                         Yours truly,

                                                          F. B. S----.

    P. S.--If I knew when you are to arrive, I would be at the cars.

To this I simply replied that I could not fix upon the precise day,
but would call upon him on my arrival.

One lovely afternoon of a lovely day in October, the "Agent" might
have been seen alighting from the car at the rail road station at M.,
fully impressed, of course, with the difficulty of the task before
him, but with a sincere desire to carry out, if possible, the
intention of Government, and to mete out equal and exact justice to
all parties.

A new and flourishing-looking store, the only one by the way in the
neighborhood, with a small sign over the door, with the words
"Post-Office" inscribed thereon, saved me the necessity of inquiring
for post-office site number one. In a few moments I found myself in
the presence of the merchant and post master, who proved to be a young
man of prepossessing and business-like appearance.

A few questions on my part served to apprise him of the official
character of the person by whom he was addressed, and also to cause
his momentary neglect of a young customer for whom he was just then
engaged in answering an order for a gallon of molasses. The little
damsel who was there upon the saccharine errand, regarded me with
open-eyed awe, having probably heard something of the Department in
the course of the all-pervading Post-Office controversies of the last
few months, and cast as many stolen glances at me as her modesty would
allow, thus securing a mental daguerreotype, to be displayed for the
benefit of her wondering parents, after her return home with the
double load of news and molasses.

In his embarrassment at my sudden arrival, the post master forgot the
molasses, and in a moment quite a torrent of the thick liquid had
overflowed its bounds, and formed a pool upon the floor.

"Post master," said I, "you have left your molasses running over." In
his eagerness to stop the leak, he went plump into the sweet puddle,
with both feet, and any time that day his tracks might have been seen
all over the store.

"Never mind," said he, "accidents will happen;" at the same time
drawing his feet across some waste paper upon the floor. The young
customer smiled, but during the running over process, she had said not
a word, for by the means she was getting "scripture measure." She
handed the post master a bank-note in payment, who, still laboring
under considerable excitement, made her the wrong change, doing
himself out of at least half the cost of the molasses, which, together
with the loss of the surplusage, made it anything but a profitable
business transaction for him.

But the little girl was honest. She counted and recounted the change
that had been given her, and with that peculiar expression that in one
like her attends the consciousness of an honest act, she threw it all
back upon the counter, remarking, "You have given me too much, sir."

The countenance of the post master gave evidence by this time of not a
little mortification at the occurrence of two such awkward blunders in
the presence of a dignitary all the way from Washington; and in his
hurry to turn my attention from them, he forgot even to thank the
child for her honest conduct, as he returned her the change "revised
and corrected."

But I did not. Wishing not to cast an implied censure upon sweet-foot,
I passed to the piazza of the store, to throw aside the stump of an
Havana, (or a "Suffield," as the case may have been,) and unobserved
by him, handed her a quarter, which she acknowledged by a blushing
smile, and a low courtesy.

Returning, I missed the post master for a moment, and stepping within
sight of the floor behind the counter, I could distinctly see the
molasses tracks going toward a small enclosure at the other end of the
counter. It proved to be the apartment used for the post-office.
Stepping a little further behind the counter, I spied my new and
confused acquaintance, arranging the books, letters, and papers,
apparently in great haste. Seeing that I had returned to the store and
now observed him, he advanced towards me a few paces.

"I usually keep things in better order in the post-office," said he,
"but I was away this forenoon, and my boy has got things a little
mixed up."

"Never mind that now," I replied; "I am in something of a hurry, and
want to enter at once on the business upon which I came. What is all
this fuss that the people of the old village are making about the new
post-office arrangements? By the row they are kicking up at
Washington, the Department are almost led to believe there was
something unfair in the means adopted to effect the change, and that
they may have erred in their decision."

This plain and informal opening of the case seemed to restore his

"Well, they have tried to make a fuss, that's a fact, but it's more
spunk than anything else. You see this is a new village, and although
there are not yet many buildings, business is fast centering here, and
it's bound to be _the place._ The folks up there have to come to the
depôt constantly, and if they only think so, can be just as well
accommodated here. They hate to lose a good place to loaf in, that's
all there is to it. They don't need a post-office no more than a rail
road wants a guide post.

"They will tell you a great deal about their Academy, and talk big
about other things. As to the Academy, it has got reduced, and most of
the pupils who do attend, either belong to the upper village where
they have a post-office now, or have to pass right by this door in
going to school. But few of them being from abroad, they have but
little correspondence any way. Then you will hear tall speechifying
about a flourishing hat factory which perhaps did something once, but
can hardly be said to be in operation now. I hear they claim to have
three extensive stores in the village. Now if you will look for
yourself, you will see two small affairs that don't both together sell
half the goods that I do, and as to the third, it was closed some time
ago, and if the owner went away in broad daylight, then common report
does him great injustice."

After a few remarks in the same vein, in the course of which he waxed
quite eloquent, he closed by offering to take me in his wagon and show
me the other two villages. He had been standing quite still during the
delivery of this speech, and considerable effort was required to raise
his feet to go in the direction of his hat, the adhesive qualities of
the syrup still holding out.

I thanked him for the offer, but said I must decline it, as I desired
to avoid all cause of jealousy in my mode of investigation, and
further remarked, that I would prefer to take a general view of all
the localities, without the aid or explanations of any of the parties
interested; and that after this had been done, I would give all hands
a fair and impartial hearing.

"Very well," said he, "all we ask is fair play, but you will have to
make a good deal of allowance for the extravagant statements of the
leaders in the old village. I can prove that they have got democrats
to sign to have the office restored, who are on our paper, and who say
they were deceived when they signed theirs."

Having heard about enough of this, I had gradually moved along to the
store door, when my eye rested upon a large wooden building near by,
several stories high, and with an unusual number of windows, about the
only building of any size in the vicinity.

"What is that?" I asked, at the same time pointing to it.

"That?--that is a shoe manufactory."

"How many hands are employed there?" I inquired.

Just then, a fine-looking, elderly gentleman, with an air which
denoted that he had a right to do pretty much as he pleased, stepped
upon the piazza, and was introduced to me by the post master as his
father-in-law, not omitting of course to inform his respected
relative that I was no less a personage than the identical gentleman
expected from Washington.

"Ah," said he, "I am glad the Department has seen fit to send so
competent a person to look into this business, and I hope, sir, it
will be thoroughly done."

This was said in a gentlemanly, dignified manner, and he passed into
the store without any further conversation. But the term "competent
person," as applied to me, warned me that I should probably find it
necessary to guard against "soft sodder" also, as one of the means of
persuasion, and made me half suspicious that he might not be the
impartial and disinterested individual that he appeared at first

The suspicion was just, for I afterwards learned that he was a wealthy
and enterprising whig citizen, owning a beautiful mansion and a good
deal of other property in village number three, (one of the new
sites,) and that he was the proprietor of a good share of the real
estate at the depôt village; and further, that he had been mainly
instrumental in getting the changes effected. His personal interests
in them footed up as follows: A post-office established at the village
of his residence, and a post-office at the depôt village, (where the
store in which it was kept belonged to him,) and his son-in-law
appointed post master! A shrewd Yankee operation that, though I could
discover the adoption of no dishonorable means in securing these
advantages. It was decidedly smart, though, and it isn't every body
who could have successfully executed such a programme, after it had
been arranged.

This interruption of the conversation between the post master and
myself, came in just in time to stave off an answer to my question
about the large building in view, and my friend no doubt considered
that an effectual stop was put to further inquiries on that subject.
But not so. Failing to discover any signs of thrift or vitality in or
about the huge edifice referred to, I now repeated the inquiry.

"I was asking how many persons are employed in that shoe factory?"

Before I had fairly finished the sentence, however, he had darted into
the store and returned with two Havanas, (?) saying, "Come, have a
smoke, and let's walk over and take a look at the saw mill," which by
the way happened to be in an opposite direction from the aforesaid
shoe establishment.

I consented, however. The mill was in operation, and the stream, such
as it was, kept up a pretty respectable roar, though you could hear
yourself converse, I noticed, quite as easily as by the side of old
Niagara just after a smart shower!

Feeling somewhat humorously inclined, owing to his persevering evasion
of my researches as to the boot and shoe enterprise, I remarked as we
stood observing the perpendicular thrusts of the saw through a
submissive-looking log, "This is the _board_ing house spoken of in
your post-office petitions, isn't it?"

He did not "take," however, but gravely replied that they _had_ turned
out stacks of boards since the mill was started, and that they had
thought of keeping it running nights as well as days.

As I could conceive of no very direct connection between a saw mill
and a post-office, and not caring to have too much saw dust thrown in
my eyes, nor to countenance any log-rolling operation, I moved off
toward the store again. But not a word was volunteered about the
"factory," so I marched straight over to it, and trying one of the
main doors, found it all fast as I had suspected. I was about to
repeat the attempt at another part of the building, but the post
master had now arrived on the ground, and his reluctant explanation
saved me further trouble on that head at least.

"Owing to the hard times, it is not occupied now, but until lately it
has employed some thirty or forty hands. They'll get agoing again
soon, and intend to employ some eighty workmen. The suspension is only

"Worse off than the hat factory of which you spoke, at the other
village," I observed. He made no reply.

Finding I could obtain no independent conveyance by which to make the
tour of observation through the other parts of the town, I accepted
the offer of a young man who drove up to the store very opportunely,
to whom the idea was suggested by the post master, and who, it was
hinted, was in no way identified with this vexatious dispute.

During the first mile or so of our ride his neutrality seemed well
sustained, but it began rapidly to disappear as we came in sight of
the village which had been bereft of its post-office as well as its
post master, his answers to my questions betraying a decided bias
toward the "let well enough alone" policy as applicable in this case.

I did not propose to stop there at this time, but to pass through to
the upper village,--but my suspicions that I had after all committed
myself to the temporary keeping of one of the friends of the new
sites, were fully confirmed when I found him taking a narrow by-way
through the old settlement, poorly calculated to show off the place to
much advantage.

"Look here," said I, "don't go through this hollow, but take a turn
round by those spires, and let me see what they have got to brag

Coming to a halt, and backing round in a somewhat spiteful manner,
during which manoeuvre we came near upsetting, he soon came upon the
route indicated.

Whether from a conviction that there was no use in trying to cheat me
any longer, or from the study requisite for the invention of some new
system of tactics likely to be more successful, he said but little
more during the rest of our ride.

I subsequently ascertained that he and the scheme of getting two
post-offices for one, rejoiced in one and the same paternity, or in
other words, that his mother was the wife of the enterprising and
wealthy gentleman before mentioned, and like a good and dutiful son,
he "went in" for whatever favored the "old man's" interest.

Passing through one of the main streets of the middle or
post-officeless village, I observed standing in front of a
respectable, ancient-appearing mansion, a solemn-looking hearse, and
a large number of other vehicles, indicating that funeral services
were being performed within, and through the open windows and doors I
could see the friends and mourners.

"A funeral, I perceive," said I to my companion.

A sullenly emphasized "yes," was all the notice vouchsafed to my

"A fine-looking lot of horses collected here," I continued.

"Yes, pretty fair," he rejoined, without, however, withdrawing his
attention from a large fly which was annoying our animal, and at the
same time proving himself anything but an expert marksman by his
repeated unsuccessful attempts to annihilate the insect with the lash
of his whip.

"This accounts for my seeing so few persons in the streets," I
remarked. "They must be attending the funeral."

"I suppose so," he answered, at the same instant striking the unlucky
fly dead, which neither he nor bob-tail had before succeeded in
choking off.

A quarter of an hour more found us at village number three, pleasantly
situated upon elevated ground, and consisting of an old-fashioned
country church, the fine establishment of the wealthy pioneer in this
post-office enterprise, already referred to, a store, and a few other

The solitary merchant here was also the newly-appointed post master, a
very worthy man from all appearances, though of course deeply
impressed with the idea that the "balance of power" should not be
disturbed by a discontinuance of the recently established office, and
the restoration of the old one on its former site. And it appeared
very clear that he had done all in his power to make the inconvenience
of the late change fall as lightly as possible upon those more
directly interested, for he had arranged to extend every accommodation
in his power, and among other things to post a list of all the letters
for distant sections of the town, upon the "meeting-house" door every
Sabbath, and to keep his office open "between meetings," for the
delivery of all mail matter which should be called for.

His brief history, as related by himself, brought to light the fact
that he had served the Government as post master many years before,
having originally been appointed, as he said, by "old Hickory"

During half an hour's conversation, the information furnished at this
point was generally of a candid and impartial character, though the
explanations regarding a defunct bank, the remains of which stood
within a stone's throw of the post-office, proved the most troublesome
subject that was talked over. The expiration of its charter, if I
mistake not, was given as the reason for its closed doors.

The measured tolling of the church bell attracted my attention. The
funeral procession from the other village had reached the hill and was
just entering the burial-ground, through the church-yard, and after a
short interval passed out again on its return.

Having now obtained all the information I could in that quarter, I
suggested to my escort that I was ready to move, and we were soon on
our way back. About half way to the middle village, we came up with
the procession, and followed along at a slow pace, in fact forming a
part of the solemn cortege.

It had somehow leaked out that the "Post-Office Agent" was there, and
along the whole line, hats and even bonnets could be seen projecting
from the sides of such of the carriages as were provided with
coverings. Compared with the post-office question, the grave was
nowhere, and funerals were at a discount. Some of the most interested
happened to be in the nearest vehicles to us, and when they discovered
who my companion was, a number of the animals were suddenly relieved
of a good share of their burthen. Several of the deserters fell in the
rear, and without waiting for a formal introduction, began to
discourse eloquently upon the subject of their post office grievances.
I assured them that I would spend the night at the hotel in their
village, where I would be happy to meet them and their friends, for
the purpose of inquiry and investigation.


Many a head of a family, I think, was missed that evening from the tea
tables, for although it was about the usual hour of that repast when I
reached the hotel, the citizens came flocking in in great numbers, and
filling the spacious audience room which the landlord had hastily
prepared on hearing of my approach, to its utmost capacity, and even
before I was fairly seated.

Most of them being still in the same dress in which they had attended
the funeral ceremonies, the "customary suit of solemn black," they
were about as well-looking a set of men as you will often see in
country or city. A more excited and anxious group of faces, I am sure
was never seen in a council of war on the eve of a great and decisive
battle. Nor will I attempt to assert that I was wholly free from
anxiety as to how I should acquit myself before this august assembly,
as the representative and embodiment of the Government, on this trying

The scene, however, considered in reference to the real importance of
the interests at stake, was richly ludicrous. I felt that the dignity
of the Post-Office Department was for a time committed to my keeping,
and I flatter myself that I succeeded admirably in sustaining it,
though it required occasionally not a little effort.

One of the gentlemen whose acquaintance I had informally made in the
rear of the funeral procession, did the honors in the way of
introducing me to each of those who had assembled, and to such as came
in in the course of that ever-to-be remembered evening--I should have
said night, for it was not far from daylight, when I had listened to
the last eloquent appeal in behalf of restoring to them their lost
rights and privileges.

The whole thing was conducted in a way which, for parliamentary order
and decorum, would have put to the blush the lower House of Congress
near the close of the session; and I am not quite sure that the upper
branch of that Honorable body, with an exciting subject in hand, could
not have derived some useful hints from the manner in which business
was there enacted.

The room, which I understand was soon after christened and is now
known as "Restoration Hall," was about twenty-five feet by thirty, and
for most of the time during this eventful meeting, I chanced to occupy
the only rocking chair therein, at one side of the room facing the
door. Considering that most of the company were my seniors by several
years, that was hardly polite; but after several times insisting in
vain that some one else should take the post of honor, I settled down
without further misgivings.

Never did I so heartily regret my ignorance of the art of stenography
as now; for a _verbatim_ report of all that was here said, would prove
the richest and most amusing part of this narrative.

After some general and desultory conversation, and considerable
manoeuvring as to who should lead off, the responsible task fell
upon a somewhat venerable and prominent citizen, who, as I perceived
from his "opening," had enjoyed the honor of representing the town in
the lower House, as well as the Senate of the State. This gentleman's
indignation was so intense at the "shabby treatment" of the
Government, that at first he seemed to question the propriety of
condescending to enter into any argument or formal statement in
support of a speedy restoration of the post-office.

"I feel myself mortified and humbled," said he, "that anything more
should be required in this case in securing us justice, than a mere
glance at this assemblage, which, leaving out the speaker, cannot be
surpassed in respectability and intelligence, by any which could be so
readily convened in any community."

(A general sensation, and a modest assent all round, so far as looks
could indicate it.)

"You have before you, sir," continued he, "professional men--men who
have devoted all their lives to the training and education of
youth,--farmers, mechanics, and merchants,--all of them, sir, men who
know their rights, and knowing dare maintain them, sir. Many of them,
and I for one, sir, differ with the Administration in politics; but I
take it, sir, that has nothing to do with the settlement of this
business. Our Government will have arrived at a pretty pass, indeed,
when it makes a distinction between a whig or locofoco community, in
the granting of mail facilities."

The term "locofoco" proved for a moment a slight firebrand in the
camp--a six foot, plain farmer-looking individual, who had not I think
attended the funeral, and who, like the brave Putnam, had left his
plough in the furrow, on hearing of a chance to fight--starting to his
feet and interrupting the speaker,--

"Your Honor," said he, "I hope my whig friend, if he must speak of
politics, will consent to call democrats by their right names. What
would he say if I should apply the term 'federalists' to his side of
the house?"

The first speaker was evidently preparing for a broadside in return
for this interruption, but it was averted at once by the assurance
volunteered on my part, that the question of politics would have
nothing to do with this one; and that no harm was probably intended by
the use of the objectionable designation; whereupon our agricultural
friend quietly resumed his seat, his blood seemingly several degrees
cooler than when he left it.

"You're right, sir, no harm _was_ intended," good-naturedly responded
the pioneer orator. "It came so natural to say locofoco, that I hardly
noticed it myself. We all have one common object here, and the fact
that neighbour B. is the only loco--I beg pardon--democrat, who
happens to be present, should have suggested to me greater allowance
for his sensitive feelings."

There was a general laugh at the expense of our lone representative
of the democracy, and the discussion resumed its more legitimate

At a later period, a careful canvassing would have shown quite a
respectable sprinkling of the political friends of the gentleman who
took exceptions as above stated; and I have always mistrusted that he
managed in some way to procure their special attendance, being
evidently a little chagrined at the accidental exposure of the very
meagre representation of his party at the commencement.

The gentleman having the floor proceeded:--

"I am satisfied the Post Master General would never have decided as he
has, if he had waited for further information. And the indecent haste
with which certain men acted in this matter, is a downright shame and
disgrace. I doubt not, from what I can learn, that they had their
petitions secretly circulating, as soon as the sickness of our late
post master became known. Would to God he had lived to defeat their
selfish and illiberal schemes! But an overruling Providence ordered it
otherwise, doubtless for the accomplishment of some wise purpose!

"We are prepared to show you, sir, by the figures, (though we have
seen that, in the hands of unprincipled men, figures _will_ sometimes
lie,) that three-fourths of the mail matter for the town belongs to
persons of this village, who, by this wicked movement, are obliged to
send a distance of two miles for their letters and papers."

Here was a strong statement, exhibiting a greater difference in the
business and correspondence of the three villages than even the papers
on the official files of the Department had claimed. I was therefore
disposed to call for the proof, if it could be had, before proceeding

"Is there any way of getting at what you have just stated as a fact?"
I inquired.

They were not to be caught napping, for the "Committee on Statistics"
was on the spot, to meet any such exigencies that might arise.

A slight nod of the gentleman's head toward the corner of the room was
promptly responded to by one of the company, whom I had observed
listening more intently, if possible, than the rest, to the opening

He might be described as a gentleman about forty years of age, with
sharp features, and withal as active and keen-looking a body as you
will often come across. With a smile, and an air of self-reliance, he
drew from his hat a bundle of papers of different shapes, from an inch
wide to a full sheet of large size "cap," and, coming to the table,
placed them upon it. A moment's search, during which not a word was
spoken, produced the desired voucher, which was to confirm the truth
of the three-fourths assertion. It proved to be a certificate signed
by the assistant of the late post master, setting forth that, _in his
opinion_, only about one-quarter of all the letters arriving at that
office, during the last three months of its existence, went outside of
a circle of one mile.

The ex-assistant himself, being present, was appealed to, but although
he was willing, in general terms, to re-affirm what he had put upon
paper, yet he failed to furnish any very satisfactory data upon which
the calculation had been made. It was so much at variance with the
allegations contained in the petitions for the new sites, that the
impression could not be resisted that there had been truth-stretching

"Should the office be re-established here," said I to the
ex-assistant, "can the Department rely on the benefit of your
experience in its future management, as post master?"

My object of course was to fathom, if possible, the depth of any
personal interest he might have had in making the certificate referred

"Well, sir, as to that," he answered, his face a little flushed, "I
hardly think I could attend to it; and besides, I may go to the West
in the Spring, if not before."

My unexpected inquiry as to a suitable candidate for the office,
produced a marked sensation. I observed that it had especially
disconcerted the "Committee on Statistics;" why it did so the reader
will learn in due time.

Apologizing to the gentleman whose speech had thus been interrupted,
he resumed, but in a few moments came to an abrupt close on the
arrival of two young gentlemen, both residing near village number
three, and therefore, except to a few, supposed to have come as spies
and reporters. A short consultation, in which I took no part, showed
that they were, as I inferred, all right on the main question,
notwithstanding their location. They were brothers.

If the actors in this scene had been engaged in a play upon the stage,
these two new characters could not have been introduced in a more
artistic or timely manner. What they had to offer was prefaced by a
few words from the gentleman who had just terminated his formal
discourse, informing me that they had magnanimously volunteered to
come here and throw their mite into the scale, on the side of truth
and right, and that private interest, even, could not blind _them_ to
the great injustice that had been perpetrated.

Their own testimony was very brief, and so was their stay, for,
believing I had seen their names on one of the petitions asking for
just what had been done, I unlocked my carpetbag, and on referring to
one of the original papers which for the time being had been placed in
my hands, I there found both their signatures, quite conspicuous among
the petitioners!

And I felt bound to give others a sight of them, too, if for no other
reason, to impart to the "injured" members of that community a slight
knowledge of some of the difficulties which the Post Master General
and his Assistant often have to encounter in these and similar cases.
It was all news to those present excepting to the two "magnanimous"
gentlemen interested. They had doubtless supposed that the evidence of
their double-dealing was very quietly sleeping in one of the snug and
obscure pigeon-holes of the Appointment Office.

On coming into the room again, after a quarter of an hour's absence
at the supper table, I missed these two generous volunteers, and
understood they left very soon after I withdrew. Their inconsistent
course was afterwards explained to me in this wise: After they had
signed for the change, and the papers had gone to Washington, it came
out that the three Select-men of the town had united in a letter to
the Department, on the same side of the question, all three of them
happening to live nearer the new sites than the old one; and the
brothers having become involved in a somewhat bitter quarrel with one
of those officials, had determined to get on the opposite side, in the
post-office struggle, and defeat their wishes if possible.

Among the speakers was the Principal of the Academy before alluded to;
a very intelligent gentleman, and one of dignified appearance. His
observations related mainly to the inconveniences resulting to the
members of that institution from the want of a post-office. After he
had concluded his remarks, I inquired,

"What is the present number of your pupils?"

Upon this, some one suggested obtaining a printed catalogue, and the
"Committee on Statistics" forthwith disappeared in search of the
required pamphlet. The zeal and efficiency of this gentleman may have
had no connection with his desire to fill the office of post master,
should the office be re-established. The reader will judge of this
when he learns who was finally selected for that position.

After a few moments' absence, he returned with a copy of the

Observing that it was for a previous term, I asked whether there were
as many pupils now as at that time.

"The school is not quite as large at present," said the Principal;
"but we expect even a larger number of pupils at the beginning of the
next term."

The hint furnished me (as the reader will remember) by my official
friend of molasses memory, in respect to the residences of the pupils,
happening to occur to my mind, I ran my eye over the column
containing that information, and found that, with few exceptions, they
belonged in town. Consequently, unless they carried on a more
extensive correspondence than is usual for such youth, the argument
maintained by the Principal would lose much of its force. I made no
allusion, however, to this discovery, and he soon closed his remarks,
expressing the hope that the loud complaints of the distant (?)
parents and guardians of the young ladies and gentlemen under his
charge would soon be effectually hushed by the restoration of their
former excellent mail facilities!

A few of those wise words, which, as Solomon assures us, are "as nails
fastened by the masters of assemblies," were driven, in conclusion, by
farmer G., who, as a person sitting near me whispered, was a Justice
of the Peace. His remarks were characterized by much good sense, but
an untoward circumstance occurred as he concluded, which interfered
with the gravity of the proceedings as well as with his own centre of
gravity. As the closing passage of his peroration fell from his lips,
he also fell at the same instant!

There was a scarcity of seats upon the present occasion, and our
oratorical friend had no sooner risen for the purpose of "pouring the
persuasive strain," than his chair was appropriated by a fatigued
neighbor, who "squatted" on the vacant territory, regardless of
"pre-emption" or pre-session.

Unconscious of this furtive proceeding, Mr. G. went on with his
remarks, and closed with the following sentence:--

"In conclusion, sir, I should like to know whether the people of this
village are to be put down in this way?"--at the same time attempting
to resume the seat he had vacated, in the full belief that it was
still where he had left it. As facts did not bear him out in this
opinion, he was obliged to yield to the force of circumstances, and
had gained such a backward impetus before he discovered the treachery
of his friend, that he descended to the floor with as much emphasis as
two hundred pounds of bone and muscle are capable of producing under
similar circumstances!

The illustration of his remarks was perfect. He thought that the
inhabitants of the village were to be "put down" in an underhanded
manner. Whether they were to rise again as rapidly as did he, remains
to be seen.

    "That strain again; it had a dying fall,"

thought I after the orator descended so suddenly from his rhetorical
and personal elevation.

Business was for the moment swallowed up in a roar of laughter, to
which the ex-Senator, the dignified Principal, the energetic dealer in
Statistics, and the Agent, contributed; and even the fallen speaker,
whose title to the _floor_ no one was inclined to dispute, joined in
the chorus.

The person who had caused this catastrophe, apologized to Mr. G. by
remarking, "You got through quicker than I'd any idee of."

"Or I either," dryly returned Mr. G., brushing the dust from his

This occurrence seemed the signal for adjournment, and all retired in
good spirits, thanks to the gentleman who had thus, in spite of
himself, been made the instrument of producing such a pleasant state
of feeling.

A sort of informal levee was held on the following morning, when all
the forcible things bearing on the subject in hand were said which had
been forgotten at the meeting of the night previous, or were the
result of after cogitations.

As the time drew near for leaving, I called upon the landlord for my

"Oh, that's all settled," said he.

"Settled? by whom, pray?" I asked.

"Why, _they_ told me not to take anything from you, as they would make
it all right," he replied.

I called the attention of the landlord to the impropriety of such a
course under the circumstances, since in the event of the restoration
of the office to that village, it might be said, "Oh, it's easy
enough to see how that happened. They knew what they were about when
they paid the Agents' hotel bill."

For such reasons I declined the courtesy, and insisted on paying the
bill myself. The landlord finally yielded, remarking, "_they_ won't
like it when they find out that their directions were not followed."

Soon after, the stage arrived at the door of the hotel from a
neighboring town, on its way to the rail road depôt, and this was to
be my conveyance to that place. I took leave of such of the gentlemen
as were standing about the piazza, and mounted to the seat upon the
top of the stage, behind and above the driver's station. To this
elevated position I was unexpectedly followed by the "Committee on
Statistics," and another person whom I had not seen before. This move
on the part of the former gentleman was probably made not only to
secure my ear during the passage to the depôt, but to prevent the post
master there from gaining any advantage over him in the time which
would elapse between the arrival of the stage and the departure of the

Being placed, like men in general, between the known and unknown,--the
"Committee" on one side, and the stranger on the other, my attention,
soon after we had started, was attracted to the former individual by
sundry punches in the ribs, proceeding from his elbow, accompanied
with ominous winks and glances towards my other companion, who was
just then conversing with the driver.

"Look out what you say," whispered the vigilant Committee, "that
fellow is a spy; he is one of the Depôt boys."

"All right," I replied, in all sincerity, for I was not sorry to find
that my friend would be prevented by the presence of the "spy" from
executing the design which he undoubtedly had, of catechizing me in
reference to the report I should make to the Department.

Arriving at the station, I crossed over to the post-office, and there
remained until the whistle of the locomotive was heard.

"Well, good bye, Mr. W----," said I to the post master, offering my

"I think," said he, "that I will ride a little way with you, as far at
least as the next station."

He accompanied me across to the depot, and as we stepped upon the
platform of a car, we were followed by the "Committee" and one of his
most interested friends, who had come over in the stage with us, an
inside passenger.

These gentlemen were evidently bent on thwarting the plans of my
saccharine associate, but he had in an important particular greatly
the advantage over them, for, by virtue of his office, he was allowed
the privilege of riding in the mail car, to which we at once
proceeded, leaving our disappointed friends in the outer world, among
the undistinguished crowd whom the conductor indiscriminately calls
upon for "your money or your ticket."

My companion and his opponents alighted at the next station, to wait
for the return train, and as the cars moved on, I observed that they
were conversing together, the countenance of the former displaying a
radiant appearance of satisfaction which plainly showed his triumphant
state of mind.

I have no means of knowing what passed between them on their return,
but it is altogether probable that the "Committee" and his friend
employed the time in "pumping" or attempting to pump their associate,
unless he took refuge in the mail car.

The investigation resulted in restoring the post-office to the center
village, and in discontinuing the two others.

The reader will be pleased to learn that the "Committee on Statistics"
received the appointment of post master.



    A gloomy Picture--Beautiful Village--Litigation in Harrowfork--A
    model Post Master--The Excitement--Petitioning the
    Department--Conflicting Statements--The decisive Blow--The new
    Post Master--The "Reliable Man"--Indignant Community--Refusal to
    serve--An Editor's Candidate--The Temperance Question--Newspaper
    Extracts--A Mongrel Quotation--A Lull--A "Spy in Washington"--Bad
    Water--New Congressmen--The Question revived--Delegate to
    Washington--Obliging Down Easter--The lost Letters--Visit to the
    Department--Astounding Discovery--Amusing Scene--A Congressmen in
    a "Fix"--The Difficulty "arranged."

There is no blessing bestowed upon us by a kind Providence, which
man's selfishness may not pervert into a grievance. We have seen this
principle illustrated in the use and abuse of post-offices, as often
as in any other civil institution.

How society in the nineteenth century could exist without mail routes
and the regular delivery of letters, it is impossible to conceive.

Imagine a town without a post office! a community without letters!
"friends, Romans, countrymen, and lovers," particularly the lovers,
cut off from correspondence, bereft of newspapers, buried alive from
the light of intelligence, and the busy stir of the great world! What
an appalling picture!

We have always thought that Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday might
have enjoyed a very comfortable existence, had Juan Fernandez been
blessed with a post-office. But think of a society of Crusoes and
Fridays! nobody receiving letters, nobody writing letters--no watching
the mails, no epistolary surprises and enjoyments, which form so large
an element in our social life to-day!

But gloomy as the picture appears, we have many times thought that
some very respectable and enlightened villages would be decidedly
benefited, were the post office stricken from the catalogue of their
institutions. This is a bone of contention, which often sets the whole
neighborhood by the ears and communities, which might otherwise enjoy
the reputation of being regular circles of "brotherly love," break out
into quarrels, contentions, slanders, litigations, and all sorts of
unchristian disturbances.

The case of the town of Harrowfork, which I find recorded in my
note-book, will most capitally illustrate the point under
consideration. Harrowfork, by the way, is not the real name of the
town, but a fictitious one, which we use for our convenience, to avoid
personalities. It is located on the Eastern slope of an eminence,
which overlooks one of the fairest of valleys on one of the most
beautiful New England streams. The town was once a favorite place of
resort with the writer, during the Summer season; and, although this
was years ago, the pretty village is still fresh in his memory, with
its green hills, its handsome residences embowered in the foliage of
trees and vines--its rival churches, with their emulous spires
pointing toward heaven; its shady roads, and magnificent prospects,
looking far off upon the wide-spread valley, dotted with farmhouses,
and beautified by the sinuous, glittering waters of the stream.

Its sunrises were particularly fine, and it has always seemed to me
that the poet must have had them in his mind, when he penned the
sonnet commencing

    "Full many a glorious morning I have seen
      Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
    Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
      Gilding pale streams with Heavenly alchemy!"

It appears to us a strange dispensation of Providence, that such a
perfect nest of loveliness should be invaded by inharmonious cat
birds, and mischief-making wrens. But dissensions did creep in through
the post-office. Up to a certain time, such universal peace prevailed
among the inhabitants, that its two lawyers would have been beggared,
had they not wisely resorted to farming, as a more reliable occupation
than the occasional and precarious one of conducting some tame and
straight-forward case, for a petty fee. But now the lawyers have
enough to do, without turning aside from their regular profession;
litigation is brisk and spirited in Harrowfork, and intricate and
aggravated cases are numerous. Neighbors quarrel, church members sue
each other, deacons go to law, the lawyers build fine houses, their
families grow extravagant in dress--all owing to the post-office.

As long as old Uncle Crocker was post master, there was no difficulty.
He seemed just the man for the business. He was looked upon as a part
of the institution. Nobody thought of turning him out, more than they
would have thought of petitioning for the removal of Harrowfork Hill.

But Uncle Crocker was not a permanent institution, notwithstanding the
people's faith. One of his daughters married, and settled in the West.
Excited by the report she made of the country, two of his sons
followed her, and in the course of time, Uncle Crocker himself "pulled
up stakes," retired from the post-office with honors, and migrated to
the new territory.

As soon as the old gentleman's intention was made public, there was a
slight flutter of interest in the community, in relation to the
subject of a successor in his office. At first, if the name of a new
candidate was hinted at, it was offered like Snagsby's expression of
opinion in the presence of his wife--only as a "mild suggestion." But
there was a good deal of partisan feeling latent in Harrowfork, and
this was just the thing to develope it; and gently as the breeze had
arisen, it freshened and increased, until it blew a perfect
hurricane, that not only disturbed the whole county, but became
troublesome even as far off as Washington.

At an early period of the excitement, the friends of an enterprising
tradesman in the place had gone quietly to work, and procured his
appointment to the office. It was quite a surprise to many of his
fellow-townsmen, and no small sensation was produced when DEACON UPTON
was announced as the new post master. Many were dissatisfied, of
course, and although the deacon had always been known as a quiet,
inoffensive man, he suddenly became the subject of derogatory remarks.
The personal friends who had been instrumental in securing the
appointment, formed a spirited minority in his favor, while all who
had not been consulted in the premises, naturally felt bound to range
themselves on the side of his critics and opponents.

To make matters worse, a Presidential campaign followed Mr. Upton's
inauguration, and politics "ran high." The post-office became the
great centre and source of excitement. People met, on the arrival of
the mails, and glanced over the editorial columns of their newspapers,
and talked over their grievances. At length the great crisis came. A
change of Administration was effected. And as the health or sickness
of the nation appeared now to depend entirely upon the post-office
incumbent at Harrowfork, this subject received prompt attention from
all parties.

All sorts of communications, full of absurd complaints, contradictory
statements, imperative commands, and angry denunciations, were now
poured in upon the Post-Office Department at Washington. To show what
human nature is at such times, and also to designate how perfectly
clear and beautifully pleasant the duty of the appointing power
becomes, in the progress of the snarl, we will give a few specimens of
these conflicting missives.

Here is one version of the story:--

    To His Honor, the Post Master General, at Washington,


    Your Honor's humble petitioners, legal voters in the town of
    Harrowfork, respectfully submit the following _undeniable facts_
    for your consideration.

    First, the person who now holds the office of post master in our
    place, is _totally unfit_ for the business. He was got in by a
    clique of interested individuals, who used underhanded measures
    for the purpose, and succeeded in their object only by blinding
    the eyes of the Department to the real character of the man, and
    the wishes of the people. Not one man in fifty is in favor of the
    present incumbent; and those who are, turn out generally to be
    persons who seldom write or receive letters, and have little or no
    business in connexion with the post-office.

    Second, the office is left during a great portion of the time in
    the charge of the post master's father-in-law, a worthy old
    gentleman, but whose sight has somewhat failed him; so that when
    persons call for letters or papers, he has first to hunt up his
    spectacles, which he has been known to be near five minutes in
    finding; then he has to go over with the letters, &c., very
    slowly, to avoid making mistakes, very often taking them out of
    the wrong box at that, and after all, giving the wrong letters to
    people, or giving them none at all, when the fact is, letters for
    them have perhaps been lying untouched in the office for weeks.
    Such cases are nothing uncommon.

    Third, valuable letters have been lost through carelessness on the
    part of persons in the office, or from _less excusable_ causes, of
    which we leave your Honor to judge. Letters containing money are
    particularly liable to miscarry.

    Fourth, it is a fact which merits your Honor's special
    consideration, that, in consequence of the dissolute habits of the
    post master's nephew, who attends in the office evenings, a not
    very respectable gang of young men are encouraged to hang about
    the doors till late at night, making it very unpleasant for the
    more sober citizens to go there for their mails.

    Fifth, the present post master is a deacon of the church, and very
    sectarian in his views. There may be no direct connection between
    this circumstance, and the fact that the religious newspapers of
    different sects from his own, are apt to be lost or destroyed in
    the mails, while the "Helmet of Truth," a paper to which he is
    commissioned to obtain subscribers, is always punctually
    delivered! Your Honor's petitioners state this only as a
    remarkable coincidence, which may however have some bearing upon
    the case.

    In view of these stubborn and undeniable facts, we the
    undersigned, legal voters in the town of Harrowfork, humbly
    petition your Honor, that the present post master be removed, and
    a more suitable person appointed in his place.

    We also beg leave to suggest to your Honor's consideration, the
    name of Josiah Barnaby, as a fit and reliable candidate for the
    office, and a person who would be sure to give more general
    satisfaction to the community than any other available man.

    Trusting that the foregoing statements will receive your Honor's
    early attention, and such official action as the merits of the
    case demand, we remain

                         Your Honor's respectful petitioners.

                                      Signed by { Aminadab Fogle
                                                { and thirteen others.

This was certainly a strong case, and it would seem perfectly clear
that "his Honor" should straightway remove Upton and appoint Barnaby
to fill his place.

But close upon the heels of the above petition, followed another of a
very different character. The framers of the last also maintained that
a change should be made, and adduced strong charges against Upton; but
it appeared after all, that Barnaby was not the most reliable man.

    "Such an appointment," said the new document, "would give greater
    dissatisfaction, if possible, than the old one has done. The said
    Barnaby is an infidel, who made himself very obnoxious to all
    right-minded citizens by his avowed disbelief in the Scriptures,
    and his contempt of the Sabbath, and the ordinances of religion.
    Your Honor's humble petitioners, therefore, submit that it would
    be an outrage upon the feelings of a Christian community to have
    such a person appointed to so important and responsible an office.

    Furthermore, the undersigned take it upon themselves to affirm
    that it is not the wish of over four persons in our district that
    the said Barnaby should receive the commission. We understand the
    petition in his favor was drawn up by one Aminadab Fogle, whose
    name heads the list. Now it happens that the said Fogle is a
    brother-in-law of the said Barnaby, while at least three others in
    his (Barnaby's) favor are likewise connections of the family, and
    persons, like him, entirely destitute of religious principles.
    With regard to other persons who signed the petition, the most of
    them privately acknowledge that they did so, because they were
    urged, and could not refuse, without offending their neighbors.

    Under these circumstances, the undersigned respectfully represent
    that they express the general feeling of the community, when they
    nominate Mr. Homer S. Clark as an eligible candidate for the
    office in question."

Then follows an eulogy on Mr. Homer S. Clark; the whole winding up
with a grand rhetorical flourish, to the tail of which are attached
some twenty-three names, representing the active "better class" of
society in Harrowfork.

So it appeared that Clark was the right man; and undoubtedly the
Department would have proceeded at once to invest him with the
disputed honors; but before any action could be had in the matter, a
candid representation from another party, strengthened by affidavits,
served to cast "ominous conjecture" on the whole affair. This was a
petition from the Upton party, wherein it was maintained, that of the
two aspirants for office, Barnaby was the better man of the two, Clark
having made himself very unpopular, by failing for a large amount some
years before, going through chancery, and afterwards living in a style
of elegance unbecoming a man who had dismissed his creditors with ten
cents on a dollar.

It was also shown that the prime mover in favor of Clark was a cousin
of his, and the same person who was supposed to have held a large
portion of bankrupt property in trust for the said Clark at the time
of his failure! Still Barnaby was no more fit for the office, than the
petitioners in favor of Clark had represented. There were fifty in
Harrowfork eminently qualified to fulfil the duties of post master,
and who would give infinitely better satisfaction than either of the
new candidates; but of them all, there was no one, who, in the opinion
of the petitioners, was better calculated for the office than the
present incumbent. It was only a few dissatisfied, mischief-making
people, who pretended to consider a change at all desirable. Upton had
now been in a year; had shown himself obliging and faithful; and
although a few unimportant mistakes, unavoidable under the
circumstances, had escaped his eye in the early part of his career, he
was now experienced, and no such errors would be likely to occur in

The attention of the Department was then called to the fact that the
names of John Harmon, Solomon Corwin, Amos Fink, and several others,
probably would be found on both the Clark and Barnaby petitions! This
inconsistency was easily accounted for. In the first place, John
Harmon had always been accustomed, when Crocker was post master, to
make himself quite at home in the office. Mr. Upton, however,
exercising a stern impartiality, had from the first excluded every
outsider from the private room, Harmon not excepted, during the
business of opening and assorting the mails. Thereupon Harmon had
taken offence, and was ready to sign any petition against Upton,
without regard to the source whence it originated. With respect to
Corwin and Fink and any others whose names might be found on both the
previous petitions, they were easy, good-natured individuals, who
could not say "no;" and who might generally be prevailed upon to sign
any sort of a paper to which their attention was called.

It was therefore the humble prayer of the petitioners, that no
needless change should be made, but that the present post master
should be continued in office, at least until some good reason should
be assigned for his removal.

Then followed a good show of names designed to impress the Department
with the power and influence of the Upton party.

This put a different face upon the matter, and simple justice seemed
to require that the actual incumbent should remain unmolested in the
enjoyment of the honors and emoluments of his office.

But there came another statement from a fourth party, containing grave
and serious charges not only against Barnaby and Clark, but also
against Upton, and recommending the removal of the latter, and the
appointment of a new candidate, Mr. Ezekiel Sloman, to the vacancy. It
was made to appear that Mr. Sloman was the man, of all others, to
please the community at large; and for a time his prospects were very
good; but some of Upton's friends getting wind of the matter, it was
satisfactorily represented to the Department, that although an honest,
well-meaning man, the said Sloman was entirely destitute of energy and
business tact; that, indeed, he had so little worldly capacity that he
was literally supported by the charity of friends; and that in order
to relieve themselves of the encumbrance, these friends had united to
have him appointed post master.

Thus Sloman was cast overboard. The Upton party exulted. Their
opponents were exasperated, and a coalition was formed between the
Barnaby and Clark factions.

Aminadab Fogle and John Harmon put their heads together. Both Clark
and Barnaby were dropped, and all hands agreed to support a new man
named Wheeler. But the main thing was to remove Upton. The following
strong point was accordingly made against that individual, in addition
to the previous charges.

    "Although entirely disinterested in the matter, except so far as
    the common rights of humanity are concerned, the undersigned
    consider it their conscientious duty to inform your Honor that the
    said Upton is decidedly opposed to the present national
    administration. He has long been at heart an abolitionist of the
    deepest dye, and of late his fanaticism has shown itself in
    public. During the recent Presidential campaign, the post-office
    was made the head-quarters of the Free Soilers, and was, during a
    large portion of the time, converted into a regular caucus room by
    the leaders of that party. That your Honor may judge for yourself
    what this man's political conduct has been, the undersigned take
    the liberty of calling your attention to the enclosed editorial
    notice of a Free Soil meeting in which Deacon Upton took an active
    part. It is clipped from the columns of the "Temperance Goblet," a
    paper neutral in politics and religion, and entirely independent
    and impartial on the post-office question.

    The following is the newspaper paragraph referred to:

    "Next, we were a little surprised to see our respected friend post
    master Upton take the floor, and treat the audience to a harangue,
    which as a specimen of eloquence will, we venture to assert, find
    nothing to compare with it in the orations of Cicero. But it was
    the matter, more than the manner of the speech, which excited our
    astonishment. We had always given our friend credit for being a
    law and order man, _notwithstanding his well known abolition
    prejudices_," (words in italics underscored with ink by the
    petitioners,) until the occasion of this public demonstration of
    the most ultra Garrisonianism. How a man, uniformly discreet,
    should have suffered his feelings to run away with his judgment in
    a public discourse, we cannot conceive, unless it be that in the
    whirlwind of eloquence that bore him away, all consideration of
    law, patriotism, and duty, were lost sight of. After all, it is
    not Upton who is to blame, it is the times. He should have lived
    in Athens, in the palmy days of Grecian oratory. What would
    Demosthenes have been by the side of the giant Upton? Echo answers

This proved the decisive blow. Upton was cut off like Hamlet, senior,

    "Even in the blossoms of his sin."

Scarce was his removal effected, however, when the eyes of Harrowfork
were suddenly opened to the fact that he was "about the best man for
post master, that could be had, after all!"

The slanders that had been circulated to his disadvantage, were turned
in his favor. Among other instances of dishonest dealing, in the
opposition party, the great fraud touching Upton's Abolitionism, was
now discovered and exposed. He was proved to be entirely innocent of
any such "political heresy;" and it was further shown that the slip of
editorial clipped from "The Temperance Goblet," had never appeared in
the columns of that paper--that it had been prepared expressly, and
privately printed for the dishonest purpose it had served!

But the correction of the false and malicious statements came too late
to benefit Upton in his official capacity. He had "gone out with the
tide," and the returning waves were ineffectual to bring him in again.
He was politically defunct, and a new post master "reigned in his

About the new post master. He was the favorite of no faction, and the
appointment came to him as unexpectedly as to the public. This is the
way of it.

About the time, the "Town Committee," having first endorsed a paper in
favor of Wheeler, sent privately to Washington to inform the Post
Master General that the said endorsement was a mere formality, to be
taken no notice of whatever; and to recommend a new candidate named

The Department becoming not a little disgusted with the whole
business, wrote to a "reliable" man in the vicinity, but not in the
town, for advice on the subject. Flattered by the compliment, the
"reliable" person drew up an elaborate paper on the subject,
demonstrating that the party would be endangered by the appointment of
either of the rival candidates, and representing that some such
cool-headed and discreet individual as Mr. Walters, (a widower of
forty,) against whom no prejudice had been raised, and who would no
doubt prove acceptable to the entire community, should receive the
commission. This "reliable" man was supposed of course to be quite
disinterested. His suggestion was accordingly adopted, and Walters
walked into the Post-Office, as Upton walked out.

But little opposition would have been excited against the new
incumbent, had the manner of his appointment remained a secret. But
the "reliable" man thought it too good to keep. He desired that
society should know what an important personage he had become. The
dignity of his being consulted by the Department at Washington, would
be but half enjoyed privately. He accordingly rode over to Harrowfork,
shook hands with the "Select-men," talked about the post-office, and
laughed inwardly, holding his sides and looking suspiciously wise,
whenever the subject of the new appointment was broached. He knew a
thing or two--_he_ could tell a secret if he chose--there was more
than one way to settle a quarrel;--he knew the Department, the
Department knew him. Ha! ha! ha! and ho! ho! ho! &c.

Horrible doubts racked the brain of John Harmon. He took Aminadab
Fogle aside.

"Look here!" said he. "What relation is Judge Ames (the "reliable
man") to the new post master?"

"I declare," replied Fogle, "I never thought of that! Walters is Ames'
wife's sister's husband's youngest brother! He is dreadful thick, too,
with the family, and the talk is he is going to marry Ames' oldest

"That explains it," said John Harmon; "I knew there was something of
the kind at the bottom of it all. Keep dark, and I'll pump the Judge
until we get out of him all about the way this rascally appointment
has been made."

Already it was "a rascally" appointment.

After Harmon's talk with the Judge, who was but too ready to
acknowledge his instrumentality in the matter, it became a "detestable
appointment," and an "underhanded proceeding." And scarce had the tail
of the Judge's horse disappeared over the bridge that night, when all
Harrowfork rang with the discovery that had been made. Little thought
the "reliable" man as he went home, chuckling over the joke, what a
hornet's nest he had disturbed. But he probably knew something of it
the following Sunday, when the widower Walters went over to Amesbury
to pay a visit to the Judge's family in general, and his eldest
daughter in particular.

The truth is, a deafening hum of indignation had gone up from
Harrowfork, and it was universally declared that the new appointment
was by far the most objectionable that could possibly have been made!

The result was, the Department, the "reliable" man, and the new post
master, individually and collectively, got soundly abused by all
hands; and it was not long before a delegation was dispatched to
Washington, to expose the fraud, and remonstrate against the
continuance of Walters in office. Against the latter, the most serious
charges were preferred. It was claimed, among other things, that he
had been in town but a few years; furthermore, that he had some time
since held the office of post master in a neighboring state, and had
resigned to prevent being removed for official delinquencies. It was
mainly on this ground that the Post Master General was induced to
recall his commission. Scarcely was this done, however, when it was
discovered that the unfortunate man had been wronged; that it was
another Walters who had been a post master, &c.

Anxious to make immediate reparation, the Department hastened to send
on the papers again; but by this time, Walters, indignant at the
manner in which he had been treated, refused to accept the office,
writing a high-toned and dignified letter on the subject to the Post
Master General.

    "I do not wish," said he, "to have anything whatever to do with
    the petty strife of politics. I have not sought, neither do I
    desire, any public office. Had such been my ambition, my recent
    experience would be sufficient entirely to eradicate the disease,
    unless it had become chronic, from the effects of breathing too
    long the malaria of political society.

    "'Some men are born great; some achieve greatness; and others have
    greatness thrust upon them;' mine was of the last description; but
    I am thankful that it has been temporary: nor shall I again
    consent to endure 'the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune,'
    in so lofty and exposed a position as that of post master of

The sharp and independent style of this epistle made Walters quite
popular with the Department, and he was again urged to accept the
commission, which he again refused.

The trouble was accordingly no nearer a settlement than at the outset.
The Department had unwittingly offended everybody, and the "reliable"
man was, perhaps, the most violently indignant of all. When applied to
a second time, he fired off an explosive epistle at the Post Master
General, which would serve as a model for that style of writing.

"He was not the person," he said, "to place himself more than once in
a position to be gratuitously insulted." And he was surprised that the
Department, after subjecting Walters to the treatment he had received,
should again apply to him (the Judge) for assistance. Had he an enemy
whom he wished to make the victim of public animadversion and
disgrace, he might possibly nominate him to the office. But certainly
he could not think of laying such an affliction at the door of his
friends. In conclusion, the Post Master General, President, and
Company, were politely invited to "look elsewhere for support in

The truth is, the Judge's vanity was touched. Having enjoyed the
notoriety of procuring the appointment of Walters, he naturally became
incensed at the turn affairs had taken, and seized the first
opportunity of emptying the vials of his wrath in a quarter where they
were expected to produce a sensation. The Administration, however,

Meanwhile Mr. Atkins, editor of the Temperance Goblet, who had _his_
special candidate--a speculator named Blake--was playing his cards
adroitly. He had a strong ally in Hon. Mr. Savage, M. C., then at
Washington. The last-named gentleman, who had previously taken offence
at the Post Master General, for having the independence to fill a
vacancy in a post-office in his District without consulting him, now,
however, came alertly to the rescue, assuring the Department that
Blake was the most suitable man that could be chosen. Blake was
accordingly honored with the commission which Walters had refused.

Now Blake was a strenuous advocate of the "Maine law." He,
accordingly, had for his enemies all the opponents of his favorite
doctrine. The "Harrowfork Freeman," an anti-Maine law organ, was
particularly bitter against him. The editor of that paper lent his
columns to the exposure of the new post master's past course, and in a
"scathing article" accused him of having been formerly the proprietor
of a large distillery, and of having accumulated the bulk of his
property in that business!

On the other hand, Atkins of the Goblet devoted his paper to the
defence of his candidate. At the same time Hon. Mr. Savage had become
reconciled to the Post Master General, in consequence of the attention
paid to his recommendation in the case, and wrote a friendly and
familiar letter to the Department, explanatory and apologetic of
Blake's course. He alluded to the article in the "Freeman," and
expressed a hope that the Department would not be prejudiced by its

This reference, by the way, was the first intimation the Department
had, that such an article ever appeared. The honorable member went on
to treat the subject as if the general Government and the nation at
large stood waiting with breathless anxiety for the issue.

"True," said he, "he was at one time engaged in the manufacture of
liquor; but certainly that circumstance should not injure him in the
estimation of high-minded and liberal men. It is an honest calling, if
honestly followed, and nobody will pretend that Blake has not shown
himself upright in all his dealings. For my part, I hold to
enlightened views on the subject of eating and drinking; nor do I
believe that one citizen has a right to penetrate and criticise
another's private life."

Blake was continued in office, whether in consequence of the Honorable
member's championship, we cannot say. But certain it was, that in the
election struggle which came off soon after, Atkins of the Goblet
supported the regular candidate for Congress, who was no other than
this same Mr. Savage, of "enlightened views;" and by carrying the mass
of the temperance vote, secured his re-election by some forty-five

The Goblet's course in this business appeared not a little mysterious.
It had supported Blake for post master--a man whose temperance
professions were now regarded as entirely superficial and
worthless--and Savage for Congress, a person more than suspected as
being a moderate drinker and a man of boasted "liberal principles."
Messrs. Harmon and Fogle put their dissatisfied heads together to
discover the secret. They were aided and encouraged by the editor of
the Freeman, and presently in an article in that paper headed, "How to
make Tin Night-Caps out of Pine Shingles," the whole "black history of
shameless fraud and double-dealing," as it was called, was revealed
to an astounded public. We quote a few paragraphs from the Freeman's

    "Here," said the merciless reviewer, with genuine satire, "here is
    a beautiful instance of love and harmony in political life! Here
    is prophecy fulfilled. 'The lion and the lamb shall lie down
    together, and a little child shall lead them.' Savage--rightly
    named--is the lion. Blake--innocent, harmless, dove-like Blake,
    who never did anything wrong, is the lamb; and Atkins is the
    little boy. He leads them into sweet pastures of public office;
    and gives them to drink of Congress water and post-office pap. O
    happy trio! O honest and consistent coalition!

    "What makes the union appear all the more admirable, is the fact
    that the most discordant elements have here been made to blend and
    intermingle. Savage is a moderate drinker, who loves his wine at
    dinner, and his punch before going to bed. Atkins is a stiff and
    uncompromising temperance man. One is Maine law, the other is
    anti-Maine law. As for Blake, he is sometimes one, sometimes both,
    and sometimes neither one thing nor the other. But Atkins supports
    Savage, Savage supports Blake, and they all support each other.

    "Now, as our grandmother used to say, 'wherever you see a
    turnip-top growing, you may be sure that there's a turnip at the
    bottom of it. Large or small, it's still a turnip.' Now, we have
    long admired the luxuriance of Savage, Atkins, Blake & Co.'s
    turnip-tops. We have recently been looking for the turnip, and lo!
    here it is! Who secured Savage's re-election? Blake, when at the
    last county convention of the Maine Laws, he advised them not to
    make an independent temperance ticket for Congress. Who devoted
    his paper to the cause of the moderate drinker? Atkins. Who got
    Blake the post-office? Atkins and Savage. But what are Savage and
    Blake doing for Atkins all this time? Is Atkins so unselfish as to
    work for them gratis? Nobody believes it! Where then does the milk
    in the cocoa-nut come from? Let us see.

    "In the first place--we have it on the authority of an old lady
    who knows the genealogy of every family in the county, and can
    trace most people's ancestry back to Noah--Blake is Atkins's
    second cousin. There's one point. Now for another. Blake owns
    three-fourths of the entire Goblet printing establishment, and
    holds the property in such a way, that he can any day take the
    paper into his own hands, and manage it to suit himself!
    Therefore, whoever edits the Goblet, is Blake's tributary. We were
    going to say tool or slave, but concluded to sacrifice truth to
    politeness. Thus it happens that Atkins is only as it were Blake's
    left hand," &c.

After several more paragraphs of the same sort, the author of the
annihilating article, who found it very difficult to conclude the
subject, being of a very rich and attractive nature, finally summed up
all his points, and bound them together with a striking original
quotation, attributed to Shakspeare. It was as follows:

    "O consistency! thou art a jewel!
    Which, like the toad, ugly and envious,
    Bears yet a precious secret in his head."

It was this mongrel quotation which damped the Freeman's powder. The
Goblet took it up, turning the laugh against its rival; and for months
the modern style of rendering Shakspeare was a standing joke. Of
course a copy of the Freeman, containing the editorial marked, was
sent to the Post Master General; but on reading about the toad at the
end of the annihilating article, the Department dismissed the whole
subject with a good-natured laugh.

Notwithstanding the truth of the charges against him, Blake was
continued in office. 'Twas probably the fun of the thing that saved

Then followed a lull. The good people of Harrowfork were worn out with
the harassing post-office question, and it was permitted to rest until
the approach of the next Congressional election.

Atkins of the Goblet went openly to work to secure the re-nomination
of Savage. But in the mean time, a "spy in Washington"--there are
always "spies in Washington"--privately gave information to the
leading Maine law men in the District, concerning the Honorable
member's very equivocal support of temperance principles. Armed with
this intelligence, the indignant constituency remonstrated with
Atkins on the inconsistency of his course. He however, "flatly denied"
the allegations against Savage.

"Very well," said the constituency; "you may be sincere, but we shall
investigate the matter a little."

At the allusion to investigation, Atkins winced, and endeavored to
dissuade his friends from such a "needless step."

"We'll have a committee appointed to write Savage a letter, at all
events, and demand an exposition of his principles," replied they. "We
want to know what sort of a man we are supporting. We went for Savage
before, mainly through your influence; now we're determined to make
sure it's all right, before we give him a single vote."

"Nonsense, gentlemen," said Atkins; "of course it's all right! Don't
go to bothering our candidate with letters. Letters are the devil in

The temperance men, however, were not to be dissuaded, and a letter
was written, in which the Hon. member was asked, among other things,
if he was or was not "in the habit of using intoxicating liquors as a
beverage, while at the seat of Government?"

In reply to this question, the gentleman of "enlightened views" wrote
to the committee:--

    "I frankly admit, that the consequence of the bad water at
    Washington, which has so deleterious an effect upon my health,
    when I drink it, as to render me for a large portion of the time
    unfit for business, I have occasionally, by the advice of my
    physician, resorted to ardent spirits, simply as a remedial agent.
    Yet this habit has been confined _strictly_ to the Capital. Never
    out of Washington have I indulged in anything of the sort, even as
    a medicine."

This letter was received with significant nods and winks, expressive
of doubts and disapprobation, by the committee; and it was sent to the
"Goblet" for publication. In the mean time, however, its author had
given Atkins private instructions on the subject; and the "Goblet"
declined to publish the letter.

"Gentlemen," said Atkins, when called on for an explanation, "this is
an absurd affair from beginning to end. I opposed the proceeding at
the outset. I consider the letter perfectly satisfactory; but my
readers are tired of these things, and so am I. I must therefore be
excused from having anything to do with the affair."

"You will publish the letter, however, as an advertisement?" suggested
the committee.

"Not even as an advertisement!"

"Not if paid for?"

"No, not if paid for, gentlemen!" said the imperturbable Atkins.

"Very well," replied the committee, exasperated, "we know who will
publish it."

They went across the way to the office of the "Freeman," the "rum
paper," as it was called. Harmon, who was of the committee, knew the
editor, and took him confidentially aside.

"Atkins," said he, "refuses to print this document; 'twill be just the
thing for you, and it will spite him to see it in the Freeman."

"To tell you the truth," said he, "I'm afraid to publish it. 'Twill
just suit our moderate drinkers, and I'm not so sure but it would
injure _our_ candidate with that class of men. On the whole," said he,
"I think I won't print it."

Foiled in this quarter, John Harmon bethought him of the "News
Courier," a neutral paper published in a neighboring town, which
offered to print communications relating to the approaching campaign,
provided they were written in a proper spirit, and did not compromise
too much its position as a neutral journal.

The Savage letter was accordingly sent to the Courier, and promptly
appeared in its columns. But the editor, desiring to keep both scales
of the balance as nearly in equilibrium as possible, inserted in the
same number of his paper a very profound, scientific treatise, signed
"Filter," giving an analysis of the Washington water, showing that its
chemical properties were identical with those of the member's own
well at home! and strongly questioning the utility of mixing whiskey
with it at all, and more especially such whiskey as is too often sold
at the seat of Government!

The result was decisive. The Goblet lost popularity and patronage;
Atkins lost influence and money; and Savage lost the election. On the
other hand, the News Courier gained the favor and support of the
temperance people, by its "bold and manly course" in exposing the
rottenness of Savage's principles. John Harmon was triumphant; and one
of the very leaders of the temperance cause was sent to Congress.

The new member was no other than Judge Ames, the "reliable" man,
himself! Reader, be not surprised! Political life is fertile in such
unexpected events. The Judge had gained popularity by coming out
strongly for the Maine law. The old party to which he belonged had
endorsed his nomination, John Harmon electioneered for him, and lent
his horse and wagon to bring invalids, old men, and indifferent voters
to the polls, on election day; and the Judge was returned by an
overwhelming majority.

Then the old question of post master was again revived, and the whole
ground gone over again; the contest becoming more personal and
desperate than before, and the files of the Department teeming with
all sorts of exaggerated petitions and violent remonstrances. The
appointing power was made the victim of every kind of imposition and

In the mean while the new member exercised that better part of valor,
called discretion. Popularity rendered him good-natured and
conservative; and he lost no time in effecting a reconciliation with
the Post Master General, of whom he had so rashly complained. Already,
on the other hand he had written to his constituents describing the
embarrassment of his situation, and requesting as a particular favor
that he might for a brief period at least be excused from any personal
interference with the post-office quarrel.

This unexpected communication somewhat disappointed the enemies of
Blake; John Harmon, in particular, was highly exasperated, having
previously obtained a promise from Ames that, in case of his election,
he would use his influence to have Blake removed.

The antagonistic parties were accordingly left to settle their
difficulties as best they could. The battle raged furiously. Fresh
petitions, remonstrances, affidavits, and accusations were volleyed at
the Department; and at length a special bearer of dispatches was
delegated to Washington, to support the charges against Blake, and
demand of the Post Master General his reasons for declining immediate
action in so plain a case.

Now, the person selected for this important mission was no other than
our old acquaintance, Mr. John Harmon. He was intrusted with the
business for several excellent reasons. In the first place, he was a
ready and vehement talker. Secondly, he was an enthusiast on the
post-office question, and a bitter opponent of the Blake faction.
Thirdly, he understood human nature, and knew how to manage Ames.
Fourthly, and chiefly, he was the author of the most serious charge
against Blake. He had a short time before posted a letter containing a
twenty dollar bank-note, at the Harrowfork post-office. This letter
never reached its destination. Now, Blake knew there was money in that
letter; and it could be proved that, not long after its miscarriage,
just such a bank-note as the one contained was passed by the post
master, "under suspicious circumstances."

This charge was on file among the papers of the Department; and it was
thought that Harmon was the most suitable person to agitate the

Mr. John Harmon made a comfortable journey, and arrived at the seat of
Government in due season. His first business was to secure lodgings
suited to the high character of a delegate from Harrowfork. But
Washington was crowded with visitors, and the hotels were filled. Mr.
John Harmon was chagrined. He leaned his chin upon his hand, and his
elbow upon the counter of the "National." Mr. John Harmon ruminated.

"I don't see but what me'n' you'll hef to go halves, and turn in
together," said a voice at his other elbow.

Mr. John Harmon looked up. A stranger, of tall figure, prominent
cheek-bones, sallow complexion, dressed in a very new and very stiff
suit of clothes, smiled upon him in a decidedly friendly manner.

"There's jest one room, the landlord says'st we can hav' on a pinch,"
confined the speaker. "It's up pooty high, and an't a very sizable
room, at that. I've got the furst offer on't, but I won't mind makin'
a team'th you, if you're a mind to hitch on, and make the best on't.
What d'ye say?"

Mr. John Harmon said he supposed he would accept his new friend's
proposal. But at the same time he hinted to the clerk at the desk that
he was from the Hon. Mr. Ames' District.

"If you were the President, himself, we could not do any better by
you, under the circumstances," said the clerk.

This assurance served to soothe John Harmon's injured feelings, and he
retired to the room in the top of the house, with his new

"Come down on Gov'ment business, I s'pose likely?" suggested the

"Yes," replied John Harmon, "on post-office business."

"I want to know! Glad we fell in," cried the stranger. "I came down on
some sich business myself."

"Indeed!" said John Harmon. "You are going to call on the Post Master
General, then?"

"Shouldn't be 'tall surprised," remarked the other, rolling up his
sleeves over the wash-bowl. "Can't tell exac'ly, though. I wanted to
see what was goin' on down here, and git a sight of the big bugs, and
hear a little spoutin' in Congress; so I told our folks to hum--says
I, I b'lieve I'll scooter off down to Washin'ton, says I, and take a
peep into the Dead Letter Office, and see if I can find hide or hair
o' that 'ere hundred dollar letter, says I."

"Have you lost a letter containing a hundred dollars?" inquired John
Harmon, interested.

The stranger said "'twas jes' so," and went on to relate the
circumstances. He also incidentally stated that his name was Forrester
Wilcox; that he owned a farm somewhere "down East," comprising over
two hundred acres of land, and one hundred and fifty under
cultivation; that he had been a member of the Maine legislature, and
held the office of "deputy sheriff" in his county. This account of
himself impressed John Harmon favorably; and in return for the
confidence, he talked Mr. Forrester Wilcox to sleep that night, on the
subject of the Harrowfork post-office.

On the following morning, our friends concluded to pay an early visit
to the Post-Office Department. They were now on excellent terms with
each other; and on arriving at the Department, John Harmon readily
accepted an invitation from Forrester Wilcox to accompany him to the
Dead Letter Office, before endangering the digestion of his breakfast,
by entering upon the perplexing Harrowfork business. Accordingly, as
they entered the building, Mr. Wilcox hailed a messenger.

"Look here! you!" said he, "where abouts does a chap go to find the
Dead Letters?"

"This way," replied the polite messenger.

The visitors were shown to the left, through the lower main hall of
the Department; then turning into another passage, the messenger
pointed out the last door on the right, as the one they were in search

"Thank ye," said Mr. Wilcox; "I'll do as much for you some time. May
as well bolt right in, I suppose?" he added, consulting his companion.

John Harmon said "certainly," and the next moment the two found
themselves in the midst of the clerks of that important Bureau. Mr.
Forrester Wilson singled out one of the most approachable of them, and
addressed him on the subject of the hundred dollar letter.

"I have no recollection of any such letter," said the clerk. However,
for the visitor's satisfaction, he examined the list of returned money
letters, for the last quarter. John Harmon, interested for his friend
Wilcox, also ran his eye over the list.

"It's not here," said the clerk; "but you may rest assured, that in
case it is at any time discovered, it will find its way back to you in

He was about to dismiss the visitors, but John Harmon coughed; John
Harmon looked very red. John Harmon was perspiring very profusely. The
truth is, among the last letters on the list, he found recorded the
identical one, containing the twenty dollar bank note, which Blake was
charged with purloining! What to do in the matter, John Harmon was at
a loss to know. After some hesitation, however, he asked permission to
glance once more at the list. He was accommodated, and presently his
finger rested on the important entry.

"I declare," said he, "if there ain't a letter I mailed at Harrowfork!
I had no idea of finding it here! Can I get it now, by proving

"It has already been returned to your address," answered the clerk, on
learning the circumstances. "You will find it on your return to
Harrowfork. It miscarried in consequence of a mistake in the

"Are you sure it has been sent?" inquired John Harmon.

The clerk was quite sure, and John Harmon instantly withdrew.

"So there's one of your charges agin Blake knocked overboard,"
suggested Wilcox. "He'll be a little grain tickled to see that 'ere
letter come back, I s'pect!"

"No person," answered John Harmon, magnanimously, "no person in the
world can be more rejoiced than I am, that Blake is proved innocent of
the charge."

Wilcox replied that he was very glad to hear it; and so they parted to
meet again at dinner. Whether John Harmon was so greatly rejoiced at
the proof of Blake's innocence, will be seen in the sequel.

While the Down Easter went to see the lions about town, our delegate
found his way to the apartment of the Post Master General, and
inquired for that officer in a manner which said very plainly, "I am
John Harmon, of Harrowfork; and I guess now we'll have that little
post-office affair settled."

Unfortunately--or rather fortunately, for his own peace of mind, at
least, the Post Master General was engaged that morning at Cabinet
meeting at the White House, and John Harmon was referred to the First
Assistant, who listened patiently to his statement. Our delegate had a
speech prepared for the occasion, which he now declaimed in a very
high tone of voice, "with a swaggering accent, sharply twanged off,"
as Sir Toby Belch would have said, and with vehement and abundant

"I am instructed by my constituents," he said, in conclusion, "to
demand of the Department satisfactory reasons for the delay and
procrastination to which we have been obliged tamely to submit!"

"You should consider," politely returned the Assistant, "that
Harrowfork numbers only one among some twenty-four thousand
post-offices in the Union; and that it is a little unreasonable to
expect us to bear in mind all the details of an occasional and not
uncommon case. We will attend to your business, however, directly."

The papers relating to the Harrowfork Post-Office were sent for, and
promptly produced. The delegate seized them without ceremony. The
first endorsement that caught his eye, checked his eagerness, and
induced reflection.

"I'd like to know, sir," said he, "_what that means_?" as he called
the Assistant's attention to the Word "REST," inscribed in formidable
characters, very much resembling the hand-writing of the Post Master

"If you think," he continued, "or imagine, or flatter yourselves that
you're to have any kind of _rest_ in this marble building, till that
rascally Blake is turned out, you're very much mistaken. Or if it
means that you want the _rest_ of the temperance men in favor of his
removal, I can promise you so much, on my responsibility as a

The Assistant smiled. He had dealt with persons of John Harmon's
temperament before.

"Permit me to inform you," said he, "what that harmless little word
signifies. It means nothing more nor less than that, for the present,
no action is to take place. Ah!" he added, glancing at the brief upon
the papers, "I remember this case very well! It has been from first to
last an exceedingly vexatious one to the Department, and these
memoranda bring it pretty fully to my recollection."

"Well, sir," interrupted John Harmon, in his declamatory way--"isn't
it plain? isn't it perfectly clear? Haven't we the rights of the case,

"It is not quite so plain--not quite so clear--nor is it easy to
determine who has the rights of the case," returned the official. "The
most troublesome point at the present time, seems to be this: while,
according to the documents, a majority of the citizens of Harrowfork
seem to be eager for a removal, both the late member of Congress, and
the newly elected one, have written private letters here--I mention
this confidentially--in favor of the present incumbent."

"You don't mean Ames?" cried John Harmon. "Ames hasn't come out for

"There is a letter on file, over his own signature, in which he
represents that Blake is as suitable a man as could be named, and that
he had better be continued in office."

The Assistant spoke with seriousness and candor. John Harmon was

"Just give me a look at that letter!" said he, through his closed
teeth. "I want to see it over Ames' own fist, before I believe it!
When we promised our support for his election, he agreed to carry out
our wishes in regard to the post-office, at all hazards! If he has
dared to turn traitor!" muttered John Harmon, revengefully.

"The letter is entirely of a private nature," said the Assistant,
"but it is contrary to our wishes to keep any communications secret,
that are designed to influence our public acts; and owing to the
peculiar circumstances of the case, I am willing to show you the
letter,--on condition, however, that its contents shall not be
divulged outside the Department."

John Harmon, burning to seize upon the evidence of Ames' treachery,
assented, although reluctantly; and the official explored the
wilderness of papers, for the document in question. "Here it is," said
he, "no!"--glancing at the endorsement--"this is a communication with
regard to a letter of your own, containing a twenty dollar note, which
Blake is charged with purloining. How is it about that? anything new?"

"Well,--no,--hem!" coughed John Harmon. After discovering the proof of
Blake's innocence, in the Dead Letter Office, he rather hoped the
subject would not be mentioned; but he was too much absorbed in
looking after Ames' honesty, to take very good care of his own. "The
matter--hem!" (John's throat was quite musty)--"stands about as it

"You have no positive proof of the charge, then?"

"No,--well,--that is, not what would be called legal proof, I suppose.
The circumstances were very strong against Blake at the time, but
being all in the neighborhood, nobody liked to prosecute. For my
part," said John Harmon, nobly, "I'd rather suffer wrong, than do
wrong, and I preferred to lose the twenty dollars, to injuring Blake's
private character."

The Assistant made a commendatory remark touching this generous
sentiment, and passed over the letter. John Harmon wiped the
perspiration from his brow, and felt relieved. Whether he was ashamed
to confess his own gross carelessness in the matter, and the injustice
of his charge, or whether--acting on the principle of doing evil that
good might come from it, he determined to make the most of every point
established against Blake, without regard to truth--does not plainly
appear. We leave the affair to his own conscience.

The assistant meanwhile drew Ames' letter out of the "case." In his
eagerness to grasp it, John Harmon dropped it upon the floor. As he
stooped to take it up, his eye caught a glimpse of a visitor who had
just entered. John Harmon looked at the visitor, the visitor looked at
John Harmon. John Harmon looked first red, then white; the visitor
looked first very white, then very red. The delegate was the first to
resume his self-possession.


"Well, friend Ames, how do you do?" said he, adroitly shifting the
letter from his right hand to the left, and giving the former to the
"Honorable" member.

"Very well! Capital!" replied Ames, nervously. "What's the news?"

"Nothing particular," said John Harmon, with a grim smile, sliding the
letter into his hat. "Fine weather--Good deal of company at
Washington, I find."

"O yes, considerable!" Ames rubbed his hands, and tried to appear at
ease. "I am glad to see you here. You must go up to the House with me.
How are all the folks at home? How's Harrowfork now-a-days?"

John Harmon answered these questions evasively.

At the same time, the Assistant's countenance betrayed an inward
appreciation of unspeakable fun. The member's face grew redder still,
and still more red. The truth is, he had that morning received a note
from Blake warning him of Harmon's journey to the Capital, and had
just left his seat in the House, hastening to the Department, to
secure the fatal letter before it betrayed his treachery.

As we have seen, he was just too late.

The Assistant took pleasure in seating the two visitors side by side
upon the same sofa, and allowed them to entertain each other. But the
conversation was forced, unnatural, embarrassing. At length Ames,
resolved upon knowing the worst, plunged desperately into the
all-important subject.

"I suppose," said he, "you don't entirely get over the excitement at
home about the post-office."

"No, we don't," replied John Harmon, significantly; "and that ain't
the worst of it." He bent over the end of the sofa, and deliberately,
with the grimmest sort of smile, drew from his hat the Honorable
member's private note.

"And, somehow, it don't strike me," he added, glancing his eye over
its contents, "that this letter of yours is going to lessen the
excitement very materially. I suppose you know that hand-writing?"

He thrust the letter into the Honorable member's face. The Honorable
member's face flushed more fiery than before. He stammered, he smiled,
he rubbed his handkerchief in his hands, and upon his brow.

"My dear Harmon," said he, blandly, "I see you don't fully understand
this business."

"I'm sure I don't," cried John Harmon; "and I'd like to find the
honest man who does! Didn't you pledge yourself to use your influence,
if elected, to have Blake removed?"

"Don't speak so loud!" whispered the Honorable member, who didn't at
all fancy the humorous smile on the Assistant's face. "It's all right,
I assure you. But this isn't exactly the place to talk over the
affair. Come with me to my lodgings, and we'll discuss the matter."

Not averse to discussion, John Harmon consented to the proposal.

"I beg your pardon," said the Assistant Post Master General, "but that
paper,--I cannot suffer that to be removed."

It was the fatal letter. John Harmon wanted it; the Honorable member
wanted it still more; but the Assistant insisted, and the document was
left behind.

Now, the Honorable member was in what is commonly termed a "fix." Like
too many such politicians, who, nevertheless, as Mark Antony says, are
"all honorable men," he had found it convenient to adopt the "good
Lord, good devil" policy, using two oars to row his boat into the
comfortable haven of public office.

Accordingly, while gently drawing figmative wool over the visual
organs of the radical temperance people, he had managed, at the same
time, by private pledges, to conciliate Atkins, Blake & Company, and
secure the silence of the Goblet. Once elected, he did not fail to
look forward to a future election, in view of which he considered it
expedient to smile upon one faction with one side of his face, and
grin upon the opposition with the other.

For this double-dealing, honest, honest Iago,--we mean honest John
Harmon--called the member to account.

How the affair was settled is not generally known. But one thing is
positive. The Honorable member and the delegate from Harrowfork
suddenly blossomed into excellent and enduring friends; and not long
after, Mr. John Harmon became the occupant of a snug berth at the seat
of Government, supposed to have been obtained through the influence of
the Honorable member from his District.

"How about Blake and the post-office?" inquired Mr. Forrester Wilcox,
the morning he left Washington.

"I've concluded," replied John Harmon, candidly, "that the post-office
is well enough as it is. Blake turns out to be a passable kind of post
master after all, and I don't really think 'twill be worth while to
make any change for the present."

And this was the answer the worthy delegate made to all persons, who,
from that time forward, interrogated him on the subject.

Shortly after, his very Honorable friend, the member from his
District, being now decidedly averse to political letter-writing, went
home on a flying visit, and passing through Harrowfork, took pains to
make himself agreeable to all parties. Among other nice and prudent
acts, he privately consulted Blake. The post master listened to his
advice, and immediately on the member's return to Washington,
appointed as an assistant in his office, a young man of strict
temperance principles, who was quite popular with the opposition, and
who had for some time acted as Secretary of the "County Association
for the Suppression of Intemperance."

This appointment seemed to cast oil upon the troubled waters. And so
the matter rests at the present date.

Ames is still in Congress; John Harmon continues to enjoy his
comfortable quarters at the seat of Government. Tim Blake remains the
efficient post master of Harrowfork, with the young man of strict
temperance principles for his assistant; and Atkins still edits the

This powerful organ has of late regained something of its former
popularity and patronage; but whether it will support Ames at the next
Congressional election, depends upon Blake; whether Blake retains his
office, depends upon Ames; whether Ames maintains his position and
influence at home, depends in a very great measure upon honest John
Harmon, who, like the Ghost in Hamlet,

    "Could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up"

the political soil of Harrowfork, in a manner dangerous to the
Constitution and the Union.



    Infallibility not claimed--"Scape-Goats"--The Man of Business
    Habits--Home Scrutiny.

    A Lady in Trouble--A bold Charge--A wronged Husband--Precipitate

    Complaints of a Lawyer--Careless Swearing--Wrong Address--No

    A careless Broker--The Charge repulsed--The Apology--Mistake
    repeated--The Affair explained--A comprehensive Toast.

Infallibility is not claimed by those connected with the Post-Office
Department, and it cannot be denied that mistakes sometimes occur
through the carelessness or incompetency of some clerk or other
official. But if there is a body of men who perform the duties of
scape-goats more frequently than any other, those men are post
masters, and post-office clerks.

Whoever takes this responsible station with the expectation that a
faithful discharge of his duty will protect him from all suspicion and
blame, cherishes a pleasing dream that may at any moment be dispelled
by the stupidity, or carelessness, or rascality of any one among the
many-headed public, whose servant he is.

When it is considered that in the selection of persons to fill the
important office of post master, the Department makes every effort to
secure the services of competent and honest men, and that they, in
the appointment of their clerks, generally endeavor to obtain those of
a like character, it may reasonably be supposed that at least as high
a degree of accuracy and integrity can usually be found inside of
post-office walls, as without its boundaries.

I cannot, indeed, claim for this corps of officials entire immaculacy.
Could I justly do so, they would be vastly superior in this respect to
mankind at large. But without setting up any such high pretensions, I
would suggest that those connected with the post-office receive a
greater share of blame for failures in the transmission of letters
than justly belongs to them. Many people seem to think that nobody can
commit a blunder, or be guilty of dishonesty in matters connected with
the mails, but post masters or their employés.

Acting on this impression, such persons, when anything goes wrong in
their correspondence, do not stop to ascertain whether the fault may
not be nearer home, but at once make an onslaught upon the luckless
post-office functionary who is supposed to be the guilty one.

The investigation of some such unfounded charges, resulting in placing
the fault where it belonged, has brought to light curious and
surprising facts, respecting the atrocious blunders sometimes
committed by the most accurate and methodical business men. Such men
have been known to send off letters with no address, or a wrong one;
and even (as in one case which will be found in this chapter) to
persist in attempting to send a letter wrongly directed. They have
been known to mislay letters, and then to be ready to swear that they
had been mailed. The blame of these and similar inadvertencies has
been laid, of course, upon somebody connected with the post-office.

Mr. A. is a man of business habits; _he_ never makes such mistakes,
and indignantly repudiates the idea that any one in his employ could
be thus delinquent. So the weight of his censure falls on the
much-enduring shoulders of a post-office clerk.

Besides the class of cases to which I have alluded, which arise from
nothing worse than carelessness or stupidity, many instances occur in
which the attempt is made by dishonest persons to escape detection, by
throwing the blame of their villany upon post-office employés. Cases
like the following are not uncommon.

A merchant sends his clerk or errand-boy to mail a letter containing
money. This messenger rifles it, reseals it, and deposits it in the
letter box. On the receipt of the letter by the person to whom it is
addressed, the robbery comes to light; and, as the merchant is
naturally slow to believe in the dishonesty of his messenger, he at
once jumps at the conclusion that the theft was committed after the
letter entered the post-office. In such cases, and in those of which I
have been speaking, it would be well to establish the rule that
scrutiny, like charity, should "begin at home."

Letters are sometimes mailed purporting to contain money for the
payment of debts--when in fact they contain none--with the intention
of making it appear that they have been robbed in their passage
through the mails. In short, the cases are numberless in which,
through inadvertence or design, censure is unjustly thrown upon the
employés of the post-office; and the investigations of this class of
cases forms no unimportant branch of the duties of a Special Agent.

It has been the pleasing duty of the author, in not a few instances,
to relieve an honest and capable official from the load of suspicion
with which he was burdened, by discovering, often in an unexpected
quarter, where the guilt lay.

       *       *       *       *       *


The following case, which might properly be entitled "The Biter Bit,"
displays still another phase of the subject in hand.

A lady of a very genteel and respectable appearance, called one day on
a prominent New England post master, with a letter in her hand, which
she insisted had been broken open and resealed. She handed the letter
to the post master, who examined it, and appearances certainly seemed
to justify her assertion. She further declared that she well knew
which clerk in the office had broken it open, and that he had
previously served several of her letters in the same way. Upon hearing
this, the post master requested her to walk inside the office, and
point out the person whom she suspected.

Such an unusual phenomenon as the appearance of a lady inside the
office, produced, as may be supposed, a decided sensation among the
clerks there assembled. Nor was the sensation diminished in intensity
when the post master informed them, that the lady was there for the
purpose of identifying the person who had been guilty of breaking open
her letters!

This announcement at once excited the liveliest feelings of curiosity
and solicitude in the mind of almost every one present, and each one,
conscious of innocence, indulged in conjectures as to who that
somebody else might be, whom the accusing Angel (?) was to fix upon as
the culprit.

All their conjectures fell wide of the mark. After looking about for a
moment, the lady pointed out the last man whom any one in the office
would have suspected of such an offence--one of the oldest and most
reliable of their number.

"That is the person," said she, indicating him by a slight nod of the
head; "and if he persists in making so free with my letters, I will
certainly have him arrested. Why my letters should always be selected
for this purpose, I cannot imagine; but if any more of them are
touched, he will wish he had let them alone."

This direct charge, and these threats, produced a greater commotion
among his fellow clerks, than in the mind of the gentleman accused.
Waiting for a moment after she had spoken, he broke the breathless
silence that followed her words, by saying calmly,--"Mrs.----, I

"That is my name, sir."

"Have you concluded your remarks, madam?"

"I have, sir, for the present."

"Then, madam, I will take the liberty to inform you that _your
husband_ is the person on whom you ought to expend your indignation.
He has, at different times, taken several of your letters from the
office, opened and read them, and after resealing, returned them to
the letter box, having made certain discoveries in those letters, to
which he forced me to listen, as furnishing sufficient ground for his
course, and justifying former suspicions! He earnestly requested me
never to disclose who had opened the letters, and I should have
continued to observe secrecy, had not your accusation forced me to
this disclosure in self-defence. If you wish to have my statement
corroborated, I think I can produce a reliable witness."

The lady did not reply to this proposition, but made a precipitate
retreat, leaving the clerk master of the field, and was never
afterwards seen at that post-office.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the summer of 1854, among the complaints of missing letters made at
the New York post-office, was one referring to a letter written by a
young lawyer of that city, directed as was claimed, to a party in
Newark, N. J. Enclosed was the sum of twenty-five dollars in

The writer of the letter was annoyed by the circumstance, to an
unusual degree, and caused a severe notice of censure upon the
Post-Office Department, to be inserted in one of the leading New York
journals. A formal certificate was also drawn up, duly sworn to, and
forwarded to Washington.

It read as follows:--

    State of New York,

      City and County of New York, ss.

    John B. C----, of said city, Counsellor at Law, being duly sworn,
    doth depose and say that on the 19th day of July instant, he
    enclosed the sum of $25 in a letter addressed to Capt. John M----,
    Newark, N. J., and deposited the same in the post-office in the
    city of New York. That the said enclosure and deposit of the
    letter was made in the presence of one of the principal clerks of
    the said post-office, whose attention deponent particularly called
    to the fact at the time. That deponent is informed, and believes
    that the said clerk's name is John Hallet.

      Sworn before me this
        10th day of August, 1854.
                  (Signed) HENRY H. M----,
                      Comr. of Deeds.

The complainant was visited by the Special Agent, and the bare
suggestion that the failure might have been owing to some error in the
address of the letter, was received with much indignation. _He_ didn't
do business in that way, and the post-office and its clerks couldn't
cover up their carelessness or dishonesty, by any such inventions.

The reader ought to have been present in the post master's room, some
few months subsequently, when this infallible (?) individual called,
in response to a notice that his letter had been returned from the
Dead Letter Office!

_Secretary._--"Good morning, Mr. C----."

_C._--"Good morning, sir. I have received a notice to call here for a

_Secretary._--"Yes, sir, that is the one referred to, (placing the
unlucky missive before him). Is that address in your hand-writing?"

_C._--"Why,--y-e-s, it's mine sure--I couldn't dispute that."

_Secretary._--"It seems to be directed to Newburg, N. Y., instead of
to Newark, N. J."

_C._--"I have nothing to say. I could have sworn that the address was

_Secretary._--"You did so swear, I believe. Mistakes will happen, but
I think the least you can do, will be to retract the article you
published censuring us, for what you were yourself to blame."

The amazed limb of the law made no further reply, but left the office
gazing intently on the letter, and in his bewilderment getting the
wrong door, as he had originally got the wrong address upon the

No such correction was ever made, however, and like hundreds of
similar faults, for which others are alone responsible, the charge yet
stands against the Post-Office Department, and those in its employ.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some years since, a letter containing drafts and other remittances to
a considerable amount, was deposited in the New York office, to be
transmitted by mail, having been directed (as was supposed) to a large
firm in Philadelphia. This letter would pass through the hands of a
clerk, whose duty it was to separate all those deposited in the letter
box, and arrange them according to their respective destinations. He
discovered that it was directed to _New York_, yet though he had heard
of the firm to which it was addressed, he thought it might have been
so directed for some particular purpose, and accordingly placed it in
the "alphabet," for delivery to the proper claimant. On the day after
this, Mr. D., of the firm of D. & A., well known brokers in Wall
Street, called at the office and stated that his clerk had deposited
such a letter to be mailed in time to go to Philadelphia the same day,
but that he had been advised that it had not been received.

The clerk in attendance was somewhat perplexed by this statement, but
suggested the probability that _his_ clerk, in the hurry of business,
had directed it wrong.

Mr. D. replied that this could not be, for he saw all his letters
before they were confided to the charge of his clerk, and as the one
in question had not been received, it must have been mailed
incorrectly through the ignorance or carelessness of the clerk
assigned to that duty; and indeed went so far as to intimate that it
might have been detained purposely. This insulting remark induced the
post-office clerk to express his perfect indifference concerning such
a groundless conjecture, and to state, as his opinion, that the charge
of ignorance, carelessness, or sinister design, would eventually be
found to rest on the shoulders of Mr. D. or his clerks.

Against this turning of the tables, that gentleman indignantly
protested, and the post master, who overheard the altercation,
appeared vexed and displeased at the supposed delinquency of his
clerk. A general search was commenced in the office, in order, if
possible, to settle the disputed point. In the course of this
investigation, the "pigeon-hole" designed for letters corresponding
with such a name as that of the Philadelphia firm, was examined, and
the letter in question was found, directed "New York," instead of

Upon this being known, Mr. D. made many apologies, begged to be
exonerated from all intention to charge criminality upon any one, took
his letter and retired, much disconcerted and chagrined.

He went to his office and poured out sundry vials of wrath upon the
head of his luckless clerk, to whom he attributed the atrocious
blunder which had been committed. The affair, however, did not end

On the following day a letter was deposited in the post-office, at
about one o'clock, in time for the Philadelphia mail, _directed
precisely as before!_ viz. addressed to the Philadelphia firm, but
directed "New York," and happened to fall under the eye of the clerk
who had been cognisant of the error of the day previous. This second
instance of gross inadvertence, or something worse, on the part of
somebody, was rather too much for the equanimity of the post master,
who at once sent for Mr. D., and showed him the letter, which seemed
as if it was under the influence of some mischievous enchanter. As the
words "New York," in the superscription, stared D. in the face, he in
turn became enraged, and was about to leave the office with the fell
design of discharging his clerk _instanter_. The post master then
requested him, before he left, to sit down and alter the direction of
the letter from "New York" to "Philadelphia," which he did. The
letter was mailed accordingly, and duly received.

A few days afterwards, the post-office clerk met Mr. D., and said to
him, "I suppose you have turned off your clerk for his mismanagement
in relation to the letter about which so much trouble was made in our

"Ah!" replied he, "I believe I shall have to confess that _I_ was the
only one to blame in the matter. My clerk was perfectly innocent. On
returning home with the letter, I laid it down with the intention of
having the mistake in the direction rectified, but having something
else to call off my attention just then, it was mixed with the letters
for city delivery, and was taken to the office with them by my clerk."

Thus all this trouble and vexation was caused by the carelessness of a
man who was accustomed to system and accuracy in the transaction of
his business; and the above related facts may lead even persons of
this description not to be too confident of their own freedom from
error, when any mistake like that just mentioned occurs.

I can give no better summary of the whole subject under consideration,
than that which is found in some remarks made by Robert H. Morris,
Esq., on the occasion of his retirement from the office of post master
of New York, in May, 1849, at a dinner prepared for the occasion.

During the evening Mr. Morris said,

"Gentlemen, please fill your glasses for a toast. As I intend to toast
a man you may not know, I deem it necessary, before mentioning his
name, to tell you what sort of a man he is.

"He rises at 4 o'clock in the morning and works assiduously during the
whole day, until 7 o'clock in the evening--goes wearied to bed, to
rise again at 4 o'clock, and again to work assiduously.

"If the gentlemen of the press--and there are some among
us--incorrectly direct their newspapers for subscribers, it is the
fault of the man I intend to toast, if the papers do not reach those
to whom they should have been addressed.

"If a publishing clerk omits to address a newspaper to a subscriber,
it is the fault of the man I intend to toast that the subscriber does
not get his paper.

"If a man writes a letter and seals it, and neglects to put any
address upon it, it is the fault of the man I will toast, if the
letter does not reach the person for whom it was intended.

"If an officer of a bank addresses a letter to Boston instead of New
Orleans, it is the fault of the man I shall presently toast, if the
letter is not received at New Orleans.

"If a merchant's clerk puts a letter in his over-coat, and leaves that
coat at his boarding-house, with the letter in his pocket, the man I
will toast is to blame because the letter has not reached its

"If a merchant shuts up a letter he has written, between the leaves of
his ledger, and locks that ledger in his safe, the man I will toast
has caused the non-reception of that letter.

"If a poor debtor has no money to pay his dunning creditor, and writes
a letter that he encloses fifty dollars, but encloses no money, having
none to enclose, the man I will toast has stolen the money.

"If a _good, warm-hearted, true_ friend, receives a letter from a dear
(?) but poor friend, asking the loan of five dollars; and, desiring to
be considered a good, warm-hearted, true friend, and at the same time
to save his five dollars, writes a letter saying 'dear friend, I
enclose to you the five dollars,' but only wafers into the letter a
small corner of the bill,--the man I will toast has stolen the five
dollars out of the letter, and in pulling it out, tore the bill.

"If a rail-road-bridge is torn down or the draw left open, and the
locomotive is not able to jump the gap, but drops into the river with
the mail, the man I will toast has caused the failure of the mail.

"This, gentlemen, is the stranger to you, whom I will toast. I give
you, gentlemen--A POST-OFFICE CLERK!"



    The wrong Address--Odd Names of Post-Offices--The Post-Office a
    Detector of Crime--Suing the British Government--Pursuit of a
    Letter Box--An "Extra" Customer--To my Grandmother--Improper
    Interference--The Dead Letter--Sharp Correspondence--The Irish
    Heart--My Wife's Sister.

Giving the wrong State in an address, is a disease as common among
letters, as hydrophobia among dogs. A draper's clerk in C---- sent a
remittance to Boston which did not arrive there. The draper was
obliged to send the amount (three hundred and fifty dollars) again,
which he did personally, to prevent mistakes. This too failed to
arrive, but the first was soon received by him from the Dead Letter
Office, having died at Boston in _New York_, instead of
_Massachusetts_! The merchant drank gunpowder-tea, and gave his clerk
a "blowing up." The latter person, however, was in some sort avenged,
not long after, for Coroner John Marron reported that the second
letter, written and mailed by the merchant himself, had died of the
same disease that carried off the first, and forwarded the body to

It should here be mentioned, for the benefit of the uninitiated, that
the gentleman referred to, is the Third Assistant Post Master General,
embracing the Superintendence of the Dead Letter Office. His duties
may be considered as in some respects analogous to those of a Coroner,
as he, or those in his bureau, in the case of defunct money letters,
ascertain the causes of death, and send the remains to surviving

The omission of the name of the State from the address of a letter,
often causes much uncertainty in its motions.

There are, for instance, seven Philadelphias besides the one in
Pennsylvania, twenty-three Salems, as many Troys, and no end of
Washingtons, Jeffersons, and other names distinguished in the history
of the country.

There are three New Yorks, and eleven Bostons. Indeed the majority of
the names of the post-offices are at least duplicated, and often
repeated many times, as we could easily show; but two or three more
specimens of this will suffice. Twenty-three Franklins, twenty
Jacksons, and sixteen Madisons, will help to perpetuate the memories
of the distinguished men who once bore those names.

The danger of a letter's miscarrying in consequence of the omission of
the name of the State on its direction, is of course reduced to
nothing, when there is no other post-office in the country with the
same name as the one addressed, especially if there is any oddity
about the name. Thus, were we to direct a letter to "Sopchoppy," it
would be likely to find the place rejoicing in that euphonious title,
even were the State (Florida) omitted in the address; although it
would often involve the trouble of consulting the list of
post-offices. "Sorrel Horse," also, could not fail to receive whatever
might be sent to it.

A teetotaler would not be surprised to find "Sodom" in "Champaign
County;" and while on this subject we would say that temperance views
seem to have prevailed in naming post-offices. We have two named
Temperance, and three Temperancevilles, to balance which, besides the
above Sodom, there appear only "Gin Town," and "Brandy Station," one
of each.

One given to speculation on such matters, would be curious to know
what must be the state of society in "Tight Squeeze." Is the "squeeze"
commercial or geographical? Do hard times prevail there as a general
thing, or is there some narrow pass, leading to the place, which has
originated the name? There may be some tradition connected with the
subject; at least a moderately lively fancy might make something even
of such an unpromising subject as "Tight Squeeze."

Far different must be the condition of things in "Pay Down." This
favored place is doubtless eschewed by advocates of the credit system,
and here Cash must reign triumphant.

Some villages seem to aspire to astronomical honors. There are in our
social firmament, one Sun, one Moon, and two Stars; also one Eclipse,
and a Transit, whether of Venus or not is unknown. So it appears that
the "man in the Moon," is not altogether a fictitious character, but
may be a post master.

The twenty-five thousand names contained in the list of post-offices
would furnish many other curiosities as noticeable as those just
cited, and we refer those who are desirous of entering more largely
into the subject, to that work.

It is sufficient for us to have called the attention of the public to
the necessity of exactness and sufficient fulness in the address of
letters, to insure their delivery at the place where they are intended
to go. Much vexation, and real inconvenience would be obviated, if
more care were exercised in this respect, and the Dead Letter Office
would have fewer inquests to make.

       *       *       *       *       *


The mails, as we have seen, afford facilities to the rogue for
carrying out his designs as well as to the honest man in the
prosecution of his business. But the post-office has been made,
accidentally or purposely, the instrument of bringing to light
criminals who had hitherto remained undetected; and whose deeds had no
such connection with the mails as those which have thus far been
described in this work.

A striking instance of this has been kindly furnished me by the
Cincinnati Post Master, relating to a case which has excited the
horror of the whole country. I refer to the Arrison case, most of the
circumstances of which are doubtless familiar to my readers.

It will be recollected that the man Arrison was guilty of murdering
the steward of the Cincinnati Hospital, and his wife, by means of a
box, containing explosive materials, which took fire by the action of
opening it. Arrison immediately absconded, and his place of retreat
remained undiscovered for some time; but he was destined to be
betrayed by a chain of circumstances, hanging upon an accident of the
most trifling description.

A letter came to the Cincinnati office from Muscatine, Iowa, addressed
to "P. F. Willard, Cincinnati, Ohio." The Muscatine post-mark was so
placed as to cover the P. in the address in such a manner as to make
it resemble a C. There being a young lawyer in the place by the name
of C. F. Willard, the letter was very naturally placed in his box.
Upon opening and reading the document, he found that its contents were
of the most mysterious character, and totally incomprehensible.
Finding thus that it was not intended for him, he very properly
returned it to the office with the request that it should be handed to
the post master. This gentleman calling to mind the circumstances of
the Arrison case, and being familiar with some of the names connected
therewith, came to the conclusion, after reading the letter, that
Arrison was the writer, and thereupon gave the information which led
to his discovery and arrest.

       *       *       *       *       *


A clerk stationed at the "General Delivery" window of the post-office,
dispensing epistolary favors to the impatient throng without, was
suddenly confronted by a countenance flaming with wrath; which
countenance was part and parcel of the individual, now first known to
fame by the name of Mike Donovan, who had elbowed his way through the
crowd, and now stood before the astonished official, demanding
justice. Handing him a foreign letter, marked "24 cents," Mike
exclaimed in a tone of righteous indignation,

"Here, sir, is a letther that I paid twinty-four cints for, out of me
own pocket, and the letther is from Pat Cosgrove, me cousin in ould
Ireland, and Pat is as honest a boy as iver saw daylight, and Pat, he
says inside of the letther that he paid the postage, and so some
raskill has chated me, and I mane to make him smart for't; and I'd be
obleiged to ye if ye'd tell me who to _sue_. Bedad, it isn't me that's
goin to put up wid such rashcality."

Here he brought down his shillalah on the floor, to the imminent
danger of his neighbor's toes, with an emphasis strongly suggestive of
his fixed determination to exact the uttermost farthing from his
unknown defrauder.

The clerk informed him if any mistake had occurred, the British
Government was the delinquent, and therefore the party to be sued.

"Is it the British Government?" inquired Pat.

"Certainly," was the reply, "that's where you must look for your
twenty-four cents."

Mike settled his hat over his eyes, and walked out of the office with
an air of defiance to the world in general, and the British Government
in particular.

       *       *       *       *       *


Timothy Boyle, entering the post-office one morning, and perceiving a
clerk "taking a limited view of society" through the aperture
technically called "general delivery," naturally supposed that the
duties of this functionary included receiving as well as delivering,
and accordingly handed him a letter adorned with the lineaments of
the Father of his Country, (not Tim's,) and bearing upon its exterior
this general exhortation to all whom it might concern,--"With spede."

The clerk directed Tim to deposit the document in the letter box.

"And where _is_ the letther box?"

"Follow this railing," said the young man, "and you will find it round
the corner;" meaning thereby the corner of the tier of boxes, which
was surrounded by a neat railing.

On the strength of these instructions, Tim turned on his heel, dashed
into the main street, ("with spede," as per letter,) and walked on
vigorously till he arrived at a corner, which happened to be occupied
as a tailor's shop.

"I want to put this letther in the box," said Tim, after looking about
him in vain for any sign of such a receptacle.

"What box?" asked the tailor.

"What box would I put it in but the letther box?" replied Tim.

"Who sent you here after a letterbox?" said the tailor; "you must be a
natural fool to suppose that we have any such thing here."

"Natheral fule or not, sir, I was towld by the clark at the
post-office that I'd find the box round the corner, and shure this is
a corner I've come to, and if it isn't here, I don't know where I'll
find it."

"You'd better go back to the post-office," said the tailor, "and see
whether the clerk can make you understand where to put your letter."

So the unlucky Tim left the tailor's shop with the impression that he
had been made a goose of by the post-office clerk, and by "nursing his
wrath to keep it warm," he succeeded in bringing it to the boiling
point, by the time that he again entered the office.

"And it's a purty thrick ye've bin a playin' me, Misthur Clark," he
vociferated, "sendin' me to a tailor's shop for a letther box! Bad
luck to ye, what for did ye put me to all this throuble?"

The clerk blandly explained to Mr. Boyle that the "throuble" was
caused by his own impetuosity, not to say stupidity, and finally
succeeded in describing the locality of the letter box in such a lucid
manner, that even Tim was guided by his direction to the much desired
spot, and it is to be hoped that the letter in question underwent no
more such vicissitudes, before it reached its destination.

       *       *       *       *       *


An Irish dame entered the post-office at----, and walking up to the
post master with a letter in one hand, and a three cent piece in the
other, she committed them both to his charge, inquiring, "will the
letther go?"

"Certainly it will," was the reply.

"But is it in time for the extra?"

"In time for the _what_?" asked the mystified post master.

"Is this letther in time for the _extra_?" repeated the woman.

"What do you mean by extra," rejoined the official.

"I mane, is the _baggage_ put up?" replied the persevering questioner.

The post master, seeing that the good woman was so thoroughly posted
up in all the details of letter-sending, informed her categorically
that the letter _would go_, inasmuch as it was in time for the
"extra," and the "baggage" was _not_ "put up."

Hereupon the inquisitive lady, having been fully satisfied in her own
mind that the epistle would not fail of the "extra," sailed out of the
office a happier, if not a wiser woman.

       *       *       *       *       *


A little bright eyed, flaxen-haired boy, was one day observed to enter
the vestibule of the post-office at Washington, with a letter in his
hand, and to wait very modestly for the departure of the crowd
collected about the delivery window. As soon as the place was cleared,
he approached the letter box and carefully deposited his epistle
therein, lingering near as if to watch over the safety of the precious
document. His motions attracted the attention of the clerk stationed
at the window, whose curiosity induced him to examine the
superscription of the letter just deposited by the little fellow. The
address on the letter was simply, "To my dear Grandmother, Louisiana;"
doubtless some good old lady, whose memory, in the mind of her
innocent grandchild, was redolent of cake and candy, and all the
various "goodies" which grandmothers are generally so ready to supply,
to say nothing of the various well meant offices of kindness, to which
their sometimes blind affection prompts them. "Look here, my little
man," said the clerk, "what is your grandmother's name, and where does
she live?"

"Why, she's my grandma, and she lives in Louisiana."

"Yes, I see that on the letter, but it will never get to her if her
name isn't put on, and the place where she lives."

"Well, please put it on, sir."

"But I shall not know what her name is, unless you tell me."

"Why, sir, she's my grandma,--don't you know her? She used to live at
my house."

After the display of considerable ingenuity on the part of the clerk,
and a good deal of innocent evasion by the child, the old lady's name
and place of residence were finally ascertained, and added to the
address; after which the little one went on his way, rejoicing in the
assurance given by the clerk that now his "dear grandmother" would
certainly receive the important epistle from her darling.

       *       *       *       *       *


A letter was once sent from the Dead Letter Office at Washington,
containing rail road scrip to a considerable amount. The letter had
been mailed in a Southern town, and miscarried, and it was returned to
the post master of that town for delivery to the writer. It so
happened that the writer of the epistle had failed in business, and on
the arrival of the letter the post master informed one of his
creditors, and an attachment was laid on the letter by the Sheriff.

The writer reported the case to the Department, when a peremptory
order was sent requiring the post master to return the letter at once
to the Dead Letter Office at Washington. It was sent, and the return
mail brought the post master's dismissal from office and the
appointment of his successor.

The post-office was worth $1200 a year, and the discharged post master
had abundance of time to count up the profits that might have been
made by acting up to the good old rule, "Let every man mind his own

       *       *       *       *       *


The following is contributed by "Dave," of the Columbus (Ohio)

During my term of service at the General Delivery of this office, it
was my custom, upon receiving dead letters from Washington City, to
make a list of the names of the persons to whom they were addressed,
and stick it up in the lobby of the office, with a notice, "Call for
Dead Letters."

One day an elaborate specimen of Erin's sons, whose brawny fist and
broad shoulders seemed to denote a construction with an eye single to
American rail roads, lounged into the office, and up to the board
containing the aforesaid list. He looked at it a moment and burst into
tears. I spoke to him through the window, and asked him what was the

"Oh! Mr. Post Master, I see ye have a daid letther for me. I spect me
sester in Ireland's daid, and it's not awake since I sint her a tin
pound note to come to Ameriky wid--and kin ye tell me how long she's
bin daid, Mr. Post Master?'

I asked him his name, found the "letther," and after a request from
him to "rade it, sir, and rade it aisy if you plaze," opened it and
told him not to cry; that his sister was not dead, but that it was a
letter written by himself and directed to _Michael Flaherty_, BOSTON,

And is Michael daid, Mr. Post Master?"

"No, I guess not," said I.

"Well, who _is_ daid, sir?"

I explained to him that letters not taken from the office to which
they were addressed within a certain time, were sent to what was
called the Dead Letter Office at Washington City, and from thence, if
containing anything valuable, to the persons who wrote them.

"God bliss ye for that, sir, but Michael lives in Chicaga."

I told him I would not dispute that, but Boston and Chicago were two
distinct cities, and the letter was addressed to both, and that Boston
being the first named, it had been retained there, and his friend had
not received it.

"Sure and I thought Boston was in Chicaga! and that's what ye call a
daid letther, is it? Faith and I thought it was Bridget and not the
letther, was daid. Ye see, Mr. Post Master, Michael he writ home to
the ould folks that he lived in Chicaga, that he had married a nice
American lady, that she was a sea-cook on a stameboat, and that they
called her a nager. So whin I started for Ameriky, the ould modder,
Miehael's modder, she give me these illegant rings (the letter
contained a pair of ear-rings,) to give Michael's wife for a prisint.
When we landed at Boston, I wrote Michael the letther, tould him I was
going to Columbus to live, put on the name--Michael Flaherty, Boston,
Chicaga, and put it in the post,--and sure here it is, and Michael's
sea-cook nager niver got it. Bad luck to the ship that fetched me to
Boston, Mr. Post Master."

After offering to "trate me for the trouble" he had caused me, he
left, and ever after, when he mailed a letter he brought it to me to
put on the address, "Because he didn't understand these daid

       *       *       *       *       *


One of the Peter Funk "Gift-Enterprise" firms in a large city, sent a
package of tickets to a post master in Maine, the postage upon which
was fifteen cents unpaid. They got the following hard rap over the
knuckles, from the indignant official:--

    "I herewith return your tickets. You must be fools as well as
    knaves, to suppose that I will aid you in swindling my neighbors,
    and _pay all the expenses myself_."

To which he in a few days received the annexed "settler:"--


    "We perhaps owe you an apology for sending the parcel postage

    As we infer from the phraseology of your note, that you are
    willing to swindle your neighbors if we will pay all the expenses,
    please give us your lowest terms on which you will act as our

    P. S. All communications shall be strictly confidential."

This note was promptly returned, with the following endorsement across
its face, by the post master:--

    "It seems you are not only fools and knaves, but blackguards also.
    Ask my neighbors if they think I would "swindle" them either at my
    own expense or that of any one else."

To which this answer came back by next mail:--

    "We _have_ inquired of your neighbors long ago, and that's the
    reason we applied to you in the first instance."

Here follows the post master's final reply:--

    "I acknowledge the corn. Send us your street and number, so that
    I can call on you when I come to the city, and I may conclude to
    aid your "Enterprise."

But that was the last thing that the "Gift" gentleman could think of
doing. In fact, secrecy as to his locality, was quite essential in
keeping out of the clutches of the Police.

       *       *       *       *       *


Many of the reading public will remember the sad accident which
occurred in Hartford, Conn., in the year 1853, when by the bursting of
a boiler connected with a car factory, several of the workmen were
killed. Among the killed were two Irishmen, brothers, each of whom
left a widow, with an infant child. These men had been industrious and
faithful toward their employers, and kind in their own households, so
that when they were taken away in such a sudden and shocking manner,
their sorrowing widows felt a double stroke, in the loss of
affectionate hearts, and in the deprivation of many of the comforts
which the hand of affection had hitherto supplied. Their little ones,
too, required much of their attention, and often seriously interfered
with their efforts to provide for the daily wants of their desolate

About six months after the accident, the Hartford post master received
from the Department at Washington a "dead letter," which had been
written by these brothers to a female relative in Ireland, enclosing a
draft for ten pounds sterling, to defray the expenses of her passage
to America.

This anxiety on the part of these children of Erin who had come to
this land of promise, to furnish their relatives and friends whom they
had left behind, with the means of following them, is a striking
manifestation of that ardent attachment to home and its circle of
loved ones, which leads them to undergo every sacrifice in order to
effect a reunion with those for whose presence they long with
irrepressible desires, as they go about, "strangers in a strange
land." They have often been known to submit to the severest
privations for the sake of bringing over a sister, a brother, or some
other relative, without whom the family circle would be incomplete.
All this is but one aspect of the "Irish heart," whose warmth of
affection and generous impulses should put to shame many, who without
their ardent unselfishness, coolly laugh at the blunders and _mal
apropos_ speeches of its possessors, and attribute that to
shallowness, which is in truth but a sudden and sometimes conflicting
flow of ideas. As the mad poet McDonald Clark once wrote in an epigram
on an editor who had accused him of possessing "zigzag brains,"

    "I can tell Johnny Lang, by way of a laugh,
      Since he's dragged in my name to his pen-and-ink brawl,
    That some people think it is better by half
      To have brains that are 'zigzag,' than no brains at all!"

"By their works ye shall know them." It is comparatively easy to utter
the language of affection, and to express a vast deal of fine
sentiment; and much of this spurious coin is current in the world. But
when one is seen denying himself almost the necessaries of life, in
order to accumulate a little fund for the benefit of some one near to
his heart, though far away, we feel that there can be no deception
here. Like the widow's mite, it has the ring of pure gold.

The letter referred to, (which was sent back from Ireland in
consequence of some misdirection,) was full of kind feeling, and
manifested on the part of the writers a firm and simple trust in the
goodness of Providence. The post master sent word to the widows that
this letter was in his possession, and accordingly was visited by the
bereaved women, whose tears flowed fast as they gazed upon the record
which recalled so vividly the kindnesses of their departed husbands.
The little sum enclosed, as they stated, was the result of the united
efforts of the two families, who cheerfully joined in this labor of
love. How many a recollection of unmurmuring self-denial, with the
hope that made it easy; how many a remembrance of bright
anticipations of the happiness to be enjoyed, when the beloved one,
for whose sake these efforts were made, should be received within
their family circle; how many such things must have been brought to
mind by the sight of the missive, so freighted with affection and
memories of the past!

The post master informed the widows that by returning the draft to the
office from which it was purchased, they might obtain the money on it;
but they replied that since it had once been dedicated to an object
sacred both to the departed and their survivors, it must go back to
Ireland, and fulfil its mission.

So these poor stricken women, to whom ten pounds was a large sum,
(even larger than when the letter was first sent,) and who much needed
the comforts it would purchase, sent back the draft, and have since
had the happiness of meeting their relative in America, and seeing the
wishes of their husbands faithfully carried out.

This is but one of many constantly recurring instances of generosity
and devotion which come to the knowledge of post masters; and while we
have put on record some of the blunders of an impulsive people, our
sense of justice as well as inclination, has prompted us to make
public the foregoing incidents, so forcibly illustrating the warm
attachments that grace the IRISH HEART.

       *       *       *       *       *


The most ridiculous errors and omissions sometimes occur on the part
of persons applying to post masters for missing letters. The following
amusing correspondence will illustrate this phase of post-office

                                             New York, 29th Jan. 1855.
    Post Master New York.

        Dear Sir,

A week ago last Monday, I mailed two letters, both having enclosures,
but of no intrinsic value, directed to my wife's sister in New Haven,
Conn., neither of which have ever reached their destination.

                                          Very respectfully yours,

                                                         W. B. H----.

The above letter was forwarded to the post master of New Haven, after
having been read by the New York post master. It was soon returned
with the following pertinent inquiries:--

                          Post Office, New Haven, Conn., Feb. 1, 1855.


    Well, that is a fix! What is that name? Is it Jonathan or Wm, B.
    Haskell, or Hershel? Who'd he marry? How many sisters did his wife
    have? What were their names? Who are their friends and relations
    in New Haven? Is the lady here on a visit? Or, like a careful
    matron, has she come here to educate her children? Egad, I don't
    know! My library is wofully deficient in genealogy, and I shall be
    obliged to "give it up." Who can tell me the name of "my wife's

                                               Yours truly,

                                                           L. A. T----.

The New Haven post master's letter was then sent to Mr. H., with the
annexed note:--

                                  Post Office, New York, Feb. 2, 1855.

    Mr. Wm. B. H----.

        Dear Sir,

    By direction of the post master, I forwarded your letter of
    inquiry to the post master at New Haven.

    He returns the letter to this office with a request that the name
    of your "wife's sister" may be given to him, as he has been unable
    to discover it, although possessed of a large library embracing
    many works of a genealogical character. The P. M. at New Haven is
    inclined to the belief that it will be difficult to find the
    letter sent to his office, unless the name of the party addressed
    is given to him. In this belief the P. M. at New York joins, and
    the two P. M.'s hold concurrent opinions on this subject.

    With all due apologies for the seemingly gross ignorance of the
    post masters in this matter,

                                   I am very respectfully

                                         Your Obedient Servant,

                                                         WM. C----,




Cases sometimes occur of the loss of letters apparently by the
carelessness of post masters or their clerks; and in view of such
cases, an important question arises; namely, to what extent a post
master is responsible for the consequences of such carelessness?

The subject is not free from difficulties. In many cases it would be
hard to say what constitutes culpable carelessness.

It is common in country towns for persons to take from the post-office
the mail matter of their neighbors, especially when they live at a
distance from the office, as an act of accommodation to them; and many
letters are thus safely delivered every day.

Now should a valuable letter in this way come into the possession of
some dishonest person, and be retained by him, it would seem severe,
if not unjust, to prosecute the post master for the loss; since in
committing it unawares to improper hands, he did but act in accordance
with ordinary usages, countenanced by the community.

It would undoubtedly be a safer way of doing business, to insist upon
an order in every case where a letter is delivered to any other person
than the one to whom it is addressed, or some one usually employed by
him for this purpose. But the country post master who should rigidly
insist upon this rule, would receive "more kicks than coppers" for
his good intentions; and indeed, cases like the one supposed are few
and far between.

In cities, also, something like the following might and does
frequently happen. A person known to be in the employ of another,
comes to the post-office, and says he is sent by his employer for his
letters, and the clerk in attendance, believing his statement, gives
them to him. He robs the letters and disappears. In this case, it
hardly seems that the clerk was guilty of a culpable degree of

Here is another instance of the manner in which a letter may go to the
wrong person, where the fault is not chargeable to post-office
employés. In the list of advertised letters, one is found for John
Smith. An individual calls for the letter, claiming to be the
identical John, and receives it; but a day or two after the "Simon
Pure" appears, and is indignant at learning that his letter has
already been appropriated, or that the clerk knows nothing about it,
having forgotten the circumstance. Of course the clerk, in such a
case, might require the supposed John Smith to identify the letter as
far as was possible, by mentioning the place from which he expected
it; but many supposable circumstances might destroy the conclusiveness
of this evidence of identity, such as the acquaintance of the false
John with the real one, and his knowledge of the place whence he
received most of his correspondence. Besides, the real claimant might
not be able to tell where the letter was mailed, for his correspondent
might have written from some other place than the one where he usually

But it is needless to multiply instances. Those that we have
mentioned, and many others which will readily occur to the reader,
will suffice to show that the number of cases in which a post master
can justifiably be prosecuted, is very limited by the nature of the

On the other hand, a proper diligence requires of the post master not
only the obvious precaution of securing reliable assistants, but a
care in relation to the minutiæ of his office which shall prevent the
mislaying of letters, by carelessness _within_, or their abstraction
by theft from _without_. The boxes and delivery window should be so
arranged as to render the interior of the boxes inaccessible to
outsiders, and of course no one should be admitted within the
enclosure, under any ordinary circumstances.

I am aware that these hints are unnecessary to the great body of post
masters in this country; yet it can do no harm to mention such things,
as it appears by the following report that post masters are sometimes
held to answer before a court, for the want of diligence in
discharging the duties of their office.

The suit was brought in 1849, by Moses Christy of Waterbury, Vermont,
against Rufus C. Smith, post master at that place, for the loss of a
letter containing fifty dollars, mailed at Salisbury, Mass., Nov. 23,
1849, by Moses True, Jr.

Moses True, Jr., testified that he carried the letter to the Salisbury
post-office, and showed the money to the post master, who counted it,
and it was then enclosed in the letter, and left with the post master,
who testified that he mailed it in the ordinary way, and forwarded it
to Waterbury by the usual course. The letter not being received by
Christy, application was made for it to the post master, but nothing
could be found of it. The post-bill, however, which accompanied it,
was found in the Waterbury office.

It was shown that a son of Christy and one other person were in the
habit of calling at the post-office for his letters; but they both
swore that they did not remember receiving the letter in question, and
that if it was taken out by either of them, it was, in the absence of
Christy, laid upon his desk or placed in a private drawer.

It was further proved that the Waterbury office was kept in a room
about sixteen feet square, divided in the centre by the boxes and a
railing, which separated the part devoted to the office business, from
the portion appropriated to the use of the public; that the boxes were
so arranged that the box of Moses Christy could easily be reached
through the "delivery;" and that persons were frequently allowed to
pass behind or near one end of the counter within the enclosure, to
transact business with the post master.

There was no evidence to show that any persons, other than the office
assistants, were permitted to go behind the railing at the time the
letter in question arrived at the office.

It appeared that the post master employed several persons as
assistants in the Summer and Autumn of 1849, but there was no evidence
to show that any of these persons were regularly appointed and sworn.
It further appeared by Christy's postage account, that one or two
letters were charged to him on the 24th of November, 1849, and he
produced four or five letters, which, by the ordinary course of the
mails, would have been received on that day.

We here copy from "Vermont Reports," Vol. 8, p. 663:--

    The defendant requested the Court to charge the jury as
    follows:--1. That the defendant does not in any manner stand as an
    insurer in relation to the business of his office, and is only
    held to ordinary diligence in the discharge of the duties of his
    office, and can only be made liable for losses occasioned by a
    want of such diligence, and that the burden of proof is upon the
    plaintiff, to establish the fact of the want of such diligence. 2.
    That in order to establish the fact of want of ordinary diligence,
    the plaintiff must show some particular act of negligence in
    relation to the letter in question, and that the loss was the
    direct consequence of the particular negligence proved. 3. That
    although there may have been official misconduct on the part of
    the defendant, yet unless it be shown that the plaintiff's loss
    was the result of such misconduct, he cannot recover. 4. That if
    the letter were by mistake delivered to the wrong person, stolen
    by a stranger, or embezzled by a clerk, the defendant is not
    liable, unless he has been negligent, and the loss was the direct
    consequence of his negligence. 5. That it is not sufficient, to
    entitle the plaintiff to recover, merely to show that a letter was
    received at the office, and that the person to whom it was
    directed has not received it. 6. That the post master is not
    liable for the negligence of his deputies, unless he is guilty of
    negligence in appointing wholly unsuitable persons. 7. That the
    defendant being a public officer, he would not be liable in an
    action of trover, unless, at the time the letter was called for,
    he had the letter in his possession or control, and withheld it,
    or had actually appropriated the letter, or money, to his own use.

    The Court charged the jury in accordance with all the foregoing
    requests, except the second and sixth. In relation to the second
    request the Court charged the jury, that it was not necessary, in
    order to enable the plaintiff to recover, that he should show a
    particular act of negligence in relation to the letter in
    question; but that, if the plaintiff had shown a general want of
    common care and diligence on the part of the defendant, either in
    the construction of his places of deposit for letters, so that
    they were unsafe, or in the management of the post-office, in
    permitting persons to go behind the railing who had no legal right
    to go there, and had also satisfied them that the letter and money
    in question were lost in consequence of such negligence or
    misconduct of the defendant, then the defendant should be liable.
    In reference to the sixth request the Court charged the jury, that
    as there was no proof that any of the persons who were employed by
    defendant in the office had ever been appointed or sworn as
    assistants, they were to be regarded as mere clerks, or servants
    of the defendant, and that if, through negligence or want of
    common care and diligence on the part of such clerks or servants,
    the money and letters were lost, the defendant would be liable

    Verdict for plaintiff. Exceptions by defendant.

    The decision was sustained in the Supreme Court.

If the report of the above case shall have the effect to render any
class of post masters more careful of the custody of correspondence,
and in the general management of their offices, the object of its
insertion will have been answered.



The post-office clerk who fails to do his duty thoroughly, is like a
light-house keeper, who now and then allows his light to go out, or
become dim. Sometimes no harm may result; but it may be that the
helmsman of some gallant ship laden with precious goods, and far more
precious lives, seeing no light to direct him through the angry storm,
steers blindly onward, and is wrecked upon the very spot whence the
guiding star should have beamed.

Not only is it the duty of those connected with post-offices to
exercise the utmost carefulness and exactness, in order that mail
matter may promptly reach the persons for whom it is intended, but
sometimes much caution and discretion are required from them, that
letters may not fall into hands for which they were not designed.

There are other qualifications scarcely less desirable for post-office
employés than exactness and caution. Patience and courtesy toward the
various individuals constituting that public which it is the duty of
these officials to serve, go very far in carrying out the idea of the
post-office,--that of being a convenience to the community.

We have elsewhere shown that the life of a post-office clerk is not
passed upon a bed of roses, and we would here call his attention to
the truth that many annoyances must be expected by him in the course
of his experience. The ignorance and consequent pertinacity of those
who apply for letters, frequently try his patience to the utmost.

A person, for instance, anxiously expecting a letter, and not
understanding that the mail by which it would come arrives only once a
day, inquires at the office half a dozen times on the same day, and it
is not very wonderful that the clerk in attendance should give short
answers to the persevering applicant, or even omit to search for the
letter. Yet, even in a case like this, much allowance should be made
for the possible circumstances of the person in question. He may be
waiting for news from a sick child, or for some other information of
the utmost importance to him, and it is surely hard enough to be
disappointed in such expectations, without being obliged to suffer the
additional pain of a harsh response.

Of course post-office clerks seldom know the peculiar circumstances of
those who apply for letters; but the exercise of patience and mildness
toward all, would be sure to spare the feelings of those who often
rather need sympathy than rough words.

Many who carry on little correspondence, and therefore have little
occasion to be informed respecting post-office matters in general,
often make blunders which are very annoying; but it is to be
remembered that those in charge of the post-office, were employed for
this, (among other things which contribute to the perfection of this
branch of public service,) namely, to bear with all classes of
correspondents, and to maintain a uniform courtesy toward every one.
This would render it possible for even the most timid to approach the
"delivery window," without experiencing the sensation of looking into
a lion's den, as has sometimes (but I trust seldom) been the case.

On the other hand, it is reasonable that those who avail themselves of
the conveniences of the post-office, should take pains to inform
themselves on those points which it is necessary they should know, in
order to avoid giving inconvenience to themselves, and unnecessary
trouble to those appointed to serve them.

The times of opening and closing mails, and similar matters, should be
known, that the post-office may not bear the blame due to negligence
outside its walls.

Cases now and then occur, similar to the following, which happened but
a few years ago.

A letter came into the Windsor, Vermont, post-office, containing a
draft on the Suffolk Bank for three hundred dollars, and directed
"Johnson Clark, Windsor, Ct." The "Ct.," however, was written so
indistinctly as to resemble "Vt.;" and as there was a person by the
name of Johnson Clark (as we shall call him) in the latter place, the
letter was handed to him.

When he looked at the post-mark, (that of a town some twenty or thirty
miles distant,) he remarked, "I can't imagine who can have been
writing to me from there," and after opening and reading it, he
returned it to the post master, saying that it was not for him.

But his honesty was only of a transient nature, for he could not keep
the money out of his thoughts, and he soon began to think that he had
been rather hasty in returning the letter, when, for aught he knew, he
could have retained its contents with impunity. For was not the letter
directed to Johnson Clark? And may not one take possession of a letter
directed to himself?

This course of thought and these queries were followed by the
determination to recover the letter, and appropriate the contents.

Clark accordingly went to the post master the next day, and stated
that he had heard, the evening before, of the death of a relative who
had been living at the West, and who had left him a small legacy,
namely, the sum contained in the letter. On the strength of these
representations, the post master gave him the document, without, so
far as appears, making any attempt to verify his statement. The
inheritor of legacies proceeded forthwith to the Bank in the village,
and obtained the money on the draft, endorsing it, as is customary. It
only required his own name to be written, and where was the harm?
thought he.

A few days after this, the person who had written the letter came to
Windsor, Vt., having been informed by his correspondent at Windsor,
Ct., that it had not reached him; and thinking it possible that it
might have gone astray.

On his arrival at the former place, he soon ascertained that the
Vermont Dromio had taken possession of his letter.

This worthy found that the name of Johnson Clark was not a spell
potent enough to protect him in the enjoyment of his unrighteous gain.
He was sent to the State Prison for two years.

In this instance, the post master was clearly guilty of carelessness
in allowing Clark to obtain the letter on the pretext that he offered.
As there was a well known town in Connecticut of the name of Windsor,
prudence would have required a closer examination of the address,
after the letter was returned by Clark. And the story by which Clark
imposed upon him, was sufficiently lame in some particulars to have
called for a closer investigation of its truth. If the post master had
requested to be allowed to read that part of the letter which referred
to the pretended legacy, a refusal on the part of Clark to permit it,
would of course have created a strong suspicion that he was playing a
dishonest game, and would have justified the post master in
withholding the letter until further proof could be obtained as to the
identity of Johnson Clark with the one for whom the epistle was

Cases similar to the above are not unfrequent; and in all such
instances, those who rely on a name identical with that of some other
person, as a shield for attempted dishonesty, have found their defence
fail them in the hour of need.

The matter seems too plain to need elucidation; yet not a few persons,
equally compounded of folly and knavery, have actually supposed that
the possession of a name like that of another man, would enable them
to keep on the shady side of the law in making free with his purse

This accidental resemblance of name has often been used for dishonest
purposes in other ways than the one just described.

Snooks manufactures a patent medicine which is beginning to obtain
some celebrity, when some obscure Snooks starts up with _his_ pill, or
elixir. The innocent public, ready to swallow pills and stories
bearing the name of Snooks, makes no distinction between the two
personages; and the "original Jarley" is compelled to share his honors
and emoluments with his upstart namesake. Trickery like this can
seldom be reached by law, but the appropriator of the contents of a
letter under circumstances like those above detailed, is dealt with
like any other kind of robbery.



After giving "outsiders" the share of blame which rightly belongs to
them for the delay, miscarrying, and loss of valuable mail matter, a
balance remains due to the post masters and post-office clerks.

We have elsewhere expressed our views respecting dishonesty in these
officials, and shall consequently confine our present remarks
principally to carelessness and other similar faults, which can hardly
be called crimes, but which often produce effects as disastrous as
those which are the result of evil intention. These faults, indeed,
differ only in degree from what are termed crimes; for neglect of
duty, is on a small scale, a species of dishonesty.

There is, perhaps, no situation in which a lack of promptness and
accuracy in the transaction of business may be productive of so great
evil, as in that of a post-office employé. Those engaged in ordinary
branches of business have some idea of the relative consequence of the
matters about which they are occupied from day to day. They can
generally know what is the actual importance of any given transaction,
so that, if they are disposed to be negligent, they may, if they
choose, avoid incurring the guilt and blame which would follow
unfaithfulness in great things.

But the post-office clerk seldom has the power of making such a
discrimination. The letter which is carelessly left over to-day, may
go to-morrow, but too late to save the credit of a tottering house, or
to render the instructions it may contain, of any avail. In the rapid
course of commercial transactions, what is wisdom one day, may be
folly the next, and thus it not unfrequently happens that the best
contrived plans may be ruined by the delay or non-arrival of a letter.

The following instance will illustrate this.

Before the passage of the late Postal Treaty with Great Britain, a
clerk in one of our large cities was sent to the post-office to mail a
letter, containing an order for goods on an English house. The clerk
pocketed the twenty-four cents which he had been intrusted with for
the purpose of pre-paying the letter; therefore agreeably to the
postal arrangements then existing, it could not go by steamer, but was
sent by a sailing vessel.

Consequently the order was delayed, and therefore was not executed as
promptly as the firm sending it had expected; and when the goods
arrived they had fallen in value to such an extent, that the firm in
question incurred by the operation a loss estimated at at least ten
thousand dollars.


    Post Masters as Directories--Novel Applications--The Butter

    A Thievish Family--"Clarinda" in a City--Decoying with
    Cheese--Post Master's Response.

    A Truant Husband--Woman's Instinct.

Editors are supposed by many to be walking encyclopedias, with the
record of the entire range of human knowledge inscribed on the tablets
of their brains; and there are those who in like manner seem to
consider post masters as living Directories, able at short notice to
inform any one who chooses to ask, where Smith lives, and what
business Jones is in, or what is the price of guano, (an inquiry
actually made by letter, of a New York post master.)

In short, these Government officers are often called upon to serve the
public in a sphere which Congress never contemplated in the various
enactments it has passed respecting the duties of post masters, and
the details of the postal system.

A few specimens of letters received by different post masters, may not
be uninteresting, as illustrating this phase of post-office life.

Here is one from an individual desirous of entering into a mercantile
transaction in the "botter" line, and receiving the post master's
endorsement of some good "commish marchan" who could be interested in
the business.

                           G---- ----, Pennsylvania, January 29, 1855.

    Postmaster will pleze to give this letter to a good Commish
    Marchan what he could pay for fresh botter everry weak if a man
    would cent a hundred up to 3 hundred paunts my intension is to go
    in sutch bisnis You will plese rite me back to this present time.

                                                Yours Respectful

                                                                 J. S.

If the "fresh botter" was "cent everry _weak_," as was proposed, it
must undoubtedly have been very much sought after, as possessing the
negative, but important merit of not being _strong_.

Our next specimen was received by the post master of one of the cities
in Western New York, and is unique both as regards its object, and its
orthography, or rather cacography, which appears like "fonotipy" run

                                           North S----, Nov. 19, 1854.

Dear friend it is with plaisure that I take my pen in hand to inform
you of a famly moveing from this place the wider stacy and her to
girls they are poor and haf to work for their liveing clarinda is the
girl that workes the most from home mr sam shirtleff says that she has
worked for him and she stole pork and cheese and the pork hid between
the bed blankets and they found it and weid it and thaught a rat had
braught it there and the cheese she carid home with her they sent to
ladies there a visiting and sent a peic of cheese with them and they
got tea and had cheese uporn the table and they sliped a peice of the
cheese in thir laps and compard it togather and it was the same cind
it was a large inglich cheese that shirtleff bought she has also
worked to mr alford blax and his brother the old batchlor his mother
was old and generly done the niting she nit seventeen pare of socks
and layed them up for her boys when she got old and coldent nit no
more and they was all taken away by her to pare afterwords was found
at the store and she sed that she had took them they owed her five
dolars yet and they wont pay her till she delivers the socks and she
dare not make no fuss for fear they will bring her out she worked to
mr cringlands and she hooked a pare of white kid gloves and a hym book
and a pocket handkerchief and the gloves she traded away to the store
for a dress by giveing a pare of socks to boot and she worked to
truman buts this sumer she had taken a pare of stockin which they
found in her sunday bonet and they lost to shiling in money and then
they discharged her bengman grene bought a set of dishes and they
lost to platters out of the set they lost sope and buter out of their
sular she borrowed of mister spicer a silver pen which coast a dolar
and after he was dead she denied haveing it and she told it herself
that she sold it for half a dolar and a pennife and the pennife was
fifty cents they borrowed a pale of wheat flour and when they carid it
home and put to thirds rie The pepole most look out for them in the
trincket line mr sir post master plese answer this as soon as you can
and oblidge your friend much yours with respect

    Direct your leter silas stickney North S----, N. Y.

    The zeal of Silas, if he was actuated by no sinister motives--no
    spite toward "the wider stacy and her to girls," especially
    "clarinda," whose exploits form the burden of his complaints--this
    zeal is highly commendable, and united with it there is a fulness
    of specification in the catalogue of "clarinda's" misdemeanors
    which equals in richness and effect anything that even the fertile
    brain of Dickens could conceive.

    The ingenious device of sending ladies to the suspected domicil
    under color of a friendly visit, but provided with a touchstone in
    the shape of "a peic of cheese," wherewith to detect the other
    piece supposed to have been purloined by some one of the thievish
    family, was worthy of a Vidocq; and the triumphant issue of the
    case, when their worthy Committee of Investigation "sliped a peic
    of cheese in their laps" and settled its identity with the
    "inglich cheese" which the victimized "shirtleff" had purchased,
    showed the power of genius, attaining great ends by the use of
    simple means.

    This epistle developes a new ramification of the postal system. A
    post master entreated to act as a conservator of public morals; to
    exert all his powerful influence against "clarinda," who proved
    treacherous to "mr sam shirtleff" in the matter of pork and
    cheese; and abstracted from "mr alford blax and his brother the
    old batchlor, the seventeen pare of socks" that their mother had
    "nit" to comfort their nether extremities when she, by reason of
    the infirmities of age, "coldent nit;" and filched "sope and
    buter" out of "bengman grenes sular;" to say nothing of the "pare
    of stockin" which were secreted in her "sunday bonet," and "to
    shilling," the loss of which occasioned her discharge from the
    service of "truman buts."

    Upon this unfortunate post master was thrown the charge of seeing
    that the city received no detriment from the demoralizing
    influence of Clarinda!

    This gentleman, not willing to be outdone by his correspondent in
    his devotion to the public good, indited the following reply:--

                                    B----  Post-Office, Dec. 13, 1854.

    Mr. Silas Stickney,

        Dear Sir:

    I am in receipt of yours of the 19th ult., and in reply would say
    that I cannot too highly commend your solicitude in behalf of good
    morals, and your discretion in selecting the post master of this
    place to carry out your benevolent designs toward its inhabitants.
    The corrupting influence of small villages upon large towns is a
    thing much to be lamented, and it grieves me to think that the
    unsophisticated inhabitants of this place are to be exposed to the
    machinations of the "widow stacy and her to girls." It will be,
    sir, like the Evil One entering the garden of Eden, where all was
    innocence and purity!

    If in the course of my official duties, I find it feasible to ward
    off impending danger from this immaculate town, be assured that I
    shall not fail to do so.

                                                   Yours, &c.,

                                                       W. D----, P. M.

       *       *       *       *       *

But post masters are made confidants in graver matters than these.
They are not unfrequently called upon by deserted wives to look up
their truant husbands, and by desolate husbands to aid them in
recovering frail partners, who have been unfaithful to their marriage
vows, and have forsaken the "guides of their youth."

Letters of this description are principally from the more illiterate
class of community; yet amid the crooked chirography and bad spelling,
there sparkles so much tender affection, sometimes for the guilty one,
sometimes for the innocent children, who are suffering from the
unprincipled conduct of a parent, that these cases command the warmest
sympathy of those whose aid is invoked, although the requests thus
made relate to matters entirely out of their sphere, and consequently
they are seldom able to afford much assistance to the parties in

I will here give an extract from this class of letters, as
illustrating the above remarks. The following is from a letter
received by the post master of a city in Ohio, from a woman who had
been deserted by her husband five years previous. She requested the
post master to read it to her husband, in case he should find him, so
it is written _at_ the latter person. In the postscript, (which is
generally supposed to contain the pith of female correspondence,) she

    "You would shed tears If you onley could see wat a smart peart
    little boy you have hear what a sham It Is to think that A
    sensable man should leave a wife and a child that Is got as much
    sense as he has--and people say he is as much like you as he can
    be he has got the pretys black eyes I have ever seen In any ones
    head he has an eye like a hawk."

Thus is the _argumentum ad hominem_ supplied by woman's instinct.
Fatherly pride was called upon to effect that to which conjugal
affection was inadequate.


    A Windfall for Gossipers--Suit for Slander--Profit and Loss--The
    Resuscitated Letter--Condemned Mail Bag--An Epistolary Rip Van

In country villages, where few events happen to interrupt the monotony
of every day life, the occurrence of an out-of-the-way incident is
like seed sown in a fertile soil, producing a fruitful crop of
speculations and surmises, and affording food for conversation for
many a day to the eager gossip-hunters who abound in such small

About thirty years ago, the quiet town of Lebanon, in the State of
Connecticut, was enlivened by one of these occurrences, which brought
a new influx of curiosity-mongers to the blacksmith's shop; covered
all the barrels, boxes, and counters in the store with eager
disputants, and gave new life to the Sewing Society, and its auxiliary
"tea-fights." The cause of this unwonted moving of the waters, was on
this wise:

Mr. Jonathan Little, a well known New York merchant, while on a summer
visit to Lebanon, his native place, mailed at that office a letter
directed to the firm of which he was a member, and containing
bank-notes to the amount of one thousand dollars. The letter failing
to arrive at its destination, and Special Agents being as yet unknown,
Mr. Little advertised in several papers, describing the money lost,
and offering a reward for its recovery. This, however, produced no
results, and the tide of speculation and discussion rose to its
highest pitch.

The loss of the bewildering sum of one thousand dollars naturally
stimulated the imaginative powers of the Lebanonians, and, hurried
away by his zeal, or perhaps by a wish to appear sagacious, Mr. Roger
Bailey, the brother of the Lebanon post master, while in conversation
with several persons, incautiously asserted that Amasa Hyde, the post
master at Franklin, (the next town to Lebanon on the route to New
York,) had taken the letter, adding, "He's just such a fellow."

The by-standers were rather astonished at this bold charge, impeaching
as it did the integrity of a man whose character had always been above
suspicion. That "bird of the air" which is always ready to "carry the
matter," soon diffused the information that Amasa Hyde was supposed to
be the delinquent. This gentleman being indisposed to leave his
reputation at the mercy of "thousand-tongued Rumor," which personage
could not easily be brought before a jury, instituted inquiries for
the purpose of discovering the originator of these injurious reports.
He succeeded in tracing them to their source, and sued the unwary
Bailey for slander. Mr. B., by the verdict of the jury, was compelled
to pay some seven hundred dollars and costs, for the pleasure of
expressing his opinion.

This, however, is but an episode in the history of the lost letter.
After a while the excitement died away, and Mr. Little found it
necessary to place the thousand dollars to the account of "Profit and
Loss," especially the latter.

The theory was once advanced by an acute genius, and applied to the
case of a tea-kettle inadvertently dropped into the ocean, that "a
thing isn't lost when you know where it is." But the subject in hand
seems to show that a thing isn't always lost, if you _don't_ know
where it is. For, about two years after the occurrences above
mentioned, the missing letter came to light with all its valuable
contents. And this resuscitation took place, not in Lebanon, nor in
Franklin, but in the New London post-office!

It appears that the mail bag which contained the letter, was found, on
its arrival at New London, so much worn as to be unsafe, and was
accordingly condemned by the post master and thrown aside as useless,
having first, of course, been emptied of its contents, as was
supposed. Two years subsequently, a quantity of old mail bags and
other rubbish was removed from the office, and the letter in question
took the opportunity to drop out, and return, an epistolary Rip Van
Winkle, to the world whence it had retired for so long a time.



    Their Origin--Degeneration--Immoral Influence--Incitement to

Who Saint Valentine was, is not much to the purpose in this place. We
will give him credit for having been, however, a very excellent and
highly respectable individual. We must therefore utterly protest
against the custom which has obtained of late years, making him the
tutelary Saint of innumerable silly lovers, mean mischief-makers, and
vulgar letter-writers generally.

Unfortunately for the reputation of this inoffensive Bishop, the day
noted in the calendar as sacred to his blessed memory, happens to be
that on which, according to the auld-wives' legends of Merrie England,
there is a universal marrying and giving in marriage among the
feathered tribes. The Fourteenth of February seems rather bleak for a
grand wedding festival at which any birds but snow birds are expected
to attend; but we suppose we must respect the tradition. It seems
early too for imitative lads and lasses, who should wait until the
warm spring approaches;

    "When the South-wind in May days,
    With a net of shining haze,
    Silvers the horizon wall,
    And with softness touches all--
    Tints the human countenance
    With a color of romance;"

and when all nature is bathed afresh in light and love, and inspired
with new life.

But, says a French writer, the divine faculty which distinguishes man
from the brutes, is the capacity to drink when he is not thirsty, and
to make love at all seasons of the year. Whether this "divine faculty"
is a God-gift, or a perversion and abuse, the legitimate fruit of the
sad tree of knowledge of good and evil, we will not stop to discuss.
Man has it in full exercise; and however the birds may grumble at
being obliged to hurry up their matrimonial cakes under the very beard
and brow of winter, Cupid will be found--like the classical
clothes-brusher and job-waiter--"_nunquam non paratus_"--always ready
at your service.

The probability is that the human custom of choosing mates about this
time, is more ancient than the notion touching the pairing of birds,
and that the latter is a mere fable, suggested by the former. Some
commentator on Shakspeare has traced it back "to a pagan custom of the
same kind during the Lupercalia feasts of Pan and Juno, celebrated in
the month of February by the Romans. We are further told that, the
anniversary of St. Valentine happening in this month, the pious
promoters of Christianity placed this custom under his patronage in
order to indicate the notion of its pagan origin." Unhappy St.
Valentine! But we must remember that formerly there was something
sweet and poetical in the choosing of mates. Now we are thrilled with
tender emotions when poor Ophelia sings her

    "Good morrow to St. Valentine's-day."

But somehow, romance dies out in our material age; and beautiful
superstitions give place either to cold practical knowledge, or
degenerate into farcical caricatures. What a difference between the
rapturous and bashful exchange of vows pledged by the youth and
maidens in good old times, before reading and writing came in fashion,
and the celebrated Valentine composed by the younger Mr. Weller! The
vulgarization of the custom has been gradual. Instead of the
song-singing invitations to love, under cold windows,

    "All in the morning betime,"

lovers began, in the course of human progress, to indite gentle
missives to their sweethearts, and to receive autograph replies. This
improved method was eagerly adopted by all such as dared not give
verbal utterance to their sweet passion, as well as by those who had
private malice to vent, and sneaking insults to offer. Then arose the
manufacture and merchandise of Valentines, which has of late become so
important a branch of industry.

From early in February until late in March, our toy shops and
periodical and fancy "depots" appear to traffic mainly in these
exceptionable articles. Their windows flame with the vulgar trash. On
every corner "Valentines!" "Valentines!" stare us in the face. Some
are very choice and costly; we see now and then one inlaid in a rich
casket, and prized at twenty-five or even fifty dollars. Others are
made of fine fancy paper, adorned with flowers in water colors, or
prettily filigreed; with a scroll in the center for the verses
expressive of the sender's sentiments.

But the softer heads that indulge in these expensive trifles, are
comparatively few. A cheaper luxury satisfies our economical
sentimentalists. All kinds of coarsely ornamented note-paper, and
large square awkward envelopes, find their ready patrons. Every taste
is suited, from the sickliest fastidiousness, to the most clownish
ambition for flashy colors and tawdry designs.

In opposition to the sentimental Valentines, we have the gross
caricatures which have done more than anything else of this kind to
disgust the common sense and good taste of community. It would seem
that only the most vulgar minds could be attracted by these; yet the
large traffic in them shows that vulgarity is an extensive element in
the popular character. No matter how indelicate and disgusting one of
these specimens of low invention may be, some fool will be found to
purchase it, and send it to another individual whom he either wishes
to insult or expects to amuse.

In this way all sorts of printed immoralities obtain circulation. In
this way cowards take revenge for imaginary slights or dignified
rejections. In this way, for about two or three weeks in each year,
some altogether harmless and well-meaning people have been subjected
to gross annoyances and serious taxes for postage. Thanks to the
law-makers, the advance pay requisition will hereafter put a stop to
that species of petty swindling.

Year after year the same foolish figures and senseless mottos are
forwarded from the same simpletons to the same victims. We know a
musician who for three successive seasons has received that witched
caricature, representing a shape--

    "If shape it could be called that shape had none,--"

all nose and moustache, blowing a trombone considerably larger than

Our dentist usually enjoys a visit from a caricature suited to _his_
profession--a tooth-drawer with his little head in a vast chasm
representing a young lady's mouth. He has learned to expect it; he
good-naturedly looks for it, about Valentine's day; and merely opening
it when it comes, to see that it is the right one, he quietly tosses
it into the fire.

This Valentine sending is a custom like that of a certain drunken
revel once popular in Denmark,--"More honored in the breach than in
the observance." It is ignored by good society. And as for the
victimized, it is a mark of common sense to bestow every Valentine
into the grate, unopened, as soon as received.

It is estimated that not less than half a million of these worse than
worthless missives pass through the post-offices annually. The cost to
the parties purchasing them, forms an aggregate of about $200,000.
Over and above this expense is the postage, which is sometimes double,
triple, or even four or five times the ordinary rates of single
letter postage. Formerly many were unpaid, and often persons to whom
they were addressed, indignantly refused to take them from the office.
Thus were the mails not only uselessly encumbered with the vile trash,
but quantities of the "rejected addresses" were subjected to the
formality of visiting the Dead Letter Office, where they finally met
with that destruction they so clearly merited. This abuse of the
post-office privileges is unworthy of any nation above the capacity of

The immoralities circulated and encouraged by Valentines cannot be
estimated. Statistics would fail to arrive at the amount of vice
engendered by this pernicious breed. One of the worst evils that owe
their origin to this cause, is the temptation laid in the way of
post-office clerks. A Valentine is often the first provocation to
crime. Numerous instances have come under the observation of the
writer, in which persons convicted of robbing the mails, trace back
their transgressions to no more serious a fault than that of peeping
into one of these silly missives. They are often carelessly sealed,
and easily opened by third parties without discovery.

Imagine a young man intrusted with the care of a village post-office.
He is interested in Miss A. He believes she encourages his sentiments.
He hopes her proud father will some day encourage him as an eligible
suitor for his daughter's hand. Still he is subject to desponding and
jealous doubts. And when, one evening in the middle of February, a
Valentine addressed to his paragon strikes his eye as he is assorting
the mails, an indescribable pang shoots through his heart. He wonders
who sent it. Tom Bellows is at first suspected, but the hand-writing
differs from Tom's. "Can it be Robert Cartwright?" says the distressed
clerk. "He is partial to Miss A., and she seems pleased with him. What
can he be writing to her?"

Such thoughts perplex the young man's brain. The Valentine is not
taken from the office that evening; and when all is quiet, he draws it
once more out of the box, and again examines the superscription. It
is certainly Cartwright's writing. "O dear!" sighs the clerk, "how
easy I could open it, and nobody know it!" Aching with curiosity, but
calling moral principle and self-denial to his aid, he returns the
missive to the box, and goes to bed. But sleep is out of the question.
He is awake, thinking about the Valentine, and those supposed to be
immediately interested therein. "I wonder if I _could_ open it!" he
says to himself. "I've half a mind to try."

He gets up, strikes a light, and a moment later the Valentine is in
his hand. "If it comes open," says he, "I'll seal it again without
reading it. I only want to see if it can be done without having it
show afterwards." Instantly he starts back. The Valentine is open!
Really, he did not mean to do it; it came open so much easier than he
expected! Although it is night, and he is alone, he cannot help
looking over his shoulder to assure himself that the grim individual
watching him, exists only in his imagination. "Well," thinks he, "it's
done, and who knows it? What's the harm, as long as I'm going to seal
it up again?--and after all, I don't see that it will be much worse
just to see if there is any name to it, provided I don't read the

Thus excusing himself, he profanes the sacred interior of the missive,
and finds the suspicious signature--"Robert." Trembling at the
temptation to read more, he hastily folds the sheet, and returns it to
the envelope. But the next moment it is out again, and he is reading
with flushed cheek and burning eye, the tender words that Robert C.
has written to Miss A.

"All this hath a little dashed his spirits;" and he returns to bed
feverish and restless. In spite of his reason, which keeps saying
stoutly, "what's the harm? nobody will know it," he suffers greatly in
conscience. But the Valentine is taken from the office, and the
profanation of its mystery remains unsuspected. And in a few days
another Valentine appears, addressed to Robert Cartwright. The
hand-writing, although disguised, is alarmingly like Miss A.'s. By
this time the clerk's jealousy has eaten up his conscience.

"There's no more harm in opening two than in opening one," whispers
the devil in his ear.

"I believe you," says the clerk; "but I may yet be found out."

"No danger," says the devil; "only be careful."

He is too ready to adopt the suggestion. He is excusable, he thinks,
under the circumstances. The Valentine is accordingly opened and read.
Deliberation and forethought add gravity to the offence. The clerk has
unconsciously blunted his moral perceptions, and weakened his moral
strength; and he is now prepared to open regular letters passing
through his hands. At first it is jealousy and rivalry that tempt his
curiosity. Then other matters of interest entice him, until one day he
discovers, in no little consternation, that he has thrust his fingers
into a nest of bank-notes!

"Well, after all," says he, "Mr. B. is rich; he won't mind the loss;
it's only a trifle with him. While to me, the sum is considerable. If
I don't keep up appearances with Bob Cartwright, I might as well be
out of the world. I've a right to live; and destroying this letter and
appropriating its _contents_, is just nothing at all, if I don't get
found out. But I'm safe enough--I'm the very last person to be

The career of this young man need not be traced further.

Nor need the subject of Valentines be pursued. We have written enough
to show that they are the offspring of weak sentimentalism or foolish
buffoonery; an encumbrance to the mails, an annoyance to those who
receive them, a tax to all parties, and a temptation to post-office
clerks; and withal, imbecilities and immoralities which all worthy
citizens should take every occasion to discountenance, and banish from
civilized society.



A short time after the detection of the New Haven mail robber, a
gentleman from the town of W. called upon the post master at Hartford,
to say that he had some weeks since mailed a letter at the post-office
in the town where he resided, addressed to a firm in Hartford; and
containing a sum of money, and that the letter had never been

On examining his records, the post master ascertained that no bill had
been received from the office where the letter was mailed
corresponding with the date of the mailing, and that consequently the
letter, so far as his records could show, had never reached his

As the time of this loss happened at the period when the mail robber
was committing depredations from day to day, and as the post-bill was
missing, the Hartford post master expressed the opinion that the
letter had very probably fallen into the hands of the mail robber,
although New Haven was off the route on which the letter should go,
and the package of letters could not have got there without having
been mis-sent.

This theory was entirely unsatisfactory to the gentleman who mailed
the letter, and he left Hartford with the conviction that he would be
compelled to endure the loss of his money with such philosophy as he
could summon to his aid.

But hope soon succeeds fear, as daylight follows darkness, and before
many days the gentleman in search of his money again called at the
post-office in Hartford, that being the important port in his voyage
of discovery.

It was very evident that his mind was somewhat "exercised," and the
ominous tone in which he requested the post master to meet him
immediately, at room No. ---- at the hotel where his name was entered,
made it clear that a revelation of no slight importance was about to
be made.

The post master told him he would accompany him immediately, and
started with his eager friend for the appointed place. During their
walk nothing was said on the great subject-matter, probably because it
was deemed too solemn in its nature to be broached amid the bustle and
jar of a crowded street.

The hotel was soon reached, and the communicator of the "latest
intelligence" ascended the stairs to the room where the gentleman
accompanying him would be called on to listen to the disclosures about
to be made, and take such action thereon as circumstances might seem
to require.

After pointing solemnly to a chair, declaring by such dumb show that
he desired the post master to be seated, and then taking a chair
himself and sitting thereon so as to face the person with whom he was
conversing, he deliberately asked--

"Do you believe in clairvoyance?"

What an unexpected question! And how should such a question be
noticed? Certain it was that among all the laws in relation to the
Post-Office Department, and the rules and regulations for its
government, minute and circumstantial as they were, not one word could
be found instructing the officers of this branch of Government what
they should do in the matter of clairvoyance. Even Ben Franklin
himself, who was "_par excellence_" the electrical Post Master
General, had never issued an order bearing on this subtle subject. And
here, in this hotel room, where, at a great many different times, a
great many different kinds of spirits had entered a great many
different kinds of persons, this official in a great business
Department, dealing constantly with the practicalities of life, and
without law, rules, or regulations to tell him what he should do in
the emergency, was met with the question proposed, in a sepulchral
voice,--"Do you believe in clairvoyance?"

Was it his duty to discuss with the questioner the "Odic force," and
"Biology" and "Psychology," and all the other theories connected with
the doctrines of spiritualism? Must post masters be also masters of
mental science, and of things in heaven and earth never dreamed of in
the philosophy of the great mass of mankind? Because they have to deal
with the transmission of intelligence to different parts of the earth,
must they also take charge of intelligence coming from unknown
regions, "out of space, out of time?"

The question, however, was before him, and the post master replied
that he had heard of some strange things connected with clairvoyance.

Seemingly satisfied with this reply, the gentleman went on to say that
he had been very anxious to know what had become of his letter, and
had therefore consulted a clairvoyant.

Some locations are blessed with a gifted seer, or more generally
_seeress_, whose mind at inspired intervals is a complete "curiosity
shop" of the universe--who can tell the whereabouts of a lost thimble
or teaspoon, who can inform the anxious inquirer who committed the
last murder, and who can describe to eager listeners the manner in
which people conduct voiceless conversation in Saturn, and how they
fight in Mars, and how they make love in Venus. Or the gifted one,
descending rapidly to earth, can prescribe a remedy for any ill that
flesh is heir to,--and all these wonders are performed for a moderate
pecuniary compensation, and with the praiseworthy object of aiding and
enlightening "suffering humanity."

Our inquiring friend was so fortunate as to reside in one of these
localities, and his mission to the post master was that of rehearsing
the discoveries of the Priestess.

He stated that the information given by the clairvoyant lady was so
minute and distinct as to leave a strong impression of its
truthfulness on his mind. That she traced the letter from the time it
was put in the office--saw it placed in the mail bag, saw the bag
taken from the office, saw every station where it stopped--saw it
taken into the Hartford office--saw it opened there, saw a clerk take
the letter, open it, and on finding that it contained a number of
bank-bills, put said letter in a drawer of his, and then lock the

Farther than this, the Seeress declared that said clerk wore large
whiskers, and a large gold ring, and that he resided in Front Street.

In addition to these facts the lady declared that the letter thus
opened, with the bills still in it, was yet remaining in the locked
drawer of the delinquent clerk.

Having carefully repeated this train of circumstantial evidence,
pointing so distinctly to a certain culprit, the gentleman then
commenced interrogating the head of the Hartford post-office:--

"Have you, sir," said he, "a clerk in your employment who wears

The witness was compelled, on the part of some of his clerks at least,
to plead guilty to this first count in the indictment from an
invisible Grand Jury. As whiskers are not an expensive article of
luxury, even post-office clerks can afford to wear them.

"Have you," continued the counsel for the unknown prosecutor, "a clerk
who wears large whiskers _and_ a large gold ring?"

The reply to this query was not equally satisfactory, for the witness
averred that his clerks were decidedly not given to jewelry; and as to
gold, they felt that they could invest it more usefully than in the
purchase of mammoth finger-rings.

"Have you," continued the pertinacious querist, "a clerk who lives in
Front Street?"

Here again the answer was not gratifying, for the witness declared
that to the best of his knowledge, no clerk of his had, whether with
or without whiskers, or whether with or without a stupendous
finger-ring, made Front Street illustrious by residing therein.

Notwithstanding the discrepancy, the gentleman went on with his

"Have you a clerk in your employment who has a drawer of which he
keeps the key?"

The reply to this question was such as to meet the wishes of the
querist, and he was told that there was more than one such clerk in
his office.

"Then," said the gentleman, "I demand that you have those drawers
opened, and their contents examined!"

Notwithstanding the urgent desire of the person who had reposed such
confidence in the revelations of the female informer, the post master
peremptorily declined to take a single step implying a doubt as to the
integrity of his clerks, on the mere strength of clairvoyant

Argument was in vain, and the disappointed letter seeker left
Hartford, thinking in all probability that General Pierce would have
done better to have given the charge of the office there to some
person more willing to accommodate the public!

Some time after this, the Special Agent met the post masters of New
Haven and Hartford, in pursuance of instructions from the Department,
for the purpose of distributing the funds taken from the depredator,
among those who had lost by the robberies.

On examining the money found on the person of the robber, there were
discovered the seven bank-bills, all of one denomination, lost by our
clairvoyant-seeking friend! The bills not only agreed with his
description, but, what made the case still stronger, was the fact that
no other bills of the same denomination and bank were claimed by any
other party.

How it was that "the Spirits" gave the distinguished seeress such a
complete tissue of falsehoods, will probably remain unknown until the
"new philosophy" becomes better understood, or until the Spirit of
Franklin, who it is said presides over communications from the upper
spheres, appoints some Special Agent to investigate the causes of

The gentleman who unexpectedly regained his money, may still entertain
his old affection for clairvoyance, but he cannot deny that the poet
was right when he exclaimed,

    "Optics sharp it needs, I ween,
    To see what is not to be seen."



The exterior, as well as the interior of a letter is sometimes made
the vehicle of sentiment, affection, wit, fun, and the like, which,
thus riding as outside passengers, display their beauties to the gaze
of those connected with post-offices. In such instances, it may be
that the writer's ideas, gushing from his pen, have overflowed their
bounds, and spread themselves upon the usually dry surface of the
epistle. It must be a pleasing relief to post-office clerks, wearied
with the monotonous task of turning up innumerable names, to find the
flowers of fancy and imagination supplanting the endless catalogue of
Smiths and Browns which ordinarily meet their eyes. Below are a few
specimens of these embellished addresses.

The first is probably from some home-sick miner. It was mailed at San
Francisco, California. His wife and children have no doubt derived,
long ere this, the pleasure which he anticipated for them, in the
perusal of the letter:--

    Go, sheet, and carry all my heart;
      (I would that thou couldst carry me,)
    Freighted with love thou wilt depart
      Across the land, across the sea.

    O'er thee will bend a loving face,
      To thee will listen little ears;
    Thou wilt be welcomed in _my place_,
      And thou wilt bring both smiles and tears.

    Across the land, across the sea,
      Thy homeward course thou wilt pursue,
    I may not see them welcome thee,
      Yet know I well their hearts are true.

    Then swiftly go, thou ocean steed;
      Roll on, ye rapid iron wheels,
    Bearing away, with careless speed,
      The message that my soul reveals.

The address followed, in plain prose.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Rail road, steamboats, horses, stages,
    All of you are paid your wages,
    All of you, for nothing better
    Than to take this little letter.
    Should the document miscarry,
    Uncle Sam will see "old Harry!"
    To prevent this dread collision,
    I present unto your vision
    State, county, and between, the town,
    Indiana, Nashville, Brown.
    For Mrs. Jane Eliza Brent,
    This is enough,--now "let her went."

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is a specimen in a less elevated strain:--

    Robber, shouldst thou seize this letter,
      Break it not; there's nothing in't,
    Nought for which thou wouldst be better:
      Note of bank, or coin from mint.

    There is nothing but affection,
      And perhaps a little news;
    When you've read this, on reflection,
      Take or leave it as you choose.

    If you should conclude to leave it,
      I would like to have it go
    To Seth Jones, who will receive it
      In the town we call Glasgow,
        And the state of old Kentucky,
        (There's no rhyme for that but "lucky.")

The following seems to have been the superscription to a dun, written
"more in sorrow than in anger."

    A hard old hoss is Charley Cross,
      And I don't care who knows it;
    He's borrowed an X, and never expects
      I'll dun him, so he goes it.

    He'll find he's mistaken, and won't save his bacon,
      Unless he sends me the tin:
    In the city of Penn, somewhere is his den;
      I can't tell what _state_ he is in.

    Perhaps he's "slewed," or may be, pursued
      By some other man he owes,
    Whichever it is, when this meets his phiz,
      My account he had better close.

The street and number were subjoined; but it is to be feared that the
"old hoss" proved hard-bitted, and would have nothing to do with
"_checks_," except those in his favor.

       *       *       *       *       *

         Post master dear,
         I greatly fear
    That this letter never will go
         To him I write,
         Unless to your sight
    The name I plainly show.

         'Tis Thomas Brown,
         The name of his town
    Is Hartford; the county the same,
         Land of steady habits,
         Famed for onions and rabbits,
    The place whence once I came.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is apparently an outpouring of the sorrows of a victim to the
Maine law, and was mailed in that state:--

    Oh John O'Brien, half of you is better than the whole,
    For that would be a Demi-John, my sorrow to console.
    Oh dear O'Brien, briny tears into my whiskers roll,
    To think that you live in New York, while here is not a soul
    To stand treat; or in other words, to "pass the flowing bowl."

    All flesh is grass: all paper's rags,
    (So it is said by wicked wags.)
    But I would like to pass along
    Among th' epistolary throng,
    Till I reach the town of Kent
    Nor to a paper mill be sent,
    And come to an untimely end,
    Before I find my writer's friend;
    Whose name is Putnam, or Sam Put,
    In the old State Connecticut.

       *       *       *       *       *

    This is going to my tailor,
      A _trust_-worthy man is he;
    Like a clock, for ever _ticking_,
      He keeps his account with me.

    To send my bill I here request him
      For the br--ches he has made:
    Thanks to good old uncle Samuel,
      He must send it on _pre-paid_.

(The address was in prose.)

       *       *       *       *       *

    When you C this letter,
    You'd better letter B.
    For it is going over
    Unto Tom McG.
    In the town of Dover,
    State of Tennessee.

       *       *       *       *       *

Address on a Valentine:

    Mr. Post Master, keep this well,
    for every line is going to tell
    how much I love my Bill Martell,

                       Syracuse, N. Y.

       *       *       *       *       *

    I want this letter to go right straight
    To Wilmington city in Delaware State,
    To Daniel B. Woodard, a cooper by trade;
    He can make as good barrels as ever were made.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Swiftly hasten, Postman's organ,
      Bear this onward to its fate,
    In New York to George C. Morgan;
      John Street, No. 78.

       *       *       *       *       *

    East 10th Street, City of New York,
      Two hundred fifty-three--
    Is where of all this little work,
      This moment ought to be.

    And could I to the lightning's wing
      Or telegraphic wire,
    Attach it by a silken string,
      'Twould be my fond desire.

    But since to do the swift exploit
      Each other power must fail,
    I send to Emily Bailey Hoyt,
      With pleasure--in the mail.

       *       *       *       *       *

    I know a man, his name is Dunn!
      He lives in splendid style:
    But if he'd pay--say half his debts,
      He'd lose 'bout all his "_pile_."

    He stops in Charlestown, old Bay State,
      Quite near to Bunker Hill,
    Where many a brave man met his fate,
      Dispensing Putnam Pill.

       *       *       *       *       *


    Lizzie, they say the little birds
      Are making matches now;
    (Warranted to keep in any climate.)
    A good example they have set
      Which I would like to follow;
    So if you have a heart to let,
      I hope to know to-morrow.

       *       *       *       *       *

    On the river Hudson,
      In the town of Troy,
    Lives Miss Sarah Judson
      Full of life and joy.

    'Tis for that sweet creature
      This epistle's meant;
    If it does but reach her,
      I shall be content.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following address was found on a missive which passed through the
New York office on or about the 14th of February, and was secured with
a seal representing Cupid taking aim at one of his victims with a

    Cupid's mother has supplied him
      With "six shooters" for his bow;
    When he'd arrows I defied him;
      Now, alas! he's laid me low.

    Here I send, done up in paper,
      Fanny May, my heart to you.
    I think you will keep it safer
      Than I've done,--so now adieu.

The town and state were in prose.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Send this, Post Master, if you are willing,
    To John M. P----, a darned old villain.
    Let it go without Postage Bounty,
    To Union Valley, Cortland County,

       *       *       *       *       *

    Take me along in haste I pray,
    To John O'Donnel without delay.
    The postage is paid, there is no excuse
    If I'm not delivered at Syracuse.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Let nought impede thy progress,
      While on thy journey going,
    And quickly may'st thou be received,
      By John, or Pardon Bowen.

                             Albany, N. Y.

       *       *       *       *       *

      Miss Kate May,
        _Somewhere_ in New York City.
    I hope to goodness she will receive
                        this missive.

       *       *       *       *       *

    John M. Simpson, Dedham,
                Mill Village,
        in care of John Lee,
        the man that speaks through
        his nose or with the crucket foot.

       *       *       *       *       *

    For Nevel Kelly, Degrau St.,
    next shanty to the river in the rear
    of the grave-stone yard,
                      Brooklyn, N. Y.

       *       *       *       *       *

            New Haven, post-office
            State of Connecticut
                        Brown Street
            Number 58
                        For elen Rumford
                   under care of mister allen
    And if the main law folks up there don't like the name of _Rum_ford
    i can't help it.

       *       *       *       *       *

      Brigded Livingston no 16 post
      office city Hartford, State of
      Cannada or three-ways to No 39

       *       *       *       *       *

    To Thos. Walsh            362 3rd Avenue
    or if not there                (New York
    To the care of                     America
            Jerrimiah O Droyer--No--173
        South street South Troy New York
    To be forwarded
    To Mary Dohorty          (For Thos. Walsh
                             (in haste America

       *       *       *       *       *

    To Mr. Leedfara, who runs the ferry
    over across to Long Island for Mary
    Maguire New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Mistress Crovor Keeps
         a stand in the
    _hutson dippo_--New York
       lives in reed street.

       *       *       *       *       *

      Direct this letter to
        315 Second floor
      Back room for Kate
    Barrey washington street
            New York
                in heast.

       *       *       *       *       *

    To the Lady that wears a white cloak Straw
    Bonnett trimmed with Blue & wears a blue
    veil, brown or striped dress
                        No -- Bleeker street
                            New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

                To Don Tom Rigan
                  and Monseer Birch--

    To New York city straight let this 'ere letter go
    Right to der corner of der Bowery and Grand
    Into Jim Story's place which every one must know
    Onto I forgot his name's old oyester stand.
    The _blades_ it's intended for are hearty and frisky,
    You'll find backe of der bar, where yer give dis letter.
    The postman may find himself a cocktail der better.

       *       *       *       *       *

      P.O. No 9 Albany Street
    Boston State of Mass for Michael
      Ryan tailor and if he do not
      live here i expect that the
    Person who will live here will
      forward this letter to him
       if they chance to know
           where he live.

       *       *       *       *       *

      Mister John Shane
      No 152 Salina Street
      your parents are here,
    and state New York city
            North America.

       *       *       *       *       *

      William Doger Syracuse
    Corner of James and Warren
      street undago county state
        of new york--america--
          care for John Burk or
            Jeremiah Burk paid
              or Else where

       *       *       *       *       *

    The American Girl who
    wants a place, 329 Sixth
    Avenue, up two flights of
      Stairs, Back Room.

       *       *       *       *       *

        Thadeus M. Guerai Esqr.
    son of Pat Guerai, Late Manager
      of the Devon estate, County
     Limerick Ireland, and husband
      of Sarah Coburn Harding;
        Niece of Major Harding
      of Harding Grove, County
          Limerick Ireland--
              Care of B. Douglass & Co.



The greatest improvement in the English mail service, during the
eighteenth century, was the introduction of mail coaches. This was
brought about by the energy and perseverance of JOHN PALMER, ESQ. Like
most of those who introduce great improvements, he was an "outsider,"
one unacquainted by business habits and associations, with the postal

At that time (about 1783) stage coaches, with passengers, traversed
the country over all the principal roads, and ran from five to seven
miles an hour. The mails, however, had _never_ had any better
conveyance than that of a horse or a gig, managed by a man or boy. The
whole mail service was on a most irregular footing; mail robberies
were frequent, and the speed did not average over three and a half
miles an hour.

Mr. Palmer's plan was, to have the mails transferred to the stage
coaches, that the swiftest conveyance which the country afforded
should carry the mails. For so obvious an improvement, we would
suppose that there would be little or no opposition. Parliamentary
Committees were appointed, Post Masters General reported, and all the
officials were against it! Statesmen took it up; the proposition was
debated in Parliament; and, after many years of persevering labor, Mr.
Palmer saw his plan adopted.

But opposition did not end here. There were more reports against it,
and those who opposed at first from ignorance, and a belief that no
improvement would result, now kept up their opposition from a dread of
being thought false prophets. But there were those who appreciated the
improvement, and Mr. Palmer got a pension from Government of three
thousand pounds a year for life, and afterwards a grant of fifty
thousand pounds, for the benefit his improvement in the mail service
had been to the revenue of the country.

We have, from a well known post-office reformer,[B] a nice piece of
sarcasm for the special benefit of those who _oppose_ great
improvements, and then deny their value after they have been adopted
and proved.

  [B] Rowland Hill, Esq.

A report from the English Post Master General says: "From a comparison
of the gross produce of inland postage: for four months, and from
every other comparison they have been able to make, they were
perfectly satisfied that the revenue has been very considerably
decreased by the plan of mail coaches."

This report gives the opinions of the Lords of the Treasury, and
enlarges on the innumerable inconveniences which the change had
occasioned. The great post-office reformer, forty years after this,
makes the following comment:--

"Heavy must be the responsibility on those who thus persisted in folly
and mischief; and wonderful is it that Mr. Palmer should have been
able to beguile the Government and the legislature into sanctioning
his mad career! Who was the statesman, unworthy of the name, that thus
gave the rein to audacity; that thus became, in his besotted
ignorance, the tool of presumption? Who stood god-father to the vile
abortion, and insisted on the admission of the hideous and deformed
monster into the sacred precincts of Lombard Street, the seat of
perfection? His name--alas! that the lynx should be guided by the
mole! that Samson should be seduced by Delilah! Palimirus allured by a
dream!--his name was WILLIAM PITT."



Before the adoption of the present rates of postage, much ingenuity
was displayed in making newspapers the vehicles of such information as
should legitimately have been conveyed by letters. Various devices
were employed to effect this object.

As the law strictly prohibited writing upon papers, requiring that
such newspapers should be charged with letter postage, the problem
was, to convey information by their means without infringing the
letter of the law.

Sometimes a sentence or a paragraph was selected, some of the letters
of which were crossed out in such a manner that the letters left
legible conveyed the meaning which the operator intended. By such
transmuting process, pugnacious editorials were converted into
epistles of the mildest and most affectionate description, and public
news of an important character not unfrequently contracted into a
channel for the conveyance of domestic intelligence.

As the constructions of the law on this subject, by the officers of
the Department, became more and more stringent, the most amusing and
ingenious inventions to get beyond their reach were resorted to.

For instance, marking an advertisement or other notice, with a pen or
pencil, having been declared a violation of law, attention was
sometimes called to such notices, by cutting round them on three
sides, thus making a sort of flap, and doubling it back on the side
left uncut. In one case, which now occurs to the author, a notice
served in that way, thus producing a hole in the paper, had the
strikingly appropriate caption of "A good Opening!"

The vacancy produced in the paper, in such a case, of course attracted
the attention of the person who received it, and _that_ advertisement
was sure to be read, if no other.

Hieroglyphics were sometimes employed for conveying contraband ideas.
The following will answer as a specimen of this class of attempted
evasions. It was neatly drawn on the margin of a newspaper which came
to a Western post-office, from a town in New England.


The meaning will of course he readily understood by the
reader--"Children all well!"

Such specimens of the fine arts are seldom attempted under the present
low rates of postage, as the saving of two cents would hardly pay for
the required time or labor. But there are those even now-a-days, who,
for that paltry consideration, are found willing to compromise their
consciences, if indeed they have any, by resorting to some of the less
laborious methods, in attempting to carry out their prudential



Legislative enactments have been found no less necessary, to defend
the sacredness of private correspondence from the prying eye of
curiosity, than from the plundering hand of dishonesty.

There are many who would recoil from the thought of robbing a letter
of its pecuniary contents, but feel no compunction at violating its
secrecy for the sake of indulging an idle or a malicious
inquisitiveness, if the commission of the deed can be concealed. This
may not be called a common evil, and yet it exists; and it is one
against which Acts of Congress have been levelled almost in vain, for
there is perhaps hardly any portion of the laws of that body relative
to the protection of correspondence, through the mails, about which
there is felt so great a degree of security.

This violation of the first principles of decency and propriety, not
unfrequently leads to results more disastrous than those which are
caused even by robbery itself. The person, too, who indulges himself
in this disgraceful practice, cannot be sure that he will always keep
clear of more serious misdemeanors. He who pries into letters for one
purpose, may be led to pry into them for another. When one has become
accustomed to tampering with letter seals, he has broken through a
powerful restraint to crime, and has laid himself yet more open to the
assaults of temptation.

Sometimes a state of things exists in a neighborhood which clearly
shows that some unauthorized person is acquainted with the contents of
many of the letters passing-through the post-office, before the
rightful owners have received them. Secrets of the utmost importance
are suddenly blazed abroad, and those of less consequence are used to
inflict much annoyance upon the persons whom they concern. Those in
charge of the post-office become the objects of suspicion, and the
inhabitants of the infected district, if they are unable to obtain
positive proof of unlawful meddling with their correspondence, at
least show, by their endeavors to prevent their letters from going
through the dangerous channel, that they have lost their confidence in
the integrity of the post master, or of his assistants.

For instance,--Farmer Haycroft's daughter had settled the
preliminaries of a treaty of the most tender description with a young
gentleman of a neighboring city, though without the knowledge and
contrary to the wishes of the parental potentates on both sides. Their
happiness, it is clear, depended on preserving their secret inviolate.
Should it come to the ears of their "potent, grave, and reverend
_Seniors_," a storm of wrath might be expected like that which is seen
when two clouds, heavily charged, unite in pouring out their burden of
lightning, wind, and rain.

Therefore, in order to avoid such a consummation, interviews were not
risked, as being too hazardous, but a correspondence was carried on
under fictitious names.

Much solicitude was felt by the inquisitive matron who presided over
the _Pryington_ Post-Office, to know who "Elizabeth Greene" (the _nom
de guerre_ of the Haycroftian damsel) could be. So she
cross-questioned the boy who inquired for letters for the aforesaid
Elizabeth, but he was decidedly non-committal. And, as a last resort,
she sent her servant-maid to follow the unwary messenger, and see
where he went. She returned with the exciting intelligence that Jane
Haycroft met him and received from his hands the letter which the boy
had just taken from the office.

This information but aggravated the thirst for knowledge which raged
in the breast of the post mistress, and she inwardly resolved that she
would in some way unravel the mystery that lurked under the name of
"Elizabeth Greene."

The town was shortly after astonished with the news of the proposed
"match," and as the post-office dame was not supposed to deal in
_clairvoyance_, the inference was natural that some less creditable
but more certain method had been adopted to bring the important fact
to light.

The detection of supposed guilt in cases of this kind was formerly
very difficult, and heretofore the Special Agents had rather undertake
the investigation of a dozen cases of mail robbery than to attempt to
unearth one of these moles, working under ground, and gnawing at the
roots of their neighbor's reputation and happiness. For these Paul
Prys generally leave but few traces behind them by which they may be
ferreted out, however strong the grounds of suspicion may be.

Tests have been devised, however, by which these dealers in contraband
knowledge may be unerringly pointed out and detected in their
contemptible occupation. A letter may be opened, read, and resealed
never so carefully, yet by means of these tests the opening can be
satisfactorily proved, and the opener brought to justice, at least so
far as a removal from office can answer the ends of punishment.

A knowledge of this secret plan rests solely with the Post Master
General and his Special Agents, and it can only be communicated to the
latter under the most positive injunctions of secrecy. It will be
applied in all cases where there is reasonable ground for believing
that correspondence has been tampered with.

The legal penalty for this offence is five hundred dollars fine, and
imprisonment for twelve months.



The institution of Special Agents did not originate in this country.
At a comparatively early period it constituted a part of the British
postal system, and these Agents are termed "Post-Office Surveyors."
This corps of officials has ever been considered by the English
Government one of the most important adjuncts of the Post-Office

In the early history of the Department in our own country persons were
occasionally employed, in cases of emergency, to act as its
representatives, and to exercise temporary supervision over some of
the various branches of the mail service; but the Special Agent
system, as it now exists, was first organized in the year 1840, while
the Hon. Amos Kendall was at the head of the Department.

The number of Special Agents in the United States has been gradually
increased since their first establishment, and is now eighteen,
suitably distributed throughout the country, each one having a
district assigned him as the particular field of his operations, but
to act elsewhere if so ordered.

It is not the intention to enter into an argument for the purpose of
proving the usefulness of this branch of the Department. If this has
not been shown by the facts recorded in the former part of this
volume, as well as by the many prominent and familiar cases all over
the country, which have been so successfully conducted by other
members of the corps, it would be in vain to attempt it now. I would
only say a few words respecting the power of this system, to _prevent_

There are some persons in the world of firm principles and unbending
rectitude, who need not the aid of outward circumstances for the
maintenance of an upright character. But perhaps the majority of
mankind require some external helps in the way of restraints, from
public opinion, and even the threatenings of the law. On such the fear
of detection frequently acts in a most salutary manner, deterring from
the commission of crime, and sometimes leading to a higher motive for
right conduct than apprehension of punishment.

In more than one instance, after the conclusion of some important case
of depredation, I have been informed that money-letters, passing upon
other routes than the ones under suspicion, and even at a considerable
distance, have been regarded with a reverence never felt for them
before. A portly envelope was considered a sort of Trojan horse,
filled with the elements of destruction, ready to overwhelm the
explorer of its treacherous recesses. This extraordinary caution was
owing, of course, to the knowledge (which often gets out in spite of
the utmost endeavors to prevent it) that the Special Agent was abroad;
and when once a person has been thoroughly impressed with the danger
of tampering with the forbidden thing, he does not soon nor easily
yield to the whisperings of the tempter.

The duties of a Special Agent of the Post-Office Department involve a
constant and vigilant supervision of all its interests. This embraces
a much wider range of action, and requires much higher qualifications
on the part of those who undertake it, than any simply "detective"
service. It is believed that neither Congress nor the public generally
attach such a degree of importance to the office in question as it
really possesses, both in itself and in the estimation of the
Department. This is perhaps owing to the fact that so great a
proportion of its duties have of late been connected with the
investigation of cases of depredation upon the mails. This has given
the corps of Special Agents the apparent character of mere "detective
officers," while in truth they are much more than this.

The qualifications which a Special Agent should possess are numerous
and diverse; some, indeed, not often found in connection with one
another. A high degree of shrewdness and tact is required, in order to
estimate probabilities rightly, and to pursue investigations in such a
way as to avoid attracting attention or exciting alarm. And an
essential pre-requisite to success is a good knowledge of human
nature. To calculate beforehand with correctness what a given person
will do under certain circumstances, and thus to anticipate his
movements, and make him subservient to the execution of your plans; to
vary the mode of approach to suspected persons, according to the
combinations of circumstances and the shades of character existing in
the case in hand; to do all this, and much more of a like description,
demands no small knowledge of the workings of the human mind.

It is comparatively an easy matter to follow up a mail robber when
once upon his track, (though there is often nicety even in this,) but
to collect the scattered rays of suspicion and conjecture, and to
bring them together into one focus, throwing its revealing glare upon
the criminal, requires a higher order of intellect than any after
operations. And the caution which is always necessary in the
conducting of these cases, in order to secure a successful result, is
called for not only for the sake of detecting the guilty, but in order
that the innocent may not suffer blame.

It often happens that circumstances of the strongest kind indicate the
guilt of some person, who, notwithstanding, is entirely free from all
connection with the crime. Never, perhaps, is a stronger temptation to
hasty and indiscreet procedures offered than by such a state of
things. Yet he who is guided by discretion, is not led away by the
dazzling hope of immediate success in his investigation, but, aware
how fallacious are sometimes the strongest appearances, he considers
the question before him with coolness and deliberation, fully
conscious of the priceless value of character, and reluctant to make
any movement that might unjustly throw a shadow upon it.

From the nature of their employment, Special Agents are constantly
brought in contact with the most intelligent and prominent men in the
community, who justly expect to find the Post-Office Department
represented by men of gentlemanly bearing, fair education, correct
deportment, and sound discretion. The absence of any of these
qualities, especially of all of them, would lower the standing of the
Department with those whose good opinion is most valuable, and would
naturally cause speculations on the reasons why persons so deficient
in the qualities necessary to make them acceptable to people of
discernment, should have been appointed to such a responsible post.

It would hardly be just to hold the Department responsible for the
existence of all such evils, as there is always danger that the
influence and diplomacy of politicians may be used for the purpose of
securing appointments to persons who are unfit for them. If the time
ever comes when politicians shall act upon truly patriotic principles,
then we may reasonably expect that the appointing of subordinate
officers of this Department will be left to those in whose power the
law has placed it, undisturbed by pressure from without.

The duties of a Special Agent are often made more difficult by the
thoughtlessness or curiosity of those whom he meets in the course of
his official business. The maintenance of secrecy is absolutely
necessary to much success in his plans. It is perfectly obvious that
the measures taken to detect a rogue should be concealed from him, and
it is generally no less important that he should not know that any one
is on his track. The public at large, however, seem to think
themselves at liberty to inquire of an Agent all about his plans;
where he is going, whom he is in pursuit of, and any other matters
that curiosity may suggest. Often have I been saluted, on entering an
omnibus or a railroad car, with the question, "Well, H----, who has
been robbing the mails now?" thus making the person of the Agent known
to all within hearing, and perhaps to some from whom it were very
desirable to keep such knowledge. I received a similar salutation once
from a thoughtless acquaintance, in the presence of a delinquent
post-office clerk whom I was watching, and to whom I was before

In country places, also, Agents are often brought to their wit's end
for answers to the questions proposed, which shall be satisfactory to
the querist, and keep within the bounds of truth. Sometimes they find
themselves compelled, in anticipation of this annoying curiosity, to
take refuge in a mercantile character, inquiring the price of butter,
and other "produce." At other times, with parental solicitude, they
inform themselves of the comparative merits of different
boarding-schools; or they, in pursuance of their own policy, discuss
policies of "Life Insurance." I was once indebted to the system
alluded to for my escape from the fangs of an inquisitive landlord. In
the investigations of the case then in hand, it was of the utmost
importance that the presence of an Agent of the Department, on that
route, should not be known. So when mine host commenced his inquiries,
I informed him that I had thought of delivering a lecture on Life
Insurance, and asked him whether he supposed that an audience could be
got together in the village. He appeared very much interested in the
matter, and offered to guarantee at least five hundred hearers for the
proposed lecture. One evening, while I was in my room employed in
preparing decoy letters, he called upon some errand, and, observing me
at work among some papers, he said:

"Ah, at work on your lecture, are you? Well, I won't disturb you."

We went so far as to make some arrangements for the printing of
hand-bills, &c., but the mental illumination which the inhabitants of
the village had in prospect, was extinguished by my disappearance,
accompanied by a culprit, whom it was more important to secure than
even an "audience of five hundred." During the examination of the
criminal, my worthy host inquired of me, with a sagacious wink, how
the "Life Insurance" business flourished?

It may not be out of place here to allude to an erroneous idea
respecting the powers of Special Agents, which prevails to some
extent, namely, that the Agents are permitted by the Department to
open letters addressed to other persons, where the interests of
justice seem to require it. This is contrary to the truth. An Agent
has no more power or right than any other person to open letters not
belonging to him, for whatever purpose he may wish to do so. Should he
see fit to break a seal, he does it at his own responsibility. The law
makes no exceptions in his favor. And the Department cannot confer
this power of opening letters, because no such power has been given
it. The Post Master General is as accountable to the laws as any
private citizen.



This is the designation of a very useful and indispensable class of
officials, who were hardly known to the service in this country
previous to the year 1839. Their introduction appears to have been
contemporaneous with the employment of railroads for the
transportation of the U. S. mails, and a necessary consequence of the
adoption of this mode of conveyance.

The number of these Agents has been progressively increased in
proportion with the extension of railroads, and they are now employed
upon nearly all these roads in this country, as well as upon many of
the steamboats which carry the mails.

Since 1847, they have increased as follows:--

    In 1848 there were 47
       1849   "    "   61
       1850   "    "  100
       1851   "    "  127
       1862   "    "  209
       1864   "    "  260
       1856   "    "  295

By the terms of contract with each railroad company, it is required to
furnish a suitable car for the use of the mail or Route Agent when so
requested by the Department. The Agent occupies this traveling
post-office, or mail car, receives and delivers mails along the route;
assorts, and gives the proper direction to all mail matter passing
through his hands; mails such letters, pre-paid _by stamps_, as are
handed him, and accompanies the mails in their transit between the
post-office and the railroad station or steamboat, at the terminus of
the route.

It is too often the case that persons of influence, in proposing a
candidate for this responsible post, greatly undervalue the nature and
importance of the duties to be performed, supposing that they involve
merely the mechanical labor of delivering mail bags at the different
post-office stations upon the route. The fact is, that the successful
working of our postal machinery depends in no small degree upon the
active, faithful, and intelligent discharge of the Route Agents'
duties. In New England especially, and perhaps in some other sections
of the country, a very large proportion of the correspondence passes
through the hands of these officials, at some stage in its progress.

Much care, and a thorough knowledge of the topography of the sections
of the country through which the route lies, as well as that of more
distant portions, are therefore required for giving letter and other
packages a direction by which they will reach their destination in the
shortest possible time. And that essential preliminary, the
ascertaining where a given package is to go, is a matter not always
easy of accomplishment. For the most skilful interpreters of the
species of chirography known as "quail tracks," are often taxed to
their utmost capacity of learning and experience, in the endeavor to
decipher the outside addresses of packages which they are required to
"distribute" without loss of time.

Furthermore, in consequence of the improvements constantly progressing
in many parts of the country, and the frequent changes in railroad,
steamboat, and stage connections, resulting from that and other
causes, what would be correct "distribution" one day, might not be so
the next. The old adage, "The longest way round is the shortest way
home," is often literally true in the sending of mail matter, for
steam occupies less time in accomplishing a circuitous route of a
hundred miles, than horses in passing over a direct one of twenty.

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that a long route by stage
should be adopted, instead of a short one by railroad, owing to a want
of the proper railroad connections.

When all these demands upon the vigilance and ability of the Route
Agent are exercised, it will be obvious that it would be difficult to
estimate the amount of injury that the public might receive from the
employment of a careless, inefficient, or illiterate person in this

Among the Post Master General's instructions to Route Agents is one
requiring them to receive and mail all letters written after the
closing of the mail at the places where the writers reside, and before
its departure. This privilege--intended solely for the accommodation
of those who are prevented by unavoidable circumstances from
depositing their letters in the post-office--has of late been used, or
rather abused, to a degree never dreamed of by the Department. This
abuse, in many cases, has proceeded to an extent which would seem to
warrant the withholding of the privilege.

Tardy and indolent correspondents, who can save a few steps by taking
their letters to a mail car or steamboat, instead of to the proper
place of deposit, a post-office, find the hard-worked Route Agent an
invention admirably calculated to facilitate the indulgence of their
lazy habits, and do not scruple to avail themselves of the opportunity
to the utmost extent.

There is also a numerous class who entertain feelings of hostility
toward their post master for various reasons; not unfrequently from
the failure of their own attempts or those of their friends to obtain
the office which he holds. These persons show their resentment by
withholding their mail matter from the post-office, and thus cheating
the incumbent out of his lawful commissions. In carrying out this
plan, they make the Route Agent an innocent accessory, by placing all
their correspondence in his car just before the departure of the
train, thus unnecessarily increasing his labor for the sake of
gratifying their own malice.

Another class, fully persuaded of the truth of the principle that
"seeing is believing," and unwilling to trust in anything less
reliable than their own eyes, deposit their letters with the Agent
rather than in the post-office, in order to avoid the innumerable
perils which might beset them in their passage from the custody of the
post master to that of the Agent! These cautious persons are not
satisfied without ocular demonstration of the departure of their
letters, so that if the letters should fail to reach their
destination, they would still have the pleasing consciousness that
they had done all in _their_ power to avoid such a catastrophe.

Still another class confide their letters to the Route Agent, from a
belief that letters, especially valuable ones, will thus go forward
more safely and expeditiously. But this is an incorrect idea, for in
the first place the pressure of other indispensable duties, such as
receiving, assorting, and delivering mails, may occupy so much of the
Agent's time that he will find it impossible to mail all the letters
handed him, in which case they would often suffer at least a day's
delay. And as to the supposed additional safety of money-letters, when
sent in this way, it may be remarked that in case of a serious
collision happening to the train while the letters were still loose,
the chances of their loss from destruction or theft, would be much
greater than if they were properly secured in a locked mail-pouch.
Important losses have occurred in this way, and of course they may
happen at any time.

In behalf of the Route Agents, whose duties, at best, are sufficiently
arduous, the public are earnestly requested to exercise the privilege
referred to only in accordance with its original intention, namely, in
reference to letters which _cannot_ with due diligence be mailed in
the ordinary way.

Another important regulation contained in the Route Agents'
instructions, is that which forbids the admission within the mail car
of any one except those officially connected with the Department. The
strict enforcement of this rule is well for all concerned, and should
be cheerfully acquiesced in by the railroad companies and the public
at large.

Nor should its application in individual cases be construed, as has
sometimes been done, into a distrust of the honor or honesty of the
person refused admittance. It is done simply in pursuance of a
wholesome and reasonable requirement, and with the view to confine
responsibility to those upon whom it is placed by the Department, and
to guard against hindrances to the faithful and accurate discharge of
their duty.

The faithfulness of one of the Route Agents, in respect to a
compliance with Instructions, was a few years since tested by the Post
Master General in person, who happened to be travelling _incog._, so
far as those on that train were concerned.

Just as the cars were about to leave one of the stations, JUDGE HALL,
then Post Master General, presented himself at the door of the mail
apartment, when the following conversation occurred:--

_Post Master General._--Good morning, sir; I would like a seat in your
car to avoid the dust.

_Agent._--Well, I would like to accommodate you, but you see what my
Instructions say, (at the same time pointing to the printed Circular
posted up in the car, with the signature of "N. K. Hall" attached.)

_P. M. General._--Yes, that is all well enough, but Mr. Hall probably
did not mean to exclude honorable gentlemen who would not interfere
with the mails, or annoy you with conversation.

_Agent._--(Scanning the person of his unknown visitor pretty
closely)--Suppose he didn't, what evidence have I that you are an
honorable gentleman? Besides, I am a strict constructionist, and the
order says no person is allowed here except those connected with the

Judge Hall insisted upon staying, however, and deliberately took a
seat in the only chair on the premises. Whereupon the Agent proceeded
to call the baggage-master to assist in forcibly ejecting this
persevering customer; and he certainly would have _gone out_, had he
not without loss of time presented his card to the incensed Agent,
just in time to prevent so ludicrous a denouement.

He was warmly commended for his faithfulness, and highly enjoyed the
visit of his distinguished guest during the remainder of his stay.



Those who may have perused the preceding pages of this work, will
require no further comment on the nature and utility of decoy letters.
But as some persons are met with who, without much reflection, condemn
their use under all circumstances, it may be well to offer a few
remarks in defence of this practice.

It is very clear that decoy letters can never injure honest men. These
missives trouble no one who does not unlawfully meddle with them, and
it can hardly be claimed that they offer any greater temptations to
the dishonestly inclined than any other class of money-letters. It is
of course impossible for any one to distinguish between a decoy letter
and a genuine one, and he who faithfully discharges his duties in
reference to other letters, will never find out by his own personal
experience, that there are such things as decoys.

It should not be forgotten that these devices are employed for the
public good, and that the security of a vast amount of property, as
well as the removal of unjust suspicion, often depends upon the
detection of some delinquent post-office employé. In such a case, it
would surely be foolishly fastidious to object to the adoption of a
method of effecting the desired end, which accurately distinguishes
between the innocent and the guilty, and which does injustice to no

In the defence of criminals tried in the United States Courts, for
mail robbery, whose detection has been effected by means of decoy
letters, especially in cases where there seems to be no other ground
of defence, it is frequently insisted on very eloquently, that as the
law of Congress on this subject provides against the embezzlement of
letters "intended to be conveyed by post," no offence is committed by
the purloining of decoys, inasmuch as this class of epistles are not
_bonâ fide_ letters, and are not intended to be conveyed in the mail,
within the true intent and meaning of the statute.

This position has been overthrown, however, as often as it has been
assumed, and it is believed that the decisions on this point, of all
the United States Judges before whom the question has been raised,
have been uniform throughout the country.

In a recent important trial in the city of New York, before his Honor
JUDGE BETTS, the decoy system received a severe hetchelling from the
learned counsel for the prisoner, and after the evidence had been laid
before the jury, the Court was asked to dismiss the case and the
culprit, on the ground that the offence provided against in the
twenty-first section of the Act of 1825, had not been committed.

But his Honor took a very different view of the matter, as will appear
by the following extract from his decision:--

    Judge Betts remarked to the jury that the facts upon which the
    indictment is found being uncontroverted, the question of the
    prisoner's guilt depends solely upon points of law.

    When facts are ascertained, it is the province of the Court to
    determine whether they come within the provisions of the law
    sought to be applied to them; and, although in criminal cases the
    jury gives a general answer, covering both the law and fact, to
    the inquiry whether the accused is guilty or not guilty, it is not
    to be supposed they will, in a case resting wholly upon a question
    of law, render a verdict in opposition to the instructions of the
    Court. The defence of the accused assumes that the twenty-first
    section above recited, in order to a conviction under it, demands
    affirmative proof from the prosecution that the letters were
    _intended to be conveyed by post_, according to their address: And
    it is urged that such proof not being made, but on the contrary,
    the evidence being that the writer of the letters did not intend
    they should be so delivered, but meant to take them out of the
    mail himself, to prevent their delivery, if they were not
    embezzled in the office in this city, the acts done by the accused
    are no offence under the statute.

    I think that construction of the statute cannot be maintained in
    respect to letters actually in the mail, and especially in this
    case, where the letters had been conveyed by post and came into
    this office by the mail from other offices.

    It is a presumption of law, and not a matter of proof, that
    letters so circumstanced, were intended to be conveyed by post.
    The question of intention is no longer referable to the private
    purpose of the writer, whatever might be the fact when letters are
    given to persons employed in the Post-Office Department, out of
    the office, for the purpose of being put into it or conveyed by

    When, however, a letter already in the mail is purloined, (1
    McLean R. 504; 2 Id. 434,) or is embezzled by a carrier on the
    route, (1 Curtis R. 367,) it is, in judgment of law, intended to
    be conveyed by post, within the meaning of the statute, and the
    private purpose and intention of the person who put it in the
    mail, is in no way material, and need not be proved.

    Nor indeed, if the accused can prove, or it is made to appear upon
    the evidence of the prosecution, that the letter was placed in the
    mail or came into a post-office, prepared and intended as a decoy,
    and was not intrusted to the mail in the way of bonâ fide
    correspondence, is the criminality of taking it thereby absolved:
    even if the evidence advances another stage, and shows that the
    decoy was aimed at and intended for the particular person caught
    by it, (_The United States_ v. _Laurence_, 2 McLean R. 441; _The
    United States_ v. _Foye_, 1 Curtis R. 307-8.)

    These decisions enforce the manifest policy of the statute. The
    post-office establishment, and the enactments maintaining the
    security of its action and the fidelity of persons employed in it,
    compose a great national measure, and the laws governing and
    protecting it are to be construed so as to subserve the public
    good, and not with a view to what might be a reasonable rule in
    transactions between individuals. But I apprehend that even in
    individual transactions, the agents of a bank, a merchant's clerk,
    or a domestic servant could not protect themselves against a
    criminal or civil charge of appropriating the effects of their
    employers, by proof that the property had been placed within their
    reach by its owner, in distrust of their honesty, and for the
    purpose of testing it.

    The method adopted by the Department to detect offenders under
    this law, does not appear to me objectionable in the point of view
    pressed by the counsel for the accused. No further temptation or
    facility to the commission of the offence is thereby placed before
    such offenders than must necessarily be presented in the daily
    business of their trusts. These packages were in every respect the
    same in appearance, and with only the same indications of
    enclosing money, as ordinary letters by which remittances are
    made. And it seems to me when it comes to be understood by persons
    handling such packages in the mail or destined for it, that a
    watchful eye may be following each package from office to office,
    and noticing everything done to it, that the apprehension of such
    supervision may act almost with the force of a religious
    consciousness of accountability, in awing wicked purposes and
    preventing criminal actions.

    I am persuaded that letters would rarely be intercepted in their
    transmission by post, if every person concerned in mailing or
    carrying them, could be impressed with the idea that each package
    enclosing valuables, may be but a bait seeking to detect whoever
    may be dishonest enough to molest it, and to become a swift
    witness for his conviction and punishment.

    The jury convicted the prisoner, and on the 29th day of December,
    1854, he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.



The design of the author, in the preparation of the present volume,
would be but imperfectly answered, were he to fail to communicate that
practical information which it is very desirable that the public at
large should possess, both for their own sake and that of those
connected with the mail service. For, an accurate knowledge of the
requirements of the law upon leading points, would obviate much of the
disappointment and unpleasant feeling to which mistaken views on the
subject give rise. There are popular errors on many matters connected
with post-office regulations which are every day causing trouble and
vexation, and which can only be corrected by presenting the facts as
they are.

This information is not accessible to the public in general; at least,
it is out of the way, and is not kept before the people. The
Department publishes, at irregular intervals, an edition of its laws
and regulations for the use of post masters, each of whom is supplied
with a copy; and this, with the exception of the ordinary newspaper
record of the laws as they are passed, is the only source of
information upon this subject open to people in general. The detail of
regulations established by the Department, seldom finds its way into
the papers, and correspondents are left to acquire their knowledge
respecting it by (sometimes sad) experience.

It is the intention of the author to supply these deficiencies in part
at least, avoiding, however, all laws and regulations likely to be
changed by legislation, or the constructions put upon them by the
chief officers appointed from time to time to administer those laws.

Post masters being already provided with the official instructions
pertaining to their duties, a repetition here is deemed unnecessary
farther than a knowledge of the laws and regulations may be essential
to the public.

For the items of information presented below, the author relies in
part on the suggestions of his own experience, but they are mainly
compiled from the established regulations of the Post-Office
Department, and such of the decisions of its chief officers as are
likely to remain permanently in force:--

       *       *       *       *       *


    That the loss or delay of letters, valuable or otherwise, is often
    caused by the dishonesty or carelessness of those to whose custody
    they are committed, must be acknowledged. Still, in a large
    proportion of such cases, the cause is to be found in some one or
    a combination of those curious omissions and mistakes to which all
    correspondents--but more especially men deeply involved in
    business pursuits--are so liable. The records of the Dead Letter
    Office, if consulted, would present a list of delinquents in this
    particular, embracing the names of hundreds of individuals and
    firms, ranking as the most exact and systematic persons in the

    A similar examination of the official reports of the Special
    Agents and post masters, would further show to what an extent such
    losses are attributable to a want of fidelity and proper care on
    the part of persons employed to convey letters to and from the
    post-office. Suggestions as to the remedies are hardly called for.

    So far as relates to misdirections, as they are most apt to occur
    with persons and mercantile houses of extensive correspondence, an
    excellent precaution may be found, in requiring the post-office
    messenger, after the letters have been prepared for the mail, to
    enter in a book kept for that purpose, the full outside address of
    each letter, with the date of mailing. In case any one of them is
    incorrectly addressed, and fails to reach its intended
    destination, a reference to the book of superscriptions will show
    where the missing document was sent, and lead to its immediate
    recovery. If correctly addressed, that fact would appear, and
    materially aid in an official investigation. This, together with
    the adoption of a greater degree of care than is at present
    exercised, in the selection of persons to act as private letter
    carriers, would greatly reduce the number of losses, mishaps, and
    complaints in connection with the mails. Where it is possible, but
    one person should be sent to the post-office.

    The name of the writer or firm, written or printed on the letter,
    is an advantage in case of miscarriage.

    When a valuable letter is missing from any cause, the fact should
    be at once reported to the post master, in writing, with full
    particulars, and a search made by the complainants, of the pockets
    of any spare over-coats about the premises.

    Where letters are delivered by a public letter carrier, or penny
    post, a locked box or some other safe place of deposit for the
    letters thus left, should be provided. A neglect of this
    precaution, is the cause of many annoyances and losses.

    The address of letters intended for delivery in cities, should
    include, if possible, the occupation, street and number of the
    party addressed.

    When a letter is, by mistake or owing to a duplicate name,
    delivered to the wrong person, it should be immediately returned
    to the post-office with a verbal explanation, and not be dropped
    into the letter box. If inadvertently opened by the party taking
    it from the office, the fact should be endorsed on the back of the
    letter, with the name of the opener.

    Experience has shown that locked letter boxes or drawers opening
    on the outside, especially in cities and large towns, are unsafe,
    as depositories of letters, especially those containing articles
    of value.

    No letters should be given to Route Agents upon the cars or
    steamboats, except such as cannot be written before the closing of
    the mail at the post-office. Under no circumstances can Route
    Agents receive letters that are not pre-paid _by stamps_.

    When there are good grounds for believing that letters are opened
    and read from motives of curiosity, complaint should be made in
    writing to the Chief Clerk of the Post-Office Department,
    Washington. A secret plan for the certain detection of _prying_
    delinquents has recently been devised.

    Two or more letters directed to different persons, cannot be sent
    by mail in one envelope or packet, without subjecting the sender
    to a fine of ten dollars. This does not apply to any letter or
    packet directed to a foreign country.

    Costly and delicate articles of jewelry or other valuables, should
    not be placed in a letter, as they are liable to serious injury in
    the process of stamping.

    It is a violation of law to enclose a letter or other thing
    (except bills and receipts for subscription,) or to make any
    memorandum in writing, or to print any word or communication,
    after its publication, upon any newspaper, pamphlet, magazine, or
    other printed matter. The person addressed must pay letter
    postage, or the sender be fined five dollars.

    If a letter is deposited in a post-office, and the enclosure
    accidentally omitted, or it becomes necessary to alter or add to
    the contents, it is much better to _write another letter_, than to
    trouble those in the office to look for the original one. In large
    places, especially, a successful search for it, even immediately
    after its deposit, would consume much valuable time, and such a
    request is altogether unreasonable, when the remedy suggested is
    so simple and cheap.

    On calling or sending for a letter known to have been advertised,
    the fact should always be stated, otherwise only the _current_
    letters are examined.

    Although it is strictly the duty of post masters and other agents
    of the Department, to correct or report such errors in the mail
    service as may come to their knowledge, it is, nevertheless,
    desirable that any private citizen should inform the Department of
    continued neglect or carelessness in the execution of mail
    contracts or mismanagement in a post-office.

    Legal provision has been made by Congress, by which letters may be
    sent _out_ of the mail in cases of emergency. By the use of the
    Government envelope, _with the stamp printed thereon_, and
    constituting a part thereof, letters may be so sent, provided the
    envelope is duly sealed, directed, and addressed, and the date or
    receipt or transmission of such letter written or stamped thereon.
    The use of such envelope more than once, subjects the offender to
    a fine of fifty dollars.

    A letter or ordinary envelope with a postage stamp _put on_ by the
    writer, _cannot_ go out of the mail (except by private hand,) for
    the reason that the law confines the matter entirely to the
    envelopes furnished by the Department. Were the privilege extended
    to the other kind of stamps, there being no way to cancel them,
    by their re-use, extensive frauds upon the revenue would be the

    A singular notion seems long to have prevailed that it is no
    violation of law to send an _unsealed_ letter outside of the mail.
    This makes no difference whatever. Even if the paper written upon
    is not folded, it is a letter.

    Where bundles of newspapers are sent in the mail to "clubs,"
    without the names of the subscribers upon the papers, the post
    master is under no official obligation to address them. Still the
    Department enjoins a spirit of courtesy and accommodation towards
    publishers and the public, in all such matters.

    A person receiving a letter from the post-office by mistake, or
    finding one in the street or elsewhere, can under no pretence
    designedly break the seal without subjecting himself to a severe

    A printed business card or the name of the sender, placed upon the
    outside of a circular, subjects it to double postage; and for any
    writing, except the address, letter postage is charged.

The following are among the established rules and regulations of the
Department founded upon existing statutes of Congress:--

    Only the dead letters containing enclosures of value, are required
    by law to be preserved and returned to their owners; but if the
    writer of a letter not containing an enclosure of value desires to
    have his letter preserved, it will be done if he pre-pay the
    letter and mark the words "to be preserved," in large characters,
    on the sealed side. Upon the return of his letter he will be
    required to pay the postage from Washington.

    The masters of steamboats under contract with the Department, will
    deliver into the post-offices (or to the route or local agent of
    the Department, if there be any,) at the places at which they
    arrive, all letters received by them, or by any person employed on
    their boats, at any point along the route.

    Masters or managers of all other steamboats, are required by law,
    under a penalty of thirty dollars, to deliver all letters brought
    by them, or within their care or power, addressed to, or destined
    for, the places at which they arrive, to the post masters at such
    places: _except letters relating to some part of the cargo_ and
    left unsealed. All letters not addressed to persons to whom the
    cargo, or any part of it, is consigned, are therefore to be
    delivered into the post-office, to be charged-with postage.

    Every master of a vessel from a foreign port is bound, immediately
    on his arrival at a port, and before he can report, make entry, or
    break bulk, under a penalty not to exceed $100, to deliver into
    the post-office all letters brought in his vessel, directed to any
    person in the United States, or the Territories thereof, which are
    under his care or within his power, except such letters as relate
    to the cargo or some part thereof.

    Stage coaches, railroad cars, steamboats, packetboats, and all
    other vehicles or vessels performing regular trips at stated
    periods, on a post route between two or more cities, towns, or
    places, from one to the other, on which the United States mail is
    regularly conveyed under the authority of the Post-Office
    Department, are prohibited from transporting or conveying,
    otherwise than in the mail, any letter, packet, or packets of
    letters, (except those sealed and addressed and pre-paid by stamped
    envelopes, of suitable denominations,) or other mailable matter
    whatsoever, except such as may have relation to some part of the
    cargo of such steamboat, packetboat, or other vessel, or to some
    article at the same time conveyed by such stage, railroad car, or
    some vehicle, and excepting also, newspapers, pamphlets,
    magazines, and periodicals.

    A newspaper, pamphlet, circular, or other printed sheet, if in a
    wrapper, should be so folded and wrapped that its character can be
    readily determined; and so that any prohibited writing, marks, or
    signs upon it may easily be detected. If closely enveloped and
    sealed it is chargeable with letter postage.

    No post master or other privileged person can authorize his
    assistant, clerk, or any other person to write his name for the
    purpose of franking any letter, public or private.

    The personal privilege of franking travels with the person
    possessing it, and can be exercised in but one place at the same

    No post master or privileged person can leave his frank behind him
    upon envelopes to cover his correspondence in his absence.

    Money and other valuable things, sent in the mail, are at the risk
    of the owner. But, if they be lost, the Department will make every
    effort in its power to discover the cause, and, if there has been
    a theft, to punish the offender.

    Letters can be registered on the payment of the registry fee of
    five cents for each letter.

    Post masters, assistants, and clerks, regularly employed and
    engaged in post-offices, and also post riders and drivers of mail
    stages, are by law exempt from military duty and serving on
    juries, and from any fine or penalty for neglect thereof.--_Act
    of_ 1825, _sec._ 35; _Act of_ 1836, _sec._ 34.

    A post master will suffer no person whatever, except his duly
    sworn assistants, or clerks and letter carriers, who may also have
    been sworn, to have access to the letters, newspapers, and packets
    in his office, or whatever constitutes a part of the mail, or to
    the mail locks or keys.

    If no special order upon the subject has been made in regard to
    his office, a post master is allowed seven minutes only to change
    the mail.

    If the mail be carried in a stage, coach, or sulky, it will be the
    duty of the driver to deliver it as near the door of the
    post-office as he can come with his vehicle, but not to leave his
    horses, and he should not be permitted to throw the mail on the

    Post masters will not suffer newspapers to be read in their
    offices by persons to whom they are not addressed; nor to be lent
    out in any case, without permission of the owners.

    If newspapers are not taken out of the office by the person to
    whom they are addressed, the post master will give immediate
    notice to the publishers, and of the cause thereof if known.

    Packets of every description, weighing more than four pounds, are
    to be excluded, except public documents, printed by order of
    either House of Congress, or such publications or books as have
    been or may be published, procured, _or purchased_, by order of
    either House of Congress, or joint resolution of the two Houses,
    and legally franked.

    Newspapers and periodicals to foreign countries (particularly to
    the continent of Europe) must be sent in narrow bands, open at the
    sides or end; otherwise they are chargeable there with letter

    Drop and box letters, circulars, free packets containing printed
    documents, speeches, or other printed matter, are not to be

    If newspapers are carried out of the mail for sale or
    distribution, post masters are not bound to receive and deliver
    them. Pamphlets and magazines for immediate distribution to
    subscribers cannot be so carried without a violation of the law of

    The great mails are to be closed at all distributing offices not
    more than one hour before the time fixed for their departure; and
    all other mails at those offices, and all mails at all other
    offices, not more than half an hour before that time, unless the
    departure is between 9 o'clock, P. M., and 5, A. M., in which case
    the mail is to be closed at 9, P. M.

    Postage stamps and stamped envelopes, may be used in pre-payment
    of postage on letters to foreign countries, in all cases where
    such pre-payment can be made in money.

    A letter bearing a stamp, cut or separated from a stamped
    envelope, cannot be sent through the mail as a pre-paid letter.
    Stamps so cut or separated from stamped envelopes lose their legal

    It is expected that a disposition to accommodate will prompt a
    post master to search for and deliver a letter, on the application
    of a person who cannot call during the usual office hours.

    No person can hold the office of post master, who is not an actual
    resident of the city or town wherein the post-office is situated,
    or within the delivery of the office.--_Sec._ 36 _of Act of_ 1836.

    Letter postage is to be charged on all hand-bills, circulars, or
    other printed matter which shall contain any manuscript writing

    When the mail stops over night where there is a post-office, it
    must be kept in the office.

    Any person wishing a letter mailed direct, and not to be remailed
    at a distributing office, can have his directions followed by
    writing the words "mail direct" upon the letter.

    The use of canvas bags of any kind, for any other purposes than
    the conveyance of mail matter, subjects every person so offending,
    to all the penalties provided in the 4th section of the Act of
    1852. Contractors, mail carriers, and others in the service of the
    Department, are by no means free from censure in this respect, and
    increased vigilance in the detection of such practices, and the
    prompt and indiscriminate punishment of the offenders, have
    recently been enjoined by the Post Master General.

Some of the laws are often violated by persons not connected with the
post-office, and it is proper, therefore, that all classes should be
made acquainted with the penalties which attach to such offences. For
this reason the following extracts from the laws are here inserted:--

    _Act of_ 1825.

    SEC. 9. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall,
    knowingly and wilfully, obstruct or retard the passage of the
    mail, or of any driver or carrier, or of any horse or carriage,
    carrying the same, he shall, upon conviction for every such
    offence, pay a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars; and if any
    ferryman shall, by wilful negligence, or refusal to transport the
    mail across any ferry, delay the same, he shall forfeit and pay,
    for every ten minutes that the same shall be so delayed, a sum not
    exceeding ten dollars.

    SEC. 21. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person employed
    in any of the departments of the post-office establishment, shall
    unlawfully detain, delay, or open any letter, packet, bag, or mail
    of letters, with which he shall be intrusted, or which shall have
    come to his possession, and which are intended to be conveyed by
    post; or, if any such person shall secrete, embezzle, or destroy
    any letter or packet intrusted to such person as aforesaid, and
    which shall not contain any security for, or assurance relating to
    money, as hereinafter described, every such offender, being
    thereof duly convicted, shall, for every such offence, be fined,
    not exceeding three hundred dollars, or imprisoned, not exceeding
    six months, or both, according to the circumstances and
    aggravation of the offence. And if any person, employed as
    aforesaid, shall secrete, embezzle, or destroy any letter, packet,
    bag, or mail of letters, with which he or she shall be intrusted,
    or which shall have come to his or her possession, and are
    intended to be conveyed by post, containing any bank-note or bank
    post bill, bill of exchange, warrant of the Treasury of the United
    States, note of assignment of stock in the funds, letters of
    attorney for receiving annuities or dividends, or for selling
    stock in the funds, or for receiving the interest thereof, or any
    letter of credit, or note for, or relating to, payment of moneys,
    or any bond, or warrant, draft, bill, or promissory note,
    covenant, contract, or agreement whatsoever, for, or relating to,
    the payment of money, or the delivery of any article of value, or
    the performance of any act, matter, or thing, or any receipt,
    release, acquittance, or discharge of, or from, any debt,
    covenant, or demand, or any part thereof, or any copy of any
    record of any judgment or decree in any court of law, or chancery,
    or any execution which may have issued thereon, or any copy of any
    other record, or any other article of value, or any writing
    representing the same; or if any such person employed as
    aforesaid, shall steal, or take, any of the same out of any
    letter, packet, bag, or mail of letters, that shall come to his or
    her possession, such person shall, on conviction for any such
    offence, be imprisoned not less than ten years, nor exceeding
    twenty-one years; and if any person who shall have taken charge of
    the mails of the United States, shall quit or desert the same
    before such person delivers it into the post-office kept at the
    termination of the route, or some known mail carrier, or agent of
    the General Post-Office, authorized to receive the same, every
    such person, so offending, shall forfeit and pay a sum not
    exceeding five hundred dollars for every such offence; and if any
    person concerned in carrying the mail of the United States, shall
    collect, receive, or carry any letter, or packet, or shall cause
    or procure the same to be done, contrary to this act, every such
    offender shall forfeit and pay, for every such offence, a sum not
    exceeding fifty dollars.

    SEC. 22. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall rob
    any carrier of the mail of the United States, or other person
    intrusted therewith, of such mail, or of part thereof, such
    offender or offenders shall, on conviction, be imprisoned not less
    than five years, nor exceeding ten years; and, if convicted a
    second time of a like offence, he or they shall suffer death; or,
    if, in effecting such robbery of the mail, the first time, the
    offender shall wound the person having custody thereof, or put his
    life in jeopardy, by the use of dangerous weapons, such offender
    or offenders shall suffer death. And if any person shall attempt
    to rob the mail of the United States, by assaulting the person
    having custody thereof, shooting at him or his horse or mule, or
    threatening him with dangerous weapons, and the robbery is not
    effected, every such offender, on conviction thereof, shall be
    punished by imprisonment, not less than two years nor exceeding
    ten years. And, if any person shall steal the mail, or shall steal
    or take from, or out of, any mail, or from, or out of any
    post-office, any letter or packet; or, if any person shall take
    the mail, or any letter or packet therefrom, or from any
    post-office, whether with or without the consent of the person
    having custody thereof, and shall open, embezzle, or destroy any
    such mail, letter, or packet, the same containing any article of
    value, or evidence of any debt, due, demand, right, or claim, or
    any release, receipt, acquittance, or discharge, or any other
    article, paper, or thing, mentioned and described in the
    twenty-first section of this act; or, if any person shall, by
    fraud or deception, obtain from any person having custody thereof,
    any mail, letter, or packet, containing any article of value, or
    evidence thereof, or either of the writings referred to, or next
    above-mentioned, such offender or offenders, on conviction
    thereof, shall be imprisoned, not less than two, nor exceeding ten
    years. And, if any person shall take any letter or packet, not
    containing any article of value, nor evidence thereof, out of a
    post-office, or shall open any letter, or packet, which shall have
    been in a post-office, or in custody of a mail carrier, before it
    shall have been delivered to the person to whom it is directed,
    with a design to obstruct the correspondence, to pry into
    another's business or secrets; or shall secrete, embezzle, or
    destroy any such mail, letter, or packet, such offender, upon
    conviction, shall pay, for every such offence, a sum not
    exceeding five hundred dollars, and be imprisoned not exceeding
    twelve months.

    SEC. 23. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall
    rip, cut, tear, burn, or otherwise injure, any valise,
    portmanteau, or other bag, used, or designed to be used, by any
    person acting under the authority of the Post Master General, or
    any person in whom his powers are vested, in a conveyance of any
    mail, letter, packet, or newspaper, or pamphlet, or shall draw or
    break, any staple, or loosen any part of any lock, chain, or
    strap, attached to, or belonging to any such valise, portmanteau,
    or bag, with an intent to rob, or steal any mail, letter, packet,
    newspaper, or pamphlet, or to render either of the same insecure,
    every such offender, upon conviction, shall, for every such
    offence, pay a sum not less than one hundred dollars, nor
    exceeding five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned not less than one
    year, nor exceeding three years, at the discretion of the court
    before whom such conviction is had.

    SEC. 24. _And be it further enacted_, That every person, who, from
    and after the passage of this act, shall procure, and advise, or
    assist, in the doing or perpetration of any of the acts or crimes
    by this act forbidden, shall be subject to the same penalties and
    punishments as the persons are subject to, who shall actually do
    or perpetrate any of the said acts or crimes, according to the
    provisions of this act.

    SEC. 45. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall
    buy, receive, or conceal, or aid in buying, receiving, or
    concealing, any article mentioned in the twenty-first section of
    this act, knowing the same to have been stolen or embezzled from
    the mail of the United States, or out of any post-office, or from
    any person having the custody of the said mail, or the letters
    sent or to be sent therein; or if any person shall be accessory
    after the fact to any robbery of the carrier of the mail of the
    United States, or other person intrusted therewith, of such mail,
    or of part thereof, every person, so offending, shall, on
    conviction thereof, pay a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars,
    and be imprisoned and confined to hard labor for any time not
    exceeding ten years. And such person or persons, so offending, may
    be tried and convicted without the principal offender being first
    tried, provided such principal offender has fled from justice, or
    cannot be found to be put on his trial.

    _Act of_ 1836.

    SEC. 38. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall be
    accessory after the fact, to the offence of stealing or taking the
    mail of the United States, or of stealing or taking any letter or
    packet, or enclosure in any letter or packet sent or to be sent
    in the mail of the United States, from any post-office in the
    United States, or from the mail of the United States, by any
    person or persons whatever, every person so offending as
    accessory, shall, on conviction thereof, pay a fine not exceeding
    one thousand dollars, and be imprisoned for a term not exceeding
    five years; and such accessory after the fact may be tried,
    convicted, and punished in the district in which his offence was
    committed, though the principal offence may have been committed in
    another district, and before the trial of the principal offender:
    _Provided,_ such principal offender has fled from justice, or
    cannot be arrested to be put upon his trial.

    _SEC._ 28, _Act of_ 1825.

    * * * And if any person shall counterfeit the hand-writing or frank
    of any person, or cause the same to be done, in order to avoid the
    payment of postage, each person, so offending, shall pay, for
    every such offence, five hundred dollars.

    _SEC._ 5, _Act of_ 1845.

    _And be it further enacted_, That if any person or persons shall
    forge or counterfeit, or shall utter or use knowingly, any
    counterfeit stamp of the Post-Office Department of the United
    States issued by authority of this act or by any other act of
    Congress, within the United States, or the post-office stamp of
    any foreign Government, he shall be adjudged guilty of felony,
    and, on conviction thereof in any court having jurisdiction of the
    same, shall undergo a confinement at hard labor for any length of
    time not less than two years, nor more than ten, at the discretion
    of the court.

    _SEC._ 11, _Act of_ 1847.

    * * * And any person who shall falsely and fraudulently make,
    utter, or forge any postage stamp with the intent to defraud the
    Post-Office Department, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and on
    conviction shall be subject to the same punishment as is provided
    in the twenty-first section of the act approved the third day of
    March, eighteen hundred and twenty-five, entitled "An act to
    reduce into one the several acts establishing and regulating the
    Post-Office Department."

    _Act of_ 1851.

    SEC. 3. * * * And any person who shall forge or counterfeit any
    postage stamp provided or furnished under the provisions of this
    or any former act, whether the same are impressed or printed on
    or attached to envelopes or not, or any die, plate, or engraving
    therefore, or shall make or print, or knowingly use or sell, or
    have in his possession with intent to use or sell, any such false,
    forged, or counterfeited die, plate, engraving, or postage stamp,
    or who shall make or print, or authorize or procure to be made or
    printed, any postage stamps of the kind provided and furnished by
    the Post Master General as aforesaid, without the especial
    authority and direction of the Post-Office Department, or who,
    after such postage stamps have been printed, shall, with intent to
    defraud the revenues of the Post-Office Department, deliver any
    postage stamps to any person or persons other than such as shall
    be authorized to receive the same, by an instrument of writing
    duly executed under the hand of the Post Master General, and the
    seal of the Post-Office Department, shall, on conviction thereof,
    be deemed guilty of felony, and be punished by a fine not
    exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding
    five years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

    SEC. 4. * * * And if any person shall use or attempt to use in
    pre-payment of postage, any postage stamp which shall have been
    before used for like purposes, such person shall be subject to a
    penalty of fifty dollars for every such offence, to be recovered
    in the name of the United States, in any court of competent

    _SEC._ 30, _Act of_ 1825.

    * * * If any person employed in any department of the post-office,
    shall improperly detain, delay, embezzle, or destroy, any
    newspaper, or shall permit any other person to do the like, or
    shall open, or permit any other to open, any mail, or packet, of
    newspapers, not directed to the office where he is employed, such
    offender shall, on conviction thereof, forfeit a sum not exceeding
    fifty dollars, for every such offence. And if any person shall
    open any mail or packet of newspapers, or shall embezzle or
    destroy the same, not being directed to such person, or not being
    authorized to receive or open the same, such offender shall, on
    conviction thereof, pay a sum not exceeding twenty dollars for
    every such offence. And if any person shall take, or steal, any
    packet, bag, or mail of newspapers, from, or out of any
    post-office, or from any person having custody thereof, such
    person shall, on conviction, be imprisoned, not exceeding three
    months, for every such offence, to be kept at hard labor during
    the period of such imprisonment. If any person shall enclose or
    conceal a letter, or other thing, or any memorandum in writing, in
    a newspaper, pamphlet, or magazine, or in any package of
    newspapers, pamphlets, or magazines, or make any writing or
    memorandum thereon, which he shall have delivered into any
    post-office, or to any person for that purpose, in order that the
    same may be carried by post, free of letter postage, he shall
    forfeit the sum of five dollars for every such offence.

    _Act of_ 1845.

    SEC. 9. _And be it further enacted_, That it shall not be lawful
    for any person or persons to establish any private express or
    expresses for the conveyance, nor in any manner to cause to be
    conveyed, or provide for the conveyance or transportation, by
    regular trips, or at stated periods or intervals, from one city,
    town, or other place, to any other city, town, or place, in the
    United States, between and from and to which cities, towns, or
    other places, the United States mail is regularly transported,
    under the authority of the Post-Office Department, of any letters,
    packets, or packages of letters, or other matter properly
    transmittable in the United States mail, except newspapers,
    pamphlets, magazines, and periodicals; and each and every person
    offending against this provision, or aiding and assisting therein,
    or acting as such private express, shall, for each time any letter
    or letters, packet or packages, or other matter properly
    transmittable by mail, except newspapers, pamphlets, magazines,
    and periodicals, shall or may be, by him, her, or them, or through
    his, her, or their means or instrumentality, in whole or in part,
    conveyed or transported contrary to the true intent, spirit, and
    meaning of this section, forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred
    and fifty dollars.

    SEC. 10. _And be it further enacted_, That it shall not be lawful
    for any stage coach, railroad car, steamboat, packetboat, or other
    vehicle or vessel, nor any of the owners, managers, servants, or
    crews of either, which regularly perform trips at stated periods
    on a post route, or between two or more cities, towns, or other
    places, from one to the other of which the United States mail is
    regularly conveyed under the authority of the Post-Office
    Department, to transport or convey, otherwise than in the mail,
    any letter or letters, packet or packages of letters, or other
    mailable matter whatsoever, except such as may have relation to
    some part of the cargo of such steamboat, packetboat, or other
    vessel, or to some article at the same time conveyed by the same
    stage coach, railroad car, or other vehicle, and excepting also,
    newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and periodicals; and for every
    such offence, the owner or owners of the stage coach, railroad
    car, steamboat, packetboat, or other vehicle or vessel, shall
    forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred dollars; and the driver,
    captain, conductor, or person having charge of any such stage
    coach, railroad car, steamboat, packetboat, or other vehicle or
    vessel, at the time of the commission of any such offence, and who
    shall not at that time be the owner thereof, in whole or in part,
    shall, in like manner, forfeit and pay, in every such case of
    offence, the sum of fifty dollars.

    SEC. 11. _And be it further enacted_, That the owner or owners of
    every stage coach, railroad car, steamboat, or other vehicle or
    vessel, which shall, with the knowledge of any owner or owners, in
    whole or in part, or with the knowledge or connivance of the
    driver, conductor, captain, or other person having charge of any
    such stage coach, railroad car, steamboat, or other vessel or
    vehicle, convey or transport any person or persons acting or
    employed as a private express for the conveyance of letters,
    packets, or packages of letters, or other mailable matter, and
    actually in possession of such mailable matter, for the purpose of
    transportation, contrary to the spirit, true intent, and meaning
    of the preceding sections of this law, shall be subject to the
    like fines and penalties as are hereinbefore provided and directed
    in the case of persons acting as such private expresses, and of
    persons employing the same; but nothing in this act contained
    shall be construed to prohibit the conveyance or transmission of
    letters, packets, or packages, or other matter, to any part of the
    United States, by private hands, no compensation being tendered or
    received therefore in any way, or by a special messenger employed
    only for the single particular occasion.

    SEC. 12. _And be it further enacted_, That all persons whatsoever
    who shall, after the passage of this act, transmit by any private
    express, or other means by this act declared to be unlawful, any
    letter or letters, package or packages, or other mailable matter,
    excepting newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and periodicals, or
    who shall place or cause to be deposited at any appointed place,
    for the purpose of being transported by such unlawful means, any
    matter or thing properly transmittable by mail, excepting
    newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and periodicals, or who shall
    deliver any such matter, excepting newspapers, pamphlets,
    magazines, and periodicals, for transmission to any agent or
    agents of such unlawful expresses, shall, for each and every
    offence, forfeit and pay the sum of fifty dollars.

    [The 8th section of the Act of August 31, 1852, provides that
    letters enclosed in "Government Envelopes," so called, having the
    stamp _printed_ thereon, may be conveyed _out of the mail.
    Provided_, That the said envelope shall be duly sealed, or
    otherwise firmly and securely closed, so that such letter cannot
    be taken therefrom without tearing or destroying such envelope;
    and the same duly directed and addressed, and the date of such
    letter, or the receipt or transmission thereof, to be written or
    stamped, or otherwise appear on such envelope.]

    * * * "And if any person shall use, or attempt to use, for the
    conveyance of any letter, or other mailable matter or thing, over
    any post-road of the United States, either by mail or otherwise,
    any such stamped letter envelope which has been before used for a
    like purpose, such person shall be liable to a penalty of fifty
    dollars, to be recovered, in the name of the United States, in any
    court having competent jurisdiction."--_Sec._ 8, _Act of_ 1853.

    [Newspapers for subscribers may go in or out of the mail; but
    pamphlets, magazines, &c., if intended to supply regular
    subscribers, must go in the mail.--_Act of_ 1847.]

    _Act of_ 1847.

    SEC. 2. _And be it further enacted_, That all moneys taken from
    the mails of the United States by robbery, theft, or otherwise,
    which have come or may hereafter come into the possession or
    custody of any of the agents of the Post-Office Department, or any
    other officers of the United States, or any other person or
    persons whatever, shall be paid to the order of the Post Master
    General, to be kept by him as other moneys of the Post-Office
    Department, to and for the use and benefit of the rightful owner,
    to be paid whenever satisfactory proof thereof shall be made; and
    upon the failure of any person in the employment of the United
    States to pay over such moneys when demanded, the person so
    refusing shall be subject to the penalties prescribed by law
    against defaulting officers.

    SEC. 13. _And be it further enacted_, That it shall not be lawful
    to deposit in any post-office, to be conveyed in the mail, two or
    more letters directed to different persons enclosed in the same
    envelope or packet; and every person so offending shall forfeit
    the sum of ten dollars, to be recovered by action _qui tam_, one
    half for the use of the informer, and the other half for the use
    of the Post-Office Department: _Provided_, That this prohibition
    shall not apply to any letter or packet directed to any foreign

    _Act of_ 1852.

    SEC. 3. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall
    steal, purloin, embezzle, or obtain by any false pretence, or
    shall aid or assist in stealing, purloining, embezzling, or
    obtaining by any false pretence, or shall knowingly and unlawfully
    make, forge, or counterfeit, or cause to be unlawfully made,
    forged, or counterfeited, or knowingly aid or assist in falsely
    and unlawfully making, forging, or counterfeiting any key suited
    to any lock which has been or shall be adopted for use by the
    Post-Office Department of the United States, and which shall be in
    use on any of the mails or mail bags of the said Post-Office
    Department, or shall have in his possession any such mail key or
    any such mail lock, with the intent unlawfully or improperly to
    use, sell, or otherwise dispose of the same, or cause the same to
    be unlawfully or improperly used, sold or otherwise disposed of,
    or who being employed in the manufacture of the locks or keys for
    the use of the said Post-Office Department, whether as contractor
    or otherwise, shall deliver or cause to be delivered any finished
    or unfinished key or lock used or designed by the said Post-Office
    Department, or the interior part of any such mail lock, to any
    person not duly authorized under the hand of the Post Master
    General of the United States and the seal of the said Post-Office
    Department to receive the same, (unless such person so receiving
    the same shall be the contractor for furnishing such locks and
    keys, or engaged in the manufacture thereof in the manner
    authorized by the contract, or the agent for such manufacturer,)
    such person so offending shall be deemed guilty of felony, and, on
    conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned for a period not exceeding
    ten years.

    SEC. 4. _And be it further enacted_, That if any person shall
    steal, purloin or embezzle any mail bags in use by or belonging to
    the Post-Office Department of the United States, or any other
    property in use by or belonging to the said Post-Office
    Department, or shall, for any lucre, gain, or convenience,
    appropriate any such property to his own, or any other than its
    proper use, or for any lucre or gain shall convey away any such
    property to the hindrance or detriment of the public service of
    the United States, the person so offending, his counsellors,
    aiders, and abettors, (knowing of and privy to any offence
    aforesaid,) shall, on conviction thereof, if the value of such
    property shall exceed twenty-five dollars, be deemed guilty of
    felony, and shall be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three
    years; or if the value of such property shall be less than
    twenty-five dollars, shall be imprisoned not more than one year,
    or be fined not less than ten dollars, nor more than two hundred
    dollars, for every such offence.

    _Act of_ 1855.

    SEC. 2. _And be it further enacted_, That it shall not be lawful
    for any post master or other person to sell any postage stamp or
    stamped envelope for any larger sum than that indicated upon the
    face of such postage stamp or for a larger sum than that charged
    therefore by the Post-Office Department; and any person who shall
    violate this provision shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor,
    and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined in any sum not less
    than ten nor more than five hundred dollars. This act to take
    effect and be in force from and after the commencement of the next
    fiscal quarter after its passage. _Provided_, That nothing herein
    contained shall be so construed as to alter the laws in relation
    to the franking privilege.

    SEC. 3. _And be it further enacted_, That for the greater security
    of valuable letters posted for transmission in the mails of the
    United States, the Post Master General be and hereby is authorized
    to establish a uniform plan for the registration of such letters
    on application of parties posting the same, and to require the
    pre-payment of the postage, as well as a registration fee of five
    cents on every such letter or packet to be accounted for by post
    masters receiving the same in such manner as the Post Master
    General shall direct: _Provided however_, That such registration
    shall not be compulsory; and it shall not render the Post-Office
    Department or its revenue liable for the loss of such letters or
    packets or the contents thereof.



    The delivery of letters can be greatly facilitated by means of a
    very simple improvement in the letter case for the "general
    delivery," which has already been adopted to some extent, with the
    most satisfactory results.

    In the early history of post-offices, the old-fashioned letter
    case divided off in alphabetical order, or by vowels, answered a
    tolerable purpose, and so it would now in very small offices,--but
    as population increased, and fifty or more letters had to be
    overhauled before the applicant could receive an answer, some
    relief both for post masters and the public became absolutely
    indispensable, and various trifling changes and improvements were
    adopted--but none of them were found to be "up to the times," till
    the introduction of the labor and time saving invention called the
    "Square of the Alphabet." It is believed to have been originally
    planned and adopted in the post-office at Providence, R. I. Since
    then, the dimensions of the case and the arrangement of the boxes
    have been varied to suit the amount of business in the
    comparatively small number of offices that have introduced it. But
    the size and plan exhibited in the prefixed diagram, is believed
    to be the most convenient and simple, and well suited to places
    varying in population, from five thousand to fifty thousand.

    The practical advantage is, that by the division of the letters
    when placed in the pigeon holes, at least four applications can be
    correctly answered, where one can be under the old plan of
    crowding a large number of letters together. And where this
    improved case occupies a position opposite the "general delivery"
    window, many individuals soon learn the location of the box where
    their letters should be, and in case it is empty, inquiry becomes

    The rows of letters of the alphabet running horizontally, from
    left to right, represent the surname, and are several times
    repeated for convenience, and as an aid to the eye in tracing
    given initials; while the perpendicular rows of letters stand for
    the Christian name, and are used doubly, to reduce the size of the
    case. Where it is necessary, however, the Christian initials can
    also be placed singly, by enlarging the case, or making it in two
    sections, using only half of the alphabet for each, placing the
    two sections in an angular form, or backing one against the other,
    and putting the entire frame on an upright shaft turning upon a
    pivot at top and bottom, near the general delivery, so as to admit
    of turning the case, as the locality of the initials inquired for
    may require.

    The plan for example works thus:--John Jones calls for a letter.
    The person in attendance glances at the J. on the horizontal line,
    and then runs the eye to the range of the J. on the perpendicular
    line, and that is the box in which Jones' letter ought to be. One
    for Isaac Jones would be in the same place, in a case constructed
    after the above arrangement.

    Its dimensions are as follows:--

    Size of the entire case, 5 feet 1-1/4 inches, by 4 feet 2-1/2

    Size of pigeon holes or letter boxes, 3-3/4 by 2-1/4 inches.

    Thickness of outside of case and lettered shelves, 3/4 of an inch.

    Intermediate shelves, 1/4 inch thick.

    Upright partitions of boxes, 1/8 inch thick--partitions cut out
    concave in front.

    The legs or supports of the case should be about 2 feet in length,
    and "white wood" is considered the best material for the entire

    Paint can be used for the lettering, or letters printed upon
    paper, and pasted on separately, will answer the purpose.


Transcriber's Note:

     * Obvious punctuation and spelling errors repaired.

     * Several compound words had dual spellings: They were changed
     for consistency's sake to the hyphenated form as follows:

          handwriting   =====>     hand-writing (p. 69, 73, 182, 372)
          hadbills      =====>     hnd-bills (p. 262)
          ladylike      =====>     lady-like (p. 150, 158)
          missent       =====>     mis-sent (p. 208, 375)
          overcoat      =====>     over-coat (pp. 37, 38, 39,85, 89,
                                   332, 354, 415, 437)
          postmark      =====>     post-mark (p. 336, 358)
          prepaid       =====>     pre-paid (pp. 100, 105, 404, 419,
                                   425, 440)
          prepayment    =====>     pre-payment (p. 425, 447)
          reelected     =====>     re-elected (pp. xii, xiii)
          roommate      =====>     room-mate (p. 233, 251)
          selectmen     =====>     select-men (p. 302, 322)
          stagecoach    =====>     stage-coach (p. 219, 237)
          unduped       =====>     un-duped (p. xxii)

     * Other changes:

          Depôt (appears six times) and depot (9 times) were left as
             they were.

          cheerfu changed to cheerful (p. 141)
          therefor changed to therefore (p. 425)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ten Years Among the Mail Bags - Notes from the Diary of a Special Agent of the Post-Office Department" ***

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