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Title: Stephen H. Branch's Alligator Vol. 1 no. 17, August 14, 1858
Author: Branch, Stephen H.
Language: English
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                   TRIAL OF STEPHEN H. BRANCH,      1
                     FOR LIBEL.

                   IN MY CELL.                      2

                   OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.           3

                   ALLIGATORS.                      3

                   AN IMMORTAL PETITION.            4

                   Advertisements                   4




   Volume I.—No. 17.    SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 1858.    Price 2 Cents.

                      TRIAL OF STEPHEN H. BRANCH,

For want of room we omit the evidence and insert summing up of counsel
for defendant, remarks of Mr. Branch, sentence by the Recorder and
opinions of the Press:

                      [_From the N. Y. Express._]

                        SUMMING UP FOR DEFENCE.

Shortly after the opening of the Court, Mr. Ashmead rose and commenced
to sum up for the defence. He opened by pointing out the
responsibilities of the Jury, stating that should they find a verdict in
favor of the prosecution, it would establish a precedent which would
strike a serious blow at the liberty of the citizen. He characterized
the prosecution as one of the most extraordinary character. In
commenting on the experience of the opposing counsel, he said he
remembered a comment by a most eminent divine, on the words of Solomon,
“I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their
bread,” namely, that what Solomon had not seen he had. He spoke strongly
against the fact that the prosecution had originated with the Grand
Jury, instead of taking the action before a committing magistrate,
having a preliminary examination. Here was a citizen, humble if they
pleased, on one side, while on the other was the Mayor of the greatest
city in the New World, and these officers of the Grand Jury, forgetting
that in this republic all should be treated alike, encroached upon the
liberty of this citizen by stepping out of their usual course. Should
the jury adopt the precedent of convicting a man under such
circumstances, then God help the liberty of the citizen; but the
consequences would rest upon the heads of them and their children. [Mr.
Ashmead here read extracts from the opinions of eminent Judges, showing
that a prisoner had a right to a preliminary examination before the case
could go before the Grand Jury.] But this unfortunate man was not so
served; he knew nothing of the accusation, nor was he brought face to
face with his powerful accusers. Were this man immaculate, he stood,
under these circumstances, subject to all the lightning elequence of the
opposite side, and was not able to do as was his right, namely, bring an
action for damages against his accusers, because the responsibility
rested with the public prosecutor.

Mr. Ashmead continued to read from the same book, contending that no
indictment should be smuggled into a Grand Jury room as this had been.
The Mayor, or the Governor, or His Honor on the Bench had no right to
adopt a system denied to the meanest citizen; and in their anxiety to
punish crime, they should take care that they did not strike a blow at
the liberty of the community, nor should Judicial Legislation take away
the rights of the citizen. The Jury should take care that this man was
not made a victim through the variation of the Grand Jury from the usual
course; but they should follow the example of English Grand Juries, and
take care how they struck a blow at Constitutional rights. He next
referred to the noble speech of Robert Emmet, before Lord Norbury, who
several times attempted to stop the criminal when speaking before he was
sentenced. He said: “Though I am to be sacrificed, I insist that all the
forms be gone through.” Let the Jury, then do as Emmet did to Lord
Norbury—make the Mayor go through the forms. (Here McKeon smiled.) And
though the District Attorney should smile at these remarks, this matter
was serious, and a laugh and a sneer were not an argument. He referred
to the case of the libel of MacIntosh, where, it was asserted, there was
on one side a Napoleon, the ruler of the greatest empire in the world,
and on the other, as in this case, a poor and obscure citizen; yet in
that case a British Jury taught future generations a lesson, and showed
an example which an American Jury should endeavor to follow.

Mr. Ashmead next read from the revised statutes, showing that an accused
person should have a preliminary examination before being indicted, and
contended that a great privilege had been taken from his client, and by
this means a blow had been struck at the liberties of the citizen. He
alluded to the fact that Mr. Draper had not been before the Grand Jury
at all, and yet this poor man had been indicted for a libel on him; this
was a proceeding which, if sanctioned by the Jury, would establish a
perfect tyranny by breaking down all the safeguards of the law which
surrounded the citizen. He insisted that the prosecution had taken away
every privilege from this man, and environed him by a wall, so that he
could not escape, by getting up this Trinity of indictments. These three
indictments were united so that one should support the other. The
Recorder had said that Mr. Draper was old enough to take care of
himself, but wisdom didn’t come with length of year, and certainly
Simeon Draper was not bred in the school of Chesterfield, for he forgot
common courtesy by saying the alleged libel was a lie. Mr. Ashmead then
commented on the conduct of the prosecution in putting in only one half
of the libel in the indictment, and keeping out that part which had a
foundation in truth, which he said was a piece with the remainder of
these proceedings. Such conduct struck a serious blow at our free
institutions, and as Erskine said if such proceedings were to obtain,
our halls of justice would be turned into altars, and the poor victim
would be immolated at the shrine of persecution.

Mr. Ashmead then proceeded to explain the law of libel, contending that
it was necessary that “malice” should be proved, in order to sustain an
indictment for libel. He spoke of the law in England, which would not
permit the truth to be given in evidence, and contrasted such with the
laws of New York, which provided that if an article was published
without malice, it was not libellous; for it permitted a reporter to
publish the proceedings of a meeting or of a legislative body without
holding him liable, provided it was proved that it had been published
without malice. The counsel then commented on the remark made by the
Recorder relative to his taking no decisions but his own, and that Mr.
Ashmead’s points would not be fit for a Kamschatka Court, and proceeded
to justify his own course in the matter.

The Recorder remarked that Mr. Ashmead must have forgotten his own
observations, he had said that “a certain decision had been made by one
of the Judges of this Court” and that caused his Honor to make the
remark to which he had alluded.

Mr. Ashmead replied that it had been so ruled in this Court in the case
of Coleman vs. Magoon, in 1818. The Counsell then pointed out the fact
that Mayor Tiemann had testified that he had been spoken to on this
subject nearly a year ago, and wanted to know why he had not then
pursued the originator of these stories. This showed clearly that Branch
did not originate the alleged libel, and that therefore there was no
malice on his part.—He complained that the testimony for the defence had
been entirely shut out by objections, and asked why the Mayor did not
come in manfully and clear his skirts of these charges, without
shielding himself under technicalities. He, however, did not pursue the
originator of this story, but when this poor man who considered himself
a sentinel upon the watch-tower of this great city, exposed what he
considered to be corruption in high places, then the Mayor pounced upon
him. Why did not the Mayor go into the civil court, as he could have
done, and then this poor man could stand on an equal footing with him,
and tell his own story? In God’s name if they wanted a victim let them
take him, but they should not condemn him without show of a trial. If a
sacrifice was required Mr. Branch was ready to be immolated; but here
was an extraordinary fact. Why did not Mayor Tieman bring forward the
matron? He had seen her before witnesses. If this thing was done, no one
knew it but his Excellency the Mayor, and this lady. No eye but that of
the Omniscient One above, saw the act if it had occurred? Why, then, did
he not bring this lady here, and then if she swore that it did not
occur, there was an end of the matter. But they might ask, why did not
he (Counsel) bring the lady? For a very sensible and legal reason,
because, if he had brought her into Court, she would become his own
witness, and he could not bring evidence to contradict her, whereas, if
Mayor Tiemann had put her on the stand, and she had told her statement,
then they could have cross-examined her and brought Evans and other
witnesses to contradict her. If, therefore, the prosecution had examined
her, and other evidence would have been admitted which had been shut
out, but by the course the prosecution had pursued half the defence was
made non-effective. He admitted that what was acknowledged by the Mayor
did not amount to proof, yet it was very extraordinary. The Mayor
admitted that there was a friend who visited the lady whom he ordered
should not be allowed on the island.—There was no impropriety shown in
these visits; he came every Sunday, he behaved himself, and yet he was
interdicted. Now there was other matrons there; they had friends, no
doubt, and yet this lady was the only one selected for deprivation of
her friend’s society. This to say the least of it was very
extraordinary. Another thing, the Mayor had lent this lady money, but he
lent money to no other matron. Now this was curious, if he was simply
friendly to this lady he would not prevent her other friends from coming
to see her, or did he give this money to the lady, and give her the
money for her torn dress to compensate her for interdicting her friend
from visiting the island?

But this was not alone,—Mr. Draper suspended this lady, and the Mayor
persuaded her to write an apologetic note, and so she got restored. Now
this was a friend indeed a friend he was going to say that “sticketh
closer than a brother” (laughter), but he allowed her to have no friend
but himself, although one would suppose that a lone woman should be
surrounded by friends. Now these little things loomed up curiously, but
his honor was not content with being _her_ friend, he was the friend of
her boy? He said it was his duty to procure situations for boys; yes,
certainly; but this boy was not then in New York at all—he was in the
far West, and not under the control of the Alms House Governors at all.
He had been sent safely away from the temptations of this great
Metropolis: and yet the Mayor brought him back, and provided for
him—proving himself the friend of the boy’s mother in every way, except
that of letting her other friend come on the island. The Mayor was
willing to lend her money, to get her boy a situation, to get her
friend, Waters, a situation, and to do everything for her except to
allow her friend to see her. He did not say that this proved anything
against Mayor Tiemann; he was an honorable and upright man, as far as
Counsel knew; but these little circumstances looked suspicious, and it
was curious that the Mayor had shut out the rest of the testimony. The
whole case however showed that Mr. Branch had not fabricated these
stories, and certainly did not publish them with malice; and therefore
he ought to be acquitted. Mr. Ashmead then referred to an extraordinary
conversation between Justice Buller and Mr. Erskine, in a libel case,
where the Jury returned a verdict of “guilty of publishing ONLY” the
Judge wanted the word _only_ left out, and Mr. Erskine defended the
verdict, notwithstanding that the Judge threatened to proceed in another
manner. Erskine replied that he knew his duty as an advocate, as well as
His Lordship knew his as a Judge.

Mr. Ashmead then submitted several points,—upon which he argued,—namely:
That if the libel was published with an honest motive, then the
defendant was guiltless: that the Jury, in Libel cases were judges of
the law as well as of the fact, they having the right and the sole right
to determine what was and what was not a libel, and this was the law in
England and Ireland, also. He contended that according to the Mayor’s
testimony the base of the libel was true, and if so, he begged and
pleaded that the Jury would not, for the sake of truth, for the sake of
an innocent man, for the sake of a newspaper publisher, who did not
fabricate what he wrote, for the sake of the liberty of the press,
immolate this humble citizen. But, he concluded, if Branch must be
immolated, he had only to say in the words of that immortal Irishman

“If it be determined that because this man would not bow to power and
authority, because he would not bow down to the golden calf and worship
it, he should be cast in the fiery furnace, I do trust in God that there
is a redeeming spirit in the constitution which will go with the
sufferer through the flames and preserve him unhurt by the

Mr. Ashmead sat down amid a burst of applause, which was immediately
checked. His speech which occupied about an hour and a half, was spoken
of by several as one of the most brilliant specimens of logical
eloquence which has been heard in this Court for years. It was listened
to with breathless attention by the largest audience which had assembled
inside those walls since the Huntingdon trial.

                       [_From the New York Sun._]

                      STEPHEN H. BRANCH’S SPEECH.

My counsel has done well. He has made an effort of which I am proud, and
of which your Honor ought to be proud.

The Recorder—I am, sir.

Branch—I am sorry that I have not prepared to address you. I came to
this country thirty-five years ago, a poor boy. I got a clerk’s
situation at $2 a week. Then I went to Leary’s hat store, in Water
Street. Afterwards I went to Harper’s, then to the New York _American_,
and afterwards to the _Evening Post_. Then I returned to Rhode Island,
and went afterwards to Boston, Hartford, Springfield and New Haven, and
worked at the printing business, and was the first compositor on the
Washington _Globe_. and set up the first article on that paper, which
was a comment on the conduct of General Jackson, from the pen of Amos
Kendall. I then took a room with Edward Dodge, of Philadelphia, and
roomed with him some time. My father sent me a letter from Providence,
and procured for me a situation in the Post Office, and I was there four
or five years. I became ambitious, and studied at nights. I studied with
Thomas F. Carpenter. I left the Post Office, and continued my Greek and
Latin studies. I returned to the Post Office, but such was my desire for
learning that I went to Cambridge Law School, and studied under Judge
Story. I mingled with Southern students, and spent much money. They were
high-bloods, and I spent a dissolue winter. I came back, and went to
Andover, where I resumed my studies in Greek and mathematics. I then
left for Providence, and was unfortunate in my domestic life. I left
Providence and went to Washington, where I got $10 a week at the
printing business. I went next to Columbia College, when I would take my
basket of bread and butter, work all day at the job office, walk back to
the College at ten o’clock at night, and study till daylight. I would
then get to the office at seven in the morning. I lost my health in
doing this, and was reduced to the verge of the grave. My father
remained true to me, notwithstanding my domestic misfortunes. I came to
New York, and saw an advertisement in a paper, that a teacher was wanted
in Alabama. I secured the situation, and afterwards went to
Apalachicola, thence to Alabama, and taught school. I found they were
cruel to slaves there. The lady on the plantation used to whip the
slaves early in the morning; it disgusted me, and I went to New Orleans.
My brother Albert printed the New Orleans _Times_. I advertised for a
situation as teacher, and soon secured one. I remained there till my
brother Albert died—no, I am mistaken, he did not die then. I came to
New York, and had but little money left. I could not work at the
printing business. My father sustained me in the sun and rain, although
he was a man of limited means though of high position, for he was a
Judge of Rhode Island. I went to Arthur Tappan, who introduced me to his
brother Lewis. I told him that I wanted to teach colored scholars. I
suppose you will call me a lunatic for that. I told him my
qualifications, and he sent me to Mr. Van Rensselaer, under the _Journal
of Commerce_. I taught a colored boy for him, for which he gave me my
board. I lost my health, and finally—but I won’t mention names—I taught
a candidate for Alderman of the Fourteenth Ward. That was the first
public man I ever taught in New York. There was a man named Gouraud, a
Frenchman, a teacher of the art of memory. I found he was trying to
humbug the public. I saw he was an impostor, and exposed him. He had
secured the press and the people, and I exposed him. I attended his
lectures, and saw there William Cullen Bryant, Horace Greeley, Judge
Oakley, and all the leading men and women of the city. His system was an
exploded system of the Sixteenth Century. I exposed him in various
cities. I exposed him, and stopped him. He was denounced in
Philadelphia. Through educating public men, I got into politics. There
may be a desire to get me into prison as soon as possible, and so I will
be brief.

The Recorder—There is no desire to get you into prison, Mr. Branch.

Branch—I taught the Aldermen till the California mania broke out, when I
went to California. I wrote a letter to the New York _Herald_, about
alligators on the Isthmus, which gave me the title of “Alligator.” I
taught servants and public men. Alfred Carson wanted me to write his
reports for him, which I did. In 1855, I got into the Matsell campaign.
I pursued _him_. You all know the result. I went to Brandon, England, to
find his birth-place, and I found it. Soon after I saw Carson, I found
that the officers of this city were very corrupt. Carson asked me to
write his reports. He informed me that the officers around the City Hall
interfered with the affairs of the Fire Department. I advised him to
resist it, I wrote his reports for some years, I got through with the
Frenchman, Gouraud. I got through with teaching public men and servants,
and with the fire and Matsell campaign. I thought I would start the
_Alligator_. I did, and _I don’t regret it_. There is a gang of thieves
around the City Hall, and your Honor knows it, and we all know it. I
pursued them hard, days and nights for years, in defence of honesty,
industry, and the tax-payers, rich and poor, but especially the poor,
who go to corner groceries, barefooted, naked, who live in attics. I—a
lunatic, so-called, have passed my days in their defence. Ask Carson;
ask Harry Howard—I saw him here to-day—ask the editors, if I have not
passed the midnight hours in their editorial habitations—if I have not
been true to them, to Carson, and all for whom I professed friendship—to
all whom I found advocating the cause of the poor tax-payers? Do I
regret the establishment of the _Alligator_? No; and why? I have
attacked thieves indiscriminately. Hitherto these men had reputation as
public officers, and amid tears oftentimes, my shafts have fallen
harmless. But now, I have struck at a dynasty which has existed in this
city for thirty years, the Peter Cooper guild. He was Alderman in 1828,
’29, and ’40. Tiemann was Alderman in 1839, ’44, ’62, and ’63. Through
Denman, who was a pupil of mine, I first heard that Tiemann and Cooper
were corrupt men.

The Recorder—Mr. Branch, I must stop you. You cannot be allowed to use
such language In this Court.

Mr. Ashmead—Will your Honor remember the case of Lord Norbury, to which
I drew your attention this morning?

Recorder—I remember Lord Norbury, and every other lord, but I cannot
permit such language.

Branch—I will spare your feelings. Peter Cooper and his daughter I
taught in his own house. He does not deny it; but, if I had taught my
father, and was satisfied he was corrupt, I would trample him down. I
have attacked the Mayoralty, and for that I am on my way to a prison.
_Send me there._ I will walk with a firm step to my dungeon. Before
God—before God, I declare with my hand on my heart, that this is the
happiest moment of my life. What have I stolen? Whom have I murdered?
What crime have I committed? I have pursued the plunderers of the
masses, and for that you send me to a dungeon. You can desert me—the
prosecution can oppress me, but God—but God will not desert me. Your
prisoner is ready.


                     Stephen H. Branch’s Alligator.


                  New York, Saturday, August 14, 1858.


                              IN MY CELL.

On either side of me are three murderers, and my cell has a murderer’s
lock. My bed is straw, with a blanket. I slept well last night, and had
a good breakfast this morning, which my keeper kindly procured for me,
and who has extended the kindness of a brother towards me, in obtaining
every thing I desired for my comfort, and in permitting my friends to
visit me. I have read all the daily papers; and to Horace Greeley,
Doctor Frank Tuthill of the _Times_, and to James and Erastus Brooks,
for their genial sympathy, I express my cordial gratitude. The _Courier
& Enquirer_ is silent, and that is preferable to denunciation, in my
shackles and dungeon gloom. Bennett lashes me with the stings of a
scorpion, who has fattened on libel and obscenity, and blasphemy, and
black mail, from the dawn of his infamous editorial career. In his aged
visions he often beholds the poor creatures whom his defamation hurled
into premature graves. Halleck, of the _Journal of Commerce_, is brief
but bitter in his comments on my alleged lunacy. The _Daily News_ I have
not seen, but I learn that its anathema of me is terrible, and has a
bulletin against me written in letters of blood. Its former editor, Mr.
Auld, is the Mayor’s Clerk, which accounts for the severe comments of
the _News_. But the article in the _Sun_ grieved me more than all the
phillippics of my editorial adversaries. The _Sun_ has clung to me for a
dozen years, and to have it desert me now, is like the fatal stab of
Brutus at Caesar. But I will forgive Moses S. Beach and John Vance of
the _Sun_ for their deep and unexpected gashes in my heart. Let all my
friends be cheerful, when I inform them that neither sighs nor tears
have passed from my lips or eyes, and that I only grieve at the official
stabs at the liberty of speech and of the press, which the people will
be sure to avenge, and soon consign the Grand Jury Inquisitions to the
Spanish despots, and all their advocates to an ignominious destiny.

                                                    STEPHEN H. BRANCH.

                         OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.

                      [_From the N. Y. Express._]

THE BRANCH LIBEL CASE.—Stephen H. Branch has been convicted of a gross
and malicious libel upon Mayor Tiemann, Simeon Draper, and Isaac Bell,
and has been sentenced to be imprisoned in the penitentiary for one
year, to pay a fine of $250, and stand committed until that sum shall be
paid. The scene at the closing of the Court on Wednesday was a very
melo-dramatic one, and fully in keeping with all the previous steps in
this extraordinary case. Mr. Branch being asked what he had to say why
sentence should not be pronounced against him, made a long speech, in
which he reviewed the various events of his somewhat eccentric life; but
just as he commenced to allude to the libels, and to speak thereon and
the persons aggrieved, the court stopped him. The prisoner bore himself
with the air of a martyr to the cause of public virtue, and said it was
the happiest and proudest day of his life; but his excitement at the
close of his address was very great, and his delivery vehement and
earnest almost to weeping. The court was full of his sympathizers, who
did not scruple to say that they believed the convict to be more sinned
against than sinning.

This extraordinary case will long be remembered. The libels published
and circulated by Mr. Branch were the most outrageous ever perpetrated
in this city, and the prosecution has been in keeping with the
provocation, amounting in its virulence almost to a persecution.
Circumstances on the trial favored the presumption that the whole of the
proceedings had been decided upon in advance, even to the wording of the
recorder’s charge and sentence. His honor himself informed the counsel
for the prisoner that he had considered his possible application for a
suspension of judgment, had examined the point, and had made up his mind
that such a motion could not be allowed. Every precaution had been
taken. The whole power of the corporation—executive, legal, judicial—was
invoked to annihilate Mr. Branch, and the end was attained. The offence
was outrageous, and will admit of no palliation; but it was hardly good
taste in the powerful complainants to take every advantage of a criminal
whom many believe to be a monomaniac, and by the extreme vindicativeness
of the prosecution, give to the administration of public justice the
appearance of private revenge.

The arguments in the case were worthy of the best days of the criminal
bar of New York. Mr. Ashmead distinguished himself highly in his appeal
for the prisoner, and had the case gone to the jury before the cool and
dispassionate reasoning of Mr. McKeon had partially weakened the effect
of Mr. Ashmead’s eloquence, the result might have been different. The
charge of the Recorder was decidedly against the prisoner, and his
sentence, it will be seen, was severe in its terms to an excess that was
not called for. The punishment imposed was the extent of the law, and
was by no means disproportioned to the offence; but it was entirely
gratuitous on the part of the Recorder to drag into his remarks matters
extraneous to the issue, and not at all connected with the present
trial. The Recorder’s announcement of the rod he has in pickle for
certain other libellers who he intimates are shortly to be tried, will
probably put those prospective culprits upon their guard, and they will
at least have this advantage over Mr. Branch that they will not be taken

We congratulate the distinguished citizens whose characters have been
cleared again by this conviction of Mr. Branch; but can assure them that
their fair fame by no means suffered so much from the attacks of the
“ALLIGATOR” as they presumed that it did.

We understand that Mr. Ashmead will to-day prepare a bill of exceptions,
and move in the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari and stay of
proceedings. The bill will not be settled until late in the day, and the
motion in the Supreme Court cannot be made until to-morrow. In case,
therefore, that Mr. Branch should be sent to Penitentiary to-day, the
motion will not avail him. It is hardly to be presumed that when a
motion for arrest of judgment was denied without argument, the prisoner
will be allowed time to benefit by an appeal to the Supreme Court.

                      [_From the N. Y. Tribune._]

STEPHEN H. BRANCH was yesterday convicted of a gross libel on Mayor
Tiemann and others, and sentenced by the Recorder to the Penitentiary
for one year, and to pay a fine of $250. Considering that the libel,
however groundless essentially, appears to have had a real foundation in
statements made to Branch by persons whom he undoubtedly believed, and
whom his counsel had ready to produce (but their testimony was not
allowed), we must consider this sentence a severe one. We believe it
will excite for him a sympathy which it is unwise to provoke. Branch, we
believe, has been trying pretty hard to libel _us_ in his abusive little
sheet; but we have never considered his slanders worth any sort of
notice. It may be well to stop his career, but not to make him a martyr.
And we say most decidedly, that considering the libel for which he was
indicted was really based on information furnished him by persons whom
he had reason to believe, we deem his sentence a harsh one, and trust it
may be mitigated by pardon.

                      [_From the New York Times._]

The verdict and the sentence startled a great many people. BRANCH was
immediately surrounded by a troop of friends, who nearly shook his hands
off with their greetings. He was followed to the Tombs by a large crowd,
who only left him at the gates of that edifice. But though incarcerated
in prison, we have not as BRANCH says, heard the last of BRANCH.



                                                PANAMA, New Granada, }
                                                       Jan. 7, 1849. }

    _Editor of the N. Y. Herald_:

When three miles from Panama, I saw two spires of the largest and most
imposing cathedrals here—larger than any church in America. On either
side I beheld the Cordileras and the Andes, towering high up towards the
glorious sun—the Cordileras connecting the Andes with the Rocky
Mountains. As you near the city, you are gradually lead upon a
beautifully paved road—paved by Pizzaro, the fiend, under whose
superintendence the path from there to Cruces was made, through which
Pizzaro, with his terrible banditti, often passed. On entering the city,
the natives outside the gates were singing and dancing merrily in honor
of some festival. Boys were flying their kites on the road, which they
seemed to enjoy like the youth of all countries. There kites were made
in the form of a coffin, and fringed on the sides with a very curious
tail, partially resembling a rattlesnake. The more genteel natives wore
white dresses and Panama hats. These hats are not made in Panama, but at
St. Helena, and other places on the coast, which was news for me. Panama
contains an impoverished population, whose leading maintenance is a few
merchants of very little energy, who deal in British drillings and
manufactures of various kinds. There are some choice relics of the old
Castilians who are never seen in the streets by day, but who walk in
their rear balconies in the evening to inhale the tropic air. The female
Castilians are as beautiful as the Georgians or Circassians, and will
not recognize the common natives, nor even the English or Americans, nor
the aristocracy or nobility of any country as their equals. I had the
fortune, through influential letters to a large mercantile house here,
to get an introduction to a Castilian family, and I was invited to a
rural gathering of the friends and relatives of this family. The
loveliest girl I ever saw is the daughter of the gentleman who is at the
head of the family. To attempt a description of her accomplishments and
extraordinary personal fascinations, would be as impossible as to
describe the horrors of a trip up the Chagres, and especially the defile
from this to Cruces, which still haunts, and will haunt me for a long
period. The best description I can convey to my countrymen of the river
Chagres, is its comparison with the river Styx, and you can form a
slight conception of the defile between this and Cruces by its
comparison with purgatory, as described by an illiterate and boisterous
parson; and you can appreciate the loveliness of this Castilian female,
by fancying that she is the very prototype of the unearthly Cleopatra,
the accomplished and captivating queen of ancient Egypt, who was
familiar with all the dialects of the East (thirty in number), whose
glowing eloquence and brilliant eye, and majestic form, and perfect
symmetry of mind and body and feature, only could have allured the
eloquent, rich, and noble Anthony from his ambition of military glory
and his love of his native country. The Cathedral is dingy and very
gloomy. All the bells are cracked, and their doleful tones thrill the
senses. I saw the leading priest to-day, who seems very old and infirm.
In front of the Cathedral, are the Twelve Apostles, with the Saviour.
The spires are adorned with pearls, with which the coast abounds. I have
visited the temples, jails, walls, churches, old governors’ palaces and
trenches, and my heart was filled with pensive emotions, as I gazed on
these crumbling ruins of other generations. The best idea I can give
about this place, is its comparison with New York, after the great fires
of 1835 and ’46. The tortures and mode of life here are very peculiar. I
slept on a bare cot, and with only one sheet over me—sweat like blazes.
The meats and cooking are extremely novel. Lizzards, spiders,
musquitoes, galinippers and ants, crawl around and over me, and often
penetrate the ears and nose. Some lizzards gathered around my head the
other night and awoke me, which I scattered very quick. I think they
were preparing to play some trick on me, and perhaps even contemplated
the decapitation of my beloved proboscis, as one of the rascals was
smelling around my nostrils when I suddenly awoke. I hate lizzards, but
I can stand spiders and alligators, and the other animalculae of the
country tolerably well. A girl only ten years of age was married to-day.
This seems incredible, but you may repose implicit confidence in its
truth. Females mature more rapidly here than in any other part of the
earth. At eight and nine there is often every indication of puberty. I
saw the young “lady” of ten, who was married to-day. I was utterly
astonished at her prodigious maturity. She was extremely beautiful, and
her glances were bewitching, and she seemed very devoted to her young
and enthusiastic lover. It rains or pours in these latitudes ten months
in the year, which the natives call the wet season. The other two months
are called the dry season, when it only rains about twelve times a day.
The lightning is sometimes incessant, and the thunder is terrific and
makes the alligators look glassy about the eye. We had a shock of an
earthquake last night which lasted some seconds. It created quite a
sensation among the emigrants, but it did not terrify the natives, as
they are used to earthquakes. A small lizzard crawled into the ear of an
emigrant, who lives near the shore, which nearly killed him. I attended
the Cathedral this morning, and the music and ceremonies were grateful
to my heart. After the solemn scenes of last week, and the death of a
beloved friend on Tuesday last. The attendance was not large. Youth,
age, decrepitude, competence, affluence, penury and utter rags, all
knelt side by side. Six priests of various grades were present. As I
gazed on these splendid ruins, at the images, paintings and costly
decorations, and grasped a retrospect of the long line of generations of
Spanish nobility who had worshipped in its sacred aisles, and gazed down
to the sepulchres of their fathers, contrasting this dismal structure
with its tottering walls and spires, with its ancient glory, and as I
gazed on its wildness and dilapidated magnificence, I was impressed with
the most solemn and overwhelming emotions. Last evening I visited the
ramparts, that encircle a portion of the city. The work is truly
beautiful and exhilarating at early twilight, when the burning sun is
gone, and when, as in last evening, the full moon was emerging with
uncommon splendor from the far horizon of a tranquil sea. A group of
lovely children just passed my window, followed by their slaves, with
gorgeous turbans clad in red, white and blue. A passenger just entered
my apartment and informs me that while dozing in his canoe on the banks
of the Chagres, he was suddenly aroused from his slumber and saw an
enormous alligator crawling over the base of his canoe, when he sprang
and leaped to the shore and ran for his life up the embankment with the
alligator in hot pursuit, which nearly caught him by the tail of his
coat. He rushed into the hut of a friendly native, and closed and barred
the door, and flew to the roof, where he found piles of stones for
defensive operations, and immediately opened a battery of flying stones
at the alligator, causing him to retreat and disappear beneath the
waters of the Chagres. There are turkey buzzards in countless thousands
hovering over the city, which greatly alarm the natives. Such flocks
were never seen before. The timid and superstitious natives predict the
most awful visitations from the sudden appearance of so many buzzards,
which darken the air like a cloud with their hideous presence. Some of
the natives prognosticate a famine, or others fatal convulsions of
nature. My chum predicts extraordinary heat (theremometer now about 100
in the shade), and a shower of rain (only rained six times to-day,) and
other calamities. But I do not fear these terrible disasters from the
advent of large flocks of turkey buzzards, as I have been taught to
scout every thing in the form of representation.

                                                    STEPHEN H. BRANCH.


                         AN IMMORTAL PETITION.

_The Wise Peter Cooper, and his most extraordinary proposal of a Tank on
   the summit of the City Hall, for the extinguishment of disastrous

                           [Document No. 13.]

                                                  BOARD OF ALDERMEN, }
                                                   February 6, 1854. }

The following petition of Peter Cooper, in relation to the prevention
and extinguishing of fire, and to give greater efficiency to the Police
Department, was received and laid on the table and ordered to be

                                                      D. T. VALENTINE,

To the Hon. the Mayor and Common Council of the city of New York.

The subscriber takes this method to present to your Hon. Body, certain
improvements for the prevention and extinguishing of fires, to give
greater efficiency to the police and greatly lessen the labors of the
Fire Department, and at the same time give greater security to life and
property, and the government of our city.

Your subscriber is of the opinion, that these improvements will, if
adopted, result in great benefit to the City, State and Nation.

A good government in this city, like the heart of a great body, will
make itself felt throughout our State, our Nation, and to some extent
throughout the world. Desiring greatly to secure for my native city, the
inestimable blessings of good government I have ventured to propose and
urgently recommend, to the serious consideration of your Hon. body, a
plan founded on a principle, that I believe will do more to bring about
security, order and good government, than any and all other measures,
that are within the range of our municipal powers, to adopt. The plan
and principle to which I allude, will make it directly the dollar and
cent interest, of some three-quarters of all the officers in the employ
of the city government to faithfully perform their duty.

If this can be shown to be conveniently practicable, it must be admitted
that it would bring about greater efficiency in the execution of all
useful laws and ordinances, than any other means which have ever been
applied to the government of our city.

Before I attempt a description of this plan, I will state that it will
require greater conveniences for the extinguishment of fires than those
now provided by our present arrangement.

The necessary facilities for conveniently putting out fires, can be
arranged in a short time and at comparatively small expense, by placing
a boiler-iron tank of some thirty feet in height, on the top of the
present reservoir on Murray Hill. This tank to be filled and kept full
of water by a small steam engine provided for that purpose.

And as an additional security I would propose that the present City Hall
be raised an additional story, and covered with an iron tank that would
hold some ten feet of water. The outside of this tank to be made to
represent a cornice around the building.

If an additional building should be put up, to take the place of the one
lately destroyed by fire, it should be so formed as to be in harmony
with the present City Hall, and covered with a similar tank, and
corniced to correspond. With this greater head and supply of water
always at command, and ready for connection with the present street
mains, the moment the signal is given from any Police Station, it will
be apparent that all the hydrants will be made efficient to raise water
over the tops of the highest houses in the city.

I would, in addition propose, that there should be placed at convenient
distances in every street, a small cart containing some three hundred
feet of hose. These carts should be so light that one man could draw
them to the nearest hydrant to the fire, and bring the water on the fire
in the shortest possible time. With this arrangement, I propose to make
it the interest of every man in the police, to watch against
incendiaries and thieves, and to use every possible effort to extinguish
fires as soon as they occur. To make it the interest for the police to
perform their duty faithfully, I propose that the Corporation should set
apart as a fund, two shillings per day, in addition to the wages of each
man, to be held by the Corporation to the end of each year, and when it
shall be ascertained that the loss and damage by fire, and the loss of
property stolen, shall have been reduced below the average of the last
ten years, then this fund of two shillings per day, in addition to their
former wages, shall be equally divided between the men forming the
Police Department.

In addition to this I propose that the Corporation should request all
the Insurance Companies interested in the property of this city to bid
or offer the largest per centage that they are willing to give on all,
that the loss and damage by fire can be reduced below the average agreed

This fund to be added to the Corporation fund of two shillings per day,
and to be equally divided with the men forming the City Police.

This would enable every one of the members of the police to secure for
himself sufficient to pay his rent every year over and above his present
wages. They would also have the elevating satisfaction of knowing that
while they are saving one dollar for themselves they are saving fifty
dollars for the community, and in addition saving thousands of
individuals from that wretchedness and misery annually produced by the
desolating ravages of fire.

A police appointed for and during good behavior, with the liberal salary
they now receive, and with the additional privilege of securing to
themselves annually so large an amount over and above their regular
salaries might always be relied on to forward every measure that would
tend to secure order and good government. A department so formed, whose
duty it would be to traverse every street of the city by day and night,
would find it their interest as well as duty to watch against
incendiaries, and when a fire was discovered they would instantly signal
for as many hose carts as desirable, with directions for every next man
to double his walk. When such men come to a fire they would all be armed
with police powers to protect property, and to bring and use the carts
with hose on the fire, until the general alarm became necessary to
summon the firemen to the charge, which would seldom happen with such
facilities and such an interest to extinguish fires. One of the best
features in this arrangement will be the constant tendency and interest
there will be to draw into the department good men and crowd out bad
men. They find it their interest to have every man turned out who is
either drunken, idle or dishonest, and to have in their place those that
are sober, honest and efficient. They find it their interest to close
every rum shop that is selling without license, and they will not be
long in finding out that a large part of the fires arise from
drunkenness and the degradation and carelessness that are the natural
results of dissipation.

                      [_Conclusion in our next._]


☞ Owing to an unusual amount of matter in this number, we have omitted
our advertisements. They will be inserted in next issue.


                    Advertisements—25 Cents a line.

Credit.—From two to four seconds, or as long as the Advertiser can hold
his breath! Letters and Advertisements to be left at No. 114
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Public and Commissioners—United States Passports issued in 36
hours.—Bills of Exchange, Drafts, and Notes protested,—Marine protests
noted and extended.

                                                       EDWIN F. COREY,
                                                   EDWIN F. COREY, JR.


Patent Powder Proof Locks, afford the greatest security of any Safe in
the world. Also, Sideboard and Parlor Safes, of elegant workmanship and
finish, for plate, &c.

                                                S. C. HERRING & CO.,
                                                         251 Broadway.


SANTE MENTO.—No. 29 ATTORNEY STREET, NEAR Grand, has a superior
assortment of Cloths, Cassimeres, and Vestings, made to order in the
most fashionable and approved Parisian styles, and at short notice. Let
gentlemen call and patronize me, and I will do my utmost to please my




negotiated, Houses and Stores Rented, Stocks and Bonds Sold at Auction
or Private Sale.

Also, FURNITURE SALES attended to at private houses. Office, 14 Pine
street, under Commonwealth Bank.


CARLTON HOUSE, 496 BROADWAY, NEW YORK. Bates and Holden, Proprietors.

                                                     THEOPHILUS BATES.
                                                       OREL J. HOLDEN.


street, corner of Front street, New York.


SAMUEL SNEDEN, SHIP & STEAMBOAT BUILDER.—My Office is at No. 31 Corlears
street, New York; and my yards and residence are at Greenpoint. I have
built Ships and Steamers for every portion of the Globe, for a long term
of years, and continue to do so on reasonable terms.

                                                        SAMUEL SNEDEN.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stephen H. Branch's Alligator Vol. 1 no. 17, August 14, 1858" ***

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