It was also necessary to proceed with the greatest prudence, for only a few days after my taking the papers in hand Secretary Stanton
, acting, as soon became evident, upon erroneous reports, caused the offender to be arrested and lodged in Fort Lafayette.
Kohnstamm was a Democrat, except, of course, in business matters, and a rich importer of thirty years standing; had plenty of money, spent it liberally, and had but just given his grand dinner at Delmonico's. No wonder, then, that his arrest should have excited a bitter feeling against the War Department in the minds of people who knew nothing whatever of his offenses.
There was a Democratic Governor at Albany
, a Democratic Mayor
at New York, a Democratic District Attorney
, and Democrats on the grand jury.
It came to my ears that the Secretary of War
, the United States Marshal, and myself, were to be indicted for resisting the writ of habeas corpus
under the alleged unconstitutional act of Congress suspending the same.
It was an emergency demanding a bold course; so with the consent of the department, I went myself before the grand jury with my papers, and offered to answer any questions that might be asked of me. The result was a vote of commendation for what had been done, and all danger of indictment was removed.
I pursued the same course with Governor Seymour
and the District Attorney
with equally satisfactory results, and then the trump card was played of giving the facts to the press, which was only too willing to publish them, and never subsequently, to my recollection, interfered with my official labors.
This adroit and epicurean criminal employed the best counsel at our bar, and enjoyed all the immunity from annoyance, after his release from Fort Lafayette, that one so circumstanced could expect.
But that there were thorns in his bed of roses is beyond a doubt.
In due time, he was held in one hundred and fifty thousand dollars bail in a civil suit, and, after a three weeks session with me, the grand jury, under the lead of the late James W. Beekman
, brought in forty-eight bills of indictment against him. Failing to get the required security, he lay two months in the House of Detention
, after which his bail was reduced, and he was liberated from confinement.
I found so many obstacles to getting him to trial that, finally, the Secretary
caused a resolution of inquiry to be introduced in the Senate by Mr. Wilson
, which settled the business.
The case was peremptorily moved on, and that venerated jurist, Judge Samuel Nelson
, turned a deaf ear to the excuses of counsel, and ordered the District Attorney
to open for the prosecution.
Out of the forty-eight indictments one had to be selected on the spur of the moment,