Report of the Van-Wyck Investigating Committee.
's select committee to inquire into Government contracts made a report of their proceedings to the Federal
House of Representatives on Tuesday last.
It was presented by Mr. Washburne
, of Illinois
, and shows up corruption among Yankee contractors to a degree never before surpassed.
Our readers are invited to a close perusal of it. We copy from the Washington
telegraphic correspondence of the New York Herald
, of the 18th inst:
The report discloses a startling amount of corruption, and exposes the authors, prominent among whom are some of the very patriotic ‘"On to Richmond
"’ drivers of the Empire State
The inevitable conclusion from this report is that in too many instances in the most important transactions of the War
and Navy Departments, men totally unfit have been selected as agents of the Government
to perform without any security whatever for their fidelity, duties that could have been much more conveniently executed by sworn officers of the Government
In the matter of purchasing vessels an instance may be cited.
The Stars and Stripes cost the owners $36,000, and after using her one year, George D. Morgan
, a government agent, appointed by Secretary Welles
, bought her for $55,000 and turned her over to the government.
testified that Secretary Welles
employed him with the understanding that he was to have two and a half per cent. from the seller for all ships he purchased.
The committee show that thus far he has made over one hundred thousand dollars. This important and startling fact will account for the course pursued by the Secretary of the Navy
in refusing to purchase many valuable vessels when offered, unless the purchase was made through a particular channel.
It is shown by the committee that this Mr. Morgan
was connected with Thurlow Weed
in supplying the Cataline
, and the pure minded Alexander Cumming
, of the religious World
of New York, and O. B. Matteson
, who was expelled from the House of Representatives for corruption.
In September last, the committee requested Secretary Welles
to discontinue the services of Mr. Morgan
, but he refused.
Since that time, the committee show that Mr. Morgan
has made over forty thousand dollars. This is considered a fair profit for a grocery dealer; but, as he is brother-in-law of the Secretary of the Navy
, of course it is all right.
In regard to the purchase of the Cataline
, there are some significant facts in the testimony that are not alluded to in the report.
It appears that the original cost ($18,000) was paid in four notes of $4,500 each, given by four parties — Thurlow Weed
, G. Davidson
, O. B. Matteson
, and John E. Develin
Each one of the notes was signed by one of these four, and endorsed by the others.
In the item of purchasing army supplies, it is shown that authority was given to Gov. Morgan
and Alexander Cummings
to disburse two millions of dollars.
No vouchers were required or given.
transferred his authority to Geo. D. Morgan
, Secretary Welles
's special favorite, who, with Cummings
, made all the disbursements — Weed
& Company appear to have controlled the employees of these agents, and to a certain extent dictated their purchases.
& Company, hardware men of Albany
, were selected to furnish groceries, and among the purchases made by Cummings
were linen pantaloons and straw hats, which are not recognized as army clothing, and were probably never used.
It is shown in this testimony that an effort was made by the Secretary of War
to confer upon Cummings
the control of the Subsistence Department in New York, but it failed, on account of Major Eaton
's declining his services or assistance.
The improvidence and reckless extravagance of General Fremont
is shown in glaring colors.
The simple item of buying condemned Austrian
muskets will suffice for an example.
Twenty-five thousand of them were purchased in one lot; the committee say it is probable that the arm had been rejected from the Austrian service, and purchased on speculation and sent to this country in view of the extraordinary demand for arms.
The arm, in the condition in which it was purchased, will certainly never be used by our army, and when altered as proposed, its inferiority to the arms which are rapidly accumulating, together with the almost universal prejudice of our soldiers to altered arms, will almost certainly exclude it from the army.
The amount claimed for the arms, including the special ammunition, is about $166,000. The committee are of the opinion that the arm will never be of any service to the Government
, and will never be used except in some case of unforeseen and extraordinary emergency.
The purchase of the arm was an act of manifest improvidence, and the less excusable because the arm had been disapproved of even at a less price than that paid by Gen. Fremont
by the experienced ordnance officer at New York.
The immediate necessity for arms can scarcely be considered as furnishing an excuse, for the arm was practically useless until altered, and to effect that delay was inevitable, and the purchase was made without any examination as to the practicability of improvement by alteration.
The committee found a large number of these arms at Cairo
, and, notwithstanding the urgent necessity of arms at that point, whole regiments, even on the eve of the battle of Belmont
, were almost destitute of arms.
These arms were left in the boxes in which they were shipped from the Arsenal at St. Louis
Improvidence and disregard of reasonable economy on the part of the Government
on the one hand, and a spirit of ruthless speculation on the other, have made this contract, and it is a question of public justice how far it shall be carried into effect.
The committee deem it their duty to present the facts to the consideration of the House
, without any special recommendation.
Another transaction in the purchase of arms, to which the attention of the committee has been directed, is the purchase of five thousand of Hall
's carbines by Gen. Fremont
, through Simon Stevens
, of Pennsylvania
This transaction is, in some respects, of the same character with the purchase of the Austrian muskets, but much more remarkable in illustrating the improvidence of gentlemen prominently connected with the public service, the corrupt system of broker-age by which the Treasury has been plundered, and the prostitution of public confidence to purposes of individual aggrandizement.
In the month of June last, Arthur M. Eastman
, of Manchester, N. H.
, purchased of the Ordnance Bureau five thousand four hundred Hall
's carbines, at three dollars fifty cents each, and after a slight alteration of the arms, at a cost of from seventy-five cents to one dollar and twenty-five cents on each arm, sold five thousand of them to Simon Stevens
for twelve dollars and fifty cents each, who immediately sold the entire lot to General Fremont
for twenty-two dollars each, General Fremont
probably laboring under some misapprehension as to the nature of the purchase of the arms.
The committee propose to present the transaction somewhat in detail.
The sales of these arms by the War Department to Mr. Eastman
at the time when arms were in such extraordinary demand, is remarkable.
Our Government was purchasing at arms rejected from the service European
If a General -ing a division of the army was at able for purchasing twenty-five muskets rejected from the Austrian service, at six dollars and fifty cents each, on the ground ‘"of a pressing necessity,"’ it is impossible to justify the sale of the Hall
carbines, if they were of any value whatever, or capable of being made of any value by alternation.
These arms seem to have been sold privately, and without inviting any competition, and sold, too, for an almost nominal price.
The sale was made by order of the Secretary of War
, on recommendation of the Ordnance Bureau.
No Government that ever existed can sustain itself with such improvidence in the management of its affair.
One agent of the Government
sells these arms at three dollars and fifty cents each, in the midst of pressing demand for arms, and a few weeks afterwards, and without any increase in demand, the same arms slightly alternators re-sold to the Government
through agent for twenty-two dollars -ernment losing, in so small a permitted to be consummated, thousand dollars, or, in as much carbines owned by the Government
, and of course seven hundred and ninety Alex. Cummings
, as the agent Department, for fifteen dollars as to these would stand thus: The demned and sold by the Government
and merely nominal price; after last, an agent of the War Department chases them for the Government
at dollars each, and in June they Eastman
by the War Department dollars and fifty cents each, they are purchased by General the Government
Whether buying or selling, the of the Government
is equally General Ripley
is a gentleman of experience, and inexorable in the -mance of his public duties.
The arm had been rejected from the public service as practically worthless years ago, and, in his judgment, no alteration could improve it. If so, the repurchase of the arm is without any possible excuse.
If otherwise, the original sale of the arm is utterly indefensible.