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The writer then goes on to say that such a communication to a state executive from a predecessor was unusual if not unprecedented; but he felt that the circumstances of the case fully justified him in taking this course and he wished this letter, containing a formal account of certain transactions, to be preserved in the state's official archives. Next he proceeded to review the matter of Georgia's bonded indebtedness prior to 1868. With respect to certain bonds which Governor Bullock demanded and received from certain banks, under a resolution passed by the Legislature of 1868, he expresses himself thus:
“The precise amount so delivered I know not but suppose it could have varied little from $600,000. I am, of course, ignorant of what disposition has been made of them. If they have been faithfully applied to the objects intended, they have not increased the indebtedness of the State, but have only postponed to a more convenient time its payment, pro tanto, and the relief has accrued or will accrue to administrations succeeding mine. If otherwise, the misapplication is chargeable to the Executive who, rather than come to an account with the fairly elected and honest representatives of the people he was charged with having plundered, ingloriously fled the State. In no event can those bonds be set down as an original indebtedness incurred by the State during my official term and by my advice."
Concerning the fraudulent bond issues and endorsements of the Bullock administration, Governor Jenkins is silent, for the reason that he possessed no positive or direct information upon this subject. Nor was it germane to the matter under discussion. But he discussed at some length the circumstances leading to his expulsion from office by General Meade, the prolonged but futile effort made by him, without cost to the state, to obtain redress before the Supreme Court of the United States, the debt of obligation due to generous friends who had given him legal assistance in his effort to establish the unconstitutionality of the reconstruction measures—these and other topics he discusses at some length. In conclusion, he told of his departure from the state. Said he:
“When I left the Executive office, I took with me the record of warrants drawn upon the treasury, the book of receipts for them, and other papers therewith connected, and the seal of the Executive Department. It was my purpose to retain these things in my own custody until I should see in the Executive office a rightful incumbent and then to restore them. The removal of the books and papers was merely a precautionary measure for my own protection. Not so with the seal. That was a symbol of the Executive authority, and though void of intrinsic material value was hallowed by a sentiment which forbade its surrender to unauthorized hands. Afterwards whilst I was in Washington, vainly seeking the interposition of the Supreme Court, a formal written demand was made upon me by Gen. Ruger for a return of these articles, with which I declined to comply. The books and papers 1 herewith transmit to your Excellency that they may resume their place in the archives of the State. With them I also deliver to you the seal of the Executive Department. I derive high satisfaction from the reflection that it has never been desecrated by the grasp of a military usurper's hand, never been prostituted to authenticate official misdeeds of an upstart pretender. Unpolluted as it came to me, I gladly place it in the hands of a worthy
son of Georgia-her freely chosen Executive-my first legitimate successor."
This letter was transmitted to the Legislature on August 15, 1872. It is one of the most precious documents in the archives of Georgia and one to be sacredly preserved while the commonwealth endures. Coincident with its reception by the law-making body, a resolution was introduced in the House by Hon. Joseph B. Cumming, then holding the office of speaker, in which the patriotic services of Governor Jenkins to the state were fittingly eulogized. It was also ordered that a fac simile reproduction in gold of the seal of the executive department be struck, at the expense of the state, and to bear this additional inscription :
“Presented to CHARLES J. JENKINS by the State of Georgia. In arduis fidelis.”
It was furthermore ordered that said seal be presented to Governor Jenkins as a token of esteem from a grateful state. This resolution passed both houses by an overwhelming vote and, on August 22, 1872, was approved by the governor. The full text of the resolution is as follows: *
“Whereas, The Honorable Charles J. Jenkins, when expelled by usurpers from the office of Governor of this State, had the firmness and the courage to save the public treasure from the plunderers, and applied it to the obligations of the State, and also removed the archives of the State Treasury, and saved from desecration the Seal of the Executive Department; and whereas, his efforts to save the people of Georgia from oppression relaxed not with his hold upon the Executive office, but in the midst of discouragement were continued before the Supreme Court of the United States so long as there was any hope of success; and whereas, preserving the archives and the seal until, in better times, he might restore them to his first rightful successor, he has delivered them to his Excellency the Governor; and whereas, gratitude to a great and good man, deference to the feelings of the people of Georgia, and the encouragement of patriotism and virtue in the generation to come, alike render it good that we should make and put in imperishable form a recognition of his fidelity to his trust; therefore be it
"Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, That his Excellency the Governor be authorized and instructed to have prepared, and, in the name of the people of Georgia, to present to the Honorable Charles J. Jenkins, a seal, to be the fac simile of the one preserved and restored by him, except that in addition to the other devices, it shall have this inscription : Presented to Charles J. Jenkins by the State of Georgia'; and this legend: 'In arduis fidelis.'"
But this is anticipating. On December 19, 1871, the Legislature appointed a special committee to investigate the fraudulent bond scandals of the Bullock administration. This committee consisted of three members, to wit: Thomas J. Simmons, from the Senate, and John I. Hall and Garnett McMillan, from the House. Its distinguished personnel deserves to be carefully noted, as it will give an emphasis to the course which they subsequently recommended with respect to these bonds. Thomas J. Simmons became in after years chief justice of the Supreme
* Acts 1872, 520-521.
Court of Georgia. John I. Hall, during President Cleveland's second administration, became an assistant attorney-general of the United States. Garnett McMillan was perhaps the most brilliant young member of the House. His zeal to extinguish what he considered a blot upon Georgia's honor and his eloquence in debate when the fraudulent bonds were under discussion, caused him to be placed on this committee of investigation. The reputation which he achieved at this time made him a national figure; and such was the prestige which he gained at home that even the plume of the great Benjamin H. Hill went down before him in a contest for the democratic nomination to Congress in 1874. He defeated Mr. Hill by a pronounced vote, but died a few months later, and his vacant seat fell to the lot of his illustrious competitor.
The act authorizing the appointment of this committee was entitled: “An act to protect the people of the State of Georgia against the illegal and fraudulent issue of bonds and securities, and for other purposes connected with the same.” Its duty was to ascertain and report the number of bonds and endorsements issued and put into circulation by Rufus B. Bullock the aggregate amount thereof, by whom the same were sold, the amount of money paid therefor, the time when and the persons to whom such payments were made, and all other facts connected with the history of said bonds.*
This committee, having given due notice, on December 12, 1871, began its deliberations in Atlanta on March 1, 1872, and remained in session almost continuously until May 1, 1872, a period of two months. No stone was left unturned in an effort to ascertain the exact truth. Incidentally the committee visited New York, where an extended session was held, at the nation's financial center. Hundreds of witnesses were orally examined, while voluminous depositions were taken in England, France, Germany and other European countries; but all efforts to bring Governor Bullock himself before the committee signally failed.
However, the committee's work was exhaustive, thorough, and complete in every detail, and when the Legislature, reassembled in the summer of 1872 a report was submitted whose findings fully satisfied the General Assembly as to the fraudulent character of certain bonds aggregating in value $7,957,000. These bonds were particularized as follows:
Gold bonds in the hands of Henry Clews & Co.....
.$ 102,000 Gold bonds, second issue to Brunswick and Albany Railroad., 1,880,000 Currency bonds
1,500,000 Endorsement Brunswick and Albany Railroad Bonds... 3,300,000 Endorsement Bainbridge, Cuthbert and Columbus R. R. Bonds 600,000 Endorsement Cartersville and Van Wert R. R. Bonds.
275,000 Endorsement Cherokee R. R. Bonds...
Adopting the recommendations of this report, the Legislature in a series of acts approved respectively August 15th, 16th and 23d, declared null and void the state's endorsement upon the bonds of the Bainbridge, Cuthbert and Columbus Railroad; also null, void and unconstitutional the issue of state gold bonds to aid the Brunswick and Albany Railroad, under act of October 17, 1870; also null and void the state's endorsement on the bonds of the Cartersville and Van Wert Railroad; also null and void the state's endorsement on the bonds of the Brunswick and Albany Railroad, under act of March, 1869; and also void and without binding force against the State of Georgia certain quarterly gold bonds of this state, issued under act of September 15, 1870. At the same time the governor of Georgia, the state treasurer and other officers were enjoined from paying either principal or interest on these bonds declared to be fraudulent.* Subsequently a constitutional amendment was adopted, grafting a prohibitive clause to this effect upon Georgia's fundamental law. Governor Bullock, in issuing and endorsing these bonds, had acted without the consent of the people of Georgia and in open violation of the sovereign rights of the state. Payment, therefore, was rightfully refused. Nor did Georgia's credit in the financial centers suffer impairment for any length of time by reason of this so-called repudiation. If a hardship was entailed upon a few individuals, it was no greater hardship than fell to the lot of thousands of people who held Confederate bonds; and it was justified as an act of imperious necessity to the people of a great state, whose sufferings from the ravages of war were dire enough without the added burden of this monumental iniquity.
* Acts 1871, pp. 14-15.
To bring ex-Governor Bullock to the bar of justice became the fixed resolve of the state authorities. Charges were preferred against the former chief magistrate. In a resolution which became operative through lapse of time, on November 13, 1871, Governor Conley refusing to sign it, a committee was appointed “to examine all the house and kitchen furniture, silverware, and all other articles and implements connected with the executive mansion," to see if anything was missing subsequent to Governor Bullock's flight. Moreover, an officer was sent to New York, armed with the requisite papers for effecting his arrest; but the fugitive ex-governor was not to be found. Several years later, when the pulsebeat of men was calmer and the outlook for an impartial review of the facts without acrimony began to offer the prospect of a vindication, Governor Bullock submitted to arrest, returned to Georgia and stood for trial. But the evidence was not sufficient to support the charges and, on failure of proof to convict, a verdict of acquittal was returned. It is only fair to ex-Governor Bullock to say that, while he lent himself as an executive to the infliction of great political wrongs upon the state and was guilty of numerous high-handed acts of usurpation, there is little to justify the belief that he was individually or personally a corrupt man or that he reaped any large harvest of pecuniary reward. Judge Benjamin H. Hill, who was the prosecuting officer of the state in the trial of Governor Bullock, and whose father was perhaps the most powerful foe of the whole Reconstruction regime in Georgia, does not hesitate to pronounce him an honest man and a gentleman." This expression is used in the latter's life of Senator Hill; and underneath in a footnote he adds this explanatory paragraph:
"I speak advisedly. Gov. Bullock was indicted for embezzlement as Governor. I was Solicitor-General at the time and aided in his prose
* House Journal, 1872, pp. 5-8.
cution. The most scathing investigation failed to disclose any evidence of his guilt and he was promptly acquitted by a Democratic jury. This much a sense of justice induces me to write."
Subsequent to his acquittal Governor Bullock spent more than twenty-five years of his life in Atlanta, where his dignified reserve, his exemplary walk and conversation, his uniform courtesy, his unfailing public spirit, and his active leadership in promoting the state's commercial, industrial and educational development, won for him a host of friends and conciliated many of his former enemies. It must be conceded that much of the hostility which his administration of affairs provoked was due to the turbulent and restless character of the times, to the necessity for vigorous initiative on the part of one occupying the helm at such a crisis, to the inflamed condition of the public mind caused by the humiliating sting of defeat, by the mischievous work of the carpetbagger and by the insolence of the negro voter, and to numerous other considerations, all of which influenced to some extent, unjustly, no doubt, the popular estimate in which Governor Bullock was held. When well past the age of seventy, he died while on a visit to his old home in Rhode Island; and there, amid the friends of his early youth, most of whom wore the Federal uniform, he sleeps his last earthly sleep-a man of northern birth but of southern adoption, a Confederate volunteer against. whose record as a soldier no whisper of detraction has ever been heard, but a radical governor who usurped authority, under the infamous carpet-bag regime, and to whose name on the historic page will always attach much of the odium of reconstruction.