We’re offering a series of 12 letters, 22 pp, various sizes, to JAMES W. DENVER (1817-1892) with narratives and requests that cross his various distinguished positions as Congressmen, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, appointed by President James Buchanan, Governor of Kansas Territory during the infamous Lecompton Constitutional vote that opened the territory to slavery through fraudulent voting, his business interests on Wall Street, passage of the Maryland State Constitution and the Freedman’s Bureau during the Reconstruction era.
Denver was a renowned Union General, appointed by President Lincoln as Brigadier General at the beginning of the war. He was a lawyer, served in the House of Representatives from California, secretary and Governor of the Kansas Territory. The city of Denver is named after him. In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, he recruited a company for the 12th U.S. Volunteer Infantry and was commissioned a captain. Denver killed newspaper editor Edward Gilbert in a duel on August 2, 1852, after Gilbert accused Denver of gross mismanagement. That same year, he was elected to the California State Senate and later appointed Secretary of State of California. In 1854, he was elected to the United States Congress. On April 17, 1857, President James Buchanan appointed him as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In June, Buchanan appointed Denver as Secretary of Kansas Territory and later that year as Territorial Governor. On the day that Denver assumed the governorship, citizens of the territory voted on the Lecompton Constitution, which opened the territory to slavery. The pro-slavery constitution passed by an overwhelming margin but it was later discovered that thousands of votes were fraudulently cast by border ruffians who had crossed into the territory from Missouri. The vote was overturned in a subsequent election in August 1858, and Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 as a free state. After the Civil War, Denver practiced law in Washington and remained politically active.
Our letters date from 1856 to 1891, several by JAMES HUGHES (1823-1873), who was a lawyer and congressman from Indiana and possibly a law partner of Denver’s.
One page, Dec. 4, 1856, Hughes writes to Denver congratulating him on his recent marriage and hoping that Denver can aid his friend’s claim. “Without Brimley gets aid from the government, he is used up…Give him such advice as you may think best…” Hughes then pivots to political discussion. “I doubt whether we will be able to elect two senators from our party. I am rather inclined to the opinion if we elect two, Green & Phelps stand the best chance. The old time Whigs will insist on a senator. This is a fixed fact…”
1 1/3 pp, Feb. 9, 1858, St. Louis, Hughes writes: “…I sold three of the land warrants for $456…Land warrants cannot be sold at more than 80 cents per acre…What shall we do with the remainder of them. I saw the Editor of the Republican. You will see what he says in his paper of day. Congress is in a beautiful fix at this time. They have turned (the House members) into a Bull Pen! Scenes of the most disgraceful character are being enacted. I was at Washington City the latter part of December. I think the Lecompton Constitution will be defeated in the House. [Lecompton Constitution passed but through fraudulent voting and was later overturned.] I have now strong hopes of the appointment of Dr. Robinson…”
One page, Feb. 16, 1859, New York, Alexander Dallas, writes to Denver, who was, by now, commissioner of Indian Affairs, seeking an appointment [he may have retained this title while serving as territorial governor of Kansas]. “I take the liberty of again drawing your attention to my urgent need of an appointment. I have been informed by my kind friend, the Reverend James Ryden, you intended writing and I trust you will find it convenient to reply…”
One page, May 31, 1866, New York, James B. Smith, to Denver, “…There is going to be a good chance for operating well for the next sixty days – at least. Everyone expects a lively time on Wall St. and just now many new enterprises some of which are good, are being launched. It will probably be in power to put you into one or two at first figures. So if you would come on, I would do so…”
2 pp, Sept. 14, 1867, Hagerstown Mail [likely editor] Erwin Bell writes to Denver. “…I will give you the trouble to hunt up the facts from the [Freedman’s] Bureau itself. Unfortunately, I cannot have put my hands on the statutes and all I want is a list of the items…appropriated by Congress in support of the Freedman’s Bureau; and also from some enactments easily acceptable in Washington, the exact amounts appropriated for the support of government…I think they can be used here with effect…to our elections which will follow the adoption of the Constitution on Wednesday next. [Maryland adopted its last constitution in September 1867.] Our friends are in fine spirits. You say nothing about your advertisement. If you think it would have the least effect in leading to your office…it would afford me a particular pleasure to insert it in the columns of the Mail…”
3 ¼ pp, Dec. 13, 1869, St. Louis, MO, D.B. Thompson to Denver regarding legal work for Gen. Benjamin Butler regarding a land matter. “…I met Gen’l Benj Butler according to appointment…His trunk containing papers which I was waiting for so anxiously arrived and I need the pleasure of examining all the papers needed which he claims are interest in the claim of Arrington. His papers show nothing adverse to the interest of Dr. Coryell…”
4 pp, Aug. 17, 1875, James B. Smith, obviously indebted to Denver writes of his loss in the “failure of the (Clifton) Iron operation left me badly involved not less than $75,000…My creditors about all of them agreed to accept 50 cts on the dollar…A few exceptions had to be paid in full…I have given you exactly my situation. I want you to get along with just as little money from me now as you possibly can…You know all about my fighting disposition & I will fight through. I mean to do precisely the fair thing & I don’t mean to stop work until I am clear of debt & have a good deal more money…I am certain to pay you in full but I want you to help me by a little longer delay for the bulk a larger portion of your note…Do the best for me you possibly can…James B. Smith”
Letters are in very good condition with usual folds and toning.
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