• Future Vice President William Wheeler Engages Attorney To Help Collect From Navy After Civil War

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    Offering a fine content ALS with reference to the concluded Civil War from Rutherford B. Hayes’ future Vice President WILLIAM A. WHEELER to his attorney and former Lincoln advisor EDWARDS PIERREPONT seeking to collect money owned to him by the U.S. Navy for supplies, which the Navy claims to have no use for because the Civil War has concluded. 


    The January 12, 1867, 2 1/2 pp, 8 1/4 x 10 1/2, January 12, 1867, ALS, to Pierrepont, Wheeler writes:


    “The Navy Dep’t (Bureau Construction) owes me $11,000 for 20 per cent reservations on approved bills for goods furnished during the fiscal year 1865. They decline to pay the money on the ground that they have the power after the expiration of the contract to compel me to deliver the balance of articles not delivered during the year. The facts in the case are as follows. The contract was made in July & August, 1865 with the Bureaus of Yards & Docks, Equipment & Recruiting...all of the Navy Dept. After the contracts were executed the market for goods became unsettled & prices began to advance & my contracts were large. I endeavored to get the storekeeper at the New York Yard to allow me to furnish the articles on my contract with the Bureau of Construction as I was fearful of heavy loss if I could not do so promptly. My offer was declined because they had not room to store the goods & also because they thought they would not be wanted as the war had closed & the same necessity as had existed for goods did not then exist. In consequence of this state of affairs & relying upon the representations made me I became satisfied I should not be called on to furnish the goods & acted accordingly. The contracts were all closed on the 30th June 1866 by the Secretary of the Navy & all the Bureaus except that of Construction closed contracts & paid the reservations notwithstanding the articles had not all been furnished.  Consequently they were in the same case precisely as the Bureau of Construction which declines to pay. The ground that I have taken is that they had a right during the year of the contract to compel me to deliver the goods but that leaving it until the contract expired & after it was officially closed by the Sec. of Navy they cannot oblige me to furnish the goods nor hold my reservations.  Besides the other Bureaus having closed & paid reservations when they are all but parts of the same Department shows that the Bureau is not acting according to the instructions of the Secretary nor in good faith with me. I have shown that my losses during the year were very heavy amounting to $55,000 on about $200,000 furnished & I have appealed to the Sec. to pay me what is due but the Solicitor to whom my case was referred has decided against me on technical grounds & which shows he does not clearly comprehend the case in all its bearings.  Another important fact is that there are several other parties who made similar contracts with the Department but have furnished nothing & no attempt is made to hold them because they have no reservations to hold. This clearly shows the great injustice done to me & that I should not be singled out to suffer after trying to fill my contracts faithfully.


    “Respectfully Yours


    “Wm A Wheeler”


    WHEELER (1819 – 1887) was born in Malone, NY.  His father died when Wheeler was eight, leaving the family in dire financial straits. Wheeler enrolled in the University of Vermont with money borrowed from a friend. He dropped out two years later and began teaching school and studying law. He soon began practicing law and began his political career by serving as district attorney for Franklin County.


    During the Ulysses S. Grant administration there was vast expansion of land to the west. Inevitable corruption resulted as in the case of Credit Mobilier. Many politicians, including future president James Garfield, were influenced by gifts of undervalued stock. By 1876, there was a need for clean nominees to the presidential ticket.  Wheeler was regarded as highly ethical, but very low key to the point of being obscure.


    PIERREPONT (1817 – 1892) was born in New Haven, CT, and graduated from Yale and Yale Law School. In 1857, he was elected as judge of the Superior Court of New York City. During this time, he acted as an advisor to Abraham Lincoln, prior to and after his election. During the Civil War Pierrepont represented the government against prisoners of state and was a natural candidate to handle the prosecution of Lincoln conspirator John H. Surratt.    


    Wonderful letter by this future Vice President and nicely executed on Wheeler’s stationary.


    Folds, toning, some chipping in margins, not affecting the writing.


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