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No. 1 A.
FORT GIBSON. C. N., August, 1, 1865.
DEAR SIR: I have, been here for a month attending to business for the Cherokees and Creeks, particularly for bark pay of deceased soldiers and pensions for widows.
The three Indian regiments were mustered out the 31st of May, 1865, and each company had a white lieutenant, and I am the attorney for them all.
It is reported here that these lieutenants and others are now making out papers in Kansas to draw the pay of deceased soldiers and the bounty of those who were not paid, and that General Blunt is certifying to such claims as well as others.
I write this to request you to withhold all action on any claims of these regiments of Indian Home Guards until my arrival in Washington, which will be about the 1st of October.
My authority is derived from the Indians, officers, and soldiers, the chiefs, and the United States Indian agents.
Judge Harlan, Dunn, and Coleman are here. and are well qualified to fill those places. As to Mr. Sell, I will say nothing until I see you.
JOHN W. WRIGHT.
Hon. JUSTIN HARLIN.
No. 2 A.
Department Of The Interior, Washington, D. C. July 11, 1866.
SIR: It having come to my knowledge that it considerable number of Cherokees, Creeks, and other Indians have appointed you their attorney in fact to collect claims for back pay and bounty for military services rendered the Government of the United States before the several Departments, and you having filed in this Department a bond in the penal sum of $100,000, conditioned for the faithful performance of your duties. you are hereby authorized and empowered, as a special agent of this Department, without compensation, except such fees as are now or may hereafter he authorized by this Department to collect and pay over to the parties in cases in winch you have been constituted attorney in fact as aforesaid, in accordance with the rules prescribed by this Department, the claims of Indians before the several Departments of the Government upon the following conditions, viz: That you shall pay over promptly all money so collected by you to the parties legally entitled to the same; and if necessary go to the Indian country and tender the same to such soldier or his heirs, less only such commission or fee as is or may be fixed by the rules prescribed by this Department for collection; you to take the receipt of such claimant witnessed by the United States interpreter and agent for the tribe to which such Indian belongs, and file such receipt with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs or in case the money is not for any cause paid over within the period of four mouths from date of its receipt, the same shall be deposited with the Secretary of the Interior and that in all cases you faithfully conform, in the collection of claims, to such rules as have been or may be hereafter prescribed by this Department.
This appointment to be revoked at the pleasure of the Secretary of the Interior.
Secretary of Interior.
.J. W. WRIGHT,
Washington, D. C.
No. 3 A.
Department Of The Interior, Washington, D. C., July 9, 1866.
SIR: It having come to my knowledge that a considerable number of Cherokee, Creek, and other Indians have appointed J. W. ‘Wright, of Indiana, their attorney in fact to collect claims before the several Departments of the Government, you are requested to prepare a form of appointment and bond, such as in your judgment may be in harmony with the laws of the United States, and the rules adopted for the regulation of the service under your control, and afford security for the safe-keeping and prompt payment of all sums collected by him.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. D. N. COOLEY,
Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D. C.
No. 3 A.
Know all men by these presents that we, John W. Wright, Irwin B. Wright, John B. Wright, Thomas Ewing, jr., David P. Holloway, and John D. Defrees, are held and firmly bound unto the United States of America, for the use and benefit of any Indian soldier or any negro soldier serving in an Indian regiment, who is entitled to back pay or bounty from the United States, in the penal sum of one hundred thousand dollars.
Now the condition of this obligation is this: Whereas the said John W. Wright has been authorized by the Secretary of the Interior to collect claims for Indians when he is authorized by the claimant:
Now, if the said John W. Wright shall, within four months from the time of the -receipt of any sum of money collected by him for any soldier or his heirs, pay over the amount so received to such person, and if necessary for the purpose, go to the Indian country and tender the same to such soldier or his heirs, less only such commission or fee as is or may be fixed by the Secretary of the Interior for its collection, the said Wright to take the receipt of such claimant, witnessed by the United States interpreter and agent for the tribe to which such Indian belongs, and file such receipt with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs within the time aforesaid, or in case said money is not paid over within the time aforesaid, the same shall be deposited with the Secretary of the Interior; and if said Wright shall obey all orders made by the Secretary of the Interior as to the payment of said money or any part thereof, then the above bond shall be null and void; otherwise to remain in full force and effect.
JOHN W. WRIGHT. [SEAL.]
JOHN B. WRIGHT. [SEAL.]
IRWIN B. WRIGHT. [SEAL]
D. P. HOLLOWAY. [SEAL]
JOHN D. DEFREES. [SEAL.]
THOMAS EWING, Jr. [SEAL]
($1 internal-revenue stamp canceled as follows: J, W. July 12th.
I do hereby certify that I have made due personal inquiry and am satisfied that the sureties to the above bond are responsible men, and that collectively they are amply sufficient for the penalty of the said bond, and that they are citizens of the United States:
EDWARD C. CARRINGTON,
United, Moto: Attorney for D. C.
Filed in of Indian Affairs July 12, 1866.
No. 4 A.
Department Of The Interior,
Washington, D. C., September 6, 1870.
Sin: Herewith I transmit for your information a copy of a letter of this Department addressed to the Attorney General of the United States, in reference to the agency of John W. Wright in collecting and paring over certain moneys to the First, Second, and Third Regiments of Indian Home Guards.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J.D. COX; Secretary
Hon. E. S. PARKER. Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Department Of The Interior,
Washington, D. C., September 3,1870.
Sin: I herewith transmit copies of papers and letters, numbered in red ink from 1 to:34 inclusive, relative to the agency of John W. Wright in collecting and paying certain moneys to the First, Second, and Third regiments of Indian Home Guards.
A brief statement of the matter will, perhaps, facilitate a more ready comprehension of the facts and the correspondence on the subject. On the 1st of August, 1865, a letter was received at the Department of the Interior, from Mr. Wright, introducing the subject, which was referred to the Indian Office, and after some correspondence, a letter of appointment and instructions was forwarded to Mr. Wright, from the late Secretary, Harlan, dated July 11, 1866, authorizing him, as special agent, to collect claims for Indians when authorized by the claimants, and to pay them upon certain conditions. Wright executed a bond to the United States in the penalty of $100,000, upon the conditions set forth in the letter of instructions. One condition of the bond was, that if, for any cause, the money should not be paid to the claimant within four months after the date of its receipt, the same should be deposited with the Secretary of the Interior.
The amount of money paid to Mr. Wright for the three regiments of Indian Home Guards on account of back pay and bounty as reported by the Paymaster General, on the 19th of October 1869, was $323,819.40.
Mr. Wright failed to comply with the conditions of his bond, viz, to file receipts for payments made by him within the four months specified, or to deposit the money with the Secretary of the Interior. His attention was called to the delinquency, and in a letter addressed by him to the Commissioner of the Indian-Office, of December 26, 1866, he replied that he had been to the Indian country and paid about $150,000.
On the 24th of May, 1867, in answer to a report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated the 2d of February, 1867, upon an application of Mr. Wright for moneys collected and due for the services of enlisted Indians, the Acting Secretary of the Interior informed that officer that the Department deemed it best to adhere to the established rule, that all moneys due to the Indians shall be paid, to them through the duly accredited of the Department, without abatement.
The Commissioner was also directed to communicate this decision to Mr. Wright, and notify him that he was expected to file in the Indian-Office the requisite papers conformably the terms of his bond; and further, that proper steps were to be taken by the Indian Bureau for having the money in question paid to the Indians entitled thereto through agents, for their tribes. Of this decision Mr. Wright was informed in letter of the Commissioner, of May 23, 1867.
On the 28th of May. 1867, Mr. Wright replied, promising to famish the information required.
Until the 28th of July, 1869, the matter remained in the same condition, Mr. Wright still neglecting to render his accounts: when, by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, Wright was again called on to settle his affairs with the Government without delay.
On the 11th and 12th of August, 1869, the first receipts were filed by Mr. Wright, in the Indian-Office. These vouchers are deficient, irregular, and illegal in several respects, as specified in the accompanying papers, but the sum total is $136,737.04, leaving a balance unaccounted for of $187,082.36. Independent of the defects specified in the above vouchers, it is submitted that few if’ any of them are in accordance with the instructions given to Mr. ‘Wright, and the conditions of his bond, or in accordance with general usage or commercial law.
In addition to these facts, complaints, supported by affidavit, have been received at the Indian-Office from a number of Indians, that Wright had collected the moneys due to them, but that he had failed to pay it to them, and denied having received it.
August 2, 1869, by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretaries of War and of the Treasury and the Commissioner of Pensions were requested to consider no applications for bounty and back pay by attorneys unless the same were authorized by the Indian-Office, and that all correspondence relative to claims due and allowed for military service by the Indians be transmitted through the Indian-Office.
On the 13th October 1869, the Secretary of the Interior, through the Indian-Office. requested the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the proper Bureaus, in all cases of bounties and back pay accruing to Indians, their heirs, &c., to remit to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs the amount due, less the fees allowed by law; such fees to be paid by the respective Bureaus to the attorneys of the claimants who were authorized by the Indian-Office. Similar directions were given to the Commissioner of Pensions, in case of claims for pensions due Indians for military service. Since then, checks have been drawn, payable to the claimants for the amounts due them on account of hack pay and bounty, less the tees paid to Mr. Wright, and sent to the Indian-Office, and thence to the agent to be paid to the claimants. The amount thus paid to soldiers. through the Indian-Office, is $22,830, and the amount of lees paid to Mr. Wright, on account of same, $4,170.
On the 28th of May, 1870, Mr. Wright was informed by the Indian-Office, under the directions of the Secretary of the Interior, of the amount of his indebtedness to the Government en the account above mentioned, together with a statement of all the material facts connected therewith, and he was told that further delay in the settlement of his accounts could not be allowed, and that On his failure to comply with the requirements aforesaid the case would be submitted to the proper law-officers of the Government for legal proceedings against him. Mr. Wright replied on the 2d of June, 1870, inclosing a copy of a legal opinion by his counsel as to his responsibilities to the Government, and adding, in substance, that lie acted for the Indians in the matter under formal powers of attorney front them, and claiming to be governed, in closing the business, by his own sense of duty to his clients, to which sense of duty the instructions of the Department must be subordinate. On the 14th of June, 1870, the Paymaster General informed the Indian-Office, in reply to its inquiry of the 10th of June, 1870, that since his last report of 19th of October, 1869, (above referred to,) Treasury certificates amounting to $96,935.02 had issued to Mr. Wright as attorney for heirs of deceased members of the First, Second, and Third Regiments of Indian Home Guards by the Second Auditor of the Treasury, and had been cashed by the paymaster, and were so issued and cashed in the years 1867 and 1868, and drawn the 14th of April, 1869, since which date no payments have been made Mr. Wright, except for fees in cases where the claimants’ checks were sent to the Indian-Office, as above stated.
The Paymaster General adds to the above, that payments may have been made to Mr. Wright early in 1867, by Major Rochester, then in Washington, but since absent on distant service, having his papers and records with him. These papers and records, when received, will be examined for the purpose of ascertaining whether they show any payment to Mr. Wright, and if so, they will be reported.
On the 8th of June. 1870, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs again wrote to Mr. Wright, in reply to Mr. Wright’s letter of the 2d of June preceding, calling his attention to his additional indebtedness as reported by the Paymaster General.
He was informed that the office only desired to do its duty in effecting a settlement with him in accordance with the conditions of his bond. To this Mr. Wright replied June 23, 1870, repeating, in substance, his statement in his former letter of the 2d of June 1870 and stating that he did not net as special agent of the Indian-Office, but was merely recognized by it, and that, under the law, the Indian-Office had no control over the matter. He also enclosed a copy of a letter of the 28th of October (1867) from the late Secretary Browning, which, he claims, sustains his view of the subject.
A letter of Mr. Wright, bearing date 31st ultimo closes the correspondence on this case, and the copies herewith enclosed are referred to as containing more fully this abstract of the subject.
The letter of Mr. Browning, above referred to, is believed by this Department to have been written without reference to the fact of Mr. Wright’s appointment as special agent, and under a hasty if not mistaken view of the case, and is not regarded as intended to be a deliberate opinion upon the matter now in question.
In connection with this subject, it is further found that Mr. Wright has departed from the provisions of the act of June 14, 1866, by depositing in a private banking house in this city checks drawn to his order, as special agent, upon the United States Assistant Treasurer at New York, and causing the proceeds of the same to be carried to the credit of his private account in said bank.
The relations of the Government to the Indians are such that I am especially desirous that we may not be lacking in any proper effort to protect them.
It is my opinion that the appointment from the Department as special agent gave to Mr. Wright a practical monopoly of the collection of the claims of the Indians, and that his present assertion that such appointment was invalid, and his contract and bond without effect, ought not to be recognized unless clearly within the necessary construction of law. I have the honor to submit the case for your consideration.
If you shall be of opinion that the contract and obligation are binding, I would respectfully request your Department to assume control of the prosecution of Mr. Wright’s default under the same that full justice may be rendered to the Indians who are dependent upon the Government for protection.
The originals of the affidavits and other papers can be furnished if desired, and this Department will take pleasure in assisting you in obtaining any other testimony as to the facts that may be required.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
The Attorney General of the United Stales.
J. D. COX, Secretary,
No. 5 A.
Department Of The Interior,
Washington, D. C., December 9, 1871.
Sin: I enclose herewith a copy of a letter dated September 3, 1870, addressed to the Attorney General of the United States by Hon. J. D. Cox, late Secretary of the Interior, relative to the case of John W. Wright, United States special agent, against whom certain charges affecting his integrity have been filed in this Department.
It appears that there is no answer to said letter on file in this Department, and I desire you to inform me relative to the action taken in this case by the Department of Justice.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Hon. A. T. AKERMAN,
Attorney General of the United States.