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Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory,
December 21, 1870.
SIR: In the case of Peggy Wilson, widow of Lacy Wilson, certificate No. 104,631, we have this day suspended further payment on account of discrepancies between the allegations of her original declaration and those of her deposition of this date. The appearance of the pensioner, her advanced age, quiet deportment, and the promptness with which she responded to our interrogations, indicate her honesty and enlist our sympathies. We are inclined to believe her entitled to pension, though not upon the declaration and testimony on which her certificate was issued. It is a case which probably illustrates the utter recklessness with which most Indian claims have been drawn and substantiated. Having every facility for attestation and verification of testimony, care was taken only to have statements correspond with the Government records, and truth was disregarded, even when it was easily attainable and would have been equally efficacious as the statements connected. A slight comparison of the two papers enclosed will satisfy you of these facts.
The original declaration is represented as made before Judge “Crofford,” with his signature appended and the seal of the Cherokee Nation affixed. Such a thing as the signature of Judge “Crofford” does not exist. Robert Crawford is judge of this district, and is unable to write at all. The signature was written by Albert Barnes, who was (or is) clerk of the court, and whose office, together with the pension agency, was in the room occupied by J. Brown Wright, claim agent. The seal is the same as is affixed to most of the testimony included among the papers seized by the United States authorities, and the manner of its use and the credit to which it is entitled can be estimated only upon an examination of the documents now in our possession, upon many of which, whether entirely blank or partially filled, it appears indiscriminately. Pensioner, in her deposition, (see interrogatories 17 and 18,) avers that she knows Crawford, judge, and Barnes, clerk, of the court; that neither was present when she made her mark to her declaration, (interrogatories 18, 20, and 21;) and further, that she was not sworn at all.
2. Pensioner deposes (interrogatory 7) marriage in the fall of 1841 or ’42, by a judge of one of the courts of the nation, which allegation differs from that of the declaration in respect to time and party officiating, as it does also respecting the locality.
In addition, your attention is particularly directed to the answer to interrogatories 14 and 15, wherein pensioner deposes as to place and manner of the execution of her declaration. We are both aware of the impracticability of requiring, in this country, the formalities and precision demanded of claimants in communities more highly civilized and better organized. The hardship which will be imposed upon Indian pensioners in consequence of inexcusable carelessness and dishonesty of their agents is great and regretted by us. But, on the assumption that a gratuity from the Government should not be allowed upon fabricated testimony, we can only recommend the suspension of this and similar cases.
We would be pleased to have an expression of your approval of our action, as we believe that in more cases similar to that of Mrs. Wilson, and filed through the same medium, it will be found that the evidence disagrees with the facts; and of such are a very large proportion of the admitted and pending claims preferred by the Indians of this Territory. Until the receipt of instructions, we shall continue to pursue the policy indicated by our action in this case.
Very respectfully, yours,
GEO. E. WEBSTER,
F. E. FOSTER.
Hon. H. VAN AERNAM, Commissioner of Pensions.