Nuts for Future Historians to Crack - Part 6

Part 6


I will close my budget of "doc.u.ments" as "_McDonough_" would call them, for the present. When I open it again, the information to be drawn forth will be even more definite than that just given, and possibly, even still less palatable to Mr. Reed. He will pardon me for troubling him with two questions: Among the papers left by your grandfather, did you ever come across a copy of a very remarkable correspondence had between that person and General Anthony Wayne in 1781? If yea, why have you withheld it from publication? Although _you_ can answer this last question, I cannot; but I will tell you, Mr. Reed, what I can do: I can lay my hands upon a copy of the same correspondence, and I propose to entertain the readers of the Journal with a few selections, upon some not very distant occasion.

In Mr. Reed's selection of a _period of time_ to be ill.u.s.trated by the labors of "McDonough," it appears to me he has been unfortunate. If he had gone further back, he might have recounted some of the _real_ exploits of his grandfather, and spared _me_ the labor which his deficiencies have compelled me to undertake. If he had come a little further down, he might have dilated upon the performances of his father, a Recorder of the city of Philadelphia, and Treasurer and Secretary of the University of Pennsylvania. _That_ labor, also, I fear, will devolve upon me.


Monday, Sept. 25, 1842.

From the Evening Journal.

MR. WHITNEY--The communication of "McDonough" (alias U. S. Bank Reed,) in this Morning's Court Chronicle, manifests that there is no small degree of fluttering among the wounded pigeons of the "Holy Alliance." The a.s.sumption of "McDonough" that _you_ and "Valley Forge" are one and the same person, is a more novel than logical mode of disproving the truth of my allegations. But let Mr. Reed rest easy upon that score. _Who_ I am, is very little to the purpose; _what_ I a.s.sert is more germain to the matter--and let this lacquay of Nicholas Biddle deny _that_ if he dare, or disprove it if he can. If my charges are _true_, the ident.i.ty of their author with the editor of the Evening Journal could not detract from their truth; if _false_, a more obvious as well as conclusive mode of establishing their falsity presents itself.

But the truth is, that no arrow which has been shot into the camp of the "Holy Alliance" rankles more deeply, or has worked worse execution, than the exposure of the authorship of "McDonough." Not that Mr. Reed is by any means, either intellectually or extrinsically, the most formidable member of the combination; but now it is known that _he_ is the author of those attacks upon the character of a good citizen, of a man against whom for years the minions of the Bank have been directing their warfare without the ability to discover a crevice in his coat of mail, the arm of the puny a.s.sailant falls paralyzed to his side, and his intended victim laughs at him in a tone of scorn, in which the whole community partic.i.p.ates.

_William B. Reed_ to prate of patriotism! _William B. Reed_ to declaim upon honor and patriotism! For the chimney-sweep to prate of cleanliness would not be more anomalous. With what grace does the defence of the United States Bank come from this "McDonough" of the Chronicle, when we know him to be the veriest lick-spittle that Nicholas Biddle, in his day of pride and power, ever retained in his service? As the friend of Nicholas Biddle, as his purchased tool and agent, rather, Mr. Reed has never, for an instant, hesitated to sacrifice to the promotion of the interests of the Bank, every public trust which for the time being was confided to his keeping. Why is it that Mr. Reed has never yet explained away or answered the very extraordinary and _specific_ disclosures of _bribery_ which a correspondent of the Ledger made against him in the summer of 1841?

Disclosures so astonishing that the eyes of the public, although long accustomed to look upon the doings of the man with distrust, dilated with astonishment. He was accused by the correspondent of the Ledger with having as a member of the House of Representatives, _accepted bribes from the Bank of the United States_; the several amounts were specified; doc.u.ments were even refered[TN] to; and yet Mr. Reed, instead of maintaining his good ground and confronting his accuser, flies the city, absents himself for some time upon the plea of a previously arranged excursion of pleasure; and when, after his return, driven at length to a show of explanation, he parades in print an evasion of charges, so paltry that its sophistry would degrade the merest pettifoger in Mr. Biddle's Court of Criminal Sessions.

But since Mr. William B. Reed, alias Mr. U. S. B. McDonough, is so pure a patriot, and has such a holy horror of "treason" and "traitors," I will give him a few facts upon which to reflect, and with which he may enrich and ill.u.s.trate his future lucubrations.

_Fact No. 1._--That Mr. William B. Reed is, or claims to be, the grandson of General Joseph Reed, of Revolutionary memory.

_Fact No. 2._--That Mr. William B. Reed is feelingly alive upon the subject of his grandfather's memory, and has devoted the labors of nearly his whole life to establish the popular delusion that his grandfather's patriotism underwent the severest test and ordeal of the revolutionary struggle.

_Fact No. 3._--That Mr. William B. Reed has written essays, reviews and paragraphs innumerable, to induce the public to believe, that when in 1778 or 1779, Governor Johnstone and the other British Commissioners, proposed to General Reed a reward of 10,000 pounds sterling, and a lucrative office, upon condition that he would lend himself to the views of Great Britain, he indignantly spurned the proposal, and replied, "I am not worth the purchase, but such as I am, King George is not rich enough to make it."

_Fact No. 4._--That no such proposal was ever made to General Joseph Reed, and that General Joseph Reed never made any such reply.

_Fact No. 5._--That General Joseph Reed endeavoured to effect a negotiation with the British Commissioners, and actually commenced it, to ascertain what he might expect, in money and office, in case he succeeded in effecting a reconciliation between the colonies and the mother country, or in other words, that he would be instrumental in causing the revolted colonies to return to their allegiance to Great Britain!

_Fact No. 6._--That General Joseph Reed, after much chaffering as to the price, finally proffered his services to the British Commissioners, to effect the objects mentioned in "Fact No. 5," for the sum of 10,000 pounds sterling in hand, a Chief Justiceship, and the right to a tract of land West and North-West of the then city of Philadelphia, upon a part of which the Cherry Hill Penitentiary is now erected, and the whole of which, is at this time probably worth from five to seven millions of dollars.

_Fact No. 7._--That while this negotiation was pending, and while the hucksters were haggling as to the terms upon which it should close, it came to the ears of the American Commander-in-Chief, that General Reed was engaged in a very suspicious correspondence with the British Commissioners; that General Washington sent for General Reed, and in the presence of his staff, informed him of what he had heard, and demanded an explanation; and that General Reed, finding denial out of the question, admitted that overtures had been made to him by Governor Johnstone and his colleagues, but that he had replied to them; "I am not worth the purchase, but such as I am, King George is not rich enough to make it."

_Fact No. 8._--That this patriotic reply of General Joseph Reed, to the attributed overtures of the British Commissioners, had its _sole origin_ in the explanation with which he sought to dispel the suspicions of General Washington; that General Washington ever after continued to regard him with great distrust; and that several years subsequently, when General Reed, in the presence of General Washington, was descanting upon the patriotic reply with which he had foiled the British Commissioners, General Washington turned away in disgust, and remarked to a friend, in a tone of voice sufficiently audible to be heard by all present--_"I know the fellow well, and am satisfied that he wanted but a price and an opportunity to play us as false as Arnold."_

When Mr. Reed shall have sufficiently pondered over the facts thus enumerated, I shall descend the ladder a step from his grandfather, and come to his more immediate progenitor! Of him, I shall have the great question to ask--what is the reason of his aversion to sunshine, that he secludes himself all day like an owl or a bat? But the grandfather will suffice for the present. Mr. Reed has certainly taken uncommon pains to keep up the public delusion upon this subject. Let him know (what he will soon know to his mortification,) that there yet survives a veteran of the revolution--one whose mental faculties are undimmed by age--whose very physical frame, time has treated with tenderness and respect--whose keen and lively intelligence retains its ancient vigour--a Revolutionary soldier, who well knew Joseph Reed; who equally well knew George Washington; and who intends to give to the world, at no very distant day, his knowledge of them, and of much beside.

Mr. Reed has fair warning--let him look to it.

Monday, Sept. 19, 1842. VALLEY FORGE.

From the Evening Journal.

MR. WHITNEY:--Since your publication of my last, "McDonough" has slacked his fire wonderfully. It is surprising how one's tone becomes altered after the discovery is made that the former idea of _invulnerability_ was a great mistake. The home truths pressed upon Mr. William Bradford Reed (I believe this is the first time that the public have been made acquainted with the learned gentleman's name in full) have proved to be of unpalatable flavor and difficult digestion; and it is not, therefore to be wondered at that they should have for him no relish. I have not yet done with the revolutionary reminiscences of his grandfather; that worthy whom "King George was not rich enough to buy," although, as he himself modestly admitted, he was "_not worth purchasing_:"

The writer of this paragraph had an opportunity, very many years since, when Mr. Reed was a student of the Pennsylvania University, of becoming somewhat intimately acquainted with his bent of mind; and if there ever was a school-boy despised and detested by his fellows, William was that youth.

"The boy's the father of the man," and those who have known him only in his ripened years, if they apply the truth of this axiom, will have no difficulty in correctly conjecturing what must have been his early youth.

Even then his predominant weakness was to almost daily, and by the hour, expatiate upon the merits of his _great_ "grandfather," and to entertain boys, smaller and younger than himself, with the revolutionary exploits--more numerous and diversified far than those with a narration of which Oth.e.l.lo beguiled the fair Desdemona, performed by that distinguished personage: and in particular, how "the General" had repulsed the proffered bribe of the Treasury of Great Britain, and his pick and choice of the most lucrative office in the Colonies.

Down to this day, this has continued to be the habit of Mr. Reed; and to such an extent has he indulged it, that he has become the b.u.t.t and laughing stock of his acquaintance.

"O, wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae manie a blunder free us, An foolish notion!"

The extraordinary pains taken by Mr. Reed, to circulate the notion of his grandfather's more than Roman patriotism, would, of itself, be a circ.u.mstance calculated to induce suspicion of their being "something rotten in Denmark;" but, fortunately for the truth of history, the _proofs_ of General Reed's treachery and meditated "treason," [TN](if not _actual_ treason, are extant--and the veteran, to whom in my last I referred, will, in due time, give them to the world. The descendants of General Reed have succeeded long enough in imposing upon the American people, as a patriot and a hero of the "times that tried men's souls," a wretch, who, in the emphatic language of General Washington, spoke in his presence and hearing, "wanted but a price and an opportunity to play us false as Arnold!" who, while his fellow soldiers were stinted of food and scant of clothing, was in actual treaty with the British Commissioners, to betray the American Army, and their Commander-in-Chief, and their cause, _and their Country_, to Great Britain, for the consideration of ten thousand pounds sterling, a judicial office, and a tract of land!!!

By a monstrous suppression of truth, and an adroit perversion of the explanation which General Reed gave to the demands of the American Commander-in-Chief, respecting his correspondence with the British Commissioners, his descendants have managed, so far, with tolerably general success, to thrust into the ranks of the Carrolls and Hanc.o.c.ks, the Putnams and Warrens of the Revolution, a "traitor," who entered into the struggle as a matter of speculation; and who, from the date of his appointment, in 1774, as one of the Committee of Correspondence of Philadelphia, down to the detection of the fact, some years after, that he was engaged in a correspondence with the British Commissioners, watched with untiring vigilance, for a proper "opportunity" to betray, for a sufficient "price,"

the cause, and the country, to the tender mercies of George the Third and his ministry! There is scarcely a Review or Magazine, published in the country, into which, under the pretext of reviewing some publication, Mr.

William B. Reed has not contrived to obtrude some panegyric of his grandfather's patriotism--fulsome, even if true, but most monstrous when considered with reference to its unworthy object.

Not content with chaunting Gen. Reed's praise as an "invisible singer," Mr.

Reed has not hesitated to take the field openly, and in person, and sound the trumpet in the ears and before the eyes of the astonished lookers on.

Before every literary or collegiate a.s.sociation which he has been called on, or _finefied_ to have himself invited to address, the eternal burden of his song has been, "I am the grandson of the great and good patriot, General Joseph Reed, of revolutionary memory, who replied to the emissaries of Great Britain, when they offered him his own terms to further the views of England, 'I am not worth the purchase, but poor as I am, King George is not rich enough to make it.'" At New York, a few years since--afterwards, in the Musical Fund Hall, in this city--more recently at d.i.c.kinson College--quite lately at Harvard University, in short, everywhere, and on all occasions, the self same tune has lulled his audiences into a general slumber. How any one whose cheek is not formed of bra.s.s, can stand up as Mr. Reed has accustomed himself to do, and thus dole out, on all occasions, and before all a.s.semblies, the patriotism of a grandfather for whose "treason" he should blush, I am at a loss to imagine. Even if deserved modesty ought to insinuate that the tribute would be more appropriately paid, and in better taste, by other voices.

But the strongest part of all is, that Mr. Reed, with that full knowledge which I know him to possess (and which I will satisfy him that I _know_ him to possess) of his grandfather's traitorous designs and conduct, should, nevertheless, have succeeded in steeling himself to the habit which has made him so supremely and universally ridiculous.

Whenever it is announced that a new work is in preparation, in any way connected with the events of the American Revolution, poor Mr. William B.

Reed "gets the fidgets." He throws business, as Macbeth did physic,--to the dogs; he can hardly delay for the introduction of a supply of clean linen into his carpet-bag; but, jumping into the next steamboat or railroad car, he travels post-haste till he has reached the residence of the author, whom he never leaves till he has fully satisfied himself that the projected work is to contain nothing that can detract from the spurious fame of General Reed, or call into question the truth of his attributed reply to the British Commissioners. Poor Mr. Jared Sparks must have had a hard time of annoyance during the long series of years in which he was engaged in preparing for the press his editions of the correspondence of Washington and Franklin. Mr. Bancroft, the author of _the_ History of the United States, is, at present, a particularly prominent object of Mr. Reed's dread. Indefatigable in his researches he cannot have failed to become possessed of some of the evidences of General Reed's "treason," and, stern in his impartiality, it is not to be supposed that he will hesitate to place before the world the character and doings of this miscreant in their true colours. Fearful of this, Mr. Reed has long been engaged in playing the _toady_ to Mr. Bancroft: with what success thus far, remains to be seen: but one thing is certain, that Mr. Bancroft will have placed in his hands, in time to inform him fully for his preparation of that volume of his history in which it will become necessary for him to introduce the name of General Joseph Reed, letters and doc.u.ments that will establish the "treason" of that worthy beyond a doubt.

The last volume of Mr. Bancroft's work comes down no later than 1784; so that there will probably appear another volume before the period of General Reed's exploits will become the subject of his composition; and of this length of time Mr. Reed will doubtless endeavor to take advantage and make good use. He has just made a formidable demonstration upon Mr. Bancroft.

"At the recent literary festival at Cambridge," (to borrow the language of Mr Reed, contained in his late letter to the editors of the National Intelligencer, concerning Mr. Graham, the historian,) Mr. Reed's _toadying_ of Mr. Bancroft was the subject of general comment. Not content with the display of his fulsome civilities on that occasion, Mr. Reed has since forced an opportunity of volunteering to the editors of the National Intelligencer, the letter to which I have just alluded; in which under the pretext of honouring the memory of the late James Graham, Esq., the English author of a History of American Colonies, Mr. Bancroft is plastered with praise. It is thus that Mr. Reed seeks either to impose upon Mr. Bancroft the same "Romance of American History," in which the grandfather is the personage, with which he flatters himself he has duped every body else, or to disarm him of any intention of publishing the _true_ history of his connection with the British Commissioners.--And what most of all enhances the meanness of Mr. Reed's conduct is the fact, that, but a year or two since, he was accustomed, at the Whig political meetings of this city, to make Mr. Bancroft (who then held the office of Collector of the Port of Boston, and was a prominent Democrat,) the especial object of his abuse, lavished upon him in the most unmeasured terms.

Such is the man, who, with a thorough knowledge of his grandfather's delinquencies, persists in upholding him to the world as a true and sterling patriot; who, knowing him to be a "_Traitor_," steeped in "_Treason_" to the very eyelids, and seeking to barter away his country and its liberties for British gold and office, represents him, unblushingly, as the worthy compeer of Washington, a fellow labourer in the same vineyard, toiling from the rising to the setting of the sun!!! But Mr. Reed's race of eulogy of his ancestors is nearly run. The proof of that man's treachery, long known to the _few_, will soon be promulgated to the _many_--to the WORLD. How _then_, will Mr. William B. Reed feel, when he remembers his itinerant career of laudation; his journeyings by sea and by land, that the trumpet of General Joseph Reed's praises might be sounded? His essays, reviews, addresses, and heaven only knows what all besides? But, above all, how will he _then_ feel when he remembers that, under the stolen name of a naval hero of the Late War, he, this worthy descendant of a Traitor and Tory of the Revolution, once devoted whole weeks to the malignant endeavour to fasten upon a pure and unoffending citizen the very crime of "Treason,"

of which he knew his own grandfather to have been guilty?

With one or two little anecdotes, (the character of which may somewhat surprise Mr. Reed at the extent and accuracy of my information,) I close for the present. I will select those which Mr. Reed has the best reasons for knowing to be true. During the visit of Lafayette to this country, the father of Mr. William B. Reed, (Mr. Joseph Reed, the late Recorder of Philadelphia,) called on the General at his quarters, in this city, and requested the honour of a private interview. The General (who had been waited upon by Mr. Reed before, in company with the authorities, and other citizens) intimated his numerous and pressing engagements; but Mr. Reed persisting, the interview was granted; one not strictly private, however, there being two other gentlemen present. Mr. Reed informed the General that his object was to obtain from him some revolutionary anecdotes, of which he was convinced he must possess a stock, of his father, the late General Joseph Reed. General Lafayette's countenance immediately fell: he endeavoured politely to evade Mr. Reed's request; at last, as Mr. Reed would take nothing short of downright refusal, the General was, at length, compelled to remark, "I am sorry to say, sir, that I am acquainted with no anecdotes of the late General Reed which it would be pleasant for his son or any of his friends to hear." Mr. R. having bowed himself out of the room in great confusion, the General remarked to one of the gentleman present, in surprise, "This is very strange! Can it be possible that Mr. Reed is ignorant of the opinion which the officers of the Revolution entertained of his father?" And now for another, in which Mr. William B. Reed himself figured. A year or two before the death of Bishop White, he called on the venerable prelate and made a request precisely similar to that with which his father had troubled General Lafayette. Anxious to spare his feelings, the good Bishop endeavoured to change the subject; but, no other mode offering of escaping from the pertinacity of Mr. Reed, he said to him, "Young man, upon the subject of your grandfather, the least that's said, will be soonest mended!"

In my next, I will so far follow the example of McDonough, as to publish a few "Doc.u.ments," the original of which will be consigned, before long, to Mr. Bancroft.


Sept. 23d, 1842.

From the Evening Journal,

MR. WHITNEY:--The Jeremiads of the Forum and the Evening Courier shall not deter me from the task which I have deliberately a.s.sumed, and which I mean to carry out, of exposing the treachery of the late General Joseph Reed, and the delinquencies of his living grandson, Mr. William Bradford Reed.

Why, instead of _deprecation_, do not these journals give _disproof_? Is a fellow to be canonized as a saint, because he is no longer of the living?

Then let all history be rewritten, and let the puling mawkishness which the hypocrites call manly indignation, reject from the page of history the infamy of a Nero, the cruelty of a Tiberius, and the treason of an Arnold.

If it be proper for the entertainment or instruction of posterity, that the vices and crimes of the men of history shall be faithfully detailed, why should not the "_treason_" of General Reed, contemplated or effected, be spread upon his country's annals? Above all, when he and his descendants have adroitly disguised his villainy with the varnish of incorruptible patriotism, why should the hand which has the power to tear off the mask, and expose the enormity of guilt, be made to fall, self-withheld and self-paralyzed, from the effort? These are questions which admit of but one reply. I shall _go on_, and in continuation of my developments, I here subjoin another letter from Col. Samuel Smith to the same gentleman to whom was addressed his last.

_Baltimore, October 2d, 1832._

MY DEAR COLONEL--I acknowledge the receipt of your two very kind letters since I left Washington, and thank you for the acceptable accompaniment of the last. Also, for the pamphlet on Cholera which you have sent--I loaned it to several of our medical gentlemen, and they all seem to think highly of it.