Letter from Hon, D.W. Voorhees
to Brig. Gen. H.B. Carrington.
Sir:--Your favor of the 16th is at hand, in which I am informed that certain letters belon[g]ing to me have been stolen. You do not directly state whether you committed the theft yourself, or whether you employed some one else; but inasmuch as you have possession of the stolen property, and avow it as if you had done something to be proud of, you will of course not object to being considered the principal in this act of petty larceny and lock-picking. There are some titles to distinction which you claim, and which are not, I believe, generally conceded to you by the public. No one, however, will dispute your right to this.
You take great pains in your communication to convey a false impression in regard to the circumstances under which you examined and purloined my private correspondence. In November, 1863, I locked my desk, my drawers and my office in the usual manner, and left for Washington City. I did not return to Terre Haute until the 10th of dune, 1864.
During my absence I authorized the owner of tho property to rent it and take charge of my books and papers, He rented it some time in the spring to a man by the name of Muzzy, and with a mistaken confidence, suffered everything belonging to me to remain under his control. Here, General, was your easy opportunity. I was nearly a thousand miles away, a political enemy had possession of my desks and drawers, and all you had to do was to apply tho burglar's art, prepare false keys, pick my locks, and you at once had access to my private, confidential correspondence, embracing a period of seven years. I have every reason to believe that you read it all letter by letter. You took your time, and like the furtive, thieving magpipe, narrowly inspected each line and word, to find, if possible, some expression of opinion which your servile political creed holds to be disloyal. There were many letters there from cherished friends who are dead. There was a bundle also from my wife in regard to our domestic affairs. If you have stolon these, also, please return them as they can be of no value except to the owner. I have heard of generous house-breakers and pickpockets doing as much as that.
I confess to one very disagreeable sensation in this affair. It is the thought that the evidences of long years of friendship and affection should be subjected to the scrutiny of such an eye as yours.
You wear the uniform of a Brigadier General. and I believe you are a colonel in the regular army. Do you imagine that such an act as robbing private drawers and publishing private letters, will bring honor to your rank in the estimation of gentlemen? Have you ever read here and there a scrap of history? Do you know in what a light the slimy informer, the eavesdroper, the pitiful spy on the affairs of domestic and private life, have always been regarded by honorable men? Did you ever read the invectives of Curra before the juries of Ireland against just such conduct as yours? If you have not, I advise you to do so, and you will there see yourself in a mirror as others see you at all times. Titus Oates pretended to see plots, conspiracies and treason just as you pretend you are doing. He got rich at it, as I presume you are doing. He sacrificed the lives of many of the best eitizens of England.--You may do the same in this country by your sensational falsehoods and reckless disregard of the public peace. Just the parallel may go further. A healthy reaction took place, and Titus Oates, the plot-finder of Kngland, stood in the stocks and was pelted by the multitude. His ears were cropped close to his head; he was whipped at the tail of a cart a dozen times through the streets of London. These acts of vengeance against him were only expressive of the feelings which virtuous mankind everywhere entertain towards the wretch who turns universal witness against his fellow men who, in times of great public excitement and trouble, seeks to aggravate the public distress by pretending to find everybody guilty but himself and his own followerss; who crawls into bed rooms, who ransacks bureaus, who picks locks, and pilfers the private thoughts of friends. You have studied this great English informer as your example; would you not do well to study his fate? Popular delusions do not last always, and the day is even now at hand when your presence among gentlemen will be regarded as a signal to cease conversation for fear you will betray it when your presence in a room will cause its occupants to secure every loose letter or paper that may be in sight for fear you steal it; and when your presence in a town will cause everybody to lock their offices or remain in them to guard against your approach.
I am told that you have been often ordered to the field to meet the armed enemies of your country. I have formerly expressed my surprise that you did not go. You were educated, if I am not mistaken, at West Point by the Government, and my experience among army officers has been that as a class, they were men of courage, high breeding and honor. They have generally esteemed it their duty to be in the front in time of War. But all general rules are, proven by their exceptions, and you are the exception in this instance. I shall no longer wonder that you remain in Indiana, nor shall I be surprised if on an other invasion of our State you are again put under arrest and relieved of your command. Your vocation is certainly not the sword. You should lay it aside as too honorable for you to wear, and in its place, as the enblem of your calling, you should wear a bunch of false keys, and a set of burglar's tools. Nor should you keep the uniform of a soldier any longer--its place should be supplied by the usual disguise, falsefaces, wigs, aud gum elastic shoes, which night prowlers, and housbreakers usually wear.
But a word or two, General, in regard to the letters themselves. You have raked a drag net over many years of my most private correspondence. What did you get after all your baseness and ail your labor? The result will hardly pay you for the universal detestation which will always cling to your conduct. Let us see. One of my friends writes me that he fears our liberties will be destroyed in the hands of those who are now in power. He predicts that Mr. Lincoln, aided by such willing instuments as you, will attempt to raise a despotism on the ruins of the Republic.--His fears and Iiis predictions thus expressed in June, 1861, hare been fully verified. He says a peaceable separation would have been better than this. It is not for you to complain of such a sentiment. I have heard you publicly express your great admiration for Mr. Chase. He held the same doctrine expressed by Mr. Ristine, and at a later date than Mr. Ristine's letter. I refer you to the speech of General Blair on that point. But the Indianapolis Journal said the same thing only in stronger terms. So did the Cincinnati Commercial the New York Tribune, and many other leading Republican organs. What importance, then can you attach to such an expression of opinion?
But you found an old letter from my good old Uncle in Virginia. Poor scandal monger that you are, I cannot even permit you much enjoyment in that. I was in Harrisonburg in June, 1860, Mr. Lincoln was not elected. There was no talk of secession in Virginia. On the contrary the feeling on behalf of the Union was overwhelming. But there was a deep irritation yet in the popular mind in regard to the John Brown raid which had recently occurred. I was serenaded at my uncle's house, and made a short speech. Alluding to the murderous invasion of her soil by John Brown, I stated that such deeds were condemned in the State where I lived, and that if needs be a hundred thousand men from Indiana would march to protect the citizens of Virginia against any future abolition raid. In February, 1861, when war became imminent, I supposed it looked to Mr. Hardesty as if it would be an abolition war, and he simply reminded me of what I had said on his door steps to the citizens of Harrisonburg. Do you think the publication of this bit of stolen information will materially effect the Presidential election? Little minds catch at little things.
But you found a letter from Senator Wall, of New Jersey, enclosing one to him from a gentleman by the name of Carr on the subject of guns. This seems to be the desperate point. I know nothing of Mr. Carr. I never answered his letter.--I am not much of a trader, and such matters as this I rarely find time to attend to. But on this point I do not mean to be misunderstood. I fully endorse the constitutional right of the people to bear arms for their self defense. The value of this right is greatly enhanced when one political party is armed by the administration, at the common expense, to overawe the other. You, of course, will not deny that the Republican party has been armed with Government arms for nearly two years. It is true that this organization is known as the "Home Guard," but guns are distributed by government officials to their political adherents who do not pretend to belong to any military organization whatever.
And when companies have been formed according to law, and asked for arms, they have been refused because they were Democrats. Why is all this? From the conduct of many of these so-called "Home Guards," and the conduct of such officers as you--the Democratic party has been led to the firm belief that these warlike preparations have more reference to carrying elections and subduing the freedom of speech and of a union in the North, than they have to the suppression of armed rebellion in the South. They have paraded in front of my own house, in my absence, and with United States muskets in their hands, in large numbers, insulted and terrified my wife and children. These were simply members of the Republican party, and the guns which they carried had been given to them by Governor Morton by your advice, I presume, and consent.--What has occurred to me has occurred to thousands of others. Do you suppose that you can arm our neighbors to outrage and insult us without any disastrous results? Do you think we will lick the hand that strikes us? Do you imagine that the Democratic party will submit to be trampled and spit upon? We have borne much, very much, and perhaps you think we will bear all, and everything. If you do, allow me, for the sake of the peace and welfare of the State, to assure you of your error. We will obey the laws of the land. We have always done so, but we have made up our minds that others shall do the same, that is a fair proposition, and those who are unwilling to embrace it can take the conseqences. Democrats have all the rights which Republicans have, and among those which they share in common is the right to bear arms for their defense and protection.
Now, General, but a few words more and I will leave you to the uninterrupted enjoyment of the glory which you have achieved in this miserable affair. There is one letter of mine in your possession which I am willing you should publish.--You will remember an interview about a year ago between us at Terre Haute House in the presence of Judge Key. You have opened your ears to tale bearers and slanderers, and you came down from Indianapolis in great excitement to quell the terrible outbreak which you imagined was about to take place in this District. You wanted to go to Sullivan County, and at your request, I gave you a note in the shape of a pass, stating that the bearer was General Carrington, and asking for him respectful treatment. You did not need any such protection from me, but you tho't you did, and showed it to my friends for that purpose in the town of Sullivan.
You seem to be of late in a similar panic and under a similar delusion. There is really, however, no danger of disturbance among the people except such as your own folly and wickedness may create. You do not need a pass to travel through here unless that it might be that the people should fear that you came to ransack their drawers or something of that kind.
In conclusion, permit me in all kindness, to suggest, that if you could persuade yourself to mind your own business, make a great deal less fuss about nothing, trust the honesty and intelligence of the people somewhat, keep your hands away from what is not your own, speak the truth, give up the trade of common informer and abandon all idea that you can scare anybody, every thing will go well and peace and good order will everywhere prevail.--If you cannot do these things, however, which I suspect is beyond your power, then by all means seek some other field of labor and let a gentleman, and a man of honor take your place.
It is perhaps proper for me to say by way of apology for this letter that I have written it more to meet the interests of the public than for any regard which I have for your good or bad opinion concerning me or my friends. Your conduct has placed you beyond the notice of gentlemen. I am engaged in no plots or conspiracies, and never have been. What I have done has been in the open day what I shall do in the future will be done in the same manner. But it is of small moment to me what you think on that subject. It is out of respect to a very different class of men that I have thus taken notice of your larceny of my property, and your assault upon my character.
Terre Haute, August 23, 1864.