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ms were believes individuals or firmese examined, to find, it
the books and accounts of the office were examined, to find, it seems, the amount paid to three individuals or firms; and, as the three individuals or firms were believed to have been permitted, in a great measure, to inonopolize the Government supplies at this navy yard and station, the sum total paid for purchases to all others is ascertained in like manner, and the first being made greater than the last in despite of the books and accounts, the complaint is thus entirely sustained " without one word of comment." · We next find the same sweeping, summary process adopted by the commissioner, under this head of complaint, in relation to payments made to Messrs. N. C. Whitehead & Co. and Whitehead & Beale for medicines and hospital stores, &c. He says, of the whole amount disbursed by the agent, under the head of medicines and hospital stores, three firms have received more than one-half. The paper C explains, at once, how the whole sum paid to Messrs. N. C. Whitehead & Co. and Whitehead & Beale is made up the medical supplies proper constituting but a small portion of the aggregate, and being really less than the amount paid to other druggists. All articles in bills of this description, except medicines and instruments, are charged at cost, and, of course, impose additional trouble, without compensation, upon the druggist procuring them. But with respect to all supplies in this line, whether for sea-going ships, hospital or other service, the complaint that the agent has “permitted ceitain personis to monopolize them at this yard and station” is utterly destitute of a shadow of support. Under an order from the Board of Navy Commissioners, issued more than five years ago, the surgeons of the yard and hospital purchase their own supplies; and, the reasons for this order applying with still greater force to surgeons attached to séagoing ships, (the supplies being larger in quantity and more various,) these also make their own purchases, being deemed more competent to judge of the quality as well as the prices of the articles required. It must, then, appear perfectly obvious, touching this matter of complaint, that, if any thing in the slightest degree approximating the form or character of a monopoly has existed at this station during the period in question, ihe surgeons themselves are accountable, and doubtless, in every case, would be at no loss to furnish ample ground for the preference, which is now for the first time distorted into grievous cause of complaint. The agent, it is certain, has never attempted to advise, recommend, or interpose in any manner as to the individuals or firms from whom the supplies should be obtained ; yet the commissioner, in this part of his report, reiterates the complaint in the most offensive form by stating that " Messrs. Whitehead & Beale are at this time engaged in putting up the medical supplies for the U. S. ship Cyane, no change in the system having been yet effected by the investigation recently set on foot.” The simple truth of the case stated is this :.
The surgeon of the Cyane, (Dr. Clymer,) whom the agent had never before seen, called at the office within a few days after his arrival for his travelling allowance, and, in the course of conversation, inquired for the náme of the druggist by whoin medical supplies were usually furnished for ships of war. He was informed, in reply, that the surgeons '(whò were believed to be best informed upon the subject) made selections for themselves, and that he would accordingly be left to pursue that course. He then added that, having been advised by a medical friend upon the station froin whom he had better obtain his supplies, the inquiry was made merely to get the name of the druggist, which had for the moment escaped him. The agent still declined giving any name, stating that, as the town was not large, he could readily ascertain all the dealers in that line, and thus be enabled to procure all the supplies required for the ship in a manner inost satisfactory to himself and upon the most favorable terms. This occurred in the presence of the clerks in the office, during the investigation; and whilst it would seem to be sufficient of itself to repel effectually the idea of any sort of interference, on the part of the agent, in order " to permit certain persons to monopolize these supplies," it has been fastened upon by the distempered vision of this most just and charitable commissioner as a marked aggravation of the alleged complaint. The fact that Messrs. Whitehead & Beale were engaged in putting up the medical supplies for the Cyane at the time the cominissioner's report was in course of preparation, or perhaps within a few hours after this conversation in the agent's office, was, doubtless, owing to information and advice obtained by Dr. Clymer from some one or more of his medical friends upon the station, or froin his own inquiries among the several dealers in the town.
With regard to the supplies of ship chandlery and hardware, which figure so conspicuously in the report under this complaint, the accompany. ing letter (marked B) from the agent to the Board of Navy Commissioners, dated 26th January last, explains fully the mode of procuring them and the reasons for its adoption. Whether this mode be deemed expedient or otherwise, as the letter was addressed to the board inany months prior to the investigation, it can hardly be imagined that any motive or desire has, at any time, existed to suppress or withhold information upon the subject, when a great deal more was communicated than seemed to be called for. And as the mode of purchase as well as the prices of the various articles were distinctly stated, it doubtless met the entire approbation of the board; or, at any rate, no disapproval has ever been intimated. This mode of purchasing ship chandlery and hardware is considered the best, and indeed the only one that can be adopted, to secure the supplies required at this station, at all times promptly, of the description and quality called for, and upon the most favorable terins. If not pursued since the first establishment of the agency, it certainly has been during the last twenty years-embracing the terms of my two predecessors—under three different administrations. And if, at any time, upon a fair, impar. tial inquiry, it should appear that prices of certain articles range higher here, or, on an average, exceed the prices paid at the stations to the North, it must be recollected that nearly all the supplies (except timber) are brought from the Northern cities, and come to us burdened with the increased charges of freight and insurance; besides, exchange always against us, and not unfrequently within the last few years mounting as high as seven or eight per cent. It is confidently believed, however, that our prices for all articles will bear a favorable comparison with those paid at other naval stations, and, with respect to many articles purchused in Northern markets, are even lower at this station; whilst it is doubtful if a single instance can be stated of an article which has ever been furnished for the service at a Northern station at a lower price than that paid here.
The view thus briefly presented will show in what manner and to what extent the interests of Government are involved in the monopoly com.
ever cercar. S. Bern introduce purpose.sly desig & Beale, for accounts of W.C. Kin
plained of; which will also derive additional light from the testimony introduced to sustain the second ground of the complaint, “that the sup. plies have been procured in an exceptionable manner and paid for at unusual and exorbitant prices." The limits assigned to this communication forbid any extended remarks naturally suggested by this part of the report, tending to illustrate the strange character of the proceeding, and especially of the instruments used to accomplish the main object in view. I shall notice such points only as are deemed at all material, omitting the vast mass of irrelevant matter, obviously designed to swell the volume of the report or for some worse purpose. In support of this complaint, the commissioner first introduces three dealers in drugs and medicines, (Messrs. R. S. Bernard, N. C. King, and T. D. Toy,) who, after looking over certain accounts of Messrs. N. C. Whitehead & Co. and Whitehead & Beale, for medicines and hospital stores, testify: · R. S. Bernard, “That the articles charged in those accounts are generally higher than he charges ;" "many of them are much higher-some five, some ten, and some one hundred per cent. above his prices :".
N. C. King, “That there are some articles charged at one, two, and three hundred per cent. above what similar articles cost him:” and
T. D. Toy, " That he could have furnished the medicines charged in one of the bills for hall the money, and in two others for two-thirds of the prices charged." - The degree of credit due to what these dealers say can be determined only by a careful scrutiny of their depositions, taken in connexion with those of Drs. Cornick, Blacknall, Baylor, and Balfour-the several parts of which, bearing directly upon the point of inquiry, are studiously kept out of view by the commissioner. li will be found, upon an examination of the depositions, stript of the gloss thrown around them, that the witnesses all concur in showing that these dealers speak of but a small por. tion of the articles charged in the accounts submitted to them. Of the rest, they neither profess to be, nor could they be, informed as to description, quality, price, or any other matter; that, with respect to such articles in the accounts of which they do venture to speak as being overcharged, the accounts of other druggists, including some of their own, paid at the office, were produced to prove that similar articles are charged, almost in every case, as high, and in many at higher rates; that two of the three accounts selected as exorbitantly charged, at the request of the commanding officer of the station, were subjected to a searching examination by surgeons of the navy, and ascertained to be fair and reasonable, before approval-one of these surgeons (Dr. Cornick) distinctly stating in his deposition that, upon a diligent comparison of prices charged in the accounts of Wbitehead & Beale, for the supplies of the Yorktown, with prices charged by other druggists, (and two of these the same who are brought forward to testily upon this very account, the other being out of the question, for reasons well understood in this community,) the result was in favor of Whitebead & Beale, and that “one of the firm had requested him to say to the commodore that, in settling his accounts for medicines, &c., he would be glad if he would assign to the surgeon of the yard the duty of examining his bills, previous to their being brought to him for approval." Dr. Blacknall (at perfect liberty, by the direction of the board of commissioners, to purchase for himself) states, moreover, that his supplies for the hospital are regularly furnished under his own eye “by
Whitebead & Beale and Watts & Co., and that, upon a comparison of the prices, those of the former are less, though neither are higher than they should be.” Independently of their high professional standing, Dr. Cornick and Dr. Blacknall are distinguished by a scrupulous care of every interest committed to them. The former was attached to the Delaware, destined to the Pacific, when examined before the commissioner upon the accounts of Whitehead & Beale; and at that very time two-thirds or three-fourths of his supplies were furnished by that firm. What these surgeons of the navy say derives still further confirmation from the testimony of Drs. Baylor and Balfour; yet it is alleged that the medical supplies are procured in an exceptionable manner, and paid for at unusual and exorbitant prices. Until, by law or regulation of the department, to some competent medical officer of the service shall be assigned the duty of providing the supplies in this line for the several classes of vessels, under such restrictions as may be deemed proper, the course pursued at this station is believed to be liable to as little exception as any that can be adopted.
Having disposed of the accounts for medical supplies, the commissioner informs us that the next in order for examination were those of ship chandlery, hardware, and iron-mongery; and, to show that these supplies also have been procured in an exceptionable manner and paid for at unusual and exorbitant prices, two leading witnesses (Messrs. J. Dickson and J. F. Hunter) are introduced, who, if not utterly discredited by their own depositions in the cross-examination, are conclusively so by the production of their bills, which were thoroughly examined and particularly referred to by other witnesses, unimpeached and unimpeachable
. But, in proof of the wretched mockery of this part of the investigation, the commissioner confined his testimony to less than fifty enumerated articles of ship chandlery, when there are not less than two bundred and forty or fifty enumerated in contracts, and more than twice the number nonenumerated; and in iron-mongery contracts there are found some two bundred and thirty enumerated articles, and the non-enumerated about double that number, whilst the testimony taken upon these amounts to abuut seven. The commissioner says " that, to disprove the evidence of Messrs. Dickson and Hunter, two witnesses were produced, who had compared the bills of E. J. Higgins against the United States with those of other ship chandlers against merchant vessels. One of these witnesses (Mr. Tunstall) is out of business, and resides in the country, and the other (Mr . Wilson) has not been engaged in the ship-chandlery business for twenty-two years. Neither of them, therefore, could speak of prices from their own knowledge, but only by a comparison of one bill with another." Whether the fact that Mr. Tunstall resides at present some three or four miles from town is calculated to detract from his testimony, I cannot ventuie to determine. At all events, his duties as an officer of one of the banks require his daily attendance here, (except on the Sabbath,) thus relieving him in a great degree from the contaminating influence of the country air. He is well known as one of the purest men in this community, and was called as a witness on this occasion on account of bis unquestioned probity, general intelligence, and more especially of his intimate acquaintance with the subject, having been, until within the last few years, engaged in the ship-chandlery business in furnishing supplies for the navy. Although Mr. 'Wilson relinquished this particular line of business some years ago, he is perfectly familiar with it, in all its details,
and testifies to facts too plain to be misunderstood or perverted. The testimony of these gentlemen was deemed the more important for the very reason of their entire freedom from all influences iending in any manner to mislead or deceive. Their depositions must speak for themselves, and certainly afford more information upon the matters submitted 10 them than the commissioner seeins disposed to allow.
Immediately following this notice of the testimony of Messrs. Tunstall and Wilson, the commissioner says: So, also, as in the case of Messis. King and Toy, justice to Messrs. Dickson and Hunter demanded that iney should be allowed the opportunity to explain portions of their testimory, and they have accordingly prepared a joint statement,” &c.
A very few words will suffice to disclose the whole truth in regard to this matter. In consequence of the dilemma in which Messrs. Dickson and Hunter, as well as Messrs. King and Toy, had involved themselves under the counter testimony, confounded as well by their own bills and charges as by the manifold discrepancies and contradictions appearing in their depositions, it became necessary that some effort should be made to extricate them; and accordingly these statements were resorted to. It is enough that they were prepared and sworn to without any knowledge on idy part—therefore surreptitiously; and I should have continued utterly ignorant of their existence but for an incidental inquiry of the commissioner just at the moment of his departure, as will appear by the affidavit of Mr. R. Gatewood, hereto annexed. This discovery was then made only as to the statements of Messrs. King and Toy; for it was not until the commissioner's report came into my hands that I was aware that a similar statement had been actually prepared by Messrs. Dickson and Hunter, which stalement I have not yet seen, and of course know not what it contains. Whether or not justice to any party concerned demanded a procedure like this, no one can hesitate to determine. It appears from this joint statement of Messrs. Dickson and Hunter (as we are informed by the report) that “the prices charged by them and referred to by Messrs. Tunstall and Wilson were for articles in small quantities,” &c. The commissioner takes especial care to forget here that some of the bills in which these articles are charged are consideruble in amount, (see depesition of Mr. Tunstall,) and also that a large portion of the articles selected from the bills of E. J. Higgins, to which the testimony was more particularly directed, were furnished in very small quantities, being generally the case for supplies of ship chandlery and iron-mongery, as will be seen most clearly from the memoranda marked D and E.
As it was obvious, however, that this plea of the charges in the bills of the witnesses, being for small quantities, would not avail, the commissioner kindly endeavors to get them out of the strait by adding that "the articles were sold to merchants on credit, and the prices enhanced by the risk of bad debts.” But here again he takes care to forget that, to the questions propounded to Messrs. Dickson and Hunter as to the prices of certain articles in the accounts submitted to them, they reply distinctly and without qualification that the prices are too high, and higher than the prices for which they had sold similar articles at the same periods: when, in addition to other evidence showing that the charges in these accounts were sair and reasonable, the bills of these very persons are produced to prove that the prices actually charged by them for articles under the same name, at the periods referred to, are generally higher, without any