The Cleveland Daily Herald
Cleveland, July 7, 1859
Is District Attorney Belden a Free Agent?
Do the Federal officials in the Northern District belong to themselves? If nay, to whom do they belong? These are interesting questions. The National Democrat endeavors to make it out that District Attorney Belden is not his own man but must fiddle the tune his Kentucky friends set for him. As a foundation for stultifying Judge Belden the Democrat starts out by conveying a false impression when it says that “Mr. Stanton, in representing his client, me the proposition for a settlement with frankness.” The first, the last, and every proposition, came from the Federal or Kentucky side. A few weeks since the first proposition was made by two of the Federal officials and the last proposition came from the kidnappers through their counsel.
But the Democrat strives to prove that Judge Belden has not control of his own law business and says:
That Judge Belden entered into the arrangement will ill concealed reluctance, I s a fact that we happen to know. The charge that he was instrumental in bringing about the arrangement, was made in the streets on yesterday, but was promptly silenced by Mr. Carter and Mr. Stanton, who furnished the following:
Cleveland, O., July 6, 1859.
It is due to the Hon. G.W. Belden and other officers of the United States Government, to say that he nor either of them had any agency whatever, either directly or indirectly, in originating or perfecting the settlement agreed upon between Messrs. Jennings and others, and the Attorneys engaged in the prosecution of the indictments in Lorain County against them. Whatever responsibility is attached to the agreement or settlement, belongs to Messrs. Jennings, &c., and to us as the friends and Attorneys of the parties, and to none others.
In addition to the above, Mr. Stanton, on the eve of his departure from Kentucky, apprehending the very charge now made – not openly made but insinuated – furnished Judge Belden with the following note, which, hearing of, we demanded as an act of justice should be published:
Wednesday Evening, July 6, 1859.
My Dear Sir – It is possible that, after my departure from your city; the facts connected with the settlement of the recent prosecutions against Jennings and others, may be misrepresented to your prejudice, and to guard against such a result I beg to say to you, that you took no part and had no agency whatever in the matter. The arrangement was initiated and consummated by Hon. D.K. Cartter and myself, without consultation with you or any other person, except the immediate parties interested, until after the terms had been fully settled between us. Your determination was from the beginning to defend the indictments in Lorain, and to prosecute those pending in the U.S. Court at this place. You were prepared with your authorities and ready to go to Lorain, when you were first informed of the settlement, and even then you insisted that the proceedings ought to go on, and that there should be no compromise. It was only after I had urged with some earnestness the arguments which I thought justified the agreement, that you informed me that you could not stand in the way of an adjustment, if those more immediately interested asked that it should be carried out by the Court.
Any version of the matter, which makes you responsible in any respect for said settlement, if the same should be deemed unwise or imprudent, will do you great injustice. You strongly urged from the beginning to the very moment when Judge Willson consented that the nolle prosequi should be entered, that the better policy would be to prosecute the indictments with vigor and to the end.
With much respect,
Your friend, truly,
Hon. G.W. Belden, U.S. Attorney, &c.
From this evidence, furnished, too, by the Judge himself, the public trust infer that, while he, nominally, is Federal Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, he is under the entire control of the gentlemen form Kentucky, and only has to be informed of the wishes of Jennings and Mitchell – the Kentucky nigger-catchers – and he shaped the business of the court accordingly. Are we to understand from Judge Belden, that the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law is a private affair, and when those more immediately interested get into a tight place, the District Attorney, on the word given, loosen the screws and lets the violators of that law go acquitted?
Are we to understand that when Jennings and Mitchell – nigger-catchers by trade – tell Judge Belden to go ahead, he will put on Federal steam; and when Jennings and Mitchell tell him to stop, he will shut off steam? Judge Belden wishes it distinctly understood that he had no hand in the settlement, and we give him the benefit of that avowal, but would request him, as a matter of convenience, to serve notice in every case in Court upon opposite counsel, notifying them who has control of said case for the Government, as that course might facilitate negotiations for settlement.