Letter: 1 April 1849

On an examination of the papers presented in this case, the following facts appear.

That on the 18th of June, 1846, at the instance of the President, Mr. Magoffin was commended by the War Department to a favorable consideration of General Kearney, then in command of a military expedition to Santa Fe, and to the Commanding officer of the expedition to Chihuahua, as a person who then was, and had been for some years a resident of Chihuaha, and extensively engaged in trade in that and other settlements of Mexico, that he was introduced to the President by Col. Benton, as a gentleman of iutelligence and most respectable character, that the President being favorably impressed with his character, intelligence, and disposition to the cause of the United States, believed he might render important services to both those military movements, to the extent needed, and that his credit with the people and his business capacity would enable him to give important information and make arrangements to furnish the troops with abundant supplies, that he was therefore recommended to these respective commanders, who were requested in case they should apprehend difficulties of this nature, to avail themselves, in this respect, and others, of his services, for which he would as a matter of course, be entitled to a fair consideration.

It further appears that Mr. Magoffin joined Genl. Kearney at Bent’s Fort, on the 26th of July, 1846, and at the instance of that General, accompanied Capt. Cooke with a flag and letter to Governor Armijo, at Santa Fe, where by his influence and address, he was instrumental in neutralizing the hostile feelings of the Mexican authorities in that quarter, and in obtaining for our troops the peaceful possession of that place. That after this was effected, he proceeded with General Kearney on a visit to some of the principal towns on the Rio Grande, where he left that officer, and continued his route to Chihuaha, near which place, in the fall of 1846, he was taken prisoner by the Mexican authorities, and afterwards sent to Durango, where he remained in confinement until released, the date of which release is not stated, although he is said to have been in confinement nine months.

For the services rendered by him, the expenses incurred in rendering them, and the losses he sustained by reason of his capture, etc., Mr. Magoffin presents the following elaim, amounting in all to $37,780.96.

1. For his time, being a merchant in business which he had to neglect for two years and 8 months, at $300.00 per month $9,600

Remark. If this amount is intended as an equivalent for the services he is supposed to have rendered, considering their importance, and the risk he incurred it may not be deemed too high, being at the rate of only $3,600 a year.

2. For expenses between Washington City and El Paso, including an escort of six men, after leaving Genl. Kearney $670

Remark. The items in this charge appear reasonable, with the exception of $160, paid for a pair of mules, which is considered high.

3. For amount expended in bribes in Chihuaha, in order to obtain possession of Genl. Kearney’s statement of his services in Santa Fe, then in the hands of the military Judge and which, if not destroyed, would have placed his life in jeopardy $3,800

Remark. There is no evidence but the declaration of Mr. Magoffln that the money was so expended. It is presumed from the transpiring circumstances that these bribes were actually paid, and that they were the means of releasing him from the fate which appears to have awaited him, on account of the important secret services he rendered in obtaining peaceable possession of Santa Fe, and I should think he ought in justice to be remunerated. It is not an unusual thing for Governments to seek, even at considerable cost, to obtain the release of their secret agents, taken by the enemy as spies, the efforts on the part of the British authorities in respect to the capture of Andre may be suggested as a case in point. Had the papers in the case of Magoffin been preserved it would have been the means of convicting him as a spy.

4. For money paid by him to the authorities in Durango for his release from imprisonment $1,100
And for money given to a Mexican friend for making arrangements for that release $500

Remark. There is no evidence to support these charges, which rest upon the mere declaration of Mr. Magoffin. The letter of Mr. Baldwin referred to by the claimant, in proof, merely mentions the return to Magoffin of his acceptance for $1,100, in favor of the former, but the object for which the money was expended does not appear.

5. For entertainment to officers, military and civil, and to influential citizens of Santa Fe, Chihuaha and Durango, to accomplish the object of promoting the interests of the United States $2,000

Remark. If this item had been confined to entertainments given in Santa Fe, it would have been better understood, and perhaps might not be deemed too high a charge, considering the importance of the object obtained by them. But how entertainment in Chihuaha and Durango could have promoted the interests of the United States, while the claimant was a prisoner in those cities, or even after his release, when he was compelled to act with great circumspection, is not sufficiently clear. This would seem to require some explanation.

6. For subsistence for himself, horses and servants, wages and clothing charged as a Colonel of Cavalry $3,792

Remark. In admitting the reasonableness of the charge in the 1st item of the claim for time and services rendered at the rate of $3,600 per annum, it was intended to include subsistence, forage, servants, and clothing. As Mr. Magoffin had charged these items separately and at the rate allowed to a Colonel of Cavalry, there is a propriety in paying for his services at the same rate. The pay and emoluments of a Colonel of Cavalry, including such items as these, do not exceed $3,600 per annum. I think therefore they should not be allowed, if the 1st item of the claim is admitted.

7. For losses sustained in consequence of an attack made by the Apache Indians, while travelling from Santa Fe to Chihuaha, consisting of a wagon, (before charged) trunks, clothing and money $350

Remark. This item is inadmissible. The government cannot be held to pay for the loss of the private effects of its agents. Besides, the charge for the loss of the wagon, if admitted, would be equivalent to paying twice for the same article, the wagon being already charged in 2nd item of the claim under expenses from Washington to El Paso.

8. For loss sustained at Chihuaha during his confinement, in consequence of duties levied upon his goods, after Doniphan’s departure from that place $15,968.96

Remarks. The evidence in support of this item is the certificate of Mr. Jno. l’otts, which goes to show that he purchased from Mr. Saml. Magoffin 311 bales of merchandise belonging to Mr. James Magoffin then a prisoner in Durango—that the merchandise was purchased on time, and at an amount equal to its original cost, and an augmentation of 50 per cent of the expenses thereon to the city of Chihuaha, with a guarantee that the purchaser should not be responsible for the duties of any kind whatsoever. The certificate further states that this property would not have been disposed of by Mr. Saml. Magoffin at a rate so ruinous to his brother’s interest, but for the utter impossibility of removing it from Chihuaha and the fear of its being seized by the authorities of Mexico, to which danger it was exposed from the retirement of Col. Doniphan from that city, who had no sooner withdrawn his forces than the Mexican Governor levied duties upon this merchandise to the amount of $15,968.96, which amount was paid by Mr. Potts and afterwards refunded by Mr. James Magoffin.

Admitting that this is a correct statement of the transaction—that the goods were sold at the sacrifice, as stated, and that the amount of duties levied upon them by the Mexican Governor, was at the cost of Mr. Magoffin, it does not necessarily follow, that the losses he incurred are a fair charge against the United States, growing out of his secret services. The same exaction on the part of the Mexican Government, would, in all probabilities have been made, had Mr. Magoffin been in the exercise of his privileges as an American Merchant, residing in Chihuaha, and he can have no greater claim to indemnification than any other American merchant, then residing in that city and who sustained similar losses.

From an examination of all the papers in support of the account presented by Mr. Magoffin, and admitting that the services rendered by him were important, and were justified by the authority given for his employment as special agent, the following items in that account may be cousidered a fair charge against the United States, to wit:

1. For his time and services $ 9,600
2. For his expenses from Washington to El Paso 670
3. For amount paid as bribes for his safety 3,800
4. For amount paid to affect his release from prison 1,600
5. For expenses of entertainments given by him 2,000

The items rejected for reasons given are:

6. For subsistence for himself, horses, servants, etc $ 3,792
7. For loss of private baggage captured by Indians 350
8. For loss by duties, levied upon his merchandise 15,986.96

In consideration however of the important services rendered by Mr. Magoffin in aiding to overcome resistance on the part of the Mexican anthorities, in the conquest of New Mexico as shown by the letters of Lt. Col. Cooke and Maj. Turner of the Army, and the heavy losses he had sustained during the late war with Mexico, as well as his suffering while a prisoner in the enemy’s hands, I recommend that he be allowed the sum of $30,000.00 in full of all demends against the United States.

Respectfully submitted,

Geo. W. Crawford,
Secretary of War.
April 1, 1849.

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