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Total salary from July 7, 1869. to January 31, 1878.
30, 214 87
OFFICE OF THE AUDITOR OF THE TREASURY
Washington, March 2, 1878.
J. M. MCGREW, Auditor.
WASHINGTON, D. C., March 5, 1878. N. D. SPERRY Sworn and examined.
By the CHAIRMAN: Question. State your residence and position.—Answer. I reside at New Haven, Conn. I am postmaster at New Haven.
Q. How long have you been postmaster there !-A. Seventeen years next April. Q. I presume that you are Republican in politics 1-A. Yes, sir; decidedly.
Q. Do you hold any official position in the organization of the Republican party? A. No, sir; not now.
Q. Have you held any ?--A. Yes. I have been connected with the organization in a great many different ways, from member of a town committee to chairman of the Štate committee, which position I held for seven or eight years. I was also secretary of the Republican National Committee in 1864.
Q. You consider yourself pretty sound in politics 1-A, I consider myself a good Republican.
By Mr. CANXON: Q. You are not holding any official position in the party now 1-A. No, sir. Under the civil-service rule 1 resigned what position I held in the party.
By the CHAIRMAN :
Q. Since he has been superintendent of the railway mail service for the first division !-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is your office within Mr. Cheney's jurisdiction 1-A. It is in what we call the first division.
Q. State whether you have any knowledge as to the diligence or want of diligence with which Mr. Cheney bas discharged the duties of that office ?--A. In the first part of his service Mr. Cheney performed his duties actively and well. His communications with me were those of a gentleman, and everything appeared to go on sinoothly and nicely.
Q. How long did that state of things continue after his appointment?-A. My correspondence formerly was entirely with him, but of late it has been with subordinates.
Q. How long has it been with subordinates ?-A. Perhaps four or five years. I do not say but that I have bad communications from Mr. Cheney directly in that time, but my communications have been mostly from subordinates.
Q. Can a superintendent, occupying such a position, delegate his powers in that respect to subordinates-in filling up orders, &c. :-A. I have very peculiar ideas in regard to the service. When I say peculiar, I mean that I perhaps have ideas of my owp.
Q. Has Mr. Cheney the authority or right under the law to delegate his powers in that matter to subordinates !-A. I have not examined the law ou that point, but I consider that that is where the main trouble is.
Q. You say that he has left his duty to subordinates ?-A. Yes, sir, so far as correspondence, &c., is concerned, quite largely.
Q. Do you know anything about Mr. Cheney's attention to business in the office at Boston 1-A. I have been there at times and have found Mr. Cheney there. I have been there at otber times and have not found him; but as a general thing when I visited Boston I found him at his office. At times I did not.
Q. Have you ever brought to the attention of the department this matter of Mr. Cheney's neglect of duty ?-A. I brought to the attention of the department the manDer in which I thought the division was conducted- very improperly conducted, according to my ideas.
Q. Did you do so in writing or by personal communication ?-A. I have done so both in writing and in personal conversation. At one time I found fault at the manner and style of communications that were addressed to me by Mr. Cheney's subordinates. They were angentlemanly, and very offensive in manner and style, so much so at one time the Postmaster-General told me that one of the subordinates should leave if I insisted upon it. There was another man at that time connected with Mr. Cheney's division who had also written a very scurrilous communication to my office. He was discharged ; and, he being discharged, I did not feel like going further in pursuing the matter, although communications of which I complained were not such as I thought ought to pass from one official to another.
Q. Did you call Mr. Cheney's attention to the matter, as well as that of the department!-A. Yes, sir. I met Mr. Cheney at Washington at one time, and called his attention to it, and I have also written to him to say that I disliked to have those under him communicating with my clerks instead of communicating with me.
Q. Did Mr. Cheney ever take any action on the remonstrances which you made to him!-A. I think he did. I think that after that time there were no more communications directed to the cierks in my office.
Q. Were any of his subordinates removed of whom complaint was made ?-A. Not that I am aware of.
Q. Have you had complaints made to you by other employés of the department ! A. Constantly; it was a constant source of annoyance and vexation to many. I have had men give way, in my office, to their feelings, in consequence of the treatment which they had received from Mr. Cheney's subordinates, and which I thought very udjust to them.
. What is the condition of the railway mail service in the first division ? Is it demoralized 1-A. I consider it so, and it has been for some time, owing, in a great measure, to the overbearing, domineering manner of the clerks in Mr. Cheney's office.
6. And you say that you called Mr. Cheney's attention to it and remonstrated with him 1-A, I did.
By Mr. CALDWELL: & Give some instance of this conduct of his clerks !-A. I refer more particularly
to the matter of Mr. Holmes, and to his manner and style of dealing with the men in the department.
By the CHAIRMAN : Q. Mr. Holmes is the man who was doing Mr. Cheney's business I-A. Yes, sir. The letters which I received from Mr. Cheney's office have been mostly from Mr. Holmes. They used to be signed “Thomas P. Cheney, per H.," but finally they got to be "Thomas P. Cheney, per D. H. Holmes." They commenced with his initial in the first place, and finally went on to the full signature.
Q. Tbese were the offensive communications of which you speak !-A. Most of the communications which I have received from Mr. Holmes have been very short, pert, and written in a domineering and overbearing spirit. I cannot give you the exact language. I speak more of their spirit and style.
Q. Did you answer my question whether you regarded the service in the first division as being in good condition ?-A. I do not consider it in good condition.
Q. Do you say tbat you consider it badly demoralized 1-A. I do, and in my judgment it has been from the manner in which Holmes treated the subordinates in connection with the service. When I see men coming into my office bowed down with grief, and when I see them going to their duties as if they had fifty or sixty pound balls hung on each knee, going to their duties like slaves, so to speak, grudgingly instead of going to their duties as in former times, seeing who best could do the work and best fulfill his duties, my humanity (what little I have got) has been touched very strongly. The treatment which these men have received has not been decent treatment.
Q. And you say you brought this matter to the knowledge of Mr. Cheney and to the knowledge of the department ?-A. Not to the same extent as I have mentioned it bere. I have talked with Mr. Vail on the subject.
Q. Mr. Vail is the general superintendent of the railway mail service !-A. Yes, sir. I spoke to Mr. Vail about this matter about a fortnight ago, but before I knew anything about this investigation having been ordered, I talked very plainly with Mr. Holmes about it.
Q. Have you ever seen Mr. Cheney in your office in New Haven ?-A. Not lately; forinerly he used to come there, and I used to be glad to have him come there.
Q. Have you seen him in the discharge of his duties on any of the roads in that superintendency ?-A. No, sir, not lately; and it is on the roads that a superintendent's place is. I tbink that a superintendent of the railway mail service should be on the roads very much, and should know the facts connected with the distribution of inails, &c., instead of being in an office with a corps of clerks about him. Formerly the route-agents were under the direction of the postmasters at the termini of the roads, and the postmasters used to grant relief to route-agents in case of sickness or other emergency. Now all that is being done at Boston for the whole of New England. I do not think myself that it onght to be done in that way; but that is merely an opinion.
Q. Would not the service be better attended to and more general satisfaction given to everybody engaged in it if Mr. Chenry bad given some of his personal attention to it.-A. Yes, sir. Mr. Cheney I regard as a gentleman. All his communications with me have been gentlemanly. I have no fault at all to find with Mr. Cheney's correspondence with me, or his treatment of ma; but I have thought that he allowed his clorks to have too much rope and too much latitude. That is the fault I have found with him.
Q. You say that during the last four or five years you have had very little communi. cation with Mr. Cheney -A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you consider the demoralization of the service in the first division attributable to Mr. Cheney's neglect of his duty and his leaving it to subordinates 1-A. Yes, sir, to a great extent I atiribute it to that.
By Mr. CALDWELL: Q. You said that you bad some conversation with Mr. Vail about three weeks ago iA. Yes, sir, about a fortnight or three weeks ago.
Q. Give the substance of that conversation.-A. I said to Mr. Vail at the time that I thonght that the railway mail service in the department of New England had been for a long time not what it ought to be. I believe I made use of the expression that I considered it a perfect abortion from the manner in which it was administered, especially by Mr. Holmes, who is not a fit man to be over anybody. If he is a good route-agent, his place should be on the cars, distributing mail matter, where he would not come in contact with men.
Q. What did Mr. Vail say to that!-A. Mr. Vail admitted that Mr. Holmes had a very unfortunate manner with him, but said that he thought he was a good clerk.
By Mr. FREEMAN : Q. You never brought the matter to Mr. Vail's attention in any official manner before this conversation two or three weeks ago I-A. I do not know that I have directly. I had a talk with Mr. Vail in my office a year or a year and a half ago.
Q. Did you make any official complaint to Mr. Vail on this subject I-A. Not particnlarly, except what I said to him the other day.
By Mr. MONEY: Q. Did you write to hiin 1-A. I have written to him time and again in reference to the department, in reference to certain agents being overlooked, and who I thought bad not been advanced properly. It seemed to me all the wbile (I have no proof of it) as if there was a spirit of favoritism throughout the department.
By Mr. FREEMAX: Q. To whom did you write ?-A. These letters ought to be on file in the department.
Q. Did you address Mr. Vail directly in an official manner or in any form otherwise than casual observation and complaint on this subject, or did yor write to tbe departnient ?-A. Of late I have addressed a few letters to the department in relation to the matter.
Q. Not to Mr. Vail personally ?-A. To the Postmaster-General formally. They well knew my sentiments in regard to the matter. I addressed frequent communications to Governor Jewell on the subject, and he knew the estimation in which I held the department.
Q. It was Governor Jewell who appointed Mr. Holmes -A. I do not know that. I had supposed that Mr. Holmes was in the service before Governor Jowell came in. I bad supposed that Mr. Holmes was holding a subordinate position-that of messenger or route-agent; that he bad been elevated to Mr. Cheney's department, and that he had been afterward appointed to the position which he now holds.
Q. My whole object was to ascertain whether you had addressed your communications to Mr. Vail or to the department 1-A. I have not addressed Mr. Vail of late, except as I saw him here a fortnight or three weeks ago.
By Mr. TOWNSEND : Q. Your communications to the department were asking promotion and advancement of some men who you thought deserved it!-A. My communications with the department were of a general nature, respecting the management of the division and the treatment of their route agents and messengers. I wanted to see if it could Dot be remedied, and if they could not have a little humanity in the department as well as all the opposite.
By Mr. MONEY: Q. How lately have you sent a communication to the department on the subject ? A. I sent through Mr. Phelps, our member of Congress, a message whicb he communicated to the department in reference to the pay of one Mr. Canfield. Tbat was an instance of what I think unfair treatment. Mr. Canfield was running, and had been running for years, as relief-agent. At times he was relieving five roads, and of course, was away from his home four-fifths of his time, and was only one-fifth at his own residence. There he was relieving three roads. Now he is assigned to a special road, bat whether temporary or permanent I do not know. At the time I addressed the communication he was on three roads, and, of course, was at his home only one-third of his time. I have found that all tbe agents on those roads were receiving greater pay than Mr. Canfield, and that tbey were at their homes at least one-half of the time, and some of them all the tine. For instance, one of the agents had $980 a year, another $940, and another $920, and this Mr. Canfield, who had to be acquainted with all the roads which he relieved, requiring more knowledge of the service than any of her regular agents, received less pay. I said I did not think it fair, that I did not think it just, and that if a relief-agent was necessary, certainly the man who could relieve five roads, and three roads, and be away from his home four-fifths of his time, should receive as much pay, at least, as the regular agents. That matter within the last fortnight I brought to Mr. Vail's attention. That is one of the little tbings that go to make up the great all, and I cite it as one of the instances.
By Mr. MONEY: Q. Did I understand you to say that you had notified the department of the demoralization of the railway mail service in the first division 1-A. Not so much of late as I have done formerly.
Q. How lately have you made any written application to the department on the subject :- A. The letter which I sent to Mr. Phelps on the subject was written perhaps three months ago. I constantly, when I bave seen him at home, have spoken with him on the subject, and last January I talked with him on the subject.
Q. How many written communications have you sent to the department within the last twelve months on the subject 1-A. I cannot say. Q. Have they been numerous 1-A. Perhaps two or three.
Q. When a communication is sent to the department concerning the working of the railway mail service, is it referred to Mr. Vail ?-A. I suppose that to be the case, but I do not kuow.
By Mr. EASTMAN: Q. You have stated that you received letters from Mr. Cheney's office signed by Mr. Holmes. Do you know wbether or not Mr. Cheney dictated any of these letters A. I cannot tell you.
Q. You have no means of knowing whether or not they were written by his special directions 1-A. No, sir.
Q. You have no means of knowing whether the answer came from him in fact, although it may have been written by another hand 1-A. No, sir.
Q. If he dictated bis letters, would you not consider that he was giving attention to his duties 1-A. No, sir; if he dictated these letters, it would bave been his business, according to my judgment, to have signed them himself personally. He may dictate his letters, but I think he should sigu them himself.
Q. You do not know but that the letters may have been examined by him ?-A. I am sure that if they bad been some of them, at least, would have been changed.
Q. But you do not complain of the tone of all of them 1-A. No, sir; I do not complain of the tone of any of tbe letters which Mr. Cheney hims If signed.
Q. Do you complain of the tone of all of those wbich be did not sign 1-A. I do not complain of every one of them; but I say that there was that atmosphere about them which was very unpleasant.
Q. You have spoken of a man having been discbarged in consequence of some representations wbich you made; what was bis name 1-A. I think bis name was Maxfield. He was one of tbe agents running ou the road. I know that I called the attention of Mr. Cheney's office to it at the time, and received a reply signed “ Tbomas P. Cheney, per Stabi." I thought that that communication was about as offensive-do; pot so offensive-as the one which bis friend sent me. That was written offensively, so much 80 that I took both letters to Postmaster-General Jewell and called his attention to tbem. One of the men was dismissed, and he said the other should be if I insisted upon it. But I did not consider it my duty to dictate to the Postmaster-General, except that I said that I thought both of them should be dismissed.
Q. What was tbe occupation of the one who was disinissed 1-A. I think he was running in connection with the Boston office, either as messenger, route-agent, or postal clerk. That must have been three or four or five years ago. I saw him after his dismissal, and be felt badly about it.
Q. Did Mr. Maxfield run on the road through New Haven -A. Yes, sir; he was constantly sending missi ves, slips, &c., of a very impertinent character to the office, such as-but I will not recall them.
Q. Give an illustration.-A. This communication I speak of was something in reftrence to the mails.
Q. Did you bave any conversation with Mr. Cheney in reference to this man Maxfield 1-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did Cheney join with you in recommending his removal 1-A. I believe he did.
Q. Was this man Maxfield in Mr. Cheney's office 1-A. I cannot say. I suppose he was not in the office. He was a route-agent or messenger. Mr. Cheney heartily seconded me in the matter, and I believe went to Governor Jewell himself.
Q. After your couversation with Mr. Cheney you received his co-operation !-A. Yes, sir.
Q. You stated that in your opinion the duties of a superintendent of railway mail service required him to be on the road a good part of his time I-A. My judgment is that the railroad mail service system has grown to an extent to which it ought not to grow, and that it is in a manner demoralizing the service. I think that a portion of that service could be performed as heretofore, with less friction, by having the postinasters at the termini of the route see that the route-agents perform their duties prop. erly. The postmasters would be familiar with the routo-agents, would know just what their salaries should be, and would know just what they were doing.
Q. Did I understand you to say that you wrote to the department and got a reply through Mr. Stabl?-A. I communicated with Mr. Cheney's office in reference to the matter of Mr. Maxfield aud his continued insults to the clerks in my office, and I received a reply through Stahl. I do not think that Mr. Cheney was at his office in Boston at the time. I think that he was in Wasbington when the reply came from Mr. Stabl.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Who was himself a subordinate:-A. Who was a subordinate, as I supposed, under Mr. Cheney.
Q. Wbat do you think of this railway system 1-A. I do not like it, I think it ought to be broken up; that is my judgment. I mean to say that in my judgment the whole