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William M. Evarts to William Fullerton, 23 December 1868

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December 23, 1868. Hon. William Fullerton, 11 Pine street New York City. Sir: Your letter of the 15th Dec. inst. calls my attention to a certain course of proceedings of Mr. A. A. Belknap, the special agent of the Treasury Department, in employing yourself and Mr. Knox, your partner, as counsel, and in giving assurances in the course of those proceedings, and in connexion with your and Mr. Knox's services as counsel, to certain parties, of protection against ill consequences to them, from the disclosures made by them. I do not conceive that I have any duty in respect of any of the prosecutions now pending in the Southern District of New York against any of the parties whom you name, growing out of these proceedings, or those assurances of Mr. Belknap. Your letter also calls my attention to the supposed authority which you had, in consequence of or in connection with, your investigations in the month of September last, and since, to give assurances to persons giving you information in aid of your investigations into frauds on the internal revenue, of "protection against criminal proceedings on account of their connection with the frauds disclosed." In a personal interview during your visit to Washington immediately after my reception of your letter, I called your attention to this statement of the extent of the protection which you were authorized to give, or had given, to parties making disclosures as being beyond the scope of those assurances, or certainly, of the authority to make them, and stated to you that I understood the assurances that had been given, as I knew that authority to make them had been limited to protection against ill-consequences on account of, or by reason of, the disclosures that should be made. To this qualification I understood you to assent; and I mention it now only in due course of reply to your letter, the consideration of the subject between us, heretofore, having been had in the form of a personal interview. Recognizing, as I did, the propriety of making good the assurances of the government, in this sense and to this extent, I considered it my duty, in consequence of your communication, to address a letter to the Dist. Attorney, Mr. Courtney, calling his attention to these assurances, and to the claims made by you for their fulfilment—to the terms of which letter, upon its being read to you, I understood you to assent, as properly laying the subject before that officer. I yesterday received, under date of the 21st inst, a full communication from the Dist. Attorney, with copies of the indictments against Blaisdell and Eckel, and against Blaisdell, Eckel, Diezendorf, Schuyler and McClearen, giving a statement of the circumstances under which the indictments had been found—and of the character and sources of the evidence upon which they had been procured. Upon the state of the matter thus presented, I felt satisfied that the proper observance of the obligations of the Government in the premises would not permit a withdrawal of the prosecutions—as, apparently, disclosures of the defendants, as made to you, had not furnished directly or indirectly the evidence for the indictments, and were not expected to form any part of the evidence on the trial. I have thought, however, that proper provision should be made to secure these defendants in the conduct of the trial by the prosecution, against the introduction of any evidence which should have been furnished by themselves in any disclosures they may have made to you, and that a full and accurate record of the trial should be preserved, in order that, in case of conviction, any further duty that might be claimed from the Government might be fulfilled, if the record of the trial showed the propriety of any further intervention. I beg to enclose a copy of my letter to the Dist. Attorney, for your information. Very respectfully, Your obed't serv't, Wm. M. Evarts, Attorney General. [Letter enc.]
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