Saturday, May 13, 2006

"Osborn is condemned by his own pen"

After Hamilton's Washington Capitol "arraignment" of the Osborns received national attention, the Osborns struck back. Senator Osborn made a speech in his defense in the Senate that included selectively edited versions of letters and Rev. Osborn addressed his congregation in Brooklyn, the substance of which was printed in the Eagle. Rev. Osborn declared his innocence of any corruption or attempted bribery. His offers of stock to Hamilton had been in the form of an investment opportunity, not a bribe. He alleged that Hamilton had opposed the land-grant bill in Congress initially because his demands for control of the company and Florida's patronage had been rejected by the Osborns and, after his defeat for renomination, he threatened obstruction unless he would be awarded more stock, a salaried position with the company and the U.S. Marshall post he sought. Osborn asserted that he had not threatened Hamilton with political defeat but had merely predicted the outcome that would result from Hamlton's obstinancy. Osborn defended "the propriety of his engaging in the management of a railroad enterprise while the pastor of a church, by citing the example of the Apostle Paul as a tent manufacturer." The Eagle also printed the New York Tribune's acceptance of Osborn's explanation. [Brooklyn Eagle, April 27, 1871]
The day after printing Rev. Osborn's "lecture," the Eagle commented that the "gist of the discourse" was that Osborn's "attitude toward [Hamilton] was that of broker and a prophet." Osborn was an exception to "the axiom that 'the man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,'" for he "was not such a fool as to reproduce in his lecture the letters, written by himself, on which the charges against him were based and by which he is self-convicted." Osborn, the Eagle continued "forgets that the members of his congregation can read." The Eagle focued on Osborn's written instructions to M.L. Stearns to use stock in his hands 'at his discretion' in Tallahassee as damning. "If Osborn be not convicted by his own letter of misrepresentation in his lecture it is impossible to convict anybody of anything." Osborn "developed not merely recklessness of the obligations of truthfulness resting alike on ministers and all other men, but unparalled effrontery in asserting in [Church] the transparent falsehood...." His "assertion that he did not threaten Hamilton with political defeat, if he opposed the scheme, but only predicted it, is a paltry verbal subterfuge...." In conclusion, according to the Eagle, "Evidence so clear would consign any citizen engaged in a secular pursuit to lasting infamy. It remains to be seen whether a minister of the gospel can escape like condign punishment, or whether rather his name shall be stripped of its 'Rev.' prefix and its 'D.D.' affix. It is for the Tabernacle Baptist Church specially, and the religious community generally, to determine whether the cure of souls and the care of railroads, according to the corrupt modern method, are compatible trusts." [Brooklyn Eagle, April 28, 1871]

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