The 1861 Abraham Lincoln Assassination Plot


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 9, 1861

The March 9, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly Featured President Abraham Lincoln, on the cover, raising a union flag.  The paper is filled with important details of the start of he Civil War.  Newspaper Thumbnails will take you to the page of interest.


Abraham Lincoln and the Union Flag

Abraham Lincoln Raising the Union Flag

Lincoln and the Union Flag

Miss Patterson

Miss Patterson of Baltimore

Congressional News

1861 Lincoln Assassination Plot

Story on Fort Smith and Little Rock

Completed U.S. Capitol Dome

Little Rock Arkansas

Little Rock Arkansas

General Twiggs

General David Twiggs

Continuation of Twiggs Story

Jefferson Davis Inauguration in Montgomery

Lincoln Assassination Plot



MARCH 9, 1861.]



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ment to the Deficiency Bill, but did not succeed. The Senate finally adjourned without action,--The House was not in session.

On Saturday, 23d, the Senate passed the bill providing for the payment of expenses incurred in suppressing Indian hostilities in Washington and Oregon, and a similar one providing for the expenses in Utah. The Post-route Bill and the Miscellaneous Appropriation Bill were debated in the Senate. Among the amendments proposed to the latter was one offered by Senator Dixon, of Connecticut, providing for the payment for marble for the Custom-house at Charleston, South Carolina. It was ruled out, however, on a point of order.—In the House, the Tariff Bill occupied attention in Committee of the Whole, and the first Senate amendment, reducing the proposed $21,000,000 loan, was agreed to During the debate Mr. Garnett, of Virginia, made an attack upon General Scott, for the efforts he has made to preserve the peace of the country. It was finally agreed that the House should meet on Monday at 10 o'clock, and continue the debate on the Tariff in Committee until I o'clock, when the amendments should be reported to the House and acted upon finally.

On Monday, 25th, the Senate, after the usual business of the morning hoar, passed to the consideration of Mr. Colfax's bill providing for the discontinuance of the postal service in the seceded States. Various substitutes were offered but were rejected, and the bill, with some slight modification, finally passed, by a vote of 34 to 12. The Senate then considered the Miscellaneous Appropriation Bill, and acted upon amendments agreed upon in Committee. Senator Green, of Missouri, made an attempt to tack on the Chiriqui amendment, but It failed, and the bill, after some factious opposition, was passed,--In the House, according to agreement on Saturday, the Senate's amendments to the Tariff Bill were disposed of. The amendment fixing a duty upon tea and coffee was disagreed to. Before the whole were finally acted upon a motion was made to adjourn, the object being to prevent action on Mr. Stanton's Volunteer Bill, which was subsequently to be taken up. The attempt, however, failed, and the Senate's amendments to the Tariff Bill were all agreed to except the one mentioned above. A Committee of Conference was then ordered, and a similar one asked for on the part of the Senate.

On Tuesday, 26th, the Senate appointed a Committee of Conference on the tea and coffee amendments to the Tariff Bill. The Post Route Bill was passed, and also bills organizing the Territories of Colorado, Nevada, and Dacotah. The Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation Bill was passed. The Army Appropriation Bill was discussed, and reported to the Senate.—In the House, after the presentation of a number of memorials relative to the troubles of the nation. the bill called the Force Bill, authorizing the President to accept the services of volunteers to aid in enforcing the laws, was taken up, and after considerable discussion Mr. Corwin moved that its further consideration be postponed till Thursday next. The motion was carried by a vote of 100 to 74. This action is said to be a virtual defeat of the bill. The next business in order was the report of the Select Committee of Thirty-three on the crisis. A scene of great confusion and excitement ensued, which lasted till eight o'clock in the evening, the Democrats resorting to all expedients to prevent a vote being taken, in which they were aided by the conservative Republicans. The House finally adjourned without taking any action on the report.

On Wednesday, 27th, in the Senate, Senator Powell, of Kentucky, moved to postpone the regular order—the Army Bill—and take up the Crittenden proposition, alleging as a reason that the Peace Conference were unlikely to agree upon any plan which would satisfy the country. His motion was disagreed to—27 to 16. The report of the Committee of Conference on the Tariff Bill, recommending concurrence with the House in striking out the duty on tea and coffee, was agreed to, and the bill only awaits the signature of the President to become a law. The Army Bill was then considered and passed—an amendment offered by Senator Hale, of New Hampshire, proposing to reduce the salaries of officers, being rejected. A communication from the President of the Peace Conference was received, announcing that the Conference had agreed upon the proposition inclosed, and asking Congress to submit it to the Legislatures of the States. On motion of Senator Crittenden it was ordered to be printed and referred to a Select Committee, with instructions to report at 10 o'clock on 28th. Senator Mason, of Virginia, then moved an executive session, and the motion prevailed.—In the House, the Select Committee on the Abstracted Bonds were authorized to make inquiries as to whether Wm. H. Russell, or any person for him, has paid money to any person to assist him in obtaining Government contracts. The report of the Special Committee of Thirty-three was then considered. The first proposition voted upon was the one providing for calling a National Convention, which was rejected—109 to 74. The next proposition acted upon was that of Mr. Kellogg, of Illinois, which was also rejected—158 to 33. It was explained, however, that the reason for voting this proposition down was, that its adoption would have prevented any vote on the Crittenden plan, as submitted by Mr. Clemens, of Virginia. The latter was next in order, and suffered the same fate as the preceding ones. The vote stood 80 for to 113 against it. The question then recurred on the first resolution in the series reported by Mr. Corwin—of which we give the substance below—and they were adopted, 136 to 53. The House then took up the joint resolution reported by the Committee, providing for an amendment of the Constitution, so as to prevent legislation on the subject of slavery outside the Slave States. This was changed, on the motion of Mr. Corwin, so as to provide against any amendment of the Constitution authorizing such legislation, and the resolution, so amended, was rejected—the requisite two-thirds vote not being obtained.

On Thursday, 28th, in the Senate, Senator Crittenden, from the Select Committee to whom the action of the Peace Conference had been submitted, made a report recommending its adoption. Senator Seward submitted a substitute, providing for the submission of the Constitutional amendment question to the Legislatures of the various States. Senator Doolittle, of Wisconsin, offered a proviso to the first section of the amendment proposed by the Conference, declaring against the right of any State to secede. Finally the report, the amendments, and the joint resolution adopting the report, were ordered to be printed and laid over. The Post-office Bill was then considered. and an amendment proposed by Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, changing the Butterfield route, and providing for a daily mail by the Central route to California and the Pony Express, was adopted. The recompense is to be one million dollars. The Senate then went into Executive Session, and soon afterward adjourned.--In the House, after the presentation of petitions, the first business in order was the motion to reconsider the vote on Mr. Corwin's proposed amendment to the Constitution, by which it was on Wednesday rejected. Messrs. Kilgore, of Indiana, and Stanton, of Ohio, made strong appeals in favor of a reconsideration, and the adoption of the resolution. The vote of Wednesday was reconsidered—128 to 65. The question then recurred on the adoption of the resolution, and it was adopted by the requisite two-thirds vote—133 to 65. The Senate's amendments to Mr. Colfax's bill providing for the discontinuance of the postal service in the seceded States were agreed to, and the bill went to the President for his signature. Mr. Morris, of Illinois, from the Committee on the Abstracted Bonds, reported in favor of a Commission to make a settlement with William H. Russell and others, but the report was disagreed to by a decisive vote. The House then considered the Senate's amendments—forty-two in number—to the Miscellaneous Appropriation Bill until the adjournment.


The following is the resolution of Mr. Corwin, as passed, after reconsideration, by the House, on Thursday, February 28.


Be it Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, ''at the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz. :

" That no amendment shall be made to the Constitution

which will authorize or give Congress power to abolish or interfere within any State with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or servitude by the laws of said State."


The resolutions reported by Mr. Corwin's Committee of Thirty-three, which were adopted on 27th by a vote of 136 to 53, declare, substantially

1) That all proper and constitutional remedies for existing discontents, and all guarantees for existing rights, necessary to preserve the Union, should be promptly and cheerfully granted.

2) That all attempts to obstruct the recovery of fugitive slaves are inconsistent with interstate comity, and dangerous to the peace of the Union.

3) That the several States be requested to revise their statutes and repeal such as may be in conflict with Federal laws on this subject.

4) That slavery is recognized as existing by usage in fifteen States, and there is no authority outside those States to interfere with it.

5) That the laws on the subject of fugitives from labor should be faithfully executed, and that citizens of each State should be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

6) That there is no cause for a dissolution of this Government, and that it is the duty of Congress to preserve its existence on terms of equality and justice to all the States.

7) That the faithful observance of the Constitution, on the part of the States, is essential to the peace of the country.

8) That each State is requested to revise its statutes, and amend them if necessary, so as to protect citizens of other States who may be traveling therein against violence.

9) That each State be requested to enact laws to punish invasions of other States from its soil.

10) That copies of these resolutions be sent to the Governors and Legislatures of the several States.

11) That as no proposition has been made to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia or Government dock-yards, or to interfere with the inter-State slave trade, no action on these subjects is needed.


The peace conference at Washington adjourned on nth, sine die, after having adopted, as a basis of adjustment, what is known as the Franklin compromise. This compromise is as follows :


Sec. 1. In all the present territory of the United States north of the parallel of 36 degrees 30 minutes of north latitude, involuntary servitude, except as punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present territory south of that line the status of persons held to service or labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed. Nor shall any law be passed by Congress or the territorial legislature to hinder or prevent the taking of such persons from any of the States of the Union to said territory, nor to impair the rights arising from said relation. But the same shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the Federal courts, according to the course of the common law. When any territory, north or south of said line, with such boundary as Congress may prescribe, shall contain a population equal to that required for a member of Congress, it shall, if its form of government be Republican, be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, with or with-out involuntary servitude, as the Constitution of such State may provide.

Sec. 2. Territory shall not be acquired by the United States, unless by treaty; nor, except for naval and commercial stations and depots, unless such treaty shall be ratified by four-fifths of all the members of the Senate.


The city was startled on Saturday by the intelligence that the President-elect, instead of proceeding on his journey to Washington from Harrisburg, in accordance with the published programme, on Saturday morning, had left the latter city secretly, on a special train, on Friday night, and returning to Philadelphia, had passed thence, unrecognized, through Baltimore, and was already in the Federal Capital. This step, it appears, was induced by the desire to avoid threatened trouble in Baltimore, and was taken at the earnest solicitation of his friends and leading Republicans in Washington, who had received authentic information that an organized demonstration would be made against him in Baltimore—if, indeed, he were al-lowed to reach there alive' for it was also feared that an attempt would be made to throw the Presidential train from the track on the Northern Central Railroad. This information, it appears, was imparted to Mr. Lincoln on Thursday night at Philadelphia, and he consented, after considerable hesitation, to the private arrangement which was subsequently carried into effect. He reached Washington early on Saturday morning, and proceeded quietly to his hotel, his arrival being known to but few. He soon afterward, in company with Senator Seward, paid a visit to President Buchanan, and interchanged civilities with him and with other gentlemen of distinction.


The Herald correspondent says: It appears that the plot was concocted in Baltimore, and, being discovered by a detective officer, was by him communicated to two or three leading Republicans, including Mr. Seward and Thurlow Weed. Afterward it was made known to Mr. Judd, of the Presidential party.

"On Thursday last, tile intelligence having been privately forwarded to New York, several detectives were at once sent from that city to confer and cooperate with those who had the matter originally In charge. Mr. General Superintendent Kennedy and Commissioner Acton were also on hand. Together they succeeded in ferreting out the details of the conspiracy, and enough. has been made known to give it, in the minds of these men, a rank by the side of the most infamous attempts ever made upon human life.

" The exact mode in which the conspirators intended to consummate their designs has not yet transpired; but enough is known to be satisfactory that either an infernal machine was to be placed under the cars or railway, like the Orsini attempt upon Napoleon, or some obstruction placed upon the track whereby the train would be thrown down an embankment at some convenient spot; and that if these failed, then, on the arrival at Baltimore, during the rush and crush of the crowd, as at Buffalo, by knife or pistol, the assassination was to be effected.

"It has also been ascertained that two or three of the conspirators were in New York on Wednesday, the 20th inst., watching the course of events while the President-elect was there."


The Times correspondent says: On Thursday night after he had retired, Mr. Lincoln was aroused and informed that a stranger desired to see him on a matter of life or death. He declined to admit him unless he gave his name, which he at once did. Of such prestige did the name carry that while Mr. Lincoln was yet disrobed he granted an interview to the caller.

"A prolonged conversation elicited the fact that an organized body of men had determined that Mr. Lincoln should not be inaugurated, and that he should never leave the city of Baltimore alive, if, indeed, he ever entered it.

"The list of the names of the conspirators presented a most astonishing array of persons high in Southern confidence, and some whose fame is not to this country alone.

"Statesmen laid the plan, bankers indorsed it, and adventurers were to carry it into effect. As they understood Mr. Lincoln was to leave Harrisburg at nine o'clock this morning by special train, and the idea was, if possible, to throw the cars from the road at some point where they would rush down a steep embankment and destroy in a moment the lives of all on board. In case of the failure of this project, their plan was to surround the carriage on the way from depot to depot in Baltimore, and assassinate him with dagger or pistol-shot.

"So authentic was the source from which the information was obtained that Mr. Lincoln, after counseling his friends, was compelled to make arrangements which would enable him to subvert the plans of his enemies.

"Greatly to the annoyance of the thousands who desired to call on him last night, he declined giving a reception. The final council was held at eight o'clock.

"Mr. Lincoln did not want to yield, and Colonel Sumner actually cried with indignation ; but Mrs. Lincoln, seconded by Mr. Judd and Mr. Lincoln's original informant, insisted upon it, and at nine o'clock Mr. Lincoln left on a special train. He wore a Scotch plaid cap and a very long military cloak, so that he was entirely unrecognizable. Accompanied by Superintendent Lewis and one friend, he started, while all the town, with the exception of Mrs. Lincoln, Colonel Sumner, Mr. Judd, and two reporters, who were sworn to secrecy, supposed him to be asleep.

"The telegraph wires were put beyond the reach of any one who might desire to use them."


The Tribune says : " The facts, as given by Superintendent Kennedy. are substantially as follows- The police authorities of Baltimore had come to the conclusion that there would be little demonstration of any kind during Mr. Lincoln's passage through the city. Indeed, as firmly had they become convinced of this, and that there would be no riotous proceedings, that they had determined to employ a force of only twenty men for the special duty of attending to the route of the Presidential cortege through Baltimore. The reason alleged for this course was, that they wished to demonstrate to the country and to the world the law-and-order character of the city.

"This coming to the ears of General Scott, he at once declared that one of two things must be done: either a military escort must be provided for Mr. Lincoln at Baltimore, or there must be a coup de main by which he should be brought through the city unknown to the populace. Under the circumstances, it was thought that the employment or a military escort might create undue excitement, and the cause of its being brought into requisition misinterpreted. The alternative of employing stratagem was therefore determined upon. A messenger—a civilian, and not a military man—carrying three or four letters from men high in position, and one from General Scott, was therefore immediately dispatched to Philadelphia. He had an interview, and delivered his letters sometime toward midnight of last Thursday. It is not known that the fact was communicated to any other person than Mr. Lincoln on that night. Mr. Lincoln, therefore, was apprised of the deviation from the published plan of his journey before he left Philadelphia. The messenger then went on to make arrangements for the special train which conveyed Mr. Lincoln from Harrisburg the next morning."



We read in the Savannah Republican of February 22: :

"Up to the present time the arms seized by the New York police have failed to come to hand, or even to be delivered into the possession of the agent of the State in New York. There is no prospect of their recovery, according to present appearances, and the Governor has determined to resort to other means for reimbursing our citizens for their loss. Under his order Colonel Lawton seized yesterday the following vessels now in port, belonging to citizens of New York, and placed them under a military guard:

"Ship Martha J. Ward, 75S tons, Captain Hinckley, consigned to Brigham, Baldwin, & Co., and loading for Liverpool

"Bark Adjuster, 495 tons, Captain EneIl, consigned to Muller and Michels, and loading for Queenstown and a market.

"Brig Harold, consigned to W. B. Giles & Co., and loading with lumber for Sunderland.

"These vessels are of sufficient value to make up a good portion of the loss, and we presume the Governor will forth with advertise them for sale at the expiration of thirty days, unless the arms shall be laid down in Savannah in the mean time."


Secretary Dix has recently issued the following order: " John G. Breshwood, a captain in the revenue service, while in command of the revenue-cutter Robert McClelland, having, in violation of his official oath and of his duty to the Government, surrendered his vessel to the State of Louisiana, and S. B. Caldwell and Thomas D. Foster, lieutenants under his command, having been parties to the surrender, it is hereby directed that their names be stricken from the rolls of said service.

" By order of the President of the United States. "JOHN A. Dix. "Secretary of the Treasury,"


Information from the highest sources in Charleston give assurance that no immediate attack is meditated on Fort Sumter. Governor Pickens has restrained any demonstration thus far, and was glad to be relieved of further responsibility by the action at Montgomery. Major Anderson writes that no unusual preparations have been recently made, and some of the works have been apparently suspended.

THE $8,000,000 LOAN.

The bids for the United States eight million loan were opened at the Treasury Department in Washington City on Saturday last. The total amount offered was $14,355,000, at rates ranging from 75 to 96, most of the bids being between 90 and 91. The loan was taken at an average of 90.60. It has since sold at 93.75.


An act of the Congress of the Confederated States of the South, adopted on the 18th inst., a copy of which is published below, declares a tariff of duty on goods imported into the new republic on and after the 4th of March, proximo:

Be it enacted, That the following articles shall be exempt from duty, and admitted free into the several States, to wit. Bacon, pork, ham, lard, beef, fish of all kinds, wheat, and flour of all other grains, Indian corn and meal, barley flour, rice and rice flour, oats and oatmeal, gun-powder and all the materials of which it is made, lead in all forms, arms of every description, and munitions of war and military accoutrements, percussion caps, and living animals of all kinds ; also all agricultural products in their natural state.

Section 2 enacts that all goods, wares, and merchandise imported from any one of the late United States of America, not being a member of this Confederacy, before the 4th of March next, which may have been bona fide purchased heretofore, or within ten days after the passage of this act, shall be exempt from duty.

Section 3 enacts that the State of Texas be, and is here-by, exempted from the operation of the tariff laws hereto-fore passed or adopted by this Congress.

HOWELL COBB, President of the Congress.

J. J. HOOPER, Secretary.

Passed February 18, 1861.

In consequence of the passage of this law the mails front the South for the past three days have been teeming with orders to forward so as to arrive within the Confederacy before the 4th of March ; for all goods which arrive after that date will be subject to duties; therefore goods for,

New Orleans are ordered via Savannah. The Southern people will feel at once the effect of the tariff in the advance of prices on Northern manufactures. The merchant there who pays the tariff of a dollar on a hat or pair of boots will of course charge his customer the excess.

The Southern "Congress" passed an act on Wednesday, authorizing the President of the Confederated States to borrow $15,000,000 to support the Government, payable in ten years, at 8 per cent. interest. The act also directs a levy of 1/8 c. per pound on cotton exported after the 1st of August, to create a fund to liquidate the principal and interest of the loan.


Official notice has been given that the secession collectors at Charleston and Savannah will pass goods sent by Adams Express Company, if each case is accompanied by an invoice of its contents, with the affidavit of the seller attached, certifying that they were bonafide purchases made previous to the first of March, and an affidavit that they were put on board ship before the fifteenth of March. The seller's affidavit must particularly describe the number, mark, etc., of the case or cases in which the invoiced goods are packed.


The following order has been published : "HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF TEXAS, SAN ANTONIO , February 7, 1861

" SIR,—I am commanded by the Commanding Gen. of the department to address you as follows:

"The Secession Act has passed the Convention of State, to take effect on the 2d day of March next. Nothing has been heard at these head-quarters as to the disposition of the troops. The General Commanding has made five applications for orders, or intimation from Washington as to what is to be done, but has received no answer.

" You will therefore continue to do duty as usual until further orders; but prepare to move at a short notice, reducing the baggage as much as possible. If the General Commanding knew at this time how the troops are to be disposed of you would be informed, but he does not. He will, however, remain with them until something is done, and attend to their comforts as far as circumstances will permit, I am, Sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,   W. A. NICHOLS, Assistant Adjutant-General."


Dispatches from Texas announce that General Twiggs, the commander of the Federal troops in that department has turned over to the State authorities the property of the United States, valued at $1,300,000. The Federal troops were allowed to depart quietly. There are, we believe, about two thousand United States troops in Texas. General Twiggs, it will be recollected, has been offered the command of the Georgia State troops.

A dispatch from Washington, dated February 26, says : " The dispatch received yesterday by the Secretary of War, informing him that General Twiggs had surrendered the military property to the revolutionists in Texas, was from the Commissary of Subsistence, and dated at New Orleans. He adds that, as a loan, the use of the Government means of transportation was allowed to take the Federal troops to the sea-board, and they were permitted to take with them three or four cannon and their side-arms. The Secretary received this morning documents from Texas showing that as early as the 7th of February General Twiggs was entering into negotiations with the Texans for the surrender of the military property. Colonel Waite was several weeks ago appointed to succeed General Twiggs as chief of the military department of Texas ; but it appears he had not reached there at the time of General Twiggs's surrender, which is considered by governmental authorities here as one of the most disgraceful and atrocious acts yet committed by the secessionists."





THE following extract from a letter dated London, February 8, 1861, and written by the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to a gentleman of this city, is quoted as a candid and voluntary expression of English opinion, and one entitled to more than usual importance, considering the eminent source from which it emanates :

"Let me assure you and those with whom you are associated how anxiously we all desire in this country to see a happy termination to the troubles which are now afflicting the United States. The accounts from thence are watched with an intensity of interest scarcely less than that which, three years ago, attached to every mail from India. I am, dear Sir, yours, very truly,



John Mitchell writes as follows in his last letter from Paris to the Charleston Mercury:

"On the whole, I would beg most earnestly to impress upon you the conviction that in Europe generally, but in England particularly, you have no chance, no locus standi, no pretension to be considered as Christian men, or perhaps as human beings, except the cotton field alone. But for that, and the interests hanging upon that, you would be hunted from the face of the earth, and erased from creation by the indignant voice of an outraged Nineteenth Century. Unhappy, stupid, and driveling century, It falls to you—it devolves upon you—especially, you Southern men of America, to bring back men's minds to the manly and straightforward days of old—days when there were no poor-houses, and when fathers and mothers did not strangle their children for the sake of the burial fees."


A Berne telegraphic dispatch of the 13th ult. says it was through the medium of the Swiss Consulate at Algeria that Mr. Cobden proposed that Switzerland should mediate between the contending States of America. The Federal Council Had declined the proposition, on the ground that it was not qualified for such an office.


A number of English merchants were about to present an address to the Queen praying that a negotiation be opened with France for a mutual reduction of existing armaments.



The Sardinians have at last been successful at Gaeta, The garrison capitulated on the 14th. The King and Queen were to embark on board a French ship, but their destination is not stated.



The London American of the 9th inst. mays: " We learn that an outrage has been committed in Palestine on two American travelers, the Rev. Dr. Leyburn and Mr. Low. These gentlemen, being on their way to the Dead Sea across the wilderness of Engedi, had halted, for refreshment, on the 26th ult., on the shores of the Jordan, when suddenly a party of Arabs, one of whom had been having a conference with their guide, an Arab sheik, rushed upon them from an ambush with pointed spears and at full gal-lop, demanding their money. Mr. Low presented his revolver, but it missed fire; whereupon the Arabs took their watches, jewelry, and clothes, and disappeared across the river, taking two of their horses, which were afterward found. The sheik galloped off to Jericho for help. Mr. Low was fortunate enough to discover an Arab cloak, and he and his companions, scantily clothed, made the beet of their way to Jerusalem. Mr. Page, United States Consul, took immediate steps for the discovery of the robbers and the restitution of the spoils. He demanded of the Pacha that the Arab sheik should be kept as a hostage, which was done. The event will undoubtedly lead to the demand for guarantees for the better security of Americas travelers."



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