« AnteriorContinua »
tello" with having deceived him about Mr. Everett, complaining of his behavior to Dr. Sleigh and others who had befriended him; telling him that Dr. Sleigh, to whom he referred, doubted his Spanish commission, and believed him to have been a member of the "Hunter's Association," a band of horse-thieves in Canada, and signifying, in language not to be misunderstood, that the family had given up all hope of him.
The next information we had was that the General had turned up at Havre, and was about being married to the daughter of a wealthy banker, and carried a commission as MajorGeneral from the Governor of Maine! And then, after a lapse of two years, that he had been travelling with a British nobleman, whose baggage he had run away with, that he was arrested for the offence, and tried in Malta, I do not know with what result; but I have now before me a supplement of the Malta Times of October 9, 1844, in Italian, Spanish, and English, wherein he refers to the testimonials of my friend, Albert Smith, Ex-M. C., and Levi Cutter, Mayor of Portland; complains bitterly of the late Mr. Carr, Minister of the United States at Constantinople; and says, among other things, what of itself were enough to show that he had claimed to be a General of the State of Maine, and thereby settling the question most conclusively and forever. His language is: "To one charge of Mr. Everett, I plead guilty; to wit, to have usurped, or succeeded to gain the good opinion of respectable people in the United States, and here I am glad, at the same time, to put Mr. Everett's mind at rest; he thinks it possible that I may be a General of the State of Maine, but he admits only the possibility, and expresses the hope that it
may not be so, this, after the pretension to know my birthplace, life, death, and miracles, and an assertion on his part to have had, or seen, a correspondence with the Executive of Maine, in my regard, is very diplomatic - very! — but his Excellency may be easy on this head. I do not share now the military glory and honor of fellowship with that very numerous body of generals of the United States Militia; and if evidence may be produced that I was attended by a staff, I assure his Excellency, that it was only to have my boots cleaned by a captain, to be shaved by a major, to be helped by a colonel, and to get my meals at the private personal headquarters of a Gineral at one dollar per day."
And here I stop. From that day to this, nothing has been heard of General Bratish; but I should not be surprised to have him reappear, as if he had risen from the dead, in some new character, and so managing as to deceive the very elect. No such pretender has appeared since Cagliostro; and nobody ever succeeded so well in misleading public opinion, and embroiling so many persons of consideration, both in this country and in Europe, not excepting the Chevalier d'Éon, and the Princess Cariboo. Many other strange things might be related of Bratish, as, for example, his great speech in the Hungarian Diet, reported in the Allgemeine Zeitung, — the most impudent forgery of our day. But this paper is already longer than I intended; and I have only to add, that I have reason to believe now that he was indeed a native of Trieste, and that Colonel Stille and Mr. McIlvaine were right in saying what they did of him generally, though wrong in many of the particulars upon which they chiefly relied.
Ledger, the Saturday Courier, and some other journals of that city, opened upon him in full cry, followed by the American press generally; the Courier declaring that he had taken leg bail and escaped from Canada,- that he had run away from Rochester, after obtaining five hundred dollars from Henry McIlvaine, Esq., of the Philadelphia bar, in the shape of fees for constituting that gentleman "Consul-General of Greece "! By others he was charged with being a tin-pedler, a horse-thief, and a leechdoctor, who had assumed the title of Count long after his arrival in this country. Among many anonymous letters -letters addressed to strangers in Portland-came one from Henry McIlvaine himself, saying: "I see by the Portland papers, that a man calling himself sometimes General Bratish, at others General Eliovich, Count Eliovich, Baron Fratelin and Walbeck, and claiming to have been a general in the Polish, Spanish, Mexican, and other armies, is now in your town; and I should suppose, from the papers who have noticed him, imposing upon respectable people. Having seen something of this person, and been myself a victim, I have felt it due to my friends in Portland to put them on their guard. He is the son of a merchant in Trieste, driven from his home and his friends in consequence of his crimes. His pretension to any of the titles he claims is altogether without foundation. After exhausting Europe, he has within a few years turned his talents to good account in our country. He made his appearance here about two years ago as Consul-General and Envoy from Greece, in which capacity he was very free with his commissions of viceconsulships in New York and Philadelphia. He was indicted here for forgery, convicted, — obtained a new trial by the false oaths of his associates, some of whom are now in the state prison (one for horse-stealing), and gave bail for his appearance at the next term. The pretence for a new trial was the absence of a witness who never existed, but who was ex
pected to prove his innocence. Before the next term, the Consul-General took wing, leaving his bail, a simple Frenchman, to pay the forfeit. It would be impossible for me to give anything like a history of his crimes in a letter. Suffice it to say that he is a notorious swindler, the most unblushing and inexhaustible liar and the most finished rascal I ever saw."
If this wore true, how happened it that the notorious swindler, the horsethief, the convicted forger, and the escaped convict was still at large,— and not only at large, but always before the public, and always without a change of name? Why was he not surrendered by his bail? Why not followed by a bench warrant, or a requisition from the Governor of Pennsylvania? Of course, the story could not be true, as told by Mr. McIlvaine. It was too absurd on the face of it.
But was any part of the story true? and, if so, how much? Having been frequently imposed upon, both at home and abroad, by adventurers and pretenders, I determined to go to the bottom of this case before I committed myself, and I must say that, for a while, the stories told by General Bratish, and the explanations he gave, seemed to me still more absurd and preposter
According to his story to give one example out of a score - he had been obliged to apply for the benefit of the Insolvent Act, in Philadelphia, owing to losses he had sustained by lending money to distressed compatriots, and eleemosynary outcasts, and had been opposed in the Court of Insolvency by Colonel John Stille, Jr. and Mr. Henry McIlvaine, who threatened him with a prosecution for the forgery of consular papers, if he dared to appear. He declared that he did appear, nevertheless, and was honorably discharged; that his claims and evidences of debt, handed over to Mr. McIlvaine, the assignee, amounted to $7,620 for cash lent, while his debts altogether amounted to less than $1,000; that he was arrested while in court, on a warrant for forgery, and
there subjected to a long and rigorous examination by Messrs. McIlvaine and Stille, who had got possession of all the claims against him; that the offence charged consisted in issuing a commission as Vice-Consul of Greece, with General Bratish's own signature! that McIlvaine went before Mr. Alderman Binns to get the warrant for forgery, and employed Colonel John Stille, Jr., his coadjutor, to appear as public prosecutor in the Mayor's Court of Philadelphia; that he, General Bratish, was put upon trial before a bench of aldermen, not a man of the whole except the Recorder being acquainted with the rudiments of law; that, on being arraigned, he refused to plead, and called no witnesses himself, though some were called by his counsel, when the Recorder directed the plea of "Not guilty" to be entered, and the trial to proceed; that he claimed to be a foreign consul provisionally appointed, entered a formal protest, which appeared in the papers of the day, and never deigned to open his mouth, until, to the consternation and amazement of all who understood the case, the jury found him guilty, under the direction of the Recorder, a direction which amounted to this, namely, that, while General Bratish could not be legally convicted of the offence charged, he might be convicted of another offence not charged! that a motion for a new trial was entered at the suggestion of the Recorder himself, and was finally argued in a burst of indignation by General Bratish, who thrust aside his counsel, and refused to be delivered on technical grounds; that the motion was opposed by Messrs. McIlvaine and Stille, but prevailed; that the verdict was set aside, a new trial granted, and General Bratish was allowed to go at large, on greatly reduced bail, every member of the court concurring, except Mr. Alderman McKean; that no sooner was the trial over, and the proceedings published, than a public meeting was called through the National Gazette, the Public Ledger, the United States Gazette, and the Pennsylvanian, and all persons were in
vited to appear, and bring forward their charges - if any they had against him; that such a meeting, both large and respectable, was held at the College of Pharmacy, and resolutions were adopted, declaring the character of General Bratish to be "unimpeached and unimpeachable,” his authority from Greece to be fully proved, and his identity to have been established by the testimony of "several highly respectable gentlemen present"; that, before he could have another trial, the court was abolished; and that, after waiting two months for the prosecutor to move, for want of something better to do, General Bratish betook himself to Canada; that he was followed there, watched, arrested for a horse-thief, immediately and honorably discharged, re-arrested upon a suspicion of high treason, put beyond the reach of a habeas corpus writ, and confined for seven months, in the citadel of Quebec and elsewhere, as a prisoner of state, &c., &c.
Such was a part of his story; and astonishing as it may appear credible, I might say—I found it, after a most careful investigation, to be not only substantially true, but scrupulously exact. The evidence came to me through unwilling or prejudiced witnesses, my friend, Henry C. Carey of Philadelphia, among the number, and was corroborated throughout by official documents and published proceedings. And here I may as well add, that Mr. Arnold Buffum was chairman, and J. Griffith, M. D. secretary, of the meeting above referred to, of March 6th, 1838.
While this unhappy controversy was raging, and our people were dividing upon the questions involved, a little incident occurred which had a very wholesome effect upon our misgivings. The General happened to be in conversation with a stranger one day, when the subject of Unitarianism, as it existed in the North of Europe, came up. Something was then said about the great Unitarian Convention held at Cork, Ireland, two or three years be
fore. General Bratish said he was in attendance, and had let fall some remarks there. A by-stander, who had very little faith in our hero, caught at the ravelling thus dropped. If what the General said were true, surely some evidence might be found by diligent search. And, sure enough! the gentleman found a copy of the Christian Pioneer, in Boston, giving an account of that very Convention. He acknowledged to me that he opened the journal with fear and trembling, but soon came upon what purported to be an abstract of a speech by General Bratish, and what furnished abundant confirmation of his highest pretensions as a soldier, as a writer, as a patriot, and as a philanthropist. I saw the Pioneer myself. It was a monthly journal, published in Glasgow, Scotland, July, 1835. The speech, as reported, was eminently characteristic, and the summary that followed was in the following words:
"The society was gratified on this occasion by the presence of the Rev. George Harris of Glasgow, whose visit to Cork the committee gladly availed themselves of, earnestly requesting his attendance; and of Mr. Bratish, a native of Hungary, and a member of the Hungarian Diet, who, in consequence of his intrepid advocacy of the cause of much-injured Poland, both in his place in the legislature, and subsequently with his pen and his sword, has been obliged to fly his country, and take refuge in this kingdom."
Among the most damaging allegations was one to this effect, that Mr. Forsyth, our Secretary of State, had contradicted the story of General Bratish about his consular authority and proceedings in every particular. So far was this from being true, that Mr. Forsyth confirmed the story of General Bratish in substance, acknowledging to me that he knew nothing to his prejudice, and that General Bratish had held such communications with him as he had represented.
Yet more, while I was patiently and quietly pursuing these investigations,
Colonel Bouchette handed me a copy of the Bath (Me.) Telegraph Extra, of July 19, 1839, containing a report of the proceedings at a public meeting held there, in consequence of the newspaper charges and anonymous letters which had followed our adventurer to that city. It was headed "General Bratish Eliovich (Baron Fratelin)," and was signed by Judge Clapp (Ebenezer), and by Henry Masters, Secretary. The resolutions were brief but conclusive; and the committee that drew them up, after a thorough investigation, were chosen from among the most respectable citizens of the place. "Every specific charge brought forward by responsible persons," they say,
most completely refuted, and the truth was found entirely in accordance with the statements and accounts of the transactions given beforehand by General Bratish"; and they declare him "entitled to the confidence and respect of the community at large," saying that "his conduct in this State has been that of a gentleman and man of honor." I found too, that, go where he would, behave as he might, the moment his name appeared in the papers, anonymous letters and paragraphs followed, denouncing him as a "pedler," as a "native Yankee," as a thief who had robbed a fellow-boarder at Bedford Springs and then run away, taking one of the most unfrequented roads "across the country to Cumberland, upon which no public conveyance runs"; and yet I found, upon further inquiry, that he went off by the regular mail coach direct to Philadelphia, drove straight to the Marshall House, where he had always put up, (one of the largest and most respectable establishments in the city,) and entered his name at length on the travellers' book in the usual way, and was received by McIlvaine himself and others he had met with at Bedford Springs, on a footing of the most friendly intimacy, for over two months after the alleged robbery and exposure.
I ascertained further, that he came to this country in the summer of 1836 on board the Statesman, Captain Mans
field, from Gothenburg to Salem, with letters from Christopher Hughes, our Chargé d'Affaires at Stockholm, to his son at New York, and with a Swedish passport to North America, duly authenticated, in which he was called "the Honorable John Bratish de Fratelin"; that he had many other letters, bills of credit, and drafts, and a large amount of money in gold, some "thousands of dollars" according to the testimony of Captain N. B. Mansfield himself, with whom I communicated by letter; that he was brought on board in the Governor's barge, and was known to have been treated with great distinction by the Swedish nobility, and to have been so well received by Bernadotte himself, the king of Sweden, as to give rise to a report that he was a son of Murat, the late king of Naples, whose queen he certainly resembled, as he did others of the Bonaparte family; that on the passage he put on no airs, claimed no title, but chose to be called plain Mr. Bratish, until his rank was discovered, and he came to be known as General John Bratish Eliovich (the son of Elias), Baron Fratelin; that after a twelvemonth's residence at Boston and Salem, holding intercourse with what is there called the best society, he went to Washington, where he passed the winter of 1837-38 among the fashionables and upper-tens; that, while there, he received the provisional appointment of Consul-General for the United States from the Regency of Greece, dated February 15, 1837, upon which he threw up an engagement he had entered into with General Duff Greene, which secured him a respectable support, and set about seeing the country; that after travelling from New York to New Orleans, he returned to the North, and stopped for a month or two at Bedford Springs, about a day's journey from Philadelphia; that being disappointed in remittances and receipts, and unable to collect moneys he had lent to his compatriots, he could not pay his bill for six weeks' board, amounting to fifty dollars, and went to Philadelphia, leav
ing with Mr. Brown, the landlord, a part of his baggage and books, after trying in vain to dispose of a valuable platina medal; that in Philadelphia, Mr. McIlvaine - notwithstanding the alleged robbery - lent him one hundred and sixty-five dollars, and was constituted Vice-Consul of Greece ad interim, that is, "until the pleasure of his Majesty, the king of Greece, should be known."
Here then was the foundation of all the attacks made upon the unhappy General; but was there not something behind, something below this foundation ? The extraordinary case of Dr. Follen, who was hunted from pillar to post, year after year, and wellnigh lied into his grave, shows what may be done by conspirators and spies and slanderers, when a respectable man grows obnoxious to a foreign power. If he is at all headstrong or imprudent, nothing can save him. Oddly enough, it happens that one of the very papers which followed Dr. Follen whithersoever he went, like a sleuth-hound, - the Philadelphia Gazette, - was among the bitterest and most unrelenting of those that assailed General Bratish.
While pursuing these investigations, I learned from what I regarded as high authority, that General Bratish had presented an address to Lord Normanby, at the head of the whole consular body, having been chosen for that special purpose; and I was referred to the Irish Royal Cork Almanac for 1835, where, under the head of Foreign Consuls, I read, "Colonel John Bratish (d'Elias) Eliovich, K. C. C., S. S., L. H., Consul - General of Greece, Mexico, Buenos Ayres, and Switzerland, Consular Agent of Turkey."
How were these contradictions to be reconciled, the facts proved with the stories told? If General Bratish was the swindler and impostor they pretended, the sooner he was exposed, and the more publicly, the better. On the contrary, if he was an honest man — -a man greatly wronged and belied, like Dr. Follen - he ought to be defended, -but how? He was poor and friend