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LETTER TO DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF HERKI
STATE OF NEW YORK
Albany, March 7, 1899 Hon. Adam J. Smith, District Attorney, Herkimer, N. Y.:
Sir: A few days ago the Superintendent of Public Works of the State of New York found upon making an examination that the public service would be subserved by the removal of one Snyder, as a section superintendent of the Erie Canal in Herkimer County, he having apparently been guilty of falsifying payrolls and by such means stealing the public moneys. The information received by him upon which he based this determination is on file in this office, and he has sent a copy of the same to you for your examination.
I am credibly informed that affidavits substantially the same as the copies which have been sent you, have been for some time on file in your office. I now call your attention sharply to the commission of this crime, the perpetrator of which should be speedily punished; and I expect that you and all your officers and persons associated with you in the execution of the criminal law, will do their whole duty thoroughly and without fear or favor to secure conviction.
Every assistance that the Executive Department of the State government can afford you to accomplish the ends aforesaid will be at your command.
Yours very truly,
LETTER TO GENERAL FRANCIS V. GREENE
RELATIVE TO CANAL EXPERTS
STATE OF NEW YORK
Albany, March 8, 1899 General FRANCIS V. GREENE, II Broadway, New York
City: MY DEAR SIR: I am very desirous of seeing the canal policy of the State definitely formulated. As you know the nine million dollars designed to deepen the canals to the depth of nine feet has been practically expended, and it is reported that sixteen millions additional will be needed to carry this scheme through, while, at the same time, certain experts have said that the scheme, when carried through, will not be satisfactory. In short, there is much conflict of opinion as to what policy should be followed with reference to the canals, and even as to the proper terminus of the canal on the lakes.
I desire the opinion of a body of experts, who shall include in their number not merely high class engineers, but men of business, and especially men who have made a study of the problems of transportation, who know the relative advantages and disadvantages of ship canals, barge canals and ordinary shallow canals, who are acquainted with the history of canal transportation as affected by the competition of railroads, and who have the knowledge that will enable us to profit by the experience of other countries in these matters. I have decided to ask five of the citizens of New York, whose reputation stands highest in these respects, to act with the Superintendent of Public
Works, Colonel Partridge, and the State Engineer and Surveyor, Mr. Bond, to make the necessary investigations (and where necessary to call in the aid of special experts), to enable them to report to me, at as early a day as convenient, the proper course we should follow as regards this vital interest of the State of New York. I desire very much that you serve on this committee. The other four gentlemen will be Messrs. John N. Scatcherd, Frank S. Witherbee, George E. Greene, and Major Symonds.
Last year the questions which arose affecting the canals were really two-fold in character, namely: those affecting the actual administration of the canals; and those affecting the general canal scheme for the State.
As regards the former, the questions are now well on their way to solution. Three of the best qualified lawyers in the State have been retained to investigate and press home any charge of corruption against any canal official, which in their judgment can be sustained; and Colonel Partridge is so administering the office of Superintendent of Public Works as to guarantee the honest, efficient and economical management of the canals as they now are.
The broad question of the proper policy which the State should pursue in canal matters remains unsolved, and I ask you to help me reach the proper solution.
Very sincerely yours,
RELATIVE TO THE APPLICATION FOR COM
MUTATION OF SENTENCE OF MARTHA
STATE OF NEW YORK
Albany, March 15, 1899
In the Matter of the Application of Martha Place for
Executive Clemency — Denial and Opinion This is an application made on behalf of Martha Place, now in confinement in Sing Sing prison under sentence of death for the crime of murder in the first degree, committed in the County of Kings on the 7th day of February, 1898.
The case was tried in the County Court of Kings County, and a judgment thereon rendered on the 8th day of July, 1898, and the defendant was sentenced to the punishment of death in the manner and place prescribed by law. From this judgment the defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals, and the unanimous decision of that court, Judge Martin writing the opinion, was that the judgment should be affirmed.
No more painful case can come before a Governor than an appeal to arrest the course of justice in order to save a woman from capital punishment, when that woman's guilt has been clearly established and when there are no circumstances whatever to mitigate the crime. If there were any reasonable doubt of the guilt, if there were any other basis whatsoever for interference with the course of justice in this case, I should so interfere. But there is no ground for interference. The accused was condemned as guilty of murder in the first degree after full and fair trial, although as all men know, a jury in such a case is always reluctant to give a verdict against a woman if any justification whatsoever exists for withholding it. This verdict was then reviewed at great length by the Court of Appeals and was affirmed without a dissenting voice; though this Court always scrutinizes with the most jealous care such a case, desiring that the benefit of every doubt shall be given to the accused. I wrote to the district attorney and to the judge who tried the case to learn whether they thought there was any ground for executive clemency. They both answered that there was none whatever and that the case was one of peculiar outrage, the letter of the judge running as follows:
“The record before you will show a crime of shocking atrocity, followed by another, the attack on William Place, having murder for its object; that both crimes were premeditated and deliberate there can be no doubt; in my opinion the verdict was eminently just; I think the application entirely without merit and I know of no ground for interfering with the sentence.”
I went carefully over the evidence, which showed that the accused had first blinded her step-daughter with acid and then strangled her, and after waiting in the house all day, when her husband returned at dark, had attacked him and endeavored to kill him with an axe.
Her attorneys and her pastor appealed to me for clemency. They raised no question as to her guilt but claimed that she was insane; the attorneys asserted that she was insane at the time the deed was committed, and was now insane; the clergyman stated that she was undoubtedly sane at present but that he believed her to have been in