There are two monuments erected to the memory of BENJAMIN LETT, by his brother, Thomas Lett, and mark his resting place in the Lett Cemetery in Northville, LaSalle County, about six miles southwest from Sandwich, Illinois. The footstone is nine feet high from its base, six inches thick, and three feet wide; the main column is eleven feet high from its base, which is four feet square.

The slab reads thus:


When the blood-hounds of Canada had failed with army, spies, kidnappers and assassins to destroy him, they selected DaFoe, one of their own fraternity. When he could entrap him in no other way, he attempted to set fire to a British steamboat, in Oswego port, swore he was a criminal not caught in the act, nor running away, but coming back, and said Lett told him to do so. This constituted partnership in New York! They indicted Lett one day and convicted him the next, without a copy of his indictment, or a witness. This was Seward’s policy, while the shrieks of his roasted countrymen were still ringing in his ears. His father-in-law, Judge Miller, then came to me and said, “You can write and say what you please, if you will not take personal satisfaction.”

Lett was accused of blowing up Brock’s Monument, which was used as a watch-tower for military purposes during a civil war. Was it a crime? If so, then it is murder to hang a spy! He was also accused of slaying Captain Usher in his own foul den—the captain and pilot of the gang of bloody pirates, who stole on to you at midnight, with muffled oars,

and destroyed the Caroline. if that was wrong, then Hercules was the monster, and not, Cerberus.

His next partner was Stewart Wilson, of Milwaukee, who drugged him with poison and robbed him. When told so by Mr. Biers, then a member of the Legislature of Michigan, he threw the remainder in the lake. When arrived at Milwaukee, the citizens cried, “God of Heaven protect us. You let a stranger into our city; he is murdered and robbed, and you refuse to hold an inquest!” (See Note I.) Wilson was arrested, and it was proven he was a vagabond, living in open adultery with another man’s wife, whom Lett had never seen; and on her person his property was found, as they said, for “safe keeping.” Then the Circuit Judge, Arthur McArthur, arose and addressed the jury, saying: “If you find this man guilty, I will grant him a new trial.” This he did without being asked, or a plea being made on either side. Such was Milwaukee justice in January, 1859. At the same time another case of partnership was in shipping merchandise from Grand Traverse Bay, Mich., to A. Wolford, commission merchant and butcher, Ottawa, Ill. When called upon for a settlement, he produced one of the gang, whose deposition is thus:

“Question—What is your name?” Answer—”James M. Mauler. I am a Democrat; my father was a Democrat.”

Question—”Where is your residence?” Answer—”Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.”

Question—”Do you know Benjamin Lett?” Answer—”I am his partner.”

Question—”What was your occupation?“ Answer—”Fever mind ague; what I mean is, it made no difference who paid for the whiskey; Wolford paid me all the money.”

This was the testimony that established partnership before (Champlin, the Probate .Judge at Ottawa, and Hollister, Circuit Judge of Kendall County, Illinois, who would not suffer me to speak, nor show cause why I should have a new trial. These were the partners they found for a farmer who had produced twenty one hundred bushels of wheat on his own land in 1857. Such were the tools that Bushnell, Avery and Gray used upon Lett. I had the great law firms of Cook & Glover, Leland & Leland and Smith & Helm employed in this suit. Glover said, “You go to law with the Devil, and hold the court in Hell.” Leland said, ‘‘I can ho no more for you after passing the Probate office.’ My reply was, “Judge, you do not like to expose the murderer, because he is your neighbor; keep him.” The others lost their papers and let it go by default, after an appeal being taken to the Supreme Court. (See note II.)

What shall I say of these honest men? The notorious murderers, Burke and Hare, who insidiously enticed the strangers to their abode for the express purpose of cutting their throats while they were asleep, are fit company for the Eternal Gods, when compared to them, for it is always some risk to cut a strong man‘s throat! Oh, consider the judges clothed in ermine, invoking the God of light, wisdom and justice to come down and preside at such a farce, while their weapons were perjury and poison! I would impeach the Eternal Gods, dare they justify such crimes as these and call upon the foulest devils in hell to laugh them to scorn. (This grand and sublime idea is not my own, but came rushing down from the God of Light, through the medium of a woman’s brain, at the preparation for the funeral of Aratus.) Pluto, the King of Hell, would not break his word, nor tell a falsehood for Proserpina, the fairest woman in the land, and the one he most adored, but restored her to her husband according to his promise; such was the dignity of the heathen Devil.

Time will tell, with burning shame,

Of Newkirk’s foul and perjured name;

And of his brow and brazen cheek,

When he swore false to please the clique.

When to falsehood you’re inclined,

And silver coin runs in your mind,

I’d have you pause ere it be too late,

And think on perjured Newkirk’s fate.—Benjamin Lett.

Silas Wright, U. S. Senator, wrote to me from Washington on the 23d day of May, 1844, that “it was not only the Governor’s privilege, but his express duty, to release the innocent; that Gov. Bouck’s office was one, the duties of which are extremely laborious and he did not suppose he had time to reply to all the letters he received.”

Nero governed from the rising to the setting sun, from the Torrid to the Frigid Zone; yet he had time to hear the complaint of one poor mechanic, Paul. All the priests of the Jews and Pagans, the pettifoggers and office-seekers of his realm, fell down before Nero, asking Paul’s life, saying, “he was a blasphemer of their gods, and ring-leader of a sect seeking to overturn the government, and destroy them all.” Nero said, “Paul shall have a hearing.” Then Paul stood before Nero, not a muscle refusing to do its duty, stretched forth his hand and said: — “Most illustrious Emperor, your judges have condemned me to die, contrary to your laws; will you execute their judgment?”

Then Nero, with the strength of a Hercules, a hundred fold twice told, drove back the ferocious monsters from the blood of the innocent man. Nero, like the God whom I adore, could not be bribed nor frightened. What will posterity say of these Iagos? “That their blood was cold as an iceberg, towering ten thousand feet above the level of the ocean, and their souls made of the concentrated essence of human excrement.” They dare not rest their decisions by their personality, nor plead stupidity and shove human nature off its platform. There is no power in earth, sea or skies, that can defend them, unless the first person in the God-head decrees that himself and all his creatures shall have no memory of the past. Then he will never know he made man, and you will never know von are here, and the bee will never find its road home. What can the God of all Mercies do for them? Thrust them into utter darkness, where they will never see their own deformity. When the McLeod case came up before both governments, the lion-faced Webster, the God-like Dan, was then Secretary of State, but he trembled like a dog in a wet sack at the frown of Mr. Fox, the haughty English embassador, when he told him “McLeod was acting under a superior officer.” But oh heavens! he was ferocious when let loose upon the negro wench, whom he had bound hand and foot with heavier chains than ever Cerberus had his prisoners bound at hell’s gate. How changed the blood of man since Jupiter was a boy, when he thundered at the sight of the roasted embassador. Jupiter was so fair and so modest that he passed in disguise among the maidens long after.

Address to the Voters of the 17th Senatorial District of Illinois:

November 17, 1864.

There are three Iagos. The first two, fawning upon their victim,— your neighbor; while one turns poison down his throat, the second stands sentry, hears the shriek of “Murder! Murder! Murder!” He claps his hand on his victim’s mouth; keeps it there until all is hushed in death. The third saw it, admits it horrid murder, being at the same time sworn to prosecute the guilty and paid for doing it; but he takes the second in his arms, calls him brother, and says, “I will protect you!” Which of these three is the honest man, that you would vote to send to the Legislature, to make laws for yourselves and your children? Vote for Washington Bushnell, and you vote for one of the three. The second was A. Wolford, who kept the dispatch a whole week that came from Milwaukee saying, “Lett is here dying; come with haste.” These fellows took beef from the hands of Wolford, all saturated with the blood of the murdered Lett till their bone, muscle, mind and soul became rotten like his own.

“There are a few other things in regard to this case that should be known. The captain and mate of the vessel on which Lett came here expressed their confident belief that he was poisoned and they doubted not by whom. The captain states that on going into his stateroom he found the man whom he suspected, attempting to administer nourishment to Mr. Lett, who perseveringly refused to admit a particle into his mouth. Suspecting the cause of his refusal, he brought him nourishment which he readily took. After arriving here he made evident efforts to answer questions by nodding his head, or shaking it. lie was asked if he believed that he was poisoned? A prompt nod of the head two or three times repeated was the significant answer.”—Milwaukee Sentinel, December 15, 1858.

If the decision in the case of Lett was lawful, a man having two enemies might shoot one and turn State’s evidence, and swear the other told him to do so, and destroy both in one day; and by adding perjury to murder, escape with impunity, as Dafoe did. Speak! Iagos, speak! and prove the villain a liar.


Remarks of T. Stickle, the Artist:

‘Lett’s brother falls upon them like a hurricane upon the ocean—lashes them into fury, and dares them to leap the bounds. He brings them to the light and shows them to the people.’”

(On Base of Stone:)—”The most exalted lords of Great Britain had to implore their republican ancestors to come and protect them in their political and religious rights. When the proud Englishman was ordered to be whipped once a fortnight for seven years, and the whelp’s paw sold for five shillings and six-pence sterling for food for the fighting soldiers; when James stole the great seals of the nation and flung them into the Thames, sought to destroy friend and foe with one blow, and fled a vagrant because he could not have absolute power over body and mind of the British nation—it was then the Letts rushed to the fight, made the quarrel their own, and helped to pluck England from the bloody jaws of Rome, which she could neither obviate nor shun.

CITY AND COUNTY OF ALBANY:—John W. Turner, of Oswego, N. V., being duly sworn, deposeth and saith: that he has resided in the village of Oswego for more than twenty years; that in 1840 he was an inspector of the customs for the port of Oswego, and as such inspector was in the practice of visiting all boats on their arrival from a Canadian port; that he “as in attendance on such business at the time of the explosion of a trunk on board the British steamer Great Britain, it being the same as proved to have been placed on board by one Dafoe, and for which Benjamin Lett was convicted as an accomplice for setting fire to said boat; that said deponent was present at the trial of said Lett at the Oyer and Terminer, .Judge Gridley presiding, in 1840, and was sworn as a witness on said trial, and that two witnesses sworn on the part of the people, testified that the boat was actually on fire, that a place on the main deck, and where the explosion took place, was actually on fire, and was burned or charred a fourth of an inch in depth, and over a surface of some six inches in diameter; that this deponent was, at the time of said explosion, standing some forty feet from the gangway, where said trunk was placed at the time of said explosion; that he went immediately on board and saw cotton on fire about said boat, and that it was, not to exceed one minute from the explosion before all the combustibles on fire were swept from the boat. This deponent further saith, that where the said explosion was had that the deck was blackened by the powder, &c., which the trunk contained, and had the appearance of having been burned; but this deponent further says that he saw it after it was washed off, and that no appearance of fire was to be traced there or elsewhere as testified by the said witnesses, Pardee and Newkirk, and that he, on several occasions, after as well as before the trial, examined said boat, and that on one occasion he asked the captain to point out a place where the boat was on fire, which seemed to offend said captain, and he asked if any thanks were due Lett if it was not actually on fire; he, Lett, had attempted to burn it. And further this deponent saith not.


Sworn and subscribed before me, this 11th day of February, 1845.

WM. I. D. HILTON, Justice, &c.

To SILAS WRIGHT, Governor. &c. :—The undersigned, citizens of the county of Monroe, would respectfully beg leave to present to your consideration and clemency the case of Benjamin Lett, now confined in the State’s Prison at Auburn upon a sentence after conviction for arson in the fourth degree. The circumstances, as they appeared in the public prints previous to and at the time of the trial, are probably familiar to your Excellency, but will, as your petitioners understand, be presented to you in a more distinct and authentic manner along with petitions from various parts of the State. The case of Lett has excited a deep sympathy upon the frontier, and many have been led to believe that his conviction was effected by MEANS OF PERJURY. It is well known that Lett entertained strong feelings of hostility towards the British Government, and was by the Government authorities in the Canadas looked upon as a dangerous man to the Government. It has been supposed, and your petitioners believe there is good ground for the supposition that strong efforts were it made in Canada to effect the conviction of Lett as a convenient means of removing an inveterate and untiring political enemy.

Your petitioners respectfully solicit the attention of your Excellency to the investigation of this matter at your earliest convenience, and that unless wholly inconsistent with a proper exercise of executive prerogative, that you will be pleased to restore to liberty a man who is believed to be by all who know him, but an ardent patriot, whatever may be his errors of judgment.

Rochester, January 9th, 1845.

John Allen, Jacob Gould, George Byington, L. B. Swan,

L. B. King, Arid Wentworth, Geo. G. Root, C. A. Jones,

R. R. Lothridge, E. Hagar, Matthew Cavanagh, H. L. Stevens,

Wm. Breck, Isaac Port, John B. Thomas, E. Tinnsner,

Erastus Ide, G. W. Fisher, C. S. Martin, Jas. Abrams,

Isaac Hills, Jno.W. Duimelle, Z. S. Davis, Jno. C. Humasen,

A. N. Curtis, Wm. Alling, James C. Briggs, Jas. McIntosh,

M. S. Newton, C. Seymour, H. N. Shaw, H. A. Tucker,

Alfred Ely, E. Terry, Geo. F. James, D. McKay,

T. E. Hastings, Jonathan Child, Gilbert W. Potter, H. E. Peck,

C. O. B. Stuart, E. C. Dibbles, T. M. Donaldson, Geo. Davison,

Jas. M. Bruff, J. W. Hatch, M. Phillips,Josiah Snow,

H. H. Paddock, George Charles, George Gates, Alvah Strong,

Seth C. Jones, L. E. Harris, A. Senisky, Roswell Hait,

E. Cook, P. 5. McCollum, E. W. Carr, Rooney L. Adams,

L. A. Allen, James C. Marsh, Walter White, L. B. Langworthy,

Jno. G. Parker, Henry W. Davis, J. Cutler, I. H. Gates,

Wm. T. Kennedy, J. Seymour, S. A. Leach, H. H. Bunett,

T. J. Parker, H. S. Fairchild, O. G. Gibbs, Edwin Rowe,

Samuel Miller, A. Newton, E. H. Mason, S. M. Nevans,

Dan’l D. Lynch, B. Richmond, P. B. Brack, S. M. Boughton,

Simeon Ashley, C. Pattison, T. S. Hall, L. Lowell,

N. B. Northup, Caleb Wilder, N. Frost, G. H. Buck,

Wm. P. Smith, Chas. Morton, W. N. Blossom, H. Ringman.

The signers of this petition were citizens of Rochester; .John Allen was then Mayor of the city, Jacob Gould, U. S. Marshal, and the rest not inferior in respectability.”

The main column has the following inscription:



Who was pursued for more than twenty years by the most powerful political party upon earth. England had not money enough to hire any of their cut-throats to shoot him down, and they had to stoop to slander, perjury and poison to accomplish his destruction. He was a true disciple of Aratus, whose generosity surpassed his courage - they both died by poison. He was son to Samuel Lett, a mighty mathematician; the heavens was his time-piece and his brain a perpetual almanac. He was descended of ‘William’s men, the champion of Protestantism. On his mother’s side the Warrens were Republicans under Milton, when he was Secretary of War; another root, the Pelos, were French Huguenots; both male and female suffered martyrdom, and but two escaped, and only with their lives.

Such were his ancestors in the great struggle for human rights.



“INTRODUCTION TO SLANDER—Not knowing how they could rob me of my liberty, without assassinating my character, they trumped up a foul, false, hellish, malignant report of blowing up the boat—wholesale murder! SLANDER—The vilest imp of hell: earth’s greatest monster; Satan’s right hand champion—who hath escaped him? Not Joseph the patriarch; nor Moses, the great legislator, and God’s high priest; Confucius, the sage, nor Socrates, the philosopher; George Washington, nor Dan O’Connell. Yea, he is the most unenviable wretch imaginable. He infests the pulpit, the bench and the bar; he scorns not to enter the meanest hut, and blushes not to enter the proudest palace; he makes the most delicious meals on good men’s names, on matron virtue and maiden innocence. Yea, he even dared with relentless hate and with more than hellish fury thrust his infernal fangs into the pure and unspotted character of the only begotten of the Most High God!

(Written on the margin of a pamphlet, while in prison.)


The judges and the witnesses of Jezebel would have shuddered and shrunk back with honor from the acts that Lett’s destroyers stooped to. The authorities of New York committed three crimes against him (Lett) that have no parallel in fact or fiction. It will he seen by the testimony of Dafoe, the chief witness—the man who swore that he himself had committed the alleged crime, but that Lett had told him to do so—(See Note III.)—producing no proof tending in any wise to such a conclusion that he on oath, in open court, identified a piece of a match which he says was the very, match Lett had placed in the trunk, although all the witnesses agree to the fact that there was an explosion and being an explosion that explosion must have been caused by the match, which match must have been consumed before any fire could have been communicated to the contents of the jugs, without which communication of fire there could not possibly have been any explosion. Again, the witness, Pardee, swears to a piece of a jug, which was produced in court as being a piece of one of the jugs in the trunk; while Newkirk and Pardee both agree that the boat was on fire, when all the other witnesses for the prosecution swear to the contrary; but it was left for Dr. Holden to put a finish to this truly astonishing testimony, and at the same time give him a favorable opportunity of displaying his own ignorance, when he swore that lie had analyzed the contents of the trunk after those contents had exploded. Totally disregarding the established laws of nature, these model witnesses testified by supernatural wisdom to natural impossibilities—this being so absurd, so vile and filthy that it would cause a dog to vomit, poison a hyena, and the stomach of an ostrich could not digest it. Yet, Gridley, Seward, Bouck arid Wright—one a Supreme Judge, the three others Governors of the State of New York—most solemnly swore by the Ever-Living God that it was delicious and good, and that it was American justice.



(See Note IV.) McLeod and his party invaded your territory when they were bound by the most solemn treaties of peace, murdered your sleeping countrymen on your own soil, cut out your ship from under your flag and fired it; sent the living and the dead in the burning steamer, Caroline, over the hideous falls of Niagara, and shouted with joy at the horrid scene and cursed the American name and nation. Had Lett done all this, then he would have bad American editors, orators and politicians to respect and protect him.

Lett’s enemies are like the criminal at the feast of the Great Jehovah—speechless.

[At this point there is cut in the monument in bold relief, a figure about eighteen inches square, representing Gov. Wright holding the golden scales spoken of, in one side of which are 162 men and in the other the criminal, Dafoe, and the balance showing that the veracity of the one outweighs that of the 162, in explanation of which are the terrible, scorching words;]





Governor Wright pronounced the astonishing decision that the sworn evidence I had produced was not worthy of belief (!) when my witnesses consisted of true Americans—soldiers, such as Hercules, Aratus, Washington and LaFayette, enemies to tyrants—farmers, mechanics and merchants, the four best classes among men—the salt of the earth, who would not stoop to bribery to oppress the innocent, nor tremble before power to destroy the oppressed. These were the men who were weighed in the golden scales of Wright’s judgment and found inferior to Dafoe.

(See Note V) Governor Silas Wright released Lett, but in so doing he outdid Gessler. He selected two physicians, Doctors Pitney and Biglow, of Auburn, political and personal enemies to each other, said they must agree that the prison was killing him, and would kill him, and had not so far killed him but that a release would prolong his life; they agreed to that effect. Then he, acting under oath, remitted a crime that was proven by 162 witnesses never to have been committed, and called it American mercy!

But to crown all, the moral law is the pleading of your Supreme Court’s Judge, to shield an illegal indictment, trial and sentence; while Governor Wright, in his pardon, declares the arson was committed, thereby causing a perjured lie to be put on record in your Secretary of State’s office—for the truth in preference to the truth—truth being the great master-wheel of the grand machinery of all civilization, which he sought to destroy. (See Note VI.) Judge Gridley knowingly and willfully violated the common law of all civilized countries, the statute law of his State and the solemn and sacred oath of his office to please the midnight assassins of his own sleeping countrymen; then his apology—morality—— is worse than all these hellish outrages.

This trial took place at Oswego, N. Y., June, 1840.

Erected by Thomas Lett, with extracts from his “Appeal to the Protestant Christian Republic of the State of New York,” Feb. 12, 1862, that the nation might render that justice to the dead which was so revengefully denied by their authorities to the living.”




HAVING given my readers, on the foregoing pages, a copy of the inscriptions on the monuments, I herewith present the following true copies of original papers in my possession relating to the trial, conviction and pardon of Benjamin Lett, his life, etc.


Copy of the trial of Benjamin Lett, for Arson, at Oswego, June 25, 1840.



Ads Arson for firing steamboat Great Britain, June 25, 1840.


NICHOLAS HILL, Jr., and E. B. TALCOTT, Counsel for Prisoner; O. Robinson, District Attorney, and A. P. GRANT, for people.

David Dafoe: “I have been in jail a fortnight last Saturday; before that, I resided in Watertown, 17 or 18 months; before that, in Bellville in U. C. 15 years; born in Canada; am 37 years old; have a child; I know Benjamin Lett, have known him since last July; first saw him in Watertown; I next saw him at Watertown, five weeks ago, Thursday or Friday. Lett spoke of an expedition to burn British steamboats; the object was to assist in a revolution in Canada, and prevent carrying troops, &c. Lett left Watertown Saturday morning, four weeks last Saturday; I left next day, and Monday morning left Sackett’s Harbor, in the U. S., and arrived here between 2 and 3 o’clock p. m., and went to the Commercial tavern. Lett told me to stop at the Commercial, (Gates’), before I came here; I saw Lett on the other side; he told me to go to Gates, and gave as a reason that Gates was a fine man, a good fellow. I next saw him at Gates’, and talked with him in the sitting room alone; he said he would go to Rochester to get materials—alcohol, sulphur, resin, etc. He left soon after for Rochester, (next afternoon.) I occupied a small room with one bed; he had one a little larger. 1 don’t know what boat he went on; saw him on the deck when it was going out; think it was the Express boat; gone about a week; landed on east side of the river. He came on the Oneida; saw him early before Gates’ door. He told me to go and get the two jugs on the wharf; I got them and put them in the bar; saw him soon after and told him I had brought the jugs. He said they were put down in the cellar. I next saw the jugs in his trunk, Wednesday after; the trunk was in Lett’s room; it was a dark brown trunk, about 30 inches long, covered with hair. Lett brought the trunk to the room; he said he paid $2 for the trunk—the man asked $3. The jugs were in the trunk half an hour after it was brought in, lying flat with the ends lapping; they were stone jugs, and held about two gallons each. He said he would get a small jug to put powder in; I saw it afterwards; it held about a quart; was a stone jug; I did not see cork taps taken out of jugs. Lett said he had got those things I named in the jugs. I saw powder in small jug; a rope match was put in the small jug; (match produced and identified;) the rope was 18 inches long, double; one end was in the small jug, and the other came out at the end; the small jug was put under the two jugs; Lett cut the hole through the end of the trunk (produced and identified) with one of the bowie knives; three pounds of cotton were put in the trunk; I got it at Hart’s store; Lett told me to get it; I locked the trunk, took it down same day and put it on a cart; a cartman helped me; he took it down to the wharf. The steamboat came up twenty minutes after; I was waiting for the Great Britain. Lett was about; said he would go and fish while I was taking it down. I hired a cartman and paid him; Lett told me to; I did not see Lett till I got on the boat; Lett was fishing on the pier opposite; don’t know how far; I put the trunk next the ladies’ cabin, next the water-side. I first sat in the front end of the boat; I set a loco-foco match to it; it did not burn well; it remained half an hour, but not having a chance to fire it again without hurting some one, I took it off. A cartman took it back to Gates; the bartender set it in the house in the hall; I took it into Lett’s room, and Lett told me to take out the jugs; I took them all out and set them under the bed; I saw Lett ten minutes after I got hack; I told him the reason I had not touched off the match; Lett said I was a little cowardly; this was three weeks ago yesterday, (Wednesday.) I next saw the trunk the Saturday following; the jugs were in the trunk the same as before; Lett put them in; when I came up Lett was fixing the cotton.

Lett told me to speak to a cartman to take the trunk down, and told me where to find him; Lett said he would go down and cut up some maneuvers and get the people on the front of the boat; the cartman and I put the trunk on the cart, and took it down to the wharf; he set it on the boat near the sky-light; I gave him 8 pence and 3 cents; I removed it to the side of the ladies’ cabin. The trunk was on the side of the boat next to the wharf. Perhaps ten minutes after this I set a match to the trunk; I saw a colored boy, Grant, on board; I walked off the boat as I fired the match; it exploded about a minute after; I was then two or three rods from the boat. Lett had tried the matches before, to see how long it would take to burn it up. I saw Lett two or three rods from the boat when I walked off; I saw him sitting on some old timber; I was not on board more than half an hour; I did not go back into the boat; I went out west into the woods, three-quarters of a mile, and stayed till near night. A constable took me on my return to Gates’. Lett walked on behind me a ways, up near the U. S. Hotel, and turned back; I did not talk with Lett after I left the boat.”

William L. Pardee: “I know the steamboat Great Britain; John Hamilton is said to be the owner of her; he resides in Queenstown, U. C.; I heard explosion and saw fragments of jugs, &c., and where the boat had been on fire; I perceived straps of trunks and leather; (piece of jug produced and identified by witness.) There is gum copal and spirits of turpentine in trunk; copal is combustible; I did not see Lett on that occasion; I had seen him about eight or ten days before.”

Warden Newkirk: “I. was three rods from the steamboat when the explosion took place; the report was as loud as a common cannon; I went on board; the boat was on fire; one man seemed burned in the face and hands. The explosion was on starboard side of the boat; I saw Lett at the time walking back and forth; he crossed over on to the pier and back again. The boat always lands at that wharf; her bow was up stream. The boat was 200 or 300 feet from the pier, when I saw Lett, after the boat came in at the time of the explosion Lett was about 100 feet from the boat, on the wharf, opposite; after the explosion I saw Lett walking back and forth on the wharf; others were there. I cannot say who; I next saw him on the pier; I next saw him about 100 feet from the boat, on the opposite side of the wharf; at the time of the explosion he was looking at a boat about being launched. Hukiman is the captain of the Great Britain; I did not see Dafoe at the time; did not know him. I saw Lett walking up with the burnt man. (Question of the court.) The boat appeared to be on fire; no doubt of its being on fire.”

Dr. Holden: ‘I have examined the mixture in jugs; it is composed of ten parts copal, two of saltpetre, two of Venice turpentine, and small quantity of cotton wicking; they are combustible—not very, but produce intense heat when combusted: don’t burn rapidly—(paper handed containing powder;) it is blue vitriol, not combustible of itself; the match is pack thread, saturated with saltpetre, etc.

George Gates: “I keep public house in W. Oswego; saw Lett the 24th of May, in the morning, at my house; he remained two or three days; Dafoe came next day, P. M.; Lett took a room, No. 9; Dafoe, No. 4, adjoining Lett’s; Lett did not bring baggage with him first; Lett said he was going to Rochester when he left; he was gone three or four days; he returned in the morning. The Oneida and another boat were in that evening; I think the Oneida came from Rochester that morning; it stops on this side of the river. 1 saw jugs at 9 A. M., brought by Dafoe; I think Lett was in the room when Dafoe brought them in; I set them in the hall, and then down in the cellar. Lett said, ‘I wish you would take care of those jugs; they held 1-1/2 or 2 gallons. After putting the jugs in the cellar, two or three days, Lett asked me for the jugs, and I gave them to him; he took them away; I left a small jug at Lett’s room; he had asked me for one; Lett had no apparent business; Lett and Dafoe went out of town with me two days before the explosion on a fishing and hunting excursion; I saw a trunk in Lett’s room; I went to the room an hour or more after the explosion; no trunk in the room; saw a scalping knife, wrench and bullet moulds; Lett spent considerable time in his room afterwards; I saw no trunk taken from the house, nor brought down; Lett was not put into No. 4 at his request; I never saw Lett and Dafoe talk together in a private way, or so but what they could be heard.”

Stephen Parmeter: “I first saw Lett the day of the explosion, 3 or 4 P. M.; Lett asked me to carry a trunk to the steamboat; Dafoe afterwards asked me to go and take the trunk; Dafoe and I put the trunk on the cart; the trunk was near two feet long; Dafoe paid me 8 pence and 3 cents. (Board produced) about the length produced; (skin produced) about the color of trunk.”

William S. Hynrts: “I saw Lett come off the steamboat Oneida, a few days before the explosion; think it was the Tuesday before the explosion, in the morning; landed at Fitzhugh’s wharf, East Oswego; he had two jugs in his hands in the gangway—1 or 1-1/2 gallon jugs, (about the size and kind of fragment produced;) I am employed on the wharf.”

Van Horn: “Two weeks ago last Wednesday or Friday saw Dafoe with trunk at Great Britain.”

Isaac Perry: “I live with Gates at tavern; some five or six weeks ago he came in to Gates’, etc.; on 2d day of June, on his return from Rochester, I saw him; on Tuesday, before the explosion, I think it was after noon, Lett came from Rochester; I saw Dafoe bring jugs; think it was just at night; I was lighting up the bar-room; I think probably I am mistaken, and it was morning; two or three days after I saw jugs in cellar; don’t know who took the jugs away; did not see them after. A young man brought a trunk to the house for a man; I saw trunk going past the house on a cart; this was Saturday; on Wednesday before, trunk was taken down to the boat; when it-was brought hack I took it into the house; I think it was broken; I did not hear Lett say he had been to Rochester.”

N. M ills: “I live in Oswego; my store is 20 or 25 rods from Gates’ tavern; I first saw Lett last fall; I next saw him five or six weeks ago on Water street; two or three weeks after I saw him again; some three weeks ago he was in my store; did not speak except to pass the weather; again in my store; again passing time; I next saw Lett on the day of the explosion; I think on the Monday before the explosion he got a trunk of me—at 1 or 2 o’clock P. M.; I think I saw trunk again the same day I sold trunk; I sold the trunk for $2—asked $2.50; my son took the trunk to Gates’; it was an oval-topped hair trunk; Judge Grant was with Lett when I first saw him; he got an awl the day of the explosion; I think I sold Lett a three foot trunk; he said he wanted one of an oval top to put a hat in; he wanted a cheap one because he had divided his money with a widow whose husband had been hung in Canada; I think it was a dark trunk.

Dafoe recalled, (cross-examined:) I am of French descent; came to the United States 17 months ago; I was at work for Massy when I first saw Lett, One year ago.

John W. Turner; Lett was standing about 100 feet from the boat at explosion.

Stephen Reid; Barker and I found Lett above Whites’ house away from west; he sat on the steps leading to the hotel; I took Lett by the collar; I called for a rope to tie him, and he swore he would not be tied by two men; he resisted when I wanted to tie him; I said to Barker, Lett was armed; Lett said it was no secret, his friends knew he always went armed; he had four pistols and a bowie knife; only one loaded and that only with powder; also powder in paper with the words written on it; I said he was charged with trying to burn the Great Britain; he said he knew nothing about it; had not been there.

John A. Goons: I saw boat Saturday and Monday after the explosion; on Monday I went on board; the paint was blackened as though a fire had been near, but no part of the boat was burned to a coal; I examined it carefully three times; the boat had not been painted since explosion; I examined the boat at the place where the explosion took place; was near the boat when it exploded; boxes were under the stairs; don’t think the boxes were on fire; saw blaze on wood but don’t know if wood was on fire; it might have been cotton.

B. J. Leads: I was on board after explosion same day; I did not examine the boat very particularly; under the stairs the boat was black; I don’t think the boat was burned to a coal under the stairs; I should think a blaze had not been kindled on the boat.

William I. Pardee recalled; Saw Mr. Hamilton two or three months ago; he was not here at the time; the floor of the boat was charred in one place; Hamilton is reputed to be owner.

Daniel Allen: I examined boat fifteen minutes after explosion; I saw no part of the boat burned to a coal or burned; I think I should have seen it if boat had been burned; the floor was wet and black; the wood was not charred at all; I did not examine the floor under the pig iron.

John W. Turner recalled: I saw spots on the floor and thought they were the effects of powder; I had the examination on Monday; the floor was not charred in any place.



The Jury found the prisoner guilty, and the court sentenced him to seven years confinement in the States prison, (being the full extent of the law.)—See note 5.

“I certify that I was the law partner of E. B. Talcott who defended the within named Benjamin Lett; that I am acquainted with his hand-writing, and know the within minutes to be his hand-writing taken at the trial, and that I believe them correct so far as taken, and I have delivered them to Thomas Lett today.”

April 17, 1845.


After having received the minutes of the trial from Mr. Harmon, I went to Mr. E. B. Talcott, State Senator, (then at Albany,) requesting his certificate and signature to the same, which he pointedly refused, alleging it might injure his political career. I then returned to Oswego and got the above certificate from his partner, Mr. Harmon.

REMARKS ON THE TRIAL.—I will pass over the injustice of arresting a man, (on the oath of another whose safety was at stake,) and refusing to put off his trial when he had no witnesses summoned on his behalf, to the facts in the testimony of the principal witnesses. It will be seen by the testimony of Dafoe, the chief witness, (the man who swore that he himself had committed the alleged crime, but that Lett had told him to do so, producing no proof tending in any wise t such a conclusion,) that he, on oath, in open court, identified a piece of a match which he says was the very match Lett had placed in the trunk, although all the witnesses agree as to the fact that there was an explosion, and being an explosion, that explosion must have been caused by the match, which match must have been consumed before any fire could have been communicated to the contents of the jugs, without which communication of fire there could not possibly have been any explosion. Again, the witness, Pardee, swears to a piece of a jug which was produced in court, as being a piece of one of the jugs in the trunk; while Newkirk and Pardee both agree that the boat was on fire, when all the other witnesses for the prosecution swear to the contrary; but it was left for Dr. Holden to put a finish to this truly astonishing testimony, and at the same time give him a favorable opportunity of displaying his own ignorance, when he swore that he had analyzed the contents of the trunk after those contents had exploded.

Totally disregarding the established laws of nature, these model witnesses testified by supernatural wisdom to natural impossibilities, this being so absurd, so vile and so filthy, that it would cause a dog to vomit, poison a hyena, and the stomach of an ostrich could not digest it; yet Gridley, Seward, Bouck and Wright, (one Supreme Court Judge and three Governors of the State of New York) most solemnly swore by the over-living God that it was delicious and good, and that it was AMERICAN JUSTICE.

Upon such contemptible testimony my brother was convicted, (if his punishment could by any means be said to have resulted from conviction,) and being determined to oppose an illegal decision, I addressed a letter to the far-famed Silas Wright, at the time U. S. Senator from the State of New York, giving him my view of the trial, and asking his advice as to how I should proceed, which letter, together with his answer, is a follows:



April 29th, 1844.

From Thomas Lett to Mr. Silas Wright,

United States Senator from the State of New York.

Sir :—I address you in behalf of my brother, Benjamin Lett, a convict in Auburn State Prison, whom I consider as unjustly and unlawfully condemned without a cause. In the summer of 1840, he was tried by a jury at Oswego who found him guilty of Arson in the fourth degree, and the judge, Gridley, sentenced him to seven years imprisonment in Auburn State’s prison because he would not peaceably walk up the gallows in Canada and be hung, to please such as Prince, Drew and McNab, when they wished to sacrifice him to Queen Victoria, as he was one the proscribed in ‘37 and ‘38. When the blood-hounds of Canada had failed with army, spies, kidnappers and assassins to destroy him, they hired one of their fraternity who pursued him, and managed to be seen in his company as much as possible. When this wretch could entrap him in no other way, he, [Dafoe,] according to his own statement, carried combustibles on board the Steamer Great Britain, then lying in Oswego harbor, he put a match to the combustibles and the explosion burst the trunk that contained them. He then turned States’ evidence, and declared in open court that he had himself committed the act, but that Lett was his adviser, and had furnished him with a trunk, &c., for that purpose. They also found another witness with supernatural wisdom, who had seen Lett carrying a jug through the streets of Oswego three weeks before, and identified a piece of the same broken on board of the Great Britain. This was the evidence they claimed to condemn him [Lett.] Had Dafoe, the State’s evidence, accused Governor Seward or any American of being his adviser, would the decision of the court have been the same? Thus, by adding perjury to crime, he accomplished his design and escaped with impunity. I sent a petition to Gov. Seward, stating that if I could prove by a hundred respectable American citizens that my brother Benjamin Lett, was condemned unjustly and unlawfully without a cause, would he comply with lawful means to release him, and he pointedly declared he would not! I also sent him another petition, requesting him to lay the decision of the Court in the case of Lett before the Legislature of his state, that it might be sanctioned and called law. ‘This he disregarded. I also wrote to Gov. Bouck in behalf of Lett, setting forth the facts of the case, and praying him not to suffer the innocent to die by the poisoned tongue of the perjurer, who it was notoriously known, had committed the offense himself. This his Excellency considered beneath his notice; he would not deign to answer it, like the Emperor of Austria when Washington wrote to him in behalf of LaFayette. And now, most noble Senator, I appeal to you to know if there is law or lawful means whereby Lett can be delivered from such an unjust, unholy and unlawful decision? Do not, I beseech you, refuse or neglect to answer me. If there is no law surely there is equity. If the decision of the Court in the case of Lett was lawful, a man having two enemies might shoot one, turn State’s evidence and swear the other told him to do so, destroy both in one day, and by adding perjury to murier escape with impunity.



HON. SILAS WRIGHT, of New York, Washington, D. C.

Copy of a Letter in answer to the foregoing:

WASHINGTON, May 23, 1844.

DEAR SIR :—Your letter of the 29th April reached me yesterday through the hands of Mr. Wentworth, your member of Congress. I take a moment during a period of my pressing engagement, to give you a hasty reply to it. By the constitution of New York, the Governor of the State alone has the power to pardon persons convicted of crimes and imprisoned in the state penitentiaries. The Legislature has no power whatever over the matter, and no right to interfere with or direct the Governor in the exercise of his discretion upon such application.

Gov. Bouck is a very plain and business-like man, but his office is one the duties of which are extremely laborious, and I do not suppose it is possible for him to reply to all the letters he receives. I consider him a very just man, and if you can produce testimony to satisfy him that your brother was erroneously convicted, I do not doubt that he will pardon him, but he would not act upon a mere statement in a letter, or petition not sworn to, which I infer from your letter was all you sent to him, if you shall choose to make an application to him, founded upon sworn testimony, and the witnesses certified to be credible, which testimony shall show that your brother was not guilty, I do not doubt that he will act upon it promptly.

In great haste, I am your obedient Servant, THOMAS LETT.



Acting upon the Hon. Senator’s instructions, I procured the affidavit of Major John Morrison, of the United States Army, stating that he was offered large sums of money to allow men to cross over from Canada to seize the person of Benjamin Lett on American soil, thereby showing the strong political hatred that existed towards Lett from a powerful government, who were even willing to break through all international law and thus violate the sacred sovereignty of another and a friendly nation, in order to accomplish the destruction of one man. But the gallant officer, like a true soldier, was above bribery. I also procured the sworn testimony of twenty-two witnesses, including that of the inspector of the port of Oswego, and the evidence of 140 others, all American citizens, and all testify to the fact that the steamer Great Britain never was burned at all, consequently the crime the for which my brother was punished, was proven never to have been committed.


Copy of an affidavit made by Major John Morrison, U. S. A., testifying that the Canadian Tories, through one of their spies, offered him $2,000 to allow the said Tories to come and arrest Benjamin Lett on United States Territory:


ss:. On this sixth day of January, 1845, personally came

NIAGARA COUNTY, before me, Major John Morrison, of the town of Porter, in said county, and paid that Alexander Stewart, of Niagara, in the province of Upper Canada, a Barrister at Law, on or about the middle of December, 183, came to this deponent and proposed that if he would consent that he, Stewart, and Tories from Canada, might come to this deponent’s house and secure and take away Benjamin Lett, he should receive two thousand dollars, as four thousand could be got for Lett in Canada. and he further says, that the said Alexander Stewart was a British subject, and was reputed to be a British spy. Said Stewart once told this deponent that that was the case; deponent immediately informed the said Benjamin Lett of the proposed plan, in order that he might be prepared for them. And the weather was such that it was impossible for the party to cross over at the time agreed upon.


Subscribed and sworn, 6th day of January, 1845, before me,

JAMES H. PAGE, Justice of the Peace.




I, James C. Lewis, Clerk of said County, do hereby certify, that James H. Page, Esquire, before whom the annexed instrument appears to have been Sworn or acknowledged was at the time of taking such oath or acknowledgement, a Justice of the Peace in and for said County, duly elected and sworn and authorized by the laws of said state to take the same, that am acquainted with his hand writing and believe that the signature ascribed to said certificate of acknowledgement is genuine and that instrument is executed according to the laws of said state of New York.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name and impressed my seal of office at Lockport, the 8th day of January, A. D.

J. O. SURS, Clerk,

In January, 1839, the government of Upper Canada offered a reward of “$20,000, or anything in reason, for the delivery of Lett into the hands of their authorities, either dead or alive.” It will be observed by reading the affidavit of Major J. Morrison, That Lett was a guest at his house the time the offer to bribe was made. This same Stewart, the spy, in 1840, “screwed his courage to the sticking-point,” and lay in ambush armed to the teeth, awaiting Lett approach, intent on his destruction; but it was of no avail; for knowledge of the same having come to the ears of Lett he at once proceeded to Stewarts’ lair, captured and disarmed him, and after advising him to “go and sin no more,” he very generously released “this tall and powerful Highland Scotchman.

Copy of the sworn evidence of John W. Turner, Inspector of the toms for the port of Oswego in 180, who swears that the steamer Great Britain was not burned.—[See page 5.]


Copy of the sworn testimony of twenty-one reliable men, America, citizens, who swear that the steamer Great Britain was not burned.

STATE OF NEW YORK, OSWEGO COUNTY: We, the .undersigned residents of the Village of Oswego, in the county and state aforesaid, being duly sworn, do depose and say: That they were all and every one of them, residents of the village of Oswego, in the town, county and state aforesaid, prior to, at the time and subsequent to the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year 1840, at which time and date it is understood and believed by the undersigned deponents, Benjamin Lett was convicted by the circuit court, or court of Oyer and Terminer, held by Judge Gridley then and now a circuit judge of the supreme court of the state of New York aforesaid, of Arson in the fourth degree, on a charge of having Me fire to, or attempted to set fire to the steamer Great Britain, in the County of Oswego, on or about the twenty-fifth day of June; that the undersigned deponent believe that only two days intervened between the indictment found by the Grand jury and the trial and conviction of the said Benjamin Lett, before the aforesaid Judge Gridley, which necessarily left little time for the defendant, the aforesaid Benjamin Lett, to procure witnesses to substantiate his innocence in relation to the aforesaid charge of which he was accused, on which he was tried, on which he was convicted. And these deponents further say, on their oath aforesaid, that the said steamer Great Britain left the port of Oswego shortly after the accident or firing, or attempt to fire the said boat, and on the same day on which said Arson, or attempt to commit Arson, was committed, and did not return but once until after the trial and conviction of said Benjamin Lett, was had. And these, the undersigned deponents, do further depose, that some of them had examined the boat before she left the port of Oswego after the attempt to set fire to her was made as aforesaid, and all of the undersigned deponents had examined the said steamer Great Britain, either before the time she left the port of Oswego after the disaster aforesaid, on the first time she returned to said port of Oswego, which, in the opinion of the undersigned deponents, did not or does not vary much from six days after the date of the disaster of firing aforesaid of the said steamer Great Britain; and these deponents do further depose and certify, that to the best of their knowledge and belief, the said Benjamin Lett was convicted on the testimony of only two witnesses who testified under an excitement, (that might be peculiar to the occasion, without having much time to examine the boat,) that the boat was burnt, when, in the opinion of the undersigned deponents, the boat was in no shape nor in any place burned, which fact they all, without exception, ascertained to their satisfaction by examination personally made as soon as said boat or steamer Great Britain returned to the port of Oswego as aforesaid:

John B. Limerick, Frodo Tibet’s, Robert Greene, George Lee, Jr.

Gee. Jenison, John A. Coon, Paul C. Snyder, Curtis Severance,

Lorenzo Socket, C. J, Whims, A., E. Hill, .John L. Mills,

James Bickford, Hershel Elliston, C. N. Hageman, Cyrus Carrion,

Chas. C Rumored, Lester Parry, Gordon Hatchway, Geo. L... Thomas, H. Hatter

STATE OF NEW YORK, Oswego County, Jan. 23rd, 1845: I, the undersigned, one of the Justices of the peace in and for the county of Oswego do certify that the above named persons, whose names are attached to the above affidavit, did sign the same in my presence after being read to them by me, and that each and every one of them was duly sworn by me after signing their names to the same.

I certify that I am acquainted, with the individuals who have signed the within named deposition and that they are men of respectability and. worthy of credit.


January, 22, 1845. Justice of the Peace


STATE OF NEW YORK, OSWEGO COUNTY: I, John Carpenter, Clerk of said county, do hereby certify that at the time of the making of the foregoing certificate by John Orant, Jr., the said Grant was a Justice of the Peace of said county, and further that I am well acquainted with the hand writing of the said John Grant, and verily believe the signature to the said certificate to be genuine.

In testimony whereof, I have hereto set my hand and affixed the seal of the court of common pleas of said county, this 11th day of April, 1845


(Copy of a petition addressed to the Governor of New York by citizens of Monroe County, in said State, praying for the release of Benjamin Lett, then confined in the State prison at Auburn for the crime of arson; being one of numerous petitions sent to Governors Seward, Bouck and Wright, at various times, and which were wholly disregarded. See p. 5.)


Copy of a petition addressed to the Gov. of New York by the citizens of Oswego, in said State, praying for the release of Benjamin Lett:


The undersigned, citizens of the town and county of Oswego, would respectfully beg leave to present to your Excellency’s consideration and clemency, the case of Benjamin Lett, now confined in the State’s prison at Auburn upon a sentence after a conviction for arson in the fourth degree, your petitioners being fully convinced that the said Lett has now been confined in prison longer than he could legally have been sentenced but for the testimony of two witnesses, who were mistaken as to the boat being actually on fire. This mistake was evident to hundreds of our citizens who examined the boat immediately after the trial. And that the said Lett was indicted one day and put on his trial the next, without the benefit of time to meet the charges preferred, and that it was never claimed nor proved the said Lett ever was connected with the attempt to set fire to the steamboat Great Britain, except a an adviser of Dafoe, (the man who acknowledged that he did the work himself, and testified that Lett advised him to do it,) WHO WAS PARDONED IN CONSIDERATION OF SUCH TESTIMONY! THIS CONVICTION WAS HAD AT A TIME OF GREAT BORDER EXCITEMENT, WHEN THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT WERE MAKING STRONG EFFORTS TO PROCURE THE CONFINEMENT OF LETT, your petitioners well know. Your petitioners would respectfully call your attention to the above facts, and that the said Lett is declining with consumption and now very ill, as we are credibly informed. Your petitioners would therefore respectfully solicit the relief of said Lett if, on investigation, your Excellency finds it consistent with his prerogative:

John B. Leveriok, M. Jordon, I. Cochran, A. Jones,

T. Vorce, Easton Cook, T. H. Hoag, Leander McEwen,

James Doyle, Martin Winman, R. C. Morgan, A. Duncan,

S. Carter, L. L. Miller, R. Van Horn, H. D. Freeman,

A. Bush, Thomas Fagh, A. W. Hawley, N. K. Whitney,

P. O. Snyder, Owmir White, B. Townsend, John Stitt,

O. C. Bloss, J. C. Willington, George Moe, A. F. Allen,

Isaac Perry, Jas. Franklin, M. Hotchkiss, Abm’. Swart,

Nels’n Thompson, Neal Reaney, P. T. Briggs, H. Barker,

W. H. VanHorn, Tho. Copland, Frederick Mason, John Pilling,

Jos.Wentworth, A. McCalister, F. G. Elsworth, Dewit Barnes,

Geo. Hart, Geo. McLellan, O. P. Lulin, Robert Anderson,

D. B. Allen, Jr., William Sheldon, R. McWhitcomb, Hiram Pitner,

R. R. Wright, Geo. B. Phillips, Josiah Webb, M. Mulrooney,

Austin Church, C. B. Aspinwall, Z. G. Bloss, S. C. Peck,

S. B. Wells, Gates Phillips, A. P. Williams, Josiah D. Evans,

Ebenezer Cram, D. Allen, J. E. Stevenson, Stephen Parmiton,

John S. McClay, I. Sanger, E. H. Gilman, Jonathan Gasdon,

Amos Bacon, Geo. S. Barlow, Ogden Clark, Wm. H. Watts,

William Coulter, Jas. Bickford, Jacob Wilcox, Thomas McVaner,

James Wiltse, Martin Gillit, I. Willson, John Hanlin,

Jabin B. Downny, Curtis Severance, D. Henman, Jr., Thos. Crampton,

Hiram Turkman, P. Barke, S. Hawley, Nehemiah Doebye

Johnson Stephens, John Telford, L. Sickles, Augustus Brown,

C. W.. Oliver, Ransom Megran, C. Smith, Jr., Wm. H. Snyder,

N. Miller, I. Carpenter, M. P. Hatch, Robt. B Mikles,

A. E. Hill, C. S. Summer, W. I. Bonsell, Oliver Peck,

John L. Millis, Daniel Allen, H. J. Carey, James Jones,

Henry Benedict, O. G. Munger, M. Haloe, D. H. McCoy,

A. G. Willis, William Murray, Sam. Wilson, M. Johnson,

E. Grovenor, Jacob P. Ottman, Hamilton Brace, James Sanders,

C. Hull, Jr., Joseph H. McCoy, Jonathan Norton, Peterson Potter,

Copy of a certificate to the above petition by John Grant, Jr.. a Magistrate of Oswego county, addressed to the Gov. of the State of New York:

STATE OF NEW YORK, OSWEGO COUNTY: The undersigned, one of the magistrates of the county aforesaid, respectfully certifies to his Excellency, Silas Wright, Esq., Governor of the said State of New York, that he has carefully and deliberately read and considered the within annexed petition for the relief of Benjamin Lett, in the said petition named, a convict now in confinement in the State’s prison at Auburn, for an offense in the within named and annexed petition mentioned; that he, the undersigned, was for many years, not only at the date at which the offense charged against the said Benjamin Lett, in the annexed petition mentioned, was committed, tried and convicted, but for many years prior to and subsequent to said date a resident of said town of Oswego, N. Y. That without any personal knowledge of the act when committed, or of any intention on the part of Left or anybody else to commit said offence he could but know, arid believes he then did know and does now know, —both from actual observation on the steamer, Great Britain, where the offence is charged to have been committed, and also from statements made to the undersigned by some of the most respectable and responsible inhabitants of the village of Oswego, at the time and since—that the facts stated in the said petition are correct and true; and the undersigned therefore cheerfully certifies to the- truth of the facts stated in the said annexed petition. And the undersigned would and does further certify to his Excellency, the Governor, that from information derived from sources and authority in which he has full confidence, that he has not the least doubt but that not only the weeks, but the days of the said Benjamin Lett are numbered, in consequence of bodily infirmities which are beyond the reach of the skill, science and sagacity of man. Of the necessity of official evidence to his Excellency in relation to this statement, and also that this evidence can only be procured by the order of his Excellency himself, I am well aware, butt would most respectfully state that if his Excellency would order and direct that such official evidence in relation’ to this matter should be furnished, as he of right may do, it would present a remarkably strong appeal for the boon of executive mercy, without infringing in the least on the exercise of that high attribute of executive authority (impartial justice) which, so far as I know, has been universal and, as I believe, justly conceded and accorded to your Excellency. All which is most repectfu11y submitted to your Excellency.


These petitions are from the very people that Lett sought to murder wholesale, as is alleged, and who evidently must have been made of very forgiving materials, for Governor Wright said that Lett wanted to murder them, and who ever heard of a-Governor telling a lie?

With these evidences that the Arson was not committed in one hand and the instructions of the Hon. Senator in the other, I approached the executive chair, when I found it occupied by the senator himself to whom I presented my papers. His Excellency’s first remark was that I had written to him complaining of his predecessor, Gov. Bouck, but what would I say of him, as if he was predetermined to pervert justice at all hazards. Having left my papers in his hands, his Excellency appointed a day by which he would have examined them, and on which day I was to call again; true to the appointment I again called on him, when he said that he had not had time to consider the evidence, had not time to stay the Judge’s decision, who made a tool of the law, not time to repeal the endorsement of that decision by his executive predecessors not time to free the innocent from an unjust and illegal sentence. As I urged his Excellency from day to day for his decision he told me that it was impossible for him to decide before he received a report from the Judge who presided at the trial.— As his Excellency declared he was waiting for the Judge’s report, which he had written for, thinking I might possibly become tedious in my continual visits to the executive chamber, I requested him to give me a note to Judge Gridley asking for his report of the case, which note I would present in person, hoping this method might render any longer delay unnecessary, telling him that I would trouble him no more until I brought him the report. This act of nonfeasance on part of the Governor occasioned another and unnecessary delay of over a month. His excellency having complied with my request, I at once started from Albany to Utica, where Judge Gridley lived, and handed him the Governor’s letter. Upon reading it the Judge was astonished, promptly declared that he had never received any letter from Governor Wright relating in any way to my brother’s trial. As I demanded that he should say so on paper, he gave me a certificate to that effect, (a copy of which certificate will be found in my letter to the editor of the Albany Argus, published below.) I then returned to Albany with the Judge’s report, arid laid it before His Excellency, when, having perused it, he pronounced the astonishing decision THAT THE SWORN EVIDENCE I HAD PRODUCED WAS NOT WORTHY OF RELIEF! when my witnesses consisted of true Americans— soldiers, (such as Hercules, Aratus, Washington and LaFayette, enemies to tyrants)—farmers, mechanics and merchants—the four best classes among men, the salt of the earth, who would not stoop to bribery to oppress the innocent, nor tremble before power to destroy the oppressed. These were the men who were weighed in the golden scales of Wright’s judgment, and found inferior to Dafoe! Upon this I demanded all my papers in his hands, which he gave me, EXCEPT THE. REPORT OF THE TRIAL, WHICH HE REPUSED TO PART WITH, on the ground, as he said, “THAT IT BELONGED TO HIM AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE!”

If past decisions are any criterion or guide for man, then, by the decision of Elijah’s God in the case of Naboth, the authorities of New York are guilty; for had Elijah been still in the land of the living, and his God had any respect or regard for the authorities of New York, the prophet would have been compelled to stand before them and rebuke them for their base and vile conduct, declaring their acts, by justice and the God of justice, a public sin. But here is an instance of justice nearer our own times: In the reign of Henry VIII, Richard Hun, a London merchant, was arrested by the Church and imprisoned without a crime. While in prison he was murdered, hung after he was murdered, tried, condemned, his body burned after he was hung, and his property confiscated. This was done by ecclesiastical law. The Church accused him of suicide, but a coroner’s inquest, held before he was burned, proved that he was murdered before he was hung, and consequently a murdered man could not commit felon de se. The case then came before the Parliament, when the King presided in person. They revoked the decision of the clergy, exposed the guilty and vindicated the character of the murdered man by restoring his property to his family, LEAVING THEIR DECISION AS A MONUMENT OF IMPARTIAL JUSTICE FOREVER. One was Catholic England in the 16th century, under the so-called tyranny of Henry VIII; the other Protestant New York in the 19th century, under the so-called justice of Silas Wright!


Copy of a letter from Judge Gridley, of the state of New York addressed to Thomas Lett in reply to one received by said Gridley from said Lett:

UTICA, Feb. 19, 1845

Mr. THOMAS LETT—SIR: In answer to your letter, received this day, I can only say, what every person at all acquainted with law would concur in that as your brother was convicted on a charge of Arson, it was necessary that the jury should have believed and found that fact to justify their verdict. That question was however distinctly presented for their consideration, upon the testimony produced on the trial of the cause, and was by a jury decided against your brother; in other words they believed that the boat was burned, or that the fire had been kindled upon it to some extent before it was extinguished; this fact was proved by the testimony of two witnesses though the testimony of others tended to a contrary conclusion.

How far the Governor will feel himself at liberty to open that question now to be decided upon exparte affidavits, the people’s counsel having no opportunity to cross examine the witnesses, or produce counter affidavits, I am not able to say. That is for him not me to decide. He may also be disinclined to look into that question, after the solemn determination of a jury, upon another ground, to wit: that the CIRCUMSTANCE of the fire and flame being confined to the combustibles employed to fire the boat itself, was in reality an ACCIDENTAL fact, which did not relieve the crime of its atrocity in a MORAL point of view, however important it was as a FACT BEFORE THE JURY.

It occurred to me after I gave you a certificate that I had not received the communication which the Governor’s note to me stated he had sent, and after you informed me that you had intended in the event of your application being unsuccessful, to publish your papers to the world that you might wish to publish my certificate to raise a presumption that no communication had been sent to me. I trust no such use of the certificate will be made, as I cannot consent to any use of it which is intended to reflect upon the Governor or his Secretary.

Your Obedient Servant, P. GRIDLEY.

(This letter of Judge Gridley is equivalent to the words of a murderer caught in the act, his knife reeking with the blood of his victim, while he gives vent to his fears: “I pray you not to expose me nor my accomplices, else justice be meted us, and we lose our power to kill and plunder, and receive our just deserts, and I CANNOT CONSENT TO THAT!”


Copy of the report of Dr. Pitney to Silas Wright, Governor of the State of New York, on the state of Benjamin Lett’s health, n obedience to commands from his Excellency:

AUBURN, March 8th, 1845.

To HIS EXCELLENCY, SILAS WRIGHT—Sir: You letter to me of the 4th inst., was duly received through Dr. Biglow. In compliance, with your request I have this day, in company with Dr. Biglow, visited the auburn State Prison hospital, and there examined and investigated, cautiously, the present and prospective health of the convict Benjamin Lett, which is the subject of your letter to me. The said Lett is much emaciated and very feeble. He has a chronic and I fear an incurable affection of the left lobe of his lungs, the existence of which I am fully satisfied of by percussion and ausculation of his chest, and the unequivocal statements to me by various officers of the prison, “of his having repeatedly expectorated florid and frothy blood in their presence, unattended with vomiting,” which indicates that it must have come from some portion of his lungs.

I have seen and examined said Lett several times during the past winter, and was then strongly impressed with a sense of his permanently declining health. I had known him well in the prison hospital in 1842, when he was healthy and vigorous, with the exception of several most distressing hemorrhoidal tumors, for with he was subjected to a severe operation and cured. My opinion of the above named convict, Benjamin Lett, is that a longer confinement in the State prison will destroy his health entirely and render premature death inevitable, and that if he should be immediately set at liberty there would be some slight hopes of a restoration of his health, and a prolongation of his life. I

have therefore no hesitation in saying to you, sir, that I consider him a fit subject for executive clemency.

I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant,


(This nation has furnished some of the worst men in the world’s history, of whom I complain; yet it also furnishes some of the best men, of whom it may well be proud, and of the latter class are Messrs. Pitney, and Biglow.)


Copy of the release of Benjamin Lett, by Silas Wright, Governor of the state of New York:


Whereas, at a court held in and for our county of Oswego, in the month of June, 1840, Benjamin Lett was convicted of arson, and was thereupon sentenced to be imprisoned in the State prison at hard labor for seven years, under which conviction and sentence thereupon, the said convict now lies imprisoned, and he being represented unto us as a fit object of our mercy; therefore; know ye, that we have pardoned, remised and released, and by these presents do pardon, remise and release the said convict of and from the offense whereof in our said court he stands convicted as aforesaid, and of and from all sentences, judgments and executions thereon.

In testimony whereof, we have caused these, our letters to be made patent, and the great seal of our State to be hereunto affixed.

Witness, Silas Wright, Governor of our said State, at our city of Albany, the 10th day of March, in the year of Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty five.


Passed the Secretary’s office, the 10th day of March,

ARCH’D CAMPBELL, Dep. Secretary of State.



Copy of an editorial that appeared in the “Albany Argus,” dated March 11th, 1845, on the


“We have been aware for some time that an application was being made to the Governor to pardon Lett, upon the ground of his declining health, and we now learn that a pardon was issued yesterday. Upon an inquiry into the facts, we learn that the physician of the prison has REPEATEDLY represented his case as one requiring a SPEEDY LIBERATION, but that the Governor for greater caution has requested a physician of Auburn of high standing, and in no way connected with the prison, or with the public service in any department, to associate himself with the physician of the prison, make a minute examination into the state of Lett’s health, and report to him; that the report came in yesterday and was such as to satisfy his mind that a pardon should be immediately granted. Lett’s disease is of the lungs, and has advanced to that extent that his physicians consider his recovery very doubtful, even if he is now set at liberty, and certain to be soon fatal, if he is kept in the confined air of the prison. As his case has excited an extensive public interest, and his pardon may produce some surprise, we have thought it proper to take this brief notice of the fact, and of the ground upon which the pardon has been granted.”


Copy of a letter addressed to the editor of the “Albany Argus,” through the columns of the “Albany Evening Journal,” in answer to the above:

To THE EDITOR OF THE ALBANY ARGUS—SIR: In noticing ad article in your paper of this morning respecting the release of my brother, Benjamin Lett, from Auburn State Prison, you appear to convey the idea that there was great CLEMENCY used in his release, all from the cause of his dangerous sickness—but had his Excellency not doubted the truth and veracity of one hundred and sixty two American citizens, twenty-two of them sworn by the most solemn form that HEAVEN OR EARTH EVER INVENTED, and one hundred and forty certifying by the point of honor that the crime for which he has been imprisoned had never been committed, and all these witnesses certified by the magistrates of their respective residences to be men of truth and veracity, he would have released him on his INNOCENCE, ACCORDING TO HIS INSTRUCTIONS O ME FROM WASHINGTON, 23rd MAY, 1844; But there appears to have been unparalleled intrigue for his destruction, since he refused to walk up to the gallows peaceably in Canada and he hung, to please such as Prince, Drew, and McNab, when they wished to sacrifice him to Queen Victoria. The judges and witnesses of Jezebel would have shrunk back with horror had the latter asserted “that they had blasphemed God and the King, but that Naboth had told them to do so”—a similar case.


Herein I give you a specimen of the last intrigue that I know of—a copy of a certificate from Judge Gridley:

“At the request of Mr. Thomas Lett, brother of Benjamin Lett convicted of Arson in June, 1840, I certify that on the 17th instant Mr. Lett brought me a note from the Governor, before whom an application was pending for a pardon for said Benjamin Lett, requesting of me a report of the case of said Lett, which was tried before me; also stating that he had sometime since written me desiring such report. I also certify that I NEVER RECEIVED ANY SUCH COMMUNICATION FROM THE GOVERNOR, before the delivery of the note in question.

Feb. 18, 1845. P. GRIDLEY.”

The above named certificate and papers I hold myself ready at any

time to produce if any see fit to examine. THOMAS LETT.

Albany, March 11th, 1845.



It will be seen that the letter published above, which I received from Judge Gridley, is in answer to one wherein I asked his honor how a man could he punished or held in custody for a crime that was proved to have never been committed. How does his honor answer this question? He says the fact of the fire being confined to the combustibles was an accident! Now the very fact of that accident does away with the charge of Arson, no matter what were the intentions of the accused. As there was no burning, there could have been no Arson. When a man is indicted for murder, it is pre-supposed that a murder has been committed; but if one fires at another, no matter whether his intention was to kill him or not, and he misses the object of his aim, he CANNOT be tried for murder, but at best for an attempt to murder. Yet here a man is tried for Arson when there was no Arson, but at best an attempt to commit arson; and upon such an indictment did a Judge of your Supreme Court preside, a jury find guilty, and the same Judge pass sentence, while one Governor, Seward, endorses the decision of that Judge, and two other Governors, Bouck and Wright, refuse to repeal that endorsation. “But,” says Gridley, “this accident does not relieve the crime of its atrocity in a MORAL point of view, however important it might be as a FACT FOR THE JURY.” What is the pleading? Why MORALITY, the MORAL law, it is said, is violated. Now what have the courts of New York to do with the MORAL law? Was Lett tried for breaking the moral law? Is it the business of your Judges and Governors to punish offenses against the moral law? Is your penal code full of penalties for crimes that are infringements of the moral law? Will some of your lawyers answer me? But to crown all, the moral law is the pleading of your Supreme Court Judge to shield an illegal indictment, trial and sentence; while Governor Wright, in his pardon, declares the arson was committed, thereby causing a perjured lie to be put on record in your Secretary of State’s office—for the truth in preference to the truth—truth being the great master wheel of the grand machinery of all civilization, which he sought to destroy.


CITIZENS OF NEW YORK: You have now seen the grounds on which I hare founded my complaint, the proof is before you of the truth of my accusation. It is your duty to see that the lie of. Wright caused to be recorded in the Capitol be forever erased, and the base unblushing falsehood he uttered about the Judge’s report, be forever remembered.

As Gov. Wright asked me what I would say of him when complaining of Gov. Bouck, I now answer that he was as regardless of his word and Oath as Mahomet II. I implore the civilized world to erect him a monument, arid inscribe his epitaph thereon, viz: “If crime be darkness, the midnight darkness of all dark ages was his lifetime, and he the chief actor.”

I would say, however, that I can but remember with heartfelt gratitude the valuable assistance rendered me by Hon. John VanBuren, son of President Martin VanBuren, then Attorney General of New York; also to Major John Morrison, of Niagara county; as well as to the many citizens of Oswego, Rochester and other places, for their untiring efforts in my behalf while striving to release my brother from his would-be-assassins who had imprisoned him nominally in the name of the State and authority of law but really to receive the reward of British gold, so lavishly paid them.

Solon, the wisest of the seven wise men of Greece, said that “he who lights on our side I love; be who shows his bloody hand and fights against us I reject;” while he decreed it infamy for a man to be neutral in a civil war, and that it would be no crime to kill him or his children. The correct principle laid down by Solon—to love a true friend, respect a brave enemy, and detest a neutral man in civil strife—that men MUST TAKE SIDES——is adhered to by all civilized nations; and as all the ancestors of Lett took part in every great struggle for human rights and on the side of truth, justice and equality, is it to be wondered at that he, after having been goaded, driven, hunted, tracked, and assaulted by cut-throats, assassins, murderers and bloodhounds, should take a firm and decided stand in the Patriot war of 1837—8, along with Papineau and McKenzie?

John Turner, before referred to as U. S. Inspector at Oswego, told me at the Washington Hotel in Albany, N. V., Feb. 11, 1845, of a race he had with Lett. He said that in 189 he had a warrant for his arrest for a breach of the neutrality law, passed March 10, 1838. He learned that the man he wanted was to arrive at the hotel in Oswego, and would come in the stage, and he accordingly awaited his arrival at the front door.— The stage soon drove up; Lett was in it, and evidently took in everything at a glance, for he leaped on the platform to the ground in front of the inn, and at once struck out at a brisk trot down the road. The old officer was at once on his horse and in hot pursuit, and although he followed him ten miles in the center of the road, he was utterly unable to overtake him, and had to return, his horse jaded and worn. A few months after this scene Mr. Turner was informed that the affidavit on which the writ was issued was false, and that he should not execute but return the warrant.

Lett was at home with his ax in the forest, his plow on the farm, his gun in defense of his home and right, or with an oar on the wave in a storm. Several times he skimmed Lake Ontario in a two-jawed yawl, often encountering a storm, yet always crossed in safety, although periling his life in the attempt., Sometimes he was compelled to cross in order to save his life or that of some kind friends; at others he dipped the wave in order to obtain assistance for his cause. The last trip he made he was accompanied by two brave men who were bound to never reveal the names of each other in this connection as to do so was to jeopardize both their lives and property; for a man who should assist Lett was looked upon by Gov. Bondhead as an enemy and outlaw, evens if he were a loyalist.

The battle of St. Denis commenced the Patriot War in earnest, and proved there would be but one policy pursued by the followers of Bondhead and Sir John Colbourne—DEATH OR BANISHMENT TO ALL PRISONERS. The battle of St. Charles was a sad one for the patriots, and over one hundred were burned alive in a barn by the enemy; fought Nov. 25.

Dec. 8, 1837, Sir Francis Bondhead issued a lying proclamation offering pardon and forgiveness to all who would lay down their arms and go to their homes, except McKenzie and five others. Many did so, and were arrested as soon as possible, sent to the penitentiaries, banished, or as in the case of Capt. Matthews, hung on a gibbet The battle of St. Eustache, Dec. 14, fought under Sir John Colbourne, proved that officer to have been devoid of pity and a true disciple of the dreaded Ghengis Khan. Dec. 29, 1837, the Caroline was destroyed, and a battle fought on Navy Island. Jan 4—14, 1838, a continual hand to hand struggle at Navy Island between 600 patriots and 5,000 troops under Colbourne, was had, and on the last named day the patriots evacuated the island. Feb. 25, of this year, the battle of Fighting Island found Lett with the patriots and in the front of every danger. At Point-au-Pelee Island, March 3, he proved himself a hero at several points, and carried wounded men from the field when no others dare approach.

April 11, Judge Roinsop, the JEFFRIES of Upper Canada, sentenced John Anderson, Ralph Morden, Dr.Theller and John Montgomery to be hung, drawn, amid their bodies quartered on the 24th of the same month for their love of liberty. The last named gentleman had previously suffered severely by the loss of large estates by the revolt, yet he escaped the second time from Fort Henry, July 30; and all four of them managed to elude pursuit, and cheat Sir John out of the pleasure of attending their funerals. The hard-fought battle at Prescott and the Wind Mill took place Nov. 12, 1838, and Lett was here as in the others, kept busy all the time. It was here that Niels S. Von Schoultz surrendered; he was basely gibbeted and his murder afterwards sanctioned by Queen Victoria. Windsor was the scene of carnage Dec. 4, and many innocent, liberty-loving patriots were here offered up to the gods of tyranny for daring to defend their families and homes. The Welland Canal was used as a “highway” by Bondhead and Colbourne over which to transport their troops and munitions of war. W. L. McKenzie, in his history, “The Volunteer,” published in 1841, says:

“THE LETT FAMILY.—A gentleman from Chippewa states that on the 16th the lock at the summit level of the Welland Canal was blown to atoms; that the water rushed down from the deep cut, a nine-mile level, like a cataract, drowning the country arid damaging the works; that the vessels are stopped on both sides of the break; and that when the canal will be again passable no one knows, as there are so many Letts now-a-days, that it is feared the aqueduct and other locks and culverts will be totally destroyed.”

The whole armed fleet of the tyrants, Bondhead and Clabourne, were wintering at Kingston, and in January, 1839, Lett undertook to burn the entire fleet, and would have successfully done so, but for the accidental meeting of a person who knew him and who managed to rally the entire soldiery in the city. Lett was surrounded, the alarm given by every tongue and fire-bell that “Lett the rebel” was in town. His usual presence of mind did him good service at this moment; he eluded pursuit, turned in with the thousands to help find this enemy to tyrants, and managed to escape unnoticed on his “accommodating” snow shoes from their blood-reeking blades and murderous fire-arms.

The patriots were fighting a common enemy who neither “gave nor asked quarter” as all their flags showed. Thousands of patriots were hung, butchered, burned alive, gibbeted, drawn, quartered, transported and banished, and their estates confiscated; many were compelled to take up arms to defend their families and homes or else die like does at the command of those murderers and cut-throats, Bondhead and Colbourne.

Both the United States and Great Britain made Lett the scape-goat on whom to lay their political sins, and for twenty years sought the opportunity of sacrificing him on their common altar. I have referred to the rigorous treatment of Lett and his friends, who were Protestants, and while Catholics who loved liberty were treated equally severe in Canada, yet one has but to refer to the many cases in Ireland where, in the rebellion of 1798, Catholic women, with their babes at the breast, were shot in cold blood for refusing to disclose the hiding places of their husbands; and to the other numerous instances of Catholics being tried and executed on the charge of “high treason” who were only guilty of saving their neighbors from ruthless assassination by the infuriated rebels. These acts of England were due in order to divide the people and prevent them uniting in a common cause for their rights.


In conclusion, I will mention the facts of my brother’s murder, etc.:

From 1845, until his death, my brother resided in LaSalle county, where he was engaged in farming. On the fifth day of October, he left his home for Lake Michigan, having been induced by some persons interested in his destruction residing from Illinois to Canada, to engage in a trading expedition between the Lake ports. As he did not return home when he intended, we are preparing to look for him when we heard through his enemies that he was drowned at Green Bay; about the same time we read an account in the public journal of his death at Milwaukee.

But before this, a telegram, dated at Milwaukee, Dec. 7, 1858, saying, “Lett is here dying; come with haste to Erie Street. D. Cameron,” had been sent to Ottawa, Illinois, addressed and to be delivered to his brother-in-law, Hiram Springstead, living 15 miles distant; which was kept back from us a whole week by some of his murderers’ accomplices, at the latter place, and until it was too late for any human assistance to save him.

It appears from the statement of Capt. Brenton of the barque Morgan, with whom he bad contracted to sail to Chicago, that my brother on the 29th of November was in good health, that on the first of December he was taken suddenly ill with convulsions and all the other symptoms of having been poisoned; on the 4th of December, at night, while delirious from the effects of the poison, (there was no doctor in Northport,) he was carried on board the propeller “Michigan;” on the 7th he arrived in Milwaukee, speechless and suffering intensely, (this was the day the dispatch was sent,) on the 9th he died. A post mortem examination was held upon his body, at which Prof. J. S. Douglass, of the Medical College, Cleveland, OH., was present, who pronounced his opinion that the deceased died from the effects of strychnine, introduced in small quantities into his system. His trial in this world is over; his next will be at the bar of God, from which no false indictments are issued, where the testimony of perjurers is not admitted, and where Judge and Justice are alike above the influence of British gold.

His death was the result of that same hellish spirit of revenge, that procured his trial on a mockery of an indictment—of that same spirit that could not he emolliated by the hand of time, which dictated his murder by the Canadian tories, who hired some of their companions to take the life of a man by foul means whom they never dared approach by fair. Still they are not secure in their villainy; let them remember that MURDER, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ; and that the time will yet come when, before the tribunal of an impartial Judge, from whose decision there is no appeal, they will he set face to face, the murderers and the murdered— Benjamin’s ancestors, the Letts, (Hollanders), came into England with William Henry, Prince of Orange, Nassau, and afterwards William the Third.

They then emigrated to Wexford, Ireland. His paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Jacobus, came from Holland. His mother was descended from an English family named Warren, and a French family named Pelo, Protestants on both sides. In the year 1798 the rebellion broke out in Ireland, and the rebels occupied the town of Wexford. His mother at this time was only eleven years old, but was not considered too young by the rebels to escape their vengeance. She was twice imprisoned to be burned in the morning and both times was saved by the timely intervention of the British Dragoons, while her only brother, Benjamin Warren, a young man in his 20th year, was taken out of his mother’s house and barbarously murdered for his loyalty to the British Government. In June, 1819, his father, Samuel Lett, and mother, Elizabeth Warren, emigrated from Ireland to Lower Canada, with their family, consisting of four sons, Robert, John, Thomas and Benjamin, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, and settled in Chatham, on the Ottawa River, district of Montreal. At that time there was but one abode of civilization between his father’s house and the North Pole.

In September, 1824, his father was killed by a fall off a load of grain, leaving a widow and seven children to lament his loss—Benjamin and four others being under eleven years.

In 1833, the family removed to Darlington, on Lake Ontario, in Upper Canada. In 1837 the rebellion commenced throughout that country. Gov. Bondhead having dissolved the parliament, and a new election being called for, the family sustained the authorities, voting for the government candidates—being loyalists, not bloodhounds; Protestants, but not Orangemen.

The first event that called Lett into notice was a band of Orangemen firing on him near his mother’s house, because he would not join them in murdering those who knew their rights and dare assert them. He then sought to protect himself by applying to the magistrates for redress; but against Orangemen there was none, on the contrary the same magistrates granted the same cut-throats a warrant for his (Lett’s) arrest, on the ground that he was carrying arms, a charge against which there was no law on the statute.

Furious with the treatment he had received, Benjamin left the country, when he was at once declared a notorious rebel because he would not do these acts, and trust to Queen Victoria to have his name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In 1839 his mother with all her children, except Benjamin, who were then living, emigrated to Texas. While the family were absent south, the Canadian spies tracked Lett, and at last originated the charge against him in order to procure his imprisonment, with what result you are now acquainted with. In 1840 the remainder of the family returned from the south (his mother having died;) and settled in LaSalle County, Ills., where they were joined by Benjamin on his release from prison, in 1845, and where they have resided ever since, in peace and comfort, until the murderer broke in upon the repose and robbed them of a brother, in 1858. The great statesman, Madison, said that “No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable.” Weigh well these words while rebuking those authorities who, by their decisions would lead the world to suppose your government was no longer respectable, at the same time prove by your judgment that those decisions are now, as then, antagonistic to the feelings of the people. To all those officers of the executive or judiciary who are still determined to cry “Lett the convict,” I would advise them to follow the example of Castlereagh, and cut their own throats before that of their country. Then what law-living and law-executing authorities will refuse or neglect, should any take my advice to improve on their own great prototype, and have me hung for the murder!

April 15, 1859, a few days after I had published a history of the trial of my brother at Oswego, 1 received from the Speaker of the House of Parliament of Upper Canada, the following note:

TORONTO, April 15, 1859.


Sir: I remember your kindness for your brother Benjamin when he was in trouble; the same excellent feeling has prompted you to defend his memory when dead. I have just received your pamphlet, and was very sorry to hear of Benjamin’s cruel death. He was warm-hearted and brave as Man can be. I published his life; I am trying to find a copy to send you. Meantime I send you my copy of his trial in exchange for yours.

Best wishes to yourself and friends.

Respectfully Yours, WM. L. McKENZIE.


NOTE I.—Are not the authorities of Milwaukee guilty of murder and robbery, by so refusing to hold an inquest, at the same time knowing the crimes were committed? Perhaps they had read the London Times, declaring Lett a “fiend let loose,” and had concluded they would quietly assist in getting him out of the way without making public the causes which led to his death.

NOTE II.—These statements of my lawyers were made in response to my telling them “not to hold my hands behind my back while my brother’s murderers robbed me.” Manier had conversed with several of the best citizens of LaSalle county, and told them that he was not a partner of and had had no dealing whatever with Lett, and was but a passenger on the steamer with him.” I had these men as witnesses to prove this conversation, yet Judge Hollister refused to admit the evidence on the ground of “incompetency,” but allowed the deposition of Manier to go to the jury because it was “necessary to prove partnership.” For these and other reasons I appealed to the Supreme Court, well knowing if I could get that tribunal to pass on the case, my evidence would be admitted, Mannier’s refused, and justice be meted out. The testimony of liars and perjurers are to be admitted and the privilege of impeachment denied, then very sad and deplorable is the condition of our courts, and of little avail our boasted magna charta; besides, the deposition itself was an insult to all law, decency and common sense, and should have been stricken from the files as not being pertinent to the issue, and our Supreme Court has frequently held that a jury is bound not to believe an absurdity of any kind, although admitted in evidence in the case.

NOTE III.—This same Dafoe was a hired assassin in the employ of the one government, bent on the destruction of Lett, while the other government pardoned him after he’ had secured Lett’s imprisonment by proving himself a perjurer and villain.

NOTE IV.—C. B. Taylor, in his history of the United States, published in the year 1855, on page 604 says: “In October, 1840, Alexander McLeod, a resident of Upper Canada, was arrested and committed to jail at Lockport, N. Y., on the charge of murder, as having been one of the narty who destroyed the Caroline. The British Government remonstrated through their minister against making McLeod answerable for an act in which, if he participated, he was only executing the commands of a superior officer.— Notwithstanding this, he was removed to Utica and confined there until his trial, which took place in October, 1841, when having proved an alibi, he was set at liberty. Both countries were thus relieved from an embarrassing situation.” How were they relieved? By the United States charging Great Britain with this wholesale murder, and their retort, “we are guilty, and dare you to resent it!” Taylor rushed before the world without any covering, other than withered fig-leaf, which he clapped upon his eyes, exposed his own and his country’s nakedness, and the only apology to be offered for introducing himself among historians is that he happened to be able to use the pen. Governor Thomas Ford, in his History of Illinois, on page 421, says that “there is no doubt but that the power to change the venue in criminal cases, which the constitution of New York vested in the Supreme Court to be executed at discretion, has operated well in all cases of local excitement; and probably saved a war with England, which was likely to grow out of the trial of McLeod for the murder of Durfee and burning the Caroline steamboat on the Niagara frontier.” The whole history of McLeod’s trial shows that the State authorities first examined all persons who might be used as witnesses, and afterward purposely called none on the stand to testify who knew anything of the case. The alibi of McLeod was proven by a Miss Robinson a base British prostitute, who swore she had him in her custody the night the Caroline was destroyed. With such base means did the courts of New York clear McLeod and reward crime; while the same Judge found Lett guilty, thereby punishing innocence!

NOTE V;—If Wright’s decision is a just criterion by which to judge the veracity of the American nation, then the foulest devil in hell would shudder and shrink back with horror, lest the touch of an American would pollute said devil, while said American passed to the black, unexplored regions of hell to take up his final abode.

NOTE V1.—Governor Samuel J. Tilden said of Wright, “that he was Ms friend and his father’s friend,” and yet this same Tilden utterly neglected to defend him, redress his wrongs, or cause the lie on record to be expunged, although I requested him to do so, and at the same time sent him a copy of the facts and circumstances of the case.

NOTE VIL—Although Left was sentenced June 25, 1840, and was at once hastened off for his destined cell at Auburn, on a special train, shackled and handcuffed and under guard of two sheriffs, when about ten miles from Oswego, Lett got away from the guards and jumped from the doorway in the side of the car, down an embankment twenty feet high. Slipping the cuffs over his hands, and cutting the shackles from his ankles, he managed to elude pursuit, went to Illinois, where he remained until September, 1841, when he returned to New York. While in Buffalo he was re-arrested by a company of armed policemen at the residence of the mate of a steamer. This “mate,” had invited Lett to partake of his hospitality, and after stealing away his arms managed to have the policemen rush bravely in and “scoop” him.— He was then conveyed to State Prison at Auburn, where he was committed Sept. 7, having been this time taken under orders of Governor Seward, who had offered a reward of $1,000 therefore.




Sandwich, DeKalb Co., Ill., Nov. 1, 1876.

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