No. 523.
Mr. Bell to Mr. Bayard.

No. 228.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for your information a copy of a correspondence recently exchanged between this legation and the foreign office here with reference to a report which has been given very general circulation through the press in the United States in regard to an imaginary estate known as the Graaf, Graff, Graef, Groff, or Grove, which is supposed to have been the subject of recent legislative action in this country.

It will be seen by reference to the reply of the minister of foreign affairs that the report is without foundation.

The following persons who have addressed inquiries to this legation upon the subject of this supposed estate have been advised of the result of my investigation, viz:

(1) John H. Stoutenburgh, esq., attorney and counsellor at law, 115 and 117 Nassau street, New York; (2) J. G. Ogle, esq., attorney, Latrobe, Pa.; (3) Messrs. Baker and Ball, attorneys, Iowa City, Iowa $ (4) P. P. Graf, esq., American Hotel, Brookville, Pa.: (5) D. G. Moore, esq., Sheffield, Ill.

I have, etc.,

Isaac Bell, Jr.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 228.]

Mr. Bell to Mr. Karnebeek.

Sir: I have the honor to bring to your excellency’s notice the inclosed paragraph, clipped from a newspaper published in the United States, which I have received from an interested party, and by which you will perceive it is represented that the State General of the Netherlands have recently passed an act tending to restore to the heirs of one Graff an estate which is said to have been confiscated by this Government in 1707.

After the correspondence which has passed between the Government of His Majesty and this legation since my arrival here upon the general subject of estates in Holland and from my knowledge of the proceedings of the State General, I can not believe this story.

Since this paragraph was started in its round of circulation in the press of the United States, I have received frequent inquiries with regard to the truth of the report.

The continued circulation of the report, if destitute of foundation, will undoubtedly lead to hardships and injustice in the case of many poor people, and may seriously affect many citizens of the United States.

[Page 893]

I beg, therefore, in consequence, to say I should be much obliged to you if you would inform me whether there is any foundation for the report—whether any such estate as that mentioned has at any time been the subject of legislative consideration or departmental action by this Government.

In case there is a total lack of foundation for the report in question it will be exceedingly agreeable to me if your excellency will trouble yourself to furnish me with an official statement to that effect, that I may be able to officially deny the truth of the report.

I seize, etc.,

Isaac Bell, Jr.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 228. Special to the Commercial Gazette.]

G. S. Groff, one of the oldest residents and alderman of this city, on Saturday received the startling intelligence that he was one of a score of persons who had just fallen heir to an estate in Holland, valued at $76,000,000. The great-great-grandfather of Alderman Groff, the story goes, was a Sixth-Day Baptist, and was so persecuted on account of his belief that he was forced to leave his native land. His estate was confiscated by the Government. He came to America in 1707 and settled in Germantown, this State, and from him descended the Groff family. Recently the Dutch Parliament passed a law restoring to the heirs the land that had been confiscated, together with all improvements and interest up to the date of the passage of the bill. This is said to be worth $76,000,000.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 228. Translation.]

Mr. Karmbeek to Mr. Bell.

Mr. Minister: In reply to your letter of the 22d February last, I have the honor to bring to your knowledge that the communication which has appeared in the American journals relative to the existence in the Netherlands of a considerable succession arising from the name Graff, and of which the proceeds would be held at the disposition of the lawful heirs, is entirely invented.

At several intervals, heretofore, inquiries have been made in relation to a succession Graaf, Graff, Graef, Grove or Groff, but this succession is wholly imaginary, and it appears not improbable that the persons who in good faith believe they may inforce rights respecting such inheritance are the dupes of certain intriguers, as for example appears from the letter, copy herewith, which was addressed some years since to the secretary of the commission of liquidation of the affairs of former orphans’ chambers.

I seize, etc.,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 228.]

Mr. Weskvater to Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mynheer: Eleven years ago J. Hervey Ewing, an attorney at law, then of this city, visited Holland and The Hague in the interests of and representing the heirs of Hans Graff or Graaf, who believed themselves entitled to a large sum of money held by your Government, and in proof of which they in trusted their legal representative with certain important evidence (now in my possession), to establish and prosecute their claim. After his return to this country, Ewing declared his mission had been a failure and there was no money or estate held in reversion by the Government for the heirs. Thus the matter rested for a time, but finally Ewing confessed to me, binding me by a solemn promise of secrecy which I have never yet divulged, the whole history of his proceedings at The Hague, of his audience with yourself and King William, and of the arrangements entered into by which he was to forever keep silence and preserve an inviolable secrecy in regard to the matter, in return for which certain stipulated payments (the amount, manner of payment, and by whom payable being known to me) were to be made to him as a recompense.

The whole transaction being known to me and having obtained proofs which establish it clearly for years past, I have been collecting a mass of evidence bearing [Page 894] on the subject, which establishes to a certainty the existence of the estate, and which no court of justice in the world could gainsay or set aside. By virtue of my office as an advocate, I am prepared to visit the Hague in the interests of the heirs, but before taking the journey desire to confer through you or any accredited agent with the Government, and am prepared to enter into negotiations that will be to the interest of both the Government and myself, and make the same arrangements as were made in the case of Ewing. It would pay me as well to prosecute the case, fortified as it is with the strongest evidence, but I defer visiting your country until I hear what terms the Government is willing to make in order to insure my not taking any further steps.

All communications may be addressed to

A. K. Westwater.