[New York: 1869]. Four holograph letters on printed ASPCA letterhead, three addressed to the law firm of Newkirk & Chase, Hudson, New York; one addressed to M.P. Williams, editor of the Hudson Register; all signed by "J. [John] Mudie," as Chief Clerk of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dated between September and December 1869, regarding the Society's prosecution of one James Brennet for animal cruelty.
As described in contemporary newspaper accounts, the crime was a particularly heinous one, even by the comparatively lax standards of the day: "...the attention of the Society was first called to the act in question by an article in the Hudson Register...in which it stated that a horse owned by Mr. Sprague, the owner of a brick-yard in Hudson, had had its tongue torn from its socket by tying a strap thereto, tearing the roots and muscles to a horrible extent. A correspondence thereupon ensued between the Society and Mr. M.P. Williams, the editor of the Register, which resulted in the arrest of a man named James Brennet..." (New York Times, Sept. 22, 1869).
This would have been a rather early instance of the Society (which was chartered in 1867) publicly prosecuting a case of animal cruelty, though the Society's President and founder, Henry Bergh, had already gained a public reputation around New York as a tireless crusader for animal rights, regularly confronting perpetrators of cruelty directly on the street, sometimes at considerable peril to himself. Based on evidence supplied in the correspondence, the prosecution was successful, though the extent and nature of the punishment are never stated. The letters range from ca. 20 to ca. 250 words, as follows:
11 Sept 1869. 2pp, ca. 250 words. Mudie to Mesrs. Newkirk & Chase. Establishing the firm as the Society's chosen counsel for the prosecution and giving instructions to "...prosecute this crime to the utmost, we trust that the full penalty of $250 and 1 year's imprisonment will be inflicted...no community is safe with such a demon in its midst, and not only for the sake of the lowly creatures to whom is denied the power of speech, but for the sake of yourselves, we trust that you will prosecute this fiendish violation of the law to the bitter end. It seems that horses receive very bad treatment at Mr. Sprague's establishment & that frequent complaints are left at Mr. Williams' office in regard to it." Mudie defends the Association against the suggestion that its only purpose in prosecuting such crimes is to collect fines: "...nothing in the least approaching such a feeling enters our minds in the prosecution of our work; it was to prevent cruelties to the lower animals this Institution was chartered..." and cautions the prosecutors to "...see that the officer serves the warrant, and that no collusion takes place between him and the offender."
21 Sept 1869. 2pp, ca. 150 words. Mudie to M.P. Williams, Esq. Regarding the potential for dismissal of the case and the Society's option to appeal: "...It rests with Justice Storm to send the case to the grand jury, to convict or discharge, according to the evidence...in the case of the last, Messrs Newkirk & Chase & you are the best judges as regards an appeal."
8 Nov 1869. 1pp, ca. 30 words. Mudie to Newkirk & Chase: "Presuming upon the trial of James Brennet having been closed, and the fine imposed paid into Court, we wish you to collect the same, and remit it to us, deducting therefrom your charges."
13 Dec 1869. 1pp, 15 words. Mudie to Newkirk & Chase: "Gentlemen, we would be pleased to hear from you in answer to ours of 8th November 1869."