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Report of the Committee of Investigation in the Case of Rev. Edward Cowley. June 6, 1881.

New York: A. Livingston, 1881.

To the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, D.D., LL.D., D. C.L., Bishop of New York:

On the 22d of January last a letter bearing your subscription, Right Reverend Sir, was received by one of the gentlemen whose names will be found at the end of this communication, appointing a committee, and enjoining such committee to inquire into certain "rumors and allegations" affecting the character of the Rev. Edward Cowley, a clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and, as belonging to the Diocese of New York, under your jurisdiction.

The committee, it may be here stated, as first constituted, according to the requirements of Canon 17, Section 1, of the Diocese of New York, consisted of

The Rev. J. H. RYLANCE, D.D.,
The Rev. C. C. TIFFANY,

After several sessions of the committee the Rev. C. C Tiffany resigned, the Rev. Thomas Gallaudet being appointed by you to fill the vacancy, which appointment the Rev. Dr. Gallaudet accepted and has ever since acted with the other members of the committee in the work of investigation.

In obedience to your instructions, Right Reverend Sir, this report is respectfully submitted.

It is scarcely necessary, perhaps, to state formally that the committee were not empowered to try the Rev. Edward Cowley--could not have been so empowered; but were appointed simply to inquire whether the "rumors and allegations" just defined, which had been current for some time, were of a sufficiently serious character and sufficiently well founded, to require the presentment of the Rev. Edward Cowley for trial under Canon 2, Title II. of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, such Canon being entitled: "Of offences for which Ministers may be Tried and Punished."

[4] It did not remain for the committee to discover that the rumors and allegations affecting the character of the Rev. Edward Cowley were of a very grave nature. This was everywhere known, from the fact that Mr. Cowley had been tried and convicted of a very serious misdemeanor, in the Court of General Sessions, in the City of New York, in the month of February, 1880, being there and then condemned to twelve months' imprisonment, and to pay a fine of two hundred and fifty dollars.

The specific charge thus and so far made good against the Rev. Edward Cowley was his having neglected to provide a certain child named Louis Kulkusky, otherwise called Louis Victor, of the age of five years, with "proper, wholesome and sufficient food, meat, drink, warmth, clothing, bed covering and means of cleanliness; and that he, the Rev. Edward Cowley, had "wilfully neglected to provide" the said Louis Kulkusky when "sick and ailing in body and limbs," with "due, proper and sufficient medicine and medical attendance and care," thereby "causing and permitting the health of said child to be injured;" this child, Louis Kulkusky, it should be understood, having been for a considerable time in the custody and under the care of the Rev. Edward Cowley as manager or secretary, having charge of the management of the Sheperd's Fold, a charitable institution for children in the City of New York.

Now, to many persons, it might have seemed that all that a committee, appointed to inquire into the rumors and allegations affecting the character of a man convicted in due process of law of such heinous offences, had to do, such man being a minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop appointing such committee, was to adopt the evidence upon which he had been convicted as sufficient in amount and as beyond question in character, and to present him accordingly for trial, under the Canon set forth for that purpose by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

But this course the committee did not feel free to adopt. In the first place, it would have been to set a very dangerous precedent thus to accept the findings of a civil court as sufficient in themselves to require the presentment of a clergyman for trial before a court of the church. Cases might arise, have been known to arise, upon due examination into which it has been found that the conclusions of a court so convicting have been reached in haste or in ignorance of facts which came to light later, of a meaning and value calculated to reverse the [4/5] conclusions of such court, or under the overwhelming pressure of some local temporary prejudice. At the very most, the evidence upon which the Rev. Edward Cowley was convicted in the Court of General Sessions could only be regarded by the committee making this report as prima facie evidence looking to his guilt, not as absolutely conclusive of his guilt, for a church court or for a commission of inquiry appointed under the canons of the church. So, at least, the committee were informed by persons learned in the law.

But more: the committee came very early to know that there was evidence available; evidence was at once offered which had never been submitted to the Court which had condemned Mr. Cowley calculated to shed fuller light upon the whole case, and of a nature and weight, as it seemed, tending very materially to detract from the force of some of the testimony given against Mr. Cowley on his trial in February, 1880; while other evidence, positively and powerfully in favor of Mr. Cowley, as was found later, was promptly proffered to the committee immediately upon its first coming together. In addition to which it may be properly stated, perhaps, that the committee understood your own wishes to be, Right Reverend Sir, that the inquiry should be thorough and searching.

Under these circumstances, and from the force of such considerations, the committee felt bound to go fully and rigorously into the investigation of the rumors and allegations preferred against the Rev. Edward Cowley; to accept and to sift, and to form a deliberate judgment upon all the evidence at once available on the first assembling of the committee, with whatever testimony might be tendered for or against Mr. Cowley in the progress of the investigation.

Not only so; the committee felt it to be their duty, and accordingly took pains to let it be known, that they desired all persons having anything of importance and pertinent to the case to say for or against the Rev. Edward Cowley, to come before the committee and say it. The committee went further than this: they endeavored to get before them the chief witnesses upon whose testimony Mr. Cowley was convicted in the Court of General Sessions, that they, the committee, might hear and judge for themselves the testimony which such witnesses might be able or choose to give under much calmer circumstances than obtained at the time of the trial of Mr. Cowley in February, 1880.

It is only just to the committee that it should be here stated [5/6] that their endeavors in such direction were somewhat rudely resented by persons representing, as the committee understood, some of the witnesses just referred to.

With such understanding of their powers, then, and of the one supreme purpose of their appointment, the committee entered upon the work you assigned them, Right Reverend Sir, in January last, and have since given all the time available from other duties and engagements to that work. They have heard a great mass of testimony from persons having had knowledge of the Rev. Edward Cowley as a man, and of his work in the Shepherd's Fold; from persons who had lived in the institution, as well as from those who had visited it frequently and freely, and who knew it intimately; from those who had had children in the "Fold," and from young persons who had themselves been inmates of the institution, some of them for a considerable period, some down to the time when. it was closed in January, 1880--all which evidence is available in the shape of a very carefully written stenographic report, which is herewith transmitted.

The committee do not feel called upon, on submitting the conclusions they have reached, to enter into a minute analysis, or to make an exhaustive digest, of all the testimony they have heard and read, to show by how much of that testimony their conclusions are sustained. The character of the testimony actually heard by the committee was strongly in favor of Mr. Cowley, most of the persons alleged to be capable of giving positive and pertinent evidence against Mr. Cowley having stood aloof from the proceedings of the committee, while the committee were hindered from gaining access to others, as has been just intimated.

But Mr. Cowley and his friends showed a natural eagerness to supply the committee with evidence in rebuttal of the charges preferred, and of the rumors prevailing against him. It must be steadily remembered, however, or the committee venture to affirm, that, in reaching the conclusions stated below, they have not been guided solely, nor unduly, as they believe, by the testimony submitted in favor of Mr. Cowley; but they have had laid before them much testimony to his discredit, while they have also had, and have very fully and very seriously considered, the record of the court which condemned Mr. Cowley to fine and imprisonment, with reports of proceedings had later [6/7] on review of the case in the Supreme Court, and again in the Court of Appeals.

As essential to the proper appreciation of the position and conclusions of the committee it should be here stated that none of the allegations against the Rev. Edward Cowley were found by the committee to be of such a nature as rendered him liable to be presented for trial under Canon 2, Title II. of the Canons of General Convention, except under the first section of that canon, in which "crime or immorality" are specified as offences for which a minister may be tried and punished. Now the word "immorality," as used in such canon, represents, as the committee understand it, a class of offences not one of which has ever been imputed to Mr. Cowley, so far as the committee have learned. It simply remained, therefore, for the committee to decide whether the evidence before them required the presentment of the Rev. Edward Cowley for "crime."

Some things may be here formally dismissed as wholly irrelevant to such issue, and others as not proved, or as disproved by most reliable and conclusive testimony heard by the committee.

Many suspicions and enmities and disputes, with struggles for place and power, for example, had existed, it would seem for some time, between Mr. Cowley and some persons associated with him in the conduct of charitable institutions. But all testimony touching such. contentions and affecting the character of Mr. Cowley, so far as the committee could find, only concurred in showing that the Rev. Edward Cowley had not been conspicuous among his associates for prudence or for winning ways, would seem to have displayed a rare aptitude, indeed, for creating alienations and making enemies. The committee could not discover, however, in dealing with these matters, that anything of a positively criminal character had ever been imputed to Mr. Cowley by those who had long known him, and had shared with him various and serious responsibilities. A well ascertained fact of a contrary value and bearing should be in fairness stated, viz.: That the Rev. Edward Cowley during some years of service as a missionary on Blackwell's Island had won and maintained a reputation for kindness and fidelity which survives to this day.

As a specimen of the allegations hurtful to the character of the Rev. Edward Cowley which the committee making this report hold to have been disproved by evidence laid before them, [7/8] that allegation may be distinctly mentioned which has represented Mr. Cowley as having "made money" out of the Shepherd's Fold, which money he was said to have invested for his own private purposes in the State of Massachusetts. Equally unreliable, in the judgment of the committee, is the rumor which has represented the Rev. Mr. Cowley, while in charge of the Shepherd's Fold, as having been habitually guilty of violently abusing and beating the children committed to his care, keeping one or other of them locked up for a long time frequently, depriving a child so punished of all necessary food for the time. The committee could find no adequate proof of such cruelty from any one, old or young; but they did find very much to discredit the rumor, which had prevailed very widely, and which had contributed very powerfully to create the intense indignation which possessed the public mind at the time of Mr. Cowley's trial in the Court of General Sessions.

As preliminary to an intelligent and fair understanding of charges much better grounded, in the judgment of the committee, than those just dismissed, it may be here stated that the institution called the Shepherd's Fold, of which the Rev. Edward Cowley was the directing head, had been in an embarrassed condition for some time previous to its being forcibly closed in January, 1880, such embarrassment having resulted from the partial failure of subscriptions previously given in more liberal 'measure for its support, which embarrassment was seriously felt by the director and trustees in the years 1878 and 1879, entailing the necessity, as these authorities seemed to esteem it, of conducting the institution upon severely economical terms, the director and trustees persisting in carrying on the institution in almost daily expectation, as the evidence shows, of payment being made of the whole, or of some portion, of the five thousand dollars a year voted by the state Legislature toward the support of the institution.

Now, this fact of the comparatively impoverished condition of the Shepherd's Fold undoubtedly lends support, as the committee judge, to the first of the two very serious charges preferred and sustained against the Rev. Edward Cowley in the Court of General Sessions; those charges being, the deliberate starvation, in brief, of children, or of a certain child, committed to his care; and next, that of having cruelly neglected such children, or such child, when sick and ailing. The main question which the committee had to decide from the evidence submitted [8/9] touching the first charge was, whether the proved impoverishment of the Shepherd's Fold had actually resulted in or led to the starving of the children entrusted to the protection of its managers. And next, whether it was possible to discover the presence and working of a motive and purpose in such managers, or in the person mainly responsible, impelling them, or him so to wrong helpless children--proof of such motive or intention being necessary, as the committee understand, to sustain an indictment for crime.

Bearing upon the first of the two charges just specified the evidence yields these facts: that the food supplied to the children of the Shepherd's Fold was slight and cheap in character as compared with food commonly found on tables of private families of good, or even fair, social condition, having consisted chiefly--almost wholly--of bread, milk, beans, hominy, peas, rice, with an occasional supply of meat of some kind, and now and then of fowl. The committee have found no essential discrepancy in the testimony that these and other such articles of diet were regularly and duly served to the children of the Shepherd's Fold. As to the nutritiousness of these articles of diet, good authority affirms, so the committee are told at least, that a healthy child, sufficiently fed on such fare, cannot properly be said to be starved.

The onus of the first of the chief offences charged against the Rev. Edward Cowley, then, has not been found to lie, has not been generally alleged to lie, in the kinds of food supplied to the children's table of the Shepherd's Fold.

There remains, then, the question of amount; or Was the supply sufficient?

Upon this point the committee unite in affirming that the evidence presented to them shows to their entire satisfaction that of bread, at least, there was always an ample supply, of which the children might take as they wanted, the key of the bread cupboard being always in the keeping not of Mr. Cowley but in that of one of the children; in the hands, that is of the young person who acted as kitchen maid or cook in the Shepherd's Fold.

The evidence at command of the committee does not enable them to state the precise quantity of all the articles of diet supplied to the children of the Shepherd's Fold. Of milk the committee judge the supply to have been utterly inadequate. Touching other important articles, it was testified by one witness [9/10] in the Court of General Sessions that only two quarts of beans, say, or of peas, were served out for one meal for some twenty-three children. But convincing proof has been laid before the committee that in such statement there was a very serious mistake, the quantity of beans or of peas allowed and served out for a meal, when the meal was to consist of beans or peas, having been two gallons or thereabouts, or very much nearer to two gallons than to two quarts.

Otherwise, as to whether the charge of starvation is to be considered as adequately sustained, or not, the committee can only judge from certain general facts testified to, some of them of an obvious and demonstrable sort, such as these: that from no parent having had a child in the Shepherd's Fold, nor from any friend of a child having been an inmate of the institution, nor from any regular visitor to the institution, nor from any person having occasionally called at the "Fold"--and the committee had many such, of one or the other of these classes, before them--could anything be learned, that any child had ever complained of being starved, or not having had enough to eat, as a rule; while upon no person having seen the children of the Fold familiarly in churches and in schools was the impression ever made, it would seem from the evidence, that said children, as a whole, were being starved. One very important witness, a lady visitor to the "Home for the Friendless," testified, that she saw the children of the Shepherd's Fold immediately on their being admitted to the "Home," and talked with them, and observed them, and that in all apparent respects they seemed like the children of the "Home;" children of similar antecedents and out of like social conditions as those which the children of the Shepherd's Fold had known.

But the evidence does show unmistakably, in the judgment of the committee, that some of said children, when taken from under the care of the Rev. Edward Cowley, were in a diseased and emaciated condition. The evidence also shows, however, that these children were mostly of those that had but recently been taken or brought out of the hardest and most degrading circumstances of our lowest city life, being admitted into the Shepherd's Fold in a filthy, diseased, and otherwise miserably wretched condition, as was quite commonly the case; and the committee hold, therefore, that for the condition of such children the director and trustees of the Shepherd's Fold cannot be fairly counted responsible.

[11] As applying to the children generally, then, that were under the care of the Rev. Edward Cowley, as head of the Shepherd's Fold, the committee find no sufficient proof of the charge that he was guilty of intentionally or deliberately starving them.

But the case of Louis Kulkusky, otherwise Louis Victor, does seem to convict the Rev. Edward Cowley of the most atrocious cruelty. This case specially demands, therefore, a careful consideration of the evidence bearing upon it. Upon this case, it will be remembered, the trial of the Rev. Edward Cowley in the Court of General Sessions was made to turn, and the issue of such trial made to depend, all other charges formally preferred against Mr. Cowley at the opening of the proceedings had in such court being very early withdrawn.

Very high medical authority represents, as the evidence shows, that the emaciated condition of Louis Kulkusky when received at St. Luke's Hospital on the 26th of December, 1879, was due to his not having had for some time food of the requisite kind, and in necessary quantity, to sustain him in health. But other such authority represents that the wretched condition of the boy was due to, or resulted from, disease. Now between these two conflicting testimonies the Committee do not take upon them absolutely to decide. But they call attention to the fact that there exists such a conflict in the medical testimony touching the wasted condition of Louis Kulkusky, when taken away from the Shepherd's Fold by Mrs. Cowley on the day just named and placed in St. Luke's Hospital.

One or the other of these testimonies of medical experts may be correct, but the main question which the committee had to decide from the evidence, if possible, was: How far, if at all, the Rev. Edward Cowley was criminally responsible for the emaciated condition of the child Louis Kulkusky; to discover if possible from other parts of the evidence than the medical, whether and how far Mr. Cowley had been actively guilty in bringing said child, into such condition or passively guilty in suffering him to sink into such condition without taking the proper preventive measures.

As bearing upon these questions the evidence shows, or the committee have failed to find otherwise, that said child was admitted into the Shepherd's Fold on the 23d day of January, 1878, from which time on, to the time when he fell sick in July, or thereabouts, 1879, he was never subjected to any other kind of treatment than that to which the other children of the [11/12] Shepherd's Fold were subject; that he partook of the same kinds of food as they, and in amount sufficient, it would seem, since there is no testimony before the committee in proof that the child ever complained or gave other signs that he had not enough to eat. Down to the date just given, July, 1879, the child Louis Kulkusky would seem indeed to have been in a good and happy condition of body. There is no evidence before the committee at least looking to any other conclusion. The child was ailing from time to time, as the other children were, and was tended and nursed at such times just as the other children were.

The question as to the starvation of Louis Kulkusky, therefore, narrows itself to this: Did the Rev. Edward Cowley, or those obeying his orders, deliberately deny to, or withold from, the child Louis Kulkusky the necessary food, in kind or in quantity, during the time of his, Louis Kulkusky's, sickness, from July, 1879, to December 26th, 1879, when he needed better or more delicate and more nutritious food than when he Was well? The physician that was called in to see the sick child prescribed such better fare. An important question, therefore is this; Did the Rev. Edward Cowley supply the fare so prescribed? The evidence shows clearly that attempts were made in this direction by Mr. Cowley, in the way of sending portions of meat and fowl, frequently, from his own table for the special benefit of the child Louis Kulkusky, as well as in other ways, looking to the strengthening of the sick child. But just here, in the judgment of the committee, the poverty of the Shepherd's Fold took effect. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cowley apparently did all that they could out of the reduced means of the institution for the boy in the way of supplying him with fit and sufficient food during the time of his special need. But as his sickness increased, it is manifest to the committee from the evidence that, Louis Kulkusky needed nursing and nutrition which the head of the Shepherd's Fold had it not in his power to supply. Do the committee allege this fact as of moral value to absolve the Rev. Edward Cowley from all blame? On the contrary they hold that Mr. Cowley was deeply culpable in not having at once, or when the sickness of the child became serious, relieved himself of the responsibility which he ought to have felt by placing the child, as he might have done and as he did later, in a fitter home than the Shepherd's Fold, and under better treatment than the funds of the Fold could supply. In this matter, therefore, and thus far, the committee unite in severely condemning the Rev. Edward Cowley.

[12] It has been difficult to state and discuss the charge of Mr. Cowley's having starved the children, or one of the children, committed to his care without entering into, or touching upon, the second and only other serious charge preferred against Mr. Cowley. That charge, as stated in the second count in the indictment sustained in the Court of General Sessions against the Rev. Edward Cowley, and as spread very widely abroad in the shape of popular rumor, was to the effect that he, the Rev. Edward Cowley, had neglected to supply Louis Kulkusky, otherwise Louis Victor, when sick with necessary and sufficient medicine and proper medical attendance and care, to the injury of said Louis Kulkusky's health. But the evidence shows very plainly, in the judgment of the committee, that Mr. Cowley was very far from having wholly failed of his duty in these respects.

The sickness of the child Louis Kulkusky was, or seemed at first, late in the month of July, 1879, that is, and on for a considerable period down to the close of the following September or beginning of October, of such a nature and degree as required only domestic treatment, or the child's sickness seems from the evidence to have been for some time such as is quite commonly treated in a domestic way. However this may have been, there is abundant reliable testimony that the sick child in question was taken or sent by Mr. Cowley to a physician of good standing, that the child was twice so taken or sent, that said child might be examined and the case properly prescribed for. The evidence shows, moreover, that the same physician was twice sent for, the case becoming graver, and that what said physician deemed proper remedies in the way of food and medicine were not only prescribed but actually furnished and applied by Mr. Cowley, or by his wife, or by those acting under his (Mr. Cowley's) orders, as many as four or five varieties of medicine being administered to the suffering child at frequent intervals during day and night. Those having charge of the child were bound to follow the judgment and advice of the physician prescribing for the case, and the committee are satisfied from the testimony tendered to them and scrutinized by them that Mr. Cowley did actually follow such judgment and advice. The physician upon inspection of the case pronounced it to be a case of rickets, and for this the child was prescribed for and treated. If it was not a case of rickets the Rev. Edward Cowley cannot fairly be counted criminal, the committee holds, in not [13/14] ministering to the child for that some other and to him unknown disease.

But do the committee hold that the Rev. Edward Cowley is not to be blamed in this matter of Louis Kulkusky's sickness and suffering? Not so. They severely blame and condemn the Rev. Edward Cowley, in that he did not show more urgency and earnest desire to have the case of Louis Kulkusky, especially as it became more threatening, thoroughly looked into, and more constantly attended to by competent medical skill, and most emphatically do they condemn him for not having the child removed earlier, the treatment he was under proving ineffectual, to some institution promising better success, such as that to which he had the child taken, but only when the disease was very far advanced.

In these two things, then, the committee unite in condemning the Rev. Edward Cowley as grievously culpable, in that he failed to supply the child, Louis Kulkusky, with the requisite kind and amount of nutritious food during the time said child was sick, in the months of October, November and December, that is, in the year 1879, and in that he, the Rev. Edward Cowley, failed to act with proper promptness and energy in securing for said child during those same months the best possible medical help and skilled nursing within his, the Rev. Edward Cowley's, reach.

But on carefully reviewing and weighing all the evidence at their command, the committee fail to find sufficient proof that in the direction of the Shepherd's Fold, or in the treatment of the children, or of any one child, committed to his care as manager of the Shepherd's Fold, he was inspired and actuated by a motive or purpose properly criminal, or in any way seriously to injure such children, or any one of them; and, therefore, under a deep and solemn sense of responsibility to God, to the church they in this case represent, and to society at large, and after a very long, and laborious and--as they presume to assert--conscientiously prosecuted investigation, the committee are compel, led to refrain from presenting the Rev. Edward Cowley for trial in a court of the church for crime.

(Signed) J. H. RYLANCE,

New York, June 6, 1881.

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