While spending as much time as possible at his beloved Locust Grove, he was yet compelled, in the interests of his approaching legal contests, to consult with his lawyers in New York and Washington, and it was while in the latter city that he received a letter from Colonel Tal. P. Shaffner, one of the most energetic of the telegraph pioneers, and a devoted, if sometimes injudicious, friend. It was he who, more than any one else, was responsible for the publication of Morse’s “Defense” against Professor Henry.
The letter was written from Louisville on January 9, 1848, and contains the following sentences: “We are going ahead with the line to New Orleans. I have twenty-five hands on the road to Nashville, and will put on more next week. I have ten on the road to Frankfort, and my associate has gangs at other parts. O’Reilly has fifteen hands on the Nashville route and I confidently expect a few fights. My men are well armed and I think they can do their duty. I shall be with them when the parties get together, and, if anything does occur, the use of Dupont’s best will be appreciated by me. This is to be lamented, but, if it comes, we shall not back out.”
Deeply exercised, Morse answers him post-haste: “It gives me real pain to learn that there is any prospect of physical collision between the O’Reilly party and ours, and I trust that this may arrive in time to prevent any movement of those friendly to me which shall provoke so sad a result. I emphatically say that, if the law cannot protect me and my rights in your region, I shall never sanction the appeal to force to sustain myself, however conscious of being in the right. I infinitely prefer to suffer still more from the gross injustice of unprincipled men than to gain my rights by a single illegal step.... I hope you will do all in your power to prevent collision. If the parties meet in putting up posts or wires, let our opponents have their way unmolested. I have no patent for putting up posts or wires. They as well as we have a right to put them up. It is the use made of them afterwards which may require legal adjustment. The men employed by each party are not to blame. Let no ill-feeling be fomented between the two, no rivalry but that of doing their work the best; let friendly feeling as between them be cherished, and teach them to refer all disputes to the principals. I wish no one to fight for me physically. He may ‘speak daggers but use none.’ However much I might appreciate his friendship and his motive, it would give me the deepest sorrow if I should learn that a single individual, friend or foe, has been injured in life or limb by any professing friendship for me.”
He was reassured by the following from Colonel Shaffner:—