(51st in a Series)  

On June 1, 1885, The New York Times published a Page 1 story with this headline: “An Alleged Murderer As a Consul.”  

The paper stated that President Grover Cleveland’s appointment of Louisiana native Cuthbert Jones as Consul to Callao in Peru had caused a stir.  

The Times wrote that the New Orleans Daily States “calls editorially upon {Louisiana} Gov. {Samuel Douglas} McEnery to make a requisition for him {Cuthbert Jones} as a fugitive from Justice, there being an unsatisfied indictment against him in the Parish of Catahoula for murder.  

“It then narrates the particulars of the assassination of Gen. {St. John Richardson} Liddell in 1870, by Jones and his father and brother on a Black River steamboat, and how the two latter were subsequently shot and killed by a gang of lynchers in the Harrisonburg Jail. Cuthbert Jones escaped and fled from the country.  

“The paper wants to know who is responsible for the appointment, as it alleged his papers are signed by members of the present Congressional delegation.”  

Cuthbert had previously served as Consul to Tripoli in North Africa and received high marks for his service. President U.S. Grant had assigned him to the position.  

But when Cuthbert’s work ended there in the early 1880s, he returned to the U.S. for the first time since fleeing for Europe with his mother and siblings in 1870. At that time, Cuthbert was sought by Liddell family members and friends determined to avenge the death of Gen. Liddell.  

Cuthbert initially had the support of the Louisiana delegation until one congressman abandoned him and objected to his appointment to Peru.  

The New York Tribune wrote that Cuthbert was well qualified for the South America appointment, that he spoke several languages and “the records of the State Department testify how well he performed his duty.  

“He has the air, breeding and bearing of a gentleman. He would have been transferred to Santiago de Cuba as Consul, under Garfield, if he had not been a Democrat and the Republican Senator from Louisiana had a man of his own political faith named instead.”  

But when the newspapers in New Orleans protested the appointment to Peru, a rumor surfaced that the U.S. Attorney had been asked to issue a warrant for Cuthbert’s arrest as a murderer and fugitive from justice.  

The New York Herald reported:  

“The announcement that the President had decided to appoint Mr. Cuthbert B. Jones of Louisiana to the Callao Consulate, the most important on the Pacific Coast … has brought out the warmest discussion yet had over any of these consular appointments. No sooner was the news telegraphed here, and before the appointment could be made, than a formal protest was entered against it on the ground that Mr. Jones was under indictment for murder in this State and a fugitive from justice, and one New Orleans journal insisted that it was the duty of the Governor to demand his extradition and have him brought here for trial.  

“The discussion that grew out of this disclosure has found its way into most of the Northern papers. There have been quite extensive notices of Mr. Jones, and some references to the terrible tragedy in which he took part … that made the Liddell-Jones feud one of the most remarkable episodes in Southern social history … The story was rapidly being forgotten when Mr. Jones’ proposed appointment recalled it.”  

CUTHBERT VS. J. FLOYD KING  

The Indianapolis Journal also covered the story, writing about the close relationship between Cuthbert and his baby brother, Francois, who was just a child in 1870 when the Jones-Liddell Feud came to a conclusion in Harrisonburg with the shooting of Cuthbert’s father and older brother.  

The paper reported that Cuthbert was “a gentleman who has won the respect of everyone who has seen him in Washington. He came here some months ago for the purpose of securing the consulate at Callao, Peru. His demeanor has always been that of a thorough gentleman and there has been nothing whatever about his bearing to indicate that he was an office-seeker.  

“Every day for months past, Mr. Jones has been seen in the company  with a younger brother on some of the upper streets of Washington. The love which is manifest between these two brothers is something marvelous. They seem to live altogether for each other, and one never sees one without the other.”  

The paper learned that the financial condition of the Jones brothers “is rather poor, and that the elder of the two had undoubtedly grown desperate at the poor outlook for him when he designed to notice the attacks upon his character by one as contemptible as J. Floyd King.”  

Congressman King had been among the men – both northern and southern – who came to Louisiana after the Civil War seeking position and opportunity.  

A native of Georgia, King was well educated, had served in the Army of Virginia during the Civil War and rose to the rank of colonel in the artillery. He came to Louisiana after the war, settled in Vidalia where he practiced law and served as president of the School Board and inspector of the levees for this portion of the state.  

He was elected to Congress in 1879 and was still in office when Cuthbert’s appointment to Peru came up.  

Cuthbert was naturally angered that King had brought up the feud but especially upset that King reportedly said scandalous things about his mother, Laura Jones, and the widow of General Liddell, Mary.  

In a letter printed in a newspaper, Cuthbert wrote directly to King:  

“Professing to be a large planter, you went to Louisiana as an overseer of negro workmen.  

“Professing to have been a General in the Southern army, you were a subaltern of artillery.  

“Professing to be a statesman, you are greeted with ridicule whenever you attempt to address Congress.  

“Professing to have done much good for the Mississippi river, friends of that measure declare that your asinine stupidity on that question has been a great obstacle in the way of this measure of river improvement, and that on more than one occasion your silly speeches and frivolous bills have defeated all their efforts.”  

Additionally, Cuthbert wrote of King:  

“Professing to be an honorable man, you give expensive lunches to  young ladies at watering places or to ‘snobs’ and refuse to pay small bills to men whose clothing you wear and to clerks whose hard services you have had.”  

Some of the newspapers didn’t like King either.  

The Indianapolis Journal wrote that King was “a good deal of a braggart, and very little of a man. He is one of those accidents of politics who are occasionally thrown into the public gaze by one of those political upheavals for which no men can give a satisfactory reason.  

“He has served in Congress for two or three terms, and has made his constituents believe that he has done a great deal for them. His greatest work has been that occasioned by his persistent efforts to get his name in the newspapers.  

“To sum him up, J. Floyd King is a small bore statesman of rather pleasant appearance, and a man who is generally well dressed.”  

‘YOU ASSAILED MY MOTHER’  

The Washington Critic newspaper reported that one reason Cuthbert received so much support and King was so vilified was due to erroneous reporting by a hard-of-hearing newspaper reporter named Charles F. Murray with The Indianapolis Times.  

According to the Critic, there was a detailed account of the background of the Jones-Liddell Feud, much of it inaccurate, and King’s “reasons for going to the President and opposing the appointment of Mr. Cuthbert Jones … But there occurred in the interview the following – to use the language of the interview and the answer as printed.”  

Murray quoted comments allegedly said by Congressman King about Cuthbert’s mother, Laura Jones, and the wife of Cuthbert’s father’s enemy, Mary Liddell (who had been dead for years): “Both of these once proud beauties are now living in the meanest state of degradation known to womankind—they are mistresses of negro laborers, cohabiting with their former slaves.”  

The Indianapolis Journal reported:  

“It is hardly likely that the President will now give Jones the appointment which he sought, but there is no doubt that he has selected scores of worse men for similar positions since he has held the highest office in the gift of the people.  

“It is thought probable that Jones would have secured the appointment but for the fact that King, in one of the meanest, dirtiest and most contemptible interviews that ever appeared in print, traduced him in such a manner that he could not fail to notice it, and to resent it, at least, by his pen.”  

King said the primary reason for opposing the appointment was that Cuthbert was a fugitive from justice, and an accused murderer.  

Cuthbert didn’t sit still. He sent word to King and the reporter, Charles Murray, for a clarification on whether King had actually said the scandalous things about his mother and Mrs. Liddell.  

Later, Cuthbert would call out King over the statement … “you assailed my mother and Mrs. Liddell – the one living, old, heart-broken; the other dead for eighteen years – both of whom were spotless in their lives and characters.”  

King claimed he had been misquoted by the hard-of-hearing reporter Charles Murray and it seems likely that is exactly what happened.  

A friend of Cuthbert’s, Louisiana State Representative E. John Ellis, came to Cuthbert’s defense and said he planned to get the bottom of the remarks. Ellis told newspapers that he endorsed Cuthbert’s appointment to Peru as did other officials from Louisiana.  

Cuthbert “is eminently worthy of the appointment,” Ellis said. “Educated thoroughly in Germany, he is master of five living languages. Of fine mind and quick apprehension, he was well improved his advantages of study and travel.  

“The unfortunate feud between his father and General Liddell began before he was born … Its resurrection now is most cruel and useless … Jones and his brother do not intend to return to Louisiana and the memories of that feud are most painful to them.  

“Why should it be reopened?  

“Why should it come up forever as a specter to cloud the prospects, defeat the labors or cheat the just ambitions of the children who were not responsible for the feuds of their fathers?”  

But it was all far from over.  

Cuthbert would soon confront Congressman Floyd in a Washington barbershop, an electrifying event that the newspapers would cover in detail.  

(To Be Continued)  

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