Published May 20, 2013

Beale Treasure Story
Beale's Final Contingency?

  

My colleague and Beale researcher, Mr. Jerry Watt, believes that Beale left a clue in his letters to Mr. Morriss that would permit the treasure to be recovered under certain conditions, even if the key left with Beale's friend in St. Louis failed to be delivered. Mr. Watt points out that Beale was a person with a persuasion, perhaps better described as an obsession for handling contingencies.
 
This can be illustrated by considering several examples of safeguards taken by Beale:
  • Three ciphers were used when one would appear to have sufficed.
  • Beale did not tell Robert Morriss about the treasure while at his boarding house, or in his letter to Morriss of May 9, 1822. Morriss learned about this only after opening the locked box.
  • Beale signed his letters to Morriss with only his initials, thus preventing others who might somehow read the letters to pass themselves off as an associate of Beale's.
  • Beale did not tell anyone where he called home (as far as we know).
  • Beale did not leave a key to the locked box with Morriss. Mr. Morriss had to break the lock to open the box.
  • Beale left the "key" to his ciphers with a friend in St. Louis, not with Morriss.
In light of this, it seems probable that Beale would have taken into account the possibility that the key to his ciphers could be lost, and so would have left clues permitting the ciphers to be solved even without the key. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the fact that B2 is keyed to the Declaration of Independence and a gentleman by the name of Robert Morris (one "s") was one of the signers. Beale may have chosen the Declaration just for this reason, figuring that if Morriss needed to work without the key, one of the first documents he might try would be the Declaration of Independence, signed by someone with nearly the same name.   
  
In his letter of May 9th, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale says the following:
 
"With regard to the box left in your charge, I have a few words to say, and, if you will permit me, give you some instructions concerning it. It contains papers vitally affecting the fortunes of myself and many others engaged in business with me, and in the event of my death, its loss might be irreparable. You will, therefore, see the necessity of guarding it with vigilance and care to prevent so great a catastrophe. It also contains some letters addressed to yourself, and which will be necessary to enlighten you concerning the business in which we are engaged. Should none of us return [I assume he means return from the mine on what might be their final trip, perhaps in one or two years] you will please preserve carefully the box for the period of ten years from the date of this letter, and you will open it, which can be done by removing the lock."
 
Note two things. Beale has not yet mentioned the "key." But, he tells Morriss to open the box in 10 years. Indirectly, Beale may be telling Morriss to open the box even if the key was not received. This would permit Morriss to read Beale's letters, which at a minimum would give him details of Beale's enterprise. But, perhaps there was more to it. It could be a subtle indication that Beale did in fact think about and make provision for the "final contingency." 
 
Beale goes on to say:
 
"You will find, in addition to the papers addressed to you, other papers which will be unintelligible without the aid of a key to assist you. Such a key I have left in the hands of a friend in this place, sealed, addressed to yourself, and endorsed not to be delivered until June, 1832. By means of this you will understand fully all you will be required to do."
 
The words "unintelligible without the aid of a key" seem to indicate that the unintelligible papers cannot be read without the aid of a key. But the words "such a key" seem to indicate that the key left with a friend in St. Louis is not necessarily the only key that would allow the unintelligible papers to be read. This possibility seems to be reinforced by the following instruction to Mr. Morriss: 
 
"In the meantime, should death or sickness happen to you, to which all are liable, please select from among your friends some one worthy, and to him hand this letter, and to him delegate your authority."
 
This instruction pertains to the 10 year period from June, 1822 to June 1832. Mr. Morriss was under no obligation to Beale if during the ten year period from July 1822 to June 1832 Beale or some one with his authority failed to reclaim the locked box or the key left with a friend in St. Louis was not received. Thus, Beale's instruction to Mr. Morriss directing him  to delegate authority to some other person in case of sickness or impending death pertained only to the ten year period from July, 1822, to June 1832. But if sickness or impending death did cause Mr. Morriss to delegate authority to some other person, one might ask: How could Beale be certain that the key would be delivered to such a new person? I think the answer is simple: He couldn't. There is no way, at least no apparent way, for the person holding the key in St. Louis to know that Mr. Morriss delegated authority to a different person and no way to know who that person might be. Thus, if Mr. Morriss found it necessary to delegate his authority to another person, Beale's plan was exposed to failure. This makes me think that maybe Beale did address this important issue. Here is one possible way the issue could have been addressed. 
 
Suppose, for sake of argument, that the key left with a friend in St. Louis was a very simple key, perhaps consisting of say two or three sentences, and that the balance of the key was already in Mr. Morriss hands, although Mr. Morriss was unaware of this and did not recognize the said "balance of the key" for what it was. Beale may have also made one or more of these sentences in the key sound prosaic, something to fool others but which might trigger something in Mr. Morris' mind. In addition, Beale could have left a few simple clues in his letters to Mr. Morriss, which if properly interpreted could act as a suitable substitute for the brief "key" left in St. Louis. Thus, even if one did not receive the key from St. Louis, there was a chance that the mystery might still be unraveled and the treasure recovered and distributed to the designated heirs.
 
I am reminded of a statement made by Col. George Fabyan (Hart Papers, Roanoke Public Library, 1952, p. 8) who said, in reference to the Beale ciphers: "the psychology of it is about all we have to go on in picking out our point of attack."
 
The anonymous author of Ward's pamphlet made the following remarks (Beale Papers, p. 10): 
"I commenced by reading over and over again the letters to Mr. Morriss, endeavoring to impress each syllable they contained on my memory, and to extract from them, if possible some meaning or allusion that might give, perhaps a faint or barely perceptible hint as a guide; no such clue, however, could I find, and where or how to commence was a problem I found most difficult to solve."
In fact, many Beale researchers have spent time looking for some clue in Beale's letters, hoping that the ciphers could be solved, even without knowing or having the missing key left with a friend in St. Louis.
 
Thus, the "final contingency" is this: In the event that Mr. Morriss did not receive the promised key, or in the event that Mr. Morriss found it necessary to delegate his authority to another person and that person did not receive the promised key, Beale would provide a clue or clues in his letters that might permit the treasure to be recovered and distributed to the named heirs. Such a clue could not be obvious, as this might allow the treasure to be recovered by someone who misappropriated the locked box. A good clue would have a double meaning. It would make sense in the context of Beale's letter, but if interpreted properly it would have a different meaning.  Such a clue should be recognizable with some thinking.
  
Mr. Morriss or the person with his delegated authority would have the locked iron box and hence would have access to Beale's letters in the box. This goes without saying. However, in the letter of May 9, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale explicitly requests Mr. Morriss to keep the May 9 letter, and if necessary to give the letter to the person with delegated authority. That itself might be a subtle indication that Beale's letter of May 9 contains a clue that would permit the treasure to be recovered. After all, if the May 9 letter contained an important clue, Beale would not want the letter to be discarded, lost or misplaced. Mr. Morriss says that he took care to preserve the May 9 letter.
  
Although I have no intention to identify Beale's clues with any certainty and solve the mystery here and now, I can point out some things in Beale's letters that might be characterized as possible clues.
 
First, note that Beale signed his letters of January 4, 1822, and May 9, 1822, using his initials "T.J.B." Beale's name does not appear in any of letters written to Mr. Morriss, which may have been done purposely (as mentioned above) to prevent someone who read the letters from leaning Beale's name and then passing themselves off as an associate of Beale's. But the use of initials TJB could also have been a clue telling Morriss that the initial letters of words in the key text (Declaration of Independence) should be used to decode cipher No. 2.
 
But, the clue could be more important than merely indicating how the DOI was to be used to decode No. 2. It might indicate that Beale made use of an acrostic cipher, perhaps hidden in one of his letters to Mr. Morriss. In our case, an acrostic cipher would be one in which the initial letters in certain words in one or more or Beale's letters constitutes a hidden message. One merely has to find the proper arrangement of the words and extract the appropriate first letters of words. I suppose this is easier said than done. In any case, the reader may want to do some investigation of acrostic ciphers.
 
Second, note that near the end of his letter of May 9, Beale says the following:
 
"Be the result what it may, however, the game is worth the candle, and we will play it to the end."
 
Might this be a clue to a book or "play" in which the phrase "the game is worth the candle" occurs?  I do know of a multi-volume set of books that may have been in Mr. Morriss' library, with a connection to this possible clue. Volume four of the 1813 London edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare [1] contains a footnote to one of the plays (Two Gentlemen of Verona) in which the phrase "the game is not worth the candle" is printed (see page 312). The set contains 21 volumes, and could be a set of books in Morriss' private library of books. A contemporary Lynchburg newspaper advertisement for this work could not be located. But, a January 7, 1820, advertisement in the Lynchburg Press for Ward & Digges' (this Ward was Giles Ward father of James B. Ward) bookstore includes the following short title: Shakespeare's Plays. While it is possible that this could be an advertisement for the 1813 London edition, it is more apt to be an advertisement for the 1819 London edition [2], entitled The Plays of Shakespeare, in nine volumes. 
 
Near the end of Beale's letter of January 4, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale says:
 
"I beg that you will not allow any false or idle punctilio to prevent your receiving and appropriating the portion assigned to yourself."
 
I have always thought that Beale truly wanted Mr. Morriss to  have an equal share, that Morriss was not to allow some "point of honor" to interfere with him getting his fair share Such was Beale's respect for Morriss. Yet, "punctilio" is an uncommon word, thus making me wonder if it could be a possible clue.
 
The word punctilio has several different meanings or interpretations. It is generally defined as a "fine point of etiquette" or a "point of honor" or a "code of honor." It appears to be derived from the Italian puntiglio, the Spanish puntillo, and the Latin punctum all for point. Hence it might be a clue to the word "point."
 
Suppose Beale's key left with a friend in St. Louis directed Mr. Morriss to secure volume four of his 21 volume, 1813 edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare, which Beale knew was in Mr. Morriss' private library of books, locate the play "Two Gentlemen of Verona," and finally locate the letters in the text under which small "points" (dots or pin pricks) have been made, which taken together would convey a message telling Mr. Morriss how to decode the three ciphers. This might allow Mr. Morriss decode Beale's ciphers, although without Mr. Morriss' personal copy of the book any other person would be out of luck. Thus, if the word "punctilio" is a clue, it would most likely have a different intended interpretation.
 
This may all be quite a stretch of the imagination, yet as a last resort Beale may have been forced to adopt such a tactic, or some similar tactic. If he did, we may assume that it failed, as by all accounts Mr. Morriss never recovered the treasure. But, if Beale did employ such a tactic, then it may yet be possible for some clever investigator to solve the mystery without resorting to cryptanalysis or high-speed computers.
 

[1] The Plays of William Shakespeare. In 21 volumes. Volume the fourth. Containing Tempest. Two Gentlemen of Verona, Midsummer Night's Dream. London, Printed for J. Nichols and Son; &c. 1813, pp. 306-312.

[2] The Plays of Shakespeare, Carefully Revised from the Best Editions. In 9 volumes. London: printed for W. Alason, 1819.

 

 

Posting made October 4, 2013

The following comments were received from Mr. Kenneth D. Houck (a Virginia resident), who says the following:

"Let me first thank you for putting together such an interesting Beale Treasure Story website. I have enjoyed it heartily. In May of this year a new entry was added (Beale's Final Contingency) and it immediately attracted my...attention...especially the portion on possible hidden clues with double meanings being secreted within the story. I cannot know what prompted Mr. Watt to think of such an idea. But one thing I know for certain, he is not wrong in this avenue of thinking. As a hobby, I gave twenty serious and successful years to the subject of Beale."  Mr. Houck continues saying that he would be pleased to share his findings with Mr. Watt.

  

 
 Posting made February 13, 2016
 
 The following comments were received from Mr. Travis Lee Barker, January 9, 2016, in two separate email messages.
 
 "Hello, I recently just heard about the Beale papers and became interested in the subject which then led met to your website. After reading the papers myself, and then doing some research online I might have found an important clue/question that nobody seems to be asking. Has anybody figured out how the writer of the pamphlet figured out that The Declaration of Independence was the key to one of the pages in the first place? If the answer is no, then I figured it out last night which might lead to figuring out the other two papers. If the answer is yes, then I'm just beating a dead horse. Just a thought."
 
 "Hello, I figured out how the writer of the Beale Papers pamphlet knew to use the Declaration of Independence as a key for one of the papers. In the last letter that Beale wrote to Morriss he first addressed him as Robt. Morris Esq. Morris with only one "s" not two. He doesn't make that mistake in any other letter. Everyone seems to miss that clue. Robert Morris with one "S" was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He also signed the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution [of the U.S.] He's considered a founding father. This might hold the clue to solving the other two papers as well. Just a thought."
 
Mr. Barker's "Morriss" connection may be an important clue that could lead to the eventual decoding of the two remaining Beale ciphers (No. 1 and No. 3). Others have pointed out that Thomas Lynch, Jr was also a Signer and this, likewise, may be a clue as Beale's letters to Morris were datelined Lynchburg. Further, IF Beale's initials, TJB, stood for Thomas Jefferson Beale, this would also point to the DOI as the key. There may be other clues pointing to the DOI as the key document but they are, as of now, too ephemeral to publish. Yet, Mr. Barker has made an interesting point which seems to be at least partially confirmed by other clues pointing to the DOI.
  
 This is, of course, exciting speculation. Beale wouldn't leave a clue to cipher No. 2 without also leaving a clue or clues to ciphers No. 1 and No. 3. My "gut" feeling is that Beale would not  complicate an already complicated matter by leaving three separate clues to his three ciphers, but rather just one clue, which would act as a clue to all three ciphers. If I am right, then one or more of the documents (Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and U.S. Constitution) would have been used in some way to construct the key or keys to Beale's three ciphers. For example, it appears that ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 were encoded using the same cipher method and key. Hence, the key to ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 might be based on a slightly different method of using the Declaration of Independence, or based on one of the other major documents signed by Robt. Morris (one "S"), namely the Articles of Confederation or the U.S. Constitution. It also means that the methed of cipher for No. 1 and No. 3 cannot be complicated or complex, otherwise the clue wouldn't be a clue at all. Saying this another way, if Mr. Morriss were able to recognize the clue to Robt. Morris' three signed documents (Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and U.S. Constitution), then it better not be too difficult to deduce or discover the method Beale used to construct the key or keys needed to decode the ciphers. Otherwise, Mr. Morriss wouldn't have been able to make effective use of the clue.