Page images
PDF
EPUB

lestimony of Sam the negro, if true, proves improper conduct, but does not prove the charges in the information. But the question is, whether it is to be believed ; Esq. Cook testifies that his master said he was a poor, lying, good-for-nothing fellow, and that he could not believe him when he was sent on a common eiranda fine witness to be brought before the Supcrior Court to destroy a respectable clergyman! Mr. Brewster, who is brought here on purpose to support his character, swears he does not consider him entitled to the first credit ; and is it probable that a clergyman would be seen lying in bed with an unmarricd woman in open day light, at sun half an hour high, with the door open-I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, is this probable ? Is it true? Well, take away the testimony of Maria and the negro, (which if admitted does not prove any one charge contained in che information) and what is there, I beseech you, against my client ? The testimony on the part of the prisoner is conclusive. The young woman herself, her mother, and Maria herself, her grand-father, and uncle Clark, and all the family have, in words and in writing, at different times, and on different occasions, and to different persons and committees, fully cleared him of these crimes now charged upon him, and of every other impropriety of conduct ; and never did accuse him until 1819, two years afterwards; this, gentlemen, is in proof before you by the most indubitable testimony, by James Cook, Esq. by Mr. Baker and Mr. Fry. If on the whole, you, gentlemen of the Jury, from the evidence now before you, think that the prisoner at the bar is guilty of the crimes charged upon him, in the manner and form of the information, you will say so on your oath, and he must suffer the consequence : but if you think that the evidence now delivered in court does not prove that he committed the crimes now charged upon him, and in the manner and form stated in the information, you will say on your oath that he is not guilty, and he will be acquitted with honor. The foregoing are not the words of Mr. Cleavelaryd, but the substance of what he did say, and of what I think he should have said, if he intended to defend his client.

Mr. Goddard then arose, and addressed the court in a sensible, elegant and well arranged argument, recapi. tulating the testimony, and showing the insufficiency of the evidence to prove any one crime in the information, and the sufficiency of the evidence to evince my innocence, drawn from the repeated confessions of Asenath herself, and of the whole family, and the long time before the charges were brought. He insisted on the injustice of admitting the testimony of Maria after the confessions which she had made in court ; and after her letter in her own hand writing, which was proved by Mr. Willoughby and his daughter, to have been written in my absence was read ; in this she confessed that what she had testified in this case before Esq. Coit, she could not in conscience say again, that she had no reason to think the charges were true, &c. [why my counsel did not bring forward her depositions I have never been able to learn.] Mr. Goddard insisted on it, that there was no evidence that any crime, as charged in the information, had been committed by any one ; and until that was first proved, all other testimony was irrelevant. That the testimony of Maria ought not to be admitted in any case, and that the jury ought not to place any confidence in it; he said expressly that no man ought to be condemned on such testimony, and the negro story carried its own refutation in itself, for that no man in his senses would be in that situation; his argument was cool, collected, fair, and dispassionate, and he submitted it to the consciences of the jury to say, if from the evidence then delivered in court, it was proved that any crime, as charged in the information, had been committed by me; he said, if it was true, it was not proved ; and he took it, that they ought to render a verdict according to what was then in court proved.

Mr. Lanman then arose to close the argument; he was well prepared, and displayed all the art, all the sophistry, and all the ability which he possessed; he had told me in 80 many words, (that he was determined to drive me out of the ministry and out of the state.] He had been to Elisha Geer's, about eight mịlos, and closeted with Asenath C. Smith from about two or three o'clock in the after

noon, until nine or ten o'clock at night, and had promised hér honor, friendship, protection, secrecy and safety, if she would swear these crimes upon me ; she consented and did it; she was then confined and guarded night and day, at the widow Lester's in Griswold, from April till Sept. when she obtained permission to go to Hampton, about 14 miles on a visit, and the very next day went before a justice of the peace and made solemn oath that these crimes charged upon me, relative to her, were wholly, utterly, and absolutely false and unjust, and that she had been overpersuaded and wickedly induced to charge them upon me falsely, for which she was then very sorry. She had constantly and uniformly adhered to this, and was then at court in town, ready and willing to testify the same on trial. Maria had also confessed that she had taken a false oath against me when I was bound over ; that old Halsey, Dr. Downer, and James Lanman had overpersuaded and hired her to do it ;-she had been before Denison Palmer, Esq. and made solemn oath, when I was not within 30 miles of her : that she had no reason to believe that the charges against me were true, her sister told her soon after the death of her mother while she was confined at the widow Lester's that the charges against me were not true; that she was sorry for what she had testified, and was determined not to say it again, and wanted to leave that place. Maria had constantly for about twelve months declared her full belief of my innocence of the crimes charged against me. Mr. Lanman, had now got her into his possession again, she had recanted and told the story which Halsey dictated, Downer wrote, and he and they had induced her to swear to and which was false—but he must now make the best of it.

After an apology, and a profession of his pretended feeling, he related the story as it was contrived and laid out before the court of inquiry, of a young female, seduced by a clergyman, begotten with child,

poisonous portions of ergot administered, a deadly instrument used, the child destroyed in embryo, she languishing, sickening, dying ; (not one word of which was then in proof before the court, not one word of it was true,) O, that he was made of a stronger texture ! O, that his nerves were iron ! In this way he arrested the attention of all who were present : he weeps, he sobs, he wipes his eyes,

and

appeals to the feelings of humanity, he appeals to the pa. ternal affection of every parent present, to the feelings of every mother, of every brother, of every sister in the world. The jury are all in tears, the judge himself weeps, and not a heart which does not burn with indigo nation against the wretch who would do these things ; they forget the testimony, they are ready to catch at every straw, they are ready to believe any thing ; the testimony of Maria is then recapitulated and dressed in the most glaring colors, the negro story is repeated ; the swamp story, the dismal swamp story-horribile dictu ! et amplius mirabile visu ! that is, horrible to be told, and more horrible to be seen, was portrayed in the gloom of death. In fact it appeared to me that Mr. Lanman exerted himself in every way, par fas et nefas, i. e. right or wrong to answer his purpose. To beat, to come off conquerer, in this case, would gratify the feelings of all my political, religious, and personal enemies; of them he would reap the plaudit, well done; he would reap fame, honor, renown! to be conquered, he would be despised by all. Towards the close of his plea, he wished to introduce Maria before the court again, and it is thought that she understood the case. He stated something which he said she testified about my coming there in the night and advising Asenath to go away; my 'counsel objected, and said she did not say so. This afforded the opportunity he wanted of calling her again before the court. The case rested almost wholly on her testimony, and he closed with a few remarks that although there was no direct proof of the crimes charged upon me, yet the circumstances, (founded on the testimony of Maria and Sam) were sufficient to convince every person present that I was guilty, and he expected the jury would find me so. I do not pretend that I have repeated the words of Mr. Lanman but I have endeavored to represent the manner in which I thought he managed this case ; that he raised a frightful and pitiful image which did not exist in truth or in evidence--that he mourned over it himself-that he called forth the sympaihy and compassion of the court and jury, and excited a high indignation whereby they are ready to believe any thing, and to punish the least appearance of guilt in this case, and to construe circumstances into the appearance of guilt where there was none.

Soon after the pleadings were closed, I said, May it please the court-I stand here accused of crimes which never came into my mind, at which my heart revolts, which are disgraceful and shocking to humanity, and of which, Sir, I am absolutely as innocent as your honor the judge, or as either of you, gentlemen of the jury. The person, on whose oath I was bound over for trial and on whose cath I ought to be condemned or acquitted, the only person in the world who can be supposed to know and testify whether the crimes charged upon me were true or false, is now in town, and is ready and willing to testify my entire innocence, and to explain every circumstance on which even a presumption of guilt can rest upon me, and I now move that her testimony may be admitted and heard. By the judgeWhere is she? Ans. Within a few rods of this place, and can be here in a very few moments. By the same –Why have you not offered her before ? - Ans. Because she was not my witness, but the principal witness on the part of the prosecution, and I did suppose that the court would require the highest evidence in the case,

and that she must and would be called upon by the State's Attorney ; in that case she would have disclosed the whole plan and the means used to effect it.

By the judge-I do not know, it is a novel case, you have had a hearing of two days, and you have had an opportunity of bringing her forward. Ans. And so has Mr. Lanman: if he had brought her forward, she could have told the whole truth and he could not have contradicted it. If I had brought her forward, he could have proved what she was induced to testify at the binding over, and I could not impeach or contradict my own witness : and, Sir, in this way I am deprived of the constitutional right of confronting the principal witness against me. By the judge, to Mr Cleveland. Have you any thing to say on this subjecte

« PreviousContinue »