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while its very simplicity renders it extremely difficult, on crossexamination, to detect the imposture. It is on this ground that the uncorroborated statements of single witnesses, especially when they testify to atrocious crimes, such as rape, &c.,' or are known, like accomplices, to be persons of bad character, and to have an interest in the result, have ever been regarded with merited distrust, and are now, in practice, generally deemed insufficient to warrant a conviction.
$ 68. With respect to cases supported by circumstantial evidence, $ 59 juries should bear in mind, that, although the number of facts drawn from apparently independent sources renders concerted perjury both highly improbable in itself, and easy of detection if attempted ;8 yet, the witnesses in such cases are more likely to make unintentional misstatements, than those who give direct testimony. The truth of the facts they attest rest frequently on minute and careful observation, and experience teaches the danger of relying implicitly on the evidence of even the most conscientious witnesses, respecting dates, time, distances, footprints, handwriting, admissions, loose conversations, and questions of identity. Yet these are the links in the chain of circumstances, by which guilt is in general sought to be established. The number too of the witnesses, who must all speak the truth, or some link will be wanting, renders additional caution the more necessary. Besides, it must be remembered, that, in a case of circumstantial evidence, the facts are collected by degrees. Something occurs to raise a suspicion against a particular party. Constables and police officers are immediately on the alert, and, with professional zeal, ransack every place and paper, and examine into every circumstance which can tend to establish, not his innocence, but his guilt. Presuming him guilty from the first, they are apt to consider his acquittal as a tacit reflection on their discrimination or skill, and, with something like the feeling of a keen sportsman, they determine, if possible, to bag their game. Innocent actions may thus be misinterpreted, innocent
2 R. v. Jones, 2 Camp. 132.
ii Hale, 635. 3 Greenl. on Test. of Evang. § 40.
words misunderstood ; and, as men readily believe what they anxiously desire, facts the most harmless may be construed into strong confirmation of preconceived opinions. It is not here asserted that this is frequently the case, nor is it intended to disparage the police. The feelings by which they are actuated, are common to counsel, engineers, surveyors, medical men, antiquarians, and philosophers ; indeed, to all persons who first assume that a fact or system is true, and then seek for arguments to support and prove its truth.
$ 69. But, admitting that the facts sworn to are satisfactorily $ 60 proved, a further, and a highly difficult duty still remains for the jury to perform. They must decide, not whether these facts are consistent with the prisoner's guilt, but whether they are inconsistent with any other rational conclusion ; for it is only on this last hypothesis that they can safely convict the accused.
This proposition cannot be more strikingly illustrated, than by referring to the credit that was given by the whole civilised world to the lying telegram which, in October, 1854, announced the fall of Sebastopol.
? Ante, $ 57.
$ 70.1 THE general head of PRESUMPTIVE EVIDENCE is usually § 61 divided into two branches, namely, presumptions of law, and presumptions of fact. PRESUMPTIONS OF LAW consist of those rules, which, in certain cases, either forbid or dispense with any ulterior inquiry. They are founded, either upon the first principles of justice, or the laws of nature, or the experienced course of human conduct and affairs, and the connexion usually found to exist between certain things. The general doctrines of presumptive evidence are not, therefore, peculiar to municipal law, but are shared by it in common with other departments of science. Thus, the presumption of a malicious intent to kill from the deliberate use of a deadly weapon, and the presumption of aquatic habits in an animal found with webbed feet, belong to the same philosophy, differing only in the instance, and not in the principle of its application. The one fact being proved or ascertained, the other, its uniform concomitant, is universally and safely presumed. It is this uniformly experienced connexion which leads to its recognition by the law, without other proof; the presumption, however, having more or less force, in proportion to the universality of the experience. And this has led to the distribution of presumptions of law into two classes, namely, conclusive and disputable.
$ 71.” Conclusive, dr, as they are elsewhere termed, imperative, 62 or absolute presumptions of law, are rules determining the quantity of evidence requisite for the support of any particular averment, which is not permitted to be overcome by any proof that the fact is otherwise. They consist chiefly of those cases
i Gr. Ev. § 14, verbatim.
? Gr. Ev. § 15, verbatim.
in which the long experienced connexion, just alluded to, has been found so general and uniform, as to render it expedient for the common good, that this connexion should be taken to be inseparable and universal. They have been adopted by common consent, from motives of public policy, for the sake of greater certainty, and the promotion of peace and quiet in the community; and therefore it is, that all corroborating evidence is dispensed with, and all opposing evidence is forbidden.
$ 72. Sometimes this common consent is expressly declared § 63 through the medium of the legislature in statutes. Thus, under “The Bankruptcy Act, 1869,” the registration of a special resolution of the creditors for a liquidation by arrangement, or of an extraordinary resolution for composition, is, in the absence of fraud, conclusive evidence that such resolutions respectively have been duly passed, and that the Act has been complied with. So, under the same statute, the approval of the Court, testified as therein mentioned, is conclusive as to the validity of any composition or general scheme of settlement made in pursuance of the Act.3 All the requisitions of “The Public Schools Act, 1868,” in respect to any statutes made by the governing body of a school, “ shall be deemed to have been duly complied with,” so soon as the statutes themselves have been approved by Her Majesty in Council. So also, under “ The Endowed Schools Act, 1869," the order in council approving a scheme is conclusive evidence of its validity ; 5 and under
1 The presumption of the Roman law is defined to be, "conjectura, ducta ab eo, quod ut plurimum fit. Ea conjectura vel a lege inducitur, vel a judice. Quæ ab ipsâ lege inducitur, vel ita comparata, ut probationem contrarii haud admittat ; vel ut eadem possit elidi. Priorem doctores præsumptionem JURIS ET DE JURE, posteriorem præsumptionem JURIS, adpellant. Quæ a Judice inducitur conjectura, præsumptio HOMINIS vocari solet ; et semper admittit probationem contrarii, quamvis, si alicujus momenti sit, probandi onere relevet.” Hein. ad Pand., Pars iv. § 124. Of the former, answering to our conclusive presumption, Mascardus observes,—“Super hâc præsumptione lex firmum sancit jus, et eam pro veritate habet.” 1 de Prob., Quæst. x. 48. An exception to the conclusiveness of this class of presumptions is allowed by the civil law, when the presumption is met by an admission in judicio. ? 32 & 33 V., c. 71, § 127.
3 $ 28. 4 31 & 32 V., c. 118, § 8, subs. 4. 5 32 & 33 V., c. 56, § 47.
“ The Valuation Metropolis Act, 1869,” “the valuation list for the time being in force shall be deemed to have been duly made.”l The Act, too, of 16 & 17 V., c. 59, contains a remarkable clause, for it enacts, in § 19, that “any draft or order drawn upon a banker payable to order on demand, which shall, when presented for payment, purport to be indorsed by the person to whom the same shall be drawn payable,”—which last words have been held to include the payee's agent, though he may not really be authorised to indorse, 2—“shall be a sufficient authority to such banker to pay the amount of such draft or order to the bearer thereof; and it shall not be incumbent on such banker’ to prove that such indorsement, or any subsequent indorsement, was made by, or under the direction of, the person to whom the said draft or order was or is made payable either by the drawer or any indorser thereof." 4 So, under “ The Stamp Act, 1870," "a bill of exchange or promissory note purporting to be drawn or made out of the United Kingdom, is, for the purpose of this Act, to be deemed to have been so drawn or made, although it may in fact have been drawn or made within the United Kingdom.” 5
$ 73. Thus, too, by the statutes of limitation, where a debt $ 64
1 32 & 33 V., c. 67, § 45.
3 This enactment does not protect any other person than a banker who takes a cheque on the faith of a forged indorsement. Ogden v. Benos, 9 Law Rep., C. P. 513; 43 L. J., C. P. 259, S. C.
* See Hare v. Copland, 13 Ir. Law R., N. S. 426. 5 33 & 34 V., c. 97, § 52.
6 21 J. 1, c. 16 ; 16 & 17 V., c. 113, § 20, Ir. The first Act enacts, in § 3, that “all actions of trespass quare clausum fregit, all actions of trespass, detinue, action sur trover, and replevin for taking away of goods and cattle, all actions of account, and upon the case, other than such accounts as concern the trade of merchandise between merchant and merchant, their factors or servants, all actions of debt grounded upon any lending or contract without specialty, all actions of debt for arrearages of rent, and all actions of assault, menace, battery, wounding and imprisonment, or any of them, shall be commenced and sued within the time and limitation hereafter expressed, and not after, (that is to say), the said actions upon the case, other than slander, and the said actions for account, and the said actions for trespass, debt, detinue, and replevin for goods or cattle, and the said action of trespass quare clausum fregit, within six years next after the cause of such actions or suit, and not after ; and the said actions of trespass,