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to stay and watch it opened, for they would then see the prettiest thing they had ever seen in their lives— his object, of course, being to prevent their ever appearing as witnesses against him.
The trial of Thomas Maule (p. 85) carries us back to the early times of the prosecution of the Rhode Island Quakers (1 Am. St. Tr. 813) and the Massachusetts Witches (Id. 514). As the old reporter points out, it is an exhibition of the independence of the jury of the law and the statutes, in striking contrast with the conduct of the jurors who followed implicitly the directions of the Court in the trials for witchcraft in 1692. Probably the general feelings of disapprobation with which the extraordinary proceedings in the conviction of the witches were regarded by the people generally did much to render these jurors independent of the Court and to cause them to rely on their own opinion and not on those of the Judges. The allusion of Maule to the Witch prosecutions was ingenious; and his whole defense proves him to have been a man of strong mind and not unworthy of the confidence placed in him by his own sect.
The great Burdell-Cunningham Case (p. 90) is still remembered by the generation fast disappearing, for it divided honors in mystery and in sensation with the Webster-Parkman tragedy in Massachusetts (see 4 Am. St. Tr. 93). It is not only one of the most notorious cases which the City of New York has ever known, but one of the most extraordinary in the annals of civil and criminal jurisprudence. Mrs. Cunningham was certainly an adventuress of the most sordid type, and, while she lost her case in the civil
1 This fact does not appear in the report of the first trial, but is stated in Greve's History of Cincinnati.
court where she claimed to be the wife of Dr. Harvey Burdell, she won in the criminal court where she was charged with being his murderer. The evidence of her guilt is not conclusive to the mind of one reading the testimony, and her leading counsel, Mr. Clinton, who abandoned her when the bogus baby fraud came to light, nevertheless maintained to the day of his death that she was innocent of the capital crime. Mrs. Cunningham's public career, which opened with the most startling and thrilling tragedy, came to an end in the most thorough and disgusting low comedy.
To convict the editor or proprietor of a popular city newspaper of the crime of libel is a difficult undertaking at all times and especially where the persons libeled are politicians or where the public is persuaded that the newspaper is being persecuted for its warfare against vice or official corruption. The counsel for the State in the trial of Charles H. Grasty and his associates on the Baltimore News (p. 216) showed very clearly to the jury from the law books, the statutes and the decisions of the highest courts what a libel was, and the defense did not succeed in proving the truth of the charges. The jury, notwithstanding this, acquitted the defendants. After all, a better definition of libel than any to be found in the treatises is that suggested by an English lawyer: “What is libel? Why, it is whatever twelve English shopkeepers declare to be libel.”
The trials of the Massachusetts Pirates (pp. 330 et seq.), though they antedate those of the South Carolina Freebooters (4 Am. St. Tr. 652) more than a dozen years, are very like the Southern cases in all other features. The law was very stern, very swift 2 Clinton, “Celebrated Trials,” p. 279.
and very sure in those days, and after the trial court had passed on the facts there was no appeal to a higher court on technical points or to the Executive on sentimental ones. Convicted felons did not get their portraits in the newspapers and there were no flowers sent to them in their cells by admiring women. When, on June 30, 1704, Captain Quelch and five of his men were hanged on the Boston side of the Charles River, there was a great crowd to witness the spectacle, and among the spectators and upon a front bench was Chief Justice Sewall, one of the Judges of the Admiralty Court which had convicted the pirates, who did not think it beneath his dignity to be present. It was in those days considered a public duty to invest the scene of execution with as much awe as possible and it was believed that official station would serve to emphasize this feeling.
The wife of the Italian painter, Lawrence Pienovi (p. 359) was reputed to be a woman of remarkable beauty, and the husband's crime was for this reason one of the most insidious and malicious acts of revenge that has ever been conceived and perpetrated.
Unlike the case of Mrs. Cunningham (p. 90), the guilt of Ann K. Simpson (p. 369) seems very clear. But in the last half century has a Southern or Western jury ever sent to the gallows a young and beautiful white woman, even though she has poisoned her husband for the sake of a younger lover? The prosecuting attorney of a great Western city declared not long ago that he had given up the struggle, until the day when female jurors would mete out justice without distinction of sex.
It was for the freedom of the press and not for the cause of the Abolitionists that Elijah P. Lovejoy gave
his life, although later his name for the opponents of slavery became one to conjure with. The mob that attacked the warehouse in the little town of Alton did not know that it was making history, and when quiet had been restored in the community the issues were too great to be understood by the State officials. The law had been broken, they knew, and something had to be done, and the mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. They read like pages of opera bouffe—the trials of Winthrop S. Gilman (p. 528) and John Solomon (p. 589). The owner of the warehouse in which · the printing press was stored, awaiting its delivery to the owner, is indicted with his friends who helped him to defend it from the mob, for the crime of riot. The Attorney General of the State appears and gravely argues that the Illinois statutes had repealed the common-law right of self-defense. The jury renders a verdict of acquittal, and then the leaders of the mob, who had set fire to the warehouse, destroyed the printing press and murdered the owner, are indicted for riot also. The jury, to keep things even, acquit the rioters. The first trial was a shameful insult to justice, the second was an impudent farce.
In an address to a St. Louis audience in 1888, Mr. Thomas Dimmock, who was a personal witness of much of the happenings in 1838, and who many years afterwards preserved the bones of Lovejoy and had them removed to another place, said:
The City of Alton has set apart a well located and spacious lot in the cemetery and an association has been organized and duly incorporated to erect a suitable monument. I have no doubt there will be sooner or later a monument worthy of the man and his deeds; but I do not expect to see it. My only desire is to make the surroundings of the present grave a little more attractive. When it is I shall feel that I have paid my share of the debt the country owes to Lovejoy.
Mr. Dimmock's hope and prophecy have been realized, for over the ashes of the murdered editor in the Alton City Cemetery there is now a public monument, erected at the joint cost of the city and the State of Illinois to the man who, in spite of threats and menaces of death, could calmly reply to his persecutors: “As long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write and to publish whatever I please on any subject, being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."
There is little doubt that, except among a small number of fanatical Abolitionists, the murder of Lovejoy called forth at the time little sympathy throughout the Union. His defense of freedom of speech was forgotten; and he was regarded almost everywhere as a disturber of the public peace and as one whose writings were threatening to break asunder the friendly relations existing between North and South. When the news reached Boston, at an indignation meeting called in Faneuil Hall by negro sympathizers, the Attorney General of Massachusetts compared the Alton Riot with the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor, and declared that Lovejoy had “died as the fool dieth." 3 But in the sixteen years that had gone by when Anthony Burns (p. 645) was brought before the Federal Court as a fugitive slave, the opposition to slavery had greatly increased, especially in New England. When Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which gave the slave-owner a right to follow his property into a free State and required the United States Courts to enforce his rights, the act was denounced by thousands of people throughout the North who believed that a
3 Schouler, Hist. U. S. 300.