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Hence it appears, that as early as January, Knapp had a knowledge of the will, and that he had access to it, by means of false keys. This knowledge of the will, and an intent to destroy it, appear also from Palmer's testimony---a fact disclosed to him by the other conspirators. He says, that he was informed of this by the Crowninshields on the 2d of April. But, then, it is said that Palmer is not to be credited; that by his own confession he is a felon; that he has been in the state prison in Maine; and above all, that he was an inmate and associate with these conspirators themselves. Let us admit these facts. Let us admit him to be as bad as they would represent him to be; still, in law, he is a competent witness. How else are the secret designs of the wicked to be proved, but by their wicked companions, to whom they have disclosed them? The government does not select its witnesses. The conspirators themselves have chosen Palmer. He was the confidant of the prisoners. The fact, however, does not depend on his testimony alone. It is corroborated by other proof; and, taken in connexion with the other circumstances, it has strong probability. In regard to the testimony of Palmer, generally,---it may be said, that it is less contradicted, in all parts of it, either by himself or others, than that of any other material witness, and that everything he has told, has been corroborated by other evidence, so far as it was susceptible of confirmation. An attempt has been made to impair his testimony, as to his being at the half-way house, on the night of the murder;---you have seen with what success. Mr. Babb is called to contradict him: you have seen how little he knows, and even that not certainly; for he, himself, is proved to have been in an error, by supposing him to have been at the half-way house on the evening of the 9th of April. At that time, Palmer is proved to have been at Dustin's in Danvers. If, then, Palmer, bad as he is, has disclosed the secrets of the conspiracy, and has told the truth---there is no reason why it should not be believed. Truth is truth, come whence it may.
The facts show, that this murder had been long in agitation, that it was not a new proposition, on the 2d of April; that it had been contemplated for five or six weeks before. R. Crowninshield was at Wenham in the latter part of March, as testified by Starrett. F. Knapp was at Danvers, in the latter part of February, as testified by Allen. R. Crowninshield inquired whether Capt. Knapp was about home, when at Wenham. The probability is, that they would open the case to Palmer, as a new project. There are other circumstances that show it to have been some weeks in agitation. Palmer's testimony as to the transactions on the 2d of April, is corroborated by Allen, and by Osborn's books. He says that F. Knapp came there in the afternoon, and again in the evening. So the book shows. He says that Capt. White had gone out to his farm on that day. So others prove. How could this fact, or these facts, have been known to Palmer, unless F. Knapp had brought the knowledge? and was it not the special object of this visit, to give information of this fact, that they might meet him and execute their purpose on his return from his farm? The letter of Palmer, written at Belfast, has intrinsic evidence of genuineness. It was mailed at
Belfast, May 13th. It states facts that he could not have known, unless his testimony be true. This letter was not an afterthought; it is a genuine narrative. In fact, it says, "I know the business your brother Frank was transacting on the 2d of April :" how could he have possibly known this, unless he had been there? The "$1000, that was to be paid ;" where could he have obtained this knowledge? The testimony of Endicott, of Palmer, and these facts, are to be taken together; and they, most clearly, show, that the death of Capt. White must have been caused by somebody interested in putting an end to his life.
As to the testimony of Leighton. As far as manner of testifying goes, he is a bad witness :-but it does not follow from this that he is not to be believed. There are some strange things about him. It is strange, that he should make up a story against Capt. Knapp, the person with whom he lived ;-that he never voluntarily told anything all that he has said is screwed out of him. The story could not have been invented by him; his character for truth is unimpeached; and he intimated to another witness, soon after the murder happened, that he knew something he should not tell. There is not the least contradiction in his testimony, though he gives a poor account of withholding it. He says that he was extremely bothered by those who questioned him. In the main story that he relates, he is universally consistent with himself: Some things are for him, and some against him. Examine the intrinsic probability of what he says. See if some allowance is not to be made for him, on account of his ignorance, with things of this kind. It is said to be extraordinary, that he should have heard just so much of the conversation and no more; that he should have heard just what was necessary to be proved, and nothing else. Admit that this is extraordinary; still, this does not prove it not true. It is extraordinary, that you twelve gentlemen should be called upon, out of all the men in the county, to decide this case: no one could have foretold this, three weeks since. It is extraordinary, that the first clue to this conspiracy, should have been derived from information given by the father of the prisoner at the bar. And in every case that comes to trial, there are many things extraordinary. The murder itself in this case is an extraordinary one; but still we do not doubt its reality.
It is argued, that this conversation between Joseph and Frank, could not have been, as Leighton has testified, because they had been together for several hours before, this subject must have been uppermost in their minds,-whereas this appears to have been the commencement of their conversation upon it. Now, this depends altogether upon the tone and manner of the expression; upon the particular word in the sentence, which was emphatically spoken. If he had said, "When did you see Dick, Frank ?"-this would not seem to be the beginning of the conversation. With what emphasis it was uttered, it is not possible to learn; and therefore nothing can be made of this argument. If this boy's testimony stood alone, it should be received with caution. And the same may be said of the testimony of Palmer. But they do not stand alone. They furnish a clue to numerous other circumstances, which, when
known, react in corroborating what would have been received with caution, until thus corroborated. How could Leighton have made up this conversation : "When did you see Dick?" "I saw him this morning." "When is he going to kill the old man. "I don't know." "Tell him if he don't do it soon, I won't pay him." Here is a vast amount, in few words. Had he wit enough to invent this? There is nothing so powerful as truth; and often nothing so strange. It is not even suggested that the story was made for him. There is nothing so extraordinary in the whole matter, as it would have been for this country boy to have invented this story.
The acts of the parties themselves, furnish strong presumption of their guilt. What was done on the receipt of the letter from Maine? This letter was signed by Charles Grant, jr. a person not known to either of the Knapps,-nor was it known to them, that any other person, beside the Crowninshields, knew of the conspiracy. This letter, by the accidental omission of the word jr. fell into the hands of the father, when intended for the son. The father carried it to Wenham where both the sons were. They both read it. Fix your eye steadily, on this part of the circumstantial stuff, which is in the case; and see what can be made of it. This was shown to the two brothers on Saturday, 15th of May. They, neither of them, knew Palmer. And if they had known him, they could not have known him to have been the writer of this letter. It was mysterious to them, how any one, at Belfast, could have had knowledge of this affair. Their conscious guilt prevented due circumspection. They did not see the bearing of its publication. They advised their father to carry it to the committee of vigilance, and it was so carried. On Sunday following, Joseph began to think there might be something in it. Perhaps, in the meantime, he had seen one of the Crowninshields. He was apprehensive, that they might be suspected; he was anxious to turn attention from their family. What course did he adopt to effect this? He addressed one letter, with a false name, to Mr. White, and another to the committee; and to complete the climax of his folly, he signed the letter addressed to the committee, "Grant"---the same name as that signed to the letter they then had from Belfast, addressed to Knapp. It was in the knowledge of the committee, that no person but the Knapps had seen this letter from Belfast; and that no other person knew its signature. It therefore must have been irresistibly plain, to them, that one of the Knapps must have been the writer of the letter they had received, charging the murder on Mr. White. Add to this, the fact of its having been dated at Lynn, and mailed at Salem, four days after it was dated, and who could doubt respecting it? Have you ever read, or known, of folly equal to this? Can you conceive of crime more odious and abominable? Merely to explain the apparent mysteries of the letter from Palmer, they excite the basest suspicions of a man, who, if they were innocent, they had no reason to believe guilty; and who, if they were guilty, they most certainly knew to be innocent. Could they have adopted a direct method of exposing their own infamy? The letter to the committee has intrinsic marks of a knowledge of this transaction. It tells of the time, and the manner in which the murder was com
mitted. Every line speaks the writer's condemnation. In attempting to divert attention from his family, and to charge the guilt upon another, he indelibly fixes it upon himself.
Joseph Knapp requested Allen to put these letters into the postoffice, because, said he, "I wish to nip this silly affair in the bud." If this were not the order of an overruling Providence, I should say that it was the silliest piece of folly that was ever practised. Mark the destiny of crime. It is ever obliged to resort to such subterfuges; it trembles in the broad light; it betrays itself, in seeking concealment. He alone walks safely, who walks uprightly. Who, for a moment, can read these letters and doubt of J. Knapp's guilt? The constitution of nature is made to inform against him. There is no corner dark enough to conceal him. There is no turnpike broad enough, or smooth enough, for a man so guilty to walk in without stumbling. Every step proclaims his secret to every passenger. His own acts come out, to fix his guilt. In attempting to charge another with his own crime, he writes his own confession. To do away the effect of Palmer's letter, signed Grant-he writes his own letter and affixes to it the name of Grant. He writes in a disguised hand; but how could it happen, that the same Grant should be in Salem, that was at Belfast? This has brought the whole thing out. Evidently he did it, because he has adopted the same style. Evidently, he did it,-because he speaks of the price of blood, and of other circumstances connected with the murder, that no one but a conspirator could have known.
Palmer says he made a visit to the Crowninshields, on the 9th of April. George then asked him whether he had heard of the murder. Richard inquired, whether he had heard the music at Salem. They said that they were suspected, that a committee had been appointed to search houses; and that they had melted up the dagger, the day after the murder, because it would be a suspicious circumstance to have it found in their possession. Now this committee was not appointed, in fact, until Friday evening. But this proves nothing against Palmer, it does not prove that George did not tell him so; it only proves that he gave a false reason, for a fact. They had heard that they were suspected-how could they have heard this, unless it were from the whisperings of their own consciences? Surely this rumor was not then public.
About the 27th of April, another attempt is made by the Knapps to give a direction to public suspicion. They reported themselves to have been robbed, in passing from Salem to Wenham, near Wenham pond. They came to Salem, and stated the particulars of the adventure they described persons, their dress, size, and appearance, who had been suspected of the murder. They would have it understood, that the community was infested with a band of ruffians, and that they, themselves, were the particular objects of their vengeance. Now, this turns out to be all fictitious, all false. Can you conceive of anything more enormous, any wickedness greater, than the circulation of such reports?-than the allegation of crimes, if committed, capital? If no such thing-then it reacts, with double force upon themselves, and goes very far to show their guilt. How did they conduct on this occasion? did they make hue and cry? Did
they give information that they had been assaulted, that night, at Wenham? No such thing. They rested quietly on that night; they waited to be called on for the particulars of their adventure; they made no attempt to arrest the offenders;-this was not their object. They were content to fill the thousand mouths of rumor,— to spread abroad false reports,-to divert the attention of the public from themselves; for they thought every man suspected them, because they knew they ought to be suspected.
The manner in which the compensation for this murder was paid, is a circumstance worthy of consideration. By examining the facts and dates, it will satisfactorily appear, that Joseph Knapp paid a sum of money to Richard Crowninshield in five franc pieces, on the 24th of April. On the 21st of April, Joseph Knapp received five hundred five franc pieces, as the proceeds of an adventure at sea. The remainder of this species of currency that came home in the vessel, was deposited in a bank at Salem. On Saturday, 24th of April, Frank and Richard rode to Wenham. They were there with Joseph an hour or more: appeared to be negotiating private business. Richard continued in the chaise: Joseph came to the chaise and conversed with him. These facts are proved by Hart, and Leighton, and by Osborn's books. On Saturday evening, about this time, Richard Crowninshield is proved to have been at Wenham, with another person whose appearance corresponds with Frank, by Lummus. Can any one doubt this being the same evening? What had Richard Crowninshield to do at Wenham, with Joseph, unless it were this business? He was there before the murder; he was there after the murder; he was there clandestinely, unwilling to be seen. If it were not upon this business, let it be told what it was for. Joseph Knapp could explain it; Frank Knapp might explain it. But they don't explain it; and the inference is against them.
Immediately after this, Richard passes five franc pieces; on the same evening, one to Lummus, five to Palmer; and near this time, George passes three or four in Salem. Here are nine of these pieces passed by them in four days; this is extraordinary. It is an unusual currency in ordinary business, few men would such pieces in the course of a year. If they were not received in this way, why not explain how they came by them? Money was not so flush in their pockets, that they could not tell whence it came, if it honestly came there. It is extremely important to them to explain whence this money came, and they would do it if they could. If,. then, the price of blood was paid at this time, in the presence and with the knowledge of this defendant; does not this prove him to have been connected with this conspiracy?
Observe, also, the effect on the mind of Richard, of Palmer's being arrested, and committed to prison; the various efforts he makes to discover the fact; the lowering, through the crevices of the rock, the pencil and paper for him to write upon; the sending two lines of poetry, with the request that he would return the corresponding lines; the shrill and peculiar whistle-the inimitable exclamations of "Palmer! Palmer! Palmer!"-all these things prove how great was his alarm; they corroborate Palmer's story, and tend to establish the conspiracy.