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Is not Mr. Colman's testimony credible, natural, and proper? To judge of this, you must go back to that scene.
The murder had been committed; the two Knapps were now arrested; four persons were already in gaol supposed to be concerned in it-the Crowninshields and Selman and Chase. Another person at the eastward was supposed to be in the plot; it was important to learn the facts. To do this, some one of those suspected must be admitted to turn states' witness. The contest was, who should have this privilege? It was understood that it was about to be offered to Palmer, then in Maine: there was no good reason why he should have the preference. Mr. Colman felt interested for the family of the Knapps, and particularly for Joseph. He was a young man who had hitherto sustained a fair standing in society; he was a husband. Mr. Colman was particularly intimate with his family. With these views he went to the prison. He believed that he might safely converse with the prisoner, because he thought confessions made to a clergyman were sacred, and that he could not be called upon to disclose them. He went, the first time, in the morning, and was requested to come again. He went again at three o'clock; and was requested to call again at five o'clock. In the meantime he saw the father and Phippen, and they wished he would not go again, because it would be said the prisoners were making confession. He said he had engaged to go again at five o'clock; but would not, if Phippen would excuse him to Joseph. Phippen engaged to do this, and to meet him at his office at five o'clock. Mr. Colman went to the office at the time, and waited; but as Phippen was not there, he walked down street and saw him coming from the gaol. He met him, and while in conversation, near the church, he saw Mrs. Beckford and Mrs. Knapp, going in a chaise towards the gaol. He hastened to meet them, as he thought it not proper for them to go in at that time. While conversing with them near the gaol, he received two distinct messages from Joseph, that he wished to see him. He thought it proper to go: he then went to Joseph's cell, and while there it was that the disclosures were made. Before Joseph had finished his statement, Phippen came to the door; he was soon after admitted. A short interval ensued, and they went together to the cell of Frank. Mr. Colman went in by invitation of Phippen: he had come directly from the cell of Joseph, where he had for the first time learned the incidents of the tragedy. He was incredulous as to some of the facts which he had learned, they were so different from his previous impressions. He was desirous of knowing whether he could place confidence in what Joseph had told him he therefore put the questions to Frank, as he has testified before you; in answer to which, Frank Knapp informed him,
"That the murder took place between ten and eleven o'clock."
3. "That he, Frank Knapp, went home afterwards."
4. "That the club was deposited under the steps of the Howard street meeting-house, and under the part nearest the burying ground, in a rat hole, &c."
5. "That the dagger or daggers had been worked up at the factory."
It is said that these five answers just fit the case; that they are just what was wanted, and neither more or less. True, they are, but the reason is, because truth always fits: truth is always congruous, and agrees with itself. Every truth in the universe agrees with every other truth in the universe; whereas falsehoods not only disagree with truths, but usually quarrel among themselves. Surely Mr. Colman is influenced by no bias-no prejudice; he has no feelings to warp him-except now, he is contradicted, he may feel an interest to be believed.
If you believe Mr. Colman, then the evidence is fairly in the case. I shall now proceed on the ground that you do believe Mr. Col
When told that Joseph had determined to confess, the defendant said,---“ It is hard, or unfair, that Joseph should have the benefit of confessing, since the thing was done for his benefit." What thing was done for his benefit? Does not this carry an implication of the guilt of the defendant? Does it not show that he had a knowledge of the object, and history of the murder?
The defendant said, "he told Joseph when he proposed it, that it was a silly business, and would get us into trouble." He knew, then, what this business was; he knew that Joseph proposed it, and that he agreed to it, else he could not get us into trouble; he understood its bearing, and its consequences. Thus much was said under circumstances, that make it clearly evidence against him, before there is any pretence of an inducement held out. And does not this
prove him to have had a knowledge of the conspiracy?
He knew the daggers had been destroyed, and he knew who committed the murder. How could he have innocently known these facts? Why, if by Richard's story, this shows him guilty of a knowledge of the murder, and of the conspiracy. More than all, he knew when the deed was done, and that he went home afterwards. This shows his participation in that deed. "Went home afterwards"-home, from what scene?---home, from what fact? --home, from what transaction?---home, from what place? This confirms the supposition that the prisoner was in Brown street for the purposes ascribed to him. These questions were directly put, and directly answered. He does not intimate that he received the information from another. Now, if he knows the time, and went home afterwards, and does not excuse himself,---is not this an admission that he had a hand in this murder? Already proved to be a conspirator in the murder, he now confesses that he knew who did it---at what time it was done, was himself out of his own house at the time, and went home afterwards. Is not this conclusive, if not explained? Then comes the club. He told where it was. This is like possession of stolen goods. He is charged with the guilty knowledge of this concealment. He must show, not say, how he came by this knowledge. If a man be found with stolen goods, he must prove how he came by them. The place of deposit of the club was premeditated and selected, and he knew where it was.
Joseph Knapp was an accessory, and accessory only; he knew only what was told him. But the prisoner knew the particular spot in
which the club might be found. This shows his knowledge something more, than that of an accessory.
This presumption must be rebutted by evidence, or it stands strong against him. He has too much knowledge of this transaction, to have come innocently by it. It must stand against him until he explains it.
This testimony of Mr. Colman is represented as new matter, and therefore an attempt has been made to excite a prejudice against it. It is not so. How little is there in it, after all, that did not appear. from other sources? It is mainly confirmatory. Compare what you learn from this confession, with what you before knew:
As to its being proposed by Joseph-was not that true?
As to Richard's being alone, &c. in the house-was not that true?
As to the time of the murder---was not that true?
So this information confirms what was known before, and fully confirms it.
One word, as to the interview between Mr. Colman and Phippen Knapp on the turnpike. It is said that Mr. Colman's conduct in this matter, is inconsistent with his testimony. There does not appear to me to be any inconsistency. He tells you that his object was to save Joseph, and to hurt no one; and least of all the prisoner at the bar. He had, probably, told Mr. White, the substance of what he heard at the prison. He had probably told him that Frank confirmed what Joseph had confessed. He was unwilling to be the instrument of harm to Frank. He therefore, at the request of Phippen Knapp, wrote a note to Mr. White, requesting him to consider Joseph as authority for the information he had received. He tells you that this is the only thing he has to regret; as it may seem to be an evasion,— as he doubts whether it was entirely correct. If it was an evasion, if it was a deviation, if it was an error, it was an error of mercy---an error of kindness; an error that proves he had no hostility to the prisoner at the bar. It does not in the least vary his testimony, or affect its correctness. Gentlemen, I look on the evidence of Mr. Colman as highly important; not as bringing into the cause new facts, but as confirming, in a very satisfactory manner, other evidence. It is incredible, that he can be false, and that he is seeking the prisoner's life, through false swearing. If he is true, it is incredible that the prisoner can be innocent.
Gentlemen, I have gone through with the evidence in this case, and have endeavoured to state it plainly and fairly, before you. I think there are conclusions to be drawn from it, which you cannot doubt. I think you cannot doubt, that there was a conspiracy formed for the purpose of committing this murder, and who the conspirators were.
That you cannot doubt, that the Crowninshields and the Knapps, were the parties in this conspiracy.
That you cannot doubt, that the prisoner at the bar knew that the murder was to be done on the night of the 6th of April.
That you cannot doubt, that the murderers of Capt. White were the suspicious persons seen in and about Brown street on that night.
That you cannot doubt, that Richard Crowninshield was the perpetrator of that crime.
That you cannot doubt, that the prisoner at the bar was in Brown street on that night.
If there, then it must be by agreement---to countenance, to aid the perpetrator. And if so, then he is guilty as PRINCIPAL.
Gentlemen,-Your whole concern should be to do your duty, and leave consequences to take care of themselves. You will receive the law from the court. Your verdict, it is true, may endanger the prisoner's life; but then, it is to save other lives. If the prisoner's guilt has been shown and proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, you will convict him. If such reasonable doubts of guilt still remain, you will acquit him. You are the judges of the whole case. You owe a duty to the public, as well as to the prisoner at the bar. You cannot presume to be wiser than the law. Your duty is a plain, straight forward one. Doubtless, we would all judge him in mercy. Towards him, as an individual, the law inculcates no hostility;-but towards him, if proved to be a murderer, the law, and the oaths you have taken, and public justice, demand that you do your duty.
With consciences satisfied with the discharge of duty, no consequences can harm you. There is no evil that we cannot either face or fly from, but the consciousness of duty disregarded.
A sense of duty pursues us ever. It is omnipresent, like the Deity. If we take to ourselves the wings of the morning and dwell in the utmost parts of the seas, duty performed, or duty violated, is still with us, for our happiness, or our misery. If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the darkness as in the light, our obligations are yet with us. We cannot escape their power, nor fly from their presence. They are with us in this life, will be with us at its close; and in that scene of inconceivable solemnity, which lies yet farther onward-we shall still find ourselves surrounded by the consciousness of duty, to pain us, wherever it has been violated, and to console us so far as God may have given us grace to perform it.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE BILL TO AMEND THE JUDICIARY SYSTEM. JAN. 4, 1826.
[This bill proposed that the Supreme Court of the United States should thereafter consist of a Chief Justice and nine Associate Justices, and provided for the appointment of three Additional Associate Justices of said Court.
That the seventh Judicial Circuit Court of the United States should thereafter consist of the Districts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; the eighth Circuit, of the Districts of Ken tucky and Missouri; the ninth Circuit, of the Districts of Tennessee and Alabama; and the tenth Circuit, of the Districts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
It repealed so much of any act or acts of Congress, as vested in the District Courts of the United States in the Districts of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, the powers and jurisdiction of Circuit Courts, and provided that there should be thereafter Circuit Courts for said Districts, to be composed of the Justice of the Supreme Court, assigned or allotted to the Circuit to which such Districts might respectively belong, and of the District Judge of such Districts.]
Mr. WEBSTER said that the bill, which was under consideration of the Committee, was so simple in its provisions, and so unembarrassed with detail, that little or nothing, in the way of explanation, merely, was probably expected from the Committee. But the general importance of the subject, and the material change which the proposed measure embraces, demanded some exposition of the reasons which had led the Committee on the Judiciary to submit it to the consideration of the House.
The occasion naturally presents two inquiries: first, whether any evils exist in the administration of justice in the Courts of the United States; and, secondly, whether, if there be such evils, the proposed bill is a proper and suitable remedy. On both these points, it is my duty to express the sentiments which the Committee on the Judiciary entertain. Perhaps, however, Mr. Chairman, before entering into a discussion of those two questions, I may be allowed to state something of the history of this Department of the Government, and to advert to the several laws which have been, from time to time, enacted, respecting its organization.
The Judicial power, which, by the Constitution, was to be exercised by the present Government, necessarily engaged the attention of the first Congress. The subject fell into the hands of very able men, and it may well excite astonishment that the system which they prepared and recommended, and which was adopted in the hurried session of the summer of 1789, has been found to fulfil, so far, so