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P. Knapp be believed, Mr. Colman's testimony must be wholly disregarded. It is, then, a question of credit, a question of belief, between the two witnesses. As you decide between these, so you will decide on all this part of the case.
Mr. Colman has given you a plain narrative, a consistent account, and has uniformly stated the same things. He is not contradicted by anything in the case, except Phippen Knapp. He is influenced as far as we can see by no bias, or prejudice, any more than other men, except so far as his character is now at stake. He has feelings on this point, doubtless, and ought to have. If what he has stated be not true, I cannot see any ground for his escape. If he be a true man, he must have heard what he testifies. No treachery of memory, brings to memory things that never took place. There is no reconciling his evidence with good intention, if the facts are not as he states them. He is on trial, to his veracity.
The relation in which the other witness stands, deserves your careful consideration. He is a member of the family. He has the lives of two brothers depending, as he may think, on the effect of his evidence; depending, on every word he speaks. I hope he has not another responsibility, resting upon him. By the advice of a friend, and that friend Mr. Colman, J. Knapp made a full and free confession, and obtained a promise of pardon. He has since, as you know, probably by the advice of other friends, retracted that confession, and rejected the offered pardon. Events will show, who of these friends and advisers, advised him best, and befriended him most. In the meantime, if this brother, the witness, be one of these advisers, and advised the retraction, he has, most emphatically, the lives of his brothers, resting upon his evidence, and upon his conduct. Compare the situation of these two witnesses. Do you not see mighty motive enough on the one side, and want of all motive on the other? I would gladly find an apology for that witness, in his agonized feelings,-in his distressed situation;—in the agitation of that hour, or of this. I would gladly impute it to error, or to want of recollection, to confusion of mind, or disturbance of feeling.—I would gladly impute to any pardonable source, that which cannot be reconciled to facts, and to truth; but, even in a case calling for so much sympathy, justice must yet prevail, and we must come to the conclusion, however reluctantly, which that demands from us.
It is said, Phippen Knapp was probably correct, because he knew he should be called as a witness. Witness-to what? When he says there was no confession, what could he expect to bear witness of? But I do not put it on the ground that he did not hear; I am compelled to put it on the other ground-that he did hear, and does not now truly tell what he heard.
If Mr. Colman were out of the case, there are other reasons why the story of Phippen Knapp should not be believed. It has in it inherent improbabilities. It is unnatural, and inconsistent with the accompanying circumstances. He tells you that they went "to the cell of Frank, to see if he had any objection to taking a trial, and suffering his brother to accept the offer of pardon:" in other words, to obtain Frank's consent to Joseph's making a confession; and in case this consent was not obtained, that the pardon would be offered
to Frank, &c. Did they bandy about the chance of life, between these two, in this way? Did Mr. Colman, after having given this pledge to Joseph, after having received a disclosure from Joseph, go to the cell of Frank for such a purpose as this? It is impossible; it cannot be so.
Again: We know that Mr. Colman found the club the next day; that he went directly to the place of deposit, and found it at the first attempt, exactly where he says he had been informed it was. Now Phippen Knapp says, that Frank had stated nothing respecting the club, that it was not mentioned in that conversation. He says, also, that he was present in the cell of Joseph all the time that Mr. Colman was there, that he belieyes he heard all that was said in Joseph's cell; and that he did not himself know where the club was, and never had known where it was, until he heard it stated in court. Now, it is certain, that Mr. Colman says, he did not learn the particular place of deposit of the club from Joseph; that he only learned from him that it was deposited under the steps of the Howard street meeting-house, without defining the particular steps. It is certain, also, that he had more knowledge of the position of the club, than this-else how could he have placed his hand on it so readily?—and where else could he have obtained this knowledge, except from Frank? [Here Mr. Dexter said that Mr. Colman had had other interviews with Joseph, and might have derived the information from him at previous visits. Mr. Webster replied, that Mr. Colman had testified that he learned nothing in relation to the club until this visit. Mr. Dexter, denied there being any such testimony. Mr. Colman's evidence was then read from the notes of the judges, and several other persons, and Mr. Webster then proceeded.]-My point is, to show that Phippen Knapp's story is not true, is not consistent with itself. That taking it for granted, as he says, that he heard all that was said to Mr. Colman in both cells, by Joseph, and by Frank; and that Joseph did not state particularly where the club was deposited; and that he knew as much about the place of deposit of the club, as Mr. Colman knew; why then, Mr. Colman must either have been miraculously informed respecting the club, or Phippen Knapp has not told you the whole truth. There is no reconciling this, without supposing Mr. Colman has misrepresented what took place in Joseph's cell, as well as what took place in Frank's cell.
Again: Phippen Knapp is directly contradicted by Mr. Wheatland. Mr. Wheatland tells the same story as coming from Phippen Knapp, as Mr. Colman now tells. Here there are two against one. Phippen Knapp says that Frank made no confessions, and that he said he had none to make. In this he is contradicted by Wheatland. He, Phippen Knapp, told Wheatland, that Mr. Colman did ask Frank some questions, and that Frank answered them. He told him also what these answers were. Wheatland does not recollect the questions or answers, but recollects his reply; which was, "Is not this premature? I think this answer is sufficient to make Frank a principal." Here Phippen Knapp opposes himself to Wheatland, as well as to Mr. Colman. Do you believe Phippen Knapp, against these two respectable witnesses-or them against him?
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." 2. "That Richard Crowninshield was alone in the house."
"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."
"That the dagger or daggers had been worked up at the fac
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 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?
As to his returning afterwards---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.