Page images

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 daggers-was not that true?

As to the time of the murder---was not that true?
As to his being out that night---was not that true?
As to his returning afterwards---was not that true?
As to the club---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 I will convict him. If such reasonable doubts of guilt still remain, you will acquit him. You are the judges of the whole case. owe a duty to the public, as well as to the prisoner at the bar. 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.

You You

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.




[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

well, and for so long a time, the great purposes which it was designed to accomplish. The general success of the general system, so far, may well inspire some degree of caution in the minds of those who are called on to alter or amend it.

By the original act, of September, 1789, there was to be a Supreme Court, according to the Constitution, which was to consist of six Judges, and to hold two sessions a year at the seat of Government. The United States, or such of them as had then adopted the Constitution, were to be divided into Circuits and Districts, and there was to be a District Court, in each District, holden by a District Judge. The Districts were divided into three Circuits, the Eastern, the Middle, and the Southern; and there was to be a Circuit Court in each District, to be composed of two of the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the District Judge for the District; this Circuit Court was to hold two sessions a year, in each District, and I need not inform the Committee, that the great mass of business, excepting only that of Admiralty and Maritime jurisdiction, belonged to the Circuit Court as a Court of original jurisdiction. It entertained appeals, or writs of error, also, from the decisions of the District Courts, in all cases.

By this arrangement, then, the Justices of the Supreme Court were required to hold two sessions of that Court, annually, at the Seat of Government, to hear appeals and writs of error; and it was required of them also, that two of them should attend in each District twice a year, to hold, with the District Judge, a Circuit Court.

It was found that these duties were so burdensome, that they could not be performed. In November, 1792, the Judges addressed the President on the subject, (who laid their communication before Congress,) setting forth their inability to perform, without exertions and sacrifices too great to be expected from any men, the services imposed on them by law. It was, doubtless, this communication which produced the law of March, 1793, by which it was provided that one Judge of the Supreme Court, with the District Judge, should constitute the Circuit Court. And, inasmuch as the Courts would now consist of two Judges, provision was made, perhaps sufficiently awkward and inconvenient, for the case of difference of opinion. It will be observed, Mr. Chairman, that by these laws, thus far, particular Justices are not assigned to particular Circuits. Any two Judges of the Supreme Court, under the first law, and any one, under that of 1793, with the District Judge, constituted a Circuit Court. A change, or alternation, of the Judges, was contemplated by the law. Therefore, it was provided, by the act of 1793, that, in case of division of opinion, as the Court consisted of but two Judges, the question should be continued to the next session, and, if a different Judge then appeared, and his opinion coincided with that of his predecessor, judgment should go accordingly.

And here, Mr. Chairman, I wish to observe, that, in my opinion, the original plan of holding the Circuit Courts by different Judges, from time to time, was ill-judged; it was founded on a false analogy: it seems to have been borrowed from the English Courts of Assize and Nisi Prius; but the difference in the powers and jurisdiction of

the Judges in the two cases, rendered what was proper for one, not a fit model for the other. The English Judges at Nisi Prius, so far as civil causes are concerned, have nothing to do but try questions of fact by the aid of a jury, on issues or pleadings already settled in the Court from which the record proceeds. They give no final judgments; nor do they make interlocutory orders respecting the proceeding and progress of the cause. They take a verdict of the jury on the issues already joined between the parties, and give no other directions in matters of law, than such as become necessary in the course of this trial by jury. Every case begun, therefore, is ordinarily finished. Nothing of that case remains for the Judges' successor. If it be tried, the record is taken back with the verdict to Westminster Hall; if it be not tried, the whole case remains for a subsequent occasion. It is, perhaps, surprising, that the very able men who framed the first judicial act, did not see the great difference between this manner of proceeding at the English Assizes, and the necessary course of proceeding in our Circuit Courts, with the powers and jurisdictions conferred on those Courts. These are Courts of final jurisdiction; they not only take verdicts, but give judgments. Here suits are brought, proceeded with, through all their stages, tried, and finally determined. And, as in the progress of suits, especially those of equity jurisdiction, it necessarily happens that there are different stages, and successive orders become necessary, from term to term, it happened, of course, that the Judge was often changed before the cause was decided: he who heard the end, had not heard the beginning. And, when to this is added, that these Judges were bred in different schools, and, as to matters of practice, especially, accustomed to different usages, it will be easy to perceive that no small difficulties were to be encountered in the ordinary despatch of business. So, in cases reserved for advisement and further consideration, the Judge reserving the question, was not the Judge to decide it. He who heard the argument, was not to make the decision. Without pursuing this part of the case farther, it is quite obvious that such a system could not answer the ends of justice.

The Courts, indeed, were called Circuit Courts; which seemed to imply an itinerant character; but, in truth, they resembled much more, in their power and jurisdiction, the English Courts sitting in bench, than the Assizes, to which they appear to have been likened.

The act of 1793, by requiring the attendance of only one, instead of two, of the Judges of the Supreme Court, on the Circuits, of course diminished, by one half, the Circuit labors of those Judges.

We then come to the law of February, 1801. By this act, the Judges of the Supreme Court were relieved from all Circuit duties. Provision was made that their number should be reduced, on the first vacancy, from six to five. They were still to hold two sessions annually, of the Supreme Court: and Circuit Judges were appointed to hold the Circuit Court in each District. The provisions of this law are generally known, and it is not necessary to recite them particularly. It is enough to say, that, in five of the six Circuits, the Circuit Court was to consist of three Judges, specially appoint

« PreviousContinue »