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I have not been willing to suppress the utter- / sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss beance of its spontaneous sentiments. I cannot, low ; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor even now, persuade myself to relinquish it, in the affairs of this government, whose thoughts without expressing, once more, my deep con- should be mainly bent on considering, not how viction, that, since it respects nothing less than the Union should be best preserved, but how the union of the States, it is of most vital and tolerable might be the condition of the people essential importance to the public happiness. when it shall be broken up and destroyed. I profess, sir, in my career, hitherto, to have While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, kept steadily in view the prosperity and honor gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us of the whole country, and the preservation of and our children. Beyond that I seek 'not to our federal Union. It is to that Union we owe penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, our safety at home, and our consideration and at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant, dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are that on my vision never may be opened what chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to proud of our country. That Union we reached behold, for the last time, the sun in heaven, only by the discipline of our virtues in the severe may I not see him shining on the broken and school of adversity. It had its origin in the dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; necessities of disordered finance, prostrate com-on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; merce, and ruined credit. Under its benign in-on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it fluences, these great interests immediately may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last awoke, as from the dead, and sprang forth with feeble and lingering glance, rather behold the newness of life. Every year of its duration has gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known teemed with fresh proofs of its utility and its and honored throughout the earth, still full blessings; and, although our territory has high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming stretched out wider and wider, and our popula- in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or tion spread farther and farther, they have not polluted, nor a single star obscured-bearing outrun its protection or its benefits. It has | for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory, been to us all a copious fountain of national, as What is all this worth? Nor those other social, and personal happiness. I have not words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, and allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, Union afterwards—but every where, spread all to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess over in characters of living light, blazing on all behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances its ample folds, as they float over the sea and of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite over the land, and in every wind under the us together shall be broken asunder. I have whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to not accustomed myself to hang over the preci- every true American heart-Liberty and Union, pice of disunion, to see whether, with my short now and for ever, one and inseparable!
ARGUMENT IN KNAPP'S TRIAL.
The following argument was delivered by , which I am now attempting to perform. Mr. Webster, on the trial of John F. Knapp. | Hardly more than once or twice, has it hapfor the murder of Joseph White, of Salem, in
pened to me to be concerned, on the side of the
government, in any criminal prosecution whatthe county of Essex, Massachusetts; on the
ever; and never, until the present occasion, in night of the sixth of April, 1830. *
any case affecting life.
But I very much regret it should have been I am little accustomed, gentlemen, to the part thought necessary to suggest to you, that I am
* Mr. White, a highly respectable and wealthy citizen of the Legislature, for the trial of the prisoners at Salem, in Salem, about eighty years of age, was found on the morning July. At that time, John F. Knapp was indicted as principal of the 7th of April, 1880, in his bed murdered, under such in the murder, and George Crowninshield, and Joseph J. circumstances as to create a strong sensation in that town, Knapp as accessories. and throughout the community.
On account of the death of Chief Justice Parker, which Richard Crowninshield, George Crowninshield, Joseph J. occurred on tho 26th of July, the Court adjourned to Tues. Knapp, and John F. Knapp, were a few weeks after arrested day, the 3d day of August, when it proceeded in the trial of on a charge of having perpetrated the murder, and commit John F. Knapp. Joseph J. Knapp, being called upon, reted for trial. Joseph J. Knapp, soon after, under the pro- fused to testify, and the pledge of the government was withmise of favor from government, made a full confession of drawn. the crime, and the circumstances attending it. In a few At the request of the prosecuting officers of the govern. days after this disclosure was made, Richard Crowninshield, ment, Mr. Webster appeared as counsel and assisted in the who was supposed to have been the principal assassin, com- trial. mitted suicide.
Mr. Dexter addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, A special session of the Supreme Court was ordered by and was succeeded by Mr. Webster.
brought here to “hurry you against the law, stances, now clearly in evidence, spread out the and beyond the evidence." I hope I have too whole cene before us. Deep sleep had fallen much regard for justice, and too much respect on the destined victim, and on all beneath his for my own character, to attempt either; and roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep were I to make such attempt, I am sure, that was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night in this court, nothing can be carried against the held him in their soft but strong embrace. The law, and that gentlemen, intelligent and just as assassin enters, through the window already you are, are not, by any power, to be hurried prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With beyond the evidence. Though I could well noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half have wished to shun this occasion, I have not lighted by the moon; he winds up the ascént felt at liberty to withhold my professional of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamassistance, when it is supposed that I might be ber. Of this, he moves the look, by soft and in some degree useful, in investigating and dis- continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges covering the truth, respecting this most extra- without noise ; and he enters, and beholds his ordinary murder. It has seemed to be a duty, victim before him. The room was uncommonly incumbent on me, as on every other citizen, to open to the admission of light. The face of the do my best, and my utmost, to bring to light innocent sleeper was turned from the murderer, the perpetrators of this crime. Against the and the beams of the moon, resting on the gray prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I cannot locks of his aged temple, showed him where to have the slightest prejudice. I would not do strike. The fatal blow is given! and the victim him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the not affect to be indifferent to the discovery, and repose of sleep to the repose of death! It is the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully the assassin's purpose to make sure work; and share in the opprobrium, how much soever it he yet plies the dagger, though it was obvious may be, which is cast on those who feel and that life had been destroyed by the blow of the manifest an anxious concern that all who had a bludgeon. He even raises the aged arm, that part in planning, or a hand in executing this he may not fail in his aim at the heart, and redeed of midnight assassination, may be brought places it again over the wounds of the poniard ! to answer for their enormous crime, at the bar | To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for of public justice. Gentlemen, it is a most extra- the pulse! He feels for it, and ascertains that ordinary case. In some respects, it has hardly it beats no longer! It is accomplished. The a precedent any where; certainly none in our deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to New England history. This bloody drama ex- the window, passes out through it as he came hibited no suddenly excited ungovernable rage. in, and escapes. He has done the murder-no The actors in it were not surprised by any lion-eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The like temptation springing upon their virtue, and secret is his own, and it is safe! overcoming it, before resistance could begin. Ah! gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Nor did they do the deed to glut savage ven- Such a secret can be safe nowhere. The whole geance, or satiate long settled and deadly hate creation of God has neither nook nor corner, It was a cool, calculating, money-making mur- where the guilty can bestow it, and say it isder. It was all "hire and salary, not revenge," safe. Not to speak of that eye which glances It was the weighing of money against life; the through all disguises, and beholds every thing, counting out of so many pieces of silver, against as in the splendor of noon,-such secrets of so many ounces of blood.
guilt are never safe from detection, even by An aged man, without an enemy in the world, men. True it is, generally speaking, that "murin his own house, and in his own bed, is made der will out." True it is, that Providence hath the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay. so ordained, and doth so govern things, that Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and those who break the great law of heaven, by poets. Whoever shall hereafter draw the por- shedding man's blood, seldom succeed in avoidtrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been ing discovery. Especially, in a case exciting so exhibited in an example, where such example much attention as this, discovery must come, was last to have been looked for, in the very and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes bosom of our New England society, let him not turn at once to explore every man, every thing, give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow every circumstance, connected with the time knitted by revenge, the face black with settled and place; a thousand ears catch every whishate, and the blood-shot eye emitting livid fires per; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, on the scene, shedding all their light, and ready smoothfaced, bloodless demon; a picture in to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze repose, rather than in action; not so much an of discovery. Meantime, the guilty soul cannot example of human nature, in its depravity, and keep its own secret. It is false to itself; or in its paroxysms of crime, as an infernal nature, rather it feels an irresistible impulse of cona fiend, in the ordinary display and develop- science to be true to itself. It labors under its ment of his character.
guilty possession, and knows not what to do The deed was executed with a degree of self- with it. The human heart was not made for possession and steadiness, equal to the wicked-the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds ness with which it was planned. The circum- itself preyed on by a torment, which it dares
not acknowledge to God nor man. A vulture lose ourselves in wonder at its origin, or in gazis devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or ing on its cool and skilful execution. We are assistance, either from heaven or earth. The to detect and to punish it; and, while we prosecret which the murderer possesses soon comes ceed with caution against the prisoner, and are to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of to be sure that we do not visit on his head the which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him offences of others, we are yet to consider that whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his we are dealing with a case of most atrocious heart, rising to his throat, and demanding dis-crime, which has not the slightest circumstance closure. He thinks the whole world sees it in about it to soften its enormity. It is murder, his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears deliberate, concerted, malicious murder. its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. Although the interest in this case may have It has become his master. It betrays his dis diminished by the repeated investigation of the cretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers facts, still, the additional labor which it imposes his prudence. When suspicions, from without, upon all concerned is not to be regretted, if it begin to embarrass him, and the net of cir- should result in removing all doubts of the guilt cumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret of the prisoner. struggles with still greater violence to burst The learned counsel for the prisoner has said forth. It must be confessed, it will be confess- truly that it is your individual duty to judge ed, there is no refuge from confession but sui- the prisoner,—that it is your individual duty to cide, and suicide is confession.
determine his guilt or innocence—and that you Much has been said, on this occasion, of the are to weigh the testimony with candor and excitement which has existed, and still exists, fairness. But much at the same time has been and of the extraordinary measures taken to dis- said, which, although it would seem to have no cover and punish the guilty. No doubt there distinct bearing on the trial, cannot be passed has been, and is, much excitement, and strange over without some notice. indeed were it, had it been otherwise. Should | A tone of complaint so peculiar has been innot all the peaceable and well disposed naturally dulged, as would almost lead us to doubt whether feel concerned, and naturally exert themselves the prisoner at the bar or the managers of this to bring to punishment the authors of this prosecution are now on trial. Great pains have secret assassination? Was it a thing to be slept been taken to complain of the manner of the upon or forgotten? Did you, gentlemen, sleep prosecution. We hear of getting up a case;quite as quietly in your beds after this murder of setting in motion trains of machinery ;-of as before? Was it not a case for rewards, for | foul testimony ;-of combinations to overwhelm meetings, for committees, for the united efforts the prisoner ;-of private prosecutors ;—that of all the good, to find out a band of murderous the prisoner is hunted, persecuted, driven to his conspirators, of midnight ruffians, and to bring trial ;—that every body is against him ;-and them to the bar of justice and law? If this be various other complaints, as if those who would excitement, is it an unnatural, or an improper bring to punishment the authors of this murder excitement ?
were almost as bad as they who committed it. It seems to me, gentlemen, that there are In the course of my whole life, I have never appearances of another feeling, of a very differ- heard before so much said about the particular ent nature and character, not very extensive I counsel who happen to be employed; as if it would hope, but still there is too much evi. were extraordinary that other counsel than the dence of its existence. Such is human nature, usual officers of the government should be asthat some persons lose their abhorrence of crime, sisting in the conducting of a case on the part in their admiration of its magnificent exhibi- of the government. In one of the last capital tions. Ordinary vice is reprobated by them, trials in this county, that of Jackman for the but extraordinary guilt, exquisite wickedness, Goodridge robbery” (so called), I remember the high flights and poetry of crime, seize on that the learned head of the Suffolk bar, Mr. the imagination, and lead them to forget the Prescott, came down in aid of the officers of the depths of the guilt, in admiration of the excel-government. This was regarded as neither lence of the performance, or the unequalled strange nor improper. The counsel for the atrocity of the purpose. There are those in prisoner in that case contented themselves with our day, who have made great use of this in- answering his arguments, as far as they were firmity of our nature; and by means of it done able, instead of carping at his presence. infinite injury to the cause of good morals. Complaint is made that rewards were offered They have affected not only the taste, but I in this case, and temptations held out to obtain fear also the principles, of the young, the heed- testimony. Are not rewards always offered less, and the imaginative, by the exhibition of when great and secret offences are committed ? interesting and beautiful monsters. They ren- Rewards were offered in the case to which I der depravity attractive, sometimes by the have alluded, and every other means taken to polish of its manners, and sometimes by its very discover the offenders, that ingenuity or the extravagance, and study to show off crime un-most persevering vigilance could suggest. The der all the advantages of cleverness and dexter- learned counsel have suffered their zeal to lead ity. Gentlemen, this is an extraordinary mur-them into a strain of complaint at the manner der-but it is still a murder. We are not to / in which the perpetrators of this crime were
detected, almost indicating that they regard it, them. They could not, therefore, have deter. as a positive injury to them to have found out mined what course they should pursue. They their guilt. Since no man witnessed it, since intended to arraign all as principals, who should they do not now confess it, attempts to discover appear to have been principals; and all as acit are half esteemed as officious intermeddling cessories, who should appear to have been acand impertinent inquiry.
cessories. All this could be known only when It is said that here even a committee of vigi- the evidence should be produced. lance was appointed. This is a subject of reit But the learned counsel for the defendant erated remark. This committee are pointed at, take a somewhat loftier flight still. They are as though they had been officiously intermed- more concerned, they assure us, for the law itdling with the administration of justice. They self, than even for their client. Your decision, are said to have been “laboring for months” in this case, they say, will stand as a precedent against the prisoner. Gentlemen, what must Gentlemen, we hope it will. We hope it will we do in such a case? Are people to be dumb be a precedent, both of candor and intelligence, and still, through fear of overdoing? Is it come of fairness and of firmness; a precedent of good to this, that an effort cannot be made, a hand sense and honest purpose, pursuing their invescannot be lifted to discover the guilty, without | tigation discreetly, rejecting loose generalities, its being said there is a combination to over exploring all the circumstances, weighing each, whelm innocence? Has the community lost all in search of truth, and embracing and declaring moral sense? Certainly a community that the truth, when found. would not be ronsed to action upon an occasion. It is said, that "laws are made, not for the such as this was, a community which should not punishment of the guilty, but for the protection deny sleep to their eyes, and slumber to their of the innocent." This is not quite accurate pereyelids, till they had exhausted all the means of haps, but if so, we hope they will be so adminisdiscovery and detection, must indeed be lost to tered as to give that protection. But who are the all moral sense, and would scarcely deserve pro | innocent, whom the law would protect? Gentle tection from the laws. The learned counsel men, Joseph White was innocent. They are innohave endeavored to persuade you that there ex- cent who having lived in the fear of God, through ists a prejudice against the persons accused of the day, wish to sleep in his peace through the this murder. They would have you understand night, in their own beds. The law is established, that it is not confined to this vicinity alone; that those who live quietly may sleep quietly, but that even the legislature have caught this that they who do no harm, may feel none. The spirit. That through the procurement of the gentleman can think of none that are innocent, gentleman here styled private prosecutor, who except the prisoner at the bar, not yet convicted. is a member of the Senate, a special session of Is a proved conspirator to murder, innocent? this court was appointed for the trial of these Are the Crowninshields and the Knapps, innooffenders. That the ordinary movements of the cent? What is innocence? How deep stained wheels of justice were too slow for the purposes with blood,-how reckless in crime,-how deep devised. But does not every body see and know | in depravity, may it be, and yet remain innothat it was matter of absolute necessity to have cence? The law is made, if we should speak a special session of the court? When or how with entire accuracy, to protect the innocent, could the prisoners have been tried without a by punishing the guilty. But there are those special session? In the ordinary arrangement innocent, out of court as well as in ;-innocent of the courts, but one week in a year is allotted citizens not suspected of crime, as well as innofor the whole court to sit in this county. In cent prisoners at the bar. the trial of all capital offences, a majority of the The criminal law is not founded in a principle court at least are required to be present. In of vengeance. It does not punish that it may the trial of the present case alone, three weeks inflict suffering. The humanity of the law feels have already been taken up. Without such and regrets every pain it causes, every hour of special session, then, three years would not have restraint it imposes, and more deeply still, every been sufficient for the purpose. It is answer life it forfeits. But it uses evil, as the means of sufficient to all complaints on this subject, to say preventing greater evil. It seeks to deter from that the law was drawn by the late chief justice crime, by the example of punishment. This is himself, to enable the court to accomplish its its true, and only true main object. It restrains duties, and to afford the persons accused an op- the liberty of the few offenders, that the many portunity for trial without delay.
who do not offend, may enjoy their own liberty. Again, it is said, that it was not thought of It forfeits the life of the murderer, that other making Francis Knapp, the prisoner at the bar, murders may not be committed. The law might & PRINCIPAL till after the death of Richard open the jails, and at once set free all persons Crowinshield, jun.; that the present indictment accused of offences, and it ought to do so, if it is an afterthought-that “testimony was got could be made certain that no other offences up" for the occasion. It is not so. There is would hereafter be committed. Because it no authority for this suggestion. The case of punishes, not to satisfy any desire to inflict pain, the Knapps had not then been before the grand but simply to prevent the repetition of crimes. jury. The officers of the government did not When the guilty, therefore, are not punished, know what the testimony would be against I the law has, so far failed of its purpose; the
Bafety of the innocent is, so far, endangered. , an aider and abettor to some person unknown. Every unpunished murder takes away some- If you believe him guilty on either of these thing from the security of every man's life.counts, or in either of these ways, you must And whenever a jury, through whimsical and convict him. ill-founded scruples, suffer the guilty to escape, It may be proper to say, as a preliminary rethey make themselves answerable for the aug- mark, that there are two extraordinary circummented danger of the innocent.
stances attending this trial. One is, that Richard We wish nothing to be strained against this Crowninshield, jr., the supposed immediate perdefendant. Why then all this alarm Why all petrator of the murder, since his arrest, has comthis complaint against the manner in which the mitted suicide. He has gone to answer before crime is discovered ?. The prisoner's counsel a tribunal of perfect infallibility. The other is, catch at supposed flaws of evidence, or bad char- that Joseph Knapp, the supposed origin and acter of witnesses, without meeting the case. planner of the murder, having once made a full Do they mean to deny the conspiracy? Do disclosure of the facts, under a promise of inthey mean to deny that the two Orowninshields demnity, is, nevertheless, not now a witness. and the two Knapps were.conspirators? Why Notwithstanding his disclosure, and his promise do they rail against Palmer, while they do not of indemnity, he now refuses to testify. He disprove, and hardly dispute the truth of any chooses to return to his original state, and now one fact sworn to by him? Instead of this, it stands answerable himself, when the time shall is made matter of sentimentality, that Palmer come for his trial. These circumstances it is has been prevailed upon to betray his bosom fit you should remember, in your investigation companions, and to violate the sanctity of friend of the case. ship: again, I ask, why do they not meet the Your decision may affect more than the life case? If the fact is out, why not meet it? Do of this defendant. If he be not convicted as they mean to deny that Capt. White is dead ? principal, no one can be. Nor can any one be One should have almost supposed even that, convicted of a participation in the crime as acfrom some remarks that bave been made. Docessory. The Knapps and George Crowninthey mean to deny the conspiracy? Or, admit- shield will be again on the community. This ting a conspiracy, do they mean to deny only, shows the importance of the duty you have to that Frank Knapp, the prisoner at the bar, was perform—and to remind you of the degree of abetting in the murder, being present, and so care and wisdom necessary to be exercised in deny that he was a principal? If a conspiracy its performance. But certainly these consideris proved, it bears closely upon every subsequent ations do not render the prisoner's guilt any subject of inquiry. Why don't they come to clearer, nor enhance the weight of the evidence the fact? Here the defence is wholly indistinct. against him. No one desires you to regard conThe counsel neither take the ground nor aban- sequences in that light. No one wishes any don it. They neither fly, nor light. They thing to be strained, or too far pressed against hover. But they must come to a closer mode the prisoner. Still it is fit you should see the of contest. They must meet the facts, and full importance of the duty devolved upon you. either deny or admit them. Had the prisoner And now, gentlemen, in examining this eviat the bar, then, a knowledge of this conspiracy dence, let us begin at the beginning, and see or not? This is the question. Instead of lay- first what we know independent of the disputed ing out their strength in complaining of the testimony. This is a case of circumstantial evimanner in which the deed is discovered,-of dence. And these circumstances, we think, are the extraordinary pains taken to bring the pris- full and satisfactory. The case mainly depends oner's guilt to light; would it not be better to upon them, and it is common, that offences of show there was no guilt? Would it not be bet- this kind, must be proved in this way. Midter to show his innocence? They say, and they night assassins take no witnesses. The evidence complain, that the community feel a great de- of the facts relied on has been, somewhat sneersire that he should be punished for his crimes; ingly, denominated by the learned counsel, "cir-would it not be better to convince you that cumstantial stuff," but, it is not such stuff as he has committed no crime ?
dreams are made of. Why does he not rend Gentlemen, let us now come to the case. this stuff? Why does he not tear it away, with Your first inquiry, on the evidence, will be the crush of his hand ? He dismisses it, a little was Capt. White murdered in pursuance of a tóo summarily. It shall be my business to exconspiracy, and was the defendant one of this amine this stuff, and try its cohesion, conspiracy? If so, the second inquiry is, was The letter from Palmer at Belfast, is that no he so connected with the murder itself as that more than flimsy stuff ? he is liable to be convicted as a principal? The The fabricated letters, from Knapp to the comdefendant is indicted as a principal. If not mittee, and Mr. White, are they nothing but stuff? guilty as such, you cannot convict him, The The circumstance, that the housekeeper was indictment contains three distinct classes of away at the time the murder was committed, counts. In the first, he is charged as having as it was agreed she would be, is that, too, a done the deed, with his own hand;-in the useless piece of the same stuff ? second, as an aider and abettor to Richard Crow - The facts that the key of the chamber door ninshield, jr. who did the deed; in the third, als was taken out and secreted ; that the window