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manding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almos thears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspicions from without begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles with still greater violence to burst forth. It must be confessed, it mil be confessed, there is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession."
Our readers may remember the extraordinary degree of sympathy excited for Thurtell, in consequence of his bold bearing at his trial and execution, though no reasonable doubt of his guilt was entertained by any one. The same principle in human nature seems to have been at work in favour of the yet unknown assassins of Mr. White; and Mr. Webster thus applies himself to clear away the prejudice:—
"Such is human nature that some persons lose their abhorrence of crime, in their admiration of its magnificent exhibitions. Ordinary vice is reprobated by them, but extraordinary guilt, exquisite wickedness, the high flights and poetry of crime, seize on the imagination, and lead them to forget the depths of the guilt in admiration of the excellence of the performance or the unequalled atrocity of the purpose. There are those in our day who have made great use of this infirmity of our nature, and by means of it done infinite injury to the cause of good morals. They have affected not only the taste, but I fear also the principles of the young, the heedless, and the imaginative, by the'exhibition of interesting and beautiful monsters. They render depravity attractive, sometimes by the polish of its manners, and sometimes by its very extravagance; and study to show off crime under all the advantages of cleverness and dexterity. Gentlemen, this is an extraordinary murder—but it is still a murder. We are not to lose ourselves in wonder at its origin, or in gazing on its cool and skilful execution. We are to detect and to punish it: and while we proceed with caution against the prisoner, and are to be sure that we do not visit on his head the offences of others, we are yet to consider that we are dealing with a case of most atrocious crime, which has not the slightest circumstance about it to soften its enormity. It is murder, deliberate, concerted, malicious murder."
Thurtell complained of the public indignation stirred up
counsel had loudly reiterated a somewhat similar complaint. Our next quotations form part of Mr. Webster's reply to it:—
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. ." Complaint is made that rewards were offered in this case, and temptations held out to obtain testimony. Are not rewards always offered when great and secret offences are committed? Rewards were offered in the case to which I alluded; and every other means taken to discover the offenders that ingenuity, or the most persevering vigilance could suggest. The learned counsel have suffered their zeal to lead them into a strain of complaint at the manner in which the perpetrators of this crime were detected, almost indicating that they regard it as a positive injury to them to have found out their guilt. Since no man witnessed it, since they do not now confess it, attempts to discover it are half esteemed as officious, intermeddling and impertinent inquiry.
"It is said that here even a committee of vigilance was appointed. This is a subject of reiterated remark. This committee are pointed at, as though they had been officiously intermeddling with the administration of justice. They are said to have been 'labouring for months' against the prisoner. Gentlemen, what must we do in such a case? Are people to be dumb and still through fear of overdoing? Is it come to this, that an effort cannot be made, a hand cannot be lifted, to discover the guilty, without its being said there is a combination to overwhelm innocence? Has the community lost all moral sense? Certainly, a community that would not be roused to action upon an occasion such as this was,—a community which should not deny sleep to their eyes, and slumber to their eyelids, till they had exhausted all the means of discovery and detection, must indeed be lost to all moral sense, and would scarcely deserve protection from the laws."
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"But the learned counsel for the defendant take a somewhat loftier flight still. They are more concerned, they assure vis, for the law itself than even for their client. Your decision in this case they say will stand as a precedent. Gentlemen, we hope it will. We hope it will be a precedent, both of candour and intelligence, of fairness and of firmness; a precedent of good sense and honest purpose, pursuing their investigation discreetly, rejecting loose generalities, exploring all the circumstances, weighing each in search of truth, and embracing and declaring the truth when found.
"It is said that ' laws are made, not for the punishment of the guilty, but for the protection of the innocent.' This is not quite accurate, perhaps, but if so we hope they will be so administered as to give that protection. But who are the innocent whom tbe law would protect? Gentlemen, Joseph White was innocent.
They are innocent who, having lived in the fear of God through the day, wish to sleep in his peace through the night in their own beds. The law is established, that those who live quietly may sleep quietly, that they who do no harm may feel none. The gentleman can think of none that are innocent except the prisoner at the bar, not yet convicted. Is a proved conspirator to murder, innocent? Are the Crowninshields and the Knapps, innocent? What is innocence? How deep stained with blood—how reckless in crime—how deep in depravity may it be, and yet remain innocence? The law is made, if we would speak with entire accuracy, to protect the innocent by punishing the guilty. But there are those innocent out of Court as well as in; innocent citizens not suspected of crime, as well as innocent prisoners at the bar.
"The criminal law is not founded on a principle of vengeance. It does not punish, that it may inflict suffering. The humanity of the law feels and regrets every pain it causes, every hour of restraint it imposes, and more deeply still, every life it forfeits. But it uses evil as the means of preventing greater evil. It seeks to deter from crime, by the example of punishment. This is its true, and only true main object. It restrains the liberty of the few offenders, that the many who do not offend may enjoy their own liberty. It forfeits the life of the murderer, that other murders may not be committed. The law might open the jails, and at once set free all persons accused of offences, and it ought to do so, if it could be made certain that no other offences would hereafter be committed; because it punishes, not to satisfy any desire to inflict pain, but simply to prevent the repetition of crimes. When the guilty, therefore, are not punished, the law has, so far, failed of its purpose; the safety of the innocent is, so far, endangered. Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life. And whenever a jury, through whimsical and ill-founded scruples, suffer the guilty to escape, they make themselves answerable for the augmented danger of the innocent.
"We wish nothing to be strained against this defendant. Why then all this alarm? Why all this complaint against the manner in which the crime is discovered? The prisoner's counsel catch at supposed flaws of evidence, or bad character of witnesses, without meeting the case. Do they mean to deny the conspiracy? Do they mean to deny the two Crowninshields and the two Knapps were conspirators? Why do they rail against Palmer, while they do not disprove, and hardly dispute the truth of any one fact swern to by him? Instead of this, it is made matter of sentimentality, that Palmer has been prevailed upon to betray his bosom companion*, and to violate the sanctity of friendship; again, I ask, why do they not meet the case? If the fact is out, why not meet k? Do they mean to deny that Captain White is dead? One should have almost supposed even that, from some remarks that have been made. Do they mean to deny the conspiracy? Or admitting a conspiracy, do they mean to deny only that Frank Knapp, the prisoner at the bar, was abetting in the murder, being present, and so deny that he was a principal? If a conspiracy is proved, it bears closely upon every subsequent subject of inquiry. Why don't they come to the fact? Here the defence is wholly indistinct. The counsel neither take the ground nor abandon it. They neither fly nor light. They hover. But they must come to a closer mode of contest. They must meet the facts and either deny or admit them. Had the prisoner at the bar, then, a knowledge of this conspiracy or not? This is the question. Instead of laying out their strength in complaining of the manner in which the deed is discovered,—of the extraordinary pains taken to bring the prisoner's guilt to light,—would it not be better to show there was no guilt? Would it not be better to show that he had committed no crime? They say, and they complain, that the community feel a great desire that he should be punished for his crimes;—would it not be better to convince you that he has committed no crime?"
As Mr. Webster is speaking in reply, and no further information is afforded than what may be collected, from his speech, so much of it as consists of a commentary on the evidence necessarily loses a considerable portion of its point. We shall quote, however, a few passages of the kind, simply requesting our readers to keep the* few following additional particulars in mind.
Joseph Knapp had married a niece of the deceased, and expected to inherit a part of his fortune in case of his dying intestate; but it was understood that Mr. White had made a will bequeathing the bulk of .his property to others, and one part of the design was to destroy the will before the murder was committed. The facts raising the strongest presumption against the prisoner were these:—A letter, signed Charles Grant, junior, really written by one Palmer, a person implicated in the plot, and intended by him for one of the Knapps, came by accident into the hands of their father, who carried it to the committee of prosecution. This letter conveyed some information as to the crime. Apprehensive, when too late, of the consequences of the accident, and with the view of averting suspicion from themselves, the brothers wrote a letter, also signed Charles Grant, to the committee, accusing a Mr. White, the nephew of the deceased, of the murder, which was rather incautiously described in it. With the view of giving public suspicion a different clue, they subsequently gave out that they had been stopped and plundered by a gang, of which no traces could be found. It was further proved that Joseph Knapp had received a large sum in five franc pieces (an unusual coin in America), and that Richard Crowninshield had passed several such pieces in the course of a day; from which it was sought to be inferred that the price of blood had been paid in this particular coin. Another suspicious circumstance was, an attempt made by Richard Knapp to communicate with Palmer after he had been arrested and committed to prison. We now return to the
"It may be proper to say, as a preliminary remark, that there are two extraordinary circumstances attending this trial. One is, that Richard Crowninshield, junior, the supposed immediate perpetrator of the murder, since his arrest, has committed suicide. He has gone to answer before a tribunal of perfect infallibility. The other is, that Joseph Knapp, the supposed origin and planner of the murder, having once made a full disclosure of the facts, under a promise of indemnity, is, nevertheless, not now a witness. Notwithstanding his disclosure, and his promise of indemnity, he now refuses to testify. He chooses to return to his original state, and now stands answerable himself, when the time shall come for his trial. These circumstances it is fit you should remember in your investigation of the case.
"Your decision may effect more than the life of this defendant. If he be not convicted as principal, no one can be. Nor can any one be convicted of a participation in the crime as accessory. The Knapps and George Crowninshield will be again on the community. This shows the importance of the duty you have to perform;—and to remind you of the degree of care and wisdom necessary to be exercised in its performance. But certainly these considerations do not render the prisoner's guilt any clearer, nor enhance the weight of the evidence against him. No one desires