Henry Hawkins Brampton.

The reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins, baron Brampton (Volume 1) online

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every time, or nearly every time.

I thought it a most excellent game, and with less of
the element of chance or skill in it than any game I ever
played. My pockets were getting stuffed with half-
crowns so that they bulged, and caused me to wonder
if I should be allowed to leave the racecourse alive, for
there were many thieves who visited the Downs in
those days.

But my friend Charley was with me, and I knew he
would be a pretty trustworthy fellow in a row. This,
however, was but a momentary thought, for 1 was too
much engrossed in the game and in my good luck to
dwell on possibilities. Nor did I interest myself in
Charley's proceedings, but took it for granted that a
game so propitious to me was no less so to him. He
was playing with several others ; who or what they
were was of no moment to me. I pursued my game
quietly, and picked up my half-crowns with great
gladness and with no concern for those who had
lost them.

Presently, however, my attention was momentarily
diverted by hearing Charley let off a most uncon-
trollable 'D n!'

'What's the matter, Charley?' I asked, without
lifting my head.

' Matter,' says Charley ; ' rooked, that's all !'


' Rooked ! That's very extraordinary. I'm winning
like anything. Look here !' and I pointed to my
pockets, which were almost bursting.

' Yes,' said he, ' I see how it is : you've been winning
on two's to one, and I've been losing on three's.'

' Black's the winning colour to-day, Charley noir ;
you should have backed noir. Besides, long odds
are much too risky. I am quite content with two
to one.'

Here there was a general break-up of the party,
because Charley being out of it as well as several
others, it left only one, and, of course, the keeper of
the booth was not so foolish, however honourable, to
pay me two half-crowns and win only one. So there
it ended.

That night I made this game a study, and the
sensible conclusion came to me that if you would take
advantage of the table you should play for the lower
stakes, because you have a better chance of winning
than those who play high. At least, that was the
result of my policy ; for while those who played high
were ruined, my pockets were filled, and, by that
cautious mode of playing, I was so lucky that, had
there been enough at three's to one, I could have
kept on making money as long as they had any to

I changed my half-crowns with the booth-keeper for
gold, and reached my chambers safely with the spoil.
And how pleasant it was to count it !

It has occurred to me since that the keeper of
the booth had carefully noted my proceedings (such
was my innocence), and that he made his calculations
for a future occasion. One thing he was quite sure



of namely, that he would see me again on the
first opportunity there was of winning more half-

It is possible that a succession of runs of luck might
have put an end to my professional career ; it is certain
that the opposite result put an end to my card-playing

In about a fortnight, all eager for a renewal of my
Epsom experience, I went down to the Ascot meeting,
taking with me not only all my previous winnings,
but my store of savings for the rainy day, and was
determined to pursue the same moderate system of
cautious play.

There was the same booth, the same little flag
fluttering on the top, and the same obliging pro-
prietor. He recognised me at once, and looked as if
he was quite sure I would be there as if, in fact, he
had been waiting for me. After a pleasant greeting
and a few friendly words, I thought it a little odd
that a man should be so glad to meet one who had
come to fill his pockets at the booth-keeper's expense
at least, I thought this afterwards, not at the
time. He looked genuinely pleased, and down I sat
once more, quite sure that two to one would beat

The proprietor kept his eye on my play in a very
thoughtful manner, nor was it surprising that he
knew his game as well as I ; in fact, it turned out
that he knew it better. To this day I am unable to
explain how he manoeuvred it, how he adjusted his
tactics to counteract mine; but that something hap-
pened more than mere luck would account for was
certain ; for, as often as the half-crown went on black,


red was the lucky colour. But I persevered on black
because it had been my friend at Epsom, and down
went the half-crowns, to be swept up by the keeper of
the booth. I cannot even now explain how it was

Intending to make a good day's work and gather a
rich harvest, I took with me every shilling I had in
the world not only my previous winnings, but my
hard-earned savings at the Bar. I began to lose, but
went on playing in the vain hope the worst hope of
the gambler of retrieving what I had lost and re-
covering my former luck. But it was not to be ; the
table was against me. I forsook my loyalty to black
and laid on red. Alas ! red was no better friend. I
lost again, and knew now that all my Epsom winnings
had found their way once more into the keeper's
pocket. A fortnight's loan was all I had of them.
It was a pity they had not been given to some
charity. But I kept on bravely enough, and did not
despair or leave off while I had a half-crown left.
That half-crown, however, was soon raked up with
the rest into the keeper's bag.

I was bankrupt, with nothing in my pocket but two-
pence and a return ticket from Paddington.

Hopeless and helpless, I had learnt a lesson a
lesson you can only learn in the school of experience.

I little thought then that the only certain winner at
the gaming-table is the table itself, and made up my
mind as I walked alone and disappointed through
Windsor Park, on my way to the station, that I would
never touch a card again and I never did.

For the first time since setting out in the morning I
felt hungry, and bought a pennyworth of apples at a


little stall kept by an old woman, and a bottle of
ginger-beer. Such was my frugal meal, and thus
sustained I tramped on, my return ticket being my
only possession in the world. I reached Paddington
with a sorry heart, and walked to the Temple, my
good resolution my only comfort ; but it was all-
sufficient for the occasion and for all time to come.


ONE of my earliest cases at Quarter Sessions was
rather curious. It was long known as ' Potto Brown's
Case,' and was often cited at the circuit mess.

Potto Brown was a miller living at St. Ives, near
Huntingdon, and was robbed from time to time of
sacks of flour. It was suspected that the thieves
must be some of the workmen employed on the rail-
way, and as two of these employees were at last taken
into custody on another charge, it seemed natural to
the rural police that they should be indicted for steal-
ing the flour from Potto Brown's mill.

I was retained to defend the prisoners, and the
cases were bad enough, but Potto Brown's turned
out to be perfectly hopeless. However, by this time
I had learnt never to despair while there was the
least possibility of success. No one could tell what
chance might do chance, the director of all things.

The flour case was the second case. In the first I
cross-examined the prosecutor at great length and
with some severity, Potto Brown being in court waiting
for his case to come on. I was fortunate enough to
obtain an acquittal.

The counsel for the prosecution was a great deal


annoyed, and immediately proposed to proceed with
Potto Brown's case. There was to be no delay ; the
witnesses being there, the case was called on, and the
jury were sworn.

Potto Brown had heard the cross-examination I had
administered in the first prosecution, and dreading a
like ordeal in his own case, left the court ; and when
he was called as the witness for the prosecution was
nowhere to be found. The precincts of the court re-
sounded with cries of ' Potto Brown !' but no Potto
Brown responded. It was like a hue and cry, and
with a similar result : the more they cried, the faster
Potto went.

When he reached the stable where his horse had
been put up, he called to the ostler and begged him to
put his pony in as soon as he possibly could, muttering
to himself : ' If Hawkins wants me he'll have to find

me out, and fetch me. I'm d d if I'm going to be

cross-examined by him if I know it ! I'm off. Tell
him what I say, ostler.' And away he went as fast
as his pony could take him.

Meanwhile, the jury had to make due ' deliverance '
between our Sovereign Lady the Queen and the
prisoners at the Bar, so help them God.

Without Potto Brown they could not convict, and
although Potto had invited me to fetch him, it was no
part of my duty to do so as the counsel for the
prisoner, to say nothing of the deduction it would
make out of my ' one three six.' The magistrate
knew, also, that it was no business of mine to bring
up Potto. I agreed with the counsel for the prosecu-
tion that it was very bad of the prosecutor, and a
great contempt of court, but the prisoners could not


help that ; they were not responsible for the prosecutor's
misconduct ; he must answer for himself.

' No, no,' said the chairman, who was a very good
lawyer. ' There's no evidence. Where's Potto Brown ?'

I shook my head. ' Not a shred of evidence, sir,'
said I.

' Not a shred,' said the chairman. ' Gentlemen,
you must say " Not guilty," ' which they did.

At this time there were more courts open to advo-
cates than there are now, and fewer candidates for
their emoluments, so that the chances of succeeding at
the Bar were greater.

The ' Palace Court,' it is true, was closed as a
hunting-ground to all who could not pay 2,000 for
the privilege of practising in it, although a junior
might devil there for the benefit of a legalized

This, of course, gave the opportunity which I availed
myself of, and held many briefs for one or two who
had by purchase obtained admittance.

Having somewhat succeeded in my practice at
Quarter Sessions, I enlarged my field of adventure
by attending the Old Bailey, hoping, of course, to
obtain some briefs at that court.

Those were the days of Clarkson, Bodkin, and
Charles Philipps. They were also the declining days
of Adolphus, whose career was almost run. Adolphus
could go a long way back into the past, and his reten-
tive memory rendered his conversation interesting and
instructive. He was kind and helpful to juniors, and
after this long distance of time I think of him with
respect and sympathy. He had no hope of success by


Old Bailey practice, for he contended with men who
were greedily struggling for a livelihood.

This was before Giffard (Lord Halsbury), the now
esteemed Lord Chancellor, then a much-envied junior,
had obtained the position of representing, as he so
deservedly did, most of the business which attached
to cases of great public interest.

But although I abandoned the practice of that
court as a rule, I was, in after-life, on many occasions
retained to appear in cases which are still fresh in my
memory. I was with Edwin James, who was counsel
for Mr. Bates, one of the partners of Strahan and
Sir John Dean Paul, bankers of the Strand, and who
were sentenced to fourteen years' transportation for
fraudulently misappropriating securities of their cus-
tomers. I was counsel for a young clerk to Leopold
Redpath, the notorious man who was transported for
extensive forgeries upon the Great Northern Railway.
The clerk was justly acquitted by the jury.

I have mentioned the name of Charles Philipps,
who was said by some unthinking persons to have
suggested that the murder of Lord William Russell,
which had been committed by Courvisier, was actually
perpetrated by a housemaid. Philipps told me this
was a very grave error, and that he had never made
or intended to make such an imputation.

The only ground for imputing the murder to the
prisoner Courvisier had been that he was seen in a
passage near the bedroom of Lord William Russell,
where the housemaid had also been seen. Philipps,
upon this, simply made the observation that, as re-
gards this isolated fact, the circumstance standing
alone would be just as damaging to a charge against


the housemaid as to Courvisier, and that the prose-
cuting counsel might just as well impute guilt to her
(which was never suggested) as to Courvisier. This
was true enough. The mere fact of being seen in the
passage afforded no real evidence against either.

Again, Philipps said, ' The Lord alone knows who
did this deed of darkness.' He, of course, excepted
the real culprit, whoever he might be. And then, as
to the confession made by his client to him, he could
not have acted otherwise than he did without betray-
ing the confidence of his client. Moreover, Baron
Park, to whom he spoke of his client's confession, and
whose opinion he asked as to the course he should
take, said that if his client wished him to continue
the defence he was bound to do so, commenting merely
upon the evidence before him.

I doubt if any blame fairly attached to anything
Philipps said or did.

My recollection of this period brings back many
curious defences, which illustrate the school of advo-
cacy in which I studied. Whether they contributed
to my future success, I do not know, but that they
afforded amusement is proved by my remembering
them at all.

Hertford and St. Albans were my chief places, my
earliest attachments, and are amongst my pleasantest
memories. It seems childish to think of them as
scenes of my struggles, for when I come to look back
I had no struggles at all. I was merely practising
like a cricketer at the nets ; there was nothing to
struggle for except a verdict when it would not come
without some effort.

But dear old Codd was the man to struggle. He


struggled and wriggled ; tie him up as tightly as you
could, you saw him fighting to get free, as he did in
the following great duck case. He was a very amiable
old barrister, a fast talker so fast that he never
stayed to pronounce his words and of an ingenuity
that ought to have been applied to some better
purpose, such as the making of steam-engines or
writing novels, rather than defending thieves. He
reminded me on this occasion of the man in the circus
who rode several horses at a time. In this duck-
stealing case he set up no less than seven defences to
account for the unhappy duck finding its way into his
client's pocket, and the charm of them all was their
variety. Inconsistency was not the word to apply
reproachfully. Inconsistency was Codd's merit. He
was like a conjurer who asks you to name a card, and
as surely as you do so you draw it from the pack.

This particular duck case was known long after as
' Codd's Puzzle.'

' First,' says Codd, ' my client bought the duck and
paid for it.'

He was not the man to be afraid of being asked

' Second,' says Codd, ' my client found it ; thirdly,
it had been given to him ; fourthly, it flew into his
garden; fifthly, he was asleep, and someone put it
into his pocket ;' and so the untiring and ingenious
Codd proceeded making his case unnaturally good.

But the strange thing was that, instead of sweeping
him away with a touch of ridicule, the young advo-
cate argued the several defences one after the other
with great dialectical skill, so that the jury became


puzzled ; and if the defence had not been so extra-
ordinarily good, there would have been an acquittal

There had been such a bewildering torrent of argu-
ments that presently Codd's head began to swim, and
he shrugged his shoulders, meaning thereby that it
was the most puzzling case he had ever had anything
to do with. The Marquis laughed. The Marquis was
always our chairman, and a very pleasant and agree-
able one he was.

At last it became a question whether, amidst these
conflicting accounts, there ever was any duck at all.
Codd had not thought of that till some junior sug-
gested it, and then he was asked by the Marquis
whether there was any particular line of defence he
wished to suggest.

' No,' says Codd, ' not in particular ; my client
wished to make a clean breast of it and put them all
before the jury ; and I should be much obliged if
those gentlemen will adopt any one of them.'*

The jury acquitted the prisoner, not because they
chose any particular defence, but because they did not
know which to choose, and so gave the prisoner the
benefit of the doubt.

The client was happy, and Codd famous.

In another case he had been set a difficult task,
namely, that of saying ' a few words ' on behalf of a

* Sixty years after this event, in the reply in the great Tick-
borne case, Mr. Hawkins, Q.C., quoted this very defence as an
illustration of the absurdity of the suggestion that one of several
ospreys picked up Sir Roger Tichborne, as will hereafter appear.
E. H.


man who had pleaded ' Guilty.' It was contrary to the
genius of Codd to plead ' Guilty ' at all, especially with
a man who had so good a character as the learned
counsel was instructed to urge in his behalf, and it
certainly was contrary to Codd's loquacious genius to
say a few words. However, he was equal to the
occasion. Nothing daunted, even by a plea of ' Guilty,'
he hoped to get him off without any punishment. The
plea was no sooner taken than up jumped Codd and
began :

' May it please your lordship, my unfortunate
client '

' Any facts, Mr. Codd ?' asked the chairman.

' No, my lord, no ; rely entirely upon my client's
good character. Never a stain on it before this un-
fortunate occasion '

The chairman interrupted him with a smile, and
then cast his eyes down on a long, ominous-looking

' Perhaps, Mr. Codd/ said his lordship, ' you would
like to defer your observations on your client's
character until you have heard mine.'

Codd. the very soul of courtesy, was delighted.

The chairman then said to the prisoner :

' On the day of you were convicted of

house-breaking, and sentenced to eighteen months'
imprisonment. Is that right ?'

' Yes, your lordship.'

After this came a series of convictions, including
sheep -stealing, house-breaking, pocket -picking, and
other offences ; and when his lordship arrived at the
eighth conviction Codd could stand the fire of his



Welsh blood no longer. He jumped from his seat,
took up his brief, and dashed it down again with
the exclamation :

' Oh, my God ! what a scoundrel my client is !'
meaning, of course, the attorney who had instructed
him to set up the man's character as his only plea for



ONE of the earliest Judges I heard of as being near my
time, if not the earliest, was Mr. Justice Graham. I
find he was the Judge of Assize in a calendar for the
county of Lincoln in the year 1818.

I was born in times when the law sent crowds of
people to the gallows after every assize and at every
sitting of the Old Bailey, and the calendar which is
before me is a record of that portion of English history
which is the least creditable to its sense of justice.
Its punishments had been too brutal for words to
express. Most of those which involved torture had
been abolished before my day, but the punishment
of death was inflicted for almost every offence of
stealing which would now be thought sufficiently
dealt with by a sentence of a week's imprisonment.
The struggle to turn King's evidence was great, and
it was almost a competitive examination to ascer-
tain who knew most about the crime, and he being
generally the worst of the gang, was accepted accord-
ingly. Such was the case in Thurtell and Hunt's
murder of Mr. Weare, the choice of King's evidence
being between Hunt and a man named Probert, the


selection falling on Probert. Thurtell was hanged,
and Hunt transported for life. But it usually hap-
pened that the ' King's evidence ' was hanged the
following year for a minor offence, if he held out
even so long. In this instance he was acquitted of
murder because he betrayed his associates, but hanged
the next year on someone else's evidence for stealing a

It was in such times that Mr. Justice Graham was
called upon to administer the law, and on one occasion
particularly he vindicated his character for courtesy
to all who appeared before him. He was a man un-
conscious of humour and yet humorous, and was even
unconscious of the extreme civility which he exhibited
to everybody and upon all occasions, especially to the

People went away with a sense of gratitude for his
kindness, and when he sentenced a batch of prisoners
to death he did it in a manner that might make any-
one suppose, if he did not know the facts, that they
had been awarded prizes for good conduct. I will
give an instance or two, and then it will be seen that
I do not exaggerate his lordship's demeanour.

He was firm, nevertheless a great thing in Judges,
if not accompanied with weakness of mind. I may
add that there was a singular precision in his mode of
expression as well as in his ideas.

At a country assize, where he was presiding in the
Crown Court, a man was indicted for murder. He
pleaded ' Not guilty.' The evidence contained in the
depositions was terribly clear, and, of course, the
Judge, who had perused them, was aware of it.

The case having been called on for trial, counsel for

VOL. i. 8


the prosecution applied for a postponement on the
ground of the absence of a most material witness for
the Crown.

I should mention that in those days counsel were
not allowed to speak on behalf of the prisoner, but the
Judge was always in theory supposed to watch the
case on his behalf. In the absence of a material
witness the prisoner would be acquitted.

The learned Mr. Justice Graham asked the prisoner
if he had any objection to the case being postponed
until the next assizes, on the ground, as the prosecu-
tion had alleged, that their most material witness
could not be produced. His lordship put the case as
somewhat of a misfortune for the prisoner, and made
it appear that it would be postponed, if he desired it,
as a favour to him.

Notwithstanding the Judge's courteous manner of
putting it, the prisoner most strenuously objected to
any postponement. It was not for him to oblige the
Crown at the expense of a broken neck, and he desired
above all things to be tried in accordance with law.
He stood there on his ' gaol delivery.'

Graham was firm, but polite, and determined to
grant the postponement asked for. In this he was
doubtless right, for the interests of justice demanded
it. But to soften down the prisoner's disappointment
and excuse the necessity of his further imprisonment,
his lordship addressed him in the following terms, and
in quite a sympathetic manner :

' Prisoner, I am extremely sorry to have to detain
you in prison, but common humanity requires that I
should not let you be tried in the absence of an im-
portant witness for the prosecution, although at the


same time I can quite appreciate your desire to have
your case speedily disposed of; one does not like a
thing of this sort hanging over one's head. But now r
for the sake of argument, prisoner, suppose I were to
try you to-day in the absence of that material witness,
and yet, contrary to your expectations, they were to
find you guilty. What then ? Why, in the absence of
that material witness, I should have to sentence you
to be hanged on Monday next. That would be a
painful ordeal for both of us.

' But now let us take the other alternative, and let
us suppose that if your trial had been put off, and the
material witness, when called, could prove something
in your favour this sometimes happens and that
that something induced the jury to acquit you, what a
sad thing that would be ! It would not signify to you,
because you would have been hanged, and would
be dead !'

Here his lordship paused for a considerable time,
unable to suppress his emotion, but, having recovered
himself, continued :

' But you must consider what my feelings would be
when I thought I had hanged an innocent man !'

At the next assizes the man was brought up, the
material witness appeared ; the prisoner was found
guilty, and hanged.

The humane Judge's feelings were therefore spared.

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